November 16, 2012 by Last Star blog
Georgia On My Mind…. still
OK, so after getting out of Tom’s Creek we have the usual 35ish miles to knock back so off we go after my short conversation with Joe. As we are motoring along we are getting sometimes helped and other tiimes crushed by the tides and currents. It seems that Georgia is now on a “Coastal Flooding” watch for the next few days…WTF? First a Hurricane, then a N’orEaster, and now this? What’s next? Locusts? As we get through half of the day the amazing high tide from the previous day is now becoming a very low tide and we cross a short bay to re-enter the ICW on the other side. Now Georgia bays are neat. They generally do NOT offer access to the ocean but do let in vast amounts of water and sand and will shoal, and turn the inlet into a nice washing-machine type effect for the waves. That would be the waves that are accompanying the cold front and strong NE winds from the ocean. So on the other side of the ICW is a nice looking “double ender” that is sitting there quietly with a man, his wife, and daughter looking over the side. Seems they are aground and victims of this low tide. I ask him how much he draws and he says 5.5 feet. Well I draw less, no reason I can’t pass. Now the approach was not bad, the tide is still going out so the current is slowing me down. IF I get unlucky and see VERY thin water I can use the current and the reverse gear to back off and get out. I see as low as 4.7 feet on my depth meter and slide by at about 1.5 knots.
We get to our destination about 1 hour later and surprisingly there are no other boats coming behind us as I guess they elected to not chance getting by the guy who was aground. We settle into our anchorage and put out enough scope to deal with any and all tidal changes and winds that Georgia can manifest. It is another loud and rough night as the currents and the winds are at odds and the boat is subject to the wind on the surface and the currents below so it dances all over and around the anchor. As I’m still rattled over the previous nights debacle I get up numerous times to quadruple check the anchor.
We get up at first light the next morning and want to get out of there and take advantage of the high water and current to make some time. All is going great as we are seeing 9.0 knots at times and the water in the ICW is near 20 feet in many places. As we approach our first fixed bridge (fixed bridges on the ICW are at 65 feet minimum) we see that the indicator on the bridge that tells you the distance between water and bridge is submerged or missing (turns out it was missing; thanks Ga Dept of Transportation for the good work) so we have no idea what the clearance is. We have a 58′ foot mast so have 7 feet to spare but the tides are such that may not be enough. Damn so much for making good time. We reverse course, find a little inlet and wait it out. 3.5 hours we wait to let the tide go down and make our next attempt. We had hoped to make our original 35 miles that day and talk on another two hours to get us to Florida–will be tough now. As the time and miles go by the water gets thinner and thinner. I am now again navigating the ICW by feel, the pink line and markers are just a “suggestion” as each turn has its own vagrancies. What happens is each turn can remove or deposit sand and mud and you have to feel your way. Watching the depth meter and getting the trend information makes this possible. As the afternoon wears on we are near Jekyll Island and some guy in a huge sport fisherman swings past us on the Port side (should have made a radio call, starboard pass is standard) and offers little in “wake courtesy”. After he passes so close and so fast I am obliged to turn into his wake to minimize the rolling it causes; think cross at 90 degree angle. I do this and shortly after my low water alarm is chirping. When a large boat passes it disrupts the water and this is not uncommon so I think it is from the sportfisherman. Well, not the case, about 20 seconds later we are hard aground. The water is the same color as the mud to my left, never saw it. The water is receding and the clock is running on getting off of this before more water goes in the next hour and a half. As I am thinking and shouting profanities at the clown that put me in this situation (the other guy, not me!!) I hear the radios light up as he ran through Jekyll Island at full speed when it is a no-wake. All docks in the area are floating docks with the crazy tides they have here and he has caused more havoc–total tool. Well I get on the horn with Sea-Tow. First the 1-800 number, press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for English? Really? When I get a human on the line we have a nice calm conversation, she asks some questions that I think are odd. I tell her “just the facts m’am” and try and hurry things up. She wants the coordinates even though I told her I’m about a stone’s throw from Green #19 at Jekyll Island. As I pass the coordinates she reads them back to me asking if the latitude is North? Like it could be anything else? I’m calling from Freaking New Zealand and I need help from you? I stay calm. She says someone will call me in a few minutes. Oh BTW when I tried to raise them on the VHF radio, no luck–everyone goes to cell phones now. A guy calls me in about 5 minutes, get confirmation on all the details. Says we are good to go and will see me shortly. I sit back and look at watch and continue to listen to people yell at goof who ripped up the marina ahead. Phone rings again…? Now what? “Oh Mr. Henri” (not sure how my first name became my last name? Just call me Hank) “seems that you are NOT in my district (must be that northing thing) and a boat from Brunswick will come get you” ARRRGGGHHH tic, tic, tic….the water continues to run out, boats like water, they sort of depend on it for support, like a giant playtex bra if you will. So what do I say to this latest bit of news? 20 minutes since Gilligan passed in his sportfisherman (who’s Gilligan? I’m the one aground–damn it) So about 5 minutes later the Brunswick boat calls, says they’ll be there in 30 minutes–another spike in blood pressure. The weather and conditions in the bay we recently left are awful, he’ll be humping to get there quickly. I thank them and tell them water is still running out and to please hurry. Well 15 minutes later another call, 5 minutes out. “What’s our status?” Huh? Is this a Facebook thing? I tell him married (for now)–kidding. He says to sit tight; read as don’t leave now as he needs to get paid. And if we are a sailboat to lower our sails–laughable really as if the sails were out in this situation we’d be thrashed. Well they show up in a giant yellow zodiac with lights all over it and massive outboards. Captain slides up right beside us and with the rubber zodiac doesn’t need fenders or anything. He hands me a big ol’ harness that slips through the hawsers at the front of the boat and around the cleats. We sign some quick paperwork and he pulls forward into the deep water (about 6 feet) and lets out some line.
I don’t know where the Alfred Hitchcock birds came from; they worry me less than the prospect of the line snapping back and removing my skull. I’m just to the left of the photo cowering down like a little girl scout again, ninja like reflexes at the ready. His boat struggles to get us off but with the soft mud and our winged keel I’m not worried. The rudder is safe and the only thing to watch for is that you want the water clear of silt and mud before you start your engine as your cooling system can ingest all that crap. Hats off to the two guys on the Sea-Tow vessel, probably less than 3 minutes from arrival to off and engines running. I released the line, they reeled it in and were gone. OK from start to finish another hour lost. The day was now shot. We cleared the bridge that was 3/4 of a mile up ahead and started looking for another place to spend the night. OHHHHh that’s a story for another day and yes it was another sleepless night.