October 22, 2021
The morning of October 22, with the help of some good friends from our dock, we cast off the dock lines to head south. The moment of truth…….will the transmission go into forward. Ken backed out of our slip. As we were drifting toward another row of boats and the shore, he shifted Slow Dancer into forward. Are you kidding? Here we sat, no forward for one full minute, drifting, drifting……Hooray! Just long enough to give us heart attacks, and here we go, forward.
On our way out of the harbor, we passed a piece of the huge Golden Ray ship that wrecked near the inlet two years ago. This was a new car transporting ship. Apparently it was loaded incorrectly and the load shifted. The entire ship along with over 5,000 new vehicles went down. Fortunately no lives were lost. We saw some of the salvage process when we came in. Since then we have been seeing pieces hauled in to the harbor.
Next hurdle…..there is a dredge somewhere in the entrance to the channel. A dredge is a large piece of machinery on a barge that sucks up the muck in the channel and shoots it somewhere else. This activity keeps the channel from silting in. Having a work boat ahead necessitated calling them on the VHF radio and figuring out where to go. Ken called while Dale drove. “Go between the dredge and the dock”. Seems simple enough. Uh, oh……which one is the dredge? As we got closer and closer, still not knowing which side to go on, we noticed a couple of fishing boats coming toward us. There we go, let’s just watch what they do. After waiting for them to move aside, we pushed on forward. That wasn’t so bad. Hey, wait a minute…..what’s that?! Apparently the thing that we were assuming was the dredge wasn’t. What the heck was that?! THERE is the dredge! And the space between him and the dock wasn’t much. Slowly we squeezed through and were at last into the bay heading toward Jekyll Island.
As we were celebrating our success, a Coast Guard boat whipped up the water passing us. Then a helicopter came down near us and over the boat. Were they trying to stop us? No, maybe an emergency? Down came the basket from the chopper to the boat. Were they loading someone into the basket? No, it was empty. Training? Probably. But it got our heart rates up there!
Our first challenge (first?) was to transit the skinny water and low bridge near Jekyll Island. The way that we figured, we needed to go through the shallow water at high tide. This was a full moon, so there was a 5′ tide. Then, when we got to the bridge, we might have to anchor and wait until the water was going toward low tide to motor under. The fixed bridges on the ICW are supposed to be 65′ at high tide, but many cruisers have reported several of them being lower than this. AND it was a particularly high tide. Our vertical clearance is 62′. Plus we have wind instruments and our VHF antenna making us about 63 1/2′ tall. This leaves a small foot and a half for error. Not something that we want to mess with.
The entry to Jekyll was super shallow. Our draft is 6 1/2′. There were some reports of 4 1/2′ in the channel. We were counting on the 5′ tide to help us over this. Slowly, slowly….yikes….9′? With the 5′ tide, this leaves only 4′ of depth??!! Oh man! But we were over them and into a bit deeper water. Now the bridge. We eked our way up closer to the tide board at the base of it. Ken was manning the bow of Slow Dancer with binoculars. He was reading 64′. Are you sure? Yep 64′, we can make it. Good thing, because the small anchorage that we had seen on the charts wasn’t much of one. Under we went. Several other boaters and many people on the bridge, watched as we slowly went under. We made it! Now to pick out an anchorage and enjoy the views of Jekyll Island.