On Monday we walked 4 miles in hot sunshine, through maritime forest, along the Atlantic coast and salt marshes of Cumberland Island, suitably protected from the elements with sunscreen, insect repellant, sunhats, and collared shirts, and with plenty of water to drink.
On Tuesday I woke to the sound of rain on Carina’s roof, and she was pitching so much that I decided it was time to open the Stugeron as a precautionary measure. We were encountering what popular meteorologists now seem to refer to as ‘weather’.
But the journey from Fernandina Beach to St Mary’s on Sunday had been perfect.
We crossed the state line into Georgia and a few miles further on, arrived at the marina at St Mary’s, a modest establishment with not many boats or facilities, and seemingly run singlehandedly by an old man called Nat.
Although there had been industries in St Mary’s in the past, there’s now little evidence of them, but the old houses and tree-lined streets are very elegant.
We could have spent another day in St Mary’s, but wanted to see Cumberland Island while the weather was still good. It was only a short journey and we were anchored in Cumberland Sound by 11.30. Cumberland Island is the southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands and its history dates back 4000 years. Before the Civil War, there were several plantations which were abandoned in the aftermath, and then much of the land was purchased in the 1880s by Thomas Carnegie. He and his wife Lucy built an estate on the southern part of the island known as Dungeness, comprising a grand hall and several other houses for their adult children and staff. They left it at the time of the Great Depression and in 1959 the great house burned down.
Attempts were made to develop the island, but eventually the Carnegie family sold it to the Federal Government and it is now preserved in its natural state, of maritime forest, salt marshes and sea shore.
The only access is by boat, usually a ferry from St Mary’s, but there is a dock where small private boats can tie up.
So after a quick lunch we took the dinghy and did a circular walk along the river shore, across to the Atlantic shore and back past Dungeness and the marshes to the dock.
One of the stipulations of Lucy Carnegie’s will had been that after her death, her horses should be allowed to roam free on the island. We had hoped to see some of the feral horses in the distance, and were rather surprised when we rounded a bend in the trail and came face to face with this pair.
We decided to move on the next day, because although the weather forecast was bad (wind, heavy rain showers, moderate chop) the day after was even worse, so it seemed sensible to be sheltered in a marina. As promised, belt after belt of rain passed over, but in a way the scenery was even more beautiful.
The most direct way to Jekyll Island was by crossing St Andrew’s Sound. But in the prevailing north-easterly winds, this was hazardous for small craft. So we took the safer route via Umbrella Creek and the Satilla River, but these were not without hazards of their own. There were a couple of anxious moments when the depth sounder beeped and we almost ground to a halt. Ian had to carefully reverse at low speed to prevent us being stranded in a marshland wilderness at low tide.
Because of the weather, we decided to have two nights at Jekyll Harbour, which was just as well, as I woke at midnight to the sound of clatterings and bangings from below deck. Ian’s head was just visible above the opening to the engine room.
We had a serious problem.
The bilge pump had made a horrible noise, and then packed up completely. Ian had fitted the spare one, thoughtfully left by the previous owner, but that didn’t work either. For the non-boaters, the bilge pump removes excess water which has made its way by various means into the bilges, compartments along the bottom of the boat. If they can’t be emptied, that’s trouble.
Breakfast wasn’t a happy meal. He tried to phone Seatow, the boating equivalent of the AA, for advice, but reception was so bad that neither Ian, nor the Seatow woman, could hear what the other was saying.
As a last resort, he decided to read the intructions which came with the new pump. ‘Long storage may cause the impeller to become jammed.’
Aha! A quick fiddle with a screwdriver, and lo! the impeller was unjammed, and the bilge pump worked.
The day improved. In the afternoon we borrowed bikes from the marina and went for a ride round the island,
The evening was better still. Scott, the young man at the marina, had advised us that we probably wouldn’t have suitable apparel to go to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s main restaurant, (‘I assume you don’t have your dinner jacket on board’) but we would be presentable enough for the Crane Cottage Restaurant, within the Club complex. Not only that, someone would come and pick us up and bring us back to the marina afterwards.
So we decided we would have a treat, and the food, service and ambience were all very good indeed.