Literally stuck in St. Marys.

We’d heard nice things about St. Marys and always meant to check it out, but until now it hadn’t happened. For some reason it seemed like it was too far off the beaten path from Cumberland, but it was actually only around a 20 minute detour. After our stay, we knew we would return – despite our difficulty leaving. But more on that in a bit.

St. Marys is a small, friendly town, and it’s well-known in the cruising community for having a great Thanksgiving celebration for cruisers. The night before Thanksgiving there is an oyster roast and pot luck social. On Thanksgiving day, local volunteers bring the turkeys and ham and cruisers bring all of the side dishes. Everyone helps to set up the tables and chairs while enjoying free coffee and donuts. Then on Friday there’s a swap meeting and book exchange.

We haven’t been to their Thanksgiving because in our perfect world, we’re a bit farther south. But now that we’ve been to St. Marys, if we are in the area for the holiday we will definitely go.

There are gorgeous live oak trees throughout St. Marys.

Our first night we heard Christmas music coming from the waterfront. A quick Google search showed that it was the annual St. Mary’s Christmas parade (on a weekday – odd), and lighting of the Christmas tree festival. We couldn’t hop in the dingy to watch because we didn’t have our Porta-Bote assembled yet, but a little while later we heard cheers. I poked my head out of the hatch and saw to a large Christmas tree lit up with silver holiday lights, so that was a nice introduction to the town.

Even the elementary school is pretty. West Hartford doesn’t have any school buildings that compare to this one.
One of the largest and oldest live oaks in town.

St. Marys “downtown” is tiny, but the district was filled with lovely houses and gigantic live oak trees. The welcome center even had a walking map that showed you where the larger trees were, listed by diameter. The waterfront park was very nice, and there was a submarine museum and one of the oldest cemeteries in Georgia, neither of which we got around to seeing. There’s always something saved for next time!

As a huge Hamilton fan, I found the plaque on this house particularly interesting.

On departure day we planned to head out the St. Marys inlet and back in the St. Johns inlet. It’s only about 20 miles, but the timing was such that we could ride the current both ways. This would let us avoid fighting the current for part of the way on the ICW. To our surprise though, when we started raising the anchor we raised about five feet of chain and that was it. We were caught – hard – on something. Well this was a first.

We tried the usual things we had read about. Circling around, putting the boat in forward and reverse, but our options were limited since we could only raise the chain those five feet. After 20 minutes or so, we knew we needed to call TowBoat. Hopefully he could get us off without our needing to hire a diver.

It was 7:00 a.m., but fortunately there was a TowBoat operator in Fernandina Beach, so he arrived about an hour later. He let out a ton of line, drove wide circles around our boat until the line caught on something, and then he started pulling on the “something.”

It took his two 150-hp outboards awhile, but eventually something gave and a stanchion came up. He told us to start raising our chain, and shortly after that a metal pole for a cabin top light came up. Apparently our chain had gotten caught on the remains of a sunken power boat. No wonder we hadn’t budged during our three-night stay! LOL! Luckily we hadn’t dropped the anchor on the boat, or I suspect we would have needed a diver.

Without our Towboat operator, we’d still be in St. Marys.

We were free about an hour after he started, but it was enough to lose the timing for hopping outside to Jacksonville. We waved goodbye to the TowBoat operator after thanking him profusely and giving him a tip, and continued motoring down the ICW.

Despite our difficulty actually leaving St. Marys, we’d definitely return. We just won’t anchor in that spot next time!

I wouldn’t be surprised if we live in Beaufort, SC some day.

After spending a week at Cumberland Island waiting for the weather to clear up, we finally decided that since we were in the south with summer approaching it simply wasn’t going to happen.  Time to continue moving north.

Every day the forecast called for at least a 40% chance of thunderstorms, and every day we were lucky and didn’t have any.  I bought a book about cruising in Georgia for the Kindle and it looks like there are SO many areas off of the ICW to explore.  Unfortunately with hurricane season approaching we couldn’t really take advantage of it, but we are armed with knowledge of some new spots we’d like to see when we make our way south again in the fall.

