Near Savannah, GA – Sunday, 4/18
As expected, Denise woke up to the rain coming down hampering her plans for a nice run through Jekyll Island Village and on the trail that parallels the beach. It’s a good thing she is not yet training for any race, as the lack of running would make this a challenge. Instead she spent the time reading a book; a luxury these days with blog posts, navigation and cruise planning, not to mention work responsibilities.
We left Jekyll Island during a sprite between rain showers, getting off the dock just before 8:00 am as planned. Our intended destination was an anchorage off of Ossabaw Island south of Savannah, but we would finalize that as the day went on. The benefit of anchoring out is you can pretty much choose any suitable anchorage along the way; no marina reservations and no fees. Georgia recently passed some very restrictive laws that limit anchoring near oyster beds, marinas, fixed objects and other such things. But in low-country Georgia there are still many favorable spots and our cruising apps provide good information regarding holding, wind conditions, tidal currents and cell phone availability.
Shortly after leaving Jekyll Island Marina and the Jekyll River, we headed out crossing St. Simons Sound. This is a wide open inlet and it was very calm, but there is quite the attraction still blocking part of the entrance. The South Korean car carrier ship “Golden Ray” went aground in September 2019, and they are still working to take her apart and clear the inlet. More than 4,000 cars were on the ship when it went down. They have built a massive superstructure to support the salvage efforts, and the metal is hauled up to Brunswick where it is prepared and loaded on barges that will take it for recycling in Louisiana.
The cause of the 2019 incident has not yet been formally established, but in September of 2020, a naval architect with the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Center testified that unstable loading left the Golden Ray susceptible to capsizing. According to analysis, the ship required an additional 1,500 gallons of water in the ship’s ballast tanks as counterweight. Otherwise, rearranging the cars on the deck might have kept the boat from tipping. The first cut into the Golden Ray’s bow actually began Nov. 6 and took three weeks to complete due to several setbacks, including a broken cutting chain and delays due to tropical storms. They are now working on the 3rd cut and it continues to be a slow effort. Perhaps when we come back through here in the fall it will all be cleared away.
After crossing the Sound we re-entered the ICW and navigated around a few boats. After that it was mostly smooth cruising through the winding waterway, grateful there were not more small fishing boats for which we would have to slow down. And lucky for us, the rain held off and stayed south of us for the rest of the day.
We had several other Sounds to cross including Altamaha, Doboy, Sapelo, and St. Catherine’s before coming to a stopping point. Along the way it was almost all remote except near Doboy Sound where there were several houses on a spit of land in the middle of nowhere.
Our cruising was uneventful and we easily made our way north to our fuel stop in Richmond Hill, Ga. This was a quite a place and warrants a story.
The Kilkenny Marina is really in the middle of nowhere, just a few miles off the ICW up Kilkenny Creek. This is low-country Georgia and nothing is around here but sawgrass marsh, small rivers and the ICW. However, it is not far off of I-95 and is a popular place with locals for launching their boats. They have a marina store, fuel (cheapest in the area), bait shop (with bait caught by the owners), and a boat launch that is like nothing we have seen.
While Mark was fueling the boat, Denise spoke with “Danny” who told her that his dad had built the marina and he and his brother (Robert) have been working at it since they were in their 20’s. They helped to construct the docks and the wood deck, as well as the lift. Since their father passed away in 2012, the two brothers have been running the place ever since. Danny also showed Denise their bait wells full of shrimp; all of which he caught that morning in just 10 minutes, right near the marina.
About this time a young man came into the marina to launch his boat. We watched as he backed his trailer up to the lift, connect a strap to the bow eye at the front of the boat, then two at the stern and hoist it right off the trailer. Like a mechanism on a garage door opener, the hoist moved along a track positioning the boat out over the water where it was then lowered to the surface. All of this took less than 5 minutes. Danny explained that due to the high tide swings (approx. 8’) in coastal GA waters, these type of boat launches make the most sense. A traditional ramp makes it too difficult to maneuver a trailer down a ramp, especially at low tide. But in Maine with their 14’ tides, and in the Canadian Maritimes with their 20’ ones, they at least put a strap or two under the boat’s hull.
Once fueling was done and we paid the bill, we said good bye to Danny and got on our way. Due to the slowness of the pumps, we lost about 40 minutes trying to put fuel on board, but we didn’t have a long day so it was o.k. We left Kilkenny Marina and in 5 minutes we were back on the ICW heading north and again passing boats we had previously passed earlier in the day.
It was still not yet noon and we were not ready to end our day cruising, even though our originally-planned anchorage was nearby. We decided to press on, taking advantage of a high tide situation at “Hells Gate”; an area that cuts through Ossabaw Sound that is notorious for its chronic shoaling despite frequent dredging. Since it had been dredged recently we felt confident that we didn’t need the high tide, but wanted to take advantage of it. So we continued north through the area without issue, seeing plenty of depth for our 3’6” draft boat. In 2017, before the most recent dredging, we came through here on our way back from Maine and hit it at low tide. We had less than 3’ under our boat and probably left some paint on the sandy bottom of the cut. We vowed never to do that again and now are much more prudent in this area.
Once clear of this area, we cruised north for only a few more miles to our new anchorage for the night at Possum Point. This is just up the Vernon River and right off the ICW where it turns to the east and snakes between Burnside Island and Skidaway Island. We still had plenty of daylight and could have pressed on, but wanted to anchor somewhere new and this spot had a good review.
We easily set the anchor and used a pole in the marsh as a guide to ensure our anchor held and we didn’t drift. The river was wide enough that we were not rocked by too many passing fishing or recreational boaters. A little further up the river we could see several nice large homes that lined the shore. All were big and many had long docks out to their boats. This is really the suburbs of Savannah and obviously it is prime real estate.
It was relaxing and the weather was nice with a light breeze. Denise worked on posting the last blog and Mark did some work and read his book. One thing we didn’t like about the anchorage were the bugs. They seemed to come out of nowhere and we soon had them all over the inside of the boat. We put up our makeshift screen and tried a bug/mosquito contraption we had got on the Loop, but we still had a handful that were making us crazy. Finally we gave up and closed up the boat then Mark broke out the vacuum to rid the critters from our floating home.
We had a nice dinner of Caesar salads with leftover baked chicken from our freezer stash. We were treated to a nice sunset and even saw a few dolphins playing in the water not far from our boat. Although it was overcast and we didn’t see many stars, it was nice night and we were grateful for the calm winds.