Great Loop: St. Simons & Nowhere

Days 40-41: February 26-27, 2023

Before heading out, there was a little time for kayaking.

Then it was goodbye to Jekyll Island.

The dinghy ride to nowhere

Ok, technically we went to Brunswick. However, upon arriving we found the public dock to only cater to VERY large boats and no way to tie up the dinghy. The only marina there was not too friendly. Even offering to buy fuel didn’t get them to allow us to tie up for a quick trip to the grocery store.

It was Instacart to the rescue. We ended up putting in an order and having it delivered to us at the public park with a boat ramp close to the anchorage. It worked out well in the end though I really don’t understand a marina not willing to allow a dingy to tie up for provisions, especially if purchasing fuel. I get not wanting the derelict boat owners to continuously come in; however, you can solve that by charging a nominal tie-up fee, which we’d have gladly covered. Maybe it’s insurance, though charging a fee is the same as renting a slip so that should also cover it.

The quest for tree spirits

Mayli had read about the St. Simons tree spirits. Her, Tonia, and Emily were going to find some! They attempted to get a Lyft/Uber ride from the park to the downtown starting point except the rides were sparse or out 20-30 minutes. They decided they could use the movement and steps and walked the 3 miles to town.

The first stop, an ice cream reward at Moo Cow! It was delicious and hit the spot. Onwards to find tree spirits!

While on the search for tree spirits, they were able to take in the public fishing pier, park sculptures, lighthouse, and popped into a few stores. Emily would recommend against trying whole honeycomb unless you like trying to get wax out of your teeth for a long while!

The Golden Isles Welcome Center provided a map of where to find the 11 carvings on live trees throughout the island. The first tree spirit was an easy find! The full-size mermaid was right next to the Welcome Center!

The next one was a trickier find. Emily found an article giving clues to its location, which happened to be near a small hotel’s swimming pool. The third was an easier find as it was just in front of the Village Inn & Pub right next to the sidewalk. The next two were located in park areas across the street from each other just a couple blocks away—there were a LOT of trees so it took all three to search the many trees to find those two. With five of the eleven public tree spirits found (there are presumably around 20 as some are on private properties) and the rest requiring a bike or car to find, they decided it was time to head back. Thankfully, they were able to get a ride partway back after 5+ miles of walking that day! Funnily enough, the #11 tree spirit was actually located in the park where they started, though it was not easily visible. It was quite the fun adventure!

The day ended with a wonderful sunset.

As can be seen from the Day 41 map below, it was a long, almost 9-hour transit day. We contemplated stopping to break it up into two days but decided instead to get as close to Savannah as we could so Emily would have a chance to see a bit of the town before leaving us. There was, however, time for a little fishing! While we didn’t catch fresh fish for dinner as Emily really wanted, I did catch a sting ray. He was promptly returned to the wild as no one wanted Ray for dinner.

Day 40 Trip Details:
Jekyll Island Marina, Glynn County, US to Glynn County, US
Time: 1 h 22 m (11:13 to 12:36)
Distance: 8.05 nm

Day 41 Trip Details:
Glynn County, US to Liberty County, US
Time: 8 h 49 m (07:20 to 16:09)
Distance: 54.68 nm

Great Loop: The Jekyll Island Club

Day 39: February 25, 2023

The Jekyll Harbor Marina was really welcoming and also offered free bikes to use, so we took advantage. We all selected our bikes and took off for the historic district. It was an easy one-mile ride on a nice, paved trail along the waterfront. You’ll never guess the first stop…

We quickly found the Island Sweets Shoppe for some ice cream. Tonia’s peach ice cream was great! They also had chocolates in the shape of sand dollars, sea turtles, star fish (aka sea stars), and shells, not to mention HUGE gators! The shop is located in what used to be the San Souci Boiler House, which provided heat and hot water for the nearby fancy San Souci Apartments, and therefore the reason for the chimney you see in the pic with the giant oak that Michael of course had to climb with ice cream in hand.

After the sweet stop, we made our way to the MOSAIC museum to check out the local history and start the trolley tour.

Jekyll Island Clubhouse

Trolley stop to tour the Rockefeller “cottage”

The San Souci Apartments and other millionaire mansion “cottages” in the historic area near the clubhouse that accommodated the J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, Marshall Field, William Rockefeller (younger brother of John D.), Astor, Carnegie, Goodyear, and other families in the winter season.

At the end of the afternoon, we visited the turtle rehabilitation center. It was a nice facility nursing injured and sick sea turtles back to health for release to the wild when ready. There were also some babies too!

