We left beautiful Halifax Harbor Marina this morning headed to Melbourne, Florida. The ride was pretty slow going throughout the morning with manatee zones at every turn. Luckily, it was a pretty ride with so much to look at. We quickly noticed that Manatee Zones and VERY large/nice homes seem to coincide…coincidence?
We were able to make up some time during the second half of our day which was much needed with the 90+ miles we planned to travel. We arrived in Melbourne just in time for happy hour!
After getting settled in, we went to explore the town a bit. The Melbourne Harbor Marina , where we were docked for the night was conveniently located within easy walking distance to town.
We quickly chose the Seafood Station for dinner. It was a quaint little building that used to be a gas station and outdoor seating under an awning. Unfortunately, they had a long wait and waiting for dinner with a child is near impossible. We were disappointed we didn’t get to try it, so we drowned our sorrows in pizza. My parents tried the Seafood Station shortly after and reported it to be excellent and worth the wait. We strolled around town window shopping in all the cute shops (It was Sunday) and then walked back to the boat for course plotting and planning for tomorrow. Melbourne was a gorgeous little town that I highly recommend stopping at…by boat or car!
We awoke early and finished the three-ish hour hour drive to Daytona Beach. We then started the daunting task of getting the boat ready to splash at Halifax Harbor Marina. If you remember from our last journey, this is where we concluded our trip and took the boat out of the water. I can’t say enough good things about this marina! It’s a great facility, we knew what to expect at the boat ramp and knew it was a great option.
Even though we had loaded the boat with food, clothes and everything else we could think of ahead of time, it still took an hour or two of prep to get the boat in the water. With putting up the eisenglass enclosure, strapping the generator down, the coolers and various other things, the list becomes almost endless. I always ask Philip the same question before splashing, “Is the drain plug in?” He always rolls his eyes and says, “Nope”. Call me a nag but I feel it’s important to make sure 🙂
We headed to the fuel dock to “fill ‘er up” and then made the easy trip over to our slip for the evening. (Docking here ended up being one of the few easy docking experiences of the trip.) The rest of the night was spent enjoying the warm weather, organizing the boat, tying everything down appropriately and offloading ANYTHING we decided we didn’t need. The boat is only 27ft so any extra room to move is essential for my sanity.
We made our dinghy legal with its stenciled registration and then sat down for a cozy dinner on the boat. Tomorrow we plan to head to Melbourne, FL, a town I’m really looking forward to seeing!
We awoke this morning full of excitement and anticipation for our third Intracoastal Waterway trip as a family. If we make it through this trip, we will have completed most of the ICW on the East Coast! Our previous trips were Beaufort, NC to Beaufort, SC (2016) and Charleston, SC to Daytona Beach, FL (2018). We overlapped a little on our second trip because we love Charleston so much! Our daughter, who is now 4, has made all of these trips with us, starting at 18 months. She loves every minute!
As we made our way south, we quickly learned that we weren’t the only trailer on the road. It was Bike Week at our destination of Daytona Beach, bikes and trailers with bikes were at every turn. The upside is that other people with trailers usually know how to maneuver around other people with trailers!
We made it to a sleepy little town called Darien, GA before we stopped for the night. The only reason we had heard of this town before was from previous ICW trips. It’s only a few miles off the ICW and has nice, FREE, town docks! The docks are walking distance to several waterfront restaurants. We settled into our hotel room and then headed to the waterfront for dinner at Skippers Fish Camp. It was the perfect evening filled with good food, water views, boats and GA bugs 🙂 After staring at the water through our dinner of oysters and fresh-off-the-boat fish, we headed back to the hotel to sleep with great anticipation for tomorrow….splash day!
A few weekends ago, we went boat shopping! To be fair, we have been looking for quite some time. “Window/Dock” shopping if you will. A few months ago in Annapolis, MD, after walking the docks of several marinas, we fell in love with a brand… the Regal. Now we are exclusively searching for a Regal 3560 for us to call Drift Away 2… or Drift Away Again…or Drift Away forever?…we don’t know yet.
We traveled a few hours south to Lake Norman, NC. I was really excited to go because many people compare our home lake, Smith Mountain Lake, to Lake Norman and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The boat we went to see wasn’t on the water but that was okay because we found a gorgeous Air BnB that was on the water and whose shoreline seemed to span the entire lake. We settled in and went to lunch with a gorgeous water view.
