Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beaufort, SC to St. James Plantation, NC

This entry should be titled:
The Diary of a Mad Sailor
or How I Spent Four Days Waiting for Tropical Storm Ana to Hit the North Carolina Coast.

But more on that later. As you will recall, in our last blog we told you how many billions of dollars we found on Blackbeard Island (rounding off to the nearest billion it was zero). Our next stop was beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina. Because we had such a great experience the last time we visited, we decided to stay at the same marina; Lady’s Island Marina. TJ, the dockmaster, met us, caught our lines and helped us tie up. More importantly, our friends Becky and Captain Mark aboard their boat Sea Angel, one of the few Jeffersons we have seen on the Waterway, were also there!! During our time at Lady’s Island, we met with Mark and Becky a number of times. We went out to eat once with them, we ate on their boat and had drinks. They even lent us their car so we could re-provision and take a quick tour of Lady’s Island. They are turning out to be some of our best cruising friends.

We stayed at Lady’s Island for five days. In addition to spending time with Mark and Becky, we went to breakfast once at the Huddle House, which is fast becoming one of Ann’s favorite breakfast destinations. She had Pecan Pancakes. We also met Bud and Elaine aboard Diamond Girl. They are the new ICW cruising editors for Dozier’s Waterway Guide.

After Lady’s Island, we anchored out two evenings, once at the Church River and once at the Whiteside River. The Church River is about 50 miles north of Beaufort so it was a relatively short day. The cruise up the ICW was idyllic and the weather perfect for cruising. That evening, I cooked steaks on the grill, we watched some “How I Met Your Mother,” (about which I will explain more later) and went to bed, fat dumb and happy. When we awoke the next morning, it was windy and raining. It wasn’t terrible, but it did not look like it was going to be another perfect day; oh the trials and tribulations of the full-time cruiser. Making matters even more complicated was the fact that we had developed a rather complicated plan for the next two days.

Just beyond Charleston are two of the worst trouble spots on the ICW: one is just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge (on our four trips through there, we have seen vessels aground twice – and one time there were multiple vessels aground). The other is a little further north – about a three mile stretch just south of McClellanville, SC. Our plan was to hit the first location on a rising tide, and, though the water south of McClellanville was shallow, we thought we could make it through before the tide got too low. The only way we could accomplish that magnificent feat of navigation was to hang around the Curch Street anchorage until 1030-1100, then make the day’s run at between 9 and 10 statute miles per hour. It was a great plan, but the lousy weather made us ask whether or not we would be able to keep up our speed – especially while passing through very shallow water.

The weather through most of the day wasn’t as bad as we had feared and we made it easily. About 1400, though, it started raining, thundering and blowing pretty hard. In fact, it actually hailed!!! Now we have seen a lot of different kinds of weather in our travels, but we hadn’t seen hail before. Because of the deteriorating weather, and because we had already traversed the major trouble spots, we decided to anchor for the night. As it happened, we anchored in the same place we did last year, Whiteside Creek, a nice enough anchorage with decent protection from most winds and currents. Ann had to get out, however, to prepare and drop the anchor, and to attach the snubbers. After she did that and almost got dry, we decided that we really weren’t comfortable with the way we had drifted, so we did it a second time. Ann got – shall we say – a little wet that day? That is important because as soon as she finished and we were comfortable that the anchor would hold us through the night, it stopped raining. Of course.

Mother's Day Breakfast
The next day at about 1300 we arrived at the marina in Georgetown. We were staying at the Georgetown Landing Marina and it was our first time there. It was a little further from town than I would have liked, but the folks were friendly and it was a little bit cheaper than the downtown marinas. We had seen the marina in passing, but we hadn’t been close to it before.  Unfortunately, the closer we got, the more aback I was taken by how open it was to wind and current. In fact, the current flowing through the marina at the time we arrived was between 1.5 and 2.0 MPH – I think our anchorage the night before was better protected. Anyway, after some confusion on their part, the dockmaster told me where he wanted me to go. I had to make a 180 degree turn – in the face of substantial current – to get into the marina, move about 100 yards, then make another 180 degree turn to slide into the space on the face dock where they wanted me to tie up. Now, on the one hand, it wasn’t as hard as I have made it sound – because I had a lot of room. On the other hand, man did I pull into that slot perfectly!! I mean after the second 180 degree turn, I was about 20 feet put from the spot where they wanted me. And the current/wind combination pushed me right into the slip. Ann had put the fenders in exactly the right place and we just touched the dock. (Forgive me for bragging, but since I tell you all the bad stuff I do (like losing the top step from our swim platform ladder in Portsmouth), I get to tell you the good things I do too!)

