3- Georgia Coast Passage 2004 - by Dale Davenport
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Sea Camp Dock, Cumberland Island, Georgia
Rebecca Ann motored with Sara under tow to Little Cumberland Island,
north and adjacent to Cumberland Island proper, where increased wind
permitted sailing. First on a reach and then on a beat we crossed St.
Andrews Sound between Cumberland and Jekyll Islands, a distance of about
two miles. We found slips at a marina on the Intercoastal Waterway maybe
a mile up the river or sound along Jekyll Island.
Ann captain's notes: Anxious to get moving again, I went down to
the boats early in the morning to start loading the gear. Between about
60-70 degrees Fahrenheit there were predatory little gnats that were
horrible. I had brought a head net and was glad I had it, plus this
gave me a good excuse to wear my bright yellow, brand-new Gill sailing
bibs. I looked ridiculous in my protective suit.
the temperature rose, the violent bugs departed, and my relaxed mates
came down to the pier where we got all the gear loaded on the boats.
There was no wind at all. Now came the benefit of the outboard motor
stowed away in the canvas case on Rebecca Ann. We installed it in the
well and dumped a quart of gas mix into the tank from a lab bottle.
We ran a dock line to Sara, cranked up and pulled away into the morning
haze, on the flat water of the sound.
was in Rebecca Ann and Harry was in Sara with Jay. I screwed down the
bolt that keeps the motor from swiveling and steered using the tiller
with the rudder kicked up. That gives plenty of control without excessive
drag or draft. It's a nice feeling to stand up to steer with your head
away from the buzz of the engine, and with a good view all around. Cal
and I took turns at the tiller for a couple of hours.
Sound has a lot of width that covers and uncovers with the tide; that
is obvious from looking at the chart. In reality, the water is pretty
wide in most parts, maybe at least a half mile, and in long stretches
it is much wider than that. We had traveled about the first third of
the sound in 2003, coming down to Cumberland from a state park on the
Crooked River, which runs into the Cumberland Sound from the west. Now,
heading the other way, we passed by the Kings Bay base, with the Navy
choppers in attendance and the tracked vehicle on the ridge. We stopped
for lunch on a midden bar, just a berm made of thousands, maybe millions,
of oyster shells seemingly piled in a bank along the marsh, the same
place we had dined the year before.
met and were passed by a few boats, sailors motoring both ways and small
commercial craft. The GPS indication of our speed told us more about
the tidal current than we could otherwise have easily told from watching
the water. We had twelve, one-quart lab bottles of fuel mix, and I was
curious to see how far we could go with that supply. Generally moving
at 4.5 kts. with the tow, we were running from 50 minutes to one hour
before the engine would abruptly cut off and we would add another quart.
don't know exactly what you do when you are riding in the towed boat.
It is necessary to steer; otherwise, Sara would snake back and forth
and pull Rebecca Ann's stern sideways a little on each cycle. Jay and
Harry took turns with that, but they seemed very relaxed back there.
I gathered that they had enough leisure moments to enjoy some rum, and
the ride was smooth enough not to spill a drop.
about a dozen miles we convinced ourselves that a wind had come up,
so we killed the motor, coiled up the towline and raised sail. Our hopes
were unfounded. We floundered around for a while and gave up. The labor
of striking sail and rigging the tow again, though, seemed to appease
the wind god, and in a very short distance of further motoring we all
felt that this time there was sufficient wind. We waited a while longer
to avoid being fooled again, and more specifically to avoid a repetition
of the mutual, unspoken recognition that none of us have the basic ability
to tell when the wind blows. When we raised sail this time, we were
rewarded with a good wind that increased over the next hour.
sail now, we traveled past the last of big Cumberland, and past that
cobble beach the Guide had shown us on our tour the day before. I can't
explain why, but I liked the feeling of seeing a stretch of water from
two vantages, especially when I had never seen it at all before. That
view from both sides symbolizes the small boat journey of the sort we
were making: we now had traveled in our little boats to the farthest
point we earlier had reached by more conventional means, we saw where
we had stood, and where somebody else now stood on the shore watching
us, but then we kept on going where we couldn't go in the Isuzu. The
physical limitations on the mode of travel we normally used had been
bested by the little boats.
on north we went, and now we lined up on the chart with Little Cumberland
Island, leaving the protection of the Sound and entering the exposed
water of St. Andrews Sound, between Little Cumberland and Jekyll Islands.
Water depths in St. Andrews vary between one foot and thirty feet. At
the midpoint of our crossing for a distance of at least a quarter mile,
depths averaged five feet at mean low water. With winds normally westerly,
this means that incoming tides battle the wind and create a significant
chop. When we passed by, the tide was going out, so we didn't encounter
any of that.
did get some swell, though, enough to give us a taste of an unfamiliar
feeling. Jay and I normally sail in the tidal Potomac, where summer
thunderstorms are often violent and can bring up large wind waves quickly.
What we don't usually experience is the low frequency wave of the ocean.
we entered the Sound we headed northeast to avoid the most shallow part
of the shoals. We sailed east of Horseshoe Shoal on a northeast swell
over an area called The Coffin. A small craft warning was out on the
WX, which meant that winds supposedly were at least 20 kts. Eventually
we reefed down. There were some breakers to dodge, making this crossing
the most fun of the trip for sailors.
started the crossing on a beam reach, heading into the swell. After
we made enough easting to pass the shoals we headed more northwest.
The wind clocked a bit just at that time and put us on a beat, with
the swell more on our starboard beam. By then the wind probably was
up to about twenty knots. This was great sailing.
Sound was proving to be fun, and benign on that particular afternoon.
We knew we wouldn't get into trouble, the sky was blue, and we clearly
were going to reach our destination before dark.
we closed the shore we turned to the northeast to enter the river that
runs along the west of Jekyll Island. As we moved into it our wind lessened,
slowed down by the land over which it passed. We had about a mile to
go, and we made our way to the marina, moving fairly slowly. We both
made particularly graceful approaches under sail to come alongside the
first marina pier, luffing into the wind and losing way as if we really
knew how to do it.
was interested in how two 20-foot open boats would be received at a
marina that seemed rather posh. Neither Jay nor I had any experience
with marinas, other than to use their launch ramps. For all we knew,
they would take one look at us and our small boats and tell us to keep
moving. In fact, from the reception we got one would have thought they
had visitors like us every night. Several other sailors, and the neighborhood
tow boat operator, who we had passed earlier in the Cumberland Sound,
came by to admire our boats.
paid $1.30/foot for the berths. I raised the boat tent on Rebecca Ann
for the first time.
and I slept aboard and Cal and Harry repaired to a motel, transported
with me at the wheel of the marina courtesy van. They enjoyed good beds
and a nice walk on the beach.
Jay and I returned to the marina and had a good dinner of some kind
of local fish specialty at the on-site restaurant. I decided, as I listened
to Jimmy Buffett serenading through the speakers in the shower, that
Jekyll Island Marina is a nice place.
little fishing boat sunk at the marina wharf in the evening, and was
soon raised and pumped out, providing some entertainment for the guests.
Jay and I slept aboard. Two weak fronts came through during the night,
bringing wind and rain. The tent worked fine, meeting my hopes for it.
third day had been rewarding. We covered some miles and moved from the
first main island to the second one. We enjoyed some spirited sailing.
We had arrived at the marina under sail, undoubtedly a rare event there,
but had done it in such a way that it didn't register as a memorable
event for anyone other than us. I got to field test the tent, on which
I had spent so many hours at the sewing machine the previous winter.
planned to reach St. Simons, the third island, by the evening of the
next day. But it wasn't too far away, and we looked forward before setting
sail to a low-key exploration of Jekyll, with its restored Jekyll Island
Club, built by yachtsmen for their various civilized pleasures over
a century before.
soon... Day 4: A sorry tale of low bridges and tall masts...