Using the strong current to aid us, I let Beyzano’s stern lines off whilst Rob waited in the bow until I called out for those lines to be let go and we were able to easily motor astern and off the Met Park docks. The current had pushed us at right angles to the dock by then.
We motored along St John’s River at the same rpm throughout but the changes in current gave us an initial speed of 4.9 knots, increasing to over 8 knots by the time we reached the big, well marked inlet. It was our first trip outside the ICW since April 5 but it was a very calm day, so we were once again under engine power but it meant a comfortable, fast passage. There were some shrimping trawlers out, dragging their nets along the seabed but not much else to see. We got into Cumberland Sound before 1400 and turned south towards the Fernandina Marina which is being rebuilt since it was badly damaged in Hurricane Matthew last year. Their fuel dock is closed but the inner docks are fine and we tied our dinghy there for $3 the following day.
From there we went west into Bells River as it was empty and suffers less current. We had good holding in 3 metres at low water. The Active Captain reviews make much of the noise and smell from the mills at Fernandina Beach but we didn’t really notice either during the few nights we anchored just west of the town. Amelia Island and the town was a lovely surprise as it doesn’t really look very inviting from seaward. Just a street back are several streets of pretty buildings housing shops, cafes and restaurants. The roads are lined with trees and everything is immaculate. I especially enjoy seeing the old houses and a free leaflet enables you to do a historical walk on your own, with information about each building, who built it, what they did and when it was built. A modern tourist centre has all the local information and there is a bus to take you around town, to the Walmart supermarket and to the beach and costs just a dollar.
We indulged in some huge ice creams for the rather princely sum of 4.50 dollars each despite having asked for a single cone. It was just that the single cone was enormous and we couldn’t face lunch after that. We saw a wedding taking place on the pavement, a rather sad affair I thought, with the bride all dressed up complete with veil and flowers but the registrar in jeans, the bride’s father on his mobile phone and both bridesmaid’s taking photographs on theirs. There was an official photographer (who was in shorts) too, so no real need for the main guests to be taking any. I just didn’t think it looked like anyone’s dream wedding, with pedestrians walking by but may be mistaken.
The weather was forecast to get a bit windier and more southerly so we stayed put on the boat for a couple of days, talking on Skype with Kym whose own wedding is less than 7 weeks away now. I can’t wait to get back and be a more physical part of it but she and John have done a great job in keeping us in the loop and sharing all they can via the internet. Not the same though and I have to make sure Rob can’t see any of the photos of the dress, hairdo etc. as it is all going to be a wonderful surprise on the day. Having a generous bride who doesn’t think the day is only about her is refreshing and she is certainly aware it is also about families blending together. Rob has got that speech to write yet as well.
Once the weather calmed down we headed into town again to see more of the historical buildings, ride the bus around to the beach and park and have a quick look in the museum. We bought plump fresh shrimp at the Atlantic Seafood shop just south of the marina and had a BBQ one evening. We need to start using up all our food in preparation for leaving the boat for 6 weeks and suddenly we seem to have loads, the opposite of our Cuba experience.
Via Facebook we heard that our friends, Jeff and Di on ‘Horizons’ who we have travelled with intermittently over the past few years, had had to set off their EPIRB (emergency beacon) which alerted Falmouth, Solent and Miami Coastguards. They had been crossing from Cuba to Florida and were dismasted in 25 knots of wind and 4 metre seas and had then realised they would run out of fuel before they got to their destination, so their only option was to be picked up by the US Coastguard and towed 120 miles to Key West, which took 26 hours. We are just thankful that they are safe and Horizons is still afloat but what an ordeal and it always happens at night, of course. I have sailed for as long as I can remember but never met anyone who had to set off their EPIRB before, so it is quite an adventure they had.
We also heard of increasing violence in waters we have recently sailed and again count ourselves very lucky that we weren’t victims. In June last year we anchored alone in Bahia Graciosa near Livingstone, Guatemala, seeking shelter after a westerly squall. Although some fishermen saw us go in, we had a calm night and no issues. Another boat did the same this month and were robbed, the skipper falling in the water during the struggle and being held down. The criminal had a gun in his belt, which he reached for but fortunately did not take out and he got away with the outboard but the sailors weren’t harmed further. Several boats have been robbed just off the coast of Honduras and also in the Bay Islands themselves. Unhappy times.