After lunch, we headed to see the boat. It was a one owner boat who had taken meticulous care of the boat. The vinyl, eisenglass and carpet were all BRAND new. It was gorgeous and exactly what we are looking for. There is a stateroom for us and a private nook for our first mate daughter. It also had beautiful teak flooring and a nice size galley.
After the boat search, we went back to our Air BnB and parked in some lounge chairs until sundown. We met the owner and he announced he was going to hit a few golf balls…he then took his clubs and golf balls and hopped on his boat and off he went to one of the many golf courses on the lake! My kind of golfing! The sunset came and went and provided a spectacular show.
We were then off to dinner at Eddies on Lake Norman where lobster were in claw games and the oysters were a plenty. Did I mention it was, of course, on the water and had a live musician playing guitar and picking all the classic 70’s and 80’s songs he knew. After filling my belly with as many oysters as I could I paused at the claw game at the front of the restaurant. If you knew my love of the claw game then you would know how much it pained me to not have seen this when we walked in. I mean, I’m a master at the game and for a mere $2 I could have tried my hand at fresh, North Carolina, claw game lobster! I decided to save my skills for another day and back to our Air BnB we went to enjoy the outdoor hot tub.
With temps in the high 60s it was a perfect day to look for a new (to us) boat!
Sadly, tomorrow is our last day aboard Drift Away for this trip. We are headed to Daytona Beach, Florida today and tomorrow we will pull the boat out and drive the 13 hours home to Virginia. We wanted to make the most of our day though and started early down the Intracoastal. It was again fairly straight and easy other than a few more reminders of storms. Along this stretch, we saw the most masts and abandoned boats than any other stretch of the trip. There is something very eery and unnerving about seeing just the mast of a sail poking thru the water.
Once we got settled at the beautiful Halifax Harbor Marina, we headed to the infamous Daytona Beach. We had another interesting Uber ride that seemed to last forever because it was bike week or big truck week or something. Isnt there always some kind of “week” in Daytona Beach? We finally made it to blue water and white sand and enjoyed lunch at Ocean Deck. The restaurant has been around for ages and although its known to be a bit wild it was the perfect mix of entertainment and family friendly. Its also LITERALLY on the beach and you can put your toes in the sand while you eat and drink. We then took a walk along the sand to some awesome shoppes and the biggest Joe’s Crab Shack I have ever seen.
We love Sloppy Joes in Key West so we decided to grab dinner at the one in Daytona Beach. While it was every bit different than Key West it was still a great time and offered a good view of the water. The local crowd there was very friendly and one gentleman who was photographing beach scenes from the Sloppy Joe’s deck even bought Peyton a toy from the gift shop.
Tomorrow, we are getting up at first light to pull the boat from the marina, load it on the trailer and make the trip home. We really hope you have enjoyed our travel journey and stay tuned for the next adventure!
Today we traveled 30 miles to St. Augustine, Florida. The trip was easy, fast and straight. That seems to be a common theme in Florida! Just before crossing the beautiful “Bridge of Lions” in St. Augustine, we passed a gorgeous tall ship named The Schooner Freedom that does day charters and sunset sails. It looked so majestic in the middle of the water with all its sails flying high.
Just past the bridge we settled in at St. Augustine Municipal Marina and even though they were hit hard by Hurricane Irma, we managed to get a nice interior spot (something we have come to treasure after Thunderbolt!) It seemed everywhere we went there were reminders of Mother Nature. Whether it be damage from Hurricane Irma and 2016’s Hurricane Matthew or the still lingering Tropical Storm Alberto who seemed to give us a good shower each day.
We enjoyed another great meal at a place called Harry’s New Orleans Cuisine and then walked the old cobblestone streets. There were several shops and restaurants along the street. A downpour hit us again and we dipped into a spot called Prohibition Kitchen. I wish we had been able to spend more time here! It was dark but open with a rustic and cool 1920’s vibe. We had a quick appetizer to let the rain pass and continued our walking touring of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine is rich in history and it shows on every corner. Explorer, Ponce de Leon claims to have discovered “La Florida” near what is now St. Augustine and its also believed to be one of the locations of his famous Fountain of Youth. Lesser known stories tell of Ponce de Leon discovering a current that pushed his ships northward more quickly than other currents and this current was later named the now well known Gulf Stream. I really wished the rain hadn’t been so heavy this day as there was SO much more to explore than we had time for in one day.
