A few of our friends and followers thought we sold our boat already and were on our journey traveling by car up the east coast. It dawned on me that not everyone knows what the ICW is. In fact, I did not really know what it was until we started our year-long sailing journey.
The ICW stands for the Intracoastal Waterway which is a 3,000 mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It starts at Norfolk, Virginia which is mile 0 and heads south. These miles are in statute miles. We are currently in Brunswick, Georgia which is marker 690 so we have 690 miles to go plus a few more as we head north up into the Chesapeake past where the ICW starts.
Before leaving St. Augustine, Mark noticed fluid leaking from the rear seal of the transmission. Since replacing the seal would mean taking the shaft off the engine and would require realigning the engine after it was replaced, he wanted to have this job done by a mechanic familiar with the process. A new seal was put in by the very entertaining mechanic (Bo) from First Mate Yacht Service and we were up and running in a couple of hours with Truansea’s engine in its ‘happy place’ (as Bo put it).
After leaving St. Augustine, we headed north up the ICW to anchor off of Cumberland Island. There is no bridge to the island so the only access is by boat. A ferry stops at the island twice a day to drop off and pick up passengers from St. Mary’s, Georgia. Once you step aboard the island, you feel that you have entered a magical place. The live oaks hang high overhead with twisting and turning branches that are dripping with spanish moss. The forest floor is thick with small palm trees and palm like bushes. The sounds are muted as you walk along the paths through the forest.
Visitors may use the forest service carts or rent bicycles to get to explore the island with or get to their campsites. I think that part of what makes this island so special is not allowing visitors to drive on the island. There are a few forest service vehicles and car permits that have been deeded down from the Carnegies and other families that owned or still own property on the island. Otherwise, it is all foot traffic which makes people slow down, enjoy the wildlife and get some great exercise. There are no services on the island either, except for bathrooms and drinking water so you must bring your own provisions and pack out your refuse. This too makes a person more respectful of the land and nature.
The island has a long history, but I found interesting that in the 1880s the Carnegie family bought land on the island and owned 90% of it. In 1884 they began building a 59-room Scottish castle called Dungeness as well as pools, a golf course and 40 smaller buildings to house the 200 servants of Dungeness. No one has lived at Dungeness since 1929 and a fire since destroyed the castle. The ruins remaining inspire a feeling of what it must have been like in the heyday.
According to the forest service employees, Mrs. Carnegie deeded their horses to be able to live wild on the island when they left. There are about 150 horses on the island. We saw 3 newborn foals while we were there. Their lifespan is short compared to domestic horses, living only 10 years.
There a variety of wildlife on the island including deer and turkeys.
Hiking past Dungeness led us to an open area called raccoon flats. The fiddler crabs were abundant. They are fun little creatures to watch and learn about. When the tide comes up, they return to their holes and put a mud ball over the opening to their den. After crossing the flats there was another trail that led to piles of dirt from dredging canals. We had read in a magazine article that you could find fossilized shark teeth on the island and this is where we found a majority of them.
The boys wanted to go camping on the island so they loaded up the carts and trekked down the trail to Sea Camp.
The boys and Mark camped for a couple of nights on the island while I went back to Truansea to spend the evenings since the dinghies must be off the docks at sunset. Early one morning while hiking the beach we saw a couple of student researchers marking a turtle nest. One of the girls works on the island the entire laying and hatching season. We learned a great deal about turtles from the researchers and felt lucky to have been able to see a track made that night and the fresh nest. One of the things they are doing is genetic research which required removing one egg from the nest and putting it in a tube to be sent to the lab.
We would have loved to have spent more time here but we have much to see and do up the coast so we said farewell to Cumberland and headed for Jekyll Island.
Another cool thing we saw along the way was dolphins that appeared to be working together to herd fish up toward a beach where the dolphins could then feed on them. Our suspicions proved to be true and one of the locals told us it is the only place where the dolphins do this. These are some creative, smart dolphins.
Jekyll Island is another island loaded with history, most notably in my mind, was that the planning of the Federal Reserve System took place here. There are a number of historic buildings, with some of them still in use. The local marina at Jekyll had bicycles we could use so we set off exploring the island by pedal power. It was the first time we have been on bikes since we left Idaho. We had a blast and over the course of two days, rode the entire island. We were all tired and a little sore.
They have a fantastic sea turtle center here.
Fishing off the sailboat has produced a few nice catches at Jekyll. One morning we caught a ray off the boat.
There were a number of fishing boats came in and out of the area. It was entertaining to watch them weave their way through the boats. They have incredible control over these big vessels.
Next we headed up to Brunswick ahead of Tropical Storm Andrea to find a safe place to weather the storm.
If the winds calm down some, we will head north again today, headed for Savannah.
Fair Winds ~ Christine