12 April 2019 St Augustine to Cumberland Island, Georgia
We were up before sunset and headed off into the still, misty morning. Most of the route was through rural settings with marsh land and occasional communities. We saw many flocks of White Pelicans, which with a 9-foot wingspan, are one of the largest birds in North America. They are spend their summers in the northern state of the USA and Canada and migrate here for the winter.
There were 4 horrible sections of the ICW where shoaling has been occurring. The Aqua Map app came out with flying colours and we safely negotiated the torturous routes through the shoals – the minimum depth we saw was 3.4 metres at half tide.
After 60 miles of stress, we arrived at Fernandina Beach at about 17:00. There are two huge paper manufacturing factories either side of the town, which don’t look very attractive and the smell is awful when you’re down wind of the smoke stacks, so we carried on another 5 miles to the secluded and peaceful Cumberland Island, which is just over the state line in Georgia.
13 April 2019 Cumberland Island, Georgia
From here we want to head to Beaufort, which is 360 miles away. The ICW is too shallow for our 2 metre draft, so we need to sail along the coast, which will take 2½ to 3 days. Unfortunately the weather isn’t playing ball and we can’t get a big enough window to do that in one leg. So we’re looking to do shorter overnight passages, jumping up the coast with our next stop at Charleston, South Carolina which is 160 miles away.
After all the motoring yesterday, I decided to check the engine and to my dismay, I found that the damn sea water pump was leaking again – must be a record for it to fail after only one day. Fortunately, I had another seal, so I removed the pump and stripped it down. I couldn’t see any damage on the feather-edge lip of the seal, but there seemed to be signs of a leak past the outer edge of the seal where it fits in the pump body.
The stainless steel seal that I used did not have a rubber coating and was extremely tight in the bore of the pump body, so maybe the outer ring had distorted a little? There was also some wear on the shaft with a very shallow groove, so I cleaned up the shaft with some 1200 grit emery cloth. When I replaced the stainless steel seal, I first applied some gasket sealant to the bore to seal the outer rim of the seal. Hopefully, that will sort out the leak.
After lunch, we went ashore to the National Park on Cumberland Island. Access to the park costs $10US and the pass is valid for 5 days, which is a good deal considering that we’re trapped here for 5 days. There was no one in the small office, so we dropped our $20 dollars into an envelope and into the self-payment slot.
We spent 2½ hour walking south around some of the paths. The island is about 15 miles long and used to be owned by the wealthy Carnegie family who build the impressive Dungeness Mansion on the south end of the island. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1959, but the skeletal ruins and grounds are impressive.
Our wanderings took us to the beach, which is 17 miles of pure white sand backed by sand dunes. Further inland, the Maritime Forest has the twisted limbs of Live Oaks draped with Spanish Moss. The walks along the well prepared paths are a joy.
Around the Dungeness Mansion, we were excited to have three sightings of Nine-banded Armadillos. These animals originated from South America, but have been slowly spreading across North America. Interestingly, they have been linked to humans catching leprosy – about 50% of all Armadillos are carriers of the bacteria which causes the disease. It’s not a major problem, with 95% of humans being immune to the disease and only 150 people a year contracting it in the USA.
14 April 2019 Cumberland Island, Georgia
The weather along this coast is a challenge. Cold Fronts containing violent thunderstorms are coming through every 5-6 days and we do not want to be caught out at sea in their 50-60 knot winds. After the front has passed, the wind switches to the west and then, over the next two days veers through north and then the east. Our route to Beaufort is north east, so these winds are no good to us.
The wind then veers to the south-east and then the south, which is good for us, but unfortunately, we only have 48 hours before the next Cold Front comes sweeping across the mainland USA. We will have to time it carefully to do the overnight passages and not get caught out. The next window is on Wednesday 17th, which will give us 48 hours to sail the 160 miles to Charleston – we should arrive on Thursday morning, 12 hours ahead of the storm.
From our recollections and research, the anchorages in Charleston are uncomfortable and/or full of wreckage, so we’re going to swallow the pain and pay $80-100 US per night to go into a marina while a front goes through on Friday next week.
Meanwhile, a front is racing across the southern states and Georgia has a severe weather warning in force recommending that people review their Tornado plans – gulp. We’re anchored in 4-6 metres depth on what appears to be good holding, but strangely, the anchorage has emptied and we’re in splendid isolation now. I let out 40 metres of chain and we waited with baited breath to see what the evening and night brings.
I ran the engine for 15 minutes and the sea water pump was not leaking, so fingers crossed, that problem is solved.
We spent the rest of the day on-board, watching the skies. By the evening, the wind had picked up to 20 knots from the south, coming straight up the channel in which we’re anchored. Normally, 20 knots wouldn’t affect us, but the tidal current was flowing south, so we were pushed side onto the wind and the 18 inch wind waves, making us bounce around and heel over in the gusts.
A huge band of thunder storms was approaching from the south west, so it looked like an uncomfortable night ahead. The only sensible thing to do was close the hatches, open a bottle of red wine and watch a few episodes Game of Thrones. Fortunately, the thunderstorms dissipated as they approached us and by 22:00, we had clear, star-lit skies.
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