We sail down to another of Kelly’s favorite anchorages in north Hilton Head called Skull Creek. We have another great sail cruising at 8-10 knots. Kelly still hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for sailing, but hopefully she’ll start to appreciate the beauty of movement without using fuel. I hope that in time she will see a good sail as an acceptance by the wind and ocean and not just a slow way to get somewhere. While we are sailing I see two pods of stingrays. I’ve never seen a pod of stingrays before, I didn’t even know that they swam in pods. I’m not even sure if a pod is what you call a group of stingrays. Either way, I see two of them a couple of hours apart. The first has at least 100 stingrays in it, and the other is about half the size. It truly is incredible what you get to see out here.
Our stay in Skull Creek is relaxing. I’m able to get some dinghy parts and catch up on some maintenance tasks. The problem were confronted with is that the days are getting so much shorter. The shorter days mean that we can’t travel as far as we did on the way north. This puts us in a situation of needing to perform another overnight sail. I know that if we can get a good overnight sail we’ll be able to do it more often and get further along. Kelly resigns to the overnight sail after looking all over for other inlets that we could use. There are none.
We leave Skull Creek around 5pm. The wind is up at about 25 knots with gusts to 35. We start the night with a reefed main and that is enough. Our course is going to bring us dead down wind so I end up jibing every few hours for the 100 mile trip. The waves are a little larger then predicted, but they aren’t scary. The real problem is that the clouds are out and there is no moon. The lack of a horizon disorients Kelly and she ends up going down soon after sunset. Fortunately we’ve got this night sailing thing down. Kelly already made some tea and mochas. I have a couple audio books and am able to just blast down the coast at 8-10 knots surfing down the waves. (I did set my watch to go off every hour to check on him to refill his drinks, bring food, etc. I can’t do much in this state, but I can do what needs doing.)
Our timing is near perfect. The sky is just starting to get light about 1.5 hours away from the St. Mary’s inlet, however, the waves have grown through the night and I am surfing down 8-10’ rollers. Our navigation is almost right on… almost. I can see about four miles from the inlet that I am not going to make the end of the stone jetty and will either have to throw in a couple of extra jibes, or crash on the rocks, the later not actually being an option. I am only going to be about 100 yards short of the mark, but I don’t want to push heading down wind that far for fear of an uncontrolled jibe that can damage the boat. I am able to gut out two more jibes and sail us into the protected inlet.
After being up all night I am ready to throw down the hook. We know that St. Mary’s had been destroyed by the hurricane, so instead, we head south to the closer anchorage of Fernandina. We find a good location where the holding is good, the 7’ tide won’t put us aground, and we have room to swing. By the time we get into the inlet the girls are awake and after anchoring I take a nap.
Eric did a great job getting us here. I still feel bad about not being able to help as planned, but he doesn’t seem to mind so much. This anchorage is way more industrial than expected, but we knew not to anchor closer to town because they are STILL cleaning up from Hurricane Matthew. (Reviews note a lot of debree on the bottom which can foul an anchor.) So the dingy ride is a long one, 15 minutes, but its not the longest we’ve had thus far. (Little River’s dingy ride was ~ 30 minutes.)
After a few days of work, we head ashore to check out the town, and it’s a great town! We do our usual, ask locals what we should do and where we should eat. A few people mention a small seafood shack, Tomoti’s, so we eat there and aren’t disappointed. We also visit the Amelia Island Museum of History, a small but excellent museum that shares the town’s interesting history. (Interesting tidbit – Amelia Island is the only place in the US to have been governed under 8 different flags.) They have a kid scavenger hunt where they answer questions about the exhibits which gives them a go at the treasure box at the end. The kids loved it. We also find the hopper bus which, for $1, the driver will give you a great tour of the island. We learn the best place to buy boatloads of awesome local shrimp. We do our part to help out the local fishermen & indulge.
Fernandina is a great location. We stay here through Thanksgiving and have a great time. The town is fantastic with lots of interesting shops and history. There is a Civil War era fort, Ft. Clinch. There is no tour, rather it is a ‘guide yourself’ operation. It appears that it was never finished and the one time it could have been used to repel the North, the soldiers high tailed it out of town instead. My folks come down and join us for Thanksgiving week. It is a great visit and we get a lot done. Previously Kelly and I discussed making Thanksgiving supper on the boat, but elect to have Publix cook it for us, so we just pick it up.
It rains most of Thanksgiving day, so we’re all cramped in the boat, but the food is decent and company is good, so it’s alright. We play a lot of games, especially Farkel, the kids’ new favorite. The next day we head to town for their annual Black Friday PJ block party. Les & the kids wear their PJs which gives us discounts at stores and cafes. Another coincidence, one of my friends from Missouri, Patrice, is visiting her son who lives just across the state line, so we’re able to get together. We bring her and her crew out to the boat for a quick tour. While we’re catching up, Les & Carl spoil the girls with fun activities from the block party like mini golf and face painting.
At some point over the break my wife and mother have an idea. Kelly thinks it will be great to drive down to St. Augustine and have Dad and I take the boat. So the weekend comes and Kelly and the girls leave for the 2 hour drive to St. Augustine, while Dad and I make preparations for the all day sail.
It was so nice to only drive for a few hours (instead of sailing for a whole day to cover the same distance – yes, I said it). Thanks to Leslie, we stay in an awesome hotel by the beach, swim in the pool, and I get to do laundry the modern way. Score! We wake up and walk to the beach knowing that the boys are successfully underway. We head into St. Augustine, walk around, and have lunch at The Columbia.
As luck would have it there is almost no wind. We end up motoring on a flat calm Atlantic ocean for 8 hrs. For a short time we thought the wind was building and we set up the gennaker to catch it, but there is little to no success. We have read that the inlet for St. Augustine can be tricky, but we find no such issue. The channel is well marked and all is easy.
We pick up a mooring ball in St. Augustine and set up camp for a few days. The history of St. Augustine is incredible. I think it’s the only old fort that we’ve visited that had its full compliment of armament. The town is lined with shops to exploit the heritage of the town. I find the area a little pricy but that’s what to expect in a tourist town. We have a good time, but the town is set up for tourism, and there are no places to get spare parts or provisions.