After the rain, we were lucky enough to have a rainbow send off from an amazing weekend in Savannah.
Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, Savannah
We left Savannah at 8:56 am so we could work with the tides passing through the dreaded “Hell Gate”, Georgia’s version (vs. NYC version, completely different). There were some early showers (a theme for us), but cleared and became a nice 70 degrees. When we left the winds weren’t bad, but later got to 10 – 15 mph. Oh, yeah, and that rainbow! 🌈
We love the peace and quiet of anchoring out, so as much as we loved our time in Savannah we were looking forward to having a night “on the hook” to relax. We weren’t 100% sure where we would anchor for the night, but had a few ideas (always a good idea to have a plan A, B and C on a boat!). Everything depended on the weather, most particularly the winds.
Hell Gate is not something to take lightly, as it is extremely narrow and shallow. It is essential that you travel at rising/high tides. Even at high tide, which is when we passed through, you can visualize how it must look at low tide! You can tell how dicey it can be. This is a land cut leading from the Vernon River to the Ogeechee River. Not only is it narrow, but the currents and winds can kick up and make the cut even trickier. Kathy (Papillon) and Rob (both resident weather geeks, a necessity on a boat!) had conferred over lunch yesterday and decided on a good departure time based on rising tides. Yes, this is typical boater lunch conversation! Papillon (Kathy and Braendon) was docked at Thunderbolt Marina, south of Savannah. Since we were docked further north, we headed out a bit earlier to meet them, but as we approached Thunderbolt, we learned that Papillon was having GPS problems, so they wouldn’t be pulling out just yet.
Kathy & Braendon aboard Papillon, docked at Thunderbolt Marina
So, we motored on and kept them updated on water depths when they finally made it out about a half hour later.
Wilmington River, South of Thunderbolt Marina
Fortunately, we timed it right, and SLOWLY went through without incident, with about 6′ of water beneath us.
Hell Gate, Georgia
We settled on the Wahoo River as our anchorage for the night, as our other choices seemed too far north, the day was still young, and things were going smoothly! We dropped anchor at 3:09 pm with only one other boat in the anchorage in a wide bend in the river. It was a lovely and quiet spot. For some reason a street light has been installed on the beach on one side of the anchorage. We’re unclear why that would be there, as there’s absolutely nothing around! Literally. Thankfully the light isn’t bright, and it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot.
Wahoo River Anchorage
We left Wahoo at 8:15 am on an overcast, but calm morning, with 55 degree weather that would climb to 70 degrees in the afternoon. I’ll take it!
We were headed to Morningstar Marina in St. Simon’s Island, GA. We needed to do laundry and provision for Thanksgiving dinner as best we could, as we were unsure what our grocery opportunities would be over the next few days. We were planning on having our Thanksgiving dinner in St. Augustine, FL., still a few days away. Good to have a freezer!
Morningstar Marina, St. Simons Island Views
Morningstar Marina, the staff and facilities are great, and they have a courtesy car. Truly a cruisers dream! Morningstar is across the bridge from St. Simons Island, and there’s a fair bit of traffic. With our little boat oven, we were going to roast a chicken vs. a turkey for Thanksgiving. Trying to find a whole chicken the week before Thanksgiving was surprisingly difficult. Remarkably, Harris Teeter didn’t have them, but I thankfully (no pun intended) found it at Winn-Dixie! Due to my chicken chasing, we didn’t get much time to explore St. Simon’s before the car needed to be back to the marina, but we did take a drive to the beach and got our toes in the sand!
St. Simons Island
The morning of November 20th, we left St. Simon’s Island for the short 37 mile run to Cumberland Island. We were excited to see this remote spot that we have heard so much about!
And yes, dolphins continue to be everywhere!
Just before you reach Cumberland Sound, you pass Kings Island Nuclear Submarine Base. We weren’t fortunate enough to see a sub coming or going, but you do get an idea of the immensity of the base and the incredibly tight security when cruising by.
