Sunday, May 28, 2017

St. Augustine to Thunderbolt - 2017

--Blogpost written by Bob

Last night, we noticed that s/v Hafli was on a mooring ball a couple boats away.  (We met Ken and Nancy onboard s/v Hafli on our way south in the fall/winter.)  We called Ken (Nancy went back to New Jersey to work) and arranged to have a pizza dinner together at Pizza Time (our favorite pizza joint in Florida and the second best in the U.S. according to TripAdvisor).  We got some extra slices of pizza (to go) to have on our trip north.  Ken helped us get our outboard onto our dinghy and towed us back to the boat with his dinghy.  It was after 9 PM when we finally got back onboard.

Storm clouds over the mooring field at St. Augustine on May 24.

An Additional Day in St. Augustine

We experienced a severe thunderstorm during the night--it must have lasted an hour.  This morning, Wednesday, May 24, we looked at the overcast skies and the weather prediction of 80% chance of rain and almost 1" accumulation and decided to stay here in St. Augustine another day.  This was not so much that we can't handle wet weather, but because our ICW Chartbook is still wet from a previous thunderstorm and the visibility is very limited at times.

Maggie managed to get the lifting harness back on the dinghy motor (it's a real puzzle!) and we lifted the outboard motor up onto the stern of s/v Rainy Days where it will stay until we get to Annapolis.  As soon as we got this little task finished another thunderstorm rolled through the mooring field.  Since I don't expect our solar panels to generate much power today, I ran the engine (with its 120-amp alternator) for about an hour to top up our two battery banks.

Our damaged outboard motor is safely stored on its
stern mount on s/v Rainy Days for the
duration of our trip north.

It was a good decision to stay put in St. Augustine today!

We took the marina's noon shuttle into town and had lunch at South A Philly near the marina--our cheesesteaks were quite good!  After lunch, Ken and I walked to Marina Supply & Oil Company on Riberia Street and, then, the Sailor's Exchange on West King James Street while Maggie did some shopping on St. George's Street.

We've had bands of rain showers come through St. Augustine all day.  Our ride back to the boat on the marina's 4 o'clock shuttle was a wet miserable ride in a driving rainstorm.  Even though we had foul weather jackets on, we were completely wet from the waist down and had to change clothes when we returned to the boat.  When we got back to the boat, we discovered that we left the companionway door open all day but, fortunately,  the cats didn't venture out into the nasty weather in our absence (smart cats!).  The remainder of the day was spent getting warm, napping, and reading.

St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach

We have one long day ahead of us (today, Thursday, May 25) and a short day (tomorrow, Friday)--this is primarily due to the need to travel through Jekyll Creek (a severely shoaled area of the ICW) at mid-tide and rising (on Saturday morning).  

After topping off our fuel tanks and fresh water tanks at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, we went through the Bridge of Lions and headed north on the ICW.  (It was kind of sad leaving St. Augustine, a place that we have come to love.)

North of St. Augustine trees lined much of
the western side of the ICW.

The wake downstream of the green buoy shows how
much tidal current we had to deal with on
the St. Johns River today.

A ship is being loaded at Fernandina Beach

Dusk at Fernandina Beach on May 25.

Fernandina Beach to Wally's Leg

My day started this morning by Maggie telling me that the fresh water pump stopped working--this was while I was still half asleep and still in bed.  She was up before me and trying to make coffee.  At my suggestion, she changed tanks to the starboard tank and everything was fine (so we thought).  

In a quick attempt to figure out what was wrong, I switched to the errant forward tank and removed the water strainer only to find out that no water was coming from the forward tank.  Thinking that it must be some type of blockage, we carried on throughout the day and postponed any further investigation until we got a slip in a marina.  We were now drawing water from the 30-gallon starboard tank and we still had a full 30-gallon port water tank so, there was not an immediate problem.

The ICW runs along the west side of Jekyll Island--the narrowest part of the ICW in this area is called Jekyll Creek and its shoaling is a constant problem for ICW travelers.  We got a very early start (6:30 AM) from Fernandina Beach to make Jekyll Creek at high tide.

The pulp/paper mill at Fernandina Beach
before daybreak on May 26.

It was very cool in the morning--I wore jeans and a sweatshirt until about 10 AM when I changed onto shorts and a t-shirt.

Underway, we stopped quickly at the Jekyll Harbor Marina to top up our primary diesel tank and get a bag of ice.  We were able to go under the bridge immediately after leaving the marina.  We made it through Jekyll Creek without a single problem--it really pays to use the tide to your advantage!

