Tag Archives: GA

Dragonflies

Dragonfly

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We were glad to see squadrons [Oops, it’s a “cluster” or a “flight.”] of dragonflies feasting on the mosquito outbreak when we returned from Disney. Nature at work. But by mid day they have sought out the shade like most right thinking animals around here. (These large, OK, huge, Gallinipper mosquitoes are not right thinking.)

This morning I had occasion to take an earlier walk than usual, and they were out in force. As I walked down the sidewalk under a tree I encountered a cobweb and in pulling myself lose from it, I felt the spider land on my back and start crawling up my neck. Then something softly buzzing brushed across the back of my neck and no more spider!

Seems the dragonflies are equal opportunity predators…or just getting even.

Lobotes surinamensis

TripletailsAnd the winner is my brother-in-law, Paul.

It’s an Atlantic Tripletail (also known as black fish — they turn black with maturity). He’s caught them while fishing (which is better than while golfing).  They can run to three feet and 40 lbs. It’s considered good eats in New Orleans. I’m going to check menus around here.

Further research indicates the young ones swim on their sides to mimic mangrove leaves and to facilitate escape. So the languid side-turning I saw was programmed behavior not death throes. Likely, I was viewed as a threat, and the mimicry started. Photo here.

In US waters, Atlantic Tripletails are found from Massachusetts and Bermuda to Argentina, the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, from Madeira Island to the Gulf of Guinea, the eastern Pacific from Costa Rica to Peru, and the western Pacific from Japan to Fiji and Tuvalu. They are rarely found north of Chesapeake Bay. They are found on the Gulf Coast from April to October and then migrate to warmer waters during winter. In the spring, Tripletail concentrate just offshore of two particular spots: Port Canaveral, Florida (March–June) and Jekyll Island, Georgia (April–July).

When a Plan Comes Together, Brunswick, Georgia, 31 May

We pulled into Brunswick Landing Marina yesterday. We are now compliant with our insurance company’s dictates. Fortunately this marina is a quality place to be, and Brunswick and St. Simon’s, and Jekyll Islands offer goods and services and recreation opportunities that make it an easy place to be. Unfortunately, the hydrology here doesn’t favor day sails all that much — currents in and around the harbor run 1-3 knots most of the day. We’ll see. We are going to look for  kayaking spots within an easy drive.

We anchored off Little Cumberland Island the night before so we could have a favorable tide to run through Jekyll Creek (another spot now impassable at low tide). The run up to the anchorage from Fernandina was quite breezy and the flood tide was honking. We made our shallow section at Crooked River a bit earlier than planned and watched the depth sounder tick down like a stopwatch. It ticked fast but it didn’t go lower than 8 feet, but that was with 3 feet of tide.

So now we settle* into waiting out hurricane season.

We are slipped roughly where the yellow arrow is above.

*So far we have a must do every month from now to December, and the to do list covers a full notebook page so settle is probably not the right word.”

Gorgeous Georgia

Today offered Coastal Georgia at its best. Two thin spots were thinner than our last trip (single digit inches!), but we are now staged to go down the Little Mud River in the a.m. with water (vice mud) under the keel. Enjoy the pictures — click first pic to start gallery.

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Clobbered!

The gust front hit at 68.9 knots.

The weather had been beautiful after Beryl and its lingering moisture were swept out by a cold front. But because we couldn’t turn the rental car in until Monday*, we had to settle for a forecast with “isolated thunderstorms, some possibly severe” tacked on at the end. Laying the text out day by day, it looked as if getting north of Savannah late in the night would reduce our probabilities.

Looks can be deceiving.

We left the marina in Brunswick less smoothly than usual. A current running down the SE River wasn’t particularly visible at the surface, but the keel and rudder felt it, and getting out of the 60 foot space between docks with a 45 foot boat in the grip of an unexpected current reminded me of the first time I rode a horse. [The horse won.]

Having left on time, if not gracefully, we rode the developing ebb down the Brunswick River and out the ship channel to hit our turning point 34 minutes early. Minutes like these go in the bank to be given back along the way.

We were delighted to have sailing conditions as we turned NE and shut the diesel down. Equally delightful was the long-shore current that put more time in the bank. We settled back to enjoy the cooler offshore temps, the clear sky and to dodge shrimpers for a while.

Around 1330, we both decided the sky to the west wasn’t looking quite as delightful. I put our radar in weather mode, and we looked out that direction to see heavy and increasingly organized [not good] rain showers coming together into a diagonal wall that was headed across our course at 30 knots from about 40 miles away. What NOAA had to say, confirmed what we saw. Pfui!

We decided to turn south and let them slide past us and proceed north once they had crossed. They did not cooperate. The southwest end of the wall kept propogating farther south than we could escape. So we furled the sails and made ready [not quite] to meet them head on in the thinnest part of the wall we could discern.

