Daily Archives: April 16, 2021

National Treasure!

Cumberland Island, GA – Thursday, 4/15

We knew that once we left Fernandina we would have only 6 miles to the anchorage at Cumberland Island, so we were in no big hurry to get off the dock. Because of this, Denise was able to get in a run. It worked out great that it was 2 miles from the marina to the entrance at Ft. Clinch State Park; a straight out-and-back down Center St. all the way.  Here she ran through downtown Fernandina, passed through the residential section, took in two parks and a slight hill, before turning around and heading back to the boat.

One of the parks (Egan Park) was full of early morning exercisers. Some had just finished up a yoga class, and others were doing “loops” in the park. Others were using the exercise equipment that is like a “seniors” playground. We had seen a similar park like this in Newport, Rhode Island in 2019, but never knew there was one like this here.  One runner told her there are four ¼ mile each loops in the park and that is what the walkers and runners were completing with a coach cheering their progress.  What a great find and good information to share with other Loopers who might be interested in some exercise while on their cruising adventure.  Here are some pictures from this outing:

Once back at the boat, and with breakfast and showers done, it was time to leave this cool town.  Whether a boater or just a traveler looking for a neat small town, we highly recommend this location. It has been a favorite of ours for years, and continues to delight us every time we come here.

We left the marina and cruised past the industrial area, eventually crossing the St. Mary’s inlet. Here we watch for submarines transiting to and from the Atlantic Ocean.  Although we saw none today, we have in the past and it is always thrilling.

We arrived at Cumberland Island and had plenty of options on where to anchor; it is a large area and there were few boats.  Once settled in we ate some lunch and then spent the afternoon getting caught up on emails, doing some work, and relaxing. It was overcast and breezy, and when the wind was against the outgoing tide the water slapping the boat’s hull was bit loud.

Cumberland Is Anchorage – South

Cumberland Island is part of the National Parks and is known for its sandy white dunes, long flat beach, and the wild horses that roam all over the island.  About half way up the island is the Greyfield Inn where John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife were married.  In 2017 we were able to dine at the inn and tie up to their dock for the night, but the park was closed due to hurricane damage. Now the park is reopened and we are anxious to go explore this island.

Near mid-afternoon Todd & Patty (“Alcyone”) came by in their dinghy to see if we wanted to join them on a walk into the park. They too had anchored, arriving before us that morning.  We thanked them but declined as we had things we wanted to get done and are planning to go inside the park tomorrow when we have a full day to enjoy it. These were nice folks and we hope our paths will cross with theirs again sometime.

After that, Mark took a nap and Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the last blog until the power on her laptop computer died.  Eventually, we powered up the generator to charge all devices (iPads, iPhones, computers), and we microwaved a dinner from leftovers in the freezer. Shortly thereafter we were treated to a couple of wild horses as they foraged along the western shoreline of the island.

 After dishes were done we published the blog, and read until daylight was no more.  Despite being overcast all day, we were treated to a delightful sunset over the marsh on the western side of the anchorage.

Sunset at Cumberland Island

There is a saying among the Loopers: “9:00 is Looper Midnight” – and it was true for us. By 9:00 we could no longer keep our eyes open and turned in for the night.

Cumberland Island, GA – Friday, 4/16

As you can probably guess, when you go to bed early, you wake up early.  But a 1:30 am wake-up was not what Denise had in mind. The wind had shifted and the boat did too, now pointing a different direction. The water slapping continued and it is quite loud in the master stateroom so she moved to the main salon and curled up on the settee there.  Finally sometime after 3:00 am she fell back asleep, waking at 6:30 in the morning to another day of overcast skies.

The weather forecast had the impending rain now delayed until late afternoon, so we took a chance and decided to go inside the park.  Mark launched the dinghy and we cruised to the dock where the ferry comes to drop off campers and day-trippers. 

