June 6 – 8, 2020 Georgia-Days 4, 5, & 6

We left Sunbury and headed towards Savannah.  When we had left Fort Myers, it was because we were concerned if marinas would be open in light of the Covid Crisis.  Now we were finding that the marinas were open, but many were full because so many people had delayed coming up from Florida for the “northern migration.”  Boaters are often heading back north for the summer during April, but because of the virus this year they were waiting until late May and now June to make their move.  Marinas were full and for the first time on this trip, we were having to make reservations, and often had to call several marinas before finding a spot.  This happened on our way to Savannah, but we finally found a place at Isle of Hope Marina for the weekend.

This was going to be a special weekend.  Our friends on Honey Queen, our Gulf Crossing companions, were going to “cross their wake” in Savannah.  This means that they would be crossing the point at which they started.  It wouldn’t be long before we would be doing the same.

We traveled on Saturday.  It was easy to tell that we were in Georgia; there was still lots of flat marshland and it was HOT and MUGGY.  We’ve been fighting high winds during this whole trip, but a few breezes thru Georgia would feel pretty good.  

As if the heat and humidity weren’t bad enough, the marshlands are home to some BIG flies and we had lots of them hitching a ride on the boat.  We have an electric bug zapper and we were making good use of it.  We threw the dead flies overboard.  I think the fish were well fed that day.

This day’s challenge had an interesting name – “Hell Gate.”  That should give you some idea of how many boaters have had problems going thru it.  When we attended seminars regarding the Great Loop Route, this was always a hot topic of conversation.  Notoriously shallow, we had been warned to never go thru this area except at HIGH tide.  Well, things do change.  The State of Georgia must have taken pity on boaters and dredged the area sometime over the past year.  It is now much more manageable and less frightening.  We survived the crossing of Hell Gate and cruised into Isle of Hope.

We were pleased to find some other Loopers there.  Short Vacation and Nectar were new Loopers to meet, and Inquest was a boat we had met several times.  Pam on Short Vacation told me about a nearby WalMart and Ed and I jumped on the bikes on a quest to find another electronic bug zapper to give to Honey Queen when they arrived.  They didn’t have one and had been complaining about those pesky Georgia flies!

Isle of Hope is a charming island community where people ride bikes, know their neighbors, and walk baby strollers down the streets.  There is a shopping/restaurant area there known as Sand Fly.  Seems someone could have come up with a more appealing name.  Anyway, we passed that, rode over a bridge and found WalMart AND the bug zapper.  Back on the docks, we saw Pam and John from Short Vacation and invited them over for docktails.  They had been on the Loop for four years, stopping for extended periods of time at various locations.  We discovered that we knew many of the same Loopers – of course, they had been on the Loop long enough to meet almost everyone!

Sunday morning brought rain, but it was due to clear before Honey Queen was to arrive.  Close to noon, we tried summoning a ride to go to Delegal Marina for the crossing.  Another domino effect of Covid is that Lyft and Uber have far fewer drivers.  We waited about a half hour for a ride.  We had a real character for a driver – the kind that makes you think you should get out of the car.  He was quite the conversationalist and there seemed to be one strange story after another.  We were glad to arrive at the marina.

We knew that some of Amanda and Wes’ family were coming and slowly people began to arrive.  I texted Amanda to get a more definite arrival time.  She said 1:00, then a few minutes later texted that they had hit a shoal!  Probably every Looper’s nightmare; less than 30 minutes from home and the boat is stuck.  We soon got another message that they were on their way.  With few options, Wes turned the wheel, gunned it, and hoped for the best.  Guardian angels must have been with them – the boat moved off the shoal and right into deep water.  They cruised into the marina amid waves and cheers; everyone so glad to see them.  They pulled out their GOLD Looper flag to exchange for the white “rookie” flag, and then popped the cork on a champagne bottle!  Let the party begin! (The Gold flag signifies that they have completed the Loop.)

For our return trip to our marina, a couple of friends of Amanda and Wes were so gracious to offer to take us. Miss Dixie and her daughter Rachel not only drove us to our marina, but gave us a little tour of Isle of Hope. It was nice to get a little “insider” scoop on island life.

We had originally scheduled only two nights at Isle of Hope.  When we wanted to stay an extra day to spend more time with Honey Queen, they told us that they had no open spaces, but they would let us know if any of the boats called to cancel.  We got a phone call on Sunday evening that we could stay, but we’d have to move to a different spot.  We were comfortable on the outside face dock, but the only open space was going to be an INSIDE spot.  To get there, we had to back up between other boats, and we needed to let the Marina know immediately, because we could only get there at slack tide, which was right then.  Slack tide is about a half hour on either side of high or low tide when the water isn’t moving much.  It’s a sort of “rest time” between the water moving IN, and the water moving OUT.

We looked at the spot, and we looked at the narrow passage we’d have to traverse to get there.  We tried to guesstimate how much space was between the boats, if we could move forward IN and turn around once we got inside, all the options of how to maneuver the boat.  We must really think a lot of Amanda and Wes, because we decided to give it our best shot.  We unhooked electric and water, untied lines and started engines.  Ed slowly moved the boat and got it in position to back up between the boats.  There were dock hands on the decks of the boats we had to pass, and I had a boat pole in hand in case I needed to push us away from any of the boats.  Every fender we had was positioned somewhere on the sides of the boat – yeah, we were feeling a little pressure.

Ed did well moving the boat in reverse – slowly, slowly.  He was using the bow and stern thrusters to keep us in line.  When we got to the open area where we had to move sideways into the slot, he hit the thrusters again.  One worked, the other didn’t.  He surmised that the stern thruster had over heated and wouldn’t respond.  Good thing there were a couple of people on the last boat we passed, because they had to push us off and at the same time I was using the boat pole to push.  We made it – no harm, no foul!

The next morning we rode our bikes to Historic Wormsloe Plantation.  The home and fortified walls were built by Noble Jones, a contemporary of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia.  The house was built to withstand invasion by the Spanish.  A military contingent was housed on the plantation grounds.  The house was not occupied much after Jones’ death and started to deteriorate.  When his grandson, George, decided to move to the plantation from downtown Savannah, he found that it was beyond saving and built another house at another location on the property.  That home is still occupied by his descendants.

A notable feature of the property is the 1.5 mile scenic oak alleé (driveway).  It is lined with huge live oak trees which are around 125 years old.  Absolutely stunning!

Amanda and Wes picked us up and we joined them and friends Susie and Steve from All Talk II for lunch.  We got take-out BBQ  and took it back to Amanda and Wes’ home.  After lunch we all went to a marine parts store, then the ladies dropped off the gents and we made a Target run.  After 5:00 docktails, it was time to eat again.  We went to Wes’ favorite Mexican restaurant – Jalepeños – and chowed down again.  We had a cheese sauce with chips that was great!

After dinner we said our goodbyes.  This is the end of our Loop Travels with Honey Queen, but we hope to do some local trips with them – just so we can remember how to drive the boat.