22 November, 2015
On the 17th, we departed Lady’s Island Marina at 06h30 at low tide, and passed under the bridge without an opening. We planned a short ride to Hilton Head, as we were visiting Frank & Kathy, some Krogen friends who have a home at Windmill Point, Jenkins Island. With an early start, we could be there in time to ride bikes and tour Hilton Head. Windmill is pretty cool. The development has its’ own man-made boat basin, large enough for a hundred or so boats, entered through a small lock off the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). As we approached the lock, we realized that there was no need to hang fenders, as the lock is 19’ wide (The Girl is 17’6”-do the math). We locked through without a nudge of the walls. Once inside the basin, it was like driving a gokart in a phone booth-kinda tight. Frank & Kathy came down and opened the pedestrian drawbridge with their garage door opener, and we glided down the fairway into our spot on their neighbor’s seawall. Sweet. Cathy said that it was absolutely unsafe to ride our bikes across the bridge to Hilton Head, but once over, the riding on the miles of dedicated paths would be wonderful. We loaded our bikes onto her SUV, and she dropped us off in the city center, making us promise to call Frank for a pickup on our way home. The next few hours, we covered 22 miles, and got a pretty good look at H.H. Suzanne was amazed at how much things had changed since she had visited as a child. At that time, none of the developments were here, and McDonalds was the only place to eat. We visited the historic site of Mitchellville, the first community of free Blacks in America. Formed during the Civil War, the enclave was self-governed, and had the distinction of being the first city requiring mandatory education of it’s’ children. After the war ended, the population slowly dwindled, as residents relocated in search of employment. Frank picked us up, and we had no sooner put the bikes in their bag up on the boat deck, when the skies opened up and it poured for the next 2 hours. That evening, Frank cooked up one of his specialties for us-filets with blue cheese, and roasted asparagus. We rinsed the steaks down with a couple of bottles of French redpop, and then went home and slept soundly, serenaded by the drizzle falling on the deck over our bed.
The first lock opening wasn’t until 08h00, so we slept in. Winds were down to 8 knots under cloudy skies as we glided down the ditch to the Wahoo River, where we anchored for the night. The Girl did 180’s around the hook during the night as the tide ebbed and flooded. Our intention was to make Jeckyll Island Passage at high tide, as the water isn’t deep enough for us to get through otherwise. Our trusty little home on the water made good time, and we hit the passage at the last hour of the rising tide. Since it was only 3 more hours to Cumberland Island, and it was about 3 hours until dark, we decided to push on. As we passed Kings Point Naval Base, we spied a nuke at the dock being refitted (last time we were through here, there were no subs at the dock). At the Cumberland anchorage, our hook was down as the last vestiges of sunlight faded away. We awoke to a beautiful sunny, windy morning. So breezy, in fact, that we decided against launching the dink, and pulled masking tape (from our varnishing project) instead. We had a little time to kill, ‘cause we wanted to go through Fernandina Beach at high tide, as we had nearly grounded there last year at this time. Anchor was up at 12h00, and we had a nice quiet cruise down to the free dock at Sister’s Creek on the outskirts of Jacksonville, where the ICW meets the St. Johns River. The dock was already pretty full, but the boats there had lots of room between them. If they pulled in closer to one another, there was plenty of room for another boat. Nobody’s answering the VHF. Okay, we’ll pull close enough to yell to them over the bow. Heads down, nobody makin’ eye contact as we’re holding in a several knot crosscurrent in 18 knot winds over shoal water. Finally, a guy fishing on the end of the dock walks over to the end boat. Now, he HAS to acknowledge us. After a lot of back and forth over the wind, NOPE, they’re NOT going to move. Okay………decision time. Do we run up the blind fairway, 100’ wide with uncertain depth on a falling tide, crosswind blowing us on to the boats lined up on the dock to get to a spot that LOOKS like its long enough for us, or do we anchor out in the current on the ICW with a cold front blowing through tonight? In the end, we went on in and had plenty (12’) of depth. Later, around dark when a large sailboat came in and got the same treatment, we called him on the VHF, and he rafted on us comfortably.
In the morning, we had some intermittent mist, but the winds had subsided to around 10 knots. There’s no future trying to fight the current going up the St. Johns River to Jacksonville, so we needed to wait until 2 hours after low tide to leave. With an 11h30 departure planned, we had plenty of time to kill, so we walked up to the old bridge over the ICW, looking down on the construction crews that were driving pilings and pouring footings for the new bridge. Several spans were already in place, but it didn’t look like the bridge would be done for a year or so. The 3 hour cruise up the river kept us occupied dodging commercial traffic while watching Michigan dismantle Penn State’s vaunted defense. The Michigan “D” showed their chops, stopping PSU 3 times inside the 10. We arrived at the mouth of the Ortega River before the game was over, so we just drifted for 30 minutes, watching TV before calling for a bridge opening. At Ortega Landings Marina, we were greeted by Jeff and Ellen (“Sea Dweller”), who caught our lines and brought us in safely. Steve and Julia (“Erben Renewal”) are also here, as well as Garry & Jacquie(“Waterford”), and Doug & Jan (“Daydreams”). I guess that’ll make this stop a mini Krogen rendezvous. We didn’t see our Lake Superior pals, as Garry & Jacqui are Michigan State fans, while their traveling companions, Doug & Jan root for Ohio State. They were all hunkered down watching the game. We headed in to the office to pick up our mail (all 10 or so boxes-Amazon Prime is a wonderful thing). I’m sure that Jeannie was pleased, as she’ll now be able to get to her desk without having to climb over boxes. On Sunday morning, we organized a potluck dinner for the Krogen gang, utilizing the swanky clubhouse here. As the day progressed, the party grew from 12 to well over 20 as more dockpals were invited to join in the fun.
We’ll pick up a rental car tomorrow (Monday), and drive up to Ohio to visit my sister’s family for Thanksgiving. In the meantime, boatchores and socializing with our pals.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.