Monday, March 20, 2023

Georgia, the whole day through

We are under way northbound in the ICW, in the Georgia low country, land of the Gullah-Geechee, on a stretch of water we have not transited in nearly a decade. There are good reasons for that, but the North Atlantic in mid-March is not cooperative and is keeping us inside.

Shortly after my last post we arrived at the notoriously difficult stretch of ICW immediately across from Matanzas Inlet. The Coast Guard has moved the buoys, and I swung wide around them, splitting the distance to shore, and had plenty of depth. Our recorded track has since been published as the recommended route on a web site that keeps up with such things.

As soon as we cleared through the trouble spot we made a hard right and headed toward the inlet, dropping the hook in a familiar spot adjacent the fort (map). The last of the day boaters left a short while later and we had a quiet and pleasant night.

Vector at the Vilano Beach public dock, across from the water taxi to St. Augustine.

That put us just a couple of hours from St. Augustine and Vilano Beach, where typically we stop for the night, having dinner ashore and doing some provisioning. On this trip we did not want to give up the entire afternoon, and with a fair tide as well, and so instead of anchoring we pulled Vector right up to the day dock (map).

After a quick lunch on board we hoofed it down to the Publix with a couple of backpacks and returned loaded up with food for the inevitable dining aboard through the low country. We were back under way by 12:30, just as the flood was starting, and we rode it all the way to the top of the hill. That put it against us, of course, in San Pablo Creek, where it can run up to five knots. We pushed against half that under the bridge, and in hindsight we probably should have stopped near Palm Cove in Jacksonville beach.

We called this knocked-over daymark in to the Coast Guard, and they asked us to send them a photo.

As it was we made it a long day and dropped the hook in our usual spot off Great Marsh Island in the St. Johns River (map). I hoped to get our last glimpse of a rocket launch from here, and after dinner I went out on deck. It was almost completely overcast in the direction of the cape, and I got just a 1-second glimpse as it ascended past a break in the clouds.

It's an easy day from the St. Johns to Fernandina Beach, a pleasant stop with a decent anchorage and numerous restaurants. But it would be pouring rain at dinner time, depriving the stop of its appeal. Instead we took advantage of a fair tide from St. Marys Inlet and pressed on all the way to Jekyll Island. We were both ready to stop before then, but we had a high and rising tide, and getting behind Jekyll is a half-tide-or-better proposition for us.

These four boats decided to raft up for their St. Patty's party right in the channel (marks circled). I had to squeeze around behind them where they left me just 40' of width.

We dropped the hook in the lone anchorage, across from the marina (map), which was uncharacteristically completely empty. It's a short dinghy ride to the island, but the rain pinned us on the boat.  After dark, spotlights coming in our windows alerted us to the cruise ship American Star passing through; they need even more tidal help than we do. We weighed anchor first thing yesterday morning to have plenty of tide back out to St Simons Sound.

That put the tide against us as soon as we turned away from the inlet, and it's been mostly against us ever since. We had a short push as we approached Altamaha Sound, but coming up to a below-zero low tide, we had to stop in our tracks, dropping the hook near Dolbow Island (map) before 1:30. With the tide not coming up far enough for progress until 4pm, we opted to just make it a short day.

The sun dipped below the cloud layer just before setting last night.

Just as well, because I spent the whole afternoon in the engine room. Between our more northerly latitude and a cold front, it's been in the 30s-40s the last couple of mornings, and Louise started the gen first thing yesterday, whereupon it promptly shredded its impeller. Replacement, which normally takes me ten minutes, took well over an hour, as I had to disassemble part of the intake plumbing to recover bits of the impeller.

When it rains it pours, and also under way yesterday, a water leak alarm alerted us to coolant leaking out of the water heater loop. I stopped the leak right away, but that cost us prime in the loop, and I spent another couple of hours trying to re-prime it. Last time we did this with a drill pump and a bucket, but the pump is no longer up to the task and I need to make a better system. So once again we are getting no hot water from our engine loop.

We had a fly-by from three Chinooks today.

Leveraging today's tides had us leaving just before the turn at 7:45, which had us going through all the skinny stuff with plenty of extra water, but has put the tide against us again for most of the day. Earlier today our speed dropped below three knots, knocking the stabilizers offline. The issue is that we are simply at a bad time in the tide cycle, with low tide in the middle of the day. The ebb is longer and stronger than the flood, and the skinny parts are often at the bottom of the hill.

This is the inevitable consequence of pushing through the low country on a schedule; more usually we would take our time and travel only on fair tide if we could not go around outside. I expect we will have more of the same through the remainder of Georgia and South Carolina; the forecast does not show a favorable outside window any time soon.


  1. Your recollection that it had been a decade since you past through that section of the ICW stopped me in my tracks. I've been following the adventure and reading this lovely blog since you guys were still in Oydessy. Time certainly has passed by! Looking forward to all the future adventures. Continue on Captain.

    1. It sort of took me by surprise, too. The clue was that we did not have a previous track on the plotter. Those tracks go back to 2014, when we started using a PC after the Northstar plotter that came with the boat started having problems. I knew we had been through there, so that would mean it was sometime during our first year on board.

  2. Been reading your blog for years but have not keep up with your travels lately and was walking along the river today when I said to my buddy that's the Vector I know that vessel. Hope you have enjoyed your visit here as much as we have.

    1. We always enjoy our stops in Savannah. Well, everything except the annoying trumpet player in Rousakis Plaza.

    2. Yeah he played Gillian’s Island tune when we were walking by Vector - sorry about that! Safe travels.


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