Although the marina was clean enough and the people were nice enough, it was clear to me from the minute we arrived that this was not the marina I thought it was. Not only were we exposed to wind and current (which in nasty weather could be a VERY bad thing), but we were right next to a busy bridge that had traffic ALL night long. Moreover, there was a small Coast Guard station right next door. Now, I generally think very highly of the Coast Guard. But this was the first one I had seen or heard a Coast Guard Station that used bugle calls. Bugle calls!! In the Coast Guard!! In the morning they played “First Call”, “Assembly”, and “Reveille.” I didn’t pay close attention to the evening calls so I am not sure what they played. At least, though, I didn’t hear "Charge!"

 After Georgetown we went to Osprey Marina. It is kind of out in the middle of nowhere between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. Why did we stop there, you might ask. Because it has some of the least expensive fuel o on the ICW. After Osprey we went to Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach. Whey did we go there? Because Ann wanted to. Apparently she wanted to buy a fish ... you'll have to read her explanation below.

We were going to stop the blog here, but then we got caught at St. James Marina waiting for Tropical Storm Ana. On Wednesday we zipped past St. James as I was listening to the weather. Our plan had been to anchor out at Carolina Beach for the next couple of days before heading towards Oriental, NC. Carolina Beach is on the beach (duh), has a boardwalk and sounded like a lot of fun. As were proceeding down the Waterway, however, we heard that a low pressure area from the Bahamas might cause some bad weather over the next couple of days. Well, being prudent (read chicken) boaters, we decided that with that kind of warning, we probably ought not plan on anchoring out. So we turned around and went the mile or two back to St. James Marina, where we had stayed many times before.

The weather wasn’t as bad on Wednesday as had been predicted, but they told us that the really bad stuff was due to arrive on Thursday, so, of course, we stayed another night. On Thursday they told us the worst was coming on Friday, and on Friday … you guessed it … they told us it was coming Saturday. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we walked the area a little and Ann took Spot for a few strolls on the dock, but really we really had nothing to do. I was … I was … I was … going wacky! That was all right, we figured, because we would be out of there is a couple of days.

Tropical Storm Ana as seen on our Garmin Weather Program.
The symbol for our boat is just to the right of the symbol for the
Tropical Storm
Well, on Saturday the bad weather really did arrive. Tropical Storm Ana, the fist named storm of the season, and it caught us almost dead-on. The wind was steady at 30 and gusted to over 40 knots, and both days, the rain was incessant. And we still didn’t have anything to do. All day long. Both days. Yes, we have some old movies on board and watched a Sherlock Holmes video (with the REAL Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone). We also watched a Dick Tracy movie (no, he didn’t have his telephone-watch) and a film about Bulldog Drummond (sorry, while I know he had several movies, I still don’t know who he is).

Other than that, we watched the weather. And I played computer games. And I read. But good lord, trapped in a 52 foot long boat for 24 hours day after day after day after day after … I was going truly stir-crazy. 

By Monday, the storm had abated and we were back on our way to Mile Hammock Bay – Thank Heaven!!!

Our Television System

We have decided that sometimes these blog entries read more like a travelog than a cruiser’s blog. So, periodically, we are going to tell you something about the boating part of our cruising life. Sometimes it might be interesting, and sometimes not, but, hey, at least it will be a change of pace.

I mentioned earlier that we watched “How I Met Your Mother,” on TV. In general, there are four ways that we could watch TV on our boat. The first, of course, is satellite TV. There are two kinds of satellite dishes that cruisers usually use, and one is much better than the other. The first is a simple satellite dish that is substantially the same as the kind you might have at your house. The trouble is that these dishes only work when you are in a marina or in an anchorage where your boat is completely still (which hardly ever happens). You can set them up on your boat or next to your boat, point them at the satellite and voila – television!!

The second kind of antenna is much better on boats – and, as you might have guessed much more expensive. It is a dish that automatically changes its azimuth as moves so that it continually points at the satellite. This is the kind they use on cruise ships. On the move or in an anchorage when you might twist and turn, the dish should keep pointed at the satellite and continually give you a signal!!! Wow!!!

We don’t have either of those.

