First Time Experiences
We can all remember the first time we rode a bike without training wheels or the first time we drove a car all on our own and how exciting it was to have this first time thrill. Today these activities all seem so routine for me, more like a means to an end. First time experiences are wonderful and if we could recapture those moments, for repeat performances, then what was once a unique experience would not become so routine. Obviously this is not possible! This is why Lisa and I try anchorages, marinas and boating destinations that are new to us as much as we can. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to return to places we’ve had good experiences with such as Key West and Destin, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina and Morehead City, North Carolina. However, if all we ever did was return to the same places, we think boating would become a routine event and we would not have many new revelations or memories.
|Notice all the boats facing upstream on the Savannah dock except for Shore Thing. Ed came in after the current had changed and did the right thing by docking against the changed tide.|
We think Savannah, Georgia, is one of those places we could revisit without things becoming routine and that’s because there is so much to do and see. Lisa and I have had the good fortune of visiting Savannah, by boat, twice before our return this year but we’ve stayed south of town both times. To make things more interesting, on our way south this year, we decided to navigate the eight miles off the AICW up the Savannah River to the downtown city dock. Because the 300-foot face dock is first-come first-served with no pre-reservation available we improved our odds of getting a spot by using the web. We found a Savannah River web cam (www.wtoc.com) that updated a shot of the dock every minute. This webcam enabled us to see whether or not there was dock space available before we made a commitment to the eight-mile trek. We saw on the web cam there was plenty of room for Kismet and our buddy boat Bella Luna so our only concern was if there were any boats just ahead of us. The more miles we put behind us the more anxious we became, especially when a sailboat showed up and secured some of the face dock. We witnessed this on the live web cam. As we finally approached downtown Savannah, things did not look as good as we thought because of a 120-foot sailboat (not shown in the web cam) taking up a third of the footage with its long bowsprit barely visible on the webcam shot. The closer we got it became evident there would be room for at least one boat; two 40-foot boats would have been real tight with a lot of overlap, especially while fighting the strong current during docking. Kismet went in first, was secured and we met with the captains of Peacekeeper (the 120 footer), and two other sailboats. As Bella Luna jockeyed for a position, evaluating the possibilities the captains on shore decided to move everyone up and back to create more space. The two sailboats and Kismet moved up, creating 15 more feet while the huge Peacekeeper moved back 20 feet. With the newly created footage on the dock Louis skillfully docked Bella Luna behind us, with very little room to spare..
The camaraderie of boaters was definitely in full force this day as we all worked together for the good of another fellow boater. Granted we were only creating dock space but this first time experience would never have happened for us if we had not ventured past what was familiar to us. In the course of the next several days we experienced the same routine again as fellow boaters from Foreign Exchange, Shore Thing and Reel Estate made their way to the Savannah Downtown Dock after Peacekeeper, the large schooner left.
|There were open tours of Peacemaker that Lisa and I took advantage of, their pilothouse is almost as big as our entire boat.|
We spent three, fun filled, days taking in beautiful Savannah from this new vantage point, only a few steps from town. We walked the beautiful town squares, went to an art show in a square, tried two restaurants which were new to us (Six Pence Pub and Huey’s) and had happy hours with friends on the dock with the background of the city at our doorstep. The Savannah stop, due to the decision to try the downtown dock, had a lot of first time experiences for a third visit, we had great fun.
|Here we are having a happy happy hour on the Savannah city dock, but it appears we’ve blocked the entire dock from foot traffic.|
The nice part about not being on a rigid schedule, as we travel south, is the ability to explore areas off of the most direct route. In our case we had heard from friends about a unique marina and restaurant 49 miles south of Savannah and seven miles up the Medway River called Sunbury Crab Company Restaurant and Marina. Sunbury is a family operation owned by Elaine and Barney and run with the expert help of their two sons. Sunbury Crab Company has a classic laid back Key West flavor and after our fun packed one-night stay we all gave this establishment a thumbs up.