Kings Island Nuclear Submarine Base
Cumberland Island is 50 miles of maritime forest trails, undeveloped beaches, wide marshes and hundreds of wild horses. Other than an occasional ferry from St. Mary’s, the only way to get here is by boat. We saw horses on shore before we even threw our anchor! The island is the largest of the Sea Islands in the Southeastern U.S., and is a National Park and National Seashore. The island gained visibility after John F,. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette wed in the First African Baptist Church there in 1996.
Cumberland Island, GA
We dropped anchor at 11 am, when it started raining. 🙁 Fortunately it was short lived. When the sun came out, we deployed the dinghy and started ashore. As we did, we saw Papillon coming into the harbor! They decided to tuck in, as the tides were going out, and there was still some skinny water ahead. Since they have been to Cumberland several times before, they were going to shower, relax, and Kathy was going to bake a cake! We were invited over for cake and Prosecco after our exploration of the island.
Papillon entering the harbor at Cumberland Island
We motored over to the dinghy dock, got a map and some information from the park ranger, and set off on a 4.5 mile walk through the woods to the ruins of Thomas Carnegie’s mansion, across the dunes to the beach, and back through the woods to the dock. Essentially, a big, beautiful circle!
From the boat to the beach
A walk through the woods, with an armadillo along the way!
Captain’s House, Ranger Station, c. 1900
No sooner did we turn away from the beach, to head over to the Carnegie ruins, and we saw a group of horses grazing in the field along the path.
Wild Horses were literally at every turn, and they are oblivious to your presence. ❤️
In the 1880s Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and his wife Lucy bought land on Cumberland for a winter retreat. In 1884, they began building a mansion on the site of a previous mansion named Dungeness. Though Carnegie never lived to see its completion, Lucy and their nine children continued to live on the island, naming their mansion Dungeness after the previous home on the site. Dungeness was designed as a 59-room Scottish castle. They also built pools, a golf course, and 40 smaller buildings to house the 200 servants who worked at the mansion. The last time Dungeness was used was for the 1929 wedding of a Carnegie daughter. After the Great Depression, the family left the island and the mansion vacant. It burned in a 1959 fire, believed to have been started by a poacher who had been shot in the leg by a caretaker weeks before. Today, the ruins of the mansion remain on the southern end of the island. The Carnegie family owned 90% of the island.
The ruins of Dungeness, the mansion of Thomas Carnegie and his family, built in 1884. The bottom picture (just above) is the ruins of the “sporting house”, where all recreational activities were centered…indoor pool, pool tables, etc.
More Sago Palm Seed Pods. They’re so cool.
Once you pass the Dungeness Ruins, you will find the beginning of the raised boardwalk through the marshes and dunes that will bring you to the beach. We continued to see horses in the dunes, literally within feet of us.
It was so beautiful to come down from the dunes and see the ocean! The beach here is long, flat and wide, with lots of birds, shells and horseshoe crab carcasses.
When you cross back across the island through the woods to the anchorage, the path takes you back through the woods and the island campgrounds. It’s amazing! Dense woods of palms, oaks, palmettos and more line the narrow pathways. Oh, yeah, and the horses. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words!
This was an incredible 4.5 mile walk, and we highly recommend it. It’s a great mix of woods, with sandy paths, grass, and you have the boardwalk to break it up a bit. The walk along the beach is easy, as the sand is good, firm, walking sand (we saw people riding bikes along the water!), and when you head back into the woods, there’s more boardwalk and sandy paths at the end. The scenery and wildlife is remarkable!
The best end to this adventure was lemon cake and Prosecco with Braendon and Kathy aboard Papillon, and watching the sun set over the sound. As is usual with our get togethers, it was filled with great conversation, both silly and serious, but interesting and fun! And the cake was delicious! It was a great way to end this beautiful day!
Misty and Papillon in Cumberland Harbor, sunset view from Misty
In the morning, we will make a short run over to Fernandina Beach, FLORIDA!!! We look forward to this state line, as it means we are closer to settling for a bit. Catching up on errands, a day with Captain Chris, and some basic maintenance for our girl Misty. We’ll be staying at Suntex Marina, Vero Beach, leaving the boat there through the holidays and heading to Vermont to be with Justin, Bryan, Madison, Ellie and Arthur.
Good night, Cumberland Island. We loved every minute. ❤️🐎