You might have noticed how sunny the day was on Thursday while we wasted away inside one building after another. Well, that was about the last of any sun worth mentioning for our entire stay. Can you say “dense fog”? How about “cold front”? No matter; have car can travel… into town…. to shops… to forts …. and to visit boat friends also in Brunswick.
We checked out downtown historic Brunswick (a bit disappointing) and Brunswick Landing Marina where we found a plethora of catamarans. Guess this is a popular and reasonably priced spot for cruisers to leave their boats over the summer, then get it ready for a quick southward zooming.
Over to Jekyll Island where we drove around (just because we could) then over to the marina where Traveling Soul was spending a few days. We’d met Mike and Ann last November at Marineland Marina and shared Thanksgiving with them at Vero. Was great to see them and catch up, each telling as many cruising stories as we could fit in and especially enjoying those that involved others we both knew. Lunch at the Jekyll Island Club’s Cove Cottage, then back aboard for a special treat; Ann’s homemade elixir tonic water and vodka. Not like that clear stuff in a bottle, but a tweaked recipe that included ingredients such as lavender and cardamom. Add a splash of fizz from a SodaStream and vodka (or gin) and you will never feel the same about ordinary tonic water. What a treat!
Saturday the fog blanketed the coastline and even by noon when we headed up and over to St Simon’s Island it still covered the river as we crossed the Sidney Lanier Bridge affording zilch in the way of checking out the ICW. Fort Frederica was our first stop and even a Saturday didn’t bring out the visitors thanks to the unseasonably cool day, although more people were shopping in the village on Mallery St.
I’ve never counted how many forts we’ve visited but this one must put us over ten. Built under the visionary direction of James E Oglethorpe around 1736, the ruins of old Frederica recall the struggle for empire in the Southeast in the 1700s. Spain and Great Britain both claimed the land between St Augustine and Charleston (two great places today!) but Spain’s power was waning in these parts while Great Britain was building a vast empire from Maine to Carolina. As a southern frontier buffer, Georgia was founded in the territory below Carolina. An experiment in idealism, Georgia became the promised land to the “worthy poor”, as prominent English citizens, among them James Oglethorpe, a soldier and politician concerned with the welfare of both the poor and the empire, petitioned the Crown for a land grant south of the Savannah River. A perfect example of one stone, two birds, this was a way to hold the Spanish in check and relieve social distress at home.
Oglethorpe was a man of great energy and vision. He founded and led the Georgia colony for its first decade and under his guidance the colony welcomed immigrants of diverse religious views and national origins, banned slavery and rum, and successfully resisted Spanish attack. In 1734 he sailed down the coast to find strategic points to fortify. He found one on a sea island just below the mouth of the Altamaha River on St Simons.
A military town named for Frederick, the king’s only son, was laid out on a bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the inland passage up the coast. First up was to build a fort; with a quadrangle rampart, four bastions, earthen walls, palisade and surrounded on three sides by a moat, Frederica was well protected. Inside sat 84 lots, most 60 by 90 feet. Each family received a building lot and 50 acres for crops. Residents included a blacksmith, wheelwright, baker, candlestick maker (yep the butcher too!), doctor and tavern keeper. By mid-1740s the population reached about 500 and prospered; growing crops was way easier than in the cold, rocky north and abundant wildlife kept meat on every table.
Two units of troops defended Frederica; Oglethorpe’s own 42d Regiment of Foot and the Highland Independent Company stationed at a Scottish settlement, Darien on the Altamaha River and later at Fort St Simons on the island’s southern tip. Fortunately for the British, Oglethorpe successfully drove back the Spanish from Georgia. But a town born of war was not likely to thrive in peace and Oglethorpe’s regiment was disbanded in 1749. Without the several hundred soldiers’ money, the town could not prosper and by 1755 Frederica was a town without inhabitants, and streets overgrown with weeds. Having outlived its purpose and the final blow, a 1758 fire, Frederica fell into ruin.
We visited the Maritime Museum housed in an old Coast Guard station on the island’s ocean shore. The fog rolled in again, squashing any thought of venturing to the beach.