We start our day in Florida, end our day in Georgia and find another great island to explore. Cumberland island.
Start: FREE DOCK, Sisters Creek, just outside Jacksonville, FL, 0701
End: Anchorage, Cumberland Island, GA, 1140
Total Distance: 25.8 nm
Average Speed: 5.6 kts
We have been in Georgia before. I got the pleasure of spending some time at Ft. Gordon (Augusta), GA in 1988-1989 and fell out of a plane five times (on purpose) at Ft. Benning (Columbia) in 1989. I swore, as I rode out the gates of Ft. Gordon on my Yamaha Maxim 650 motorcycle, that I would NEVER return to Ft. Gordon. The Army, as per usual, heard my request and immediately planned my return for when I couldn’t say no. Which is why the three of us returned to Augusta in 2007-2009. We were there for two years and one week and Jan may not ever forget/forgive the extra week. But now we are coming by boat. Steaming/motor-sailing slowly north and this time we get to choose where to stop and stay.
Our morning begins bright and early. After watching the BAY (big a$$ed yacht) run aground on Saturday, we were making sure that we leave early enough that there is still good water under our keels (mid-tide), so alarm goes off at 6am and we are shoving off at 7am. Against the current. Of course.
It is a short day today–just under 26 miles to Cumberland island and we are starting ridiculously early, so we have a lot of time to make it there. We have the engines turning at relatively low RPMs and are making just about 4 knots against the current when we throw out our genoa and pick up some speed. We have a good wind from the west and we are getting some help. For details on how much help, jump to the next section.
The day is quiet, though there were two events during the move to Cumberland Island that bear mentioning.
Early on in the morning we were passed by a motor yacht from Canada. We talked to them the previous night when they landed at the free dock just prior to the Thunderstorm. They were, like every single Canadian that we met, fantastically nice. They were also ripped. Like three sheets to the wind. Absolutely bombed. They had enjoyed their day on the water. Which is why we were a bit surprised when we saw them appear behind us and then pass us. At the time our boat was fighting the current and we had our genoa in because we were heading into the wind at this particular point on the waterway. They pulled ahead until we turned to the north and put our sail. At which point we started catching them. Slowly but surely we crept up on their stern and we were both waiting to call them on the radio to inform them of our impending pass. But, alas, we ended up hitting another strong current and they left ahead of us.
And the second event occurred when we rounded a corner into a long, straight stretch of the waterway that we had been warned was shallow. Ahead of us we could see a boat in the middle of the channel and soon enough we got a call on the radio from that sailboat. They were run aground and warned us it was shallow. We asked if we could do anything; they needed nothing, they were going to wait until high tide floated them off. Then they kindly pointed to the green marker (which we keep on the right side of our boat) ahead of us which was all the way over on the left side of the channel. Our charts did not show the maker there.
I am here to tell you that there is a magnetic pull around charts and other boats that is difficult to overcome even in the overwhelming light of evidence that contradicts what you are seeing. What I mean is this. Obviously there is a boat stuck in the middle of the channel. She told us they were stuck, we can see her husband fishing off the front of the boat (when life gives you lemons, catch fish), we know that it is really shallow there. And yet it is a boat and we want to drive towards it. We also see the marker way off on the ‘wrong’ side of the channel which logically means that a dredge has dug out or widened a channel on that side and you should steer that way so that you don’t run aground. Next to the boat that is already run aground that you are aiming for. But our charts say that it is deep in the middle AND we see a boat (grounded) in the middle. WE SHOULD STAY IN THE MIDDLE!
We did not run aground, but this reinforced the lesson we keep learning which is to FOLLOW THE MARKERS and not the chart. And we continue to love our boat. Our three foot draft gives us some room for error that our old monohull (5.5 draft) would not have. Nice to know that if we do stray from the channel we may have a little wiggle room.
Just after 11am we leave the ICW and head into our anchorage for Cumberland Island. Us and about eight other boats. As a matter of fact, it was so many boats at roughly the same time, that a trawler that had passed us just earlier called on the radio to ask if he had missed the channel. After we all left him alone in the main channel he was concerned that he missed a marker; we reassured him we were all just heading to anchorage.
We pass S/V Schole who is already anchored in front of the park dock, head a bit north, find a spot and drop the anchor. We are set for the next two days at Cumberland Island.
Tides and current
I’m getting sick of the tides and fighting them and trying to figure out the magic that can get me to go with the tide the entire day. So I figured why not try to track the tides as we go along one leg of our trip, the impact on our speed over ground, and just for kicks, see what wind (or lack thereof) does for us. I already know all the answers, namely:
- Current will either slow us down, or it will speed us up.
- Wind, if blowing strong enough, though not too strong, and from the right direction (not on the bow) will help us go faster.
But after awhile it gets a bit dull driving back and forth between markers, and this will give me something to do!
First chart is below. It shows our speed throughout the day. I should note that we kept the engines at a constant RPM once we left on our trip. No idea what RPM they are at or how fast we would be going if we were in slack water. But it feels (subjectively) like it is a five knot speed. Not red hot screaming, not idle. Probably closer to idle that screaming hot.
And you can see we were all over the map. Anything under four is slow and we start putting away sharp objects because we are going to go crazy soon. And unlike a car, anything over 7 is wicked fast. Or, using the car as a comparison, anything under 4 knots is 20 mph. You will get there, but you may expire due to boredom and anything over 7 is 85mph on the freeway. Flying and hoping the cops don’t catch you.
Our day oscillates from suicidal slow to wicked fast. And everything in between. All while keeping the throttle constant.
Next is the same chart with the current, highlighted in red for negative, green for positive, overlaid on the speed chart. As we traversed from river to river, the current state changed. Based, perhaps on fluid dynamics and physics, or perhaps on the whim of a god/goddess who has or has not had their daily sacrifice. Current is bad. Except when it is good. And it ranges in speed as well from -1.75 to 1.5 knots (on this day). Shockingly it turns out when current is against us, we go slower! And when it it with us? Faster. And current is all over the map from hour to hour.
And finally, I overlay the wind recordings at the locations where I looked at boat speed. The wind recordings are the apparent (not true) wind speed. Where wind is zero, it means that our sail has been brought in because we are going into the wind. So it provides no help to (and, in fact, is hindering) our forward movement. Note that when wind zero and current is against us (St. Mary’s river is a good example), we are suicidal slow. But if there is wind, we do get a little help against, as you can see after we put the sail back out in the cumberland sound. Still negative current, but wind increases our speed.
All of which is not scientific. But fun to do when you are traveling up the ICW trying to figure out how to get around the currents.