Following are a couple of excerpts from A Voyage to Georgia, Francis Moore’s account of his travels with the English colonists bound for St.Simons Island. We traced part of his route last week on the way up to Blackbeard Island.
leaving Skidaway on the left, an the mouths of the Vernon and Ogeechee rivers on the right, we passed forward,and still kept through Channels,as before,sometimes crossing wide sounds (for the boatmen here call gulphs of the sea which run into the land, and the entrances of the rivers). There are 3 or 4 sounds to be passed, which in blowing weather are dangerous to those open boats. I believe, where we passed, St Catherine’s is above two leagues wide. The tides of flood carried us up along-side the islands and the tides of ebb down to the sea. Mr Ogelthorpe, being in haste, the men rowed night and day, and had no there rest than what they got when a snatch of wind favored us. They were all very willing, though we met with very boisterous weather. The master, Capt Ferguson, is perfectly acquainted with all the water passages, and in the darkest night never missed the way through the woods and marsh, though there are so many channels as to make a perfect labyrinth. The men vied with each other, who should be forwardest to please Mr. Otglethorpe. Indeed, he lightened their fatigue, by giving them refreshments, which he rather spared for himself than let them want. The indians, seeing the men hard labored, desired to take the oars, and rowed as well as any I ever saw, only differing from the others by taking a short and long stroke alternately, which they called the yamassee stroke. I found this was no new thing to the indians, they being accustomed to row their own canoes, boats made of a single tree hollowed, which they manage with great dexterity. When we came near the mouth of the Altamaha, we met a boat with Mr. Mackay and Mr. Cuthbert, (who is lieutenant of the Darien) coming from Darien to Savannah. They were very agreeably surprised to find Mr. Oglethorpe on board us. They returned to the Darien, taking Captain Dunbar with them, whilst we stood the shortest way to St. Simons. Mr Cuthbert told us, that one of the highlanders met with an orange tree on Duboys island; he was charmed with the color, but could not get to them buy reason of the height of the tree, which was so full of thorns, that there was no climbing it, so he cut it down and gathered some dozens….
March 1735-6 p49
These periaugas are flat bottomed boats, carrying from 20-35 tons. They have a kind of forecastle and cabin but the rest open and no deck. They have two masts, which they can strike, and sails like schooners. They row generally with two oars only; but upon this occasion mr Oglethorpe ordered spare oars for each boat, by the addition of which, and the men of the colony rowing, they performed their voyage in five days, which single periaugau is often 14 days in doing.
Mr Oglethorpe accomopanying them with the scout boat, taking up the hinder most in tow, and making them keep together; and expedient for which was the putting all the strong beer on board one boat, which made the rest labour to keep up with that; for if they were not at the rendezvous at night, they lost their beer.
It is about 85 statute miles from Frederica to Savannah River on the modern Intracoastal Waterway, or what would have been their inside passage more or less. Five days at 12 hours a day comes out to a little less than 1.5 miles per hour. Seventy five years later, John Couper’s slaves could row it in a day, in smaller boats and probably with more oarsmen- about 7 miles per hour. (faster than we in the Spirit of St Simons could motor it !)
I think the Orange tree story is interesting, having read that oranges were introduced into the Americas by the Spanish, and later established themselves naturally, though they are fragile in these parts because of the occasional hard winters. My question is: how did the tree that the Scotsman cut down in 1735 get to Doboy Island? Spanish missionaries? Indians? French? Another question is where did the name “Doboy” come from? Was Moore’s spelling “Duboys” a misspelling of Doboy or did the current spelling evolve from it? One could spend a lifetime just digging up the origin of the many curious names in this small piece of the world.
There is a nice anchorage
in the Back River that runs past Doboy Island, where it forks off of the ICW. It is open to the breezes and is relatively bug-free, with a clear view of Sapelo light to the Northeast. We saw a Bald Eagle in a tree on the southern tip of the island. You can anchor anywhere along there that is out of the waterway, but mind the strong current- especially the ebb. In a contrary wind it could get complicated.
The whole area there- the Back River, and both sides of Commodore Island as well as the shore of the North River, is strewn with small ballast Islands from the days of the timber ships. the ships would pitch the stones from within their holds prior to taking on cargo. Over time these piles of stone became wooded islands.