HELLO FLORIDA AND WTF ANCHORAGE 12.6.2017

After Jekyll we moved on to another Georgia barrier island, Cumberland Island. Cumberland is known for the wild horses that live there. They do a census of the horses every spring and there are about 150-175 horses living on the Island. We got to our anchorage early in the afternoon and decided to wait until the next day to explore so that our traveling buddies would have more time to rent bikes. We planned to transport our folding bikes from the boat to the Island in the dinghy, a first for us. There are no cars allowed on the Island – everyone travels by bike.

So we had an early dinner and then picked up the guys from Aquila and took the dinghy over to Trekker for some drinks and games. Karen taught us all how to play Wizard and we spent the next couple hours playing, laughing and drinking.

Nine the next morning the bikes were loaded and we motored over to the Island – a five minutes dinghy ride. The forecast was for partly sunny skies but as we have learned, you can’t count on the forecast. It was overcast and cool the entire day. We biked the Island, saw the Carnegie Ruins (Dungeness), beautiful wild horses and lovely beaches.

Ruins of Carnegie Estate

We also stopped and had a picnic lunch. The Island is a nature preserve and there are no stores on the Island and you have to take off all of your garbage – can’t leave anything behind. We biked until we were all pooped and then took the dinghies back to the boats.

Wild horses

Wild horses

LIve oak where we had our picnic

Next morning we were off again for Jacksonville Beach and finally crossed into Florida. This was a big accomplishment! The first half of the trip to Jacksonville was uneventful. There were beautiful sections of the ICW with homes on either side, dolphins jumping along-side and twisty sections that required both of us to be involved in the navigation. Then we came to the Atlantic Boulevard San Pablo Bridge.

Let it ride, a sail boat that we had met earlier, came on the radio to warn us that the current under this bridge was 6.7 knots and that we should go under very carefully. Well, we only travel about 6.8 knots wide open, so the thought of going through an opposing current that was nearly equal to our max speed was terrifying and unsafe – we just couldn’t do it. We were traveling with Aquila in the lead – Trekker had decided at the last minute to take the outside path (on the ocean) as there was one 65 foot bridge that they couldn’t go under without waiting a few hours for the tide to go down. As Aquila started to go under the bridge, they realized that the current was just too swift to proceed. So we both found a spot in front of the bridge to anchor for a few hours to let the current subside. At 3:30 pm, after waiting for about one and a half hours, we decided we should try and go. Trekker had completed their ocean leg and caught up with us. The two of us proceeded under the bridge. We could see the current was still strong but we committed to go – can’t turn back once you are half way there because you don’t have room to turn. We started going under and watched as our speed slowly began to decrease as we were faced with more and more current. Part of the problem is that the open section of the bridge is very narrow so you have all this water rushing through a very restricted section. Also to add to the problem, a barge was docked in the bridge opening. As our speed went down to 1.2 knots, Bob gave the engine an additional push to 3100 RPMs and we SLOWLY passed under the bridge as the current pushed us side to side in the narrow space between the barge and bridge abutment. Trekker followed us under and just made it height wise. Aquila had developed a problem with their anchor windlass battery and was still anchored.

Pelican along the way on marker green 33

After we were under the bridge and stopped shaking, we got a call from the marina where we were supposed to dock for the night. We had been on anchor for two nights and were looking forward to being in a dock (refilling water, fully charging batteries…). Because we had waited for the current to subside at the bridge, our ETA at the marina was delayed. They told me that the later arrival time would make it impossible for us to enter their marina because they were at low tide and there wasn’t enough water to accommodate our draft – we would be stuck in the silt. So now we had another problem as it was quickly going toward dusk. Where to dock? I called the only other marina in the area and because of the low tide and super moon the lady on the phone just laughed at me. We had no choice but to find another anchorage. Not so bad, we still had water and the engine had recharged the batteries to 82%.

The problem was finding an anchorage. The waters around the ICW are very shallow and we were at low tide. There weren’t any anchorages on the map that were close by. We motored down the ICW looking for a spot. Bob and I are not so experienced at picking anchorages but we saw one marked on the chart – but without the water depths indicated. We thought it was worth taking a shot so we proceeded slowly off the main channel and into a more secluded area. The depth went abruptly from 21 feet to 2 feet and we stopped moving. Of course I was on the wheel steering and I panicked a bit. Bob quickly got us in reverse and out of the muck. Our first and hopefully only grounding.

Hugh and Karen then took the lead and we found a spot to anchor right off the side of the channel. After waiting for a barge to pass and four turns trying to find just the right location between their boat and channel marker 41 green, we finally anchored. Bob now called this the WTF anchorage. We turned off the motor, took a deep breath and awarded ourselves with steak for dinner. It was a very quiet night. I was expecting to hear water splashing on the stern from the current – there was nothing and we both had a great night sleep.

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