The final leg of our migration south, from Beaufort SC and get to our final destination (for the time being) of Brunswick GA.
Jan 18, 2022
Early departure from Beaufort with the moon still up as the sun rose. We passed Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island as we exited Port Royal Sound, resorts and golf communities of Hilton Head, and tons of dolphins along the Cooper River.
Thunderbolt, GA is just outside of Savannah. I think it’s one of the coolest names out there for a town, and sounds like it should have superheroes or wizards living there. Thunderbolt Marina is a huge boatyard, with the ability to service giant yachts and commercial vessels as well as recreational boats. For cruisers, it is famous for delivering fresh Krispy Kreme donuts to your boat in the morning upon request. We arrived early enough to take a long walk up to Chick-Fil-A for an early dinner. The residential area we walked through was vintage mid-20th century, reflective of the town’s history as a WWII training base. Loved all the small cottages with brightly painted doors and shutters, front porches with rocking chairs, and huge oaks with Spanish moss.
Small World Department: There was a beautiful yacht on our dock that looked familiar to both of us, but we couldn’t remember from whence we knew it. Later in the evening, the owner came over to say hello and we figured out that he had been at AYB a few days before Christmas when we were in the midst of our engine haul out AND he was the brother of one of the liveaboard boat owners we knew at Little Creek AND he’s retired Navy and he and Dave knew some people in common.
Kilkenny Fish Camp, Richmond Hill GA
Jan 19, 2022
Short transit of only 21 miles today, so we enjoyed our Krispy Kremes and coffee while the light fog burned off before departing mid-morning. We were in no hurry, as we were familiar with Kilkenny from our trip north last spring and knew there really wasn’t much there so didn’t want to arrive too early.
Kilkenny is…well, Kilkenny. It is very rustic, but timeless. The single long wooden face dock uses barrels for flotation, short vertical 2x4s instead of cleats, and wobbles as you walk along it. It caters to local recreational fishermen and boaters, and because of the 8’ tidal swings the trailered boats have to be launched via a sling lift rather than a boat ramp. A former plantation, there are 200+ year old oaks lining the country road to the marina and the popular restaurant next door.
We were having dinner and enjoying the sunset when the Nina Sue, a 40’ motor yacht, came screaming up the creek way too fast, got caught in the current and overshot the marina, did a too-wide turn and came alarmingly close to us as its bow plowed into the dock behind us, causing the supporting pylons to recoil. The captain was single-handing and Robert the dockhand scrambled down the gangway to try to grab his lines – except that he only had a bow line rigged and no fenders. Everything happened quickly and was rather scary, but somehow managed to get secured as Robert instructed the captain on placement of a stern line and then the captain disappeared below for the night. Dave and I were just stunned.
Jan 20, 2022
We had planned an early departure because we had a long way to go, but had a new sense of urgency to get going before our scary dockmate, being concerned about what his chaotic arrival might portend for him getting underway. The early departure rewarded us with the opportunity to see the low-lying fog on the marsh with the sunrise and the ever-present dolphins along the way.
Kilkenny is an overnight stop mostly because it’s the only thing for a very long stretch of the ICW until nearing Florida. Which means that from Kilkenny to Brunswick is only marsh, wetlands, and occasional small copses of trees. No towns, very few structures (of which most looked abandoned), and not even recreational fishermen once we left Kilkenny Creek until we reached the St. Simons Island area. The only sign of civilization was some dredging going on in Altamaha Sound, with some very confusing red buoys that require Dave to hail the dredge barge to inquire the best way to pass amid the equipment and markers. The birds, however, were loving the long dredge pipe as they lined up on it for whatever reason birds like to perch on man-made structures.
I got in some helm time as we approached Brunswick, with lots of turns to navigate while Dave taught me how to correlate charts with GPS, anticipate changes, and deal with changing currents. It was a lot of inputs for this Middle Age Brain to process! It’s not as simple as just steering through the water, as the middle between the banks is not necessarily the dredged channel. Sometimes it can look like you’re getting really close to one shore, but it’s still the deepest water. It’s going to take a lot of practice for me, but is actually a mental challenge I enjoyed.
We docked at Brunswick Landing Marina after 72 miles and seven-plus hours of travel. This is a huge marina, very sheltered, and fosters a boating community among its many liveaboards, seasonal residents, and transients. There were no less than five people including the dockhand that came over from their boats to catch our lines and introduce themselves as we pulled into the slip. Add to the warm welcome the temps in the 60s for the first time in what seems like forever, and we’re off to a great start here!
Thus our southern migration is completed. Our original plan back in October had us going all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale and then over to the Bahamas for a few weeks before starting The Great Loop and heading north. However, the two month mechanical delay in Norfolk and the need to fix Dave’s knee and give him time to completely recuperate means the Bahamas is out for this season. Instead, we will be here for about a month, then go to Jacksonville and do a ‘side trip’ cruising the St. Johns River. We will then stay in northern Florida, as going any further south seemed kind of silly to just immediately turn around and come back. But this is the cruising life: make a plan, don’t have a schedule, and be prepared for your plan to change. Frequently.
We have a long list of boat projects to complete while we’re here in Brunswick. First up, though, is a road trip back to Virginia (yet again) for Dave’s knee surgery. For people who don’t even have a car, we certainly seem to be getting an awful lot of driving time lately.
669 statute miles / 582 nautical miles
14 travel days
26 days since leaving AYB (12/26 – 1/20 inclusive)
3 days of weather delays
2 road trips back to Virginia Beach for doctor appointments
*Pop’s is Dave’s dad, and had an amazing mind for numbers and stats. He kept official stats for various Stillwater HS sports for almost 40 years, earning him the nickname Numbers from the coaches. This future regular section of the blog is in his honor.