2013 MO Cruise

2013 MO Cruise

Dora and I typically participate in two week-long Catalina 22 cruises a year; the Northern Gulf Coast Cruise hosted by Fleet 77 and a cruise in October that is usually hosted by a member of Fleet 77 or another participant of the Northern Gulf Coast Cruise. Past October cruises have taken us down the Apalachicola River and all along the Florida panhandle from Apalachicola to Ft. Walton, FL. We have also taken our boat and sailed around Charleston, SC with Robert and Bonnie Donehoo.

This year we sailed on the MO cruise, planned by John and Anita Kjallberg. The MO cruise gets its name from two Catalina 22s; Vernon Senterfitt’s Mari-Lee and John and Anita Kjallberg’s Outrageous. The “M” from Mari-Lee and the “O” from Outrageous make the MO cruise. There were four Catalina 22s: John and Anita Kjallberg on Outrageous, Robert and Bonnie Donehoo on Line Dancer, Ted and Dora McGee on Rhapsody in seA, and Paul “Yel” Yelvington. This was Yel’s first cruise and he hasn’t named his boat yet.

We departed Atlanta early Friday Morning October 11 and met up with Robert and Bonnie. We arrived in St. Mary’s, GA about 1330. Meeting Street ramp was our designated launch site and when we arrived John and Anita were already there getting ready to launch. Everyone was rigged and ready to launch by 1530. This was peak high tide and the best window for launching. Meeting Street ramp was a great launch site; however, even at high tide it was a bit tricky to launch a C22 from a trailer without a drop axel and tongue extender. We knew we could get our boats out but would look for an alternative ramp at the end of the cruise. From Meeting Street ramp it was about a 45 minute trip around St. Mary’s River to Lang’s Marina where we met up with Yel.

Plans change. We all met for dinner on Friday night to discuss our cruise plans. Our original plan called for us to make a couple of stops along Cumberland Island. Cumberland Island is a National Park and Seashore. Due to the government shutdown Cumberland Island was closed and stiff fines were in place for going ashore. Fortunately, there is no shortage of great places to visit in this area and we opted instead to head to St. Simons on St. Simons Island.

Saturday morning gave us ample opportunity to wander about St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is a small town with a home town feel. There are plenty of historic homes and churches to visit. We departed St. Mary’s around 1030. The St. Mary’s River turns into the St. Mary’s inlet from the Atlantic Ocean which passes between Cumberland Island on the north and Fernandina Beach on the south. Our route took us north. St. Simons would be the furthest place north we would visit. We stayed on the inside and followed the Intercaostals. Believing we would not be able to go ashore we followed the Brickhill River along the west side of Cumberland Island. As we sailed past Cumberland Island we were all wishing we could go ashore. We could catch glimpses of some of the spots we had hoped to visit. Near Plum Orchid Mansion we spotted a flock of egrets and roseate spoonbills gathering for the evening. We also caught sight of two wild horses near the shore.

We still had a ways to go to make St. Simons and it was getting dark. We dropped anchor for the night in Umbrella Creek, just south of Jekyll Island.

Sunday morning we were away at first light. As we travelled north we passed Jekyll Island. My depth meter was showing less than a foot under the keel at one spot. The tide was going out and we knew we would have to pass this place at high tide on the way back. John and Anita reported the same depth readings I was seeing. We were the first to find a low spot in the channel. We caught the edge of a shoal. I had forgotten to pin the rudder in place and it popped out of the gudgeons. Dora dropped the anchor so I could put the rudder back in its gudgeons and pin it. We were on our way again within a couple of minutes. We arrived at Morning Star Marina in St. Simons around 1100.

As soon as we were settled in at the marina we headed up to the marina restaurant for lunch. The food at the restaurant was awesome. Dora ordered the calamari and I have to say it was the best calamari I have ever had. Usually calamari is a bit chewy for me, but this melted in your mouth. All the food we had at Morning Star was excellent.

John arranged a taxi for us and we went to tour St. Simons and the lighthouse. Our driver was a gentleman named Fred. Fred had a beautiful baritone singing voice and sang lighthouse songs to us on the way. Most of us opted to climb the steps of the lighthouse. A cast iron spiral stairway of 129 steps leads to the top of the lighthouse. Every 21 steps there is a landing which made for a rest. It took Dora and me awhile but we finally made it to the top, along with Yel, John, Robert, and Bonnie. There was a street art festival going on as well and after visiting the lighthouse we walked around the town to see the festival.

Monday morning we found a newspaper and muffins had been delivered to our boat by the staff of Morning Star Marina. We departed around 0800 and headed back (Continued from page 26) south to Jekyll Island. We wanted to stop in the historic district and visit the Jekyll Island Club. Yel found the low spot we had found earlier. It only took him a few minutes to get underway again we docked at the Jekyll Island Wharf. This is the same place that members of the Jekyll Island Club, such as J.P. Morgan, used to come ashore. Jekyll Island Wharf is in need of repairs, but we were only there for the day and it was free. The Jekyll Island Club was a private club consisting of many of the world’s wealthiest families, including names like Morgan, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt. Jekyll Island is a state historic site and we spent the day touring the island and many of the winter homes that once belonged to club members.

After spending the day in the historic district we split up. Dora and I, along with John and Anita, opted to sail back to Umbrella Creek for the night. Robert and Bonnie, along with Yel, spent the night at Jekyll Harbor Marina.

Robert, Bonnie, and Yel met up with us Tuesday morning and we sailed south to Amelia Island. This would be our furthest point south. Tuesday was a bit cooler with more wind. Temperatures were in the 60s and the wind was on our nose 15-20 knots. We motor sailed most of the day. It was a long trip and we were on the boat all day. Later in the day the wind begin to die down and it got a little warmer. We arrived at Amelia Island Yacht Basin about 1700. It was a chance to shower, eat, and rest up.

