Posts Tagged ‘St Simons Island GA’

When we arrived in St Simons Island, we had a plan to stay for a month.  The first 2+ weeks would be spent on my Driving Miss Rita adventure as I’ve come to call it.  I flew from Jacksonville, FL to Indiana and drove Mom and her car to the Florida panhandle where she’ll spend the winter… yay, Mom!  Mike joined us in Panama City Beach a bit later and we had a blast with my youngest brother and his crew who we overlapped with for the better part of a week.

After our return from the FL panhandle, we figured we had a couple of weeks to knock out some small projects (we always have at least a short list of “next time we’re at a dock” projects) and still have plenty of time to play and explore a bit.  We’ve actually been to St Simons Island a couple of times before, but for fairly short visits.  Read about one of our previous visits here.  This time we could be a bit more leisurely.

So leisurely in fact that I did some reading, including an interesting little book, Voices from St Simons  (thanks, Terrie!), a collection of narratives by descendants of both plantation owners and slaves of the area.  It’s an interesting read actually, if you’re into oral histories as I am.  I’ve written in previous blog posts of some of the other islands of coastal Georgia… Cumberland (two visits actually, here and here), Jekyll, and Sapelo.  St Simons it seems moved pretty quickly from plantations to upscale vacation destination to over-developed when so many vacationers decided to relocate and live here permanently.  Still, a bit of civilization is nice from time to time… restaurants, grocery stores, etc., particularly for us cruising sorts.

This was actually our second visit to MorningStar Marina, having paused here briefly last year to meet up with road-tripping friends.  This visit we reconnected with some cruising friends Curt and Cindy whom we’d met this past summer in Oriental.  It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by marsh grass, and has a great staff.  It’s actually across a small bridge from St Simons Island proper, so there’s very little that’s walking distance, but most all of the roads on the island also have bike/pedestrian paths, and in a pinch, during daytime hours, the marina has a courtesy car… which we borrowed twice, once to return our rental car and later for a couple of unscheduled runs to West Marine in Brunswick.  We did a lot of pedaling, and in fact found an awesome bike shop on the island, Monkeywrench Bicycles, where we were able to do a much needed replacement of tubes and tires on our Stridas, our little fold-up circus bear bikes.  (They also provide rentals of non-circus bear bikes for those who may be interested.)

Our longer stay also allowed for more exploring of the culinary.  We made return visits to a couple of gems we’d discovered on previous stops, including Palmer’s Village Cafe  (a breakfast favorite) and Southern Soul BBQ (yummy Brunswick stew among other things), as well as a splurge meal at Coastal Kitchen and Raw Bar which is on site at the marina.  New finds this time around were a great Vietnamese noodle shop called Island Pho, a fun little deep dish pizza joint called CJ’s Italian Restaurant, and last but not least, a new-to-us beer and wings spot called Locos Grill and Pub.  (Mike has decided with these additions to our list that he could stay here for the winter… I however have vetoed that plan, holding out for lower latitudes.)

yuck from the starboard fuel tank

yuck from the starboard fuel tank

Lest you think that we did nothing during our time on St Simons Island but eat, I should mention some of our projects, both the scheduled and the unscheduled.  We’d developed a bit of an issue with fuel pick-up on our trip down from Oriental… water/condensation and other crap that accumulates in the bottom of the tanks and gets sucked up and chokes in the separator causing the engine to die at the most inopportune times, mostly when we’re getting tossed about by waves or whomper wakes.  We/Mike had pulled/de-gunked/reinstalled both tanks a while back, but they’re apparently in need again.  This stop we managed to pump some junk out of the bottom of the starboard tank without actually having to remove the tank altogether (see photo… the brown is junk, the pink is good diesel); on our list for next stop is doing the same to the port side and upgrading the fuel filter system on the engine.

in the "foot locker"

in the “foot locker”

I also finally tackled a much dreaded project… cleaning out and de-funking a storage area we refer to as our “footlocker” as it’s at the foot end of our bunk.  It’s a decent-sized but awkward space, kind of a giant wedge, that extends underneath the front deck up to the anchor locker, has marginal air circulation and is completely uninsulated… in short, it gets funky mildewed from time to time.  I’ve tackled this particular project once before, which literally requires crawling in through a 10″x 20″ opening up to my waist, repeatedly, with spray bottles and brushes and sponges and such.   There was much swearing involved.  This time was no different.

