Friday, April 20, 2018

From Shady Lady and Hell Gate to Isle of Hope and Ice Cream

Viridian shared Red Bird Creek anchorage with three other boats who were also positioning themselves to traverse Hell Gate the following morning.
So what is Hell Gate anyway?  Hell Gate is simply a short channel, about 4000 ft long, that was cut by the Corps of Engineers, and allows smaller vessels traveling the AICW to not have to go out into the Atlantic ocean and back in again to access the AICW.  The Big Ogeechee River (running southeast) and the Little Ogeechee River (running southeast but north of Big Ogee) come together at the coast and deposit silt out into the ocean.  This manmade pass serves as a shortcut.
We were located only 17 miles from our destination Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah, GA so it would be a short cruising day once we got going.  High tide would occur at 1300 hrs  and we planned to arrive at Hell Gate Passage about an hour before when most of the 8 ft tide would be in.  (We had heard about Hell Gate in briefings at the Fall Rendezvous and what a notorious passage it was and great care must be taken when entering).  However, sitting on the flybridge I could see over the tall grass, several large boats and a HUGE dredge barge coming north.  This was about 0800.  Next, the three boats, one named Shady Lady, pulled up anchor and sailed out of Red Bird heading north to Hell Gate and beyond.  I turned on the VHF and monitored 16 to listen to traffic and all the chatter was about Hell Gate and how deep the water was there.  Once Shady Lady reported clearing Hell Gate I called her and asked about the passage was and she said they had plenty of water, 6 ft, under their keel.  This was good news!  I texted our Looper friends, who were a two hour cruise south west of us, and told them we heard good reports from boats crossing Hell Gate and would report back once we were through.  So we sucked in our 125 ft of chain rode and sailed off into the cold morning wind, (yes, it was freezing cold), to sail into the Gates of Hell. 

Speaking of Hell, the wind blew a steady 20 mph all night and we were floating in a field of grass directly exposed to the winds in all directions. No place to hide here in GA.  Our anchor has never dragged but I suspected it did this night because we looked a little too close to the bank once the sun came up. 

Anyway, back to the subject, The approach to Hell Gate was 90 deg from the main channel heading out to sea in the Big Ogeechee River.  The channel markers facing us had blown off the poles sometime in the past so we had to compare what we saw, looking into the sun, with what was on the charts, to make sure we were on the correct approach all the while the cold wind was whipping up the water into rolling whitecaps and seafoam blew off the peaks to add an exclamation point to the scene.  The charts showed what looked like a channel cut through the land with banks on either side.  This was not what we were seeing  looking out the window.  Once we turned into the Hell Gate channel, we saw some small red buoys bobbing around, some naked poles sticking up and open water on the port side for as far as we could see.  The channel was just a north/south ditch dug into the eastern shore of Racoon Key and at high tide there was no western bank.  We had 8 feet under the keel the whole way through.  The only challenge was keeping her in the channel with the wind, waves and current running against us.  Once through we texted our Fellow Loopers and reported back what we saw.

After traversing Hell Gate we turned northeast in to the Vernon River and found shelter from the wind.  The water smoothed out and the sun warmed the flybridge and Viridian turned off the Vernon River in to Moon River.  Moon River forked right and we entered Skidaway River and sailed northeast past the Skidaway Island State Park and on to our destination of Isle of Hope Marina on the outskirts of Savannah, GA.  We plan to stay here until another "weather event day" passes on Monday.  While the sun is shining we will explore Savannah with the loaner car and Uber transportation and swing by the Wal-Mart for supplies.

That's the news and here are a few views:

We are here

Our route from Red Bird Anchorage, through Hell Gate to Isle of Hope Marina, GA

Google View of Hell Gate Channel

Sunset on Red Bird River, GA

"Fin-nishing" the Day

Next Morning as we are Turning into Moon River, GA

Back in winter weather in April

Another wind assisted docking at Isle of Hope Marina, GA

Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA

Red Brick Road

The trees again

Forsyth Park

Leopold's Ice Cream

Banana ice cream for me and Thin Mint Cookie for George

Finally got a pic of a "no-see-em"

Lots of great architecture here

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