March 29, 2016

88 Miles to Heaven

"If heaven is a place I am there.  
If heaven is a state of mind I am there.  
It's all a journey and it's all a place. 
The distance of your journey is measured 
by the priority of your destination."

          from Jeemer's Dream, Joe Green, 1982

This marks the 100th post on the Glory Days Blog!!

Whether I'm traveling 88 nautical miles or 101 statute miles, it's all the same. Either way, it is a path to heaven. It is a salty and wet path endeared with a unique flavor of personal freedom. This sailing thing just never gets old.

It may appear as just another sailing journey from St. Simons' Island to Fernandina Beach and back. But it's never the same no matter how many times I make this circular passage. This is similar to the route I took around Cumberland Island a few weeks ago. But this time I have a my right-hand, first mate Sherry with me. 88 miles, just long enough for a teaser of more lengthy routes to follow. 

Patience grasshopper, I tell myself again.

All the usual elements of a maritime heavenly experience are in seas, rich history, artistic venues, mystic horizons, fair winds, and a large dose of coastal wilderness called Cumberland. Thanks for joining me.
Arrival on Sunday, March 13, 2016.

The uncluttered sunsets from my marina on St. Simons Island leave no room for want. Glory Days was glad to see us and we wasted little time getting underway the following morning.
March 14, departed St. Simons at 1100 hrs.

An easy day sail delivered us to Jekyll Island for the night in about 2 hours time. A sweet anchorage just south of the Jekyll bridge and marina. For a $20 dinghy fee, you get showers, dinghy tie-up, and bikes for touring the island. We exchanged stories with a lovely Canadian couple who had been cruising on a Catalina 28 for 7 months. Always fun to share stories and tales of where we've been or what lies ahead for each vessel.
Ah yes... kick back time.

We were rewarded with a peaceful sunset after touring the island on bikes.

The next morn we departed early and sailed through the marked shoals to get outside of St. Andrews sound. It can be a bit tricky exiting the Sound from Jekyll, but we encountered no problems by studying the charts and tides.

 Sometimes navigation markers can shift from what is plotted on the chart. So you go slow and keep an ever steady eye on your depth meter just in case you have to make a sudden tack or veer to avoid grounding.

We always try to time our departures or arrivals with a favorable tidal current. No one wants to sail against the force of a strong current if you can help it. Today's favorable tidal choice would prove to repeat itself for the rest of the week. Once outside of the island, and into the Atlantic, we sailed tight hauled for 16 miles to enter the St. Marys River riding a swift incoming tide. 

That little blue dot is Glory Days after navigating out of St. Andrews Sound into the Atlantic, a 16 mile run south. 

Entering Fernandina is always a joy. It is an industrial waterfront mixed with leisure craft, fishermen, and commercial shipping. Again, we timed the tides right and rode in with the current even tho there was a head wind... so sails down for now.

Shrimpers going out as we are coming in.

Fort Clinch as viewed from the river entrance. At one time, it was a strategic vantage point at the St. Mary's river mouth to the sea.

At Fernandina Beach, we grabbed a mooring ball on the first try and basked in the sunshine as we faced this historical town. Soon we were on dry land again. Gosh, it's good to be back here again. Once ashore, we strolled thru Fernandina and visited art galleries where Sherry could possibly show her work then on to the Salty Pelican for dinner with old sailor friends, David and Cindy.
The town of Fernandina offers lots of historic architecture from way back when. This hotel was built in 1890's.

Stairway to heavenly galleries. Sherry was scouting for new galleries to show her work. She talked the talk. I tagged along and tried to look like a famous artist's friend. 

The next morning, we dinghyed to shore again and caught the sunrise for a change.

Yay Ocean! I salute you! Give me more! Give me more!!

In the Fernandina City Marina we find big fat boats. 

And little skinny boats.

Sometimes a marina stop is just a necessary pleasure. Here we are topping off all the vital fluids like water, diesel, and beverages. It's also the place to dump your holding tank just like an RV would do. I prefer a remote anchorage over a marina any day of the week but in Fernandina a mooring ball is the next best thing. 

After the sunrise and a bike ride with David and Cindy, the next order of business was to raise some sail and head north to our anchorage on the south end of Cumberland Island. 

Here we are raising more sail! Pics taken by my friend Malcolm as he was taking a day trip with friends aboard the sport fisher boat, Change Order, as seen below. 
On the way to Cumberland, I'm glad we decided to double back and ride the wind some more just for the heck of it. Because when we did, we crossed paths with our dock buddy, Malcolm who took these shots of us under sail. We had a destination in mind, but for some reason it just seemed right to zigzag back and forth through the bay just for the sail of it!

