We left Georgetown Saturday the 19th of January at 7am. The winds were supposed to be changing quite often, but "anything but south" for the next 72 hours or more, and the sea in the morning was supposed to be maybe up to 5 feet but diminishing as the day progressed. We followed the tide out down the long passage back to the ocean with calm winds, but when we reached the end of the inside channel the waves picked up at an impressive pace...... these were definiately 5 feet and some were so high we figure they might have been up to 9 feet. the autopilot would do nothing in this situation, so I helmed through the outside ocean channel to safe water. From the cockpit it seemed like the nose of the boat rose completely up in the air! I learned to turn the boat in such a way that we didnt come crashing down in the valley between the waves, but when I missed poor Caribee took a beating and shot waves up high in the air. Others came rushing over the nose and ran down the sides right back to the cockpit. If I wasn't using all
my energy and focus trying to avoid the biggies I would have been petrified. Marty was standing in front of the companionway looking out at the waves trying to tell me when the big ones were coming, but soon the windows were so full of salt spray that even he was having trouble seeing them.
Thankfully once out of the channel we no longer had them on our nose so no more possible crashing, but having them pretty much at our stern offered both some fun surfing and some rocking all over. As the day progressed and the winds lightened even more the seas calmed a bit, but there were still series of big ones rolling through to knock us around. It takes a while after the winds stop for the ocean to decide to follow. We decided to take a break from helming: my arms had actually been burning from exercise helming through those big waves for a while. But guess what- this is when the autopilot says no thank you- I'm on vacation and we are stuck helming the entire trip. Daytime is not so bad, even if you have no landmarks or clouds to follow you
can at least see around you and see the buoys you are passing. At night all can be ok if you have stars to follow like we did at first, but when the clouds obscure everyting and you just focus on a compass or gps heading you find yourself weaving far more than you should- it is really hard to keep any kind of straight course with absolute ink and no references around you. At least we thought it was,hopefully it gets better or there is some trick we don't know about! When we were nearing the entrance to Savannah I started to see groups of lights in a few places..... commercial ships. With AIS not properly hooked up they can see us I am sure but we can't see what the boat's name is and what their course is or how far away they are and how fast they are traveling. We even hailed one who was getting a bit close for our standards to make sure he saw us because I could not see a red or green to figure out where he was headed. We had to look out for 4 ships entering Savannah.... that was a
tense couple of hours. After that there was not much to worry about until daybreak thankfully, except that the clouds came in to hide any possible guides for us to keep a good course. I was trying to help Marty by calling out our heading while he tried to line himself up with any visual offering from the sky, but I was falling asleep on my job and he sent me off to nap in the cockpit. He woke me up just before dawn to help navigate around some kind of danger marker, and at first light a whole slew of dophins came up on both sides of Caribee to swim with us. They stayed for quite a while this time, maybe since we were going faster than the last time we saw dolphins and it was a bit more fun for them. Marty reminded me it was my birthday..... I had pretty much forgotten! That was a nice present to start the day.
As the sun came up it proved to be a warm calm day. Everything including the waves slowed down- a bit too much actually at one point and we had to pull in sail. The
wind decided to make an appearance again at a different angle later, but thankfully it was a favourable angle. We take out the genoa again. And that's all we have- yesterday we had an issue with the mainsail. Marty goes up to the mast to release the main sail....... and it gets jammed. When this happens (yes we have to splurge on a new mainsail we realize at this moment because it has happened more than once!) it takes both of us releasing and winching in and out at the mast and the cockpit until it comes undone... and without the autopilot to steer and enough wave action still for us to be swirled around we cannot mess with it unfortunately. And so we leave the portion we can't get back in out like a little balloon sail. This will be embarassing and hopefully not a hinder when we enter into the next marina! In any case the wind picks up enough to cut the motor and we really SAIL for a while! The winds finally move into the direction they were forecast to be, and a direction that is favourable for us. I go to check on things up
at the anchor locker, this is the first time I go up there without being tethered. Very exciting! I sit down and enjoy the sun, the fact it is warm enough to just be wearing a light jacket instead of three layers, and the lack of engine noise and faint diesel smoke smell. This is what it is all supposed to be about, at least I think so! We fire the engine back up in a little while to motor sail and make better time- we are NOT entering anywhere in darkness again if it is not absolutely necessary. As we pull into the channel leading to the Florida/Georgia border a lone dolphin swims alongside as if the guide our way. What a beautiful day!
I must say looking at Amelia Island on the way in via water is very disappointing after all you read of the history and charm it is supposed to possess. From far you start to see the industry belching filth into the sky, and unlike Georgetown these plants are visible from the ocean so they are not welcoming for sure. You focus on the sands of Cumberland Island instead until you can look at
the Fort at least. Turning down towards Fernandina Beach again all you see are huge plants and smoke, and you wonder where the town can be. You see the boats anchored ahead to your right and know now that the city is not far, but you can't imagine where in this land of large noisy smokey structures there might be buried an inviting city. Then you see the long concrete dock. Being off season, they are dredging now and we were told where to tie up- the back side of the dock is full because they transfered all boats on the outside there for the nasty weather front that came in. So we have to tie up on the outside, right near where the ferry lands probably from St Mary's, and right near the office and the ramp up to the city. We also discover that this dock is public, people are strolling all over peering curiously into our boat and taking pictures of the sunset. My city upbrining immediately puts me on alert- we have to put all valuables inside and lock the boat when we leave.....! Of course after observing the goings on I calm down, but it
is still not relaxing to have people walk by you all the time. So far I am not impressed at all by Fernandina Beach, sad to say because I have heard very good things.
Monday morning we wander into town- and all is forgotten. Fernandina Beach is a beautiful place, and I can imagine the energy it must have during cruising season. There are a ton of restaurants, cafes, art and gift shops, bed and breakfasts, antiques.... it's like Vieux Port and St Denis all in one. The touristy stuff is usually only interesting for me for a short while, but here these pleasanteries are presented in such a wonderful architectural package that I don't feel the itch to get away. These beautifully kept buildings are surrounded by huge trees draped in hanging moss... I can walk the streets for days and be coaxed into sitting down with a drink just to be able to admire the scenery a little more. I can imagine arriving here by car is a lot more welcoming, it is an unfortunate thing that it is not inviting coming in from the water because this is indeed a charming place when you get inland.
Maybe tomorrow before we leave we will take a big walk to the beach on the ocean side, or to the restored fort.
We will leave tomorrow to go upstream to St Mary's Georgia. Fernandina Beach is expensive at the marina, and there is too much ferry, tugboat and all around traffic to be comfortable there as well. Huge gas engines sounding like a ton of Harleys or Triumphs rev behind us to flll up, ferries pull in and tons of people walk by us a few times a day, locals wander around, wakes from boaters on the ICW bounce us up and down and into the dock and the industry groans and whines all night. It would be better on the mooring across or at anchor, but we have not started our outboard yet and this bouncy dock is not the place to try. We will go perhaps to go Lang's marina the first night to solve some things, and then when dinghy is up and running we will ease out in the anchorage alongside our friends on Anthyllide and rest while waiting for and planning our next move. We plan to get another internet device while still
in USA so we dont have to use marina internet, and we think we can do without our heater at night now. Time to move the outboard motor to the top of the list of things to do and anchor most of the time from now on! Phase two for us :)
I will leave you with pictures from our trip here, and Fernandina Beach. We'll check in again before leaving St Mary's!
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