ICW Southbound – MM 1085 to MM 1150– Day 4



We awoke ready to leave and head towards Mangrove Marina in Tavernier and to finally be in the Florida Keys! It was still very windy and the waves were choppy. We had to leave the marina and find a close gas stop (which was another windy/concrete/choppy nightmare) and then down Biscayne Bay we went. Although the bay is very large and the waves were still choppy the ride was very comfortable. As the waterway got skinny again, we traversed Card Sound and thru Jewfish Creek in Key Largo. We passed Gilbert’s Resort just beyond Rte 1 and the Overseas Highway bridge. It looked REALLY fun with a beach, bar and lots of palm trees. They also had received alot of damage from the 2017 hurricane season and as of February 2019 didn’t have power yet. We crossed our fingers they would have power by the time we stopped there on our way back.


After this area, the water got noticeably prettier in color.  It was beautiful hues of blue and green all around the boat. Pictures couldn’t quite capture how gorgeous this area was. In bright blue water, we passed thru several skinny mangrove lined cuts. These skinny parts of the ICW will always be my favorite as there is so much wildlife and vegetation to take in. 


As we started our still windy approach to Mangrove Marina, we called and got instructions for docking and requested as much help as they could give us. The approach is shallow but we only needed 3ft. As we approached, we noticed there were more short finger piers and then pilings. This seems to be a common theme with Florida marinas and isn’t ideal docking for our particular boat. We attempted to find our slip and only found someone to help when we almost scratched a very expensive paint job of another boat with our bow when the wind again was too strong for our single engine. Come to find out it was the yacht broker at the marina and since he was pretty mad he managed to find us some help docking.

After we missed our slip twice, we settled on the adjacent gas dock and sorta hoped they would just let us stay there. After everyone finally figured out where they wanted us, we moved across the dock to another slip with the help of two dock hands, two other marina employees on a boat hook, a nice marina resident and our crew of one. We were in but we were frazzled. We got much needed showers and went to look for dinner. Since there weren’t many options within walking distance and the bar/food truck at the marina being closed, we settled on more boat food.


The marina has a great little pool which we enjoyed for a while and chatted with some of the marina residents. This marina also offers a variety of houseboats that you can rent and there were many people coming and going from the cute boats. Exhausted from the day we went to sleep early.

ICW Southbound – MM 1009 to MM 1087 – Day 3


At first light, we awoke at beautiful Loggerhead Marina and headed out for another long day of travel. We knew when we planned our trip that the first few days would be long, but we wanted to get to the Keys as soon as we could without missing any parts of the ICW. Our goal today is the beautiful Dinner Key/Coconut Grove area. Many of the marinas in this area were heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and either didn’t have any slips at all or had their liveaboard boats in the transient slips. Without a confirmed reservation and a setting sun, we stopped short in Miami.

With the winds picking up, I’m not sure why I thought a small marina on an island in the middle of Biscayne Bay would be a nice stop. It turned out to be one of our worst docking experiences to date. We approached the marina late in the day and noticed a nice rock jetty that we hoped would help with the wind. The marina had assigned us a spot and given us vague directions on where it was. Most marinas along the ICW (and everywhere else that we have been), use a letter and/or number combination to identify the slips.  Typically, the docks/piers will be identified with letters and the slips with numbers. If a marina has 5 piers/docks, they may be labeled A, B, C, D, E and then each slip on that dock/pier will be numbered. So D-25 would located on D Dock with a “25” clearly visible from the water.  We quickly learned that this marina was different.

There were no identifying marks visible from the water (We later found them on TOP of the dock which is not at all visible from the water). As winds began to gust to 30 knots, several approaches and attempts at more communication with dock hands and other marina staff, someone finally came out to help direct us. We finally found our slip, but getting into it was another story. This marina slip was solid concrete with a steel ladder sticking out to climb up from the boat. Pilings were placed approximately 35 ft. apart and there were no finger piers to assist with slipping in. As a 27ft boat, we could swing freely between the pilings making it easy to swing directly into neighboring boats. After several failed attempts, with no cooperation from the wind (and almost no help from the municipal dock hands), we nosed the boat into the slip. The dock hand held our bow and attempted to keep us off the concrete while I used all my strength and a boat hook to keep us off the neighboring sailboat. A line secured to our starboard piling finally put us at ease.