She handles so sweetly and seems to 'know' how to react.

Thanks Malcolm for the pics!! 
Let's go ashore! I felt like Marlin Perkins from Wild Kingdom as we hiked to the beach to discover an amazing herd of wild horses strolling the beach at sunset. 

It was a day of sensory overload.
Magical moments like this last forever.

"Age is just a number. 
And numbers never end."

Dinner that night was a surf and turf celebration with ribeye steak and home made crab cakes.

A little red wine,
A Corona and a lime. 
Just us and the moonlight
and a billion stars tonight. 

Thursday morning greeted us with St. Patrick's Day. Over strong coffee, we nursed slight hangovers and gave a gentle nod to the Irish by tying this green flag to the boom.
 We managed to weigh anchor and depart north by noon for a 3 hour jaunt to Plum Orchard.
Uh oh. Storms in the forecast. Adrenalin rush while watching the radar apps and hearing the VHF warnings. We were at our destination, so why not drop the hook, batten down the hatches, and take a nap. It will pass. 

And pass it did.

Nestled deep in the marshes of the Brick Hill river, Glory Days senses that this journey is nearing its end...sniff, sniff. After the storm passed, we went ashore at dusk and played a bit at Cumberland's Plum Orchard. 

Ever so lovely live oaks draped with Spanish moss.

This is the mansion still standing at Plum Orchard. It belonged to the blue bloods of the Carnegie family.

The dinghy dock at Plum Orchard.
 Just tie up and come ashore.

After a good nights sleep in a calm anchorage we made our way for the final leg back to St. Simons Island via Jekyll Creek again. The tidal god's treated us well and we rode the currents once again. 
We soon cleared the bridge at Jekyll to complete our 88 mile circular course leisurely over 6 days. Back at the marina, we were greeted by our dock neighbor, Chip, who was kind to "catch our lines" as we eased into the slip nicely at slack tide. 

Another cruising adventure in the books! Thank you God for safe travels once again.

Cruising is all about a sacred union with the sea. Its also about the magic of harnessing wind to move 12,000 pounds of fiberglass quietly over the water. But it also about all the interesting personalities you meet along the way. 

Here are some of the fine people we met along the way:

"Hi my name is Scott. I met Joe at the Cumberland Island Ferry Dock. I'm from Knoxville and I am here camping with my family. I'm a freshman in high school on spring break. I've pedaled all over the island this week. It's really cool. My grandpa is with us. He taught me how to toss a net this week and he taught me how to filet a fish. I"ll bet none of my friends know that I know that. I'm on the wrestling team in school. I only make A's and B's. Hey did you get those shoes at West Marine? My mother works there. Guess what? She almost stepped on a rattlesnake today!! Hey I gotta go now... sure, you can take my picture! See ya later!"

"Hi, my name is Walt and this is my wife Debbie. I've known Joe for 20+ years as a fellow horticulture teacher. We just ran into him today in the parking lot at St. Simons! Wow, what a small world! I'm glad he invited us to see his boat. He's a crazy guy, that Joe." 

"Hi, my name is Tom and this is my wife Gayle. We are from Asheville and met Joe and Sherry on the beach at Cumberland. Wow, he got some good shots of those horses over there. We sure had a nice chat with you two. This is my 20th year in a row camping on Cumberland Island. I teach landscaping at Warren Wilson College. 
I try to instill two main thoughts in my students: 
1. Learn to be on time. 
2. Learn to work effectively with people that you would not normally associate with. "

"Hi, we are students from the University of New Hampshire. We are here for a week working as volunteers on the island. Today we built this really cool bridge over a marsh. The bugs are driving us nuts, but with this breeze tonight we are loving our nightly sunset watch! I know we giggle a lot, but it's just because we are glad to be here! So you guys are on that cool sailboat out there?!!

"Hi, my name is David from the sailing vessel Swell Horizon. Cindy and I met Joe about 3 years ago as dock neighbors. Since then we have managed to rendezvous while sailing in many places like the Bahamas, Miami, Brunswick and here again in Fernandina. Meeting for dinner at the Salty Pelican was a great time to catch up and share some laughs. We sold our sailboat today...Cindy has mixed emotion about it-JOY and HAPPINESS! 
Keep her steady Capt. Joe!"

And there you have it!
88 Miles To Heaven could just as easily be titled 88 Miles OF Heaven. Indeed, it is all good. I am so blessed. Until the next time, FAIR WINDS ALL!