Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thunderbolt to Jekyll Island, GA

Thunderbolt (Savannah), GA to Jekyll Island, GA:

11/16/2008 Thunderbolt to Wahoo River at Anchor - 42nm.

11/17/2008 Wahoo River to Jekyll Island, Jekyll Harbor Marina - 48nm.

Charleston City Marina’s “mega-dock” may be where the rich and famous go to dock their 100' plus yachts but I know where they go to get them fixed and painted - Thuderbolt Marine in Thunderbolt, Georgia. They have facilities capable of hauling and painting yachts of over 200' in length (see photos). How much does it cost to paint one of these boats? The dockmaster said 7 figures is not uncommon.

There were 2 sailboats here with 165' masts, 6 sets of spreaders, with red lights at the top of the masts to help aircraft avoid hitting them. “Perseus,” the yacht you see in the photos, is 167' long, 40' beam, and draws 12' board up and 22' center board down. They were here for a new suit of sails (11,000 square meters of sail cloth) and to take on a new captain. For you sailing types, take a look at the photo of the guy standing on the bow next to the roller furling gear and the photo of Perseus coming back into dock for some sense of scale. The boat next to Perseus is a 42' Island Packet. By the way you too can rent this boat for a week for only $165,000 - including captain and crew of 10 of course.

G and I decided to take the bus into Savannah for a walk around the city and immediately struck up conversations with a couple of Thunderbolt natives. G spent the bus ride deep in conversation with a 60+ lady that was working part time as an assistant librarian for a local school. She is determined to make a difference in young ladies lives by regulating asking for permission to “talk” to them and help give them the guidance they don’t get a home. I made friends with a gentleman of indeterminate age that had been a photographer in a previous life. He reached in his pack and dug out some discount ticket to some local bars. That’s what I love about the South, friendly, open, people with generous souls. Sometimes I forget how much I like and miss Georgia and it’s people - today was a reminder that southern hospitality and the old south still exists. By the way, both people were Blacks or as my Mom would say Negroes.

This will be a bit technical for you non-boaters, live with it. Georgia has not maintain their waterway the way other states have and thus it is fast returning to it’s natural state - an endless progression of shallow shifting channels winding their way south to Florida. Some of the worse sections have silted in to 2 to 3 feet at mean low water. That’s the bad news. The good news is Georgia has 7 to 9 foot tides so it is do able. Gigi’s Island draws 5.5' of water. We elected to run the Georgia portion of the waterway at mid-tide (3 hours before high to 3 hours after).

So far our plan has worked. The run from Thunderbolt to anchor in the Wahoo River was uneventful with the exception of “ Hells Gate,” a short cut between the Little Ogeechee and the Ogeechee Rivers. We had timed our arrival at Hell’s Gate for about an hour before high tide so if we did run aground the water would still be on the rise and would be a little more “forgiving.” When we got there the Little Ogeeche was producing a 4' standing wave set up by swift current rushing into the river with an opposing wind trying to drive the water out, add the same thing happening on the other side in the Little Ogeechee with everything meeting in the middle of Hell’s Gate and you have one heck of a ride. We saw no less than 10' of water in the cut by the way. ...And G and I are glad to have it behind us.

The next day’s run to Jekyll Island gave us more skinny water to face but it too was a non-issue because we ran it on the high part of the tide. In many ways, the Georgia section of the ICW has been easier than some others because it forces you to run at mid-tide and takes some of the worry about running aground away.

We tied up at Jekyll Harbor Marina, primarily because it was damn cold and we wanted HEAT. We will sit here through tomorrow and then head for one of my favorite places on the ICW, Cumberland Island.

Jekyll Island was the home of the Jekyll Island Club other wise known as the Millionaires Club. The Club was founded by people like J.P. Morgan, Cyrus McCormick, Joseph Pulitzer, a Mr. Rockefeller, and many others as a “winter retreat.” The State of Georgia, in a controversial decision back in 1947, condemned the property, purchased the Island for $675,000, and turned it into a State Park. In the words of the Governor at the time, “Jekyll now is a playground for not just the rich but for every citizen of Georgia.” Never mind that right after the “taking” the good governor and his “buds” visited the now vacant homes of the “rich and famous” and absconded with everything that wasn’t nailed down.

Despite the thievery, Georgia has done a great job with the restoration of the old mansions and has created a park for us all to enjoy. Today, you too, can play crochet on the old court in front of the “Club” (provided you have proper attire of course). In addition they have established the “Georgia Sea Islands Sea Turtle Preservation Center” here on the island. If you are ever in this area it is well worth a visit.

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS - I think I’m getting use to this damn cold weather...and I don’t like even the though of getting use to weather that short are not common attire.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tom's Point To Thunderbolt

Tom’s Point Ck, SC, to Thunderbolt, GA:

11/6/2008: Tom’s Point Ck to Bull River At Anchor - 26nm.
11/7/2008: Bull River to Beaufort, SC At Anchor - 14 nm.
11/9/2008: Beaufort to Port Royal, SC At Anchor - 7nm.
11/11/2008 Port Royal to Wright Ck, SC At Anchor - 30nm.
11/12/2008 Wright Ck, SC to Thunderbolt, GA - 11nm.

