Monday, November 3, 2014

2014-10-31 Long Creek, SC to Cumberland Island, GA

10/13/2014 Long Ck to Bull River, SC 61 nm
10/14/2014 Bull River to Ladies Island Marina, Beaufort, SC 17 nm
10/18/2014 Ladies Island Marina to Beaufort Anchorage, SC 2 nm
10/20/2014 Beaufort to Bull Ck, SC 25 nm
10/21/2014 Bull Ck to Herb River, GA 18nm
10/22/2014 Herb River to Thunderbolt Marina, GA 2 nm
10/24/2014 Thunderbolt Marina to Buckhead Ck, GA 24 nm
10/26/2014 Buckhead Ck to Thunderbolt Marina, GA 24 nm
10/27/2014 Thunderbolt Marina to Wahoo River, GA 40 nm
10/28/2014 Wahoo River to Brickhill River, Cumberland Island, GA 59 nm
Total Miles To date: 502 nm
Is it possible for us to struggle and overcome fate..or are we merely being swept along a course which all our efforts fail to alter or change?” Elizabeth Cochran (Nellie Bly)

The Boarding:

The Turtle hauled her anchor in Long Ck and headed for the 4 mile stretch of the ICW between the bridges off Mt (un)Pleasant with 2' of tide under us. Over the last 3 years this section has shoaled in and in conjunction with cross currents that move water in and out of numerous small creeks make this area just pain unsettling at low tide. We hurtled S. at a screaming 6 knots, thru the panorama of Charleston Harbor, pushed the 3 knot current down Elliots Cut to the Stono River and started our slow trip South on the Stono. Our plan was to reach the shallow entrance to the Dahoo River and the shallow water of the S. Ashepoo / Coosaw Cutoff at the top of the tide.

About 10 miles down the Stono we noticed a Charleston City Police boat slowly overtaking us. The VHF sprang to life and the courteous but firm voice of a Southern Gentleman said, “Salty Turtle this is US Customs would mind if we boarded you.” Of course it was not really a question..was it. I Southern Gentlemaned right back at him, “We will slow to idle. Meet me at the starboard gate and I'll help you aboard.” I gave Lt.Daniel Maddock, Charleston County Sheriff, and Kenzie Driggers with US Customs and Border Protection a hand aboard. Both were very courteous and allow us to return to speed. They wanted to see the boat's documentation. Gigi keeps all our papers filed so I turned them over to her and I took over on the bridge.

Odd combination, a Customs supervisor, a Sheriff's Lieutenant, and a Charleston Police boat clearly outside Charleston's jurisdiction. Odd? Ten minutes went by, then twenty, and I was beginning to worry when Gigi finally returned on deck and took over the helm while I helped the officers to re-board their vessel and they were off after apologizing in their best Southern manner for our delay. Gigi said all they wanted to see was Turtle's documentation and our driver's licenses...nothing else – not the heads, not lifejackets, not passports, not nothing. They called our licenses numbers in to Columbia and waited for a response. To this day we do not know why they boarded us. Our best guess was they were looking for someone. 'Tis a mystery. Certainly was not normal.
A Mooing in the Marsh:

Once we crossed into Coosaw Sound the current was in our face and (more importantly) it was approaching cocktail hour - by 5:00 our anchor was now in Bull River about a 20 miles N. of Beaufort. We'd make that run tomorrow morning with a rising tide and the current with us.

Bull river has a habit of giving us a dolphin show and it did again this day. We had sundowner's with dolphin doing tail walks and back flips what could be better. That night the sound of dolphin pinging the hull lulled us quickly off to sleep. Mornings just as the sun's first rays first starts to paint the sky a deep blue with hints of color usually finds me on the aft deck enjoying a cup of coffee – a peaceful way to greet the new day. This morning had a surprise in store. I was startled out of my contentment too the sound of “mooing” in the marsh. I've seen deer, raccoon, hogs, eagle, stork, all sorts of wildlife in the marsh but cows? Never. What the heck were cows doing in a marsh..besides the obvious - eating of course. This trip seems to be full of mysteries.
Marsh Cows
Ladies Island Marina – Beaufort, SC:

Cruisers (us included) rush South on a mission to get to “Paradise” in the warm waters of Bahamas and as a consequence miss some great places and people in doing so. It was supposed to blow like a mother with a cold front passing over the area. Usually we anchor off Beaufort and dingy into the town. Gigi said, “Vic, why don't we stop at Ladies Island Marina and enjoy the luxury of a dock for the night. That will put us within walking distance to a Publix and a liquor store (we needed ships stores).” “OK by me,” said I. This was to turn out to be a near disaster.

