Darien, GA turned out to be a fine place to slow down for a bit. There is a decent free dock with water and electric, both of which are virtually unheard of on a free dock. It’s actually free for 48 hours, and cheap after that, but they’re very flexible if you’re needing to stay longer due to weather, repairs, etc… i.e., our sick dinghy outboard engine. In the end, our visit was 5 days long and most enjoyable. After a run of more touristy places, it was nice to kind of hang out, spend some time with some genuinely nice people.
The town of Darien has had a tough time of it over the years, fighting off the Spanish, the French, the Native Americans. The Civil War, though, was a big nail in its coffin so to speak; virtually uninhabited after nearly all of its residents fled inland, the Union troops looted and the burned the entire city… 1 business and 1 residence were left standing. It was a pretty controversial deal actually, burning an undefended and not terribly strategic city, an event portrayed in the film “Glory” which was apparently filmed in part near here. There is a big 150th anniversary celebration of the Burning of Darien scheduled for next month. Hopefully there will be plenty of firefighters standing by this time…
Still, they rebuilt, reestablishing themselves as a major-for-Georgia shipping port, primarily lumber, at least until they ran out of trees. Today it seems to be mostly about the shrimp. There were so many commercial shrimp boats on the downtown waterfront, rafted two and three deep, that they were hard to count, and lots of coming and going activity during the several days we were there. Ever since our time in Oriental, NC, I’ve had a fascination with these beautiful boats, so it was a real treat for me to watch their comings and goings over these several days. Oh, and there’s apparently an outlet mall out near the interstate; needless to say, the mall was not on our “to see” list.
One of our first mornings in town, we pedaled the short distance to the edge of town to check out the Fort King George Historic Site, c.1721. An interesting spot to explore, it consists of a nicely done local history museum and a replica of the original fort and grounds. Fort King George was the first English settlement on the soil that would become Georgia, and the southernmost British outpost. It looked to be a place that does living history events, but was pretty quiet during our visit. Another day we visited the Old Jail Art Center, which in addition to some historical exhibits, showcases some local artists’ work. It was also nicely done.
Then there are the spots that are not likely on the tourist maps, but interesting for us. The little public library had a paperback book sale, a fundraiser of sorts; we picked up 14 new-to-us books for $7, actually gave them $10. Gotta love the local libraries. Darien also has a wonderful hardware store, First Georgia Hardware and Marine, and I have to say they’re very serious about the marine part, serving the local commercial shrimpers no doubt. Who knew you could buy acetone in bulk? Yep, got some of that. And Mike was able to replace some individual drill bits that he’s pretty much trashed working with fiberglass and PVC instead of wood. I peered over the shoulder of a little boy who was coveting the live crickets available by the box full; he had to educate me as to their usefulness for fish bait. While wandering the aisles, I heard more than one customer come in asking for shrimp; the staffs’ response was to ask “for eatin’ or fishin’?” Apparently both were options. Fun place. We made several visits. Even the folks at Piggly Wiggly, known as the Pig, were exceptionally friendly. Mike spoke with a manager-like woman in the store about buying a couple of the half-sized plastic crates from the Coke display (we’d seen them used as bike racks on some boater bikes in Boot Key over the winter and have been on the lookout for a couple ever since), and she just gave them to us outright.
Of course we had several days to explore the local cuisine as well. We stopped in the Wine Bar the first afternoon we arrived where we met another cruising couple from New Zealand who are currently at a marina down in Brunswick, GA. Turns out they know another couple there who we first met in Oriental, NC and have crossed paths with several times since. In fact, Joe and Cherie came up to Darien a day or so later and we camped out at a patio table of a breakfast/lunch spot, the Purple Pickle and spent about 4 hours catching up on our respective adventures. Mike and I went back again for lunch before we left; Chicken and Waffles, best sandwich I’ve had in a long time, just sayin’.
Shrimp was also a given. We wandered up the docks and bought a couple of pounds off a boat we’d watched come in just an hour or so earlier. Skipper’s Fish Camp on the waterfront was very good.
Our dinghy outboard came back to us after several days at a place called Outboard Rejuvenation; not kidding. Sounded more like a spa than an engine repair outfit to me, but it was apparently just what our sick little outboard needed. Turns out the problem wasn’t terminal; a little cleaning/polishing/TLC and an overnight soak of the carburetor and we’re back to running, good as new. Come to think of it, the Admiral (yours truly) could maybe use a little of that as well.