Perfect weather this year for sunset and fireworks! Wind SSE 10-15. No clouds.
We spent the first night in Crooked River anchorage after a quick stop on Cumberland Island at Plum Orchard Mansion. There is a nice dock there, on the Brick hill River. I don’t know what the deal is with it, but nobody was around so we tied up. The mosquitos were so fierce we only stayed long enough to snap a few pictures. We will definitely have to go back later this winter, and spend some time. The mansion is just about a half mile above where the Brickhill converges with the ICW, actually the Cumberland River. The Crooked river empties into almost the same spot from the west. When going in, if you hug its north bank for a few hundred yards, there is ten or twelve feet of water in there with room to swing, a gentle current, and many less bugs.
This was “Brother” Jim’s third trip on the Spirit of St Simons. A talented teacher, artist, chef, story teller, and all around good company.
We saw a good bit of damage from Hurricane Matthew. At Fernandina we counted over a dozen good sized boats on the beach. The city dock was completely closed down. Fuel was available at Amelia Island Yacht Basin, but their channel is narrow and fairly shallow. We got in and out OK at low water, but with a deep draft you would be tide dependent.
A nice afternoon sail with Buddy, Judi, Frank, Debbie, Rob and Suzy.
Northwester. Cool, clear and dry air, 12-15kts. Once you clear the Lanier Bridge, heading East, there is enough sea room to tack back and forth across the river without losing too much ground. On a flood tide, you don’t lose any ground, so it’s even better.
The ruins of the big house at Cannon’s point are visible from the Hampton River, at green marker #19 The foundation and chimney are about all that is left.
Just a few yards away to the west is the tabby floor and chimney where the kitchen stood. It had a huge brick hearth, that is still intact, with multiple ovens and fireplaces for constant meal production.
There are tabby ruins of slave cabin foundations, and an ice pit, lined with tabby, where they packed block ice in sawdust. A long unpaved avenue runs up the center of the peninsula, to the old home site. The dock is long gone, but you can still row ashore at any of several bluffs along Jones Creek on the west side. It is best to go in cool weather when there are no snakes
Most of the St Simons Island inhabitants fled the coast during the War for Southern Independence. The following account is from the diary of a Col. Dean, a Union blockader, who was stationed off the Georgia Coast in 1861. It was Copied from T Reed Ferguson’s John Couper Family at Cannon’s Point
… We anchored in the Altamaha Sound in December 1861, after the fall of Port Royal to our cannon.The dark woods on a marshy spine of land could not hide from view a large home on a bluff above the river and, as we had been so long on board our ship and desired to explore this wild mainland, Henry and I took a dingy and rowed ourselves land-ward. We tied up at a dock beneath the house and walked through a large garden. On all sides were what appeared to be palm trees of several kinds, many with dark red fruits growing from spiky projections of a strident yellow.
The first story of the house was constructed of the same rough stone and shell [tabby], we had seen in several coastal buildings, and the wooden house, white painted with green shutters, rose high above this foundation. Crossing a wide piazza, Henry and I entered the front door, and in some haste, for the house, though deserted, seemed full of its former occupants, made a tour of inspection and left. As we departed, I picked up from the library floor several old letters amongst the papers scattered there. Their dates showed to be some 75 years old, and I thought to keep them as souvenirs…
These letters turned out to be correspondence to John Couper. The really remarkable thing about this tale is that it did not end there. Almost 50 years later, In 1909, this same Col. Dean, by then retired and living in New York, made a chance acquaintance at a social gathering, with James Maxwell Couper, John Couper’s great grandson. Upon learning the latter’s name, Col. Dean recalled the letters, went home and found them, and then returned them to the Couper descendants! They are now an invaluable primary source material for historians and authors.
The entrance to Blackbeard Creek has plenty of water. Going in, keep green day marker number “11”, which is part of the Sapelo entrance marker system, to STARBOARD. Depth there is 10 feet or so between it and the beach. We felt our way in after that, as there are no markers in the creek. It narrows down in places, but even with a 23 foot beam, we had no issues. The daggers were down six inches or so, which gives us a total draft of about two feet. It was low water at the time, and we only touched bottom in one place, where the passage runs up close against Sapelo Island and turns. From there you can see Nelson’s bluff straight ahead. the chart says four feet, but there is a bar there at the mouth of a branch creek that runs to the left, or north. At high water you should have no problems as the tide range is at least six feet. We dropped the hook just past the Ranger station dock at the bluff. The creek widens back out there, so there is room to swing with the tide on one anchor. It is very protected once you get in, but the entrance is wide open to the north and the whole fetch of Sapelo Sound, so that spot might get exciting in a blow.
