For 5 years, we had managed to follow that advice. The large tides and shallow water at low tide on the ICW were good enough reason to avoid traveling through this state on our way south to Florida. We had made small incursions north of the Florida-Georgia border – anchoring at CumberlandIsland and up the river to St. Mary’s– but never
traveled the ICW south of the Savannah River. A quick hop outside from SC and we were in Florida.
But not this year. With Orion Jr’s shallower draft we should have no trouble with even the lowest water in Georgia. And we weren’t really looking to do long offshore runs in the little boat. Our friends on Les Miserables were not quite so carefree about Georgia’s shallower spots, but we
agreed to continue to lead the way and raise any alarms on shallow water.
Once we left the Bull Creek anchorage south of Hilton Head, we had only a few miles to go before we crossed the Savannah River and the Georgia state line, which included a particularly shallow stretch. This certainly was causing some concern for our traveling companions on Les Miserables.
However, the sun was warm and the tide was rising, so we had a pleasant, uneventful run through the skinny section and on south into Georgia. The bridge opening at Causton Bluffs even went the smoothest of any opening we had done on the waterway, without our even touching the throttle to
adjust our speed. Our destination for the night would be Isle of Hope Marina, in the suburbs of
Savannah. The marina’s proximity to Savannah put it close to the municipal bus route. So, on Saturday, we headed into the city to see the sights.
city, we took in our guide’s stories about the city’s past and its famous sons and daughters while enjoying a beautiful fall day.
first at Wahlberg Creek off St. Catherine’s Sound and then on the Frederica River. Our first travel day started later, as we waited for a rising tide around 10am. It was going to be a stretch to get as far as we wanted, but we were able to motorsail in the stiff northeast breeze, boosting our speed and compensating for the areas of opposing current. We made Wahlberg Creek’ s north entrance by late afternoon, entering its deep northern entrance off St. Catherine’s sound. We followed the creek south around the bend before dropping the hook. The northerly wind and cloudy skies had made for a chilly day, but the good news was that it kept the no-see-ums at bay for the night. Next morning, we headed out again at first light to ensure a higher tide at the creek’s southern intersection with the ICW, which we passed without incident. As the sun rose, the day warmed and the skies cleared. With the current with us most of the day, we were going to reach the infamous Little Mud River ahead of schedule and at lower tide than our companions had hoped. However, once again we passed without problem. With a favorable current and tide, we opted to head for the Frederica River to anchor beside Fort Frederica on St. Simon’s Island. Twenty years ago or more, the ICW moved from the Frederica Riverto its neighbor, due to some changes in bridges over the 2 rivers. Since the old waterway is no longer maintained, the charted depths were suspect. We found the northern entrance to be much shallower than charted, but the southern entrance was much more accurate. While anchored off Fort Frederica, Merry and Wiley rowed ashore to visit the fort. They really enjoyed their time exploring the fort, learning how, if the Battle of Bloody Marsh had ended differently, we might all be speaking Spanish. Orion Jr’s crew had visited the fort a number of times from land. And since the milder weather was like a siren call to the bugs, we retreated down below as soon as the sun began to set.
Once we put into Fernandina, Les Miserables was only 1 travel day away from their destination on the Ortega River at Jacksonville. They had travel plans from the Jacksonville airport on the 15th, but had a comfortable 8 days to get there. We had more distance to cover to Palm Coast, which would take us 3 travel days. So, we spent a day in Fernandina, saying goodbye to Merry and Wiley and then weathering a cold front that blew the balmy weather into memory. After looking at the long range forecast early Thursday morning, we initially decided to stay put one more day, but then as the weather started to calm down, we abruptly changed direction and cast off mid-morning for a late start. After a bone-chilling day on the water, we made it to Palm Cove around 4:30 and just at low tide, seeing some very shallow water in its entrance. Good thing we don’t have to worry about that any more.
The next day’s (much warmer) run brought us to St. Augustine by mid-afternoon. This was our first time picking up a mooring on Orion Jr. With the wind and current opposing, and the little boat’s generally poor maneuverability at slow speeds, it took more than one attempt to get lined up on the mooring for a successful pick up. It just goes to show there’s still more for her crew to learn. More bad weather was coming the next day (Saturday), but we had a short run to make, so it might be possible to beat the weather. We got up at first light, and made the decision to go. The strong flooding current made for a difficult transit of the mooring field but sent us flying down the waterway. At one point during the trip, we were making 8 knots. With our amazing speed, we pulled into Palm Coast by 10:30am, just before the winds started to kick up and the weather began to deteriorate. Whew! We made it.
As for Merry and Wiley, we talked to them from St. Augustine as they were sitting down to a dinner in Jacksonville, having made a successful transit up the St. John’s to the Ortega Marina. We had made good on our promise to help get them to their destination in time for the holidays.
As for our travel plans, we wouldn’t be picking up our rental car until the 15th, five days away. For Cathy, this was no problem, since she was desperately trying to finish making a stocking for one of the grandkids and needed every minute to finish. Dave spent his time installing a new (louder) high water alarm and meeting with Blake, the outboard mechanic from Daytona Beach to get our 2 outboards serviced.
It seems crazy, but after working so hard to get south by boat, we are once again heading north into the cold to celebrate Christmas with the family. This will be a year for a world tour, as we make stops in Jarratt, Richmond, Hampton, Bethlehem PA, Rochester, NY and Winston-Salem NC before returning to the boat. But it wouldn’t seem like the holidays without the family, so it all makes a strange kind of sense.