St. Augustine to Chesapeake We enjoyed our time in St. Augustine just a little too much. Our one week layover became two weeks without a thought. There's so much to see and do here and we've hardly touched the surface. We never made it to the main fort, Castillo de San Marcos. We'd still like to check out some of the beaches. There are more walks we'd like to take and more museums to visit. Maybe next time.
Departure plan delays haven't just been our fault. Tropical Storm Bonnie kept us in port for a couple of days, waiting her out to see what she'd do along the Carolina coast. Then we waited a couple of days for southerly winds again. We made plans to leave one day, then thought better of it and postponed till the next. Then the next morning came and we didn't feel like leaving. We finally pulled ourselves together, gave ourselves a stern talking to and managed to prepare for a timely departure. Then Tropical Storm Colin came along.
Weather forecasts differ. We always wonder if the weather forecasters and the news broadcasters just hype it a bit too much (duh!), providing all the worst scenarios to catch the headlines and not providing more realistic forecasts. Still … we prefer to be prudent, so we stayed put and in retrospect, glad we did. We've been in storms and cyclones before and it's not pretty. We'd begun to think of St. Augustine as something of a magnet, keeping us here. We were having problems breaking away.
Tropical Storm Colin arrived and departed and we were no worse for the wear, but he left heavy seas and northerly winds in his wake. We waited for two more days and then … finally … a reasonable weather window appeared. We got up, checked the weather and our southerly winds had vanished during the night. The heck with it … we'll motor up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for awhile then we can head out an inlet when the winds were favorable. Enough waiting. Let's get on with it. The sunrise was outstanding.
Day 1 – 635 nm to go (outside) or 706 nm on the ICW
We headed out through the Bridge of Lions at 0630 towards the end of a low tide. The friendly bridge keeper waved and wished us a safe trip. As we sailed past the city and the fort, we felt the tiniest tug. This is an endearing city. We'll be back. The near slack tide gave us no resistance as we traversed the inlet and headed up the Tolomato River, the course of the ICW headed north. Instead of searching for the Gulf Stream, we were trying to stay between the lines in the channel.
Our experience with the ICW was admittedly limited, but we were a bit negative about it. It was slow and circuitous; we were motoring, not sailing; all that fuel, etc., etc. Just a few miles up the river, I spotted a bald eagle sitting on the shore. My negativity faded quickly.
Further up, I spotted roseate spoonbills. There were egrets and herons everywhere … pelicans, terns and black-headed gulls. The traffic we feared was minimal. It was late in the season for folks heading north. We found ourselves pretty much alone with a trawler or two politely notifying us before they passed.
The scenery was beautiful for the most part … tall grass marshes, bright green grassy banks, sea oats swaying in the breeze. Dolphins worked the river and we saw them frequently. A ray jumped up several feet out of the water. Turtles poked their heads up, then submerged again. Manatees lumbered along close to the grassy shores. We agreed … this really isn't so bad.
Thanks to our new friends Cheryl and Doug on Renaissance, we discovered Active Captain, a free download for sailors with lots of local knowledge and specifics on transiting the ICW … everything from shoaling and strategies to marinas, restaurants and points of interest along the way. It saved our bacon on a couple of occasions and though we disliked some aspects of the program, overall, we found it quite helpful.
We found a fine anchorage in Cumberland Sound South, just off Cumberland Island, Georgia for the night. (Thanks, Benjamin, for that suggestion). This is a National Seashore Reserve and beckons more time which we didn't have. We didn't get to go ashore at all, but it's on the wish list for our next trip down.
So we've stopped whinging about the ICW and actually, we're starting to like it. We plan to spend at least another day or two on this circuitous route north … maybe even go all the way. Who knows?