stripping teak

stripping teak

We also replaced a bent stanchion (the upright stainless poles on the sides of the boat through which the lifelines run).  This would have been a simple project, except that it required removing an 8 ft teak shelf and peeling back the vinyl headliner to access the bolts on the underneath side.  And as long as we had the shelf out anyway, maybe I’d just do a bit more of my ongoing strip-and-refinish-the-crappy-varnish-job-that-our-previous-owner-did project.  Even a bit at a time, it’s a multi-day affair and very messy.  Even so, we were on schedule for a month-end departure.

temporary door latch

temporary door latch

A couple days later however, we returned from an afternoon of pedaling about, put the key in our companionway lock/latch, and heard a not-what-that-usually-sounds-like click.  Busted lock.  I managed to break into the boat by removing a screen in a window we’d left open, fetched Mike’s tools and he proceeded with much difficulty to dismantle the lock from the cockpit side… which then left us with a door that would not even latch, let alone lock.  (See Mike’s creative stop-gap fix in the photo.)  Of course the part had to be ordered, then installed, and by then some nasty weather was in the forecast.  So we stayed put for a couple of days hiding out from the wind and cold, and appreciating our little space heater that we can only use at the dock/on shore power.

This morning we finally got off the dock.  Except that the Raymarine chart plotter is apparently now not playing nicely with some of the other instruments, and the built-in cabin heater (which only works when we’re under engine power), which we almost never use and weren’t even using this morning, is now leaking.  And so, we start the maintenance/project list for our next stop, St Augustine.  Cruising has been defined as working on your boat in exotic places.  We’re certainly living that dream.  No worries though, it’s all good, and we’re sure to find a good balance between work and play… it is St Augustine after all.

As always, stay tuned.



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Sometimes, when we’re on the move, we pause at a marina only briefly.  Other times we stay a bit longer.  Our stay at Morningstar Marina – Golden Isles would be a bit longer.  I (Lori) was here for only a couple of days before my Driving-Miss-Rita trip… flew to Indiana to drive Mom and her car to Florida where she’ll spend the winter… bonus points for a visit with my brother Steve and his crew who were in Panama City Beach for the kids’ fall break.  Mike joined us for part of the visit as well, when he wasn’t getting into trouble trying to single-hand projects (see previous post).  But I digress…

Every marina has its own quirks, things that make it a little bit different from the rest.  Our slip for the month for this stop is at the end of a long dock, 270 yards or so from shore, over the gorgeous marsh grasses that give the Golden Isles their name, through a gate, down a short ramp (floating docks) and then a long stretch lined on either side with various kinds of boats, mostly unoccupied during the week.  It’s a long walk to the heads (bathrooms), which I normally don’t mind, but at night, it’s a completely different experience.

Turns out there is a sizable population of Black-crowned Night Heron here.  Just as in St Augustine where my habit was to look for the Great Blue Heron that stood majestically on a piling near our boat, every morning like clockwork, here nighttime brings the calls of the Black-crowned Night Herons.  Walking up/down the dock at night, one can’t help but startle and be startled by these creatures who fish from dock lines and take flight with a raucous call when startled.  At first, I about jumped in the water at the sound.  Now I take a deep breath and look for them, but even so, sometimes they see me before I see them.  From our cockpit though, with and without binoculars, it’s quite a sight.  One evening I counted 5 birds, 2 adults, 2 juveniles and a Great Blue Heron, all within a few boat slips of us.  Our first night here, I was a bit concerned about our proximity to the marina office on the fuel dock;  there is a fair amount of activity, and at night, security lights.  Well, it turns out that these heron, particularly the juveniles, like to fish from our neighbor’s stern lines under the lights.  I was pleased to return from my IN/FL trip and find that our juvenile friend was still visiting.  It also gave me a chance to play with my new camera, a Panasonic FZ200  (Big thanks to our friend Bob for the recommendation.  See his awesome blog on the beauty of central Ohio here.)

Black-crowned Night Heron, adult

Black-crowned Night Heron, adult

I’m still very much figuring out the new camera, but dark is still dark.  Even so, I think some of these photos, albeit a bit fuzzy, came out OK given the conditions.  The adults tend to stay hidden, hence the very dark shot.  This one hangs out on the bowsprit of our neighbor, occasionally visiting our solar panel off the stern.  The juveniles however tend to take advantage of the light to make the fishing a little easier.  I’ve been captivated, watching one in particular from the cockpit most every evening.

