147 Coinjock, NC to Jekyll Island, GA

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The weather forecast sucked. Gale warnings off shore didn’t bother us because we weren’t going there; however, the 20-30 mph winds from the south on Albemarle Sound and rough water did get our attention. We’d crossed in those conditions years earlier and vividly remembered getting beat up making the crossing. This time we opted to spend a few days at Midway Marina in Coinjock, NC waiting for the weather to improve.

Weathered in boaters quickly become friends. David and Cathy off Orion came aboard, and we spent a few hours going over our charts reviewing anchorages we’d used. For us it was a great review since we hadn’t gone south in 2005. For David & Cathy on their first trip south they loved hearing about and seeing exactly where anchorages they had read about were located and hearing our opinion of them. We’d left the VHF on low and would occasionally pause to watch a new arrival coming in to wait out the weather.

Wire VHF antenna on right hit the bridge beam

The tide tables and a bit of math said we could make it but it would be close. We passed a waiting sailboat, eased up to the Onslow Beach Bridge and started under. It was close as the wire VHF antenna twanged when it hit the bottom of each bridge beam. Off we went on the other side saving a half hour of waiting for the bridge to open on its normal schedule.

We waited out high winds again at Carolina Beach, NC along with Talisman and Rachel. This time the winds were still up but had moved north and were forecast to drop when we pushed off, ran Snows Cut and surfed a bit down Cape Fear River with the wind behind us. Off shore didn’t sound great, but after studying the charts and reading the wind we guessed that by running close to shore we’d have smooth running from Cape Fear to New River Inlet just above Barefoot Landing, SC. The offshore passage was comfortable.

Bare cypress trees dipping roots into tannin stained water surrounded us. The tiny branch of the Waccamaw River we’d found years earlier twists in short tight curves limiting fore and aft views to a few hundred yards before the river disappears behind the trees. The feeling is having anchored in a long narrow wilderness pond. We snuggled and waited for Tom and Marilyn on Talisman to again meet up with us. We’d been traveling south together sharing the experiences just as we had done nine years earlier when we’d met on our first trip south.
Finding our way into the anchorage the first time took a bit of experimenting. We made it easy for Talisman by going out and leading them in by dinghy. Once Talisman was anchored short dinghy rides got us back together to enjoy each other’s company and share experiences and a meal. Good friends, a quiet wilderness anchorage, and nice weather brought back the Zen of cruising.

Talisman had to stop in Georgetown because of an engine problem. We decided to join them both to celebrate Tom’s birthday and because the weather was threatening. Rain poured down. Between storms we made new cruising friends, Marilyn, Don and I hiked to the Piggly Wiggly, and Tom got Talisman’s engine fixed.

Twice daily the 6-foot tide in Beaufort, SC swung Odyssey on its anchor changing our view. For a few hours each day we’d poke around in town then kick back in the cockpit, read and watch boats heading south. Completely enjoying the weather and relaxed living we stayed for four days. Tom and Marilyn once again caught up and we cruised for one last day and a final anchorage together before they headed for Brunswick and we for Jekyll.

The Millionaire's Club is now a historic hotel

Instead of staying a week at Jekyll Island as we’d regularly done in the past, we signed up for a month. The island’s subtle mix of Live Oak forests dripping in Spanish Moss, bike paths, wide sand beaches, a bit of history and buildings left over from when a group of turn of the 20th century multimillionaires owned the island and used it as their private winter retreat makes for great exploring. A small grocery store and a few convenient restaurants help make extended stays comfortable.

It was a real bonus this year as we were able to enjoy the many festive holiday events. Jekyll bills itself as “The Holiday Isle” and they certainly lived up to the name. The decorations really put us in the Christmas mood. We were able to enjoy them with new friends we met at the dock who were staying for awhile plus old friends who were just passing through on their way south.

Ruth cheking out shrimp boat wreck

At low tide one day we biked the hard beach sand and walked around the remains of the shrimp boat slowly being swallowed by the island’s southward moving sands. Each year sand covers more of the wreck as the shoreline moves further south.

Linda and Ruth by the 'Pink House'

Linda and Ruth by the 'Pink House'

Steve on boardwalk

Steve and Linda came down from NY to spend Thanksgiving with us. On a cold damp day we bundled up and went looking for the boardwalk friends had told them about for birding access to the south tip of the island. The boardwalk; planks balanced on towers of loose cinder blocks provide a bouncy path across the tidal marsh behind the beach. Black Skimmers and other birds hunkered down along the now narrow wave lashed beach waiting for the 25 mph wind to subside. At high tide the broad beach had shrunk to a narrow strip. The sunken shrimp boat mast we’d poked around by bike now stuck out of the surf a 100’ offshore.

Deep in the woods we found the pond Steve and Linda had been told about. It was another place that after all our years exploring the island we had not discovered. The birds and alligators made for great viewing. An odd black structure barely visible merited a bit of exploring. We stepped up to an opening and walked out onto a stage facing a huge amphitheater with bench seating for at least 500 rising up a hillside in neat rows. Judging by the weeds the complex has been abandoned for years. On another day we returned again in the early evening with David and Janice along. They are the delightful British couple we had met Rving in Arizona last winter. The north shore of pond was carpeted with birds settling in for the evening. They are avid birders as are Linda and Steve.

