Reflections: Tarpon Springs, FL, to Savannah, GA

As we make ready to return to Australia, it is time to reflect on our last six weeks of sailing.

  • Florida is flat. Oh my goodness, it is flat. If global warming continues there will be a lot of underwater properties.
  • The barrier islands are so extensive, completely bordering the east and west coasts of Florida. And most are populated.
  • I saw fewer alligators than I thought I would. Everyone keeps assuring us they are out there.
  • Manatees are a real buzz. The ICW has many (and I mean many) manatee zones which mean SLOW speeds. All for a good cause, so no complaints.
  • Dolphins are abundant. Hopefully, it is a good sign of the health of the waterways.
  • As we travelled northward toward Georgia we sailed through extensive marshlands and swamps. The birdlife was not as varied as I thought it would be. Lots of mosquitoes and gnats. Can’t imagine what it would be like to live through a hot humid summer.
  • We sailed through areas which ignited the imagination: Alligator Creek, Rattlesnake Island, Mud River, Hell Gate, Skidaway River, Bear River.
  • We saw sights that astounded us: Kennedy Space Centre and Cape Canaveral; Sarasota and the Ringling; Fort Myers and Edison home; Jekyll Island.
  • We met up with new and old friends: Rick and Mary in Fort Myers who we met in October 2018, and Vic and Camille who we met over Thanksgiving in 1981. 
  • We have noticed the abscence of other Loopers and missed the social interaction.

In brief, some statistics of our trip:

  • Distance travelled from Tarpon Springs, FL, to Savannah, GA – 701.7 miles
  • Engine hours – 108.7
  • Number of marinas and docks we stayed at – 19
  • Fuel used – 228.4 gallons
  • Average fuel consumption – 3.28 miles per gallon.

On a personal note:

  • Anti-wrinkle cream does not work on a boat. My wrinkles are getting wrinklier
  • Do not put newly washed Skechers (comfy shoes) in the dryer. They come out a size smaller😫

Until next time with the sailing adventures of Bushranger

Such is Life!

Savannah – the end for now

98FBADD3-0CEE-432E-886D-69E8E1EB582DOnce again we sailed through fog. Mindful of safety, we had the horn sounding every 2 minutes with radar and nav lights on. As we sailed closer to Hell Gate – a notoriously shallow and narrow channel known for groundings, the fog mysteriously lifted. As did my spirits! We sailed through Hell Gate at high water with no problems at all. Around a couple of bends and we were on the outskirts of Savannah, at a marina called Isle of Hope. This is where Bushranger will sit and bide her time until we return.

Yesterday and today we did the housekeeping: cleaned the bilges, scrubbed her decks, vacuumed the floors, did the laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, etc. The yellow pollen is already starting to fall, giving a yellow coating to everything.

We did, however, make time to go into Savannah and take the Trolley Tour which gives an overview of the city’s history. The architecture is amazing. The styles are exquisite. The atmosphere is old southern charm. Looking forward to when we come back, and perhaps dallying in the historic squares…

But for now it is good to be heading home.

Such is Life!

A most unremarkable day

A day hinting to be fraught with challenges ended up being a most unremarkable day. With much planning, we set sail early to sail through the most shallow part of the ICW. Tides and currents were checked and rechecked. We were ready to sail except we were fog bound. I was hesitant but Mark was confident we could sail blind.

Early morning photos as we left our ‘rustic and rundown’ marina, before and after the fog played with us.

2A8D2C40-6E79-479D-94C4-DB0424BA616FFor most of the eight hours of sailing we were in and out of thick fog, blown in from the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t see much of this part of Georgia. Very little traffic was on the waterway. We had our navigation lights and radar on and the fog horn blasting every 2 minutes.

We entered the notoriously shallow Mud River and sailed through easily. Not sure what I was worried about! We are nestled in a small marina in Kilkenny Creek, preparing for tomorrow’s journey through Hell Gate, the next challenge. Bring it on!

Such is Life!

Bushranger’s scorecard

Hi. Bushranger here. As we near the end of another voyage I did a quick review of all my departments to see how we have performed this time round. Of course, if the review was not excellent I would not be blogging about it!

Let’s start at the bow (front for lubbers).

Anchor reports excellent voyage. He can be a bit lazy so his report may be because he got little use. When he did get used it was in lovely surroundings and that new friend – tender – got a chance to show off.

Lower Helm: Lower helm knows its place. If it is too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy, everyone loves the lower helm. Otherwise they enjoy the high rise view of the flybridge helm. Lower helm felt this was a good voyage with plenty of early morning work and then the rest of the day off.

Galley: Rated excellent. Galley likes to work and got plenty of opportunity to cook meals, bake bread and cookies and generally do its job well. It’s efforts at bread baking were rated better than excellent.

Fridge: No report. I got the cold shoulder. It has always been a bit frosty.

Upper Deck: Only got a satisfactory from this department, apparently not enough wash downs. I put this to having spent too long in the rivers with spiders, requiring regular spider poop wash downs. Wet dewy mornings meant it was hard to keep a pristine deck.