This gal/guy makes a habit of balancing on one of the stern lines of a sizable motor yacht and has done some rewarding fishing in this fashion, mostly small things about the size of my pinkie.  Last night though, very late, s/he managed to snag a quite large fish, hopped up on the dock and showed much determination getting it swallowed.  Not a pretty sight, but fascinating.  Turns out though that her/his gluttony may have gotten the better of it though, as Mike saw a feathered creature belly up in the water today, very near where we’d watched this show last night.  I’m expecting we may not see our friend out fishing tonight.  It will be interesting though to see if another juvenile gives this honey hole a shot… at least one has been watching.  (Note: Click on any of the photos for a larger view and/or slideshow option.)

the catch... now what

the catch… now what

working it around...

working it around…

lining it up...


down the hatch...

down the hatch…

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So Lori is gone for a few days shuttling her mom from Indiana to Florida for the winter – we rented a car and I dropped her at the Jacksonville airport yesterday. I’ll drive over to Panama City Beach in a few days, spend a week there, and drive us back. In the meantime I have a couple easy but time-consuming projects I figure I can do while she’s away.

One is to rebuild the frame for the awning I made months ago for over the helm station. It’s a functional but ugly PVC thing. It has three legs instead of just the two that would work if it were made of stronger material. The middle leg is visually distracting and its guy line is in the one most in the way. I’d bought a length of stainless tubing and a couple PVC Ts yesterday in Jacksonville, so this morning I’m ready to go.

I tear apart the old helm shade frame, measure and cut a new stainless horizontal bar and legs. I cut off one end of a T to make it fit the aft end of the handrail, grind out the inside of both to fit the legs (the stainless tubing is larger diameter than the PVC) and pound the legs into the Ts. This took a couple of hours but so far, so good. I loosely fit the horizontal bar and legs with the stainless elbows I already had, snap it onto the handrail and pull the shade over it to check leg length. Not bad but the forward leg could be an inch shorter. Go to take it all down, but it’s breezy and this really might be a two person job, so things fall apart. The aft leg, which was snapped onto the handrail, pops off anyway and goes overboard. Damn! I’m steaming, but I have more stainless tube, the old PVC swivel Ts (which I thought fit a bit too tightly, but not anymore), and one tube needs to be shorter anyway. So I cut a shorter piece of stainless, pry the old T loose from the old aft PVC leg, grind it out to fit the shorter stainless tube and and pound the leg in. Go to fit it together and realize the shorter leg was supposed to be in front. Aargh! Double damn! So now I pry the other old T off its PVC leg, grind it out, pry apart both the stainless legs (a pain, remember “pounding” them together?), match up the fore and aft legs and Ts, and pound them together again. It’s mid afternoon by now and I’m frazzled and hungry, so I have a “deconstructed” sandwich – stuff a couple slices of lunch meat in my mouth, followed by a slice or two of cheese, then a slice of bread. Yum. I dry fit the thing together again, snap it onto the handrail, and try to stretch the shade over it – stupid idea but I was determined to get this finished. It’s windier now, this is still a two person job, and things fall apart again. The legs are now firmly snapped onto the rail and I’m holding onto the long bar, but one of the stainless elbows slips off and goes over the side. Don’t have another one of those. To quote George Carlin, “sh*t p*ss f*ck c*nt c*cks*cker motherf*cker”. I left out “tits”. I didn’t throw the rest of the parts and all my tools overboard. I didn’t start drinking. I drove to the West Marine over in Brunswick to see if they had 7/8″ stainless elbows, a very common part. I get some half-wit never-seen-a-boat won’t-shut-up clerk who acts like I’m looking for a left threaded foreign motor thrust bearing or something (“You’ll probably have to order that through your vessel manufacturer”); anyway they don’t have the elbow I need. I go back to the boat, order online an elbow and a couple other little things I need, and give up for the day.

Its about time for a drink and I figure I’ll go up to the marina bar and see who’s there, but it starts pouring. I break out the box of red wine and the cheese and crackers, have dinner and go to bed early.

Fast forward a week or so. We’re back from Florida, my stainless elbow came while we were away, and it’s a nice calm morning. I get out the parts, fit them together, pop the frame onto the rail, stretch the awing over, tighten the set screws, all done, no problem. Didn’t even need Lori’s help. Even took some pictures.





