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