Holding Tank: Do we have to go there? I guess so. Reported excellent but off a low base. Having held a full tank November to January, anything better scores well.

Heads (toilet for lubbers) and showers: Once again, do we have to go there? You bet your arse we do! The holding tank would feel unloved if we didn’t. Rated excellent but with some dissent from holding tank.

Keel: Keel rates any day when it is not rubbed in the mud as excellent. Propeller who is a happy fellow just spinning along at the back, shares that view.

Fenders: Only a low score. They got put under some pressure at some berths but did their job well. They just don’t fully understand that it is necessary to be compressed like – well girls reading this will understand.

Engine room: Rated very good after a bit of a hiccup with the starting circuit. Some grumbling from raw water strainers about the constant change from fresh to salt to brackish water.

Prettiness: All departments (yes even the holding tank) rated excellent for prettiness.

Such is Life!

Disaster averted!

Disaster struck! We were up early ready to catch the slack high tide when fog reared its obscuring tendrils. We delayed as the sun was trying its best to break through. 

Mark gave the all clear to start the engines… Nothing! No sound! Nyet! Nada! 

After tinkering with boy gadgets, Mark quickly discerned he needed professional help. A call was made. Unfortunately, the mechanic said he would get to us in about 1.5 hours. Our safe window for sailing in shoaling waters was quickly dwindling. Actually, it was rushing past our windows at great knots!

B2DBD1DE-A56B-4E4E-9CAF-C46823FAE580The mechanic arrived. The mechanic fixed the problem. The mechanic advised us we could still navigate the shoals and low water. Well… we did, but not before sailing through 4 feet 5 inches. With a draft of 4 feet, I sat down and held on, waiting for the impact…

No impact, but I don’t want to be in a situation like that again. We are safely secured at Morningstar Marina on St Simon’s Island. We sailed through a rain squall, but are very glad we are here as Mark received an alert that flooding is expected tomorrow along Jekyll Island and the Atlantic coast. A big blow is coming which will delay our arrival in Savannah. With the big blow and spring tides, timing is everything.

Such is Life!

Jekyll Island, GA

03D0A700-9F02-4348-9E8E-7C7D1F2FFAACPlayground of the ultra rich and famous of the Gilded Age. This Georgia barrier island has bike paths and walking trails that lead through majestic oak forests festooned with Spanish moss, saltwater and freshwater marshes complete with alligators, pristine Atlantic beaches, historic ruins and opulent cottages, and a history in Indian and slave trade. 

093180EC-DFA7-4C8B-AE9F-0B8D7E4D56F5Yesterday, we drove the golf buggy around the island to get an overview. Today, we unfolded our bikes and rode the bike trails. We took the tram tour of the historic town which is centered around the Jekyll Island Club – an exclusive club created by 53 prominent empire builders with strict membership rules.

55CF7A7D-18E2-4140-9A83-55C8FA7B230ANames such as Rockefeller, Morgan, Macie, Goodyear and Pulitzer, built holiday cottages with the strict undertaking that they were not to be showy or over the top. Club members only stayed from January to March to beat the harsh northern winters. The island was closed for the rest of the year.

After the Great Depression and then World War II, only 11 members remained in the club but their families wanted to holiday in Florida – Jekyll Island was looked upon as passé. And so the island was sold to the State of Georgia which has now turned it into a state park. The cottages have been preserved. The Jekyll Island Club building is now a hotel and conference centre with strict dress code. No dress – no dinner. There is also a sea turtle rehabilitation and scientific centre on the island. 

36441DFA-5D92-4918-A168-FBF0FE112514But one has to ask the question – – – why, oh why, would the ultra rich and famous come to an island with rattlesnakes, cottonmouth snakes and alligators, not to mention the totally annoying gnats?

Thankfully, I did not see any rattlesnakes on our bike ride. We did, however, come across an alligator in a swamp located in the middle of the island. And how did he get there? Mark had strict instructions to cycle in front! 

We survived, but I have arseritis from the bike!

Such is Life!,

Bye Bye Florida… Hello Georgia

Another state is added to our voyage of exploration. We sailed from Amelia Island, FL, this morning, crossing the Cumberland Sound and in so doing, crossed the state border into Georgia.

It was quite an uneventful sail to Jekyll Island, GA. This part of the country is quite devoid of human habitation except for a couple of ugly factories.

There are a few houses dotted on Cumberland Island. It is a nature reserve with wild horses having the run of the island. These horses were let loose by the Spanish when they owned this part of the world. I looked, but didn’t see any!


We did see loads of dredging taking place. 

We sailed past the navy’s Kings Bay Submarine Base, home to six Trident-class submarines. Thought we might have to dodge them. I looked, but didn’t see any!

We reside now for the next two nights on Jekyll Island. Looking forward to exploring by courtesy golf cart and on bike. Thank goodness the terrain is as flat as a pancake!

Such is Life!

Amelia Island

7F521981-8BBF-4991-9CF8-44F175F4A15DThe further north we sail, the more the scenery changes. Creeks and rivers connected by narrow land cuts plus large scale human development are being replaced with long, open sounds and wide rivers with sparsely populated areas. Marshes and shallow channels characterise north eastern Florida. 