We tied up the dinghy in the authorized spot and then walked up to the Sea Camp welcome area.  The entrance fee is $10 per person and you put your money in an envelope and drop it in a collection box.  There is a welcome building that all campers must check into when they arrive, and it was manned by a single volunteer ranger.  Due to Covid, access inside is limited, but there were very few people around so it was not an issue when we arrived.  We got our questions answered about the appropriate trails to take to see what we wanted to see, and then headed out to explore.

Cumberland Island is a long island and there is so much to see and do, there is no way we could experience it without bikes. You can rent some at the park office, but none were available when we arrived.  So, we chose a handful of things we wanted to see, mostly the ruins of the old estate home (“Dungeness”) at the southern end of the island, and the sandy beaches on the Atlantic. We could see both of these if we went to the estate home and then head east to the beach.

From the welcome area it was a bit of hike to the estate, but well worth it. We took the main road hoping to avoid the buggy path along the water.  It was tree covered path and since there was no sun, it was not a bad walk. Along the way we encountered a handful of the wild horses, including a new fawn that was being very protected by the others.  They literally were within 8 feet of us and this was quite a thrill.

We came upon the estate and toured the ruins of the house, originally build by Nathanael Greene (Continental Army General during the Revolutionary War), but later rebuilt by the Carnegies. The entire estate stayed in the Carnegie family until the last of the children died, then it was deeded to a trust who turned it over to the National Park Service. The family wanted to make sure it was never in the hands of developers who could ruin the natural beauty and incredible wildlife on the island.  You can learn more about this very cool place here.

At one point we stopped to talk to one of the maintenance workers on the island who told us what it was like to work here.  He mentioned the wildlife (snakes and gators) he has captured, and we talked about the wild horses. He told us there are around 175, but this year they have lost count because so many have been having babies, as have the eagles on the island. To us it felt like the bugs too had been multiplying and we were getting bitten and swarmed. So we thanked him for his time and pressed on towards the beach.  Here we once again encountered the wild horses as they had made a full circle of the grounds and were now following us.

The pathway that led to the beach was long and it felt like a million miles to Mark. It started out ok, then turned into soft sand, and then over the wetlands there was a wooden boardwalk that took you to the dunes and the beach area.  Here we found a large driftwood tree, and numerous jelly fish that had washed up on the island.  We also saw all kinds of birds along the water and very few people. We also encountered an ATON (aids to navigation) that had to be a remnant from one of the hurricanes.  Here are some pictures:

Knowing we did not want to have to deal with the mass swarms of gnats and bugs around the estate, we chose not to go back the way we came, but to walk north on the beach. We could then pick up the cross trail near the campsites to get back to the Sea Camp Welcome Center.  This was the smart decision as the cloud cover kept the temperature amenable, and there were no bugs.  Plus, we got to see another group of wild horses, once again protecting yet another young fawn.

Wild horses on beach

The path back to Sea Camp was much easier, but now there were more people in the park. They request social distancing and we did our best to keep away from others, even on the narrow paths.  We again encountered a horse, but with all the people about we moved past him quickly to give space; they recommend you do not touch or approach them as they will kick and bite. 

We arrived back to the welcome center just at the ferry had showed up with a bunch of weekend campers and all their gear.  Likewise there were people waiting to leave on the ferry, so we had to wait until the gangplank was cleared of all before we could get back to our dinghy, and then back to the boat.   It was a fun outing and we were really glad that we stopped here.

IO at CI anchorage

Once back on the boat we ate a late lunch and then worked on our travel itinerary for the coming days.  We have had a few things to potentially change our original schedule (work, a memorial service for a friend) and now we are putting in contingencies.  Denise read a book, and worked on the blog while Mark did some client work, marina scheduling and took a nap. 

In the late afternoon it started to rain and it is expected to continue all night and all day tomorrow.  We had a delicious dinner of poached salmon and roasted asparagus and some red wine; after all it is Friday!

We are headed to Jekyll Island tomorrow; it is one of our favorite spots along the GA coast and we are looking forward to returning there.