Along the creek bluff there is a trail that runs eastward through the woods. It is only a few hundred yards to the ocean. We walked there the next morning and then turned north towards the Sapelo Sound entrance. The beach is in an erosion phase, with fifteen foot high sand cliffs, where hundreds of mature oaks and pines have toppled into the surf. At ebb tide the walking is not too bad, but when it comes back in you are often forced to wade around or climb over them. The island must be young, as islands go. We didn’t see much diversity in tree species, mostly palms, live oak and pines, with an occasional holly. The forest is a series of accreted ridges, or old dune lines separated by fresh water sloughs and/or valleys.
Blackbeard is very quiet, especially at night. The thump of the surf lulled us to sleep. Next time I might try going a little farther down past the Ranger dock, as the lights there are the only interruption in an otherwise perfect darkness.
Good reading re Blackbeard and Sapelo history.
Can anyone identify this plant?
A while back I was poking around looking for stuff about St Simons and stumbled upon Arredondo’s Map. Dated 1737, it is one of the earliest known that shows any detail of the island itself and surrounding area. I am fascinated with it, and have been trying to piece together a picture of Antonio Arredondo ever since. Sent back up from Havana in June 1742 to assist in the Spanish expedition against Georgia, he was a trained engineer, mapmaker, strategist, and did a lot of intelligence gathering for the Crown. You can read his journal of the infamous assault on St Simons that same year.
Arredondo made several maps, some with long-winded titles. This one is called, in English, “Chart for the Entrance of Gualquini, River of St. Simon, Lying in the North Lat. 31 degrees”. The legend at the top right is in Spanish and hard to read in places, but a translation appears along with the map on page 71 of the archived journal linked above. The first thing that jumped out at me was the name the Spanish used for Jekyll Island- “Isla de las Ballenas” or “Island of Whales”. The Right Whale calving ground off the coast here must have been unique enough to have earned the name. Up around where the SSI lighthouse is now, the map shows a small cluster of houses with palm thatched roofs, some earthworks and a small fort with the number and size of the cannons. This was called Gualquini, which started out as an indian village. In the early 1600’s a Spanish mission was built in the vicinity, then Oglethorpe and the English came and built a fort. Still later came the cotton plantations, and finally, then, folks from Baxley started showing up. It has been downhill since.
A couple of roads are shown, very roughly where parts of Demere, Military Trail, and King’s Way roads are now. The map legend notes a “lookout, made of logs”, that appears to have been about where Railroad Avenue was, before Hurricane Donna lopped off that section of the island. The Spanish journals mention the erosion of the beach even way back then.
Down about at what is now Gascoigne bluff and Epworth, it shows a couple of fresh water sources “good, but turbid” and un horno , or oven (I wonder who built it?). From there over to the south, there is a careening ground -a hard, fairly level, sandy beach that dries out at low tide, where boats of all stripes would, and still do, clean and paint their bottoms. There was, and still is, good deep water all the way around the south end of the island, and up the river to the town of Frederica. There was no causeway or bridge then, of course, so a lookout at Frederica could see all the way down the river, and across the sound to Isla de las Ballenas or Jekyll, as Oglethorpe named it.
The Spanish referred to passable inlets as barras. The current bar channel between SSI and Jekyll is referred to as Barra Gualquini, and the inlet into St Andrews sound below Jekyll was called Barra de las Ballenas. Anyway, I think the map is very cool. You can download the file from Hargrett Library’s site and print it out for your living room.
Anyone with any more info on Antonio Arredondo, please e-mail me.
Edit: The indian name is also spelled as Guadalquini here
We took a few short sails into the Hampton River earlier this summer with Evy and her sister from California, Anne Marie, and with Steve and Janice. They have all been very patient with us as we work out the kinks in all the new gear. Sailing the winding river can be a challenge. We had some great afternoons together! More to come soon.