Editor’s note: the Drivin’ South category of blog posts details our trip from Annapolis, MD to Fort Lauderdale, FL along the Intracoastal Waterway. Because many of the themes covered in earlier Drivin’ South posts repeated during the second half of our trip, we’ve decided to create a single post to cover the journey from Charleston to Fort Lauderdale with the highlights and lowlights summarized.
Highlight: Hidden Harbor Marina in Brunswick, Georgia.
I met some amazing people during my month-long journey south, and some of them were too amazing not to have been fiction. In late November I found myself anchored in Black Beard’s Creek in Georgia, debating whether my lonely little spot had enough protection from big winds forecast for the following day. Deciding that it didn’t, I got under way early in the morning with a plan to phone ahead to see if a local marina, Hidden Harbor, had any free slips. I dialed the number to the marina from the helm station while under way, struggling to shield the phone from wind noise. The voice that picked up was very energetic with a sharp, dry wit. Her name was Bobbie, and she declared that she’d be down to catch dock lines once I arrived.
I didn’t take more than 20 minutes after my arrival before Bobbie and her co-manager Alan had me laughing so hard I was in tears while I tried to complete the registration paper work. Bobbie, it turned out, was a retired stand-up comedian whose sense of humor had only grown sharper with the benefit of managing hordes of mariners passing through Hidden Harbor each spring and fall. Many of her stories about drunk, idiotic, or otherwise comical skippers escape my memory but I seem to recall at least one involved a set of poorly concealed and overly large testicles that came to grief during a docking.
With registration complete, Alan winched me up my mast to allow me to repair my steaming light, for which he absolutely refused any offer of cash as compensation. Instead, I was offered an invite to Bobbie’s home for dinner that night along with Alan – an offer that was repeated the night after.
A retired stand up comedian named Bobbie for a marina manager who invites you over for a home cooked dinner – twice. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Lowlight: Fort George Island Marina, Jacksonville, Florida
I called these the Docks from Hell. It’s not so much the marina’s fault, but rather the location. Fort George is just inside the St. John’s River Inlet, which experiences fierce currents. Returning from a nice dinner ashore I was worried the forces unleashed by the river currents would snap dock lines or tear out Le Saberage’s cleats. Combine that stress with an ugly chop whipped up by commercial shrimp boat traffic and you have a formula for one seriously sleepless night. At 4am I gave up and left. There was no more sleep to be had anyway.
Highlight: St. Augustine Municipal Marina (and a fun spinnaker reach there)
The St. Augustine Inlet can be very tricky, so be sure to call Tow Boat US for an update on conditions before attempting a landing. I had the good fortune to have ideal (settled) conditions for an easy entrance.
Anchoring space is limited, so I got shooed away when I tried to anchor just off of the marina, but was offered an inexpensive mooring ball as compensation. Combined with complimentary showers and launch rides, the Municipal Marina made for a great stop. As an added bonus, I met a wonderful newly wed couple on the launch ride in who were also traveling south on Sabre. As it happened, we would re connect once I arrived in Fort Lauderdale and they became my long-term cruising companions all the way through the Bahamas to Georgetown. Ever since my stop there I’ve always gotten a warm and fuzzy sensation when I think back to St. Augustine, since that’s where I met Galina and Romain.
Lowlight: Bridges between Mile Marker 1000 and Fort Lauderdale
If you time these right, you won’t wind up waiting a half hour or more for a missed opening. The downside is that a sailboat needs to really hustle to make each one, which makes for a lot of stress. It’s not a stretch of the ICW we’d like to repeat; in the future we may prefer to wait for a weather window and go outside. One exception: a couple of very scenic anchorages along the way – especially in Boca Raton.