Y’all, we are lake boaters. Looping a piling on the way into the slip, so we don’t swing into a neighboring boat, and not having finger piers just isn’t what we know (But boy did we get a lesson quick). Oh did I mention we have a single engine? It was a nightmare but we somehow managed to get tied up. Rattled, I decided it was too windy and too risky to have our daughter climb out onto the bow and then climb up several steps to be able to get off the boat. So she and I stayed put until we happily left the next morning.


Now that we’ve covered that, let’s go back to our day getting to this nightmare marina. There was SO much to see on our journey from Palm Beach Gardens to Miami. We also had a lot of slow/manatee zones and more amazing large homes. We saw over one-hundred 60ft+ sport fishing boats, a helicopter on a boat, and the busiest intersection of channels and inlets that we have ever encountered. You think Miami traffic is bad? It was nothing compared to the water around Port Everglades inlet. I could have had a conversation with the deckhand on the super yacht behind us because their bow hung over our boat so much. At one point I think we were six wide. It was INSANE but also really exciting. Thankfully this is a no wake zone and almost everyone obliged. It was slow getting through this area but LOTS to see.


We then found ourselves in the Hollywood Beach area with more beachy homes and a Margaritaville Hotel, which had a fun ICW side bar/ restaurant. It looked a little precarious to dock and again being short on time, we pressed on. Finally, we entered Biscayne Bay and our approach to our nightmare docking and marina experience.


ICW Southbound – MM 919 to MM 1009 – Day 2


We left Melbourne as early as possible for another 90+ mile day with Palm Beach Gardens as our destination. We had learned some friends of ours were visiting nearby Vero Beach and it seemed like the perfect spot to stop for lunch. We ended up at the Riverside Cafe which had a nice sized dock for transients. The cafe was speckled with country music star Jake Owen paraphernalia and had a nice beachy vibe. I chose the Mahi sandwich which is apparently what Jake usually gets.


I couldn’t quite figure out the connection with the cafe and Jake Owen but if you go on their website, they have a whole music video redone at the Riverside Cafe for his song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” In the song he does mention “Cruising to the Riverside…” A quick internet search indicates he is from Vero Beach and got started at the Riverside Cafe!


We said goodbye to our friends and starting cruising further south towards Stuart and Hobe Sound and started seeing more and more palm trees. We cruised thru “The Crossroads” which was a unique four way intersection of the Indian River, St. Lucie Inlet, St. Lucie River/ Ocachobee Waterway connection and southbound ICW on the Indian River.  We had read in our guide books that this area could be HEAVY with commercial traffic and weekend boaters so we were glad to be passing thru on a Monday.


Not long after, we entered Hobe Sound and cruised thru Peck Lake. As we passed, I noticed a very familiar sailing catamaran in the anchorage. As soon as I saw a dog get into the dinghy I knew it was our favorite sailing bloggers, Tula’s Endless Summer! Tula is a couple, Billy and Sierra, and their dog, Jetty who live on their boat and record their daily lives. They make a living from the stories they share with everyone through their videos. Check them out at: Tula’s Endless Summer


They are reportedly headed to the Caribbean soon and I would have LOVED to chat with them about our experiences in the islands. However, we had an ambitious 90 mile journey and had already stopped for a long lunch. We had to keep moving. We finally made it to Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens around dinnertime. We had a nice refreshing dip in the marina pool and then dinner on the boat. It appeared we were in the middle of a neighborhood and there were no restaurants within walking distance. The marina here is very pretty and well manicured with beautiful pink flowers dotting the edge of the docks.  We were exhausted from our long day as fell easily to sleep with the rocking of the boat. Tomorrow we cruise to Miami!


ICW Southbound – MM 830 to MM 919– Day 1


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!


ICW Southbound – MM 830 – Day 0


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!

ICW Southbound – Day 00



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!

ICW Southbound – MM 777 to 830 – Day 11


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!


ICW Southbound – MM 747 to 777 – Day 10


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.


ICW Southbound – MM 717 to 747 – Day 9



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.


ICW Southbound – MM 685 to 717 – Day 8



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 32 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.