51. The Georgia Lowlands

Boy, it’s been a while. Last time I wrote anything here, Betty White and the Delta Variant were all still around. Hell, I think I still had hair back then. I’ve got some catching up to do. Time to do some homework, and start eating this elephant one bite at a time.

After Beaufort, I took about four days to gunkhole my way down through the Georgia lowlands. A lot of folks don’t like this part of the ICW, and take the outside route. It would certainly be faster on the outside. The inside path so squirmy and curvy that the chart looks like a bowl of ramen noodles. There are also some fairly restrictive anchoring rules in this area. I was slightly concerned about this, since there were some long stretches between ports, and anchoring seemed like it might be necessary. At the end of the day, I was there to explore, and I didn’t have to be anywhere in particular by any date in particular, so off down the wiggly path I went.

I made it to the excellently named Thunderbolt Marina on the first day, and moored in the long shadows of some superyachts. I felt small and poor and insignificant among them, especially when it came time to get rid of my trash. I spent more time than I care to admit pathetically wandering around the yard with my sad sack, trailing a thin line of wet coffee grounds, trying to find the stupid dumpster. For whatever reason, it came out in a feeble English accent when I asked a yard worker ‘Please sir, where is the dumpster? I’m so very cold and hungry.’ It wasn’t actually hard to find at all, but I’d somehow managed to take every wrong turn that was available to me. It did mean that I got a more thorough tour of the shipyard than I would have otherwise, and I was pretty impressed by it. It’s certainly a different class of facility than the boatyards I’m used to. Someday when the gold leaf starts to wear on the toilet seat of my megayacht, I’ll be sure to keep these folks in mind.

Everything’s bigger in Thunderbolt.

Regrettably, my sojourn through the shipyard was the majority of what I saw of Savannah this time around. I was keen to get farther south, and only stopped for the night. I knew I’d have another opportunity to explore on the way back north, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

The next day was spent negotiating forty-odd miles of ICW switchbacks. The weather was gray and cool and hazy, and there was enough wind to kick up some slop on the broader reaches of open water. I anchored in the remote Wahoo River, nestled behind some tall trees in an armpit shaped cove on the south side of Wahoo Island. The place was utterly deserted. My only company was a single lonely crab pot buoy that bobbed around a few hundred feet away, and it didn’t have much to say. In fact there was almost nothing at all to be heard. It was as still and silent as a place with an atmosphere could be. I was beginning to wonder if I’d suddenly gone deaf, when I realized that the sound of dinner gently simmering on the stove was practically echoing off the trees.

Shortly after I’d gotten settled, my boss gave me a call. He asked where I was, and when I told him, he said he had no idea I was such a hermit. I told him I wasn’t, and that I was just trying my damnedest to hide from him, apparently without much success. Thankfully he didn’t fire me, or worse call me back to work, so I rigged up my permanently temporary six dollar checkout lane impulse buy anchor light, and called it a night.

The following morning brought a blanket of fog thicker than cold peanut butter. I decided to stay put until it cleared, but it never really did. We ended up staying another night on the Wahoo. The complete stillness and absolute quiet continued through the second night, but the addition of fog gave the place an eerie quality. It kinda creeped me out, if I’m honest. Thankfully no creatures crawled up the anchor chain to hide under my bed and grab my feet. Sylphide and I slept well.

The next morning, most of the fog finally burned off. There were still a few ragged patches wafting by from time to time, but I figured it would be clear enough to get moving. I fired up all of the necessary machinery, and warmed up the radar, just in case the fog decided to come back.

It did. Not right away of course, and not all at once. It would creep in, then clear up, then sock right back in again. It was like a cat trying to decide if it wanted to be inside or outside, while I stood there holding the door like a rube. Wave after wave of abject blindness came and went, my anxiety level adjusting to match. It wouldn’t have been as stressful if we’d been navigating a big wide open sound, but most of the path was narrow, shallow, and very curvy. There were plenty of times when the muddy banks were less than fifty feet away on either side, and I never saw a damn bit of it. I was flying blind, relying entirely on my instruments to keep out of the ditch. If someone had been coming the other way around a corner without AIS, I never would have known.

Eventually, after about 25 miles of white knuckle driving with my eyes closed, using nothing but the force and some curb feelers to navigate, I realized I wasn’t getting paid enough for that kind of work. I picked a spot on the Altamaha River, just north of Little St. Simon’s Island, and anchored up. Almost immediately, the sun came out, the temperature climbed to a perfect 75 degrees, and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day. For about a thousandth of a second, I considered getting back underway, but figured it was probably that stupid cat playing tricks on me again. Brunswick would still be there tomorrow, and I’d had enough adventure for one day. Besides, now that it was visible, the anchorage revealed itself to be quite pleasant. We spent a comfortable day and night swinging around at the end of our chain.

After a restful stop, Sylphide and I were ready to begin our final assault on Brunswick, Georgia. The weather was quite comfortable, and mercifully transparent. This last leg was as curvy as the previous few days had been, and it made me glad I hadn’t attempted these last twenty miles in the fog of the previous day.

The first thing I saw of the Brunswick skyline was the utterly massive VB10000. Two years prior to my arrival, the MV Golden Ray, a 71,000 ton car carrier, was making her way out of St. Simon’s sound toward open sea, when she suffered a catastrophic loss of stability. She rolled over and sank. It’s amazing that no lives were lost in the process, but the ship and cargo were declared a total loss. Now the wreck was being removed, and the VB ten billion was the machine they were using to do the job. The towering structure was carving up the ruined ship like the Grinch carved the roast beast at Cindy Lou Who’s house on Christmas.

The operation was off my route, but I took a detour to rubberneck. It was quite an impressive sight, despite the deteriorating weather conditions. There were dozens of boats of all description arrayed around the wreck, tugs, barges, crane barges, crew boats, security boats, survey boats, banana boats, gravy boats, and possibly even a U-Boat. I wasn’t sure about that last one, so I proceeded at flank speed in a zig-zag pattern just to be safe.

After I’d satisfied my curiosity, I hauled around and pointed back in toward Brunswick. As I closed in on the great big Sidney Lanier Bridge, a tug hauling a barge load of smashed up cars from the wreck was overtaking me. I wasn’t sure where she was going, so I did a big loop out of the channel to stay out of her way. She took a right and made her way up the channel toward town, and I followed a few steps behind. As the tug maneuvered toward her dock, I could see Brunswick Landing Marina just up ahead. After a quick chat with the dockmaster to get my slip assignment, and a few minutes to adjust my lines, I shoehorned Sylphide into her new parking spot on dock 13.

Brunswick was never on my bucket list of places to see, and I never intended to stay there for long, but I’d been on the move for a while, and found myself needing a break. The marina there was a good one, with nice docks, some excellent neighbors, and free beer in the clubhouse. I also had some work obligations coming, so I decided to just call Brunswick Landing home for what I expected would be a few weeks. As is my custom, my stay would end up being quite a lot longer than that, but I’ll save that for the next installment. See you again in a few years!

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