16 December, 2014
0808 on the 10th, and we’re off the dock at Thunderbolt. We’ll split the 88 mile trip to Jekyll Island into 2 pieces. The Admiral has an anchorage scoped out in the Wahoo River for tonight that sounds like it should be way cool. Once we clear the Savannah area, the waterway becomes much more rural. Marshes line both sides of the ICW on this idyllic leg. It’s pretty clear and cool (high 54 degrees) so the pilothouse doors are closed to keep us nice and snuggly. Six and a half hours later, we’ve motored up the Wahoo, and have the anchor down, the place to ourselves. As the sun begins to set, we see a few guys on the far shore at low tide, picking oysters, and tossing them into 5 gallon buckets. They load about 15 pails of ‘em into their skiff, and are off as darkness closes in. I wonder what they’re doing with them, as all the local eateries have told us that nobody eats the local oysters (don’t know the reason why-maybe with the warmer water down here, the bacterial counts are too high-just guessin’). It’s 36 degrees and partly cloudy as we pull anchor up at 0709, and we have an uneventful trip down to Jekyll Island, where we shoot the anchor down about a half mile from the marina. We decide to stay on the Girl for a tidal cycle, as there are pretty good currents, and there have been a few reports of poor holding here. Next morning, we haven’t budged an inch and are comfortable heading to shore. Toss the bikes in the dinghy, drop ‘er in, and we’re off to the marina, where we’ll land and drop off the bikes. As we near the marina, we spy a sailboat that we saw on a ball in Beaufort, SC, on the river in Thunderbolt, and in Sapelo Sound on our way here. Time for an introduction, so we pull in behind “Salacia” and meet Louise and Jim, veteran sailors who are on their first cruise out of Portland, ME. We agree to get together for sippies around 1700, exchange phone numbers, and head off on our separate ways. Like Newport, RI, Jekyll was a playground for the rich and famous during the Gilded Age. Carnegie, Rockefeller,Morgan and the boys all built hunting cottages on this remote island just off the mainland from the railroad spur which ended in Brunswick,GA. The train would haul their personal cars down here for the winter “Season”, after disembarking; they would board their private yachts to be ferried to the island. The good news was that these activities kept the island free of the unwashed masses, and therefore, largely undeveloped. As personal income tax and the Great Depression arrived, the wealthy left the island, and the state of Georgia acquired most of the land here. As of now, only 25% of the island is developed, with a mandate of no more than 35% to be developed. There are paved bicycle trails traversing much of the island, making this a paradise for weekend bikers like us. Over the next few days, we’ll put on around 75 miles. First, we hit the historic village, where many of the “cottages” have been restored. Of course there are some shops and a museum to see as well. Riding out to the north end of Jekyll, there is a “driftwood beach”, which is actually a part of the island which is slowly being reclaimed by the sea as it erodes. The result is that the beach is littered, not with driftwood, but with whole live oaks, toppled with their roots and canopies exposed. It’s surreal in the fading light at low tide. While we are there, the phone rings. It’s Louise, and she reports that the marina is having a potluck and bonfire tonight, held by liveaboards and locals at the marina. She’ll cook a double batch of something, so we’ll be covered. She and Jim would love it if we showed up. Okay-no need to ask us twice about food and new friends. It’s getting late, so we hustle the 5 miles back, dinghy out to the Girl for a bottle of wine and some tools to eat with, and are ready to roll by sundown. The food, the fire, and especially the new friends were an awesome close for a spectacular day. We all agree that we’re having too much fun together to quit at one night, so we’ll pack lunches, meet in the morning, and bike the south end of the island. Stopping for lunch at a beach on the south end, we find out that they rode right by the driftwood beach (which is kinda off the beaten path) the previous day, and decide that we gotta see it at low tide this afternoon. So, it’s off to the north end to the beach. As we near the historic village (in the center of the island) Suz’ front tire goes flat. No worries, I’ve got a spare tube in my backpack. The girls shopped, while I changed the tire, then Jim and I went to look for a compressor to fill the tire (I have a gas canister, but wanted to save it for when we are out in the stix). Ended up at a bike rental place that we had passed a couple miles back after stopping at the golf course and stables with no luck. A third of the way to the beach, I’m getting a mushy tire-I don’t have 2 tubes in my pack, #$@%!! I want them to see the beach, so I head back to the rental joint to see if they, per chance, have a tube that I can requisition. The tire is now flat to the rim, so I stop at a convenience/knickknack/hardware store to see if they have a tire pump. They usually have pumps, but they’re sold out-BUT- they have one I can use, and by the way, they also have a bigger assortment of tubes than I’ve ever seen at a bike shop. Bonus! Whodathunkit? Half hour after I’ve left the gang, I’m hummin’ down the road at 25mph in hot pursuit. I catch them just as they’re leaving the beach, so we zip back in and snap a couple before the people assembled here for a wedding get started. Dinner back at the marina restaurant, and we decide that we’ll meet up at Cumberland Island, 24 miles down the line.
