Friday, November 5, 2010

Beaufort, SC - St. Augustine, FL

St Augustine, FL 29 53.26 N 081 18.30 W

This past week we made our way down the ICW about another 250 miles from Beaufort, SC (mile 536) to St. Augustine (mile 777).

We left the town docks of Beaufort, SC last Friday morning 10/29. The morning started out a chilly 50 degrees after a cold front pushed through overnight but it turned out to be another clear sunny day with temperatures reaching the upper 70’s by afternoon. We traveled down the Beaufort River with strong northerly winds at our stern past the sprawling Parris Island USMC training base. We then crossed the wide and deep Port Royal Sound with somewhat boisterous sea conditions due to winds blowing against incoming flood current. Leaving Port Royal Sound the ICW flattened out once again as it entered more rivers and creeks. We passed Hilton Head Island, then crossing the Savannah River into the state of Georgia.
The 140 mile portion of the ICW in GA winds through river marshes behind a series of outer barrier islands known as the 'Sea Islands' (Sapelo, St. Simons, Jekyll, Cumberland). Unfortunately, there are few good anchorages in this area that offer good holding, minimal current, or wind protection. The tidal ranges are 8’- 9’ producing swift ebb / flood current reversals. Needless to say they’re not the calm water sheltered anchorages we prefer. 

Bicycling around Isle of Hope
 So with no real protected anchorages on this stretch of the ICW we opted to dock that night at Isle of Hope Marina in the Town of Isle of Hope which is a suburb of Savannah, GA. 
After checking in we took advantage of the free marina bicycles to peddle around what turned out to be a picturesque, quaint and settled small hamlet. 
Quaint neighborhood scenes
Beautiful Live Oaks with their hanging Spanish moss lined every street. The pleasant fragrance of tall Pine trees and flowers was in the early autumn air as we peddled around neighborhood streets. We were pleasantly surprised by this stop and decided we would probably come back here.

Saturday we left Isle of Hope and traveled down yet more winding tidal marsh creeks, across the mouths of both St. Catherine’s and then Sapelo Sounds. This area is very remote with very few signs of civilization along the way. It seems as if even the ICW boat traffic is less. We anchored a mile up the Duplin River, located at the south end of Sapelo Island with only one other boat that night. Although the current flows swiftly through here the anchorage was pleasant as we had very little wind.

On Sunday we delayed our morning departure until after a mid-morning low tide in order to transit a short section of the ICW known as the Little Mud River that is reputed to have severe shoaling. We passed through without incident and then crossed over both Doboy and Altamaha Sounds and down the inland side of St. Simon’s Island. After clearing St. Simon's Island, we then crossed St. Simon’s Sound with the city of Brunswick GA. and it's paper mill stacks (and their odor) visible to our starboard. We transited past Jekyll Island via another notoriously shoaling canal cut through Jekyll Creek without incident. It makes a significant difference going through these shallow areas on a rising tide even with our shallow draft catamaran. Next was St Andrew’s Sound where the ICW makes it’s most easterly swing since Norfolk and took us ½ mile from the breaking seas of the open Atlantic.

The Brickhill River anchorage at 
Plum Orchard Landing, Cumberland Is.
Cumberland Island National Seashore was our destination for the next couple of days. Cumberland Is. is the largest of the GA Sea Islands at 17 miles long. Access to the island is by private boat (like us) or by ferry from the National Park Visitor Ctr. in nearby St. Mary's, GA. We anchored in the Brickhill River off of Plum Orchard Landing. Because we started late that morning, we also did not arrive until 5:30 PM and as the afternoon breeze calmed it became very buggy with No-See-Ums that even got through our screens.

The former Carnegie-owned
Plum Orchard Mansion
In the morning we took the dinghy to the dock at Plum Orchard Landing. Part of the island is still in private ownership but the majority is administered by the NPS. Large areas were deeded to the National Parks Foundation by members or heirs of the Carnegie family in 1971. This includes the still-furnished Plum Orchard Mansion that we were only able to peek into the windows of. We then walked 2 miles across the island along a trail forested with Live Oak, Pine & Palm trees and dense undergrowth to the beach on the ocean side.

We had the beach completely to ourselves except for four wild horses which came strolling along the dunes foraging beach grass. They didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered by us and continued munching while Mark snapped some pictures. Armadillos are also common on the island and we saw four of them on the walk back through woods. We met a couple from Alabama that were camping on the island. We pointed out the armadillos to them but they were not impressed. Apparently armadillos are a scourge in Alabama and about as common as squirrels are in Connecticut.

Walking the trail back across the island
to the anchorage on the west side

The beach at Cumberland
Island all to ourselves

With a change in weather predicted with rain and wind we decided to leave Tuesday morning 11/2. We crossed the St Mary’s River entering FL by mid-morning. Today is the first actual cloudy day with rain showers for us since the Chesapeake. We took on fuel at the Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach, FL just as the front came through with winds and rain. We decided to stay the night plugged-in dockside, condo-mode again. It was rainy and humid through the night so we really enjoyed the air conditioner.

St Augustine and the Bridge of Lions
from the top of the lighthouse

 Wed 11/3 we arrived in St Augustine, the oldest city in the nation, making the 1PM Bridge of Lions opening. We picked up a mooring in a newly installed city mooring field south of the bridge. 
Yes... we rode on one of these trolley
buses touring the city.

 That afternoon we took a narrated tour of the city on one of those tacky trolley buses that provided a great overview of the city and some ideas as to what we wanted to go back and visit. Thursday turned out to be stormy with rain and winds most of the day. We spent the day on the boat working on this blog and catching up on some reading.

A cool & blustery day atop the
St Augustine Lighthouse

Today was a very cool (in the 60's for FL standards) and blustery day but bright and sunny.We climbed the 219 steps up the St Augustine lighthouse to a spectacular view looking out over the city, harbour and ocean. We enjoyed a great lunch of Cuban fare at The Columbia restaurant before finishing up our city tour.

We're planning to leave St. Augustine tomorrow for Daytona Beach.