Friday, July 10, 2009

Jekyll Island - Brunswick - St. Simons Island, GA

June 29 - July 2, 2009
Monday morning we leave Cumberland Island to make the 6-hour trip through the ICW to Jekyll Island, Georgia. Jekyll Island was purchased by the state of Georgia in 1947, and strict regulations exist that insure only 35% of the island will ever be developed. The island used to be a playground for the "rich and famous", and visitors can still tour vacation cottages once owned by Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Pulitzer in - what else? - "Millionaire's Village". 33 of the original cottages still exist, and the former clubhouse is now the exclusive Jekyll Island Club Hotel, where people still play croquet on the front lawn.

We decide to anchor near the Jekyll Island Marina (as well as the free boat ramp - perfect dinghy landing), and plan to stay for two nights so we can go ashore and play tourist. Unfortunately, this turns out to be one of those stops where NOTHING goes right! We've read that you need to be careful anchoring in this area since there are a lot of shallow spots, as well as a few permanently-moored boats. We find what we think is a nice spot, out of the channel in front of a small creek that goes nowhere (so no local traffic), in "plenty" of water and far enough away from the boat dock to be out of the way. That afternoon, we find ourselves stuck in the mud (yes, grounded) at low tide. High tide isn't until midnight, but we get enough water to come loose around 11pm. At that point, we re-anchor in the dark; we're further out in the channel than we'd like to be, but we think we're far enough from land to be out of danger and will move again once the sun comes up. Or not... when we wake up the next morning, we discover that a) our anchor has dragged, b) we're now closer to shore than we were yesterday, and c) we see land pretty close to our stern. Oh yes, let's add a "d" while we're at it: d) we're grounded so deep that we take in black mud when we flush the head. Yuck!!! The strange thing is that we're perfectly upright; normally if we start to sink into the mud, we heel (i.e. tilt) to one side or another. It becomes pretty obvious when the pictures hanging in the cabin start angling sideways! This time, though, we're perfectly straight. It turns out the mud here is extremely soft, and we've sunk straight down into the muck. Wouldn't you know, we're not quite at low tide yet, so it'll get worse before it gets better. Before we know it, we have NO water behind the boat and the sea birds are walking - not swimming - alongside our boat. (Sorry we have no pictures of the event - we were a little preoccupied!) We decide our only option is to run our secondary anchor out in the dinghy to give us some leverage and keep us from going further into shore once the water returns. Of course, our dinghy is currently on land behind the boat! Rene steps off the stern to retrieve the dinghy and ends up thigh-deep in the mud. He's able to get far enough to hand Stacy the dinghy line, but has to turn back before he sinks completely. We pull the dinghy into shallow water and finally tie it to the bow. Rene is able to lower himself into the dinghy, and we lower the anchor into it so he can take it out into the channel. That done, all that's left is to wait for high 4pm today. So much for exploring Jekyll Island! By 12:30pm we're still firmly stuck and aren't getting any depth readings. We're afraid to turn on the engine or generator because - based on the head intake - it's likely that all of our intakes are blocked with mud. Rene decides to go snorkeling; there's no visibility in the water around us, so he ties a line from the bow cleat to his waist, dons a mask and snorkel, and goes under the boat to clear the intakes and depth gauge, check the rudder and keel, and check the prop - all by feel. It works, because soon after we're able to see our depth - all 4'6" of it. (Just a reminder - Pipe Muh Bligh draws 5'2". This isn't good!) By 2pm, we decide it's time to try the engine. Our rudder and wing keel are still well in the mud, but our prop is clear and we need to figure out whether we can get ourselves out of here or call Tow Boat again. On the plus side, we've just updated our coverage to "unlimited". :-) We start the engine, Rene heads forward to keep the secondary anchor tight, and suddenly we're loose! We idle out to the middle of the channel where there's plenty of water to bring up our anchors. Just as Stacy puts the boat in neutral, there's a put-put-put, and the engine dies. What?? Rene runs back, checks the gauges, and tries again...nothing. No engine. We drop anchor in the middle of the channel to keep from grounding again, and put out a securite (VHF call) to a shrimp boat coming towards us in the channel to let him know that we have no engine and can't get out of his way. That done, we try once again to start the engine. Rene gets it started in neutral, but it dies as soon as he puts it into idle forward. Finally, a light bulb goes off. Remember that line that was tied to Rene's waist while he went under the boat? In all the excitement of getting out of the mud, we never raised the line! The line was just long enough to go under the boat and get wound around the prop. Had it been 2' shorter, it never would've happened. Fortunately we were only in idle for a few seconds, so there's no real damage to the prop. Rene dons the snorkel gear again and goes under the boat to cut the line. Once it's free, the engine starts up again with no problems. You can't imagine how relieved we are...not to mention completely OVER Jekyll Island! Rather than try to find yet another spot to anchor and potentially get stuck in again, we decide to cut our losses and head for Brunswick. Brunswick is less than 10 miles from Jekyll Island via the ICW, and while we've been warned not to go through this section of the ICW at lower tides, we're about 90 minutes away from high tide. We have plenty of water under us and have an uneventful trip to Brunswick. We've already talked to the marina, and they have a slip waiting for us. Lines and fenders at the ready, Rene backs us into the wide, floating slip like a pro. The dockmaster grabs our lines to help secure us, and we're all set. We hook up the power cord, shower, and go in search of our traditional first-night-in-town dinner: PIZZA! The marina tells us that if we like traditional Naples-style pizza, we have to go Arte's...yes, the same guys who had the great brick oven pizza in Fernandina Beach. We order a Quatro Stagione ("four seasons"). Normally this involves a quarter section each of mushrooms, ham, artichokes, and olives; in this case, everything was mixed together, and we decide that this is the best pizza we've had since Tuscany. The pie is so massive that we have plenty for dinner plus lunch the next day. Back on the boat, we're so thrilled to have a trouble-free spot for the night that we decide to stay for two nights. Ahh, luxury!