We decide on a late start for a favorable tide, so at 1020, the anchor is up. Along the way, the Girl is escorted on several occasions by groups of dolphins. It never gets old standing on the bow pulpit watching these graceful mammals swerving, diving, and breeching 8’ below you. A few miles above Cumberland, the Nav computer is chirping about a trouble spot where shoaling and shallow water is happening (there are plenty of these spots daily-some worse than others). Through this one, the chart plotter shows us on land, good thing we’re looking out the window. Just an aside here. We use a crowd-sourced application, called “Active Companion from Active Captain”, which is free. Among other things, this app allows us to get current conditions, as reported by fellow cruisers, along our intended path. This information helps us to find the deepest water along the ever-changing waterway, and calculate departure/arrival times based on states of the tides. I could go on for a long time about what AC is and does, but this piece regarding current conditions is an invaluable aid to navigation. Other pieces concern reports on anchorages, marinas, fuel prices, and locations/plans of boater friends, all compiled from reports by fellow cruisers. On the way to Cumberland, Suz gets a call from Lisa (Changing Course) for a report on Jekyll, as they are a day behind us. As we approach the island, we get a visit from a Navy patrol boat, whose intention it is to keep us away from King’s Bay submarine base that we’re passing by. It doesn’t look like there are any subs in the floating dry docks as we pass so no excitement today. It’s been a slow and easy trip today, so as we arrive, we find “Salacia” in the anchorage with her hook down. Cumberland Island has a long history, being first settled by the Spanish, who were succeeded by the British. Subsequent to the revolution, General Nathaniel Greene (Washington’s second in command, in charge of the southern continental army) was deeded most of the island, and built a plantation here. When he passed away, his widow lived in Savannah, and the land changed hands. After the Civil War, the plantations here were no longer profitable, and the island was pretty quiet until the Carnegie clan started building places here. After their heyday, much of the land here reverted to the National Park System, so it’s mostly wilderness-hiking and camping. Access to Cumberland is by boat only, as there is no bridge from the mainland. When we dinghy our bikes to the ranger station, we discover that there is a ranger talk every afternoon at 1600, and there will be a ranger-led tour of the Dungeness (Carnegie) ruins at 1000 tomorrow. Jim and Louise will have dinner at our place tonight, then bike and hike with us tomorrow. The next day was fabulous-clear and in the 60’s. We got a great tour from Ranger Ron of the ruins, along with a history of the island. A couple mile walk took us to the ocean beach where we ate our picnic lunch, without a soul or structure in sight for miles. As we hiked to and from the beach, we traversed a forest with a live oak canopy covering a palm understory. Along the way, we saw deer, wild hogs, feral horses (by the dozens), armadillos, and multiple species of birds including wild turkeys. That evening, Louise cooked a tasty, healthy vegetarian dinner that we all enjoyed at our place. The following day, a 6 mile dinghy ride was in store to visit “Plum Orchard”, one of the Carnegie kids’ places to the north. It was closed for tours, as there was no ferry to the island that day, but we decided to go up anyway, to peek in the windows and have a picnic lunch. With temperatures approaching 70 and clear skies, it was a great day for a ride, lunch, and hike around the north end. On the way home, the skies darkened, and the wind kicked up as we bucked an incoming tide. I took more than a little grief (‘cause this trip was my great idea) from Louise, as she got a pretty good dose of spray sitting in the bow of their tender. When we returned, “Changing Course” had just arrived, so we introduced the four as we passed, and agreed to get together for an “hour of charm” and sunset at 1700. The 6 of us enjoyed a fabulous solar show off our back porch, and didn’t break up until the stars were out in full glory. “Salacious” and “Alizann” would be heading to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island the following day, so we bade Lisa and Bill farewell (again).