Steve, the dockmaster, moved some boats around to fit the Turtle in on the T head and Gigi headed for Ladies Island Marina – I handle lines and Gigi steers the boat. Gigi did her usual perfect job of bringing us in and I hustled the lines ashore to eager, competent, hands. When I slowed up enough to look up it seemed almost everyone at the Marina had showed up to welcome the Turtle “home.” Home? This is not home? How could this be home? We are headed South...weren't we?
We planed on staying one night and stayed 4. This is a dangerous place – a dream killer. We had not settled in good before we had offers of a car, a truck, and even a “an ice cream truck” to run errands. Everyone treated us like long lost friends. The marina even has a huge, well equipped shop..did I mention this place was cheap. It even has a restaurant and bar next door...sort of.
“The Filling Station” is a local dive with character of it's own. In the parking lot it is not unusual to find beat up pickup trucks of unknown lineage side by side with brand new BMWs. The bar is run by an former Marine (everyone know that there's no such thing as an ex-Marine) and his Philippine wife. They don't serve food but...on Wednesday you can get a hamburger, hotdog, and fries for $4, Thursday 2 pork chops and 3 home cooked sides for $5, and on Friday a huge ribeye steak and 3 sides for $10. Gigi and I did pork chop night and were wowed...decided to stay to Friday and try “steak night” and were wowed again. Their steaks and pork chops are some of the best I've ever eaten.
Friday night after supper at the Filling Station Steve, the dockmaster, came aboard for a gam and touch of rum and did his worst to talk us into staying thru the following week. When Steve left. I looked at G and she at me. We both said, “We gotta get out of here or we might never leave.” See what I mean, Laddies Island is a dangerous place, a dream killer..a place you could call “home.”

To Hell and Back...and Back:

Cruising boats are really a combination “private island and time machine” that slowly drift with the tides and currents in the general direction their inhabitants wish. Occasionally, we allow special people to share our island and even more rarely we are transported back in time by circumstance and company. John and Nancy Holmes joined us in Thunderbolt, GA for a weekend cruise. It was to be special in both place and time.
Buckhead Ck
John (Monk) Holmes was my best friend in high school. I had met Nancy at our Sparta High reunions but had not had the chance to know her well. This trip was going to fix that. I wanted to give John and Nancy a taste of our life – a little of what it takes to cruise and a little of the beauty the marshes and tidal creeks of Georgia could provide. Within a short 25 mile trip we could do some of both. Hell's Gate is a cut with swirling currents and shallows that should be run at half tide or better and require a little planning or luck (the challenge). Five miles further South lay Buckhead Creek, one of the most remote anchorages on the ICW (the beauty). Buckhead was our destination.
Eagles for Breakfast
Within minutes of John and Nancy coming aboard John had transported me back to the 60s growing up in Sparta, Georgia our friendship a warm as ever. Gigi, usually takes a little time to warm up to strangers. Nancy Holmes turned out to be an exception. Before the anchor was down in Buckhead Ck she and Nancy were (scarily) comfortable with each other. Talking and yes... giggling (quite un-nerving – when ya don't know what a woman is up to, you don't know what a woman is up to).
Buckhead delivered and then some. Beautiful sunsets (and good sundowner's), coffee with Bald Eagles in the morning, time to relax and catch up on each other's lives, time to solve most of the world problems, and most importantly, time to re-discover the joys of each other's company. All too soon it was time to cross Hells Gate for the second time on the voyage back to Thunderbolt Marina and time to part ways. Thank you John and Nancy from the bottom of my heart...time is the greatest gift that can be given.
Vic, Gigi, John, & Nancy
The next day we passed thru Hells Gate for the third time this trip headed South for our date with Cumberland Island.

Cumberland Island:

Cumberland is one of the “Sea Islands” of Georgia. Originally a private island owned by Nathaniel Green and developed during the “railroad baron” era of the 1800s by Thomas Carnegie the brother of Andrew as an opulent estate / cotton plantation. Lighthorse Harry Lee, Robert E. Lee's father, came here to die and was buried here for a time. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin on Cumberland. Today it is a US Park and open to us all...and man are we lucky. Cumberland is one of the most beautiful places on this earth.
We spent 3 days anchored in the Brickhill River off the North end of Cumberland Island. Gigi and I had explored the S end near the ruins of Dungeness Estate in past years but had never had seen the N end. We explored the shore line until we lucked upon some primitive camp sites shaded by live oak and were able to beach the dingy there and spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the sand roads canopied with live oak. If you like wildlife this is the place deer, raccoon, pileated woodpecker, snakes (yep), fox squirrel, turkey, and plenty of bugs (bring your bug spray here). Cumberland has a large herd of wild horses but while we saw piles and piles of “evidence” we saw none this day.
Coon Tracks
John John Kennedy was married in the small Black Anglican Church in the Black Settlement on the N. end in a very private, very secret ceremony. I wanted to photograph the preserved settlement but it was not to be for this trip anyway. We were still 4 miles S of the settlement and that was too much of a walk for Old Vic. 
The next morning we jumped in Mule and ran the Brickhill 4 miles S to the Plum Orchard Docks for a little walkabout. Plum Orchard is the second of 3 estates on Cumberland build by the Carnegies and maintained by the Park Service. On an island like Cumberland where every inch is special the beauty of Plum Orchard stands out with acres of sweeping manicured lawn, live oak lined drives, and (yes) Cumberland horses wandering the grounds.
Plum Orchard
Cumberland is personal for me at least. It is my vision of what Eden must have been like...and in some ways still is. While I'm on the island I feel like it is mine and I'm the first and only person here. It is primordially quiet, natural, and breath takingly beautiful. The best part, you don't have to be a boater to visit Cumberland. You can reach the island by ferry from St. Mary's, Georgia. You owe it to yourself to put Cumberland on your “bucket list.” You will not be sorry. It is Eden still.

We are anchored in Bell River off Fernandian Beach, FL and plan to leave here tomorrow for Pine Island and Palm Coast the next day to visit Gigi's cousin Tom and his wife Olga.

Faiwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your stories and photos. Let us know when you get to Vero!