In the meantime we mixed it up a bit.  Instead of backtracking out of the anchorage at Cumberland, we continued winding up the Brickhill River until it rejoined the ICW.

Crossing St. Simons Sound near Brunswick, GA, we could still see the car carrier that had capsized and caught on fire last September.  It carried 4,000 Hyundais and Kias, and is in the process of being cut into eight pieces and removed.  The goal was to have it removed by hurricane season, but it looks like there is still quite a ways to go.

Continue reading “I wouldn’t be surprised if we live in Beaufort, SC some day.”

Finally getting to spend some time at Cumberland Island.

I’ve been wanting to spend some time exploring Cumberland Island for a while now.  I like National Parks and the idea of going to one that is only accessible by boat is VERY appealing.  With only 40,000 annual visitors, it’s a unique experience compared to a more popular National Park.  By comparison, Acadia National Park receives 3.5 MILLION visitors each year.

Cumberland Island was owned by the Carnegie Family before becoming a National Park, and it was thisclose to being developed when Carnegie descendants sold 3,000 acres to a developer of parts of Hilton Head Island.  Fortunately a number of groups joined forces to convince him to sell it to the National Park Foundation.  Once you visit the island, you immediately appreciate what a loss it would have been had the development occurred.

A visit to Cumberland was high on my list of places to see before we set off in 2018 (wow – we’ve been cruising for almost two years now!), but on our first trip south we were only able to spend an afternoon because the anchorage was very exposed to a weather system that was coming in the next day.  We walked around a bit but it was definitely just a tease and left me wanting more.  As it happened, however, on our way north last spring we bypassed it when we hopped outside from Jacksonville, FL to Georgetown, SC, and on our way south last fall we skipped it because we were freezing and wanted to find some warm temperatures.  This time, however, the stars aligned and I would not be denied a second visit.

Continue reading “Finally getting to spend some time at Cumberland Island.”

Putting the hammer down.

We were poking along the ICW as we did last fall, content in knowing that we were three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year and hoping that would be enough to keep the cold weather at bay.  We had enjoyed a beautiful, leisurely trip down the Dismal Swamp, spent a few nights in our favorite small town of Belhaven, and stopped in Beaufort, NC for the first time where we waited several days for a strong weather system to pass.

Blazing a trail through thick duckweed on the Dismal Swamp.


Continue reading “Putting the hammer down.”

Georgia: Savannah and Cumberland Island

Sunday dawned cold and cloudy with temperatures in the low 50’s.  Knowing that Monday was going to be sunny and mid-60’s, our plan was to leave our mooring in Beaufort, head down the ICW for a few miles and anchor for the rest of the day.  This would keep us from having to pay another $20 for the mooring just because we were feeling wimpy from the cold weather.  Of course once we got started we figured we might as well keep going.  We motored for another 20 statute miles before anchoring in Skull Creek and warming up down below with some hot chocolate.

Parris Island.  Jeff hadn’t been here since 1978.

I thought he might start having flashbacks!

The next day we moved on to the Herb River, which is where we had planned to anchor while we visited Savannah.  We had read that marinas in Savannah itself were very expensive ($3+/foot) and the river carried a lot of debris from the strong currents.  People looking to spend a bit less either anchor in the Herb River or stay at a marina in Thunderbolt or the Isle of Hope.  We were already planning to spend a few nights at the Isle of Hope Marina so we could visit my Uncle Ken and Aunt Sharon, so we decided to anchor for free for a few nights first.

The anchorage was only a 20 minute dinghy ride to Thunderbolt Marine where we paid $5 to leave the dinghy for the day.  From there it was a short walk to a bus that would take us into Savannah.  We had been looking forward to seeing Savannah for a while, and it was a lovely sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60’s. Continue reading “Georgia: Savannah and Cumberland Island”