Homeward Bound


Launch ramp: Town ramp in Fernandina, with easy parking. The tides here are 7-8 feet, and the ramp is a long slimy thing at low tide, so wait for the high to avoid spinning wheels.

Nearby campsites: Ft. Clinch State Park has a great beach, historical fort, and nice campsites.

Comments: Entering here, you have access to the Intracoastal Waterway, south along the Florida coast and north into Georgia. You can also head out to the ocean.


-----The crown jewel sits slightly askance Queen Florida. This is revealing, showing the jaunty nature of the sovereign and her confidence in the beauty of the jewel, Amelia Island. Check a map of the state and you'll quickly spot the island atop Florida.
-----St. Mary's River divides Florida and Amelia Island from Georgia. The river is navigable and affords deep-water anchorage, a fact known to the early European settlers. French, Spanish, and English fought for this site. In a later conflict, Confederate and Yankee forces faced each other from Fort Clinch, built to command the entrance from the Atlantic to the river. Today, nuclear submarines ply the St. Mary's to their base in Georgia. Beauty and history intermingle in this region.
-----El had visited here on one of her annual Mother/Daughter gatherings, staying at a b & b on the beach. "We must cruise there," she said emphatically. "There are miles of beaches, the old fort and," saving her trump card to the last, "great seafood and barbeque restaurants." We hauled out the chart book and it was quickly obvious that this water was outstanding cruising. We had access to coastal Florida (and, with a little cruising, the St. John's River), coastal Georgia, and the Atlantic - and, by the way, Sonny's Pit Barbeque and Brett's waterfront restaurant. Now that choice was indeed, in a grandkid's words, a "no-brainer."


I-----'ve been standing in the cockpit, watching the mullet jump. The dawn stillness is punctuated by a watery "plop." Then another "plop." And another. The mullet jump, at high speed, a foot into the air, in a graceful arc that ends with a plop. Four or five times in a row, they jump. Why? Dislodging parasites? Evading a predator? I like to think they jump for the pure pleasure of it.

-----Biologists don't like such statements. They don't like it when we "anthropomorphize" their critters -- but what gives these few the right to say that we humans have an exclusive right to fun, or love, or hate, or any other "human" emotion?

-----For whatever reason, mullet jump -- either because they like to jump or because they must jump. They are all around me now -- jumping. The dawn is alive with sound. Plops are everywhere and the noise seems to have aroused the sleepy birds that add a background of chirps, whistles, and croaks.

-----I am enthralled by the awakening world -- a line of white pelicans descends to the surface of the lagoon and makes great splashes as they clumsily land on the water. Do the mullets and the reminder of empty gullets attract them? They cruise sedately in a line -- and then simultaneously dip their heads into the water. Some then tilt their heads backwards, beaks to the sky, and swallow -- the mullets? Probably not -- my finny friends seem much too swift to be caught in the pouch of a pelican throat.

-----I am utterly unaware of self as I watch this nature spectacle -- an intimate yet innocent part of the scene.

-----"THUMP!" -- I am returned to reality. A mullet has smashed, head-on, into the side of the boat. I don't have to be a biologist to know that wasn't fun!


-----We enjoy circumnavigations. There is something primal about encircling - as though we could ensnare an island, a coast, or a globe and make it ours. We take a turn to starboard, out of the ICW and down the St. Mary's River toward the ocean.

-----We could see activity ahead in the waterway. Several large yellow vessels with red hulls were going full speed - in reverse. Then we noticed, between them, the long dark hull of a submarine. We pulled to the side of the channel. We watched, fascinated, as several men left the sub for the yellow towboats. Then, the tows maneuvered the sub through a u-turn and it headed back to sea. Cautiously, we followed it.


-----Soon, we are beyond the breakwaters and lifting to the ocean's swells. We turned off from the submarine, and cruised southerly down the coast. What a splendid day. The surface was calm and the great rollers were broad and gentle. We had to "drive" with care - sea turtles were asleep on the surface. We spotted a few pelagic birds, those wandering spirits who rarely touch land - petrels and shearwaters.

-----The wind picked up in the afternoon just enough to make our entrance into St. Mary's River exciting. We were soon cruising past huge naval ships and small fishing boats. A short distance up the river, we met the ICW again. We turned to the north and found a delightful anchorage with sand, birds, and a sunset! The next day, we were back to Fernandina. We are pint-sized Magellans home from a pint-sized circumnavigation. Amelia Island is ours!


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