Jacksonville, FL to Beaufort, SC

Sunrise leaving 3 Sisters River in Jacksonville the next morning

4/14/19 to 4/21/19

Slack tide occurs when the tide is changing direction at high or low tide, leaving it basically motionless for a few minutes (or up to about 30 minutes depending on the moon) as it changes directions. That is the best time to dock or depart. The tide in 3 Sisters River can run as high as 6 knots. Life’s TraVails only does 7 knots, so you can see how important tides can be. We had learned our lesson from our first time here when Paula thought we were inches from hitting another boat as the current drove us toward them – always go against the current. It is just like an airplane which always takes off and lands into the wind. There is more control with opposing forces.

Slack tide occurred Sunday, 4/14/19 at 6:00 AM in Jacksonville. With another boater’s help again, at 7:00 in the morning, we sterned (backed) away from the dock into the current until there was room to pull forward into the river.

Thunderstorms were forecast for late afternoon and we were hoping we could stay ahead of them and get docked at Jekyll Island Marina before they developed. We had a following current and ran about 8.5 knots for a while, even seeing 9.3 going under one bridge. The biting no-see’ums were bad. Just after the stinky paper mill in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Paula thought she smelled something like smoked meat (might have been the weird odors in Fernandina) and Tom checked the engine room; everything was OK. Immediately afterward, we lost power on the left engine. Paula shut it down while Tom went to the engine room. He figured out a fuel valve he has just changed hadn’t opened fully. We started it up again and our heart rates slowed down.

The markers were a little confusing in Fernandina Beach as there was a river going west from the ICW. The red markers (normally port/left going north on the ICW) and the green markers (normally starboard/right going north) also switched positions twice within a few miles, adding confusion for an inattentive boater. On the radio, we heard one boat captain say he was aground. (If you click on the chart picture to enlarge it, you can see how it might be confusing.)

We had about 2’ waves navigating across St. Andrews Sound which quickly smoothed out as we rounded the south end of Jekyll Island. There was dark sky to the south, but we had made our destination. We loved Jekyll Island on our first trip and stopped again. The history of Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club is quite interesting. And Paula’s favorite shepherd’s pie was awaiting at Wee Pub!  So, we quickly borrowed the marina’s loaner golf cart, drove north around the island (it is only about 6 miles by 1 mile, so golf carts on the roads were common), picked up a shepherd’s pie to go and enjoyed it on the boat. The storms went around us and we never got wet.

Life’s TraVails (left front) at Jekyll Island Marina

The first time at Jekyll Island Marina, we met Kit and Pam from CA who became friends for the rest of the Loop (and still are; hope to see them in a few months). As we walked the dock looking to see if there were other Loopers there, the first couple we met were John and Jill on Ancient Mariner. It was a Hyatt 50 built in Taiwan; only 17 were built. Jill wanted to do the Loop but John wasn’t convinced. Days earlier, Jill had posted the question on the internet of whether or not they should do the Loop, that she wanted to but her husband didn’t. They had about 100 responses, all of them positive; some even said, “Drop off your husband here to stay with my wife who won’t go and I’ll go with you.”  We also encouraged them to do it, telling them we were on our second Loop, that we had fallen in love with it in Canada and that was where we decided we had to do it again. By evening’s end, Jill emailed us and said “John JUST agreed to do the Erie/Canada part…thank the Lord” and said we got the credit for pushing him over the edge. She was ecstatic and we look forward to seeing them again!

Then we found a cute red Ranger Tug 29S, Miss Norma, flying a gold Loop flag like us (meaning they had completed the Loop). We had a wonderful visit with Jim and Raime (and Ringo, their beautiful white standard poodle). We’ve always thought Ranger Tugs were really cute and considered if we ever wanted a smaller boat, a Ranger Tug might be it but had never seen the inside of one. Tom boldly asked if we could see their interior and they were kind enough to show us. Theirs was only a few years old and the forethought in design was outstanding!  There was tons of visibility. All bench seats could be easily changed to face either direction. Though the aft deck seemed small, they were often the “party boat” as there was actually so much room. They joked about having room for 8 for cocktails, 4 for dinner, but only 2 to sleep.

After going back to our boat, Paula opened their website and was engrossed for about an hour reading their story. We won’t go into it here but we encourage you to go to their website: www.missnorma.com which tells the story of Tim and Raime taking Tim’s Mom, Norma, on the RV trip of her life at age 90 after a cancer diagnosis. Their Facebook page went viral, led to a book, and now a movie was in the works.

It seemed we always met the nicest people at Jekyll Island Marina.

A 20-knot wind battered us all night long but diminished a bit in the morning. We toured the island the next day, enjoying a .7-mile loop walk on the Horton Trail at Horton Pond. It was beautiful, shaded with Spanish moss hanging from live oaks and other large trees. The pond had 3 alligators, and one of the females had given birth to 16 little ones earlier in the year. There were many turtles also.  We had a delightful encounter with Carol Ann Wages (left), a naturalist and photographer who often provided pictures to Friends of Jekyll Island, GA Facebook page. There are some beautiful pictures on their page.

