We like islands; they are some of the favorite places on our trip. Over two days we got to compare/contrast two different barrier islands in Georgia. One we loved and its on the ‘places to return’ list. The other notsomuch.
Cumberland Island is a national park run by our federal park service. It is an enormous island that has both the park as well as private land, with one dirt main road that runs the length of the island and a bunch of footpaths to the various sites. It has campgrounds, latrines, water and wildlife. It is surrounded on three sides by rivers/marshes and on one side by the Atlantic; on that side is a very, very, very long beach. Most importantly, the island can only be reached by boat. Admission is $7/person good for a week. Best money we have spent in a long time.
The island was owned by one of the Carnegie family, who built a huge mansion, large grounds, stables, and had staff living on the island for their little get away. In the heyday, the staff required to keep everything running numbered between two and three hundred dudes and dudettes. This place was huge! The mansion has burned down but there are still ruins and building that you can see and the park service has an app/phone tour you can take while walking around.
The Carnegie family turned the island over to the federal government back in the 70s with the agreement that it would not be developed. And, as part of the agreement, when the last descendent left, the horses would be let go and allowed to live on the island.
For our purposes, this place is nirvana. It has hiking/biking trails and bikes that can be rented (and one of which IS rented for AJ). Since it can only be reached by boat, we can be reasonably confident that AJ won’t wander off; he is consigned to this (large) piece of land, as are all the other kids from Schole and Irish Rose. And it has a myriad of animals and birds to see and things to explore.
We spend two days at the island. Over which we saw a ton of armadillos,1 horses, deer, possums, ticks, snakes (don’t tell Jan) and birds/water fowl beyond count. Kids were brought to the island and then let loose with boundaries that encompassed square miles. Guidance like ‘beach to ruins and we will be back at 5pm to pick you up. Don’t die.’
For the adults, we ended up walking from dinghy dock to the beach then down to the ruins and return on day one–five mile hike. Second day repeat the distance, but this time we went north and returned back to the dock. Lucky was actually not too happy. With all the wild animals on the island he was on leash lockdown for the duration. He spent the majority of both days on the island, but never more than seven feet from the person who held the end of the leash.
Our impression of Jekyll island was tainted from the beginning, so we cannot claim to be unbiased.
Jekyll island is another barrier island and has some no kidding history associated with it. It was the place in which the federal reserve bank system was started, over some cocktails in a local hotel. I embellished the cocktails, though probably not much. Which we didn’t know as we pulled up into an anchorage just off the island.
What I did know was that it was our anniversary tomorrow, and chances are that on the day of the celebration of the official sanctioning of our union, we would most likely be in a very remote location. Jekyll island, on the other hand, had actual restaurants, including one right next to the marina. As we were pulling into the anchorage, I called the marina on the radio and they said they could take us for the night.
The marina has one very long dock on the river. The dock master told me that while it wasn’t crowded now, it would be, but they could fit us in. We could see one boat on the long dock and he told us that we were going to be right in front of that boat.
Jan and AJ were up front in the ‘anchor ready’ position. Bridle out and hooked up ready to deploy, both looking into the anchorage, AJ thinking Xbox throughs, ready to drop anchor when we stopped moving. So when I told them that we were instead heading into the marina, they both looked at mea s if I had a bratwurst growing out of my forehead. But, a testament to their flexibility and resiliency (and a testament to how much AJ likes wifi and Jan likes real showers), they immediately dropped the anchor stuff and went into ‘docking ready’ position. Fenders were deployed on the starboard side, lines were readied fore and aft and a mid line was placed in the middle of the boat. Because that is where a mid-line goes. AJ was up front, Jan was in back and we headed into the dock aiming for a point just in front of the trawler.
We have done this about a billion times. While not precisely ballet, we know our roles and what we are doing. I head for the dock at about a 45 degree angle and as we get close and clear the trawler, turn us into the dock. AJ (gently) throws the line to the waiting dock hand, and line secured, I really crank the boat into the dock. Stern swings in and Jan throws stern line to second dock hand. Boat is put in reverse, wheel turned to dock and we settle someplace in the general vicinity (anywhere from 1 inch to 5 feet) off of the dock. Lines cleated. We are secure.
Note where line is cleated. Close to the end of the ballet. But not today. Today AJ throws in the bow line, dock dude catches line and reaches down and cleats it off. Our boat is still going forward, and though it is only at about a mile per hour, it is still 8,000 pounds moving. Jan throws here line, notices that we are cleated off and shouts in a voice that would make a drill sergeant proud, “Uncleat that LINE!”
Because that line was now taut and it was very effectively pulling our front end directly into the dock. The dockhand uncleated the line, but the damage was done. AJ, who is learning about Newton’s laws in physics, gets a real life demonstration of his first law. To wit: “An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.” Our front end is the object, which was running in a straight line roughly parallel to the dock until an external force acted on it (in the form of a now tight dock line); consequently the boat turned quickly to the right and into the dock. Where it hit with a very loud and thunderous WHACK. Which I’m pretty sure is a demonstration of Newton’s third law, but am going to leave it up to AJ to demonstrate as part of his homework.
Welcome to Jekyll Island.
Perhaps my judgement of the island is clouded by our welcome.
Jekyll Island is connected to land by a bridge. It allows development, but only on up to 30(ish) percent of the island. The rest remains wilderness. Because of the development, the island has paved roads, bike trails, associated cars and bikes, parking lots, gas station, convention center, hotel, plaza with shops and various and sundry tourist associated attractions. And lots of people. And cars. Did I mention the cars?
After securing our boat we went to explore the island. We hit the high spots (Dairy Queen, tourist shops and beach), it was all nice but just like every other tourist spot with a beach. After two hours were tapped out and returned to the boat. We showered, headed to the restaurant by the marina, had a nice anniversary dinner and prepared to leave in the morning.
I can count. I know that I said this would be a tale of two islands and now we are heading onto number three. But a tale of two islands is a better title. Artistic license…
After leaving Jekyll island, we headed 60ish miles north and landed just off a nature preserve on a barrier island called Wassaw. The pronunciation of which is cloudy. I pronounced it wa-SAW, but when I talked to a fine southern gentlemen, it sounded more like WAR-sar. Either way you pronounce it, the place is gorgeous.
This place is a bit off the beaten trail. You can come in from ocean side and hang an immediate right at the southernmost point of the island Follow the river along the shore, take another right into a smaller river that is lined with marshes and continue about 1 mile until you reach the ranger station. Drop the anchor anywhere. From the west, leave the ICW and travel 6 miles towards the BBA, look left, follow above instructions. There were three other boats spread out along the creek when we arrived and that was it. Only way to reach the island is by boat.
We arrived at 6pm. It was flat calm, barely a breeze. The island has miles of trails and a road down the middle. The anchorage is one of the top 10 we have had on the trip. It is quiet, peaceful and gorgeous. The island is deserted. It is all we can ask for. Except on this day, it is full of freaking bugs. Biting bugs. So our stay here will only be for one night; tomorrow is forecasted for no wind and we would rather not donate flesh to the local population of no-see-ums.
1I was stationed in Louisiana and Texas for years while I was in the Army. And never once did I see an actual armadillo in the wild. I assumed that their entire lifecycle was on the road. Because that is all I ever saw–dead armadillos on the side or middle of the road. Those little things are cute! And, according to the nice park ranger lady, dumb as a bag of hammers.