We had a little buffer time before dinner so biked around a bit more and we briefly checked out the Faith Chapel, which is still in use. It was simplistic yet with a few ornate features. It has two stained glass windows – “Adoration of the Christ Child” at the front of the chapel and one at the back, the latter of which was actually commissioned and signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, though it’s currently removed and offsite for restoration care. A neat feature were the grotesques, similar to gargoyles though on the interior beams.

Fun in the Jekyll Island Club big chair!

Finally, it was time for some dinner! Hard to beat a waterfront restaurant so we settled in for some grub at The Wharf.

We ended the day attempting to get provisions from local market except it was more of a tourist souvenir store with some groceries that were quite expensive, like eight bucks for half gallon of milk! We grabbed a couple small things and called it. It was an adventure overall with Emily, Mayli and Tonia biking there and back in dusk and dark (on bike trails).

Day 39 Trip Details:
Camden County, US to Jekyll Island Marina, Glynn County, US
Time: 3 h 44 m (07:19 to 11:03)
Distance: 23.95 nm

Great Loop: The Ruins of Cumberland

Day 38: February 24, 2023

We’ve arrived in Georgia!

To maximize the day, we decided to get up at sunrise. That allows us to get the 4.5 hours of travel in and still have time to explore Cumberland Island. The charts showed that it was a half hour faster to travel on the outside (ocean) and the weather was good, so we headed out into the Atlantic as the sun was rising. Going on the outside in good weather is nice. The autopilot is set on straight for a few hours and there is less stress with traffic, windy rivers, and the water is much deeper.

After the trip we anchored next to Cumberland Island. Cumberland Island is home to the Dungeness Ruins. Dungeness is a ruined mansion that was donated by the Carnegie family and is now a national park. The ruins area is a vast estate where the family started on the island before each Carnegie child built their own mansions nearby. Unfortunately, the ruins exist because of a fire in 1959 that destroyed most of the house. It was fun seeing all the workings of an estate from the early 1900s and the beautiful island and grounds there.

Fun side note: In St. Augustine the trolley tour guide was super excited to tell us about the palm tree growing in the middle/top of the fork of Old Senator, a 600-year-old tree and longest-living resident of the town. However, we found a live oak growing around a full-size live palm! Check it out below and find the hidden climber.

The national park has a nice trail system and one of them leads to a neat and large beach. We took some time exploring the trails and walking down the beach.

Another interesting quirk of Cumberland Island is the wildlife. The island is home to many wild horses that can be easily seen wandering around the ruins and trails as well as the beach (see above). Careful where you step! We also spotted five armadillos along our way through the island and trails.

Day 38 Trip Details:
Jim King Marina, Jacksonville, US to Camden County, US
Time: 4 h 29 m (06:38 to 11:07)
Distance: 32.80 nm

Great Loop: Jacksonville & Emily Joins the Fun!

Days 36-27: February 22-23, 2023

We departed St. Augustine and with good weather took to the outside. Traveling in the open Atlantic is a nice change. While you still have to watch the helm continuously it’s a lot less effort because you are on the same course for a long period of time and the depths are not usually a concern.

We decided to stay on the outskirts of Jacksonville on a city-owned dock at Sister’s Creek. Boating into the city would have added a bunch of time and we only planned to stay one day, plus it was free up to 72 hours. The drawback to this location is Uber/Lyft are not as easy to come by and can result in a bit of a wait.

The free dock is decent. However, there is a large current running parallel to the dock, and it takes a bit of maneuvering to get the boat settled on. Dock was wide open when we arrived so and it only took two tries since the current blew us past the first time.

We were so excited for our first esteemed boat guest: Emily flew in to stay with us for a week!

Jacksonville Downtown (Feb 23)

On the 23rd we opted to take an Uber to the downtown area of Jacksonville. The start location chosen was Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop, of course. Though maybe not the best place to begin with as the kids didn’t seem to want to see anything else after and perhaps resulted in little tummy aches…hmmm, wonder why?

We spent a couple hours wandering around checking out the sites. It’s a nice downtown area but is a big city so has that feel. We did find a bunch of food trucks and hit them up for lunch.

Caught a little of the bridge coming back down after letting a boat through. This one had a lift mechanism versus drawbridge like Seattle.

Downtown fun with running statues!

After lunch we walked down to the Maritime Museum though opted not to tour it since as was very hot and admission workers said it would be miserable. Instead, we all decided it was time to go back to the boats and do some kayaking. Much easier to get an Uber in town.

Goodnight Moon! Goodnight Jupiter! Goodnight Venus!

