"When I think of all the fools I've been it's a wonder that I've sailed this many miles." -Guy Clark

Thursday, March 28, 2024

day fifteen - the last sound

Morning comes clear and crisp.  46 degrees and a strong enough north wind that I tie in a single reef.  Sail off anchor 7:20.  Working against the ebb tide I round up and shake out the reef.  Making 4.2 leaving the Amelia River.   I notice the red navigation markers are back on the right side to starboard.  

7:50 making 4.6 are the river curves to the south.  Less wind and against the tide, gps shows 2.8 kts.  

8:35 pass the railroad trestle and slip under the bridge.  Quickly see I've crossed the head of the tide and making 5.0 with the now helpful ebb tide.

I see the tug LINDY LOU coming up on my stern.  I radio the captain and identify myself.  I can't get out of the channel, there is no room, so I tell him I'll sail as close to the red side as I can.  He responds, says "I'll give you a slow pass."  I thank him.  

Passing Red 28 making 5.5 kts with wind and tide at my back.  8:55 strong gusts.  There is a barge and tug coming up from the south, not enough time to reef so I round up, bring down the main and tie it to the boom.  Plenty of wind, who needs a mainsail?  Making 5.7 mizzen and jib.

10:05 enter Nassau Sound.  10:20 deep enough water that I can cut across the shoal to head south.  

10:25 the water is boiling as tides collide at the mouth of Clapboard Creek.  In the creek. round up and drop anchor in the mouth of Gunnison Creek between a shoal and the marsh.  Raise a single reefed main, raise the anchor and back out on Clapboard Creek.  Making 3.3 against the opposing ebb tide.  

11:00 see a ketch, the MORGANA out of New Orleans.  She seems to just freeing herself from a shoal.  I am almost even with the boat when she becomes free and could easily pass her.  But I worry that she'll be on my stern the length of the creek.  I turn to port to let her get ahead.  The captain thinks I'm coming over to say hello but I just wave to him to keep on going, I want to be behind her as I figure she'll be picking up speed.   

12:00 Sisters Creek Bridge in sight over the marsh.  12:50 pass beneath the bridge, 1:00 on the St. Johns River.  Making 3.1 against the ebb.  1:25 a series of strong gusts, round up to tie in the second reef.  Making 3.2.

1:50 I see a ship heading up the channel behind us.  I am far enough ahead that I can cross to the green side and get completely out of the channel.  Two more ships and a couple of tug boats pass by, we keep to the south outside the channel, plenty of room.  

3:10 shake out the second reef.  3:50 round the bend at Green 57, can see the buildings of downtown Jacksonville.  Making 3.0.  4:25 crossing a tide line.  Steady sailing south, wind over the port quarter.  5:45 round up at the southern end of Exchange Island and motor into the anchorage.  Anchor down at 6:00 just as it gets dark.  Tired, hungry.

 34.97 NM

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

day fourteen - crossing into Florida

Cast off at 7:35, light north wind and a helping ebb tide.  Making 2.7 on a pretty morning.

Light wind comes and goes, sailing, motor sailing.  8:20 on St. Andrews Sound.  8:25 turn at Red 30, 8:30 round the shoal.

Feeling more wind but now have an opposing tide.  8:45 at Green 35 crossing a tide line with swirling waters.   9:45 Cumberland River.  A little wind but not enough to work against the tide, motorsailing.

10:30 Brickhill River.  Sailing, motorsailing as wind comes and goes. Finally more wind and sailing, 2.4 to 3.0.  Cruiser anchored out, I sail nearby but don't see anyone on board.

11:25 better wind, 3.7.  Live oaks and Spanish moss to port, mud banks and marsh grass to starboard.  

12:10 The Dividings with the Cumberland River so close I could throw a rock to it but can get there by water.  Shoals exposed by low tide.  A powerboat slows down for me, so close I can say "thank you" to the captain.  

1:00 leaving the Brickhill River, low tide and very shallow, both cb and rudder touch bottom.  Raise both and the north wind blows us across the shallows.  Cumberland River, making 2.9 and getting warmer.  1:30 doing 3.5 against the flood tide, then 4.1 with wind over the port quarter.  More wind, 5.0 approaching the submarine base.  Chilly sitting in the shade of the main.  This stretch of water is confusing to me.  Navigation aids and range markers for the submarines.  A lot of red and green across the river.  I check Navionics to see I'm out of the channel and over the shallows.  Turn to the southeast for deeper water.  Some of my confusion is explained as I realize the red and green markers have switched side.  Now I get it.  