The armadillo paid no attention as we walked by. It was busy exploring for food under the fallen leaves on Cumberland Island. We’d anchored Odyssey near Plumb Orchard and were walking one of the island paths. We had a large section of Cumberland all to ourselves and spent the day exploring the island’s charming wilderness. The

Plumb Orchard

National Park Service is slowly restoring Plumb Orchard mansion, and we could get a glimpses of its past charm peeking through the windows.

The dinghy motor wouldn’t start. The good news was that the current had reversed and was now flowing from the dock toward Odyssey. We piled into the dinghy for our down current drift back home. The bad news became apparent as soon as we let go of the dock and realized we were moving faster than we could row and the swift current was setting us out away from Odyssey. If we missed catching Odyssey—well we didn’t think about it but it would be hours before we could row against the current. Steve, our accomplished white water kayaker was rowing. I was in the bow calling distance and rowing directions mixed in with “row harder” comments. Ruth and Linda were in the back watching our rapid approach and adverse set. They encouraged Steve to “row harder”. Steve glanced over his shoulder, realized we were marginal for making the boat and rowed even harder. I stretched out and got a handhold at Odyssey’s stern as we were about to sweep by and we scrambled aboard. Ruth and Linda started in on preparing Thanksgiving dinner and we spent happy hour drinks discussing all we had seen as good aromas from Odyssey’s galley filled cockpit.

We spent a leisurely morning enjoying breakfast aboard in our sun warmed cockpit and then brought the anchor up and headed back to Jekyll. A leisurely bike ride, and ice cream rounded out a great day. The next morning we watched as Steve and Linda pulled out of the parking lot and headed north with a greatly expanded bird life list. It had been a wonderful few days.

The speeding fuel truck was seconds from hitting the jet liner, and we were on the edge of our seats when the screen went black and the sound went off. After a few seconds of disbelief and silence, jokes about coming back next week for the next installment started, and it quickly became apparent that no one was in the projection room. It took a half hour before the projectionist got back to the theater and got “Casino Royale” going again. James Bond saved the plane. We were at a very inexpensive theater in Brunswick with Tom and Marilyn. They brought their car down for the winter. They were great about including us in the convenience of having transportation.

Ruth, Tom, Marilyn, Don

Ruth, Tom, Marilyn, Don

Startled, Tom jumped back on the path and the just as surprised alligator did the same landing in the water. We were exploring a trail along the water edge with Tom and Marilyn in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge enjoying its winter wilderness charms. In mid winter things were a bit slow–even the huge bugs we found on one of the early settlers buildings we explored weren’t interested in moving much.

Family Visit in the Rochester, NY Area

Cindy’s holiday decorations glowed warmly adding to the magic of the fire Mike had going in the fireplace. The evening passed quickly as we enjoyed being together in their cozy home. We’d driven back to NY to spend the holidays with family.

Danielle starts opening 7th birthday giftsIt was a kick watching Danielle’s 7th birthday party. For an hour or two it was a delight listening to the squeals and giggles ricocheting around the house. The decibel level rose and fell as presents were opened or a distraction pulled someone toward a different activity only to return to the huddle to report over all the other girl chatter.

Carpet tubes going up at soltice party

Linda couldn’t quite believe it as we walked in the door. We’d kept our coming to NY a secret from Steve and Linda. They had been giving us a hard time about missing their big Solstice party over the years. A cold drizzle was held at bay by a huge tarp Steve had rigged near the Solstice fire. A steady stream of offerings, preferably large, very creative and highly combustible kept the fire burning hot and large as a wide circle of friends celebrated the occasion with great food and drink around the fire which has become a yearly tradition..

Lucy about to attack RC car--or not

Lucy wasn’t quite sure of what to make of the radio controlled car. She’d watch carefully and paw it occasionally as we’d start and stop it.

Mike works RC car as Cindy and Ruth watch

One move caught her by surprise and she launched herself straight up, did a half turn in the air and hit the ground moving in the opposite direction. We figured we’d found the perfect cat present.

We lay in bed waiting for the girls to get up for Santa. Danielle had stated Christmas Eve that they weren’t going downstairs until 8 AM. We could hear them giggling in their room, but true to their word, they knocked on our door at 8 and down we all went. Soon we were submerged in spent wrappings and open gifts as they decided which toy to play with first. It felt just like it used to when Cindy and Jeff were young.

Cindy managed to provide Jeff with the perfect mystery gift. The large, heavy box showed up addressed to him a few days before Christmas with no indication as to who had sent it. He’d called us, but we were as mystified as he was. The box contained a Chaos Tower kit: marbles elevated to the top run down a track ringing bells, taking different routes and bouncing off trampolines to different levels. He finally figured out that Cindy was the mystery Santa and the gift was for him to assemble and for the girls to enjoy. I had a ball helping him figure out how to get the marbles run and bounce their way through the maze.

After another day enjoying Linda, Steve, Jody and Brian we reluctantly we said goodbye. It had been a wonderful visit. Mild weather made for an easy drive both to New York and back to Jekyll and home aboard Odyssey.

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