Day 1: St. Augustine to Fernandina:
The Conch House Marina in St. Augustine, Fl. has been our home for the past month. Jeff’s Mom underwent knee replacement, so we have been helping out with the family chores while she recovers. Now that she is on the mend, we are anxious to get back out on the water.
Our longtime good friends, Tom and Marj, are joining us for a week of travel along the Fl- Ga. Coast. After their arrival, the afternoon is spent touring some of the sites in downtown St Augustine. Being the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States, the town is rich in history. After checking out the many shops along the cobblestone streets downtown, we head over to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument located on the West Bank of the Matanzas Bay. Completed in 1695, the fort was for many years the northernmost outpost of Spain’s New World empire. We enjoyed a great lunch at the Columbian restaurant, one of the oldest Cuban restaurants in Florida. Our next stop was a visit to the Lighthouse. Climbing the 219 steps, we were rewarded with some great views of the area.
With calm seas and light winds, we made our exit through the St. Augustine inlet at first light the next morning. The fishing lines were soon out in hopes of catching the big one. Tom enjoyed the day tending to the lines on the stern deck while we slowly worked our way north to Fernandina. With only 1-2 ft. seas, it is a perfect day to run offshore. This makes me happy, as we can avoid the inshore ICW route with its many shallow sections.
Reaching St. Marys inlet by late afternoon, we reluctantly pull in the lines never getting the first bite. You can’t say we did not try. The jettied entrance is well marked and makes for an easy entry as we travel between Amelia and Cumberland Island. We soon pick up up the ICW and travel several miles to Fernandina Beach, Florida’s northernmost city. We pick up one of the vacant mooring balls just across the waterway from the city marina. The evening is spent aboard IT enjoying our time with Tom and Marj. Dinner is simply but delicious as we have fresh steamed shrimp from St. Augustine along with fresh green beans and homemade bread from the Spanish Bakery.
Total Miles Today:58
Total Miles: 1309
Day 2& 3: Fernandina to Cumberland:
This morning finds us lowering Time Out for an exploration trip into Fernandina. Center Street anchors the downtown historic district with it’s many specialty shops and restaurants. With it being early and most the shops not yet open, we search out and find the Pecan Roll Bakery. It was a great find and we are soon enjoying bacon/ egg corn muffins and ham and cheese croissants along with peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. The next few hours finds Marj and I ducking our heads into the numerous shops while Jeff and Tom patiently wait on the husbands benches. Our next great find was Timitos Seafood Shack. It was highly rated on Yelp and it did not disappoint. All of their seafood is wild caught and everything was very well prepared.
On our dinghy trip back to the boat, we made a detour to check out a shrimp boat that was hard aground on a sandbar near the mooring field. In talking with the dock master earlier, we learned of the history of this grounding. The story is this non local shrimper had come into the dock during a tropical storm and had left his boat chained to the cleats. During the night someone cut the chain and set the boat adrift. The high winds pushed the boat up on the sand bar where it has been for the past six months. The local FL shrimpers are very territorial about outsiders coming into their area and apparently take drastic actions when they feel threatened.
Early afternoon finds us casting off from the mooring ball for a short 10 mile trip to Cumberland Island. As we enter the anchorage, we see three manatee beached with many people attending to them. In talking with the Rangers we learned that these three manatee were part of a tagging program for researching manatee migratory patterns.
With only three other boats in the anchorage, we have our choice of locations. We anchor just past the Sea Camp dock out of the way of the daily ferry boat traffic. The only way to access the island is by boat as there are no roads from the mainland. A ferry from St. Mary’s, GA makes several trips daily bringing overnight campers and day visitors to the island. Thunderstorms are looming in the sky this evening so we stay aboard and will explore the island tomorrow. We are treated to a spectacular light show just after dark but luckily most of the storms pass both north and south of us.
