November 2-3, 2015 –Hilton Head, SC to St. Simons Island, GA to St. Augustine, FL

Leaving Hilton Head

Leaving Hilton Head

Sea Pines Lighthouse at Dawn

Sea Pines Lighthouse at Dawn

We were up early Monday morning, and by 6:30 am, Adrienne was easing Curiosity out of our slip at Hilton Head.  We were headed for St. Simon’s Island – 85 miles south.  The forecast called for 2-4 ft. seas and 10kt winds, so we expected it to be a little bouncy out in the ocean.

By 7:30 am, we were in the Tybee Roads channel heading out to sea.  Winds were gusting up to 17kts and the seas were choppy – 2-4ft with only a 2 second period.  It was bumpy but we hoped it would improve when we left the channel and turned south.  As we began our exit from the channel, we entered a fog bank with visibility down to less than ½ mile.  Fortunately, i t did not last longer than about 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, the waves kicked up to 5 ft with a 2 second period.  Nasty but nothing that Curiosity couldn’t handle.

The ocean was bumpy and not terribly pleasant, but otherwise it was a long boring ride down to St. Simons.  Occasionally, we saw dolphins and a few other boats, but mostly we were on our own.

A little after two, we were entering the St. Simons inlet and by 3:30pm, we were tied up at the transient dock at Morningstar Marina – Golden Isles.

Directly across from us was Meandering Joy, another Fleming 55.  The owner came over and introduced himself and we had a long discussion about all things Fleming.  Meandering Joy is over 20 years old but she looks great.  It is amazing how well Flemings hold up over the years.  The boat had spent the winter at St. Simons, but was heading out on Wednesday for Florida.  We may see them again.

We washed the boat off, did an engine check, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.  The Coastal Kitchen restaurant was right at the marina and we headed there for dinner.  This is a very nice local place that serves good food.  After splitting a Caesar Salad, Adrienne had the fried chicken and I had the fried shrimp.  Both were very good.  However, Adrienne’s chicken had the typical southern white gravy on it, which she scrapped off.  We will need to work on her Southern roots.

It was off to bed early again because we had one more long ocean run the next day – 55nm in the ocean to St. Johns River inlet and then another 30 nm down to St. Augustine.

Tuesday morning we were up at 5:30 am and by 6:30 we were pulling out of the marina.  It was another spectacular sky as we left St. Simons.  The winds were less than 4kts and the seas were calm.  By 7:30 am, we were out of the channel and heading for the St. Johns inlet.

St. Simons Lighthouse

St. Simons Lighthouse

Spectacular Dawn

Spectacular Dawn

Light Show

Light Show

However, as soon as we began to exit the channel, we heard a Pan Pan announcement from the Coast Guard about an overturned 20ft powerboat just off St. Simons Island, with possible persons in the water.  The overturned vessel had been spotted by another boat that had apparently not stopped.   We checked the latitude and longitude given by the Coast Guard and realized that we might be the closest boat to that location.  We altered course and headed toward the vessel.  Just as we got close to the location, a Coast Guard search and rescue boat arrived on the scene.  We could see the overturned boat but nothing  else.  We asked the Coast Guard if they needed our assistance; they did not and we continued on our way.  We later heard that the Pan Pan had been canceled.  The overturned boat had probably been in the water quite a while.

We continued on south in 1-3ft seas.  It was a little choppy but so much better than Monday.

Calm Blue Seas

Calm Blue Seas

Just before noon, we arrived at the St. John Inlet.  At this point we had a choice, either enter the inlet and continue down the ICW to St. Augustine or continue in the ocean to the St. Augustine inlet.  Staying in the ocean would be faster, but the St. Augustine inlet can be a bear.  Adrienne called Sea Tow in St. Augustine for advice, who advised us that we would be arriving on an ebbing current when the inlet can be quite nasty.  We opted for the St. Johns inlet.

As we entered the inlet, we passed the Jacksonville Naval Base, the Coast Guard Station and many fishing vessels.  It is a very busy inlet.

Jacksonville Naval Base

Jacksonville Naval Base

Aircraft Carrier - Jacksonville

Aircraft Carrier – Jacksonville

Coast Guard Station

Coast Guard Station

Fishing Vessels Along the St. Johns River

Fishing Vessels Along the St. Johns River

By 12:1 5pm, we were in the ICW heading south.  In the beginning we were making great time, over 11kts because we had the current with us.  However, just after 1:30 pm, we entered the Cabbage Swamp Canal, a ten mile no-wake zone in a man-made cut with houses all along the shore.  We slowed down to near idle speed but with the current we were still able to go nearly 7 kts with little wake.  The canal is quite beautiful with a variety of houses along it.

Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Cabbage Swamp Canal

Cabbage Swamp Canal

Along the Cabbage Swamp Canal

Along the Cabbage Swamp Canal

Along ICW

Along ICW

Along the ICW In Florida

Along the ICW In Florida

Modern House along Canal

Modern House along Canal

Finally, we exited the canal and were in the Tolomato River.  It felt great to be able to speed up and complete our journey to St. Augustine.

As we neared St. Augustine, we saw a small grey boat with flashing blue lights chasing two other boats.  We couldn’t tell what was going on.  The three boats suddenly turned around and began racing toward us.  As they passed us, we couldn’t believe what we saw.  The lead boat was pulling the second boat at a fast pace.  In the second boat was a series of white dummies sitting in the cockpit.  The boat with the flashing blue lights was chasing the dummy boat.  As it pulled neared, I could see that crouching in the cockpit were several law enforcement officers with drawn guns aimed at the dummies.  I assume that they were not actually firing at the dummies – they were less than 100 feet from us.  Later the boat towing the dummies came racing pass us again.  Obviously the dummies had escaped!

Towing the Dummies

Towing the Dummies

Taking Aim at the Dummies

Taking Aim at the Dummies

The Dummies Escaping

The Dummies Escaping

With this excitement over, we headed for Comachee Cove Marina in St. Augustine.  We usually stay at the St. Augustine City Marina because it is right in the heart of historic St. Augustine.  However, we knew that we would not have time to sightsee and the Comachee marina is protected from the swift current that runs in St. Augustine.  What we had not counted on was that the channel to the marina was occupied by a dredge.  We eased past the dredge with less than 2 feet between us and the dredge on the port side and less than 2 feet between us and the channel markers on the starboard side.  We made it but it was not fun.  Fortunately docking was easier and by 4 pm, we were tied up and done.

We washed the boat, went to the Kingfishers for dinner and headed back to the boat to collapse.  The Kingfisher was okay but was nothing special.

Tomorrow, we head to Daytona Beach.

 

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