St. Augustine, FL (Thursday, 11/2)
Again we woke up to a nice morning, but the cool evening air after a warm day yesterday brought in the fog. Not something you want when trying to navigate the narrow area of the ICW through Georgia. At 7:20 we left the dock as the fog was pretty light at this point in the ICW. We made our way under the Jekyll Island Bridge and once again passed the Jekyll Wharf Marina. We cruised easily through the shoaling area of the ICW and out into St. Simons Sound, but then fog got really thick. But it didn’t last long and within minutes the sun rose and it burned off enough that we could see the St. Simons lighthouse behind us and Jekyll Island to the west.
The wind was calm and the waves were very small, but had a bit of a chop to them. For the next 90 minutes this is the way we cruised down the Georgia coast, and Mark was loving it. Unfortunately, Denise was not as the chop was just enough to allow her to read or do too much without getting seasick. These were not difficult conditions and although they were very tolerable, she was bored. So we made the decision to go back to the ICW once we hit Jacksonville, by way of the St. Johns River. After all we had plenty of time to get to St. Augustine, and it would only add another hour to the trip at this point; we had avoided the curving ICW through the rest of GA. And, we had crossed the state line and were now back in our home state.
Once inside the St. Johns River inlet we passed Mayport Naval Base where there were at least 3 ships in port and where we were treated to dolphin welcoming committee. We cruised passed the Morningstar Marina where we had stayed in April with friends Tim & Karen (TiKa2) on their boat, and then navigated around an inbound barge, crossing way in front of it to turn south on the ICW.
Now in calmer waters, Denise was able to do a few things on the boat while Mark drove under the familiar bridges and around the slower boats. There were two north-bound boats that we passed that looked familiar to a boat we had seen in the marina in Poquoson; the “Linda Carol”. The “Thomas J” and “Samuel M. Bailey” are part of a class of boats known as “buyboats”. They are so named as they were originally the boats used by those who would buy oysters from the waterman on and around the Chesapeake Bay. There is an association of those who currently own these very unique looking vessels and you can learn more about them here and here.
We continued cruising south through the gorgeous homes of Ponte Vedra, negotiating around a barge that was in the middle of the channel dredging. Fortunately, the channel was a bit wider here than it is further south. In no time we were in Palm Valley and then at the edge of Guana River Wildlife Reserve which is bordered by the Tolomoto River (ICW) on the west, and the Guana River to the east. Here we saw a few women on paddleboards enjoying the beauty of this great park.
It is also in this nearly 7 miles of the ICW that lies one of our favorite anchorages. It is near Pine Island (not to be confused with the Pine Island on FL’s Gulf Coast), and where we have anchored several times. Unfortunately, tonight we had reservations at Camachee Cove in St. Augustine where we needed a good internet connection. Mark had a planned 2-hour web conference with a client and we needed to be where there was technology.
So, we continued past Pine Island and headed to Camachee Cove where we had to wait on the dredge to dock before we could proceed into the marina. The wind was really blowing and the current at the entrance was really strong, but Mark did a great job of getting us into the slip. We tied up successfully and then went and checked into the marina office. Here they gave us all the usual information, including menus for the two restaurants located on the grounds near the marina. After looking at the one for “Vinny’s” we decided that was the place we would walk to once the call was done; they had garlic knots!
Mark’s call ended a little earlier than planned and it was still daylight when we walked to the restaurant. They have a few tables inside and a handful of picnic tables outside, but these overlooked the Vilano Bridge and highway so we opted for inside dining. Denise ordered a Greek salad and Mark got the chicken parmesan sub (no surprise there) and we both devoured the garlic knots. They were good, but still not as good as Antonella’s in Winter Park.
New Smyrna Beach, FL (Friday, 11/3)
A few charter fishing boats several slips away in the marina decided to leave early and woke us up with their wakes and noise. However, we did not leave the dock until 8:15 when the tide was more favorable for us to leave the marina entrance and get through St. Augustine Inlet. Here you have to go way outside the inlet, almost to the ocean due to the shoaling and it was a bit choppy. The wind had really picked up compared to yesterday and we were happy to be heading south in the ICW today.
We passed through the downtown area of St. Augustine and from here south really witnessed the devastating impact of hurricane Irma in this area. We had seen some of the damage here from Matthew when we headed north in the spring, but this was so much worse. The city marina was badly damaged and is slowly recovering. They can only handle a handful of boats at the docks, with more availability in the mooring fields north and south of the Bridge of Lions. There still are several sunken or partially sunken vessels along the shoreline or just outside of the channel and many hazards are reported.
And this is how it continued south on the ICW all day. We were amazed at how many private docks were totally destroyed and how many homes had waterfront damage, despite the protection of the barrier island to the east. Storm surge is the culprit here the amount of water can be very destructive.
Especially hard hit was the Daytona area, with two marinas (Caribbean Jacks and Loggerhead Marinas) totally destroyed and closed for transients.
We continued south through the Ponce De Leon Cut (rather than through Ponce Inlet) and were pleased that the dredging they did had held through the storms and we had plenty of water. From there we made our way passed the eastern shore homes that all had docks that were destroyed or partially destroyed; not one was without impact.
We passed under the North Causeway Bridge (Flagler Ave) in New Smyrna Beach (NSB) and just after 1:00 pulled into the New Smyrna Beach City Marina. Although we could have continued on and easily made it to our home marina in Merritt Island, we wanted to spend some time with long-time friends in the area. Pat & Milan Skrtic were friends of Denise’s parents and we had plans to meet them for dinner.
As we tied up to the dock, the dockmaster informed us that there was no power or water to our slip but that they were actively working on its repair. In fact, the whole marina was out as they were replacing several pedestals at the slips. It was promised to be back up by 4:00 and it was so there was no real issue for us. We were able to work on a few things on the boat that did not require power. When the power came up we were able to get our showers and enjoy a drink before dinner.
The Skrtics picked us up in front of the marina and took us to “Riverview Terrace”, a nearby restaurant that has beautiful garden dining and inside seating in this old house converted to a unique dining experience. The food was really good and we shared some great wine, not to mention terrific company. We talked way past the end of our meal and finally when all of us were yawning, they returned us to our marina and we said good night.
The NSB City Marina is the best place to stay in the area. You are within walking distance to the town of New Smyrna and there are lots of restaurants and shops to explore, and the marina is well-run. We have stayed here several times in the past and will always choose it over the more expensive (albeit more esthetic) New Smyrna Marina located to its north. While it is not close to the beach, it is not a far walk and you can always use Uber to get you the 1+ mile to see the Atlantic Ocean.