Our stay at Beach Marina in Jacksonville Beach brought us back to familiar territory. We had lived in nearby Mayport twice in the Navy and still had good friends around. It was here that we decided to undertake a major maintenance project, forward deploy the truck to the Chesapeake and also take in Wende's baby shower up in North Carolina. For this, the boat would stay in the same spot for almost three weeks. The first order of business was to get the truck out of the storage unit that it had occupied since late January, before we had left Sarasota for the Bahamas. With wheels for the first time in three months, a big food replenishment could be undertaken at the commissary, Jean could get her hair done and Bill could gather up all those "must have" items at the local marine stores. But, it also gave ready transport to Starbucks for the morning starter.
Despite the ongoing construction on the nearby Beach Boulevard bridge, Bill began to sand down the teak cap rails. For the first time in six years the rails were reduced to bare wood, nicks and cuts disappeared and five coats of varnish were applied....all the time dodging the occasional rain squall and the near constant earth moving dust on the new bridge. Well, it was frustrating, but rewarding work. The finished product turned out fine and we are happy with the new look. Our friends, Randee and Jim Euliss along with the world's best bulldog Lulu, kept us company and critiqued the job. They are both in the condo sales business, so we took full advantage of Jim's contract knowledge and Randee's keen eye for interior design and decoration.
By 12 April, with Chapter III all buttoned up, we drove north to Hillsborough, NC to attend the shower hosted by the Lavinder clan. What a very special family Wende has married into. Rose is completing her trek of the entire Appalachian trail, with Carlton delivering the hikers to and from the trail stops. Sister Julia is the state teacher of the year and runs a mighty fine shower. We had not seen the extended family since before the wedding; they all turned out for this event. Sunday we completed the trip, first to DC to get a ferry car, then to Solomons to spend the night and drop off the truck. On Monday, we visited the condo site and saw that our unit has the concrete poured for the first level. We are getting excited about the prospect of having a shore base by the end of the year. The next morning early, we boarded a plane to take us back to Jacksonville. Before departing Beach Marina we had a great visit with Navy friends Mike and Cookie Kalleres. A nice Italian dinner in town was followed by a tour of the exclusive Queens Harbor estates where they live. Cookie is something of an interior decorator, as well, and showed Jean lots of new home ideas; Bill could only see dollar signs, and Mike didn't seem inclined to interrupt on his behalf.
Off early on 19 April, we stopped first at Fernandina Beach for a drink of their less expensive diesel fuel. Soon quenched, we chose an early anchorage off Cumberland Island and put the dinghy in the water. This island is a wonderful preserve, once belonging to the Carnegie family. The park service has done a great job in keeping it clean and tidy. We walked in a circle that covered nearly ten miles and saw the ruins of the old estates, an occasional raccoon or armadillo and the remains of their stable...which has grown from around 50 to over 250 horses now. Back aboard at dusk, we were happy to find that the anchor had withstood the tide shift and we had proven to be no danger to our fellow cruisers. But, the seeds of future discontent had been sewn on the Atlantic side of Cumberland. It seems that Bill had spied placid seas to the east and ignoring weather advice to the contrary, decided to avoid further delay brought about by the cantankerous nature of the Georgia ICW. Tomorrow we would go outside....
The next day's journey is open to some interpretation. Bill only sought to shorten the arduous stretch that often gains more east-west than north-south with a quick dart up the coast. Jean, aware of the tidy nature of her closets and cupboards, often tries to avoid these more direct challenges to navigation. Bottom line...and she has the pictures to prove it...the boat withstood the leg far better than her crew. We made it back in at St. Simons inlet as the marriage contract reached the boiling point, and pushed on along the rivers and cuts of the Georgia ICW...she, restowing her cabinets, he stoically adhering to the mindless Georgia waterway. We made some 62 Nm that day and selected Teakettle Creek for a place to anchor and simmer down. Dinner that night was simple and understated...you get to fix it yourself.
On the morning, just to prove that he still had a firm grasp of the situation, Bill navigated out the north end of Teakettle where the charts said we had little depth to spare. We made it and, confidence restored, motored on. That Saturday we covered some 77 Nm and the anchorage was at Bull Creek. Dinner was a group effort and delicious; even if we were still stuck in Georgia. On a sunny Sunday we sailed into beautiful Beaufort, SC...that is how we remember the city pronunciation. It was time for a really special dinner and the SAFE US restaurant on the river provided just the right fare...sushi. And, at this point, it looks like all is forgiven and the marriage may survive.