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Working our way north through the barrier islands of Georgia, from the virtually uninhabited Cumberland Island to the managed development of Jekyll Island, our next stop was St Simons Island.  St Simons Island is also accessible by car, but without the fee to do so as is the case at Jekyll Island.  It’s also a bit larger, more developed… translate: more vehicular traffic. We’re back in civilization now.  Our plan for St Simons was to re-provision… there are two, count them, two full-sized grocery stores on this island, as well as see some of the sights.  While not as extensive as on Jekyll, I’d read that there are bike trails on St Simons as well, so we decided to once again ferry our bicycles ashore.  (Got to get a photo of this adventure one of these days!) We’d been here once before, albeit very briefly, only to go ashore for groceries.  This time we were back to do some exploring.  We anchored in a familiar spot in the Frederica River between Lanier and St Simons Islands, though snuck in a little further than before, dropping the hook near a park with a very nice free, floating dinghy dock. The Captain was feeling breakfast-deprived, so we opted to go ashore early and have breakfast that he didn’t have to cook.  (Those who know us know that while both of us cook, I don’t even attempt to compete with Mike when it comes to breakfast.) We pedaled down to the southern part of the island to an area known as the Village and had a fabulous breakfast at Palmer’s Village Cafe.  Food freaks that we are, one of the things we’re enjoying most about our meander through Georgia is the food… shrimp, grits, collards, BBQ… not all at one meal of course.  After breakfast, we wandered about the village and checked out some of the shops, including a used bookstore where we traded some of the books we finished while waiting out weather earlier this month.  St Simons has an extensive, very family friendly… translate playground and waterfront park overlooking St Simons Sound.  We walked over to the St Simons Lighthouse and managed to sneak in a tour of the Keeper’s Cottage and climbed the lighthouse itself, fortunately just ahead of a group of four school buses full of elementary school munchkins in color-coded t-shirts (a different color for each bus).  This light was originally constructed in the early 1800’s, was destroyed by the Confederates in 1864 before they fled so that the Union wouldn’t be able to use it, was rebuilt in 1872 and has been shining ever since. After narrowly escaping the elementary school invasion, we collected our bikes and rode up the east side of the island to the Maritime Center, a former Coast Guard Station known as East Beach Station.  Unfortunately we arrived during the docent’s (extended) lunch break so had to wait for a bit for his return.  This Coast Guard station has some history as well.  It was one of a few dozen like it built as WPA projects under FDR, though this is one of only three of those structures that remain standing today.  The exhibits were nicely done, very kid-friendly as well, which made me wonder if the color-coded invaders weren’t far behind.  Exhibit highlights included the obligatory Coast Guard history, some tales of WW2 excitement (the sinking of two merchant ships by a German sub and subsequent rescue of most, including a dog), and finally a nicely done natural history exhibit. Our brains full, we went in search of lunch to fill our bellies, then groceries given that the grocery on Jekyll had pretty much been a bust.  Southern Soul Barbecue, yet another gas-station-turns-restaurant affair, turned out to be a most delicious find.  Check out their website for a list of accolades, including a feature on Food Networks’ Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Mike sure does know how to pick ’em.  Fellow I-travel-to-eat food freaks might also enjoy this Southern Living article.   We hit the Winn-Dixie on our way back to Cheshire, got bikes, groceries and ourselves loaded into the dinghy and headed across the creek.  At which point our dinghy engine started misbehaving. Actually it’s been a little cranky since we adopted it, along with the RIB dinghy when we bought Cheshire, but she was really sounding sick this time.  Thankfully we were able to limp back to Cheshire… as opposed to drifting away with the very strong current that was running.  (Remember that our dinghy oars jumped ship during our off shore stint south last fall, since which time we’ve been carrying an a spare kayak paddle in case of emergency, which is admittedly a poor substitute and would be useless in any kind of wind or current, but since we’ve been considering replacing the dinghy and outboard anyway…. ) In any event, we hauled the sick engine off the dinghy onto its home-when-not-in-use on the stern where Mike disassembled it best he could with it hanging in space (translate: tools at risk of being dropped in the river!) before declaring it beyond his ability to diagnose.  Of course this is all at 4-something on a Friday afternoon.  We decided it probably needs some professional TLC anyway, so we revised our plans.  We skipped our 2nd day of adventures on St Simons (Fort Frederica National Monument and even more disappointing, a visit to a favorite grocery store, Harris-Teeter) for fear of the dinghy dying altogether in the process.  Instead we headed for Darien, GA, which was to be our next stop anyway.  In Darien, we’re on a free dock, and the dinghy engine was just admitted to a dinghy engine hospital this morning.  I’m not sure if Mike’s hoping she recovers or that whatever ails her is terminal… he’s started talking about an electric outboard again.  Stay tuned. In the meantime, while we wait, we’ll explore Darien… which for starters has more shrimp boats than I’ve ever seen in one place.  Sounds like good eating if nothing else.

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