We left Matt and Diane Zender’s dock on Tom’s Point Ck. at mid-tide and it on the rise. The creek is a bit tricky and more easily transited with a touch more water in it and a forgiving rising tide. We knew we could not make Beaufort in time for the last bridge opening so we didn’t try. It didn’t matter the day was beautiful and the trip a lazy motor thru the heart of the “Lowcountry.”

The “Lowcountry” streaches from south of Charleston down to the Marshes of Glynn in Georgia. The ICW weaves it’s way thru the salt-marshes fed by tidal creeks with names like: Wadmalaw, Toogoodoo, Ashepoo, Jehossee, Coosaw, and Daufuskie. Names that flow off the tongue like the 7 foot tides that pulse through the Lowcountry bringing life to the estuary. By mid afternoon we went to anchor in Bull River about 14 miles from Beaufort. Bull River is wide open and beautiful, surrounded by salt-marsh with islands of pine and live oak sprinkled across the viewscape.

The morning greeted us with another beautiful day - Genevra’s birthday. She had Vicki Skemp’s Flan for breakfast - she can’t eat cake (gluten intolerance) but loves flan and Vicki’s is scrumptious. We are now the same age and I can officially call her, “The Old Lady.”

Three hours after hauling our anchor and we had the anchor down in Beaufort and were headed for shore and lunch on the water front. Beaufort has done a great job with their water front. It is designed for kids to play on the green, folk to sit and enjoy the water, a great dingy dock, and enough bars to keep Old Vic happy. We decided to play tourist and do a walking tour - if you are here take one it is well worth the $13 bucks.

I have to relate one of the stories told to us by our guide - a very southern lady. A little history first... . Port Royal / Beaufort was spared the ravages of Sherman because they fell to the “yankees” early in the “War of Northern Aggression” (better know as the Civil War). All the inhabitants of Beaufort boogied just prior to the Union Army marching in and taking over. The result was all the land owners lost their homes and most of their belongings. After the War a few of the Southerners returned to Beaufort and were allowed to purchase their homes back for back taxes. The story I’m about to tell relates to one of the lucky few.

Mr. Fripp had lost his only son in one of the last battles of the war and he returned to Beaufort vowing never to shake hands with a yankee in what was left of his life. ...And all of his new neighbors were yankees occupying homes the Southerner had vacated. Yet he was one of the “lucky.” He had money and could afford the taxes to purchase his home. He returned to Beaufort confidant in the fact he would soon be “home again.”

He did not count on the corrupt, carpetbagger, government. Unknown to him, they were conspiring to take his home. He was told he had to bid on his own home at action. He did and won the bid but at 3 times the cost. He explained to the government that he did not have that much cash on him but could have it in 3 days (the time it would take to sail to Charleston and back). They agreed and Mr. Fripp left for Charleston with the tide.

After he left a young Yankee entered the tax office and heard the officials laughing about how they were going to steal Mr. Fripps home by having someone else purchase his home just prior to his return on the third day. Contrary to popular opinion there are a few honest Yankees, what he heard incensed the young man. He dug into his own pocket, then went door to door to the Yankees that were now neighbors of the Fripp home. Because of their generosity he came up with enough money to purchase the Fripp property until Mr. Fripp could return and claim his own. He beat the tax officials at their on game with just minutes to spare and left them in a rage.

When Mr. Fripp returned our good Yankee gave him the deed to his home and explained what had happened..or almost did but for his good, Yankee, neighbors. Mr. Fripp broke his vow. He now had his home back thanks to and one honest Yankee and new good friends too boot.

Sunday morning broke bright, clear and cold with a biting West wind. G cracked the hatch and coined a brand spanking new word when she announced it was “nippling” cold (no explanation needed I’m sure). We decided to leave anyway and ease down to Port Royal and were at anchor by 11:00, off the seafood house in Port Royal.

Port Royal had been a thriving deep water port until the concrete plant went out of business. Today it is a sleepy little southern town full of live oak, happy children that roam the town as if they owned the streets, and big plans to develop their waterfront. I for one am glad I got to see it before it was “developed.”

On Veterans Day we eased down the Beaufort River past Paris Island with its water towers emblazoned with 1-800-MARINES and gave my friend Chuck a call back at Matthews Point. Chuck was a Marine during WWII and I always try and remember him with a call on Veterans Day to thank him for what he (and all vets) did for us during the war. Chuck said, “You know I trained at Paris Island. The Marines have a tradition on the Island, if you have a beef any enlisted man can just go up to any officer and talk to him about it. They also have a 12 foot fence with razor wire on top between the enlisted men and the officers.” And then just laughed his infectious laugh. Chuck believes laughter is one of the worlds best medicines.

By Noon we had our anchor down in Wright Creek. We were only 10 miles from Thunderbolt, GA, our destination, but it was also low tide and Field’s Cut to the Savannah River is “skinny” water.

