Monday, December 7, 2015

West Palm Beach Florida to Brunswick Georgia.

17th – 28th July 2015

After spending a very pleasant week anchored just off the city’s town docks in our old haunt of West Palm Beach, it was time to make our way north again. Cruising friends Daryl and Annie from “No Rehearsal” were berthed just up the road in St Augustine (an overnight sail away) and rang us to ask if we’d like to drop in and spend a few days with them. Daryl very kindly had organised a complimentary slip for us next to his at the St Augustine Marina Centre so that we could check out their facilities and haul out yard as a possibility for later in the year. Deciding to accept the free marina slip was a decision that took a nano second, after all how could we turn down an invitation like that? So off we set.


The distance between the city of West Palm Beach and St Augustine isn’t far in sailing terms, a mere 200 miles. Following the western edge of the Gulf Stream we made good progress with a full mainsail and alternated between the jib and the screecher, our very large reaching sail, as the wind gods dictated.

Offshore passages can be boring at times but this wasn’t one of them. Great TV reception, a lot of the time better than when we are at anchor, kept each of us amused and informed on the off-watch and to our delight, Liam caught a couple of good sized beauties along the way, a mahi mahi and a sumptuous wahoo.The wahoo was earmarked for dinner once we caught up with No Rehearsal, while the mahi would be gracing the dinner table at a later date.

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Arriving at St Augustine Marine Centre late in the arvo Liam backed GWTW into her temporary home. Annie and Daryl played dock masters taking our lines and securing them as only seasoned cruisers know how. Over the next few days we met with various marina staff chatting about our prospective haul out, the costs and the timing. We also inquired about having a large awning made to cover the foredeck which would give us an extended shady area to relax with friends when at anchor. In between all this we socialised with friends, walked into the town, your’s truly swam laps at the municipal pool conveniently located across the road and we made very good use of the of the free wifi and cable TV in the Captains lounge.

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Right next-door to the marina was the Dept of Homeland Security’s Marine Training Facility. The facility was one very busy place with recruits and their minders heading out in a variety of fast response vessels for training exercises throughout the day and night. Amongst other things, they’d practice their shooting  skills on polystyrofoam bad guys and judging from the bullet holes in the dummies when they returned their hit rate was pretty damn good.

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After a week of hanging out in St Augustine it was time to get moving again. We’d heard from friends on S/V Hobo that the northern part of Cumberland Island was worth a stopover so that’s where the next dot on the chart was penciled in.

We have visited the southern end of Cumberland Island before but hadn’t ventured to the northern anchorage adjacent to the Plum Orchard Mansion located on the western shores of the island. To get there we would have to mooch along the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) for about 10 miles passing the vigilantly guarded US Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay before turning into Brickhill Creek and up to our anchorage.

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Built in 1898 by Lucy Carnegie for her son George and wife Elizabeth, Plum Orchard is a 20,000 sq foot magnificent Georgian revival mansion. Not much has changed on the island since the mansion was built, I guess the sprawling oaks have grown taller over the years but they are still draped in beautiful Spanish Moss, a trade mark of the low country of Georgia.

The vast open spaces surrounding the estate and the wild horses that roam the grounds just add to the stately feel of the place.

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We took the National Park Service tour of the mansion and our young guide was excellent, She had done her homework, dug deep and was very informative. Entering the foyer with its grand stairwell, high ceilings and huge fireplace, was an eye opener to the grandeur and wealth of the era and the meaning of true southern comfort. 

Animal trophies adorned many of the walls, while tiffany lamps spread a soft warm glow around the sitting rooms. On the upper floors were large bedrooms and ornate bathrooms with hot running water pumped from the basement, a first for that era. Amazingly,the shower roses bore a striking resemblance to the rain water heads found in expensive hotels and trendy bathrooms of today.





We spent two lovely days anchored in the peaceful Brickhill Creek surrounded by low country grasslands. Dolphins cruised slowly by a couple of times day  while a menagerie of birds flew over head, returning at dusk to roost in the trees along the silent shores. It was bliss.


With a booking at Brunswick Landing Marina (BLM) just a few miles further north it was time to make a move. Leaving the creek a couple of hours after the turn of the tide we gingerly edged our way out just kissing the entrance sand bar on the way back into the ICW. After turning the corner into the mainstream we were home and hosed as the depths fell away to a 20 ft nearly all the way to our exit point at St Andrews Sound. The sound has a reputation of shifting sands but our navionics charts were spot on and we just took it slow staying dead center of the channel back out to open ocean without a hitch.

Twelve miles north the next turn on the left brought us into the mouth of the Brunswick river. Roll-on roll-off car carriers have a terminal further up the river so the buoyage  and depths in the river is excellent. No chance of running aground here. Ducking, well not really, under the Sidney Lanier Bridge which spans the river with a clearance of 185 ft, signaled the start of our marina time for the next few months.

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We’d heard and read great reviews about the marina and we were looking forward to spending time there before flying back to OZ mid September. Calling the marina office on approach, Sherrie the dock master boomed across the airways with instructions on how to find our berth along with a larger than life southern style welcome to Georgia. And as we would soon found out, Sherrie doesn’t mince her words… she also told us to get our asses up to the club house as it was happy hour and everyone was waiting to meet us!  The best kept secret on the east coast, Brunswick Landing Marina, had already taken us into it’s bosom. It would be  the place we call home for the next little while.



Cruisers' Info : St Augustine Cruisers Shuttle Service. The shuttle operates several times a day and picks up from at St Augustine Municipal Marina, St Augustine Marine Centre as well as a couple of other marinas.

Shuttle drop off points: Includes Publix supermarket,Home Depot, Target,    Wal-Mart, West Marine and Sailors Exchange.

Fee : A small donation as the service is run by volunteers and not supported by the marinas.  For information re departure times please see the flyers at the various marinas.


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