Yesterday, we sailed a very narrow and meandering passage to reach our destination, Jacksonville free dock. The tidal stream gods were against us again – we sailed into an ebb tide most of the way.

There is not much room for error. Vigilance and attention to the placement of channel markers, referring to mariner notes, plus checking and re-checking tidal stream information are mandatory. Here, tidal streams run at up to 6 knots with 8 foot tides. 

AB965A3F-EE51-4E2A-81CA-C1F8B8815735Today we have delayed our departure by 6 hours to enable us to sail through some very shallow passages and reach our destination of Amelia Island on a rising tide. We passed several dredging operations.

Amelia Island is an enchanting island, which comes with much history. We borrowed the marina’s courtesy car and went sightseeing. We drove down gorgeous lanes to Fort Clinch, nestled on the north side of the island. It provided safety and security in the Civil War, Spanish American War and Second World War. 


The historic town of Fernandina Beach is a very picturesque town. The old buildings have been beautifully preserved. The movie Pippi Longstocking was filmed here. We came across The Palace – Florida’s Oldest Bar. For those of you who know our local pub “The Palace”, there are some similarities! Next door is the Decantery – Nice, very nice! Our thirst was slackened: Mark with a dirty martini and me with a cappuccino!

Such is Life!

St Augustine

A picture says a thousand words…

FA116E79-E85A-4F24-9E63-065FDC74DAAEWe met up with Vic and Camille Melin after 38 years. They were gracious hosts for our first ever American Thanksgiving in 1981, and remain as ever gracious, hosting us at their beautiful home and then for lunch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

St Augustine  is a priceless jewel of history, culture and gastronomical delight.

Slave market in Plaza de la Constitucion, streets lined with oaks covered in Spanish Moss and the city gates dating back to 1700s.

Henry Flagler, railroad partner of Rockefeller, had an enormous input into St Augustine from 1885. He envisioned St Augustine as a great resort town and started construction on many buildings. Above are The Ponce de Leon Hotel, Hotel Alcazar and Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church where Mark and I attended a classical recital of Baroque  music. Flagler also brought the railroad to St Augustine and extended it all the way to Key West.

The Castillo de San Marcos is steeped in history. It was the last bastion before the Spanish ships, loaded with gold and treasures from the New World, caught the Gulf Stream back to Spain. St Augustine is rich in pirate history, with Sir Francis Drake having attacked the fort, but being unable to take it, burnt the city of St Augustine to the ground.

These are views from our boat. We watch the bridge open on the half hour. Dolphins regularly cruise by us. The night lights are very romantic. And the sunsets are sublime.

D516902E-7853-435A-802B-75F9AAD9CC9EBut lest you think all is rosy… we had a pultrifying pong problem. Glad to say, Mark got to the bottom of it.

Such is Life!


Arrival in St Augustine

We have pushed hard for two days. They were long sailing days. We were in two minds as to whether to leave Cocoa Village having had sustained heavy rainfalls during the night and more rain and winds predicted. Knowing we had the goal of a few days in St Augustine, we took the calculated risk. The river gods smiled on us. Skies cleared, winds abated and dolphins frolicked along the way. We reached New Smyrna with plenty of light. We berthed at the new marina – beautiful facility, but were fleeced horribly. Who ever heard of charging $20 for one night of electricity in addition to the marina fee? It left a bad taste. 

We set sail early the next day. We needed to detour around a small island, due to dredging of part of the ICW channel. We set sail in smooth, almost oily waters. Unfortunately the water current gods were against us the whole journey – 10 hours. 2DC8AB3E-8518-487B-84A8-B09F9D922AA8The scenery made up for it. We meandered around hundreds of tiny islets, avoided shoals, traversed man made canals and waterways, as well as sailed in manatee waters which required slow speeds and no wake.

We sailed under a bridge which was being demolished.

Saw houses built on sticks.


Watched a town materialize out of fog.

I mentioned the water current gods. I think they were playing with us. For 8.5 hours the tide slowed us down. For one hour, on the  approach to St Augustine, the current propelled us at warp speed. 

Let me paint you a picture of our exhilarating berthing. The town marina is situated next to Bridge of Lions, a bridge that must be raised for Bushranger to sail under. Now imagine my wonderment as we are fast approaching, needing to peel off to port then execute a 180 degree turn to starboard, while being swept by a 1.5 knot current and buffered by strong winds. We slewed sidewards into the outer T-head bay. All good, so far. BUT… two extremely large and luxurious cruisers are berthed to our port with a large catamaran on starboard. One would think the current and wind would be negligible in the basin and one could slow down. Not so! To Mark’s credit, he handled the situation brilliantly. With only one engine and no thrusters, he executed a 3 point turn with engine gunning and mere feet to spare. We nudged our berth and now reside happily bobbing up and down securely tethered. If I had had longer to think about our maneuver, my life may have flashed before my eyes. Instead, we live to sail another day… and Mark is a very clever captain!


Such is Life!