On Wednesday a couple we met at Amelia Island Yacht Basin offered our group the use of their van to go into town. In addition, the marina offered us their truck. Although we planned to sail to Fernandina Beach later that day, we wound up using the marina truck and driving to Fernandina Beach for breakfast at a place called “Jack and Diane’s”. It was a rustic restaurant in the historic district. The food was excellent. We returned to Amelia Island Yacht Basin and departed about 1130. Our destination was Fernandina Beach, only this time by boat.

It was a short sail to Fernandina Beach. Fernandina Beach sits on the north end of Amelia Island and is one of Florida’s northernmost cities. We docked at Fernandina Harbor Marina, adjacent to the historic district. The historic district is home to shops, restaurants, and residences. We spent Wednesday exploring the area. Yel went to meet up with his wife Maggie. Maggie was not on this trip but she had planned to spend time in Fernandina Beach with Yel. Robert and Bonnie took a local historic trolley tour. The rest of us opted to explore the town on foot. Robert, Bonnie, Dora, and I met up later in the day and opted to walk across the island to the east side of the island and along the Atlantic Ocean beaches. One of the things we wanted to see was Katie’s Light, a replica of the Thomas Point Lighthouse on Chesapeake Bay. Katie’s Light is a private residence. At the end of the day Dora’s pedometer showed we had walked a little over 5 miles.

There are a number of excellent choices for dinner in Fernandina Beach. Most of us ate dinner at the “Crab Trap”, a local seafood restaurant. From there we headed back to the marina to make plans for Thursday. With so much to do in Fernandina Beach, our plan was to spend two days at Fernandina Beach; sailing back to St. Mary’s late Thursday to pull out on Friday. As I said in the (Continued from page 27) beginning of this article, plans change. When we got up Thursday morning Oct 17, we heard on the news the government shutdown was over. We learned Cumberland Island was opening and we would be able to go ashore. We decided to extend our trip one more day and pull out on Saturday.

This did not change our plans in Fernandina Beach. We spent most of the day wandering through the shops in the historic district before leaving for Cumberland Island around 1630 on Thursday afternoon. We arrived at our destination just before sunset. We anchored for the night near Plum Orchard Mansion. Dora can tell you that I am sometimes a little too anxious. With the sunset rapidly approaching I was ready to go ashore before we finished anchoring and getting the boat ready. As soon as I could I took the dinghy ashore to get some photos of the sunset while everyone else was content to get their boats ready for the night. We would all go ashore Friday.

Friday morning, October 18, we docked at Plum Orchard Mansion around 0830. Plum Orchard Mansion is located in the middle of the western shore of Cumberland Island. The Carnegie’s had the 22,000 square foot mansion built for their son George Carnegie and his wife Margaret Thaw. The home was originally dedicated on October 6, 1898. After George Carnegie died his wife remarried and moved to Africa. Most of the furnishings were sold at auction. We hoped to catch a 0900 tour of the mansion. What we found instead was a sign saying the mansion was closed. Many of the sites and attractions at parks are manned by volunteers. Due to the lateness of the season the volunteers of Cumberland Island would not return until next season. We were able to tour the grounds and look in the windows; we just weren’t able to go inside.

Around 1100 we sailed to our final stop on Cumberland Island, Dungeness. Dungeness is about 8 miles south of Plum Orchard Mansion and was the main winter living quarters for the Carnegies. This was a lavish 59 room home built in the style of a Scottish castle with multiple swimming pools, a golf course, and 40 smaller buildings used to house servants and other support functions for the house. The lane leading to the estate is lined with hundreds of live oaks. The house burned in 1959, destroying the wood structure, but much of the brick structure remains intact and you can still see the grandeur of the estate. This was my favorite stop of the trip.

Cumberland Island was not yet in full swing and we saw few visitors to the island. It felt like our own private island. We did see a number of wild horses that live on the island. The Spanish brought horses in the 1500s, but it is believed these horses did not survive. The horses that live on the island now are probably descendants of horses that arrived in the 1700s with early English settlers. In 1921 a large number of horses were brought (Continued from page 28) to the island from Arizona. Today there are about 150 wild horses on the island. The horses do not shy away and seem to view humans as intruders. Visitors are advised to give horses plenty of room as well as give them right away.

We left Cumberland Island around 1600 to sail back to St. Mary’s. On the way back Robert and Bonnie found a low spot and proved swing keel boats can also get stuck. Of course, it didn’t help that the Cumberland Island ferry, full of tourists, cruised by with a bunch of tourists hanging over the rail taking pictures. Robert managed to pull Line Dancer off the shoal with their dinghy and we all arrived safely at the dock about 1800.

Friday evening we checked out the ramps in downtown St. Mary’s and decided we would pull the boats out there. The ramps were a little steeper than the ones on Meeting Street. Groups of people were gathering in various locations around town to watch and listen to re-enactors talk about the place of the person their re-enactment character represented in the history of the town. We caught one last sunset and then headed to Lang’s Marina restaurant for dinner. This was Dora’s birthday and it was a chance for us to celebrate with her.

This was a great cruise. With the exception of Tuesday, temperatures stayed in the low 80s during the day and high 60s at night. As Robert pointed out, we did so much on this trip it would take more than a short story to tell about all of it. For more information on the places we visited you can Google St. Simons, Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island Club, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Cumberland Island, Plum Orchard Mansion, Dungeness, and St. Mary’s. All of these locations are worth another visit. Many thanks to John and Anita, who planned this cruise, re-planned it when the government shut down, and re-planned it yet again when the shutdown was over. They took care of us and watched over all of us along the way.