A shrimp boat on Jekyll Sound in Georgia.

After a several hour long invasion of the (Georgia) horse flies along the Mackay River, we anchored in a little estuary called Wally's Leg just off the Mackay River in Georgia at 1:45 PM.  Although it was early in the afternoon, the next bad area of the Georgia ICW was upon us and the tide was dropping--we decided to anchor and tackle the problematic Little Muddy River on a rising tide tomorrow.

We anchored in Wally's Leg shown at the anchor
sign in the center of this image.

The marsh banks along Wally's Leg where we are anchored
tonight.  There isn't a sign of civilization in
many miles in any direction.

Wally's Leg to Kilkenny Creek

Ken of s/v Hafli weighed anchor about 7 AM, long before us.  On his way out of Wally's Leg, he spotted an 8-foot alligator by the bank at the entrance.

As I was taking this photograph of s/v Hafli leaving Wally's Leg
an 8-foot alligator was spotted on the left bank.

This morning, again, we had no water pressure.  Before getting underway, we ripped apart the quarter berth to get access to the fresh water pump and it seemed fine.  So, I started tracing down the fresh water lines looking for a leak.  Before long, I found that the hose clamp on one of the cockpit shower lines was leaking pretty seriously.  Apparently, yesterday the entire 40 gallons of fresh water in the forward water tank was pumped out the leaking hose connection and drained into the bilge (where it was pumped overboard by the bilge pump).  Overnight, the same thing happened to the fresh water in the starboard tank.  Now, two out of our three water tanks were empty.

Knowing that we identified and fixed the water supply problem, we left our anchorage at 8:15 AM.  We were plagued with horse flies all morning.  Maggie was killing them with a flyswatter as soon as they landed on something.  However, because of the distraction created by the horse fly invasion, we missed our turnoff to the Little Mud River.  We went about 5 miles out of our way and had to backtrack to get back on the ICW--this cost us about 2 hours of time.  The passage through the notorious Little Mud River went fine at high tide, the lowest water level we saw was about 12 feet (and we draw a little over 5 feet).

Just before lunch, two dolphins came along side our boat and took turns surfacing for air.  They stayed with us for half an hour until we ran into yet another pod of dolphins.  Soon, they all took off for other purposes.

This was one of two dolphins that followed
our boat for one half hour.

There is a summer home in the middle of the trees on this
island along the ICW in Georgia.  The only way to
get to the summer home is by boat.

Most of the day, we were fighting tidal currents which limited our speed over the ground to about 5 knots (we usually do 6.75 knots without opposing current or wind).  With the two-hour delay due to our missing the turnoff and the slow boat speed caused by the opposing tidal currents, we were exhausted at the end of the day.  Consequently, we changed our day's destination from Redbird Creek to Kilkenny Creek, about 6 miles less distant.  We anchored at 5 PM and we only made 51 miles today in nearly 9 hours of motoring!

Kilkenny Creek to Thunderbolt

We planned our departure from Kilkenny Creek this morning (Sunday, May 28, at 7:50 AM) so that we get to Hell Gate (that's a pretty good description) at two hours before high tide.  High tide at Hell Gate was at 11:50 AM.  Hell Gate is approximately 2 hours from Kilkenny Creek.  We actually left our anchorage a little earlier than planned (7:30 AM) plus we had very favorable tidal currents, both of which accelerated our arrival at Hell Gate.  

This is the view approaching Hell Gate from the south.  Hell Gate
is a relatively narrow channel that is right in the center
of this image--it makes a right hand turn half way
down the length of the channel.

However, we made it through just fine with depths nothing less than 10.5 feet of water--remember the tidal range here is a little over 8 feet but we were near mid-tide, so it would have been a completely different story had the tide been low like it was for our first excursion through this channel back during the winter.

Today was a short travel day--we got to Thunderbolt Marine just a little before noon.  We topped off our fuel tank and filled all our water tanks and got a slip for the night.  Then, we went out for lunch at Tubby's (about 2 blocks away from the marina).

Supposed to be a Tubby's original, this deep-fried asparagus
was very tasty as an appetizer.  The asparagus
inside the fried coating was still very crispy!

I just had the best shower on the entire ICW and I am now luxuriating in our air-conditioned  boat.  This is exactly what we needed after 3-1/2 days on the ICW.  Tomorrow morning, we will cross the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Our next blogpost will be from Isle of Palms SC.  Stay tuned...

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