First and foremost, we have to say that we love Brunswick Landing Marina. While our 2008 cruising guide mistakenly said there was a pool (there isn't), the folks working there are friendly and helpful, they have a great "captain's lounge" with a/c, a book exchange, and cable TV, the bathrooms and showers are really nice, and the laundry machines are FREE to anyone docked there! Keeping in mind that we haven't been able to do laundry in 3 weeks, this is an absolute godsend. We manage to do 6 loads of laundry in the 40 hours that we're there! After laundry, our first task is a provisioning run. Having been "on the hook" with no grocery stores in sight since Fernandina Beach, we're getting a bit low on essentials (i.e. water, milk, and beer). After arming ourselves with coffee and pastries at Daddy Cate's coffee shop, we make the hot and humid 1.8-mile bike ride to Winn-Dixie. We try not to go too crazy since we have to carry everything back in bags on the bikes (with the heaviest bag on Rene's back), but we still go overboard. We finally make it back to the boat, enjoy the air conditioning, and grab a quick bite of lunch. Afterwards, we go back out to see the historic downtown area, which consists primarily of 10 blocks of a main street. Sadly, about a third of the businesses have shut down; we aren't sure if this is recent, but the economy seems to have hit the area hard. Still, the businesses that we do visit are really nice and the people are incredibly friendly and helpful. We stop in at True Vine, a wine, beer, and gourmet cheese/snack shop and find a couple of good whites and a tripel beer. Best of all, our host gives us a card for a wine tasting event at Cargo Portside Grill. We've heard about this place from our marina's dockmaster, and the "wine guy" confirms what a fantastic restaurant it is. On a side note, Rene and his sister-in-law want to give family portraits to Rene's mom for her birthday, and we've been trying to find a time where we can "clean up" (with actual make-up and everything!) enough to take a picture. Hopefully our sailing friends understand what we mean when we say that boaters typically aren't "picture-worthy" (at least not for one that'll be hung on Mom's wall) after a day on the boat! Anyway, this gives us a chance to have a special evening out, a great meal, and a chance to take a good picture for Mom. (Note to Stacy's mom - I'll send you the picture, too!) We decide to skip the wine tasting beforehand and make an 8pm reservation at Cargo Portside for our first "fancy" dinner since Jacksonville (maybe Key West, depending on which one of us you talk to). Even though it's Wednesday night, the place is packed. After being seated at the last free table, we take a minute to check out the restaurant. What a neat little place! While it's supposedly the best restaurant in Brunswick, it's still relaxed enough that you can wear anything from shorts to business casual and beyond. The wine list is impressive, and the menu is spectacular. We each find 3-4 dishes that are really difficult to choose between, not including the highly recommended "lobster mac n cheese"; the latter combines European cheeses, wine, butter, garlic, etc. with pasta and is served with an entire lobster tail. It's supposed to be fantastic. We finally decide to start with an ahi duo: slices of seared ahi rubbed with Chinese Five Spice seasoning and sashimi with wasabi, ginger, & sticky rice. Dinner was a garlic & peppercorn rack of lamb with asagio mashed potatoes for Stacy, and a cubano boneless pork chop with mashed sweet potatoes and roasted chipotle lentils for Rene. We go with the wine guy's recommendation and order a crianza (Spanish red) to go along with the meal. Everything turns out to be absolutely amazing all around! We've enjoyed it so much that we'll make a special stop in Brunswick again just to go to Cargo Portside, either on our southbound leg later this summer or on the trip up to the Chesapeake next year.