We do have a cable and when we are in a marina that offers cable service I’ll sometimes connect the cable and we can watch television – obviously, though, that doesn’t work at anchor. So, we also have a simple old fashioned TV antenna. Remember the days when you or your dad had to get up on the roof and turn the antenna until it optimized the channels available? Well, ours is a little more advanced than that in that it is contained within a “dome” so it doesn’t really turn. But the channels we get depend on exactly where we are and where the transmitter is. About 50% of the time we get nothing – or stations with so much interference that they are unwatchable. The other 50% of the time we get somewhere between 4 and 8 stations. Now these usually aren’t one of the biggies, NBC, CBS, ABC or CNN. Instead, we get various shopping networks, sometimes a Spanish-speaking channel or two, and once in a while we get one or more PBS stations. More often than not, however, we get things like the ion network and METV. For those of you who have not seen METV you are really missing something.

METV which stands for Memorable Entertainment Television and it carries those programs of another time, when men watched westerns, women cleaned and cooked in high heels and married couples had to be depicted in separate beds. Yes, I am talking about the greats, shows like The Rifleman, Bonanza, Rescue 21, the original Star Trek, Perry Mason and other shows of yesteryear. When you can’t keep up with the happenings of Madmen and NCIS you would be surprised at how interesting an episode of the Rifleman can be.

Frequently, however, we can’t get any stations or can only receive shopping networks. When that happens we revert to DVDs. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch all ten years of Cheers, back to back? Or all the episodes of Bones, Big Bang or some other TV show? That is what we generally do in the evenings. You would be surprised how long these series can last if you are only watching a couple of episodes per night on nights where you have nothing else to do.

The real reason, though, that we haven’t splurged on an expensive satellite set-up is that cruising is still an adventure for us. Sure there are a few hours every couple of days when we want to watch TV, but most of the time we are enjoying our boat, our friends, the water and the wonderful, wonderful outdoors. And even the best PBS shows can’t capture all that.

That, and the fact that most TV shows suck nowadays.

ANN’S NOTES: I was just going to let Michael send out the blog without my notes, but then I started to look at the pictures and that spurred me on to add, as my dad would say, “my two cents worth”.

And the fish I caught was thhhiiss BIG!
And it was blue and it fit on the sofa and ...
We have really had a nice time just taking it slowly, most of the time the slowness was controlled by the weather or the talk of weather to come. We spend much longer at St James Plantation Marina than we wanted. Our view on the port side was nice, we could see the ICW and the traffic on it. The starboard side was a different story, we had the Big D sign marking the dock right in the middle of our salon window. As the tides came and went, the level of the sign would appear to move.
We celebrated Mother’s Day on the boat, the rain was so bad that I made Michael and I breakfast. It was very good and I even liked making it myself. We did have a break in the weather one evening and we went out to dinner at the marina restaurant. We sat outside and enjoyed the view and each other’s company. Tropical storm Ana was something to be seen, the weather screen on the Garmin was lit up like a Christmas tree. The wind was blowing at 30 MPH and gusting to 40 MPH. I was glad to be tied up next to that big D.

Before we went to wait out the storm at St James Plantation Marina, we went back to Barefoot Landing Marina near Myrtle Beach SC. Michael has talked to you about this marina next to the outlet stores. Really just a bunch of beach types stores…But…they have a store that sells Life Is Good t-shirts ( my favorite). They also have a cute gift shop that sells nautical themed items. (Go figure.) I saw this cute pillow in the shape of a fish last fall. I liked it and showed it to Michael. I Did not get the “that is cute, go ahead and buy it” from him …so I put it back and then went into a year of worth of buyer’s remorse. As you can see, it is now very happy with my other nautical pillows.

The Spot Update…
Spot beneath the helm window.
Note her left hind leg holding on to the curtain rod.

She is getting longer and can jump to any place she wants. I can tell when she is ready to make that jump … she wiggles her butt just before the leap.

She loves to lay on the helm station and soak up the sun, at times she is not very modest about it.

Spot makes us laugh and we enjoy her company as much as she enjoys ours.

Thanks for reading…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sapelo, Blackbeard and Fort McAllister

Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum! Yes, I have a pirate story! Well, actually I don’t have a pirate story as much as I do a story about a particular pirate … actually, it is less of a “story” than it is a rumor … actually it is less of a rumor than an unsubstantiated hope. But for that, you will have to wait until I discuss some serious history – that of Sapelo Island.

We stayed at the anchorage near Sapelo Island for two nights. We had stayed in the same place last autumn but when the wind turned and came from the north, it produced 2-foot waves in the anchorage, which made the evening very bumpy. This year we had much better weather.