We had another short 30 mile journey to Jacksonville Beach, Florida this morning. It was an easy, fast ride and we arrived early enough to enjoy the day there! We settled into Palm Cove Marina and then went to lunch along the beach. We had a great meal at an open air cafe, Ocean Grille and Bar, and watched the waves crash while we ate. It was obvious we had made it further south as the color of the water was getting bluer and bluer.
After lunch, we spent a while relaxing on the beach and then went back to the marina. Palm Cove has very nice facilities, including a really nice pool that their transient guests have access to. If you stumbled upon this blog looking for ICW tips and recommendations then I highly encourage you to look for marinas with pools if you are boating with kids!! Its really a deal breaker with our child. On such hot days, it was so nice to relax, play and cool off in the pool. While we are underway, we don’t have AC power to run the Air Conditioner and don’t use the generator, therefore it gets really hot on the boat everyday. Many afternoons it would take several hours for the boat to cool down once plugging back into shore power. Finding ways to cool off is a must.
Our Marine Air Conditioner is a Mermaid Marine 5200 BTU AC Unit with Reverse Cycle Heat. This particular unit is roughly 20 years old and isn’t cooling as well as it used to. I’m guessing it needs a recharge, but it uses the older Freon that is difficult to come by nowadays. I would love to hear from someone knowledgeable about Marine AC units on whether we can recharge this unit or if it needs to be replaced. The coils and filter are clean, but we’re not getting super cold air out of the ducts. It can’t keep up during the heat of the day. Complicating things, this is not a factory installation, so the two ducts were routed with limited access and probably aren’t in ideal locations for cooling the boat. I also believe this 5200 BTU unit is slightly undersized for our 27 ft. cruiser.
After a few hours at the pool, we showered and then went to dinner. There is a restaurant onsite at the marina called Marker 32. This restaurant was a bit fancier than we would typically take our rambunctious child to but the atmosphere was loud so we went for it. I’m so glad we were able to eat there as the food was phenomenal! Everything seemed fresh and well prepared. After our meal we went back to our boat to relax and unwind from a great day.
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise and I couldn’t resist another opportunity to take the golf cart to several small shops that are part of the Beach Village shopping complex. It had a wonderful mix of souvenir shops, beach apparel and outdoor stores. There were also several restaurants and a Westin with a Starbucks! After window shopping, we headed back to the boat to prepare for our next 37 miles to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. We left on a rising tide and even though the miles were short the journey was long. Just past Jekyll Island we had our first and my least favorite sound crossing at St. Andrews Sound. Even though its a very large sound it is known to be shallow and isn’t recommended for boaters headed into the ocean who are traveling outside. The magenta line also took us to the edge of the open ocean, before taking a 90 degree turn to head back inland. We saw several small fishing boats cut off the corner but we decided after reading several charts and books to stay with our line just to be safe. It was a bit unnerving to be in the open ocean however!
After a successful crossing we started the journey past Cumberland Island. The island is known as one of Georgia’s largest barrier islands with beautiful marshes and unspoiled beaches. It is rich in history and looked like a great spot for a day trip or camping on another occasion. We added it to our ever growing list of places we would never have known about and now want to visit thanks to these Intracoastal trips. It is quite a long island with most of our trip today just west of its marshy shoreline. As we cruised thru the skinny channel we noticed what appeared to be a hunting cabin up ahead. I pulled out the binoculars and, as we got closer, we discovered Cabin Bluff. It was originally founded in the 1800’s as the first members-only hunting club in the US. It became Cabin Bluff in 1928 and served as a hunting and fishing lodge for wealthy southerners and northerners alike. Today it is the perfect corporate or large family retreat. Although we weren’t able to get too close, we could see a gorgeous dock and beautiful, rustic facilities. It appears to have a pond on the property, a pool, tennis courts and even a golf course.
