09 October 2010

Cumberland Island

One of the first places I stopped in Georgia was also one of the nicest.

Cumberland Island is a large barrier island off the coast of GA, about a day's sail north of the Florida border. I wasn't planning on stopping there, but as I was cruising up Cumberland Sound, the current was so strong against me that I decided to pull in to wait for the turn of the tide.

The National Park Service maintains a small dock for visiting cruisers. You can tie up for the day, but not overnight.

At the NPS dock
photo jalmberg

As soon as I was tied up, a little old lady named Jane toddled down the ramp to pay me a visit. She wanted to know if I was sailing a West Wight Potter. She told me that her late husband and she had sailed the 19 footer all over the east coast, for many years.

Jane's eyes examined the Blue Moon carefully as she told me of sailing into this long, narrow bay, back before there was a dock or 'so many people'. In fact, she was on the island to show her grandchildren some of her favorite places, this time by land.

"Buying that sailboat was the best thing we ever did," she said.

The dock gives you access to hiking trails which lead all over the island. I decided to walk across the island to the beach.

The trail leads through a grove of live oaks. These are the stately trees you see in southern movies, with the moss dripping off them. There the same trees that drew Revolutionary War hero Nathanial Greene to the island, to harvest them for ship building. The famous ship, "Old Ironsides", was built from Cumberland Island oak.

Path through live oak grove
photo jalmberg
photo jalmberg
After walking a mile or so through the forest, you emerge onto the eastern dunes. These wild, barren dunes stretch to the horizon, north and south. They looked like something you'd find on the coast of Cornwall. But they don't let wild horses roam on the Cornish coast, as far as I know. Cumberland is famous for wild horse, though I didn't see a one.

Cumberland Island Dunes
photo jalmberg
And finally, you arrive at the beach on the eastern side of the island. There were ten people on the beach when I was there, and no one swimming. Ever the rebel, I made a small pile of my possessions at the water's edge and dove in. The water was amazingly warm. Later on, someone told me that Cumberland Island has the largest population of sharks on the eastern seaboard. I'm glad I didn't know that at the time.

Shark-infested waters of Cumberland Island Beach
photo jalmberg
I whiled away so much time on the island that I spent the night anchored a bit further up the bay, where there was slightly more protection from the winds. Then it was time to move north, again.

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  1. Great post, John.


  2. I visited Cumberland Inland back in the late '70's. Took a Park's motorboat ride there with several friends for a 2 or 3 night stay. Great trip. Even better was the weather. Explored the inland's gators, wild turkeys, and wild horses. Slept on years of soft leave accumulation under the 'living oaks' and the stars. Showered in open topped stalls under the bright sun. The beach was great. I saw sailboats then and always wanted to sail there. I got a 46 footer now and plan to get there one day. Safe sailing to you.


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