Fernandina Florida to Beaufort South Carolina

The engine repairs are finally done. Actually they have been done for about a week. We decided to hang around Fernandina for a bit longer, but not as long as we would have liked. It turns out that our insurance company was very upset that we were 90 miles south of where they wanted us to be. Never mind that the marina here at Tiger Point had hurricane cradles with tie downs to put us in if a major storm approached and never mind that Fernandina had not taken a direct hit in over 100 years, they wanted us someplace else and gave us 2 weeks to get there. Well, at least there was that. We took the time to do some other boat repairs while we were at Tiger Point. The VHF had not been acting up to its usual standards for a while so we replaced the antenna and the connector at the masthead and that seems to have fixed the problem. We did a few other minor projects and spent a little more time with our friends. But finally we had to get under way.

We were off the dock around 8 AM and headed north up the waterway. This would be the first time we would test the engine to be sure our repairs corrected the coolant issue. After less than an hour we had to stop but the engine had nothing to do with it. The weather on this trip has been totally bizarre and today was not going to be any different. As we approached Cumberland Island a dense fog was surrounding us. Being a Sunday morning and being near the navy base we decided to pull off the waterway and drop anchor until the fog lifted.

We anchored outside the main channel and out of the way of the ferries and other boats we knew would be heading to Cumberland Island this morning. After about an hour or so, the visibility improved and once again we were under way. The waterway through Georgia is quite beautiful, alternating between saw grass flats and tree lined areas with white sand beaches. But it does twist and turn and we often say we sometimes pass ourselves along the way. Making things all the more difficult for the boater, Congress in its infinite wisdom has dedicated NO FUNDS to maintaining and dredging the waterway through the state. As a result there are many places where the channels have shoaled and can only be navigated at high tide with our 6 foot draft. A lot of planning goes into our daily runs to coordinate the high tides. We also have to take this into consideration when finding a spot to anchor and even how much anchor chain to put out. Tides run from 6 to over 7 feet in most of the areas we will cover. The rest of the day went well and we covered about 50 miles and finally dropped anchor in a small creek called Wally’s Leg around 5 PM. With a constant check on the engine all day to watch the coolant levels, we determined by the end of the day that we were “probably” in good shape and the next couple of days would verify that. Tomorrow we will have to negotiate some very shallow spots so we will have to do them at high tide which means we can not even start out till around noon time. That does not leave us many hours of daylight to move north. It will turn out to be a short day and we are looking for bad weather to set in later on Tuesday so we must find a spot to hunker down for a day or so. At least that is what the forecast reads.

As planned we headed out at around 12:30 PM to make the passages through Buttermilk Sound and the Little Mud River on a rising tide with as much as we could, considering the distance we had to travel. All went well and we had plenty of water but still needed to be careful and conscious of exactly where we were in the channel. Even with the late start we covered 38 miles and by around 6:30 PM had the anchor down in another lovely river called the Wahoo. To our surprise we found we would share the river with another sailboat that anchored a bit further in and a power boat that came in shortly after we did and anchored not far from us. We have not seen another boat in any of our anchorages for quite some time. Tomorrow will be a short run for us because we are expecting some heavy weather for Wednesday, at the least. There is a winter type front with accompanying storms expected to sweep through the region starting Tuesday night so we need to get in early and batten down. Just more bizarre weather. The tides through some of the places we need to transit will not allow us to get through early enough so we will stop before we get to those areas. We will probably only cover about 15 miles.

The following morning was even better than we expected. We had a fair amount of cloud cover but it was high and thin with no rain in it. Watching the radar last night we thought it might start with at least the rains early. Our start was still a bit late but by 20 minutes to 8 in the morning the anchor was up and we were moving farther north. The sun actually came out and it was a very pleasant 21 miles to Kilkenny Creek where we planned to hold up and wait for the weather to blow through. Reports are for winds in the 25 knot range so a protected anchorage is a must. Kilkenny Creek cuts just off the waterway and has good depths all the way in. Past the small group of homes and the marina, which has seen better days, the creek bends around and the depths are in the 10 to 12 foot range. We found another boat at anchor as we arrived and we dropped our hook a bit further down stream from him. Once the primary anchor was down, we back downstream another 50 to 75 feet and dropped our secondary anchor. This keeps us in the middle of these narrow creeks if the wind blows across them and also keeps us in the same spot to avoid possibly unsetting the anchor when the tidal currents switch. With potential gale force winds in some of these storms, we did not want to take any chances. Once settled in, there was not much to do but have lunch, relax and wait for the action to begin. By 1 PM light rain was beginning to fall so our timing was pretty good. By 3 PM the sky was darkening and the rains were getting a bit heavier. By sunset everything had pretty much cleared out, the wind went calm and the rest of the night was very quiet.

The next day we had rain pretty much from early in the morning until early afternoon, off and on. The winds also picked up early afternoon and we had gusts in excess of 20 knots. We don’t have to actually measure it since we can pretty much tell our wind speed from the sounds of the wind generator. Most of the day was just spent relaxing and checking the radar from time to time to see where the bigger storms were.

Thursday morning was a complete opposite. The morning was sunny and crisp with overnight temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s, more like early fall than mid August. We had to be under way early again because of tides going through Florida Passage and particularly Hell’s Gate. Both areas are notorious for shallow spots and especially Hell’s Gate needed to be transited at as high a tide as we could. At just before daybreak with enough light to navigate, we headed out. All went well in both areas since we were very near high tide. But we still needed to cross the Savannah River and go through Fields Cut to get to our next anchorage. As fate would have it, we had no choice but to transit at dead low tide or sit somewhere and wait for the higher tides later in the day. We chose to give it a go and did touch bottom crossing the Wilmington River just before the Savannah River. We also slowed down to let a ship pass before we crossed the river. The currents here are very strong so one must pay special attention. We found a 7 foot spot on the south entrance to Fields Cut and touched bottom at the north end as we exited. Other than those couple of places we had no issues with depths the rest of our day. Our anchorage for the night was to be the Bull River near Daufuskie Island which has become a tourist attraction and brings all of the small boats and jet skis to the area. Here as in other places we have visited all of these vessels will only operate a full throttle so we patiently wait for the sun to go down so they all will go home. The anchorage is very beautiful even with pests buzzing around all afternoon. There are also several ferries coming from different areas to bring folks to the Island.

The next day we motored in flat seas and calm winds the 5 hours to Beaufort, South Carolina. Motoring down Port Royal Sound on the falling tides we were doing almost 9 MPH without even trying but once we made the turn up the Beaufort River it was a hard push against the currents. We made the Lady’s Island Bridge just in time for the 12:30 PM opening and made the turn into Factory Creek. Our original plan was to anchor in the Creek and visit with friends that were staying at Lady’s Island Marina but with dark clouds over our shoulder we decided to take a slip for the night. As it turned out, that was a good move since it made visiting our friends easier and the thunderstorms rolled in at about 8:30 PM that evening. Our friends drove us out to check out Dataw Marina which is where we plan to hang out for the next few months. As usual it is always good to visit with friends we have not seen for quite some time.

Dataw Island Marina is only about 5 miles as the crow flies but not being crows we needed to travel 20 miles by water. The morning was mostly overcast but winds were calm and the trip was rather pleasant. We arrived around noon and stopped at the fuel dock to fill up the tank. There is a very strong current on the river here so we had to wait until around 2:30 pm to move into the slip we had picked out the day before. The marina personnel are very helpful and were on the dock for our arrival at the fuel dock and also as we moved into the slip. Soon we were settled in and ready for a stretch of rest and relaxation, and just to not be moving for a while.

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