We were up a 7:00 the next morning and caught the top of the tide (tides are 10' in this section of the Waterway) to clear Field’s Cut to the Savannah River. For those of you that have not poked your nose out into a free flowing river like the Savannah in a small, low powered sailboat like the “Island” it will leave it’s mark on your boat handling skills. One minute you are trudging along at a brisk 6 knots and the next you are making 6 forward and 3 knots sideways. By 10:00 AM the Island was tied securely to Thuderbolt Marina’s transient dock. We are going to spend a few days exploring Savannah and the surrounding area and then (hopefully) head South outside.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS - The Bull Mastiff is “Truman” a new friend we met in Beaufort. He is still a puppy and weighs in at close to 250 pounds and is expected to add another 40 before he leaves puppyhood.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Myrtle Beach to Tom's Point Ck.

Barefoot Landing (North Myrtle Beach, SC) to Tom’s Point Creek, SC:

10/28/2008: Barefoot Landing to South Santee River anchorage - 58 nm.

10/29/2008: South Santee River to Dewees Creek anchorage - 29 nm.

10/30/2008: Dewees Ck to Charleston City Marina - 17nm.

11/2/2008: Charleston, SC, to Tom’s Point Ck. - 27nm.


This part of the trip South on the ICW is my favorite. First is the winding cypress water way of the Waccamaw River, bordered by old rice plantations just above Georgetown, SC. Then on to the open grass savannahs of the Cape Romain Wilderness area with endless miles of deep creeks meandering thru one of the most productive estuaries in the world. Past Charleston is the “Low Country” and a visit with my friends Matt and Diane Zender on Toms Point Creek. Matt and Diane their dog Dickens and blue jay Varmint are just the best. I purchased Oconee from them 10 years ago and we immediately became friends.

First let me say that fast moving power boats with their huge wakes and slow moving sailboats with no wake are not compatible. Sailboats get in the way of power boats “makin’ time” and discourteous power boats rock the shit out of sailboats when they pass. Respectful power boaters and sail boaters have learned to do what I call the “ICW Dance.” The “dance,” done properly, minimizes the irritation for both. As a sail boat sees a power boat approaching his stern he slow down to about 3 knots. The power boat drops off plane and slides by at 6 knots and both go back to speed in short order with only minor inconvenience to both and little or no flares in temper. Most do the dance but there are those few....

As the “Island” slowly meandered her way down the Waccamaw River (freezing our butts off - it was cold) and watching the beauties of the river unfold a 40 something foot express cruiser went by us at about 20 knots throwing a huge wake. You could see 4 men sitting on the flybridge drinking coffee and watching the effects of their wake on the boats they passed including us. This was a “dyed in the wool” asshole. People down the line asked for slow passes or “made comments” on his lack of “upbringing.” This “captain’s” (and the little “c” was on purpose) response was to key his mike and go “Waaaa” indicating we were nothing but “crybabies.” This guy was a super asshole and a jerk to boot. This continued until...

Around the bend in front of him came a barge that was being both pulled ahead and pushed from behind by tugs - the river is winding and the barge was difficult to control, it took tow to do the job. On the radio you could hear the lead tug ask for a slow pass. To which the “Jerk” gave his usual response, Waaaa. The tug captains response was immediate and emphatic, “Want a see how steel feels against fiberglass?” The “Jerk” came back, “Oh, Captain I’ll come down. I was just in the zone.” Tug Boat Captain: “I’ll show you the “zone.”“ I would have liked to bought this tug Captain a beer. He earned it.

We anchored in the South Santee River for the night and then passed thru the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge the next morning and went to anchor in Dewees Creek just north of Charleston, SC. The day was cold but pleasant, as we wandered thru the Refuge. We saw 3 bald eagles, dolphins everywhere, and a very disappointed bob cat walking a dike frustrated because his “breakfast” flew off.

We spent the weekend in Charleston, SC, tied to the Mega Dock at Charleston City Marina. They don’t call it the Mega Dock for nothing. While we were there probably close to 30, 100' plus yachts passed thru the marina including 2 over 100 foot sailboats. One was “Hooter Patrol IV and 3 were out of Bikini Atol in the Marshal Islands. And G and I didn’t even know Bikini had a marina. I’d take bets they had never even been there. We watched one take on 6000 gallons of fuel before he headed for Savannah, GA.

The marina provides a free van ride into town and Gigi and I shared the van one evening with a couple off one of the larger yachts. They said they were headed for the Exhumas this year now that they had their “little” boat with shallower draft they could enjoy the Bahamas again. The boat was 195' long, drew 15', and carried a crew of 10 and one very spoiled small dog.

G and I had planned to stay in Charleston until Monday but weather was coming and we decided it would be better to push on to Matt and Diane Zenders while the weather was good. We left on Sunday and were tied to the Zender’s dock by noon. I always enjoy my time with the Matt & Diane. They make you feel welcome and a member of the family - good food, great conversation, friendship, and a dock too. What more could “sea gypsies” want. Matt and Diane may be “Yankees” but they understand “Southern” hospitality. In truth, I think they are really Southerners at heart.

Fairwinds and Rum Drink,

Vic & Gigi

PS - Be sure to take the link to the photo page this time. I think there are some good ones this time.

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