 We also took a tour of the Island! We mentioned in our blog last year that we were thinking about it, but since we were only there for one night it was not going to happen. The island is primarily owned by the state with a few individual landowners – descendants of slaves who received their land in 1865. To go ashore on the island (above the high water mark) you have to have sponsorship from someone. This can be either a local landowner (some of whom rent cottages and some of whom offer their own tours) or a state-sponsored tour. Well, after blogging about our desire to visit the island, our friends Joy and Steve aboard their boat Meandering Joy,wrote us an e-mail telling us that it was much easier than it seemed. Actually, it was even easier for them as one of Steve’s former employees lived on the island and gave them a personal tour. But once we understood that it was possible, we called the office listed on the web site and made arrangements to join the state-sponsored tour. All we had to do was meet the guide at the ferry dock at the appointed time – and, oh by the way pay $15 each. We have paid much more for much less and decided it was a good deal.

A picture of Mike and Ann near the beach at Sapelo.
With help from Wikipedia, I have tried to reduce the four hundred years of Sapelo’s history into three paragraphs.

Although historians are not sure, many believe that Sapelo Island is the site of San Miguel de Gualdape, the short-lived (1526–27) Spanish settlement, which was the first European settlement in the present day United States. If true, it would also be the first place in the present-day U.S. that a Catholic mass was celebrated. For a variety of reasons (my way of saying that I really don’t know why) Sapelo was then abandoned by Europeans until the 17th Century when it became part of the Guale missionary province of Spanish Florida.

In the early 19th century Thomas Spalding, a future Georgia Senator and U.S. Representative, bought the island and developed it into a plantation. He sold live oak for shipbuilding, introduced irrigation ditches, and cultivated Sea Island Cotton, corn, and sugar cane. Spalding brought between 350 and 400 slaves to the island from West Africa and the West Indies to work the plantation and build what would become the Spalding Mansion.

The plantation and mansion were pretty much destroyed during the Civil War, but in 1912, Sapelo was purchased by Howard E. Coffin, founder of the Hudson Motor Company. Coffin purchased the entire island, save for the land owned by the former slaves, for $150,000 in 1912. Like Spalding, the Coffins embarked on numerous projects. Miles of shell-covered roads were laid, creeks were bridged, old fields were cultivated and large tracts were set aside for cattle grazing. Former presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover as well as aviator Charles Lindbergh were guests in the home.

Coffin sold the island to RJ Reynolds of Reynolds tobacco fame. He and his family used Sapelo as a part-time residence for three decades, consolidating the island's African-American residents (and former slaves) into Hog Hammock by giving them land in the town. When he died, he willed the island, with the exception of the land he had given the residents of hog Hammock, to the citizens of Georgia.

On our tour, we visited Hog Hammock, whose residents are almost all descendants of Spalding’s slaves. We saw, but could not visit, Spalding’s mansion (apparently visiting the mansion is a special deal on Tuesday’s – we visited on Friday). We also saw the wide open empty beaches and the reconstructed Sapelo lighthouse (originally built in 1820 and most recently reconstructed in 1998). We also visited part of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. All in all, it was a fun and interesting day and tour.

After leaving Sapelo, we headed a little to the north to … are you ready for it? … Blackbeard Island!! I am not kidding. Blackbeard, of course, was the infamous pirate Edward Teach, famous for exploits as far south as raiding Spanish galleons in the Caribbean and as far north as successfully blockading the port of Charleston. He is known to have sailed the coastal waters of Georgia and South Carolina, which with their labyrinthine rivers, creeks, inlets and marshlands certainly offered Blackbeard and his ilk opportunities to ply their trade in secrecy. Blackbeard was killed in 1718. Blackbeard’s Island was identified as such on maps as early as 1760. Why? Some romanticists believe it was because back in the day, people knew that Blackbeard hid some of his treasure on the Island. Since then, there have been a number of searches for the treasure and so far nothing has been found (or at least nothing has been reported to have been found). Hmmm – maybe next time we need to spend more time on the island.

This is how I knew it was
Blackbeard's hiding place.
We found his water bottle!!
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the night we spent at Blackbeard was also the night of a significant band of thunderstorms in the area. Although it was dark, rainy and stormy, from our satellite weather reports we knew that we were on the edge the band of storms and not in the center. The only time we were concerned was when we looked out the back and saw the shore five feet or so from our swim platform. The creek was relatively narrow and, although we had anchored in the center of the creek, the wind and currents had combined to push us athwart the creek so our stern was near the shore. Luckily, it was still fairly deep.

After we had discovered all of Blackbeard’s treasure roamed around the creek and the beach we headed off to Fort McAllister. There are two aspects of our visit to Fort McAllister that were noteworthy. The first has to do with the marina, the second with the Fort itself.

