April 8, 2020
Today wet up with our friends on Dulcinea at Vilano Beach!
We had met them in Deltaville, Virginia at the boatyard where we worked on our boats together this past winter. Matt and Lucy had sailed to the Bahamas just before the borders closed, and quickly decided to return to the States as they experienced 24-hr lock downs, closed marinas, and locals who were intimidated by cruisers for fear of the virus. Island hopping was strictly forbidden. So now we’ll travel together for a spell as we all meander north before hurricane season.
Lucy gifted us these awesome face masks for us to wear at the grocery store, so amazing! I love them, thank you!
We stopped by to continue chatting after we went ashore for groceries, and Matt gave us some freshly made beignets to munch on while we talked. It’s so great to travel with friends!
April 9, 2020
Today we experienced an ill-tempered sail. We left our anchorage with Dulcinea joining us for a coastal hop, buddy boating north.
From the Saint Augustine Inlet we aimed to sail to Fernandina Beach roughly 60 miles north. A stout mission, but strong winds on our beam would give us speed to blow us north. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too much. I always get really anxious about high winds and follow the rules religiously about reefing a catamaran to avoid damaging our vessel or capsizing, even though Eric claims our boat won’t actually flip because our boat has a stubby mast with limited sail area, and we’ve loaded it with too much stuff. So as the wind picked up to blowing over 15 knots as we expected, I insisted we reef the mainsail. Next time we know high winds are forecasted, I’m going to demand we reef from the moment we raise the sails, because trying to reef in high winds is challenging, and frustrating. Eric lost his hat and I failed the man overboard exercise to retrieve that hat. At some point I let go of the wrong sheet and the wind flung the rope around wildly. It felt like a disaster, I was shell shocked.
With the sails tightly reefed we lost a lot of our speed, and there was no way we would make it to Fernandina, so we set our sights on St. Johns River Inlet. And then, as if to remind us it could always be worse, we watched aghast as Dulcinea’s jib sheet ripped in half. Purely bad luck. Thankfully they also had a storm jib to help steady their boat, but they lost a lot of speed as well, and so we slowly wafted towards the northern inlet and waited for the tide to slacken before we ran through it.
A couple of cargo ships passed by us on the St. Johns River, throwing a massive wake that a couple of jet ski riders enjoyed but I did not as it thrashed our boat.
A great white egret hitched a ride with us for a few glorious minutes, I am glad we were able so snag a photo. Considering they’re always walking around in the mud, how do they keep their feathers so white?
Because we waited for a better current at the inlet, we struggled to find a decent anchorage as the sun set while we came to terms with the area’s six foot tides. This is a condition we’re not familiar with, and we passed by several potential anchor spots as we feared the mud banks lurking under the water, waiting to bash our rudders with the lowering tide.
At least the sunset was pretty.
Exhausted and angry, we dropped the hook just before it became well and truly dark, and went to sleep knowing we’d be getting up early to catch the tide heading north.
April 10, 2020
Early in the morning we cruised up the ICW, and as a front moved over us we noticed some very peculiar clouds. I feared a rainstorm, but thankfully no water dumped on us as we motored up the river.
We made it to Fernandina Beach, which had an operational city dock and welcomed boaters. We grabbed a mooring ball and rested before going ashore and walking. It felt so good to stretch my legs, I ended up going for a 4 mile run too. We grabbed burgers and fries to-go from a local restaurant. And a hot shower at the marina, excellent.
A glorious sunset to end the day.
April 11, 2020
I ran another 3 miles today, so happy to have acceptable shore access and empty neighborhood streets to run on.
I made Jamaican beef patties for a shared dinner with Dulcinea as a thank-you for the beignets from a couple of days ago, as well as a silent “I’m sorry your jib ripped” condolence. We enjoyed sharing dinner and swapping stories as we sat on park benches conveniently spaced 6 feet apart.
An even more beautiful sunset marked the end of our delightful day.
April 12, 2020
We woke up ungodly early this morning trying to time the currents in our favor. Currents and tides, they seem like magic and don’t make any sense. We didn’t quite time it right, but at least we made our way north to an anchorage that we could hunker down in for an impending storm. Fernandina Beach has a couple of factories, and one seemed lit up like a Christmas tree as we cruised past it at 6am.
We crossed the Florida-Georgia border, and as we meandered up a little creek I saw an alligator from the boat for the first time. My excitement was so loud that I startled the gator from his perch on the beach and he slunk into the water, watching us warily.
After anchoring, we managed to get enough cell service for me to video call with my family for Easter!
April 13, 2020
Around 8am, we received the tornado warning for our area. We knew this was coming, we anchored in this spot to shelter from the storm. But even still, I anxiously watched the clouds, the weather reports, and at 9:30 the wind hit us like a howling wave, first slamming us from the north and then clocking to the west, which were not the directions we had predicted as we had chosen shelter from the east and south. For a brief moment our anchor dragged, but thankfully it hooked again well before we smashed into the mud banks.
This tiny little creek picked up a foot-tall chop as the wind pelted us with driving rain so that we couldn’t see more than a foot beyond the boat windows. The boat made noises I had never heard before as the wind played our sheets and standing rigging like instruments.
Terrified, I curled up on our bed and waited for the storm to pass. Eric kept an eye on our GPS tracker to make sure the anchor held us in place.
An hour later, the storm subsided, and the calm revealed a bright green marsh, calm again as if nothing had happened.
April 16, 2020
We cruised to another part of Cumberland Island, although we’re not allowed to go to shore due to the park’s closure, at least we can enjoy the view.
We watched feral horses graze on the island, and lots of birds fly by.
I spotted an alligator lounging on the mud bank! I watched him for a long time this afternoon, and captured this shot of a second alligator swimming past the first, so cool!
Here’s a short video of one big guy just swimming by:
I’m enjoying this very peaceful anchorage during the pandemic lock down, although I wish I could go hiking and stretch my legs.
April 17, 2020
Today I went for an afternoon row around the anchorage.
Such a mystical place, I love how the large trees are draped with spanish moss.
April 19, 2020
We cruised further south, aiming to head back to Fernandina but then found an anchorage we thought might ride the next storm better than near town.
April 20, 2020
This morning we woke up at 5:30am to howling wind.
I checked the app to make sure our anchor held us steady, and went back to sleep.
By 7:30am, the thrashing waves became unnerving and I sat at the saloon table watching our GPS tracker as the boat rode big waves while the wind blew from the south. We thought we’d be protected by an island to our west, but with fetch to the south of us the wind picked up waves as we were bashed by sustained 30 knot winds with gusts over 40 knots. It felt like we were riding ocean waves. Thankfully our anchor held like a boss. The apps we’ve been using to predict winds have not been very helpful.
This is the second major storm in 8 days, these weather patterns are starting to fray my nerves.
After the weather finally calmed down, Eric baked me brownies for breakfast. I cried happy tears. Fudge brownies are the best.
April 21, 2020
We made it back to Fernandina Beach just in time to say hi to Dulcinea before they drove north to pick up their spare sail to replace the one that ripped. I gave them brownies to sustain them for their journey. After being only rarely able to go to shore and feeling so isolated, it has been really nice to connect with our cruiser friends.