It was thin, but, man it was wiry… The gust front hit us at 68.9 knots [That’s 78.5 mph folks]. It ripped water off the surface and shot-blasted us with it. In less than five minutes the winds were down to only 56 knots, and the waves began to build. They had seven miles from the coast to gather steam before they reached us and were 6-8 feet high and only about 40-60 feet apart and the color of milky malachite. Their tops were a continuous wall of breaking white combers with long downwind manes of spray that hurt when it hit you.

69 knots…looking downwind

Fifteen minutes later these were 7 footers with large white manes.

We had the engine at full throttle and were able to keep bow to the waves except when the wind suddenly gusted from an odd direction, and then we would be shoved abeam and rolled. Then we would begin the slow turn back up into the waves. Every two or three minutes the boat would crest a wave and nose-dive into the oncoming wave. Then it would pop back up like a bath tub duck. Our ground speed during all of this was about a knot to windward.

And then the rain came. And then the mushy pea hail. Fortunately, the thin part of the line was thin on lightning. After distant cloud-to water-stuff before the gust front arrived, the infrequent remainder was cloud-to-cloud.

When the winds became a manageable 30-40 knots we were able to fall off to starboard and resume our course with those same waves lifting and lowering us like a giant game of blanket toss. All told, it lasted an hour. We will not forget Altamaha Sound.

As squalls like these usually do, this one had knocked the sailing winds senseless, and we motored back along our course having withdrawn 1:37 from the time bank. [The reason these times were important was our desire to reach Charleston with a favorable flood tide.]

Before sunset arrived we had wind again and were able to shut down and sail, but that lasted only a while, and again, we had to motorsail to maintain the seven knots we now needed. The moon rose full and red behind the remnants of squall clouds that now were reaching farther south than Brunswick and lighting the sky with flash pops.

We reached Savannah nearing midnight in the garden of large ships moving fast. First the King Douglas cleared out toward the sea-buoy, then the pilot boat Georgia made its way down to the Skodsborg which had hauled anchor and was building steam toward the ship channel. Then the American President’s Lines Chile came down channel at 17 knots and crossed behind us about two miles distant. Without the AIS all we would have known was big stuff was moving, and we would have had to rely on plotting solutions only to determine our actions. By being able to add the AIS information and the plotting solutions, we were able to safely transit with a lot less concern.

And then moon or not, it got really dark. From Savannah northward, there were a few lights and the anchored shrimpers’ work-lights might or might not have been shore lights. We started combat napping in the cockpit and spelling one another on about 90 minute intervals. From Savannah to sunrise was only six and a half hours.

Off Port Royal Sound, the wind returned and with authority. We had 18-23 knots of wind on a beam reach. We shut the engine down and proceeded to race through the blackness. From time to time we would surf a wave as the swells changed direction, depending on the tide flooding or ebbing in a nearby inlet. At nautical twilight—the sky just pinking in the east—we were only 12 minutes behind our time line, and that’s essentially zero given the precision of tidal current forecasting.

Off Folly Island we went back to motorsailing as the sun warming the air lifted the breeze above us. By the time we had reached the Charleston Inlet jetties, the wind had come back down to the surface and was back in the 18-23 range – on the nose. We furled and motored in on a flood tide and had the anchor down in the Ashley River not far from the Coast Guard docks at 1020.

We were napping about 20 minutes after that. We napped until 1600 and went to bed early. The next day we slept in until 1000 as nearly two inches of heavy rain washed the salt from the boat and kept us lulled. We still checked on the anchor and our position relative to other boats and obstructions on a regular basis, but we weren’t 100% till around noon.

Was it worth it? You bet. We traded 25 hours (20 actually offshore) for three days of droning tedium and badly maintained waterway. We would have gotten beaten up by the squall either way—and would have had fewer options for dealing with it in the waterway. Yes, we could have anchored if we could find a place where 60+ knot winds wouldn’t put us ashore.

The important thing to remember is that with sea room, a well-found boat with a competent crew is much safer (if occasionally less comfortable) offshore. The prevailing and squall winds were blowing from land to sea–we had 3000+ miles of ocean downwind, not mud, sand and gravel a 100 feet away and an unknown bottom beneath.

Did it go perfectly well? No. The Droid is dead, long live the Droid. I had it outside testing the limits of its coverage and forgot to stow it. It now performs like HAL after its singing “Daisy” was done. The electric flyswatter is also toast so it no longer toasts flies. [A bad, bad thing between Charleston and Gerogetown.]

But there is nothing quite like eating fresh sour-sweet cherries and tossing the pits in your moonlit wake while crashing along on a beam reach at 7.5 knots at 0200 with nothing on the radar but buoys.