As always, we had made reservations at the local marina and told them we would arrive early afternoon. The marina was about five miles off the ICW up the Ogeechee River, which, to use a technical term was a real twisty-turney stream. After we had made the trip and had the marina in sight, we called them on the radio – and received no answer. We waited a little and called again. Again, no answer. We then called them on the telephone – and the radio – and the telephone. Well, I think you get the picture. This is the first time EVER that we have been unable to raise a marina by both radio and telephone. By this time we were close enough to the marina to see several open slips on the linear outer dock. We slowly cruised past the marina and picked our spot. We looped back around, hoping someone would see us or answer our continuing radio calls.

We have only docked our boat a few times without help from someone ashore; it is very difficult. Remember, this is a 52’ boat with about 6 feet of freeboard (distance from the deck to the water). To cap everything off, McAllister has a floating dock (which means the dock was only a foot or so off the water), so our deck was about five feet from the dock. Also, the difference between high tide and low tide was about seven feet, so the pilings themselves were very tall. Anyhow, we pulled up to one of the pilings and Ann managed to get a spring line around it. She then fastened both of the ends of the line to the cleat on the boat. I then back down; that drew us closer to the dock. Ann then tightened the spring line and pretty soon we were close enough to the deck so she could step off the swim platform, whereupon she tied off the stern. NOTE: It only took a few seconds to write this, but it took several nerve-wracking minutes to execute.  Ann, of course, was running back and forth between the bow, midship and the stern cleats tying and tightening. However … YEAH for us: We did it!!!! (Actually, Ann did most of it, but I did manage to keep the boat close to the dock.)

Some of the earthworks at
Fort McAllister
Ann then disembarked to check in at the office. Well, it turns out there was a young man who had been blowing leaves and had not heard the radio or the telephone. Now I am still not clear why he did not see a big 52’ boat 100 yards from where he was standing … but apparently he didn’t. When Ann approached him he acted as if nothing was wrong and proceeded to tell Ann that we were going to have to move the boat. Ann wasn’t particularly happy with him, but she generally controls her expressions of dissatisfaction, so she just explained that he would have to tell me where he wanted us to move. I was very proud that I controlled myself too, because I wanted  to tell him how sorry I was for his mother – to have borne a blind, deaf and dumb kid who wasn’t particularly bright. Instead I explained that I was really upset and I asked why he didn’t offer us any help. He took one look at the expression on my face and decided that – you know what? – maybe we could stay in the slip where we were. (That was probably the smartest thing he did all day.) I should note that the dockhand and later the owner apologized and offered their version of an excuse as to what happened. Neither, however, offered recompense of any kind.

Because of our marina experience I should tell you not to go to Fort McAllister. I would, but the visit to the fort itself was very interesting. Fort McAllister was a Civil war Confederate fort. McAllister was a confederate fort designed to prevent Union incursions up the Ogeechee River. As I said earlier, the Ogeechee twists and turns. There was no way a Union ship was going to pass by McAllister without being seen and running the substantial firepower available to the fort. This sets the stage for the TWO battles of Fort McAllister.

The first took place in early January of 1863. The Confederate blockade runner Nashville had escaped up the Ogeechee River the previous year and was thought to be just beyond the fort. Needless to say, the Union wanted to sink it. Moreover, the Commander of the Union’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron wanted to test the usefulness of the new ironclads with their innovative 15” Dahlgren cannons before he dispatched them against Charleston. On January 7, 1863, the monitor USS Montauk closed with and engaged the fort. From the fort, we could see the location where the Montauk most likely positioned herself, by having cruised up the river ourselves, we had a good feel for what the monitor saw.

The two sides engaged, the Union relying principally on the monitor’s 11 and 15 inch cannons; the fort firing back with its five thirty-two pounders, one eight-incher and one forty pounder. Although the monitor hit the fort a number of times, the earthworks absorbed most of the shells that were fired and were quickly repaired. Similarly, the defenders scored a number of hits on the monitor, but it would not go down. The battle ended as a draw. The commander determined that a single monitor could not maintain a sufficient rate of fire, so he later sent three ironclads to reduce the fort. Again, the earthworks absorbed the punishment and again the fort fought the ironclads to a standstill. The Union eventually gave up trying to defeat the fort and decided to fight elsewhere. Thus endeth the first Battle of Fort McAllister. (Actually, it doesn’t end as there were other weapons and operational concepts employed: the confederates used sharpshooters on the bank to engage the Union’s sailors, they also used mines, mortars and new and different kinds of cannons. Moreover, the Union sank the Nashville which had been refitted as a raider and drafted into the confederate navy. But for the purposes of this blog, I am endething the story.)