Total Miles Today: 8
Day 4 : Cumberland Island:
This morning we lower the dinghy for an exploration of Cumberland Island. This barrier island is one of our favorite stops along the east coast. Besides having miles and miles of untouched Atlantic beach, it offers tent camping beneath live oak and palmetto woods. There are also miles of hiking and biking trails. We set off for a hike out to the beach and circle around to tour the ruins of Dungeness Mansion. This vacation home was built in 1881 by Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. It was occupied by the family for decades until it burned in 1945. In 1971, these grounds were donated to the National Park Foundation by the Carnegie family. While hiking around the ruins, we spotted several of the wild horses who live on the island. Two of the mares were grazing peacefully with their foals. A short hike along the wooded river trail brought us back to the park headquarters and completed a loop of approximately five miles. Back aboard IT, Tom spends the afternoon trying his luck at fishing. Unfortunately, he was again skunked. The only marine life we saw was an alligator crossing the marsh just off our bow. With no fresh fish aboard, we enjoy hamburgers on the grill while watching another set of storms brewing all around.
Day 5 and 6: Cumberland Island to St. Simons:
It is a beautiful morning as we exit the St. Mary’s Inlet. There are quite a few shrimp boats shrimping just outside the channel. After weaving around the shrimper’s nets, we again pull out the fishing rods for one more try. Tom uses every lure in our tackle box along with some frozen ballyhoo but still no bites. One fisherman told us that with the water so warm most of the fish have migrated north early this year. Nearing the St Simons Sound, we can see storms on the horizon. We decide to pull in the lines and head into port. We are skunked once again. As we work our way into St. Simons Sound the storms catch us. With zero visibility, all eyes are on deck as we round Lanier Island into the Frederica River. The storms soon pass and we take our spot along the 1100 ft. face dock at Morningstar Marina. The current is running strong and Jeff does a good job of backing into the dock. The restaurant here at the Marina, Costal Kitchen, is reported to be excellent. The reviews are correct, our lunch of fresh shrimp, broiled redfish, and lobster nachos is excellent.
We awake the next morning to find freshly baked muffins and a newspaper on our steps. What a nice touch on the marinas part. I wish more marinas were this thoughtful. We also learned from Alfred, the dock master, that complementary bikes were available for our use. With four beach cruisers checked out, we bike the three miles of bike paths into the Village.
The many tourists shops and restaurants are all busy as it is a Saturday morning. St. Simons is said to be one of the top places to retire by Money Magazine. From town we continue along the bike paths out to Ft. Frederica and Christ Church, 10 miles away. Built in 1736 by James Oglethorpe, the fort is now a National Monument with archeological remains of the town and fort that once occupied the high ground.
While Tom, Marj, and I toured the grounds, Jeff spent the hour completing the junior ranger program and earning his Underwater Explorer Badge. This will ad to his collection of badges from National Parks all over the United States.
Completing 25 miles of bike trails on the beach cruisers, we arrive back to the boat tired and hungry. Tom treats us to a wonderful homemade dinner of bow tie pasta with a lemon herb crab topping. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Total Miles Today: 50
Total Miles: 1367
Day 7 & 8: St. Simons to Brunswick, Ga:
From St. Simmons it is a short 10 mile trip up the Brunswick River to Brunswick. Home of Brunswick stew the town is know as the “Gateway to the Golden Isles” and “Land of Five Flags”. Flags of the five nations that have laid claim to the area, England, Spain, France, the Confederate Army, and United States, are proudly flow along the Marina walkway. The Old Town of Brunswick, designed by General McIntosh, is laid out in a series of squares. The stately old homes and live Oakes clothed with Spanish moss make for an enjoyable walk through the historic district. Despite its attractive backdrop, the town seems to be struggling with many shops boarded up. We select Fox’s Pizza for our farewell dinner with Tom and Marj. The Italian food is superb, a good ending to a great trip with old friends. Everyone aboard Idyll Time is sorry to see our guests leave. Nate especially has enjoyed his time with Aunt Marj.
With our guests gone, it is now time for us to start making tracks north. Once we have a two day weather window, we will make the 40 hour offshore run north to Bald Head Island.
Total Miles Today: 10
Total Mikes This Year: 1377