Day 36 Trip Details:
Saint Augustine, US to Jim King Marina, Jacksonville, US
Time: 5 h 41 m (07:05 to 12:47)
Distance: 39.35 nm

Great Loop: “Oldest” European/African American settlement in the US

Days 32-35: February 18-21, 2023

St. Augustine, FL, goes way back. So far back it was in the 16th century. In 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish admiral founded the city. It went back and forth between Spain and Britain over the years, but its claim is that it has remained continuously occupied.

Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513 and found the Fountain of Youth in the city. We tried the water. It’s pretty yucky. Has a great sulfur aftertaste. Do I look younger?

Day 1 (February 18)

Our trip from Palm Coast to St. Augustine was pretty smooth though we had a shallow curve to navigate that a local had forewarned us about. Indeed, it was a tricky area, and we were happy to have the first-hand knowledge to get us through.

It’s always fun to see the random sights along the way: a place we’d neither fuel at nor be to towed to, Poseidon watching over us, gorgeous views of the many small marshy islands, remnants perhaps of a restaurant area with a BIG fish protruding out of the sign, a sunken sailboat—one of too many we’ve seen on the trip, and dolphins!

St. Augustine arrival

When we arrived, the wind was whipping. The marina dock was full, but they had space on mooring balls, so we took a couple. Out boat doesn’t allow for ease of bringing a line from the stern to the bow. Therefore, it was a little bit of maneuvering to get it all hooked up. Boris and Mayli dinghied over and helped out get us situated. We were quite thankful for their help during that wind and chop!

We safely made it into town by dinghy to do a bit of strolling. We hit up the oldest house museum right before close as they were having a free day. I’m glad we don’t live in the rustic olden days. After wandering a bit more, it was time for dinner. We hit up the A1A Alehouse. I’d like to say it was amazing, but my rating is just ok. Did I mention it was Sangria Saturday!

On the way back to the boat the wind had picked up even more. We knew we were going to get wet, so we convinced Boris not to make two trips. Probably a mistake as we took a few waves over the stern and quickly found ourselves in ankle-deep water. SOS! We’re sinking! Luckily the dinghy held steady, and we made it back to Lil Sudden where we could bail out the water. Definitely need a bigger bilge pump!

Day 2 (February 19)

On the first full day we planned to take the hop on hop off style Old Town Trolley Tour around the historic downtown to hit the main tourist attractions. Mayli had a list! It started out as planned and we hopped on. The first stop was the Castillo de San Marcos. The Castillo is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. The Spanish built it in 1672 to fend off the British. The fort was made from coquina—a natural resource found on the Florida coast of a limestone composed of seashells. They liked it for the fort as it wouldn’t crumble when struck by cannon balls. It would just absorb them so they could recycle the balls and send them back at the enemy.

The fort has many cool areas to explore, and since it was Sunday, they had canon fire reenactments. The canon was pretty loud even though they only used a half pound of powder and not the three pounds the Spanish would have used for the same cannon.

The next stop on the tour was the Fountain of Youth. Yes, the actual one Ponce de Leon declared. Again, yuck! The theme area was very living history farm in feel. As we were wandering around, I got a message from my high school friend Turf who we planned to meet for dinner, and he was free earlier. We decided to cut our tour of the town of early and head to meet him at the alehouse.

Bar Hopping Intermission

The rest of the first day was spent checking out various establishments in the old town with Turf. We started again at the A1A Alehouse for a few beverages. Then we hit up the No Name Bar followed by the White Lion. And finally, we trekked further out to the Icehouse for some dinner.

Day 3 (February 20)

Tonia and I decided it was a good morning for a walk to check out the St. Augustine Light House. We started the journey by crossing the Bridge of Lions and checking out the lion statues on each end. Then we found coffee and “hot” cocoa. We happened upon a Whetstone Chocolates shop and had to stop. The lady at the shop was the nicest person and we had some good conversation while waiting for our drinks.

With coffee in hand, we continued walking to the lighthouse. On the way we went by the Alligator Farm. That place looks huge. We’ll have to add it to the list for next trip.

The route we took didn’t lead us directly to the lighthouse, so we probably walked a mile out of the way. Oh well, good for steps! I booked tickets online while walking up to save 10%.

With the lighthouse complete, it was time for lunch. We spied a taco shop on the walk over, so we had to stop there. The tacos were double decker (bravo) style—my favorite, like Taco John’s. Tonia’s mahi burrito bowl was also super tasty. We’re liking these local places.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chill. Tonia did her work thing and I played a round of mini golf with the Hodak clan.

Turf recommended a restaurant on the water called Conch House so that jumped to the top of our list and we zoomed over in the dinghy to try it out. It’s neat. Has a bar area out on the dock with cool wood and holes in the floor to view the water below. They were revarnishing when we were there, so we didn’t get to check out the upstairs, but it looked cool. The restaurant portion is on the land and has tiki hut tables lining the water.