The second battle of Fort McAllister is even more interesting. By December 1864, Sherman was on the final leg of his March to the Sea. The problem was the general was not sure he had enough supplies to take Savannah before being resupplied. If, however, he could link up with Admiral Dahlgren’s fleet waiting with supplies just offshore then the supply problem would be solved. The difficulty was the Fort McAllister was between Sherman and the Sea. Unfortunately for the Confederates, McAllister had only 200 defenders and was made to defeat an attack from the sea – not the land. Moreover, by this point in the war, nothing was going to keep Sherman from the sea. He ordered the Army of Tennessee to take McAllister; General William Hazens’ division was given the mission. Hazen had 4000 men; the fort had 200. Guess who won. Because of his victory at McAllister and his subsequent link-up with the navy, General Sherman was able to take Savannah on December 25 and give it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift.

We walked around the fort and could almost see where Hanzen’s men lined up and where the fort’s defenses were breached. It was an interesting afternoon.

Well, I am going to end things here and let Ann have her turn. In the next entry we’ll write about the Bull Island anchorage, Lady’s Island Marina in beautiful Beaufort, SC; the Church and Whiteside River anchorages and Georgetown, SC.

Ann’s Notes: Michael pretty much wrapped up our adventure at Fort McAllister, I will fill in a few details that I remember.

Sapelo Island was interesting, our tour guide did a good job, we saw everything that is to be seen and he shared the knowledge he knew. I would have liked a tour given by a local Gallah and learned more about their culture and history. It is hard to imagine the island producing a product and making a living doing so. I guess if you have enough slaves anything is possible. The former owners of the island had a lot of money and could experiment with different cash crops and not really take a hit in their personal pocket books. One of the stipulations that Mrs. Reynolds made before turning over the island to the state of Georgia, was that a ferry service always be available to the people living on the island. The ferry is docked at night on the island in case of an emergency and makes several crossings a day on a very strict schedule.

 There was some docking excitement at the Fort McAllister marina. They could write a book on what not to do when you work at a marina. At the top of the list would be not to ignore your customers when they come to dock!! I was very grateful that we have headsets and we use them all the time when we are docking or anchoring. That way we know what each of us is doing at any given time and it saves us from having any accidents. In this instance, we could keep in touch as we approached the dock. Since moving on the boat our communications have greatly improved.

Yes ... yes I am the cutest thing on the boat.
All my staff says so!
The day spent at the fort was very interesting, the fort was rebuilt with the funding from Henry Ford when he owned in the late 1930s. They have a nice museum with items going back to the Indian settlement that was on the land. If you are every in this part of Georgia it is a must. The earthworks are really something to see.

I am going to update you on the latest ‘doings’ of Spot. She is now five months old and still very much a kitten. She is turning into a wonderful boat cat. Spot is no longer fights to get out of her harness when I take her outside or off the boat. She has learned to like her cat treats and she gets one whenever we put her in her carrier or put her harness on. She will come when she is called. I have taught her how to fetch. We use a small paper bag rolled in a ball and when thrown, she will run down the steps to the galley, retrieve it and bring it back. She likes the paper because it is light and easy to carry in her mouth and also easy to bat around. It took a while for her to get the hang of it but now she will play for a long time. She also loves ping pong balls…again light and they move fast with just a quick swipe of her paw. So far, we have had no trouble with her claws and the furniture. Spot is a smart little girl and she has added so much fun to our cruising. I just love every beautiful inch of her.

Thanks for reading…

Traveling Soul…OUT




Sunday, May 3, 2015

Jekyll Island (8- 15 April)

We’ve all done it. We’ve passed a marina that not only appears inviting, but looks like it might be the portal to a real adventure. For us, one of those marinas was the Jekyll Island Harbor Marina at Jekyll Island, Georgia. We’d passed it before, but this spring we decided that we just had to make reservations and find out what we had been missing.

At first we thought the marina was going to be a bit pricey – and to be honest, it was. But with a Boat US discount and because we had decided to stay a whole week, we ended up staying 7 days for the price of 4 ½. And because they had a restaurant on site, a (seasonally available) swimming pool with hot tub, a strong wi-fi signal, and the free use of golf carts and bicycles, we thought we were getting a pretty good deal after all. Moreover, with help from an experienced dockmaster and dockhands, tying up along the long face dock (where they usually put transients) was a snap.

