4- Georgia Coast Passage 2004 - by Dale Davenport
March 31, 2004
Frederica River, St. Simons Island, Georgia Boating and Fishing Club
Jekyll Harbor Marina, Jekyll Island, Georgia
less than 5 kts. until we neared the sound; then 15 kts. increasing
to 20 kts.
We toured Jekyll and made it - barely in Rebecca Ann's case - to the
next island north, St. Simon.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
5: Coming soon...