Here is our third and final leg of our trip to bring our newly refurbished trawler from the Zimmerman Yard in Virginia down to Jacksonville, Florida. If you haven’t yet done so, begin with: Bringing Tortuga home to Jacksonville – Part One. Part one covers the first two legs of our trip to Jacksonville.

In this segment, we leave Buzzard’s Roost Marina in  Charleston, SC and head to Ortega River Boat Yard in Jacksonville, FL.

November 9, 2001, Friday

I can’t believe I had to complete this final leg without dear Stephanie.  She has been such a companion and excellent First Mate.  But her work for ESPN this month in producing segments for the Women in Sports TV show has taken all of her spare time.  But I’m in luck in that Tom Hannaford who also teaches at Steph’s university, and is an avid boat owner, agreed to go along.  Tom and I arrived at the Charleston airport via rental car at 11:30 Thursday night.  Security was tight and getting a cab with all of our gear moved was a chore.  We arrived at Buzzard’s Roost Marina at 1:00 in the morning and knowing we had a 7:00am departure meant sleep was mandatory.  Our boat had made it through the two weeks alone with no problems.  We managed to get underway at 7:30 am and headed south against the wind and tide.  How long will it take to get accustomed to traveling at 5 knots?  I sometimes kid my friends that I could run faster than our trawler.  We are heading for the Kilkenny Marina.  This leg exposes us to lots more barge traffic.  Sometimes a little intimidating, going past a barge takes 15 minutes given only a few tenths of a knot in speed advantage.  It’s key to remember these big guys need large turning space, so plan your passing far ahead.  The Kilkenny Marina is a fun, off the ICW, kind of place.  Fuel prices are reasonable and docking is easy.  But there’s a secret to this place.  Sorry about this my friends at the Marina, but don’t dock there !!!  Dock at the restaurant just 100 meters north.  There, if you eat a meal for two, the dock fees are free for the evening including showers!  Of course we didn’t know this until after eating dinner.  We are still plagued by fuel contamination problems on the port engine.  I ordered a new supply of filters from England, but they didn’t arrive prior to our departure.  That’s a mistake I will never make again!  But after adjusting, tuning, and just messing around we seemed to be making progress.  See the leg tomorrow to learn what a mistake I made!

Passing a barge

Passing a barge

Passing a barge all in a line.

November 10, 2001, Saturday


The ICW Zoo

We depart Kilkenny Marina at 6:30 am.  We’re the last to leave.  What an early to rise bunch.  The port engine seems to be purring for the first few minutes, then all hell breaks loose again.  We loose power less than 20 minutes from the dock.  Lots of details I’ll skip here, but without replacement filters, you resort to such terrible things as turning the bad filter upside down, etc. just to get a few extra miles out of it.  But to our surprise (and luck) the engine starts to behave and we are now Beaufort, SC bound.  Knowing it’s Saturday and a great weekend I start calling on the cell phone the Downtown Marina before noon.  No luck, the docks are full and we can’t get a reservation.  The only place to stay is the Lady Island Marina across the ICW.  We have a pretty much uneventful day.  Great scenery, fabulous weather and Tom is turning into a great First Mate.  For those of you who may ask what makes a great First Mate – someone who takes responsibility.  We arrive in Beaufort at 5:30 pm.  The early sunsets are killing us for travel time.  The Lady Island Marina is in desperate need of repair.  The Dock Master informed us that they now have permission to start renovations so we are hopeful that our next visit will be better.  However, the showers are great and the proximity to shops and restaurants are excellent.


November 11, 2001, Sunday

Underway at 6:45 heading to Jekyll Island.  This next stop was to be so dear to Steph and I.  I can’t count the times we have stood on the docks and tried to envision what our own trawler would look like sitting there.  I wonder how our luck with weather has been so good.  It’s starting to warm as we move further south.  The winds are picking up as a high moves in from the south.  The Cap’n electronic charting software has been performing beyond expectations.  Only today do I start using the tide/current prediction option.  Even though we can’t use this for planning, it does help warn us of impending slow or fast runs through portions of the ICW.  Our fuel starvation problem is so serious I do a bad thing.  I reserve dock space at both Golden Isle and Jekyll Harbor Marinas.  I know, that’s a bad practice, but I promise myself to only play this game during emergencies.  The scenery passes by and every channel to the ocean is filled with dolphin.  I think of them as guiding us to our next destination, bringing with them good luck.  Soon the bridge to Golden Isle is visible.  It’s 4:00pm and we have another hour and a half of day light.  So I call and cancel our reservation (over the phone of course) and we move on (at 8.5 knots) to Jekyll Island.  We arrive a little after five, we’re given the option of an inside slip or at the fuel dock.  Still the novice to docking with currents, I opt for the fuel dock and we pull in like a pro.  My favorite part of docking is watching people watch us and admire the bold yet graceful lines of this wonderful trawler.  A number of the captains come up for a look.  There is a leveling of status in our society that I have come to love in the boating community.  The millionaire and his 65′ yacht, to the Captain of the 60′ wooden sailing vessel, to the wonderful senior Captain of the Kadey-Krogen, they come from such diverse backgrounds, with wealth of varying measures.  But they mostly come with a smile and a willingness to appreciate what others have to share and the desire to trade stories of their own boats and crew.  I can’t recommend this marina enough .  So much to do, great food and great service.  Rumors are running wild that the Navy and police are causing delays at Kings Bay further south.  Home of the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet.  So we’re up early, hoping for a smooth running engine and heading south to Jacksonville.