Jekyll is one of Georgia’s barrier islands. It is about 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. The eastern end of the island borders on the Atlantic Ocean and is where most of the beaches are located. The western side abuts Jekyll Creek, the ICW, the marshland and is where the marina is located. Everything on the island is within range of the marina’s golf carts. But since you can only use them for an hour-and-a-half at a time, they are most useful for short shopping trips. We used them to go to the island’s small IGA grocery store – about a 20 minute ride. In the same shopping area there is a small liquor store, a pretty well-stocked hardware store, a bank, gift shop, beauty shop and a post office. If you want to go to one of the venues and take part in an activity that might take over an hour-and-a-half, bicycles are the way to go. And with over 20 miles of biking trails, it is easy to get almost anywhere by bike.

There is a surprising amount of wildlife to see on the island. Birds are abundant. The locals maintain that there are two nesting pairs of bald eagles, though we only saw one.  For serious birders there are several areas to sit, watch and photograph the local birds. While we were there, we saw a group of men and women equipped with some serious binoculars and camera lenses all set up for bird watching. Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Clapper Rails, and various ducks and sparrows use these coastal marshes seasonally.  While some are skittish, others are quite bold. One time while we were coming into the harbor, a brown pelican landed on our boat, right in front of the pilothouse, and “allowed us” to give him about a 20 minute ride around the island. I am not sure who was watching whom closer … him or us.

There are other kinds of wildlife indigenous to the barrier islands, including alligators (we saw signs warning us about them, but alas, we didn’t see any). Perhaps the most significant wildlife-related sight is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Though there is a small charge ($7 for adults, $6 for seniors), the center is well worth the price. There, we learned a great deal about sea turtles of various sorts (they begin nesting on Jekyll in May) and got to see several turtles in various stages of recovery at the Rehabilitative Pavilion.

The Turtle Surgical suite at the Turtle Rehab Center
But what sets Jekyll apart from Georgia’s other barrier islands is its history. The oldest structure on the island – and one of the oldest in Georgia – is Horton House, a residence constructed of lime, sand and oyster shell (what is today called “tabby”) in 1743 by Major William Horton, a military aide to General James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s godfather. Horton was the first English resident of Jekyll Island. He cleared land, raised cattle and cultivated crops which he subsequently sold to the residents of nearby St. Simons. Horton House has been preserved over the years and is considered an outstanding example of eighteenth and nineteenth century construction techniques.  It has all of its outside walls standing and from the outside looks as if – albeit with a substantial amount of work including a new roof – it could be lived in today.

After Major Horton died, the island was purchased by Christophe Du Bignon, whose family brought slavery to Jekyll and made it into a profitable plantation. The plantation continued to thrive until about 1860, but by the time Union troops arrived in 1862, it was completely deserted.

After the Civil War the DuBignon family returned to Jekyll, but without slavery they could not make it into a profitable enterprise. So, in the 1870’s John Eugene DuBignon, together with his brother-in-law Newton Finney, came up with a plan: they would sell shares in an exclusive club so the wealthy could use Jekyll as kind of a winter retreat. It was this vision that led to the formation of the famous Jekyll Island Club whose membership reads like a listing of the most wealthy and influential individuals of the day. It included JP Morgan, the Rockefeller family, the Vanderbilt’s, the Pulitzer’s , the Astor’s and other giants of American industry. It is during this period of our nation’s history – the so-called Gilded Age – that Jekyll Island became the home of what was perhaps the most exclusive club in the world.

To learn about Jekyll Island the museum is a good place to start. It is free and is packed with photos and some artifacts of the Gilded Age. But the museum is only the start. You really have to take the tram tour. It costs $16, but with excellent tour guides, I can guarantee you will learn about the Island, its Club and its members. In fact, taking the tram tour is the only way we found to be able to tour the inside of some of the cottages. There are other tours available, such as the horse and buggy tour, the jeep tour, etc. But the tram tour is a must-do.

On the tour you will learn that the Clubhouse opened its doors in 1888.  Designed by Charles Alexander of Chicago in the Queen Anne style, the building has extensive verandas, bay windows, extended chimneys, and, of course, its famous and distinctive cupola. Inside, there were twelve- and fifteen-foot ceilings, oak wainscoting, leaded art glass and ninety-three distinctively detailed fireplaces. Back in the day, members certainly spent some time in their rooms, but they came to the island to enjoy biking, hunting, horseback riding, tennis, lawn parties, carriage rides, and lounging on the beach. Importantly, these activities were not just for the gentlemen, but in a manner unique for the age, ladies were encouraged to take part as well. The highlight of each day, though, was the back tie dinner in the Club’s dining room – an event members were expected to attend. There, they could schmooze with other millionaires, discuss the events of the day and enjoy the company of their families and their peers.

