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Fernandina Harbor

GEORGIA

Launch: 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.

INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY

-----We launched at the Fernandina town ramp and headed north to Georgia cruising past the patrol boats outside the submarine base at King's Bay. They take their job seriously, we found out. The "red right return" of the buoy markings suddenly changes at the base into the standard ICW green to seaward. The huge buildings of the base transfixed me and I was not watching the charts carefully - after all, the channel was well marked. "The patrol boat is coming right at us, hon," El casually remarked.

-----"Must like the look of the C-Dory," I responded, only half in jest. We've had boats come from afar to admire Halcyon. An eighteen-wheeler followed us for miles on a freeway and into the rest area just to look her over closely. Having a C-Dory, all owners know, attracts attention.

-----"You're about to run aground, green pleasure boat," the VHF blared. The patrol boat was plowing fast right at us, red light flashing. Needless to say, I pulled the throttles to stop.

-----"Marks change color, skipper - check your chart," said the Voice To Be Obeyed over the radio as the patrol boat pulled in front of us blocking passage.

-----We checked and quickly saw the problem. "Thanks for the save, sir," El radioed.

-----The patrol boat turned and with a smart salute the uniformed sailor said, "Have a good trip, skipper."

-----The US Navy protects more than the high seas - they keep 22' boats off the hard.

-----The seven to eight-foot tides of this coast are impressive. The tidal currents are strong and we're glad to have the twin 40-hp Hondas on the stern. Anchoring has a special responsibility, since the tidal current can trip the anchor with the tide turn. But, there is a marvelous compensation - the elevator ride!

-----If you anchor with the high, you can see over the Spartina grass. The vista is broad, including trees on the coast, towboats plying the ICW, and birds flying overhead on fish patrols. Then the tide goes out. Slowly, inexorably, you sink down into a mud-walled canyon. The grasses now rise high above you and your vision is constrained to just a few feet on each side of the channel and a long tubular view up and down the slough. Now you notice the little things - the up-close stuff you didn't or couldn't see at the high tide. A myriad of snails are leaving their wiggly trails in the mud. Oysters or mussels crowd for holding room on every stray stick or rock. Shorebirds wander the mud, thrusting beaks deep into the muck searching for worms. And the odor - ah, the delightful aromas of low tide.


-----That evening we hooked in Delaroche Creek, a backwater mud-banked slough off the ICW, surrounded by the tall Spartina grass so characteristic of the Atlantic coast. We were sitting in comfy chairs in the cockpit, sipping sundowners and munching herring in wine sauce, watching the sun slowly set. After dark, eyes reflect your flashlight beam - raccoons prowling the shore.

 


-----El suddenly said, "Ponies! Cumberland Island has ponies! Tomorrow, let's go find them." El had remembered reading in a guidebook about the wild ponies of the island. They had been roaming the island ever since a cargo boat carrying their ancestors went aground on the offshore shoals.

-----"We have a quest," I answered. "Tomorrow the ponies." And, the next day, we found them.

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