Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cumberland Island, GA

0 nm
Wind: N 15-20 knots, dying down to 10-15
Seas: A little chop

It was all worth it. I convinced Karl to go ashore this afternoon after the wind died down, saying we could make the six-mile run to Fernandina after four. The island is a completely different world, set apart in time and space. We saw wild horses grazing on the beach as we dinghied across against the current, and huge live oaks hung wiht Spanish moss.

We took one of the little meandering paths that led back to the ruined Carnegie estate at Dungeness. The maritime forest is as thick as a rainforest, bu with deciduosu oaks that are gnarled and twisted as defense from hurricanes. We saw an armadillo scurrying through the underbrush with a remarkably pink nose, more wild horses, and a herd of emu-sized wild turkeys.

We visited the museum that held the history of the island and artifacts from the Carnegie estate, which Karl was amused to learn was built later than his house in Massachusetts. But exploring the ruins was haunting, in the way that the deterioration of the work of our hands always is. We saw photographs from a hundred years ago, when visiting the estate was the height of society. The island required a completely self-sufficient staff of 300 servants, and the owners only lived there several months a year. The effort it must have taken to carve a slice of civilization out of hte wild and wind-whipped island must have been extraordinary. Now it’s all decaying, overrun by birds and horses and fire. It was beautiful and sad and made me think about time.

We wandered through the graveyard, too, where the tombstones, overhung with vines, were set aboveground to keep the bodies from washing away. The boardwalk over the salt marsh along hte beach was a beautiful walk, and then we meandered back along the nature trail that taught us all about various Indian medicinal herbs.

It may have been our best day on the boat so far, definitely our best day on land. It felt great to be exploring a beautiful, abandoned place by foot, to be visiting a place only our boat could take us. There’s a ferry that runs from land, but only for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

When we got back to the dinghy dock, our little cracked fiberglass dinghy was the only boat tied up, bashing a little from the wind. It was gray and overcast, but Secret was the only boat in the anchorage, and we had another night with paradise to ourselves. Sometimes life on a boat ain’t so bad.

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