It was with a heavy heart I left Vero Beach and my friends Lee and Karen (and of course Gracie). A sunny and warm day to travel up the ICW to the first day's goal, Titusville. I'd been in touch with my friend Doug who was coming down to New Bern and we had decided to meet somewhere on the trip.
It's a fairly dull trip through Melbourne and Coco Beach, FL. No wind so it was a motor all the way. However, the weather always has a surprise up its sleeve. In this case, as I approached the Titusville Swing Bridge it poured. Not your usual pour but the can't see the front of the boat kind of pouring. It really makes you appreciate both the radar and chart plotter. It was over in a few minutes and I was right there for the bridge opening.
The Titusville Municipal Marina is a very nice facility. They have a decent little store and everyone was absolutely awesome. The town of Titusville is a short walk away. Titusville sort of lives or dies by the fortunes of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. There are parks with themes of the Gemini and Apollo projects with vast walkways and fountains and ponds and so forth.
The town is like many small towns. Small shops and stores and, of course, Your Place, a wonderful place for breakfast and lunch (dinner, too, on Fridays and Saturdays). It's not the least expensive diner I've been to, but the food is good and the service great and it's all fresh. It's worth having a bite at!
The Air Force's experimental ship was due to be launched on an Atlas V rocket so I thought I'd stick around to see it. From the marina you can see the Shuttle Assembly Building so I thought the launch would be spectacular. To be honest, I almost missed it - we did see the rocket but were too far away for anything other than the small rising bright speck and some contrail. That was a surprise - it also puts the shuttle launch into perspective because in Titusville, apparently, you can hear it!
Anyway, after a couple of days I was itchy to get going. So off I went. The trip from there to Ponce de Leon inlet is nothing if not long and boring. Really boring. There is the Haulover Canal (or Cut) which provides some amusement in the form of current but other than that, getting to the inlet is pretty straightforward.
I got to the inlet around two in the afternoon and raised sail for St. Mary's inlet. The winds were 15-20 out of the southwest so Pelican was sailing along just fine, although with the wind pretty far aft. But we were making six to seven knots through the water (about 3/4 kt faster over the ground) and it was beautiful!
The shaft generator was providing all power just fine until the belt broke around 1800. Still, I didn't start the engine until 3am because the wind died like someone switched it off.
When I got to St. Mary's inlet I decided to keep going to St. Simon's inlet for Brunswick. I mean, why not? The weather wasn't too bad and I was making great time. At St. Simon's it started raining and I stopped for fuel at Golden Isle Marina. I figured I'd head up into Georgia for a while. That turned out to be a mistake.
At 3:30pm, I stopped at the Darien River. I've written about that anchorage before on my way down. It's interesting anchoring in some strong currents but the holding ground is good. After 30 hours or so, I was pretty tired so I toasted sunset and went to sleep.
The next day I weighed anchor pretty early -I wanted to get past Savannah if I could. The winds were southwest at 18-30. Motor sailing almost dead downwind I was making 7+ knots with the jib - the motor was just taking up the slack in lulls (of which there weren't to many). It was warmish and sunny so very pleasant until I got to Ossabaw sound.
On my way down, I mentioned Hell Gate, a cut that makes a short cut through the sound. The problem there is shoaling. Even though it had recently been dredged, there wasn't enough water to go through for me - three feet at the entrance. So, I thought, no worries, I'll just head out to sea, turn up the channel on the other side of Raccoon Key. Good idea, eh?
Examine the chart on the left and the Google Earth image on the right. I made it out to the Atlantic just fine, and if I hadn't been such a chicken, I would have just taken the wind and headed up to Cape Fear and been done with it.
But, no, I decided to head back in and 'enjoy' some more of Georgia.
You'll notice that where the chart marks the channel there is no channel. Because of the shoals and the wind, the waves were 6 feet or so and in the troughs Pelican's keel hit - every 10 - 15 seconds or so. Not hard, but enough to rattle the rigging and my eyeballs. Since the chart showed a very shoal area north of the channel, I was worried of getting blow into it and having to deal with some really ugly consequences.
Guess what? After about 45 minutes of thrashing about and trying to get out of there I noticed that that shallow shoal doesn't exist. In fact, the northern channel that's not marked is fully and correctly marked on the chart. It was beautiful to find I could get on about my trip! What a relief!
Of course, now the current was against me so getting to Savannah was out of the question. I stopped at Thunderbolt Marina for the night. I was beat, worried about the keel, and very much humbled.
A couple of cocktails later, though, and I was good to go. It was a grand story to tell, so there it is.
The next morning I headed off to make some distance. Unfortunately, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to board me at the Savannah River and took 45 minutes to inspect the boat. This time, however, I got paperwork, finally. They were unfailingly polite but of the 4 yachts in a row, they stopped me. I don't get it.
I motor sailed the whole day - there's not enough wind to make good time, but with the engine running average speeds were well over 7 kts. Ended up at mile marker 509, Edisto River anchorage. It's a beautiful place. It could stand some exploring, but I'm in something of a hurry.
The next day was another great motor sailing day. Pleasant enough, but long. I finally arrived at Leyland Oil at McClellanville where Dwayne helped me dock and took my ridiculously small nightly payment. There's not much to McClellanville. It's mostly a commercial dock with fishing boats.
Lessons learned on this leg: Avoid mid Georgia if you draw more than about 4 feet. There is a lot of shoaling in the sounds. Also, I can run 30 hours without terrible difficulty.
See you on the water!