Windy and cold overnight. Comfortable in my medium weight thermals and sleeping bag with liner. Overcast when I wake. Phone app tells me its cool and only going to get colder as the day goes on. Rain to the south. I put put on a base layer of light thermals, knee-high merino wool socks, pants/shirt, wool sweater and the dry suit. Sail off anchor 6:45 making 3.1 down Cattle Pen Creek under mizzen and jib. Out on Johnson I raise the main with a single reef.
Easy sailing down the deceptively wide creek with St. Catherine's Island to the east. Eating breakfast I lose track of the channel and the centerboard touches bottom on a shoal. Not even 8:00 and we slip out on to Sapelo Sound.
The wind is building and I track the markers out toward the inlet to the ocean. 136 is there, so is 136A. I can't find 138 but I can see the shoals to the west. Round the shoals and turn downwind. A gust and SPARTINA heels, a little water over the side. Too much sail. Round up and drop the main. It is a long run up Sapelo Sound, more than five nautical miles. Wind over starboard quarter we make anywhere from 5.2 to 6.4 depending on the swells rolling in from the ocean.
I pick out a green marker in the distance and head for that. Bigger waves, 7.4 sliding down the face of one. At 8:30 pick out the entrance markers to the Front River. The waves on the stern are getting bigger, maybe because of shallower water. They lift SPARTINA'S stern and we pick up speed as we slide down the front. GPS shows 8.3. As the stern lifts the bow goes down into the water and I can see the spray flying port and starboard as the bob stay cuts through the water. Just great sailing.
9:05 in Front Creek, calm water, great wind and easy sailing. The water winds through the marshes, rounding a point three white pelicans rest alongside the brown marsh grass. I glance at the app on my phone, Doboy Sound, an easy sound to cross at less than a mile wide, is not that far away. Then Altahama Sound not too far beyond that. Great progress. The creek curves back and forth through the marsh and I jibe with each turn.
One more turn to make and I see nothing but marsh in front of me. My gps shows the creek curving to the east but the marsh ahead blends together. I finally see the opening to port, push the tiller over as a gust hits and as I reach for the jib sheet I hear the mizzen jibe and the sound of cracking wood. I don't even need to look behind me to see what happened, I already know. When I do look, the mizzen is being towed behind SPARTINA like a drogue. A deep breath. Disappointment.
I suspect the trip is over but need to get out off the ICW to figure out what is going on. There is a creek to starboard and I sail into that and drop the anchor. I bring the mizzen mast on board, roll the sail around the mizzen boom and take a look at the mast. It snapped, twisted off really, at the deck. I take off some of the hardware, think about my options. Searching the apps there is not much nearby in the way of towns or marinas. I see a few houses up the creek and some shrimp boats across the marsh.
If I can get back out on the creek maybe I can sail downwind under jib alone and reach a marina. I try to motor out of the creek but the wind, which is coming right up the creek, pushes me port and starboard. Without the mizzen to balance the boat I can't get through the wind. I re-anchor. Decide to call BoatUS. When I reach them the woman asks for my membership number and I give it to her (wondering all the while if I paid my membership fee last spring). She finds my account and tells me I am a gold member - a tow is covered.
A few minutes later Patrick, the BoatUS towboat captain calls. I describe my location and ask if he is familiar with the creek. He says "Look up the creek, see the three docks? The middle one is my folks' house." Small world. "If you want to get a shower I can call my mom." I tell him I'm fine, I'll stay where I am. He's an hour away but the time goes quickly as I have lunch (drawing the attention of some pelicans) and start tucking away gear. I pack my duffel with cameras and notebooks, tuck away some valuables in the pelican box. It begins to rain.
Patrick arrives in a large rigid hull inflatable. He tosses me a large line that I feed through the bow-eye and up around the cleats on the foredeck. He has me climb aboard his boat and tells me to make myself comfortable. SPARTINA tows surprisingly well though she looks a bit sad as a sloop. Patrick asks me where I want to go. I have no idea. I tell him I need to rely on his local knowledge. I need a marina with a ramp where I can get to a town with a train station. He phones a place called Blue N Hall marina and they say I can tie up there.
It is maybe an hour or more tow to the marina and we have time to talk. Patrick said he was on duty and figured it would be a quiet day. "Wind and rain. Who would go out on the water on a day like today?" he says with a smile. He tells me this is his winter job. Summertime he heads up to Montauk on Long Island to captain a catamaran for tourists. That's interesting, I tell him. Years ago day sailing on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk there was catamaran out of Montauk anchored there and the captain of that boat hopped on SPARTINA for a sail. I tell him I think the boat was called Mon Tiki or something like that. "That's it!" Patrick says, "that was David, he runs those boats!" Small world....again.
Steady rain as we arrive at the marina. Two guys come down to grab the lines. We get SPARTINA tied up and I follow the guys up to the office. I pay for two nights at the marina, tell the guy I'll pay for more if I need it. Now I just need to figure out how to get home.