Hello from Fernandina Beach, Florida! Yes, we made it to Florida, which is 300 miles long and we’re at the very north tip of it, but still, it’s not too cold here. To all our friends in the northeast, we hope this weekend’s storm isn’t too bad. Just remember, even though everyone in Philly seems to be freaking out, that this happens every year. You know what to do!
We soon grew weary of Charleston, after a few days of rowing a mile through raging currents just to get to shore. But the coolest thing was that our friends on Finest Kind showed up in Charleston, then almost left because the anchorage was so terrible, and then decided to stay put. We spent some time huddling in each other’s boats, and finally realized that Charleston was not going to be the land of milk and honey we hoped it would be. So we invested our hopes and dreams in a new place: Beaufort.
On the way to Beaufort, there is an island called Morgan Island, which we heard had feral monkeys living on it. So, obviously, we had to go. After looking into it, we found out that this is the largest of six islands that the government owns and uses to breed monkeys for “scientific research”. I didn’t gather that they were torturing these monkeys, but we didn’t quite approve. We did see some monkeys on shore while we were approaching, but a patrol boat buzzed through and scared them away.
So we headed to Beaufort which is much more transient-friendly than Charleston. There is a free dock that you can tie up to all day, as long as you leave between 1 and 6AM. The anchorage only sucks a little bit. And Beaufort was a cool town! So cool that the crew of Finest Kind decided to stay there for a few extra days, while Kasy and I figured we should probably keep trucking.
And truck we did, from South Carolina into Georgia. The ICW in Georgia is a winding patchwork of waterways going through the middle of nowhere. It’s notorious for not being maintained or dredged for lack of funds. So we figured we would just try to get through it as quickly as possible. It wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be, and was beautiful in parts.
One of the more memorable parts of Georgia was St. Catherine’s Island. The island is a protected wildlife refuge and the only people allowed on it are scientists. However, we were anchored right next to it so I just… went ashore. Because I wanted to. And found some cool things.
For two out of the ten days it took us to get through Georgia, we were stuck at anchor because of weather, not being able to move or get off the boat. We kept going to bed thinking our anchorage was protected, and then would be woken up in the middle of the night by lumpy waves. I was getting a little stir crazy. I kept cooking elaborate things to entertain myself, and figured out how to make scones in a frying pan (I will photograph this next time). Also, made some good soup, and what not. We only saw and talked to ONE (1) human the whole time we were in Georgia, and that was when we were getting fuel.
The most eventful Georgia day was crossing the Sapelo Sound. That day the wind was blowing a sustained 25 knots and opposing the strong current, so short choppy waves were happening. We had the jib up and the motor going, but the wind was blowing right out of the channel. When we took the jib down and tried to motor straight into the waves, our speed dropped to 1kt (from 5) and we felt like we were on a broken roller coaster. We figured the only way we would get across was to tack, which we did, still very uncomfortably. At the end of that day, we anchored near Little Sapelo Island, where we found an abandoned house in the wilderness.
And then, drumroll please, WE WENT OFFSHORE! Finally the conditions were right and we decided to do our first offshore jump from St. Simon’s island to Fernandina Beach, a day’s run of about 40 nautical miles. In order to time our exits and entrances with favorable tides, we got up at 4, put the dinghy on the cabin top, hoisted our radar reflector, and left at 5:30 AM. It was still dark for the first hour, so we navigated using a spotlight to see unlit channel markers. That got us on our toes. But then the sun began to come up as we sailed away from land (sailed! yes!) and it was glorious.
The ocean swells were about 3 feet and felt very gentle. The wind was shifting around and sometimes died on us, so we were forced to motor sometimes just to keep going. We were 10 miles out, and the water was still only 30 feet deep. It felt great to be on open water, to know that we weren’t going to hit anything, and to finally get an offshore experience.
We got to St.Mary’s entrance to Fernandina around 2PM, where we encountered the biggest swells of the day (due to increasingly shallow water closer to shore). It was pretty uncomfortable since there was absolutely no wind, so we couldn’t put any sails up for stability. And we casually passed a nuclear submarine heading out to sea. Actually it wasn’t that casual; we were ordered to stay 500 yards away from this massive hulking submarine, so we had to bounce around outside of the channel for a while.
And then Fernandina, what a lovely town. We hadn’t seen people or civilization in nearly two weeks, so we figured burgers would be a good form of reunion. Also, we made friends with a pelican that swam alongside us as we tried to anchor in the harbor, keeping pace with the boat and swimming against the current. He was staring into my soul and making it very hard to concentrate on anchoring.
We’re hanging out here until this freaky storm passes, and then we can go for South Florida!