Day 1 – St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach, FL (South Amelia River) – 51 miles, 10 hours
Our first day out alone! We woke up super early in order to time our departure with slack tide, in the hopes we wouldn’t drift yet again into the boat next to us when leaving the dock – which we did anyway. Still didn’t hit though! We got through the Bridge of Lions and we were off. Brian had taken copious notes from Active Captain regarding areas we needed to be careful at, in terms of shallow waters and shoaling, and we quickly realized that even when one person is driving, the other person isn’t sitting back and eating bonbons – they are fully engaged in terms of checking the notes, using the binoculars to pick out problem spots ahead, manning the radio. And…we realized that the ICW, while it does pass through some beautiful areas, is long. And slow. And boring. Not to mention, the wind was on our nose just about the entire day.
We made it to just south of Fernandina Beach by 5 (Cumberland Island, GA would have been a stretch), anchored in what the Skipper Bob book said was a “lovely” anchorage (which it was, as long as you looked away from the paper mill), and sat down to relax with steaks and beers. We were both sound asleep by 9 PM.
Day 2 – Fernandina Beach, FL to Lanier Island (St. Simon’s Island), GA – 42 miles, 9 hours 40 minutes
We wanted to make it to this stop as we’d heard that there was a decent restaurant at the marina here, and I was looking forward to getting off the boat for a nice dinner and a shower. I’m a little sad that we didn’t stop at Cumberland Island, as we’ve heard such great things, but when we miss a spot we just tell ourselves we’ll hit it up on our way back down in the fall. More favorable winds, Active Captain got us through some tricky spots (as in, a place where if you went by the chart, you’d be aground), and we even got the jib up for a little while! First “sailing”!
We hit the channel at Jekyll Island at low tide, and I’m quite sure if we had been in a monohull we’d be aground – in fact, there was another boat that was, and they were taking it in stride, sitting in their cockpit reading while they waited for the tide to come in. Brian had his eyes trained on the Garmin and the “magenta line” which mostly gives you the best route to follow through the ICW, and I kept my eyes on the channel and the depth finder. Quite a relief to get through there and be out in a nice open channel.
Anchoring was a bit more of a challenge that night. The book told us to anchor in 11 feet of water, which was on the opposite side of the channel from the other boats at anchor, and was more like 20 feet. There were also a ton of crab pots around, so it was a frustrating time to finally find a place to settle in, and we tried out a few spots before we felt comfortable turning off the engines.
We got in the dinghy and headed to the nearby marina, where for $10 we could tie up the dinghy and take a shower. I must say, as much as I do love me a land shower, this one was lacking. The restaurant, as well, was ok, but not any great shakes, so we were a little disappointed. So after some food and a few beers, we headed back to the boat to crash out.
Day 3 – Lanier Island, GA to Birthday Creek (off Richmond Hill, GA) – 53 miles, 10 hours 25 minutes
The next day, we seemed to be making better time, so we decided to stretch and see just how far we could get. We also noticed that our anemometer was all screwed up again – it was showing a wind speed, but the direction function wasn’t working, and when we eyeballed it, it seemed to be all bent over. I guess we will need to either get Brian up the mast to figure it out, or learn how to read the wind on our own!
Our anchorage that night was pretty darn perfect – not a soul in sight, absolutely stunning sunset and moonrise, a good dinner…life is good!
Day 4 – Birthday Creek to Daufuskie Island, SC – 39 miles, 10 hours
SLOW SLOG! Current and wind was working against us, so I think we averaged about 3 knots most of the day. We had to go through “Hell Gate”, and I was at the helm, and I was pretty freaked. It’s a narrow and shallow channel, and we could hear the boats ahead of us chattering about it on the VHF. However, once we lined it up it went pretty smoothly!
We stopped for fuel, water and a pump-out at a great little marina at Isle of Hope, where we experienced our “ship’s store” sticker shock ($57 for two 12 packs of beer?!?) and had to do our first docking of the trip. The current was pushing us in to the dock, and while I gave it a shot, I handed the reins over to Brian to get us on, eventually. Getting off the dock with the wind and current pushing us in to it was not one of the most fun things ever.
We crossed the Savannah River (letting a massive container ship cross our path first), up a channel that had current keeping our speed down to practically 2 knots, and finally anchored off Daufuskie Island.
What an amazing little place! There are no bridges to the island so you can only reach it by boat, and while I believe there are some fancy golf courses and resorts popping up, it’s still got this great backwoods vibe to it. We had a stellar meal at Marshside Mama’s (don’t let the website fool you – this is a dive-y shack in the best possible way), a few too many beers, and met some great folks.
Day 5 – Daufuskie Island, SC to Beaufort, SC – 31 miles, 6 hours 45 minutes
Waking up the next morning with pounding headaches, we got a late start and started making our way to Beaufort. Again, the wind and current was working against us for a good chunk of the trip, but we did get the jib out for a little bit to gain a little ground. We reached Beaufort by 4 and were greeted by our new friends Shannan and Leigh on “Blue Dog”, and were looking forward to a few days off.
So, in summary, the ICW can be a real b*tch, but hey, so can being out in the middle of the ocean, which is why we probably will not attempt any trips on the “outside” on our way north. However, it does have us rethinking our trip back down, that we’ll factor in an overnight sail or two to avoid the long slog.
Next up – Beaufort, SC, new friends, and a little shore leave!