Our four-boat caravan to Sunbury included our friends Bob and Charlotte on Foreign Exchange, Ed and Linda on Shore Thing, Louis and Diane Wade on Bella Luna and of course Kismet. Each of us were experiencing this magical place for the very first time, together. After an eight-hour day on the water we made our way up to the Key West style, open-air restaurant and bar, located right on the water, for some cold beer. Elaine said the restaurant is usually closed on Mondays but she agreed to open up for our group of eight and we were delighted. Elaine took our first order of drinks and told us to help ourselves to any additional ones we wanted. All she asked was that we kept track of what we drank for payment when she returned. Now, this is a really laid back and a very unique first time experience.
|Here’s the happy group coming back to the boats after spending some quality time at Sunbury’s outdoor bar.|
When it was time for dinner Barney along with his two sons prepared our food. The portions of grouper, crab, trout and ribeye steaks were large, the food was excellent, the service exceptional and all this plus reasonable prices. We all had to go out of our way to get to and enjoy our Sunbury experience but I’d have to say it was one of the most rewarding first time marina stops we’ve had in awhile. It was rewarding because we were able to experience a local gem of culture, local cuisine and meet a hard working family who went way out of their way to take care of us and make us feel at home.
|Sunbury’s, it just doesn’t get much better!|
The next morning, after saying our goodbyes to Foreign Exchange and Shore Thing, Kismet along with Bella Luna, continued on to Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest barrier island and was once occupied by the Thomas and Lucy Carnegie family during the late 1800’s and early 20th century and since 1971 it has been a National Park. Cumberland Island sits in the southeast corner of Georgia and boarders Florida.
Lisa and I have anchored off Cumberland Island two previous times, and have found something new to explore each time. On our last visit here we saw wild horses, armadillos and the ruins of the old Carnegie Estate, called Dungeness, at the other end of the island, all wonderful first time experiences.
This time we decided to explore a different anchorage that offered a new area of the island to explore by foot. In the Skipper Bob Guide they talk about an anchorage up the Brickhill River, where you can anchor in front of the Plum Orchard Estate. This was our anchorage for the night. Plum Orchard was built by Lucy Carnegie and given to her son and his bride as a wedding gift in 1898. That’s what I’d call a really nice wedding gift! Always on the prowl for these new experiences we just couldn’t pass this stop up.
Because we had dropped our hook so late in the day we decided to go ashore the next morning. It was a good thing because when we approached the Plum Orchard dock it was loaded with about 60 hunters along with their gear waiting to be picked up by the St. Mary's ferryboat. We found out that there had been a managed hunt for wild boar and deer that had ended that morning, so our timing was almost perfect since, during a managed hunt, they close the island for safety reasons.
|Plum Orchard was a grand old lady built by the Carnegie family and eventually donated, along with ninety percent of the island, to make a National Seashore Park back in 1971.|
After negotiating past the hunters and their gear on the dock, we found out that they had bagged a total of 13 animals (6 boar and 7 deer). As we continued up towards the mansion we found that Plum Orchard has the appearance and feel of a grand palace and to think it was just a winter retreat for the Carnegie family. The mansion was closed during our visit but we did walk around the grounds, along its expansive front porch, peered into the windows and tried to visualize how the really wealthy lived 100 years ago. Keep in mind that the only way onto the island is the same as it has always been, by boat
St Marys, Georgia was our last stop before heading into Jacksonville, Florida to recharge our batteries and ourselves before continuing on to the St Johns River for a month long cruise. St. Marys, like Sunbury, is off the beaten track, but only by five miles. We anchored in the middle of the St Marys River, just east of the town dock. I mention this because the Georgia/Florida border runs through the center of the river, like so many other state’s dividing lines. After securing a good anchorage in the well-protected harbor, along with about thirty other boats, we dinghied into town for a tour of the third oldest city in Georgia, another first for us.
|St. Marys is visible in the background of this ever so pleasant anchorage.|
The real beauty of cruising is the never-ending opportunity to explore towns, rivers, islands, creeks and marinas we’ve never been to before. When we see or have an experience such as those we’ve highlighted from Sunbury, the downtown Savannah face dock or Plum Orchard Mansion they are locked away in our memories as first time experiences never to be repeated quite the same again. If we are lucky enough, our return stop may be better then the first but they can never ever be the same and that’s why a first visit is so special for us and why we tend to seek them out. Lisa and I find that the novelty of first time experiences can aid in keeping our lives interesting and keep our cruising lifestyle from becoming stale or routine.