May 20th we left St. Augustine motoring north on the ICW. A few minutes in Aaron spotted a watermelon floating past. We made it to Jacksonville without event where we stayed at the same free dock we visited on the way south. Anna helped a smaller cruising speedboat (with a small cabin) dock later that evening. They were new to the experience and might have never docked the boat before as they had one line only partially ready. Anna tried to give some tips but there was quite a language barrier (they were all Asian).
The next day we left via the Jacksonville ocean inlet to have a day out in the ocean. Our destination of the south end of Cumberland Island was only 20 miles north and exiting and entering the inlets added about 5 miles on each end so all we gained by doing that was some ocean experience. We turned south after coming in the inlet to our planned anchorage and observed a familiar smell. A few miles upwind was a paper plant which we determined because it smelled exactly like the one we experienced often during our time in Charleston. So we went about 5 miles north and anchored just north of the Sea Dock of Cumberland Island.
On the 22nd we took the dinghy about 8 miles north to the Plum Orchard mansion. This was where we had anchored on our way south and due to the government shutdown at that time they weren't able to give tours of the mansion then. Tour highlights: 22,000 square feet big, quarter-saw oak flooring, Tiffany stained glass lamps, claw foot bathtubs, heated indoor swimming pool (remember, early 1900s I think!), heated towel racks in the bathrooms, and a foal flopped out in the front yard. From memory, a Carnegie widow offered $10,000 toward the cost of any of her children to build a home on the island and this was the only result.
Then we picked Louise up from the boat and went to the small town of St. Marys and had a nice supper at Fulfords Fish House. They had an interesting food point of sale system where they send a text when the food is ready so you can pick it up inside. Also free soft serve ice cream for dessert--Louise really liked that!
The next day we did relatively short distance. We stopped at Jekyll Island for fuel and then anchored a few miles north. Jekyll Creek is where we first got stuck on our way South in January. The tide was higher this time PLUS they are about half complete with dredging work to improve the channel. So that was all good until the north end of the channel when Aaron was distracted by all the cool dredging equipment and navigating by visually following the wrong shoreline. We buried the keel at full speed into very soft mud, coming to a nice stop. Thankfully we were able to promptly reverse out and continue on our way.
The next day we found some reason not to go out into the ocean (not hard to find) and went about 50 miles north through the winding ICW. We stopped about 7 miles south of Hell Gate which is a notorious shallow spot that has to be transited near high tide.
To time that right we left at about 10:30 the next morning. A long motor vessel that we think was named Freedom came up behind us and followed us through Hell Gate. Several weeks later we saw that a very similar looking yacht named Freedom was featured often in the displays at the Annapolis Maritime Museum about the Trumpy boat builders. It was built in 1926. Search for "trumpy yacht freedom" if you want to see more about it.
We proceeded motoring up the ICW to Savannah (very hot, 100 degrees, Anna was delirious) and then out the inlet into the ocean. We had decided to do our first overnight! At about 5:30PM we left the marked channel in the ocean and pointed NE towards Georgetown, SC. We sailed until about 10:30 when the wind died down too much and motor sailed at an easy 5 knot pace for the rest of the night. The waves were about 2 feet and at a pretty comfortable spacing.
While Louise and Aaron were sleeping in the cockpit at about 1:30AM Louise popped her head up and started sniffing frantically at the water, stuffing her head in a gap in the netting to get as close as possible. A few seconds later 4 dolphins appeared and swam alongside for a couple minutes. They were the first dark colored dolphins that we had seen, which are the spotted dolphin species. We were able to see them at night because we kept our deck light on. It shines down on the front of the boat from about halfway up the mast and it is comforting to be able to see the boat. Salty sailors would probably say that we should have it off so that our eyes can adjust to the dark and we can see surrounding hazards better.
A few things did go wrong and contributed to our first overnight being a stressful and exhausting experience. The compass did not light up so we had to hold a light to look at it or steer towards some reference point like the moon or bright stars. The chartplotter only shows which way we are going based on a sampling of our recent track so it lags by 5-10 seconds and isn't very useful for holding a steady course. Also the chartplotter started thinking that something was continuously touching the power button so it didn't work well for a few hours. Sleep was not as good as it could have been--Anna didn't sleep much during her breaks and Aaron's breaks were occasionally interrupted (should not have tried to sleep in the cockpit because as cool as dolphins are it is not worth the sacrifice of sleep).
Anna drove in the wee hours of the night and through the beautiful sunrise. At about 10:30AM the engine stopped. Aaron's calculations for remaining fuel were probably impacted by sleep deprivation. Thankfully the sea was pretty calm and Aaron was able to neatly pour in five gallons from a jerry can on deck. Then bled out the fuel lines and we were back on our way. We sailed (slowly and tacking downwind) for a couple hours to make that five gallons last the remaining distance.
Then the waves started to be about 3 feet high and things got pretty rolly. Anna enjoyed driving in these conditions so she happily steered while singing along to whatever songs Spotify was playing. The entrance to the inlet seemed to take forever to transit! The marked channel was very long and was not protected by a jetty until the last little bit. During this, Aaron became increasingly paranoid about running out of fuel again and decided that he needed to put the other five gallons stored on deck into the tank. This was a messy process and completed only minutes before being in the smooth waters behind the jetty.
We anchored just inside the inlet along a big sandy beach. The temperature had hit 100 degrees, so we tried to find a nearby marina but one was closed and the one in Georgetown was full. So we didn't have AC and it was very hot. But we were so tired that we somehow managed ignore the heat and get some rest.