After DQ Blizzards (amazing for an island this small to have a DQ!), we enjoyed a walk on the super-soft sand beach before returning to the boat and an enjoyable dinner at the marina with Tim and Raime so we could hear more of their story. We had much in common – authors, dealing with elderly parents, loving travel, and we swapped book-writing stories (theirs: Driving Miss Norma and Tom’s: Grand Canyon, A Different View). They are very down-to-earth and lovely people for all their notoriety. And Raime does all the docking and locking like Paula!  There were some stories there to share too.

Slack tide was at 6:00 the following morning, and we had our earliest departure yet this trip at 6:35 AM – first light. Again, we were trying to put in a long day of 70 miles to Kilkenny Creek. It was beautiful and sunny, though the temperature was 56° before the sun rose. We had 5 sounds to cross with mainly flat salt grass marshes (which we found a bit boring) along the many meanders of the ICW. Because of the current caused by the tides, we saw speeds as slow as 4.8 knots to as high as 9.2. Seagulls followed us for miles, searching for food we might bring to the surface.

The anchorage in Kilkenny Creek was lovely. There were dolphins cruising around our boat both after we anchored and before we left the next morning. It made for such a peaceful scene. We dinghied upriver to the marina where there was a good place to stretch our legs and wandered around the lovely wooded area with about 8 houses. Bugs drove us inside the cabin toward sunset.

We were off to a beautiful sunrise and had a huge dolphin day – 22 – and 1 bald eagle sighting. Some of the dolphins played in our bow, but the water was so murky, Paula could only see them from her bow post when they surfaced. Much to Paula’s disappointment, most of them just ignored us and swam right on by. We also saw turtles for the first time this Loop.Miss Norma passed us along the way and we took pictures of each other.  Isn’t it amusing that Life’s TraVails appears to be boating across the salt marsh grass?

We crossed the state line from GA in SC (don’t you wish you could see a line painted on the ground/water?) to an anchorage in Beaufort, SC. We had a lovely dinner on the aft deck followed by reading together the first 2 chapters of Driving Miss Norma. At dusk, a boat pulled alongside us and the captain told us our anchor light shone from the stern but not from the bow. Turned out it was a law enforcement boat. We thanked him and were very glad he didn’t fine us. We turned on our navigation lights for more visibility. Oh gee, another job on the list.

The next morning, we boated only half a mile to Lady’s Island Marina, a small marina across the bridge from Beaufort. Thunderstorms were in the forecast for the next day and we wanted to be secure. Mary, the dockmaster, was very helpful in getting us secure and making sure we had what we needed. We had been at this marina for only about 16 hours on our first Great Loop (see story at the end of this blog) and wanted to return. They had been so friendly before and we knew they had a work building we could use to do some more varnishing on our flybridge steps and the entry door. Paula got right to work putting additional coats on both.

In the morning, we both made a new friend – Dr. Ralph Kearns, the chiropractor. In fact, Tom liked him so much he went back in the afternoon to see him again! His darn neck.

We were able to connect with Bob and Diane who were living on their DeFever 44 like ours at Lady’s Isle in 2016 and though we didn’t get to know them well then, they were now also doing the Loop and we wanted to share stories. They were so kind to take time to spend an evening with us. Their boat was on the hard (on shore) in OH for the winter, but they had bought a house in Lady’s Isle  When summer returned, they would head north to their boat to finish the Loop. We really enjoyed getting to know them better and are just sorry we’re not looping in the same place at the same time right now. We may cross paths sometime in the future though and we surely hope so. (They were also kind to take us to Walmart for some provisioning.)

Friday we were happy we had made the reservation at Lady’s Island Marina for 2 nights. The forecasted thunderstorms actualized in the afternoon with peak winds to 39.9 mph! The National Weather Service also threw in a chance of a tornado (which fortunately did not happen).

Paula varnished again in her secure workspace while Tom replaced the battery on the starboard engine and fixed the anchor light. We borrowed the marina car to tour historic Beaufort’s beautiful homes.

We enjoyed dinner with John and Gloria on Catalina Jack, another DeFever 44, who we had met the previous day on the docks. The Filling Station, a restaurant/bar just a 10-minute walk from the marina, had a $12 steak special on Friday nights, and they were big and good!  It made 2 meals for Paula!

When we got up the next morning and checked the weather, as we always do before departing anywhere, the wind was still forecast to reach 19 mph. So, we stayed put at Lady’s Island Marina one more day.

It turned out to be a great day in Beaufort, though cold and windy with a high of only 65°. Tom began rebuilding the ice maker (it had begun sluffing the coating off the ice tray into our ice), which included painting the interior in the marina’s nice workspace. Paula got the mundane laundry task out of the way. But after work was done, we scootered about 5 miles to the Port Royal Soft Shell Crab Festival which included a car show. We made a decisive decision after having soft shell crabs for lunch – we’ll leave them for someone else to enjoy as we move on.

One Comment:

  1. Tom, I hope your neck is feeling better, and that Paula’s knee isn’t a concern anymore. I’m certainly enjoying your trip log, and look forward to seeing more of your photos as you go. Take care.

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