Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On the Road Again...Heading South, Part II

Wednesday, September 2 - Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Greetings, friends and family! This is our last blog before we fly to Seattle to see Stacy's family. We can't wait to get there! The kitties are staying in a "suite" at Kozy Kennels, and we'll leave the boat moored in Fernandina Beach. It's supposed to be a good hurricane hole, but we'll still keep our fingers and toes crossed that no storms pop up while we're away. As for the past week...at the end of our last post, we were getting ready to raise anchor to go the last 10 miles from St. Simon's Island to Brunswick, GA...

We've made it! It rained the entire time we were crossing the sound, and we were bundled up in ponchos and windbreakers trying to keep the drops coming through the bimini out of our eyes. (Note to self...it's time to re-ScotchGuard the canvas.) Once we turned up the East River towards Brunswick, it finally began to taper off. We've probably already said this, but we really love the Brunswick Landing Marina! The people are incredibly friendly, there's a great "captain's lounge" with a book exchange and cable TV, and the laundry is free. But the best thing about the marina - especially on a lousy weather day like today - is that it isn't prone to strong winds or currents. Even though it was blowing 15-20kts in the sound, it's pretty calm once we get near the marina; it makes maneuvering the boat stern-to into the slip so much easier (not to mention the extra wide slips)! As for amenities, the marina is a quick walk from the city's historic downtown, and the grocery store is a 2-mile bike ride away. We've decided to stay here for two days since the weather is supposed to be lousy all day today; we really need to get to the grocery store and do a few outside boat projects, and the rain is supposed to stop by tomorrow. Tonight we're going back to Cargo Portside for dinner. For those of you who haven't read our original Brunswick blog from June or July, this is a fantastic restaurant. They have a fairly young chef who loves to experiment with different flavors and combinations, and it's really tough trying to pick just one dish from the menu. Tonight we'll likely pick an old favorite; Stacy's already called "dibs" on their Pork Cubano (Rene had it last time), but it may also be time to try their signature dish, lobster mac n cheese.

We've also been trying to clear out the freezer before we leave for Seattle, so we've been forcing ourselves to cook more. This is pretty easy when we're at anchor in remote spots, but it gets a little more challenging when we go back to a city with a restaurant that we love! Case in point, Brunswick. Cargo Portside is an outstanding restaurant for a "special" meal, and it's a no-brainer that we'll go there when we're in Brunswick. However, Brunswick is also home to one of our top 5 pizza parlors (Arte's on the main drag; get the quattro stagioni). Knowing we won't be through here again for at least 8 months, how to we not take advantage and go to our favorite haunts?! In this case, we'll justify it by promising not to eat out again until the night before we fly to Seattle. After dropping off the cats at the kennel, packing our suitcases, and prepping the boat for any potential problems while we're gone, we'll probably be more than ready for a good Irish beer and cottage pie at O'Kane's!

As it happens, we can't eat at Cargo Portside without trying one of their phenomenal appetizers. They've changed the menu in the past week or so, so the ahi duo is gone; however, they've got another appi dish that reminds us of Mi Luna in Houston: the "tomato rustica" is a tomato, goat cheese, & herb fondue served with grilled bruschetta. It's a perfect appetizer to our main courses, the Pork Cubano and the Lobster Macaroni & Cheese. If you haven't read our earlier Brunswick post...first of all, you MUST have dinner at Cargo Portside! Reservations are recommended, but you can usually get a table unless it's a weekend. Second, try the Pork Cubano! It's a gorgeous pork chop dusted with Cuban spices, and served on sweet potato mash with a poblano & pumpkin relish. Another signature dish is their Lobster Mac & Cheese; it's been a "daily" chalkboard special for years, and they finally added it to their full-time menu earlier this month. Pictured above, it includes a full lobster tail and is served with seashell pasta, applewood smoked bacon, sauteed spinach, and plum tomatoes in a gourmet cheese sauce (gouda, parmesan, cheddar, etc.).

The next day, we try to overcome our full tummies with a bike ride to Winn Dixie. After a mini-provisioning run, we backflush the a/c drains, clean the boat, clean the carpets, get a pump-out, fill the water tanks, and do the laundry. It sounds like a lot, but it's not often that we stay at a marina, and we need to take advantage of it when we're here! We also meet a couple from Kemah, Doug & Pat. They're heading to the Bahamas this winter as well, so hopefully we'll see them there!

