They say there are two kinds of sailors on the ICW – those who have run aground, and those who are lying and say they haven’t. Just north of St Augustine, we joined the first club.
It was a long, fairly boring day of putt-putting along. Capt Mike was at the helm, and I had gone below to get a head start on dinner prep. Suddenly, I heard the sound of the engine change dramatically and I popped my head up into the cockpit like a groundhog to find out what was going on. Capt. Mike just had enough time to say “I slowed way down ’cause I’ve got to figure out where the deep water is” when we stopped cold. Dinner forgotten, I grabbed an extra copy of the charts for reference, and I scanned around us for red and green channel markers. In the meantime, Capt. Mike had thrown the throttle into reverse and gave it a ton of revs, hoping to simply back off whatever shoal we had hit. No luck. The 2-knot current was pushing the stern into even shallower water. We tried swinging the boom way out to one side to tilt the boat over and hopefully to slide off. Nope. Mike dropped the dinghy into the water and tried to push the bow into deeper water like a little tug boat, while I steered from the helm. Nope. I started talking about BoatUS towing service and the captain shushed me. “We’ll stay here until high tide if we have to, but we don’t need to call for a tow”
A giant motor yacht passed us just as we got stuck and hailed us on the radio. “Have you run aground? Need anything? Ok, good luck” Gee, thanks. A small sport fishing boat came by with two huge outboard motors and offered to help tow us off. So once again, I took the helm, Capt. Mike moved the dinghy around to port midships and started pulling in reverse using our 20hp outboard. The fishing boat stayed on the forward starboard side and pulled with their two 75hp motors. Between the towing, our own engine revs, and a few short bursts of the bow thruster, we were off and floating! Unfortunately, I almost swamped Capt. Mike in the dinghy as we went from zero to 5.5 knots in an instant and he was still holding onto the boat going backwards. Oops! All’s well that ends well, and we thanked the fishermen warmly and continued on our way. For the rest of the trip north, we both stayed on high alert any time the charts said “shoal warning”… even when the channel markers were in plain sight.
We anchored off Fernadina Beach on Amelia Island that night to lick our wounds. Feeling like ourselves again the next day we went ashore to experience all that the annual Shrimp Festival had to offer. Garlic shrimp, shrimp quesadilla, shrimp and corn boil, a parade of decorated shrimp boats. Even people wearing big orange shrimp hats. We ate and danced and walked and had an excellent time, topping it all off with some of the best upscale Mexican food we’d had in ages, enjoying the night out with our friends Hayden and Radeen on Island Spirit.
From Amelia Island, it was just a short hop north to Cumberland National Seashore, which I’d always wanted to visit. From the anchorage, it’s an easy dinghy ride to the park where most guests arrive on a ferry from St Mary’s, Georgia. Yay – we made it to Georgia! I really enjoyed getting the chance to stretch my legs on the shady park trails where I saw the cutest armadillo, wild horses, and even a glimpse of a bobcat! This park has a little bit of everything: natural beauty, the ruins of the Carnegie’s summer home, a long white sand beach. And we’d almost have to be backpacking and camping to be able to cover the many miles of trails. It was the perfect final stop on our floating ICW vacation!