*I had a vertigo attack the day we planned to start moving our car northward. So we ended up a day behind.

Indigo Coastal Shanty

It’s been a while since we have eaten somewhere worthy of a review.* But then we got to Brunswick…

Indigo Coastal Shanty looks the part (except it isn’t indigo**).  It’s not necessarily a place one would go without a recommendation (as we had). But then again there’s some detailing to the external decor, and a full parking lot in a part of town where the economy has the sidewalks rolled up most of the time… The paint job and the parking lot say peek inside at least.

Bam! You peek inside and five things hit you. Clean, Bright, Energetic, Aromatic, and Welcoming. Our reservation message had gotten garbled. No problem. We were instantly offered large glasses of cold water and they hustled to find us a place.

Indoor seating is around 32-36 —  school chairs and Formica tables. A tile floor and construction block walls reverberate everything. If noise is a problem for you, bring ear plugs, you won’t want to miss the food. Outdoors is undoubtedly quieter, but it was too warm for that yesterday.

The wait staff  was friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. The wine list was short and our selection excellent. It was a Canyon Oaks Chard served at the right temperature and generously poured. This is a basic table wine. It’s variable from year to year, and this vintage was good. The bouquet is fragrant and delicate — notes of pear and lemon complemented by citrus and a touch of nuttiness on the palate. It had a creamy texture amplified by being at the right temperature. It was a perfect accompaniment for our meal.

The appetizers looked appetizing, but when we saw “sides” included fried okra, we decided to split an order for our starter.  What a start. Obviously cut and breaded on site, it was hot (and served in a heat retaining soup cup), devoid of lingering cooking fat, savory and garnished with parsley. Frankly one could easily make a meal of side dishes here and be happy. This was A+ okra.

We’d eaten lightly since breakfast, and we’d walked from the boat (15 minutes in 90° heat). We were hungry.

Janet chose the “special” Pork Chop with Picadillo, Slaw, and Black Beans and Brown Rice. I chose the Fisherman’s Bowl — upgrading it from tilapia to atlantic salmon.

The Pork chops had been dry rubbed with a Cuban melange of spices (referred to as “Latin” on the menu board) not including vinegar. They were tender, properly done, and generously portioned. They were also buried under an attractive pile of Picadillo ingredients, though not a sauce per se. This meant each bite was a differing riff on picadillo component flavors, rather than a repetitive sampling of sauce. Bueno! The “Slaw” was was also an attractive pile of several types of cabbage shredded coarsely and graced with enough dressing to be taste-filled but not sloppy. The black beans and brown rice also were well flavored with a distinctively Cuban blend. For my eye I would have preferred yellow rice. The flavor wouldn’t have been much different, and it would have brightened the plate and signaled Caribbean. A+

My Fisherman’s Bowl was a wine saute of salmon and locally harvested shrimp with a tomato and fennel broth that had been slightly thickened with couscous and garnished with feta. How was the broth? I asked for an additional piece of Ciabatta to wipe the large serving bowl clean. This was perhaps the best seafood stew I have had. The salmon was cooked medium. The shrimp were sweet and cooked to perfection. The tomatoes didn’t overwhelm. There were enough for color and flavor and enough was enough. The fennel was sitting right on that peak between over and under-cooked. If I had prepared this (and I will give it a shot), I would have used Israeli couscous for the larger pearls and a more authoritarian feta — but then I like feta more than most people. This was one of those dishes it was just enjoyable to sit there and savor the aroma for a while. Another A+

We finished off with Mango Sorbet graced with candied pineapple (and just a grace, thank you). Like the wine, it was perfect with our entree choices, and we still had to walk back to the boat.

Indigo Coastal Shanty is a place to alter travel plans for — The people, the food, the ambiance embrace you and make you feel welcome.

*We did eat at Cafe Margaux in Cocoa again, but the review would have been a recap, the outstanding quality of the experience is unchanged.

Photograph by James Bitler

**Although the Asian variety was considered by some to be finer, planters in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida cultivated the New World variety extensively, perhaps due to similar climate. I. suffruticosa still grows wild on the north end of Georgia’s Ossabaw Island at North End Plantation, the site of a colonial-era indigo plantation.

By 1755 the Carolina colony alone was exporting around 200,000 pounds of indigo annually; Georgia was just beginning to export indigo, with 4,500 pounds exported that year. Georgia’s indigo exportation reached its peak in 1770, with more than 22,000 pounds.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, however, England withdrew the bounty on indigo. This, combined with competition from indigo plantations in Central America and Spanish Florida that could harvest five to six crops a year, compared with Georgia and Carolina’s two or three crops annually, caused colonial American indigo production to collapse.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia