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Day 4- Georgia Coast Passage 2004 - by Dale Davenport

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Toward: Frederica River, St. Simons Island, Georgia Boating and Fishing Club

From: Jekyll Harbor Marina, Jekyll Island, Georgia

Distance: 8.5 n.m.

Wind: less than 5 kts. until we neared the sound; then 15 kts. increasing to 20 kts.

Notes: We toured Jekyll and made it - barely in Rebecca Ann's case - to the next island north, St. Simon.

Rebecca Ann captain comments: After picking up Harry and Cal at their motel, again using the marina van, we found some groceries, loaded up and cast off. First, we sailed one mile to a pier at Jekyll Island Club Historic District. We toured the area briefly, eating an early lunch at a café in the restored Club. The old hotel is open there and the entire area is preserved more or less as it was around the turn of the century when they dredged the channels for the motor yachts of the rich and famous.

The GPS showed 7.7 knots Next we sailed north on Jekyll Creek to St. Simons Sound,the exposed water between the two islands. We double reefed the main at the end of river and moved quickly with a 20 kt. wind across the sound. The Frederica River - a waterway with which we would become very acquainted the on Day Five - lies inland of St. Simons Island. A mile off the entrance of the Frederica River we raised full sail and I reached 7.7 kts., according to the GPS. At the time, I thought it was honest speed since it appeared to me that I was moving across the current. I don't think Jay ever believed it, although I obnoxiously had kept him informed of my increasing speed on the VHF.

On the left as one approaches the river mouth, a truly fancy marina is located. I know it must be fancy because the guide we were using says it has a boat minimum length, the exact number of which I forget, but it was considerably more than 19'6". As we raced toward the mouth, with Jay ahead and me following, a nice-looking woman came out of the harbormaster's house on the first pier, waving her arms. At first I thought she wanted to ensure that our presence didn't ruin the high atmosphere of the marina. In light of what happened next, perhaps she understood the wind and current of the neighborhood better than I, and her intentions were more charitable. Maybe she had seen other boats swept into the bridge located at the river mouth past her marina.

Near - oh, far too near - the river mouth, Harry and I stopped to lower sails and masts. As we had sailed up, Jay and Cal in Sara, who had started their mast-lowering operation considerably farther out to sea, had their rig down and the oars out. I soon saw that I had waited too long, and that we were too close to the nine-foot bridge. Working as fast as we could, we got the mainmast all the way down. Harry drawled out a warning, but by that time we were almost up against a concrete bridge support. There was no time to do anything with the mizzen, and frankly, in the excitement of trying to push Rebecca Ann off the concrete support I momentarily forgot about the mizzen and the bridge height. That lapse was only momentary.

Dale momentarily forgets about the mizen - and the bridge height...Craaack! Bam!, bam!, bam! and so forth. The wind and flood pushed us through the passage under the bridge between two sets of supports with the mizzen still up, tearing out the step and cracking the partner, but sparing the mast and sail. I think there are six bridge girders holding up the Jose Torres Bridge, so that would make one "crack" and five "bams", which seems about right. On the first one, the mizzen step cracked loose and the mizzen partner thwart cracked in three places but didn't separate very much. The bottom of the mast then moved forward, letting the top clear the girders, but each one made a really serious noise as the mast bent through the span. It happened too fast for us to panic, although not so fast to keep Harry from laughing a lot - a whole, whole lot. He barely choked the words out, "Davenport, look what I found in the bottom of your boat", as he held out the oak step in pieces, one of which had a large bronze screw sticking out, bent at an angle.

We rowed a short distance to the St. Simons Boating and Fishing Club dock, an honest if perhaps more humble establishment, certainly less pretentious, than the one on the other side of the bridge. Fortunately, it is located just inside the river past the bridge, which was our destination for the day. We tied up at the dock. Jay had a repair pack of West epoxy and we made the step better than new with that, along with a little duct tape to hold the pieces until the glue set. We used light line to seize the thwart partner back together.

...we used light line to seize the thwart partner back together...I had thought I was quite the sailor going so fast across the last part of the sound. I didn't appreciate that the same wind that moved the boat so well would make it hard to stop, especially when we turned into the flooding tide. Even if my all-time, personal CY speed record was honest at some point, and it probably never was, certainly when we turned toward the river mouth we were in the grip of a strong current.

At a post mortem held later at a picnic table dockside, my motion to rechristen the Jose Torres bridge as the Holy Terror Bridge failed on a tie vote. However, the next morning one of the club officials did ask which of the boats had been "masticated", so my efforts were not entirely unappreciated by the locals.We held a post mortem at a picnic table dockside.

We took rooms at Epworth-by-the-Sea, a nearby Methodist Church retreat facility, where I had spent some summer days in my unproductive adolescent years four decades earlier. That evening we took a taxi to a nice dinner at a restaurant on the island, and toured the grounds of the old lighthouse.We stayed at Epworth-by-the-Sea, a nearby Methodist Church retreat facility




From a slow, sightseeing start, just walking around on Jekyll, Day Four had surely developed sufficient excitement to keep us interested. Stronger winds were forecast for the next day as we bedded down with the Methodists that evening, at the southern end of the Frederica River. We had decided to try to make it on Day Five to the little village of Darien, located midway upstream on the mighty Altamaha River, and to abandon our earlier plan to keep going north by boat. Above the Altamaha, the guide and charts indicated that the amenities that our crew had grown to appreciate were few and far between. It seemed to the captains a useful mutiny management strategy to see if we could get to Darien, perhaps 30 miles away, and then see what we wanted to do after that. Tucked into our little beds, we didn't know how much real sailing, and how many alligators, then tucked into their cozy little mud wallows, separated us from our interim destination.

Day 5: Coming soon...

Rebecca Ann's hull was built by Geoff Kerr. Dale Davenport fitted her out and did all the finishing work. You can learn all about it here.
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