Friday we leave Brunswick Landing Marina at 8:30am to make high tide at Jekyll Island Marina and the nearby bridge. We need enough water to get through shoal-prone Jekyll Creek, but must also allow for enough outflow to get us under the bridge (65' vertical clearance). The bridge doesn't have a clearance gauge, so we hope for the best. We make good time under the Brunswick bridge and across the sound to the entrance to Jekyll Creek. There's plenty of water, and we never see less than 12' through Jekyll Creek. Although bridges without reader boards (i.e. water/clearance gauges) always make us nervous, we call the marina near Jekyll Island bridge and are told that we'll have plenty of room. We also see at least a foot of waterline at the base of the bridge, so here goes...and, we're clear! We head across St. Andrew Sound towards Cumberland Island; the wind and waves have kicked up, and we have a sick Tux (boy cat) for the first time in months. Sorry, sweetie! The waves slow our progress, but we finally get out of the open sound and tuck closer into Cumberland shore. We're fine for most of the trip, until we reach...(enter suspenseful music here)...marker 60A. Marker 60A sits at the intersection of Brickhill River and the ICW, and is one of those areas that's a mess no matter what you do. For starters, most charts actually put the magenta ICW line on the wrong side of the marker (if ever in doubt, follow the markers - NOT the chartplotter). There's supposed to be a marker 60 and 60A, but 60 has disappeared since the last time we came through. Our cruising guide recommends giving 60A a wide berth, but it doesn't quite spell out just how wide. We stay in the channel to go past 60A, but don't want to get too close to the Brickhill River entrance since we see shoaling at the corners (we're pretty close to low tide). We have plenty of water..15'...11'...then 5'! Full reverse! We get unstuck and call Tow Boat for some local knowledge. They don't answer, but we figure they're pretty busy since this is Friday afternoon on Labor Day weekend. We see a motor cruiser coming up behind us, and call him on the VHF. He's managed to get around us, and draws about 3.5'. He sees less than 6' (his depth gauge flashes below 6', but doesn't show the actual depth at that point); then it's 5', and then he's stuck as well. We try to get through again, trying a wider berth this time. We get stuck again, and try calling the Tow Boat hotline on the phone. We finally reach someone, just as Rene manages to free us. We finally decide to go further into the mouth of Brickhill River; even though we see shallows at the corners, the guidebook says this is a deep river. Holding our breath, we make a wide arc around 60A and into the river's entrance. Amazingly, we have 11' all the way, and the depth increases to 20' once we're past the marker. Woo hoo - we're through! We try to reach the motor cruiser on VHF, but he's off for the moment. We head down the ICW with a close eye on the depth gauge...fingers crossed, as our 3 sources (ICW guide, Skipper Bob, and USACE survey) all say that this is just about the last trouble spot before we arrive at our anchorage.

After a final shallow near the entrance to Kings Bay (marker 79 before the markers switch from ICW to Cumberland Sound's channel), we make it to our anchorage near Cumberland Island. It's a lot busier than the last time we were here, and we see more boats anchor as the weekend continues. Welcome to Labor Day weekend! :-) We also get as close to a nuclear sub as we'll likely get: Friday evening, we see two large ships head out to sea an hour before sunset. We've been told that these are "chaperone boats" that flank an incoming sub. Soon afterwards, we see a Coast Guard boat head out. We're pretty excited since we've been hoping to see a sub come through the channel since our first visit four months ago. Given the late time, we head below for dinner and keep an eye out the windows (along with an ear tuned to VHF16). We never hear or see signs of a sub, but we do hear a mechanical wining around 3am. After multiple (not to mention fruitless) trips topside, we finally give up on our sub hunting, assuming the sound is coming from a nearby cruiser's generator. The next morning, we see both chaperone boats back at port, and no sign (of course) of our sub buddy. Granted, we never hear our neighbor's generator, either! Most likely, the sound we heard was the sub's chaperone ships coming back into port (the subs themselves are built to operate in stealth mode, or so says Tom Clancy). Sadly, we never see our big fish, but we'll keep looking every time we pass through this area!

Monday we sail the whopping five miles to Fernandina Beach, FL (we LOVE these short trips!). As we motor into the anchorage towards our mooring ball, we see LA & Susan on Genesis anchored right outside the mooring field. Hooray...we have friends here! Rene wastes no time and goes to the top of the mast Monday afternoon to get the wind vane down to send to Raymarine. Stacy initially hoists him up with the help of the electric winch, but it gives out when Rene is about 2/3 up the mast. Time to use the old muscles! Between Rene's climbing and Stacy's manual winching, we get him up. The transducer is hard-wired to a cable that runs down the length of the mast...all 63' of it...so that isn't going to Raymarine. Rene gets everything else out of the boat, and we're ready to ship it all back to the company after we pick up our rental car on Wednesday. Hopefully they'll be able to figure out once and for all what's wrong with the instruments...and we'll have them back by the time we're ready to leave Fernandina for Jacksonville on the 24th!

Tuesday evening, LA & Susan come over for happy hour and we have a chance to catch up on all the craziness of our cruising lifestyles since our last meeting in Marathon. They'll continue heading north, but we should meet up with them again this winter in the Bahamas. Can't wait! After happy hour, we head off to O'Kane's (our Irish pub) for a quick dinner and some US Open on TV. We're back on the boat by 10:30pm, where Rene manages to crash (sleep-wise) while Stacy works on the blog (hey, I promised to get this out before we leave for Seattle!). Wednesday, we're picking up a rental car, dropping the kitties off at their kennel/condo, and then going shopping to all of the places we can't reach without a car...the UPS store, Publix, Home Depot, Target and liquor store. Given that, dear friends and family, we'll call it a night. Our love and big hugs to all of you!


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