January Cumberland Island and Fernandina Mini-Cruise

December and early January brought chilly weather to North East Florida – just like most of the country. Finally the forecast called for a few days of warm-ish weather so we quickly did some provisioning and untied from home dock on Tuesday January 17th with a plan to run the AICW up to Cumberland Island and anchor there for a night before going over to Fernandina on Wednesday for a nice dinner ashore before returning home on the outside on Thursday.

Most importantly this would be the first anchoring-out trip since Sian had her bad accident in the Exumas last March. Since then any boating has been to marinas. This would be a trial in handling the dinghy launch and retrieval and going ashore in it.

The public landing docks at Cumberland had been damaged by hurricane Ian. However we had heard that they had marked out a small section of the ferry dock for dingy landing. Before leaving Paul called the ranger office in St Mary’s and confirmed that there was a small section, painted blue, that we could tie up to. So off we went!

Unfortunately we were following a low tide all the way up – but we knew this part of the AICW really well so weren’t too concerned. The only real worry was the corner just before Fernandina and we would handle that when we got there.

Destroyer 75 in dry dock at the BAE yard at the intersection of the AICW and the St Johns
Security keeping a close watch on passing boats
This must stink!
Busy free dock at Sister’s Creek
Neat little tug passes heading south
White pelicans
Our usual escort

We have been going up and down to Fernandina for over 22 years. This is the very first time that the Kingsley Creek Railway Bridge was in the closed position!

Paper Mill train on Kingsley Creek Bridge

As we approach “that” corner we saw a commercial tug aground just ahead of us. They hadn’t cut across the the can buoy showing the channel right up against the western shore. The red marking on this chartplotter photo shows their AIS track.

Then when he finally got around the corner he left the channel and went to far to the north, running aground multiple times. I finally radioed over and directed him to the deep water, and he moved over. We later saw him heading further north on the AICW so assumed he wasn’t “from these here parts!”

Tug reversing off another grounding.
The tourists ae still playing on the water!
Cumberland Tree – how on earth is this still standing!!

After anchoring off the Cumberland Island Sea Camp dock we heard a radio transmission that we have heard numerous times before indicating a sub was coming into Kings Bay Submarine Base. And in it came. These are Ohio Class Nuclear Missile subs.

Sub and supply vessel
Amelia River Tour Boat on the East River at Cumberland
Cumberland Wild Horse
Wild horses
Empty Cumberland anchorage, though five other boats did join us later in the day
Walking the island

We had an amazing calm night, without a ripple on the water and not a sound heard as we slept.

The blue marked part of the ferry dock that private boaters can use to tie up

On Wednesday afternoon we slowly crossed to Fernandina. The weather remained very pleasureable. Two friends from our neighborhood drove up and joined us for a very nice dinner at Espana, the Spanish restaurant. (They do great paella by the way!)

Fernandina Harbor at sunset

We tied up beside a large blue-hulled sailboat which had been demasted. Paul spoke to the marina staff and realized we had read about this incident on some of the trawler forums. The boat had just been re-rigged and while at sea the mast came down. The owner felt that a cotter pin had not been replaced by the yard. We are sure that this is going to be a nightmare to resolve.

The hull sides have been badly gouged.

We had planned to run outside on the return leg as both Windy and WindFinder called for 1.6 to 2 foot seas. But as the morning went on the wind got up and we saw on NOAA that they were calling for 4 plus foot seas. While the boat would be fine in those conditions there was no need to do it so we again followed the low tide back to home port.

The approach to Amelia Yacht Basin at low tide!

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