3/18 – 4/5/2016 Summary: Our trip to the boat started with a couple of days visiting Paula’s parents in Greensboro, NC. Considering they are in their mid-to-late 90’s, they are doing very well, and Naomi beat us in a game of hearts both nights we were there!
We found all to be well on the boat. Later in the day, Bob and Kate from our Sunday school class in Phoenix joined us for dinner on the boat. They’ll hopefully return for a few days in a couple of weeks. We spent most of the next day showing Bob and Kate St. Augustine, then on Sunday attended Memorial Presbyterian Church, which has the most beautiful stained glass windows we have ever seen, for service. After church it was time to remove the carburetor from the dinghy engine and either fix or replace it. A little investigation determined replacement was in order.
Monday morning a call to the local Honda marine store resulted in a promise for the replacement to be there by 1:00 PM the next day, which would have us moving north on Wednesday morning. Well, long story (details below), but the moving didn’t happen until Saturday. But the time delay was not wasted and several items on the list were completed as well as a little more touring. Saturday night was spent on a free dock in Jim King City Park in Jacksonville, the next day moving further north to Cumberland Island, GA for a couple of nights at anchor. We read one review that said Cumberland was their highlight of the entire loop, so we were anticipating great things…but were sadly disappointed. We took the bikes ashore in the dinghy and biked to the south end of the island. While it was pretty with big oak trees draped with Spanish moss, we quickly saw this would not be the highlight of our trip.
The next day it was on to Jekyll Island, winter home of the prestigious Jekyll Island Club. Now this was much more to our liking and will at least be one of the highlights of our trip. We took the scooter down and rode around the entire island and took the Passport to the Century Tour of the historic district (which included getting inside the Rockefeller “cottage”) with our new Looper friends Kit and Pam. We also found a great Irish pub and attended a free lecture by the daughter of the original curator of the island once the rich folks abandoned it and GA bought it.
We had picture-perfect weather in Savannah. Founded in 1733, 22 of its original 24 town squares remain intact with fountains and statues. Church, wonderful restaurants (at least read about our humongous meal at the Wilkes House in the details below), touring the birthplace of the founder of Girl Scouts, and walking the historic district and riverfront provided a most enjoyable visit.
Finally leaving the marshes of GA for the tree-lined rivers in SC was more visually interesting once again. Anchoring the next night due to limited marina availability near Beaufort was unsuccessful, leading to much prayer. A very kind dock master squeezed our boat in a very sort dock space, relieving the stress. Thank you Lord! Two hours biking beautiful Beaufort salvaged the visit.
Before we go to the details, there was one more addition to the boat which Paula has been working on for months…the new bed quilt. The quilt combines materials we found in Big Bear and Oceanside, CA (one with waves, one with bubbles), sea life panels ordered over the internet (with dolphins, whales, fish, turtles and even an otter) and the expert quilting of an Oceanside quilter. They were all perfect to bring together our cozy boat quilt.
If you care to delve into the details, read on. They are really as much for us as anyone, but you are welcome to follow along on our adventure. Thanks for stopping by!
Details: We arrived in St Augustine with Aunt Robbie, her daughter Karen and grandson Will. They took a tour of the boat, visited awhile, then headed back to get home before dark. About the time we got unpacked, Bob and Kate arrived with their dog Jubilee. They had dinner with us, cooked in Paula’s new thermal cooker (sort of like a non-electric crockpot). She prepared the pork in Jacksonville, put it in the pot, and it was cooked and ready for dinner in St. Augustine. (Jubilee was to stay on the dock so as not to get dog hair inside, but when Tom went out and found him in the rain, he went soft and let Jubilee come in and sit at the foot of the stairs.)
The next day we toured Bob and Kate around St Augustine – Memorial Presbyterian Church built by Henry Flagler (the money behind the town’s development), pedestrian St. George Street, and ice cream at Kilwin’s (of course).
We attended the Palm Sunday service (where all congregants received a palm branch) at Memorial Presbyterian Church and the youth did a couple of songs backed by an enormous pipe organ. Then it was back to the boat to dig into why the dinghy engine would not run right. Tom determined the accelerator pump was frozen and even soaking it in carb cleaner would not free it. Based on the cost of replacement parts versus a new carb, he ordered a new one. That was Monday morning (day 1) and with a little extra shipping cost, it was scheduled to arrive the next day. Perfect! We scootered to the shop Tuesday only to discover the wrong carburetor had been ordered; but the right one was promised the next day. But the guy who ordered forgot to check the box that said “Overnight Shipment”…so no carb on day 3. Day 4 came and we finally got the correct one. But by then, we were 4 extra days in the marina with the dock fees building up.