3:40 plenty of wind at St. Mary's River.  Gusting up as we cross into Florida.  I think about rounding up and tucking in a reef, but keep the full main.  

Doing 4.2 on calmer water inside of Amelia Island.  Less wind and easier sailing.  Round up and bring down main and jib off a marina, want to see if I can top off my fuel can.  They tell me their pump is out of order.  No problem, I still have plenty of fuel.  

Slip across the Amelia River behind a marsh.  Two local boats anchored out, otherwise have the anchorage to myself.  Anchor down 4:30.

29.87 NM

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

day thirteen - sunshine and a fresh breeze

Calm night.  Wind slacked at sunset.  Wake to the sound of the rushing ebb tide.

7:10 raise anchor and set sails as the current carries us down Jove Creek.  7:20 on the Mackay River, 6.2 and most of that coming from the tide.

7:40 wind drops off, making 2.6, then 3.3 as the breeze fills back in.

Southwest skies clear, northwest skies have a few high clouds as the end of the front slides through.  The tide is pulling crab pot floats completely underwater.  8:10 under the bridge.

8:15 the sun feels warm and oh-so-good.  Slip out onto St. Simon Sound.

Round the red marker for the shoals and turn towards Jekyll Creek.  9:00 sail across a tide line.  9:15 making a steady 2.9 approaching the creek entrance, blue skies all around.  

Choppy confused water at the mouth of Jekyll Creek.  Mudbank to port and jetty to starboard, I'm not quite sure of what the tide is doing. I start the outboard and motorsail for more control into the creek 9:40.

Just around the corner calm water, feels like slack low tide.  Full sail with wind on the stern, 3.6.

10:05 making 4.3, still water around the piling at red marker 19 confirms slack tide.  I call ahead to the marina to ask about a slip for the night.

Me:     Good morning.  I’m on the creek about a mile north of you.  I would like a slip for the night.  Maybe two. I’m on a 19’ yawl.  I’ve stayed there before, I should be in your system.  

Lady at the dock house:   Very good.  Could I have your email so I can look you up in the system?

I give her my email.

Dock house:   Is this Steve Earley?   I don’t see a 19’ boat in our system.  All I see is your 30’ boat SPARTINA.  

Me:   I’m on SPARTINA.  It is a 19’ boat.

Dock house:  It says here that it is a 30’ boat.  

Me:  That’s because you are going to charge me for a 30’ boat.  That’s your minimum size so I pay for 30’ for a 19’ boat.  

Dock house:   ….(long pause)….oh.... I see.  Yes we have a slip for you.  

Me:   Very good, thank you.

10:30 pass under the bridge, round up and bring down the main and the jib.  Motor to the dock where two dockhands help with the lines.  Tied up at 10:40.

A quick lunch then laundry, battery charging, getting rid trash.  I use a golf cart to run to the convenience store for a few gallons of water.  

Sit by the pool with an iced tea and catch up on the logbook.  Two appetizers - seared tuna and crab cakes - for a light dinner.  A beautiful sunset on the creek.

10.55 NM

Monday, March 25, 2024

day twelve - lost in space

Windy, rolling night on Crescent River.  Steady and strong north wind was 90 degrees to both flood and ebb tides.  Still slept ok.  Sail off anchor 7:30 under mizzen and jib.

Low overcast, cold, wearing dry suit and several layers.  3.7 to the Front River.  7:40 round up and raise double-reefed main, 4.0.  8:00 a gust and gps shows 5.4, then back to 4.4 as the gust moves on.  8:35 crossing the top of Doboy Sound.  8:55 making 1.2 in the confused water above Commodore Island.  

9:10 a tug and barge coming up the channel.  More commercial traffic on this sail than all my other sails down here combined.   Cling to the red side as tug goes by.  9:20 past Commodore Island, 3.0 kts.  

