Destination Savannah: Amelia Island and Anchorages Thereafter

April 3

We had planned to spend one more beautiful day in St. Augustine, but the touristy bits had soured us a bit, and with an eye on the weather, we decided to make a run for our next destination. Amelia Island Marina is not a happenin’ place, but it was a good spot to wait out another couple days of rain and high wind. During the first 24 hours Steve made multiple rounds, readjusting lines and fenders to better secure the boat in the high wind, and I stuck my nose out once to retrieve cheese from the cooler on the flybridge: it was that sort of day. Getting low on provisions, I was rather proud of the dinner that scrounging produced—chicken roasted with onions, garlic, green olives, lemon slices, and olive oil with a side of maple-glazed carrots. The next day we took the courtesy car and provisioned! But first we drove to the historic district of Fernandina Beach—a couple blocks adjacent to a state park—which includes the Pippi Longstocking House. Pippi Longstocking, is not a real person, of course, but it IS a real movie (“The New Adventures of…”), and this was the 1987 set, a colorful Victorian home with a copper-roofed cupola and mature gardens—charming!  Dinner was take-out Sushi…. And that was Fernandina Beach! 

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Pippi Longstocking House in Fernandina Beach

A lot of angst, primarily on Steve’s part, went into planning the next leg of our journey, because the tidal range is 6-7 feet. We don’t have tides in the Great Lakes and the Caribbean, so this is a whole new wrinkle in boating for us. We had made a reservation at a marina before reading the recommendation for matching wind and tidal current when crossing the potentially choppy seas of St. Andrews Sound, and a rising tide to pass the shallow water by Jekyll Island, both impossible with our itinerary! After gleaning some local knowledge, we scrapped the original plan and decided to anchor just south of these areas, staging our approach the following morning at high tide. Having now left Florida and entering Georgia, we felt lucky to find ourselves that afternoon in Terrapin Cove, a lovely spot with a few other boats and that our dear friends Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder finally caught up with us! They cruised 80 miles to get there and “rafted up” to Red Pearl, avoiding their need for anchoring and offering easy access for socializing. After docktails on the flybridge, we shared Instant Pot vegetable beef soup which I had made that morning and spinach salad and killer brownies which Brenda whipped up. We had so much to catch up on since our escape together to New Orleans in January! The night was windy and roll-y, the 10 fenders between our boats creaked and groaned, and none of us slept much as a result, but it was so worth it!

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Some of Georgia’s wild coastal landscapes.
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There’s lots of homework and planning on this trip. Steve has two of our favorite resources on his left; the clip board keeps a list of the day’s challenges, such as bridges under 17’ clearance that require our hailing the operator or shallow water that requires special awareness; he writes in a daily log (under the clip board) when we travel—He keeps record of boaty things, I keep record of the sights; he is researching a number of things using technology—marina selection, distances, wind, currents, and tides, or he may be setting waypoints to chart our course for the following day. The seat next to him is littered with more reference books.
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Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder approach on Velsignet.
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We rafted with Velsignet for the night. Our anchor held both boats.
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Sunrise on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The next morning after shared coffee time, we headed off, they for a day of cycling on Jekyll Island, and we to a further destination. (We all are flying out of Savannah next week to our respective homes, but we have service work scheduled and need to be there earlier than they do.) It was a beautiful cruise along the Georgia coastline, wild, desolate, and swampy. Rain was in the forecast for nearly the whole day, and so we felt lucky to have a merely overcast day. We delighted in nature’s gifts: a sea turtle ducked beneath the surface just ahead; dolphins dipped in and out, at one point six playing in our wake; elegant terns stalled in midair, dive bombed and speared fish with sharp beaks; bald eagles and ospreys swooped for their prey and carried them off in their talons; black cormorants ducked underwater and emerged, barely able to fly with feathers water-laden and hung their wings out to dry perched atop a piling; and pelicans patiently awaited handouts from fishermen. We anchored at Fridaycap Creek seemingly early, around 1:00 to take advantage of the next morning’s high tide to again avoid risk of running aground. We puttered and napped and soaked in the beauty of our bucolic spot.

On Friday this is Steve’s Log entry: 

Rain all day was forecasted but we didn’t see a drop! Ended being a lovely cruising day. We got out the “foulies” for nothing! Our passage for the day included: Buttermilk Sound, Altamaha Sound, the very shallow Little Mud River (was fine at high tide), Darien River, North River, Dolby Sound, Old Teakettle Creek, Crescent River, Front River, Sapelo River and Sound, Brunson Creek, Johnson Creek, N. Newport River, Medway River, and St. Catherine Sound, and finally to Sunbury Channel—all in only 50 miles! Sunbury Marina is very small, not very busy, but floating docks are excellent and staff is very accommodating. Nothing here except the restaurant which was excellent. The seven-mile side trip to visit here was worth it!

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Sunburn Crab Company is rated one of Georgia’s Top Ten Dives. We had a great dinner and were charmed by the folks here.

Our final day approaching Savannah found us focused on getting through the infamous Hell Gate at high tide, 10:15, requiring a departure at 7:15 to make that happen. I’ve been fighting a cold, the kind that makes you feel like your eyes are buried 2 inches into your skull, so was not very receptive to Steve’s wanting to experiment with springing off the dock or to his questioning my clove hitch while doing said experiment. I finally just went back to bed, foul weather bibs and all, and left Steve to his meditations on Hell Gate. I emerged from my nap feeling more human, and we weathered a bit a rain, which sent us down into the salon where we could stay dry, but later we returned to the fly bridge.  After tying up at Thunderbolt Marina, we enjoyed docktails with Gold Loopers Jill and Richard Spurlock on Jill Kristy, a 26-foot McGregor (sailboat) and Bruce and Bev on Daytripper! They had a lot of tips and stories, and we admired their spunk. Thunderbolt Marina will be the home for Red Pearl during scheduled maintenance and as we fly home to Indiana for Mom Hollenberg’s birthday bash. Savannah’s elegance and history make it a high point for many Loopers, and we are excited to have arrived here.

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