Tom talked the shop into selling the carb to us at wholesale due to the “fiasco” (the parts manager’s term), which provided us a refund of $85.26. The next morning when we checked out River’s Edge Marina, Paul gave us a deal on our extra time and only charged us $86.62. So in the end, it only cost us $1.36 to spend 4 extra days in St. Augustine, and it gave us time to tour Flagler College, take a nice long beach walk on Anastasia Island with lots of kites flying, and build a new lift bracket for the scooter. While we were waiting on the carb, we also found a sushi buffet with more varieties of sushi than we’d ever seen in one restaurant – fresh and delicious – and we ate there 2 days in a row!
Before leaving St. Augustine, we pulled across the river and filled up with fuel at Marine Supply (405 gals). We left Gulfport, MS in Nov of 2013, and now with 900+ miles in our wake, this was only the second time we had bought fuel since we bought the boat (and that time we didn’t fill up).
We headed north, passing the St. John’s River leading into Jacksonville, and stayed on the free dock at Jim King Park. We had a difficult departure in the morning due to the wind and current, but thank you Lord, we didn’t hit anything! On the way into the dock, we passed a very futuristic-looking Navy ship (right).
29 miles north, we came to Cumberland Island, a National Park, and anchored at Sea Camp. After a quick test to make sure the dinghy was operating correctly, we took the bikes ashore in the dinghy, riding them to the south end of the island where we saw the burned remains of the Carnegie home (mansion), along with some of the Cumberland Island wild horses. The dirt roads were arched with beautiful oak trees draped with Spanish moss and undergrowth of small bushes and palms. While it was pretty, a highlight of our trip it was not! The worst part about it was the ferocious, relentless black biting gnats that attacked us every time we weren’t moving! We couldn’t get away from there fast enough! The next day we moved to the north end of the island, but didn’t get off the boat.
The next stop was Jekyll Harbor Marina where we spent 2 days exploring Jekyll Island. Now this likely will be one of our highlights, as we really enjoyed our time here. We got a recommendation to eat at Wee Pub, an Irish pub just a half-mile from the marina with the best shepherd’s pie ever (so good we ate there 3 times in 2 days)! We got the scooter down to begin exploring…well, partway down. The cable came off the reel with the scooter hanging in mid-air and would not budge. Tom’s quick rescue was to rig a block and tackle, and then off we went. Our first stop was the GA Sea Turtle center, a rescue hospital for sick/injured sea turtles and other wildlife.
We took a ride on the scooter around the entire island (all 7 miles of it) and walked through the historic district. The Jekyll Island Club made up of 53 men (who represented one-sixth of the total wealth in the US at the time) owned the island and wintered there from 1886 until 1942. Several of their original homes have been restored and the “clubhouse” has been turned into a hotel. These “cottages” (as they called them) would fit right in with the Hollywood mansions of their time but were “cottages” compared to their other homes, as they did not need to impress their fellow-millionaires on the island, who had to be invited and voted upon to buy into “the club.”
The Passport to the Century Tour of the historic district, which we did with new friends Kit & Pam on India Jayne, a Mainship 43, also doing the loop, allowed us to tour inside the Rockefeller “cottage” along with another “lesser” mansion along the waterfront. We followed that with a nice dinner with them at Wee Pub. That evening, we rode marina bikes a couple of miles to attend a delightful lecture by Tallu Scott, 90, whose mom was the first curator of Jekyll Island after all the millionaires abandoned the island. The state bought the island from the club in 1947, but did not consider the historic value of the island until Tallu’s mom, Tallu Fish, took over as curator.
A DQ Grasshopper Pie blizzard on the way back to the boat was a sweet end to a very sweet visit to Jekyll Island and set us up for continuing north the next morning. Over the next 100 miles, we anchored in 2 different spots where we saw only marshland through every window.
The next morning (Sunday), we motored the mile from the Herb River anchorage to Thunderbolt Marina on the outskirts of Savannah where fresh, warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts were delivered to your boat every morning! Within 1.5 hours, we had checked in, lowered the scooter, and arrived at a wonderful small Calvary Chapel for church in Savannah.