Fun and Funky Fernandina

Fernandina Beach, FL – Tuesday, 4/14

We left St. Augustine at 8:00 am as planned knowing our travel today would only take about 3 hours.  Mark had hoped to go offshore to Fernandina Beach (via St. Mary’s Inlet) but the seas did not lay down as expected overnight.  So it would be the ICW all the way, winding our way north and slowing for the inevitable fishing boats, slower trawlers, and sailboats along the way.

Morning on the San Sebastian River

The trip was mostly uneventful. We passed by the ever-increasing houses with boat docks in Palm Valley and Ponte Vedra Beach.  Denise likes the one on the edge of the state park, particularly their tree fort (not visible in picture).

We passed under all the bridges that are part of Jacksonville, and navigated the shoals of the entrance at the St. John’s River. Here we saw several ships at anchor in the river, and grateful none were moving as can often be the case. This is usually a busy area with large freighters and container ships moving up and down the river as they make their way to the Port of Jacksonville.  Fortunately, the crossing was uneventful and we quickly found our way back on the ICW heading north towards Fernandina Beach (Amelia Island).

At anchor in St. John’s River

We continued winding our was north, happy to see that the dredging that had been done in 2019 was holding and we did not encounter any shallow areas along the way, including around Nassau Sound; an area known for chronic shifting of the bottom and the creation of shoals. 

White Pelicans in ICW near Amelia Island

We passed under the bridge that takes you to the island and the famous Down Under Restaurant.

Downunder Restaurant

Just past the bridge is the entrance channel to the Amelia Island Marina. Last time we came this way we stayed there because the Fernandina Beach City Marina (located downtown) was still being repaired from hurricane damage suffered in 2016 and 2017. But the marina is now up and running (now part of Oasis Marinas) and we had reservations for the night.

It was just a short time later that we arrived at Fernandina Marina and Captain Mark expertly parallel-parked our Island Office into the slip.  Immediately we were met by a knowledgeable young dockhand who assisted with tie-up and our power connection. Within 10 minutes he was back with our Welcome Kit, and all the information we need for our stay. Everything was very efficient and we didn’t have to go up to the office to check-in. Additionally, we were on the inside of the long dock, which meant the big yachts across the dock on the outside would be blocking all the boat traffic passing along the ICW.  We were very happy.

We spent the afternoon doing work; Denise had 2 conference calls and Mark had a few issues to handle with clients.  Mark then washed all the salt off the boat while Denise did some in-house chores, periodically getting interrupted by passers-by who commented on our boat.  In the last few days on the ICW, and at this marina we have seen more Looper burgees on boats then we have ever seen.  More and more people are discovering this fun and exciting adventure, and as “Gold Loopers” we are always happy to accommodate.

Because of Covid we were not sure what we would find open for restaurants, but it appears all but one has some form of take-out or dining in options.  We were glad to find our favorite “Timoti’s” was open and opted for a quick and delicious bite at this family-friendly outdoor-only dining establishment.

Once our stomachs were full of food we wandered up and down the main street (Center St) of Fernandina and was delighted to see many of the shops were still in business. It must have been a tough few years for this town, but it looks like it is back up and running.  There were several new stores and a few old ones, and we were happy to see that the famous Palace Saloon was still operating in its newer post-fire digs. When we lived in Jacksonville and would take our sailboat here, this was a familiar stop at the end of a long day of off-shore sailing up from Mayport.

Palace Saloon

After our walk around downtown, we walked the long dock at the marina, and introduced ourselves to Loopers Todd & Patty on “Alcyone” (like Halcyone without the H).  They are from Michigan and have been on the Loop since 2019, interrupted in 2020 due to Covid and some real estate transactions that now have them owning a place in Punta Gorda, FL.   We chatted for a while and then completed our walk back to our boat for the night.  Tomorrow we will head towards Cumberland Island, GA, leaving the state of Florida in our wake.

IO at Fernandina Marina