As much as we hate to leave Brunswick, we head out Thursday morning to our next stop, St. Simons Island. Sticking with the day-hopping idea, St. Simons is 5-10 miles from Brunswick. The anchorage has strong currents, but it's big, deep, and has a $5 dinghy dock available at nearby Golden Isles Marina. As we pull into the anchorage, a trimaran behind us calls to us; it turs out they're from Kemah, too! The trimaran ketch "Ultra" and her owners used to run a party boat charter out of South Shore Harbor, not too far from Watergate. The owners left Texas in late March and have been cruising ever since. They're really helpful, and give us a few pointers about visiting ashore on St. Simons Island. After a quick visit, we and the bikes dinghy to the marina for a tie-up, and then we're on our way to the Village Pier area at the south end of St. Simons. The ride is bloody hot, but there are nice bike trails and enough shade to keep us going. The Village Pier area turns out to be a great stop - lots of tourist shops, a few places to eat, a fishing pier that's heavily in use by locals catching crabs, and the St. Simons lighthouse. We spend a few hours touring, taking pictures, and having a quick bite at a great little cafe/pub. It has a dining area, a coffee bar, and a little pub. We try a Cajun shrimp po' boy, and Rene discovers Moon River IPA (a Savannah microbrew - very yummy). We're not sure that we'd find enough to do to spend a lot of time there, but it's perfect for an afternoon visit.

Once we're back on the boat, we manage to get the bikes secure and lift the dinghy back on its davits. Within 30 minutes, we see thunderstorms and heavy rains over the land to our west. As awful as it looks, it doesn't appear to be heading our way. Who are we kidding? Before we know it, rain starts pouring down. We manage to get the windows closed just in time, and then the wind hits. We're heeled over hard to port, and things go flying. Rene tries to secure a few things in the cockpit, and Stacy manages to grab the french press and two bottles of wine sitting on the counter just before they crash to the floor. The wind calms down for a few minutes, and then we're heeling to starboard. Most things have already fallen, so there isn't much left to save by that time. The kitties have taken cover under the couch, and we're holding on for dear life. At one point we have zero visibility and lightning on all sides of us, sometimes hitting within a mile of the boat. We've turned off everything but the refrigerator & freezer at the circuit board just in case we get struck by lightning. During one calmer period, we hear something drop at the front of the boat. Have we hit something? No, we hadn't snubbed our secondary anchor, and it's dropped into the water. This wouldn't be a huge deal, except that Rene has to go outside into the storm, hopefully before the lightning kicks in again. In the end, the storm lasts for over 3 hours, and we check all of our electronics to make sure they're working. We've lucked out this time, and everything is still A-OK. Fortunately, our only fatality is the center piece of our cockpit canvas cover; it had already been ripped at a zipper point, and the wind has managed to tear it off completely. (Hopefully we can get that fixed in Charleston.)

Once the storm FINALLY passes, we have an easy picnic dinner of hummus, baked brie with garlic & olives, and french bread. We're heading out in the morning, going off-shore for the first time since arriving in Jacksonville. We're about 30 miles from our next stop, which is an overnight anchorage in Walburg Creek. We'll get into the ocean via St. Simons Sound, head 15 miles to the outer marker at St. Catherine's Sound, and then head into Walburg. There isn't anything there to see, but it'll provide a good stopover for our journey to Savannah. We want to get to Savannah by July 4th to enjoy the fireworks. Til next time!

Pictures for this blog chapter:


garyg said...

Hello Rene and Stacy,
Gary and Denise here. We are landside enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the deck, watching the ICW traffic along with Pipe Muh Dligh. Noticed you overnighted, moved on, and decided to come back. You help make some good conversion - just what are those folks up to, where did they come from, where are you headed? retired?, north bound, south bound? What do folks do that anchor for the day? writers?, consulants?, internet business?

Had some interesting guesses.

Google Pipe Muh Bligh and found your blog. Read a portion and sounds like having a pretty good time. I assume that even Jekyll Island gives you some laughes now that it is behind you :)

We live in the yellow that is landside from your anchorage in Skull Creek. If we could help out in any way, please let us know - car, laundry, shower.

Have a Terrific Journey!
Gary and Denise

Oksana said...

Trudging in mud? Thigh deep? Yak! Yak! Yak! What if there is Mr Hide just below 'cause you are so close to the Jekyll Isle? :o)