Staying at the Clubhouse, however, wasn’t enough for the wealthiest members. They felt obliged to build their own “cottages.” Now cottages on Jekyll Island are probably not like the cottages that most of us imagine. While they may not be as big as the homes these millionaires maintained back home, they are still pretty serious mansions. These are major houses with rooms not only for mom, dad and the children, but what would a cottage be without a wing for the servants?

A Red Buggy -- an electric car used on
Jekyll "back in the day." Automobiles
were prohibited, so red buggies got the
wealthy from their cottages to
the nightly black tie dinners.
There are several cottages still standing, each built by one of the club’s members. Some changed hands during the club era and other were just torn down. But today, there are still about a dozen cottages that you can see from the outside, a couple you can rent for weddings, etc. and at least two that you can see inside and out from the tour. On our tour we saw Indian Mound Cottage which was owned by the Rockefeller family and Moss Cottage which built by E.V Macy. Interestingly, neither of the cottages had kitchens; members were generally expected to eat in the main dining room with everyone else.

If the wildlife and history aren’t enough to maintain your interest, there are a number of other activities on the island. Jekyll is famous for its four golf courses, each offering a little different experience. For those of us who are not serious golfers, there is, of course, a miniature golf course. That is where we played before adjourning to Red Bug Motors Pizza for a spot of lunch.

Shhh ... Here I am carefully
lining up my putt on one of
Jekyll Island's most famous courses
If golf isn’t your cup of tea, there are also water activities – a lot of water activities.  In addition to the many fine beaches and the marina’s swimming pool (when opened), there is Summer Waves, the water park. Although it wasn’t open in April when we were here, the staff seemed to be getting it ready (it doesn’t open until May 2 this year). The park features the Pirate's Passage and Force 3 tube slides, as well as the Nature's Revenge body slide. Other rides include the Turtle Creek lazy river and the Frantic Atlantic wave pool. From all reports, it is a fun, family (and grandchildren) friendly park.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the various restaurants on the Island. We generally visit restaurants for lunch or a snack rather than a full sit-down dinner. Although there are somewhere around fifteen restaurants of various sorts on the island, we could only visit three – and we loved all of them. After a tough round of miniature golf we enjoyed some wonderful hot dogs at Red Bug Motors Pizza, had a somewhat fancier lunch at the Courtyard at Crane with some friends who were staying at the Campground, and visited the Rah Bar twice while tooling around the historic district. The Rah Bar is located at the Island’s historic dock and serves wonderful seafood.

We stayed for seven days and enjoyed ourselves each and every day. Though we tried to go somewhere and do something different each day, we still didn’t get to everything. We need to check out some more restaurants, the water park, the beaches and do some kayaking.

ANN’S NOTES …I know I missed the last blog entry, my fault I missed the main writer’s deadline and I don’t do well under pressure when it comes to writing. That being said I will back track a little.

Spot. In her harness on the
 back deck.

I have to tell you that most of my “free” time has been taken up with a certain little feline named Spot. Most people think that you cannot train a cat but I am giving it my best shot. Since she is a boat cat I wanted to be able to take her off the boat to stretch her legs and that involved a harness. Needless to say she was not a happy cat to start, but with a few cat treats and lots of calm talking, she has decided if she wants any freedom off the boat she has to be in a harness with a leash attached. We have made great strides, she no longer bites at the leash and she comes when she is called to put on the harness. The truth be told…I think the treat has something to do with her acceptance of the harness. Hey…it is still one point for the human!!

Our time at Jekyll Island was great. I really had a good time, and the island is a bike riders dream. I had to borrow a Marina bike and the last day we tried to ride was a nightmare, but the rest of the week was fine. I do have my own bike but when we downloaded it the front tire was flat. I have become an expert on bike inner tubes, I did not know there were different kinds of stems on inner tubes…yes peeps…I had one of each and our pump only could put air in the one tires that was not flat.

As Michael told you we did an activity every day, miniature golf was fun...a little on the warm side, not a tree to be found. My favorite was the tram ride and the Turtle Rescue Center. I guess I am a history buff or becoming one. I love going into homes and onto plantations and seeing how it was “back in the day”. And sometimes hearing the southern point of view makes life a little more interesting.

I am going to limit my wild life count from now on, I will tell you that there are still plenty of dolphins out there on the ICW and in the Atlantic. I think I have counted most of them. I still love to go out and talk to the dolphins when they come out to play in our wake. I just do not want to report on them anymore. The wildlife is amazing and if I see anything out of the ordinary you will be the first to know. I now have my own little piece of wildlife on board and she keeps me pretty busy.

Thanks for reading…

Traveling Soul…OUT