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.
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.
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!
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.
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!