The pastor’s wife recommended J. Christophers for lunch, which provided a delightful sidewalk brunch of crabcake omelette and blueberry crunch pancakes. Savannah seemed to be a very dog-friendly town, with many restaurants welcoming dogs with their own water bowls and treats under the table as their owners dined outside. The weather could not have been more perfect – sunny and 74 – as we got an overview of the city with Old Savannah Tours, a 90-minute trolley ride through the historic district with 16 stops. Afterward, we scootered back to the busy Sunday afternoon city market where people were thoroughly enjoying the afternoon off, listening to bands, eating, and shopping. We walked the more touristy Savannah River on River Street, including the Waving Girl statue, honoring Florence Martius, who promised to wave to every passing ship until her sweetheart returned. (He never did). Before returning home ourselves, we had ice cream at Leopold’s, rated 5th best ice cream in the world! Tom decided Kilwin’s must be #4, because he likes it just as much.
The next morning, we did something neither of us had ever done before – waited in line 90 minutes to eat at a restaurant. We had read about the highly-rated Wilkes House, only open from 11-2 with a line that forms early. Food is served southern style at large tables (10 at our table), with food already on the table before diners are seated. Our spread included (really, we’re not making this up; picture right): fried chicken (best ever), BBQ pork (great), stew beef, English peas and noodles, green beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, baked beans, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, cabbage (best-ever), turnip/collard greens (best-ever), potatoes au gratin, white rice, dirty rice w/ spicy sausage, creamed corn, mac & cheese, squash casserole, stuffing w/gravy, cucumber slices, tomato and okra, coleslaw, cornbread, biscuits w/ butter and syrup, sweet (or un-sweet) tea and dessert of peach cobbler a la mode or banana pudding (25 items + drink, and dessert)! Paula bought Mrs. Wilkes’ cookbook before leaving, signed by Mrs. Wilkes granddaughter (a true Southern lady, perfectly coiffed, who visited our table and graciously thanked us for coming)…so ya’ll come on over when we get home, ya’ hear.
With fond memories of Paula’s 9-year Girl Scouting experience, we then waddled on down to the birthplace of Juliet Gordon Lowe, founder of the Girl Scouts and toured her home before walking off some more calories around the historic district. The stained glass interior of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was breath-taking.
Back on the scooter, we finished another picture-perfect day driving past the closed Wormsloe Plantation to re-visit Kit and Pam docked at Isle of Hope Marina, whose sign had been confusingly changed for the day to “River’s Edge Marina, FL” for the filming of an episode of Bay Watch. Once back at our marina, we traded boat tours with Ron and Pam Swezy on Legacy, another DeFever 44, and also Mike & Cindie Dyer on Chris Craft “Imagination.”
Crossing the state line into SC, the terrain finally changed from marshlands to tree-lined shores with massive houses along Hilton Head Island before passing Parris Island, a Marine Base with an F-35 fighter squadron, and some large commercial barges. Because highly-recommended Lady’s Island Marina was full, we pulled in Factory Creek to anchor. Eight unsuccessful attempts to anchor in the narrow creek in front of Lady’s Island Marina (3 different spots, 2 different anchors, for an hour and then only about 1.5 hours to sunset) led to a final call to Steve, the dock master at Lady’s Island Marina, to ask for advice. He took pity on us and let us have a too-short T-dock where about 12 feet of our bow stuck out past the dock. With 5 people standing by to help, Tom perfectly sterned it in, his best docking ever, looking like he had done it all his life. Stress finally off!
After a good night’s sleep, Paula got up for an early-morning run on Lady’s Island. Then borrowing some marina loaner bikes, we biked the bridge across to Beaufort, enjoying breakfast and a bike through the 5 x 5-block historic district with its antebellum mansions. Drool. Though we’d never want a house like that, we just love to look at them! Just before leaving (only because we had to get off the dock for the real owners), we exchanged tours with new friends Bob & Diane James aboard Sea Cottage, a 1981 DeFever 44 and pushed off mid-afternoon. It was a short day of only 20 miles, anchoring all alone for the night in a lovely river bend just before Fenwick Cut.
During the night, a thunderstorm moved through, and along with the ripping current, jostled us around. But the anchor (which had caught the first time, like most other times except the precious night) held firm. Reluctantly, we decided to hole up and not continue to Charleston due to the forecast winds of 15-18 mph, traversing many miles of narrow dredged channel but also due to the notoriously difficult currents in Charleston marinas. Just sitting at anchorage, you would have sworn you were motoring along, the current was ripping by so fast. Tom used the time to move instruments around on the instrument panel and Paula to update you!