November 12, 2001, Monday

We depart Jekyll Island at 6:30 am with the full intent of getting to Jacksonville late this evening.  But this leg presents even more serious fuel problems which took the two of us to engineer a solution.  We’re only a few minutes from the marina when we loose the port engine again.  Knowing that there are no more silly fixes to this dilemma, we quickly plan on a stop at Fernandina Beach.  The wind has picked up, gusting to over 25 knots.  And the current along side the docks will be 1.5 or better.  Fortunately the port engine comes to life prior to making the docking attempt.  But I didn’t plan on the effect the wind would have on the broad side of this low squatting trawler.  It was my plan to make a “U” turn and head back north along the wharf for docking, but my turn to port to head into the wind gets stalled half way through and I can’t get the bow into the wind.  Two attempts later, I give up and opt for a down wind and down current dock, it works but it wasn’t pretty to watch.  A quick check at the dock master and we hear what I can’t believe.  There’s no ship’s store, and no “good” marine store within a reasonable distance.  We’re told there is the “Boat Shop”, a converted house run by a guy who sells some parts.  So off we head and to our amazement this house does have fuel lines, spare tanks and the supplies we need.  Back to the boat and we fill up the 14 gallons of diesel in the spare tanks with the full intent of rigging a day tank and bypassing the primary fuel filter and lift pump on the port engine.  After getting all onboard, I realize they left out of our bag of tricks a fitting for the tank and I run back to the store, only to find it closed.  I make the decision to move on rather than wait.  To our surprise, the port engine fires up.  I’m willing to risk loosing it again since I’m convinced we have enough parts to rig our fix.  So we head off hoping to make what is listed as the Jacksonville Marina prior to dark (it’s now 12:30).  A few hours later we lose the engine, now’s the time to try our magic.  So with toothpicks, gum, aluminum foil and duct tape, I head to the engine room.  Well, kidding a little here, but you had to see the rig I ended up building (the picture I took didn’t come out).  Tom’s at the helm while I’m in the engine room.  A short 20 minutes later, it’s time to try our fix.  The engine starts, sputters, then tries it’s best to maintain about 900 rpm.  Sounds like air is in the system so I have Tom squeeze the primer bulb as I continue to bleed the make shift fuel line.  It works, and soon the port engine is purring along at 1,200 rpm.  The current is with us and we have 9.1 knots behind us.  But time isn’t on our side and Tom has a class to teach Tuesday morning.  So stopping at the Jacksonville Marina is now mandatory to let Tom off to find a cab to the airport as I move on to an anchorage for the evening alone.  Soon we see the final turn prior to heading west on the St; Johns river and leaving the ICW.  We slow to make the approach to the marina when to my horror, it’s only a boat ramp!  How could they list this place as a marina?  No wonder they never returned my calls on the VHF.  I turn to Tom and convey the bad news that his students will have to do without him.  Quick calls to the university and Tom has an alternate plan for his class.  We head through the bridge and turn west to make as much distance as we can prior to dark.  Have I mentioned that a very bad thunderstorm is approaching ?  The winds are now gusting to 30 knots and we have no books covering marinas on the St. Johns river.  So Tom suggests I call Ortega River Boat Yard and ask for suggestions.  Phil the Yard Master is most helpful, we determine that the channel around Blount Island is the best place to hide from the storm.  We motor for 30 minutes then head north up into the channel.  It is a great place, still exposed to the wind, but away from 200 ton ships and other such bad things, we drop the hook for the night.  OK, I admit it, I’m a chicken to anchor out in a storm!  So I left the GPS and ECS systems on and woke up every half hour to check our position.  I have to say that the bottom held our anchor so tight that we didn’t move 10 feet according to the computers.

November 13, 2001, Tuesday

The rain finally stopped at 6:00 am and darkness lifted enough to see the day marks around 7:00.  So a strong tug (maybe 10 or 20) on the anchor line and we where underway with our emergency day-tank and the wind and tide behind us.  I truly wish this picture had come out, we clocked 9.7 knots on the up river run.  I thought we would strip the paint off the hull :)  The final leg through downtown Jacksonville was great, it was cloudy and windy, but we knew the journey was about to end.  The engines where purring and we flew that last 20 miles as though angels where pulling us home.  My greatest fear ahead was the charted 5 and 6 foot depths in the Ortega inlet (our draft is 5.5).  Fortunately we were at flood tide and the fathometer never dropped below 8 feet.  Our final bridge was the Ortega River bascule bridge.  What a challenge that one is, it’s only 25 feet wide.  It holds the record as the most often opened bridge in the US.  I believe it opened 15,000 times last year.

OK, who forgot to measure how tall our trawler is?  The slip is in site, but why does the entrance roof look so low?  It seemed to be so large when I was there weeks before.  So we pull along broadside to the entrance and sure enough, our trawler is a whopping two feet too tall to make it into the slip.  A nervous call to Phil to evaluate alternatives.  I suggest that we pull back into the harbor and I start dismantling antennas from the pilot house deck.  Phil agrees so we back out and up I go.  Off come the air horns, off comes the entire radar array and down comes the mast and antennas.  It seems we now have enough clearance to make it.  A quick along side check and it appears to be low enough.  So in we go, less than a foot to spare.  We’re home – what a journey!  It takes another hour to make up the dock lines to hold her in place.  It’s time for showers and ride to the airport.

Don’t forget to take a look at our trawler humor page.

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