June 19, 2018
I swear to God…
That’s all it took for me to run aground…
Our arrival at Cumberland Island, GA after a three day and nearly four hundred mile open ocean passage from the Bahamas had sparked a multiple day recovery and re-acclimation period.
We spent most of the 16th sleeping, and most of the 17th and 18th cleaning and relaxing.
We were still yet to solidify exactly what our plan was, now that we were back in the States; but we knew anything we were potentially going to get done here required us to head up the North River and get close to Rocky’s boatyard.
After an unsuccessful attempt to get fuel in Fernandina – stressful only up to the point that we learned the fuel dock we were circling in front of would not re-open until 2019 following the completion of long overdue hurricane repairs, we chose to head up the North River, trying to find a good place to drop the hook.
Snaking back and forth, the North River winds its way three and a half mile through of marsh grass and lowlands before reaching the boatyard. In some places, it stretches eight hundred or more feet from shore to shore; in others it is not much more than a hundred feet across. It has severe shoaling around some of its’ turns and we became intimately familiar with its bottom twice a day while tied up to Rocky’s boatyard dock in February.
As we left the wide, deep channel of the St. Marys River and steered into the narrow mouth of the North River, we had to stay far to the left. We remembered the point extending out on the opposite side created a shallow area that extended halfway across the entrance.
Sections of the river are twenty five to forty feet deep, even in some of the narrow spots. But other sections can be eight hundred feet wide with less than one hundred feet of that being deeper than three feet.
Misleading… even tricksy.
It was now low tide.
I remember asking Kris, “Should we get out your iPhone?” It contained a photo we had been given in February that clearly indicated all the shoaling areas along the banks before the boatyard…
I remember her looking at the Navionics program running on our iPad, our exact position shown as a little red boat icon superimposed over the displayed chart.
I remember her saying, “Nah… the shoaling is along the inside banks of the turns.”
I remember Kris asking me if I wanted to take the helm.
I remember responding in a possibly not exceptionally enthusiastic affirmative.
I remember climbing behind the wheel, looking up, and immediately seeing the display on our depth gauge, surprisingly, in the single digits.
I remember saying, “Seems kinda shallow, maybe we should raise the centerboard?”
Plummeting depth gauge… now under six feet…
I remember Kris didn’t even have time to stand up when…
…the unmistakable sound of our aluminum hull sliding on the soft bottom of the North River.
And then… no more sliding.
We’re stuck. No backing… no turning… just stuck.
I immediately cried out “FOUL!”… followed by, “I was behind the wheel less than thirty seconds!” … followed by, “I hate this fucking river!”
The next five minutes was spent sitting in the cockpit, trying in vain to prop up my crushed self-esteem, until the divine forgiveness of a timely rising tide picked us up off the mud, simultaneously freeing both Exit and what little was left of my dignity.
As we retreated back, shadowing the track we had just laid down on our Navionics chart, Kris could be heard laughing continuously in the background of two short videos I made.
During one I lamented how much I hate this fucking river; the other was a message for two Scuba Junkie friends/staff still working in Komodo who were considering buying a sailboat and cruising Australia whereby I expressed a belief that they would be much wiser to invest their money in a van.
Fortunately, this blog site does not currently support videos.
The North River had been victorious on this day.
Admitting temporary defeat, we slinked back into the St. Marys River deciding to anchor next to the town of St. Marys for the night. Tonight we would drown our embarrassment in drinks and hopefully fried cheese Saganaki at the Greek restaurant.