We continued meandering thru Fancy Bluff Creek and on to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. According to my waterway guide, this area is very restricted and you must not only pay close attention to the channel markers but also stay alert for the safety boats who are in the water patrolling with the submarines. If a sub was in the water during that time, then you would be escorted thru the area by one of these boats. Oh joy! As we got closer and closer, we ran into another Navy dredger. Double Joy! Philip, the ever mindful captain, slowly navigated us thru the treacherous waters following all the different and lesser known waterway markers as I babbled on in his ear telling him everything my Waterway Guide book said to do.
We made it through and found ourselves finally in Florida and the beginning of Amelia Island! We crossed the Amelia River and marveled at how industrial the island appeared to be. Soon after, we passed the downtown marina, Fernindina Harbor Marina, where we had hoped to stay. However, thanks to Hurricane Matthew and what seems to be a two-year cluster of government red tape, they only have 3-5 slips available at any given time. We instead went a little further down the island to the gorgeous Amelia Island Marina. Not a moment to late, we pulled into our slip and it started to pour down rain again, more remnants from TS Alberto. Once the rain finally passed, we showered and Ubered back up to the town of Fernindina Beach.
Another small, cute town with shops and restaurants, we walked around and explored a bit before having some Mexican for dinner. I could eat Mexican every day and we hit a jackpot at Pablo’s Mexican Cuisine. We then went up to the second level of the Salty Pelican and watched the boats pass by on the ICW. Peyton loved watching the train and walking around the fledgling Fernandina Harbor Marina.
Today we have a longer cruise to Jekyll Island, so we awoke early and headed off a little after sunrise. The trip was about 70 miles, we wanted to be able to hit the beach and explore Jekyll, so arriving early was a must. We had several open ocean crossings and lots of big water, resulting in a bumpy trip. Saint Simons Sound was certainly the roughest water we encountered on our way to Jekyll Island. We also passed many bigger boats including a caravan of 3 boats about 60ft each. We wondered if they were delivering the boats somewhere or what their story was. Either way, bigger boats usually meaner bigger wakes so we slowed a lot to not get rocked.
We arrived at Jekyll Harbor Marina around lunchtime and immediately hopped off the boat to eat at its new Restaurant, Zachary’s Riverhouse. I had the most delicious shrimp salad sandwich as we overlooked the waterway and watched all the passing boats. We also noticed our 60ft friends, docked on the outside of the marina’s face dock, and its occupants heading off to what appeared to be an afternoon of golf. The marina was the second in two days that had a pool, unfortunately this one was closed. The marina also offers free golf carts (why is golf carting so much more fun than a car??) in 1.5 hour increments, so we headed out for some sand and beach instead of the pool.
The beach was not what we were expecting. It looked exactly like hot cocoa and similar in warmth. We were already hot from the days journey and we weren’t able to stay long in the beating sun.
On the way back to the boat, we stopped by the grocery store for some re-provisioning and necessities. We had another thunderstorm hit around dinnertime so we opted to have dinner on the boat, relax and plan for the next day’s journey.
We awoke to sunnier skies and started our 35 mile trek to Sunbury Crab Company Restaurant and Marina. A place known to be eclectic with a Key West vibe and amazing crabs that the family catches themselves. We had an easy trip meandering through smaller waterways with lots of marsh and pretty trees.
We exited the ICW and went a few miles west, up the Medway River, to Sunbury. As long as you follow your markers, its an easy journey. We got to Sunbury around noon and even though the restaurant was closed (we had MULTIPLE people tell us how good it was and we were so bummed) the family who owns it were still so welcoming and hospitable. They were definition of southern hospitality. Even though it was Memorial Day and they were officially closed, they invited us to the pool where we took a much needed dip and cooled off. We instantly felt like we had known this family for a long time and a quick internet search reveals that many people have similar experiences here.
We then went back to the boat for some chores (always things to do) and then showers. We had dinner on the boat since there are not any options nearby, except the Crab Company. We got invited back for an after dinner jam session which sounded fun. Everyone in the family seems to be so musically talented! We watched Peyton play in the pool again while we listened to the impromptu concert. I can’t say enough about how wonderful and accommodating this family was to us! We definitely plan to make a stop here again but we will make certain the restaurant is open!