October 27, 2015

Anchored off The Bennett Causeway Bridge near Sharpes, FL

Just One Dance bobs quietly at anchor in a fresh evening breeze, parked about a mile north of the Bennett Causeway Bridge just across the waterway from the small town of Sharpes, FL. We have the anchorage all to ourselves, the so-so weather having chased most of our fellow boaters off of the water. We’re waiting to see if we get slammed by storms tonight which may potentially move through the area from the west, though so far the weather has been peaceful. A lot has happened since my last post. In an endeavor to not require too much of your time to read this blog, I will simply touch on the highlights.

On October 17, we finally left Thunderbolt Marine, a full four and a half months after arriving. Whatever the missteps may have been, in the end we got almost everything we wanted and were still able to depart for waters south on time. JOD now boasts three new Kyocera 250 watt solar panels mounted on a custom-made arch on the back of the boat, enabling us to charge our house batteries without the need to run the engines or hook up to shore power at a marina. We also have a Spectra watermaker installed under the port forward cabin bunk, capable of converting about 15 gallons of seawater per hour into potable drinking water. This enables us to be independent when anchored out at remote islands and cays that do not provide services to cruisers. We have an all new chartplotter to replace the old one damaged by lightning back at Jekyll Island last year and a new radar capable of seeing out to 48 nautical miles from our boat. Our leaky throughhulls have been fixed or replaced, our standing rigging have been inspected (and passed), our running rigging has been replaced, hatch seals were replaced, a new lock was installed on our door, our bottom has been painted, our saildrives were dropped and serviced, the engines were serviced, a new Bimini top and enclosure have been installed to replace the leaky one we bought less than a year ago (don’t ask), new pumps were installed in the heads (toilets to the non-boaters) and in our fresh water system, along with a myriad of other small fixes and upgrades.

Shoving off from Savannah early on Saturday morning, we immediately encounter 20-25 knot winds from a nor’easter brewing in the North Atlantic. Blowing in out of the north-east (hence the name), these mini-hurricanes can blow for days or even a couple of weeks, depending on how strong they are. Most of the first few days out, these winds simply push us along as we head south, though they make our first two nights at anchor in our old anchorages at Walburg Creek and Buttermilk Sound kinda bouncy.

We overnighted the third day out at our old home base of Jekyll Harbor Marina, having a very nice visit with old friends Terri and Lynn and exploring the new retail development on the south end of the island before shoving off the next morning for Fernandina Beach. We fought a pretty rough chop going through St Andrews Sound before tucking in alongside Cumberland Island and enjoying relatively calm waters for the rest of the day.

Cumberland Lighthouse

Cumberland Island Lighthouse

We stayed a couple of days at Fernandina Harbor Marina, waiting for a couple of items that we had ordered online to catch up with us. It gave us a chance to celebrate my 57th birthday with margaritas and Mexican food at Peppers, a favorite restaurant in the downtown area. We also had a great visit with our old friend Rich the next day, chowing down on Seared Tuna Nachos at The Salty Pelican, a bar we hold rather dear since it became our place of refuge during our stormy first night in Fernandina back in January (see “The Two Day Blow” post from January 9, 2015).

Sunset Fernandina

Sunset Fernandina Harbor

We had planned to sail to jump to the outside at Fernandina Beach and sail down to St Augustine on the Atlantic side, but the nor’easter made the waters too rough for us newbies, so we continued down the ICW. We anchored at another beautiful remote spot amidst the north Florida marshes off of Pine Island, enjoying the sounds of wildlife and the total absence of light and noise pollution (honestly the noisiest thing around us was Missy barking at the marsh birds flying by).

Sunrise Pine Island

Sunrise Pine Island

Saturday, October 24 we pulled into Palm Coast Marina, another favorite stop of ours from our last trip down. I had hoped to be able to hear a live jazz band at the 727 Jazz Lounge, a bar and restaurant within walking distance of the marina that we had enjoyed on our previous trip down but alas, the place had gone under. However, Cindy and I found an Irish pub that had a live singer from Ireland performing so we cleaned up and walked over there. When we arrived we found that for whatever reason, the audience was tilted heavily toward the senior citizenry.

What a wonderful night! The singer was talented and genial and the old folks were an inspiration to watch and talk with. They chatted, drank, danced and enjoyed themselves like they were teenagers (without the accompanying lack of self-control). One gentleman, sporting a WWII Navy veteran’s cap, sat down with us and began telling us how he had met his Italian friend at the other table when he was stationed in Bari, Italy in 1944. I had read a book about a German air attack on Bari back when I was a teenager, a battle this gentleman had experienced firsthand (his ship had been hit by two bombs that failed to detonate) so we were able to connect on this common point of history. He also told us about how he got lost on his way to meet his date one night and ended up meeting the woman who would become his wife. What adventures lie in the lives of common people! We were moved (quite literally in Cindy’s case) to tears watching this probably ninety year old man dance with his Irish-born wife, not just shuffling around out on the floor but opening her up and spinning her around. This is who we want to be when we’re in our nineties!

Now we are bobbing at anchor and enjoying the cool night breeze. So far the feared storms have not manifested themselves and we’re hoping that holds true throughout the night. We have an early departure planned so we’re winding down and getting ready to head off to bed. Tomorrow, the adventure continues…