Look closely at the gps and Navionics as twice I've made wrong turns just below Commodore Island.  Two years ago with the bright sun rising to the east I mistakenly turned east only to find myself surround by marsh.  Last year I followed a marker to the west only to realize I was heading up the Darien River.  9:45 making 4.5 through the narrows to the south finding the markers to be small floating markers with shoaling on the red side.  

9:50 less wind, 4.1 through the marsh grasses.

10:40 round up in a gust.  10:50 Red 198, entering Altamaha Sound. A series of strong gusts, round up and bring down the double reefed main.  Making 5.2 under mizzen and jib.  Choppy, confused water on the way to the Altamaha River.  

Heavy dark grey overcast and chilly, 11:30 4.5 and then 5.1 with gusty winds at Green 213.  In the last hour we've sailed south, southeast, southwest, northwest, southwest and then south again.  With the low clouds and no hint of the sun I seem to have lost my sense of the direction.  I've got a compass and gps but I'm just following red and green markers.  Sail through tiny Buttermilk Sound before realizing it, then past Fridaycap Creek before recognizing one of my past anchorages.  

12:40 past Wally's Leg, my anchorage last year, and my sense of direction seems to be coming back to me.  1:50 turn north under power into the wind and into the ebb tide into Jove Creek.  Drop the anchors but quickly see we are sliding backwards in the full ebb. 

 Motor back north and position SPARTINA in shallower water, put the anchors out - the 5 lb plow, 10 feet of chain, and 10 lb mushroom anchor as a sentinel - and wait to I feel it bite into the mud.  Run out plenty of scope then watch the gps to confirm we are holding ground.  Anchor set 2:00.

A hot cocoa to warm the afternoon.  Skies beginning to clear but I am hearing from friends in Florida of a large storm crossing the state.

I check radar to see that it is sliding just south of us.  Skies begin to clear.

After dinner, I look south and see the storm's clouds glowing in the evening light.  I check weather one more time to confirm the weather will stay south of us.  It will.


24.95 NM

Sunday, March 24, 2024

day eleven - a back door

Sail off anchor 7:10 with double reefed main, solid east wind.  Overcast, making 4.1 down Kilkenny Creek.

Looking over the marsh I see a tug and barge heading up the Bear River.  7:30 slip out onto the Bear River and a second tug and barge coming up the river.  I cling to the red side to give it plenty of room.  Doing 4.6.

7:50 making 4.8 with a helpful ebb tide, round up and shake out the second reef.

8:10 enterting St. Catherines Sound, 5.2.  8:25 round up and shake out the second reef, full sail.  That helpful ebb tide is now as opposing tide as the ICW turn southwest up the sound.  Good wind but again the ebb we make just 2.8 kts.   Looking at the gps I see we are sliding across the sound directly to a little creek that seems to cut behind an island and join the North Newport River just above Johnson Creek.  I use the Navionics app on my phone to zoom in and trace the creek from the sound to the river to make sure there are no shallows to block my way.  There are none, and the chart shows deep water and a couple of anchorages on what is marked Walburg Creek.  It will be a quicker, easier to work my way south.

8:50 making 4.3 as we sail across the tide instead of directly into it.  Slip into the creek with St. Catherines Island to port and Walburg Island to starboard.  Making 3.2 as we tack up the creek.  

At a bend in the creek is seems we cross the head of the tide, the current is with us and easy sailing.  10:05 out of the creek onto the North Newport River.  Sail onto Johnson Creek 10:15, 4.8 4.8 with a helping tide.  

10:45 sailing the narrow creek with mudbanks and exposed oyster reefs either side.

11:15 light rain.  Noon follow the sand spit out onto Sapelo Sound.  More rain.  4.3 leaving the creek, now  3.2 against the tide.  12:20 feels like the tide has turn, crossing a shoal with a flood tide.

Wind on the nose, making 15 minute tacks up the sound with a helping tide.  Rain finally stops.  

2:15 leaving Sapelo Sound, entering the Front River approaching the end of the flood tide.  3:15 can feel us working against the beginning of the ebb tide, 2.0 on the winding river.  4:05 motorsailing against the ebb.  Anchor down on the Crescent River 4:35.  

Cleaning up after dinner I hear an engine.  A small power cruiser comes up the river and anchors nearby.  

31.88 NM