Day 4 (February 21)

On the last day it was time to find a way to address Tonia’s allergies. The trees were blooming earlier than she was used to in WA and earlier where we were with the warmer-than-usual weather. We popped on the trolley to get closer to a pharmacy. We hopped off and walked over to get more medicine. On the way back, we hit up Hazel’s Hot Dogs for some lunch grub. Then we wrapped up the trolley tour of the town.

All in all, a great historic town to visit with lots to see and do.

Tonia had fun spying the many horses of St. Augustine, though managed to miss the real-live horse and buggy pic!

Adios St. Augustine

Day 32 Trip Details:
Palm Coast, US to Saint Augustine, US
Time: 3 h 37 m (12:30 to 16:08)
Distance: 22.38 nm

Great Loop: Up to Palm Coast

Days 29-31: February 15-17, 2023

Traveling to New Smyrna

We had a nice travel day from Titusville to New Smyrna via the Indian River. One of the interesting points of the trip was Haulover Canal, which is a ~5-mile man-made canal connecting the Indian River Lagoon to the Mosquito Lagoon. The name ‘Haulover’ comes from pre-canal times when Native Americans and early settlers carried canoes and small boats across land to get from one body of water to the other. The canal is now a popular spot to view manatees as they congregate in the warmer, shallower waters of the canal. We saw many though they are still camera shy!

We continued along the Intracoastal Waterway seeing the Goodyear Blimp on its way to the Daytona 500 (we cruised on past that likely crowded destination) as well as a few interesting houses and finally a couple sailboats that had seen better days.

New Smyrna

We made it! After anchoring and rafting, we popped over to the nearby Riverview Hotel & Restaurant for some bites and drinks. They had a dock to pull up the dinghy and a great view as well. Tonia, Mayli and Annette took a short stroll from the restaurant to the Atlantic beach side to check it out. They’d hoped to hit up a sweets shop though it closed earlier than posted. They did, however, find some alternate Treats on the Beach. 😉

While in New Smyrna, Tonia was able to reconnect with Cindy — a colleague from her former job and a PM (passionate mom). She treated us to beignets that were especially delicious!! She likened them to the best in New Orleans so we are looking forward to this on the future stop on the trip. It was a short visit though packed with memories, catching up (she shared her grandkitty Smush), and recalling how inspirational each was to the other. At the end, Cindy took us on a brief tour of the Riverview Hotel Spa where she works with its waterfall and heated pools! Luxurious!

Hammock Beach in Palm Coast

Our next stop was Hammock Beach Marina, which had added privileges to the resort on the Atlantic side. The resort had a waterslide for the kids, a lazy river, multiple pools, and beach access, along with golf and more. We were able to get a bit of relaxation poolside, some gelato, and a stroll along the beach. When we were leaving the crew for Dale Earnhardt Jr. was setting up for his arrival to promote his vodka brand.

European Village

Before heading out on departure day, we trekked over to a “European Village” with Mayli and Annette. Except it was too early in the morning and only a barber shop was open. Annette was quite disappointed that the cafe with boba tea did not open until 11am. We walked around a bit and then headed back to the boats to head out for the day. At least we got our steps in!

Day 29 Trip Details:
Titusville, US to New Smyrna Beach, US
Time: 4 h 58 m (10:09 to 15:08)
Distance: 33.93 nm

Day 30 Trip Details:
New Smyrna Beach, US to Bon Terra, US
Time: 5 h 11 m (09:41 to 14:53)
Distance: 37.04 nm

Great Loop: A Universally Great Time

Days 26-28: February 12-14, 2023

We got up bright and early so we could voyage up to Titusville by lunch time. It was another example of getting out early to beat the wind. The forecast was again saying that the afternoon breezes were going to be too much to handle, and they again proved to be correct. Shortly after we docked in Titusville, the winds picked up to 40+ knots and we were all glad that we were safely tied up. We opted for a marina during our time in Titusville as we knew the next few days were going to be spent off boat and an hour away in Orlando – so less worries about boats at anchor.

Cape Canaveral

In the afternoon of arrival, we headed over to the nearby Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to see if we could be launched into space. Sadly, they didn’t have room on their schedule for us, so we had to settle for tours and exhibits.

There is a lot of cool stuff to see: all the history of the space program from the original push to the moon to the plans for Mars—a geek’s paradise.

Every time I look at the space shuttle, I’m surprised at how small it was. I know, it’s not really that small but growing up I pictured something that was at least twice the size.

It’s crazy to see the capsules and the spaces the astronauts have to be in for extended periods of time. I get cramped up just sitting on a boat for a few hours. And I can get up and walk around anytime I want there.

When we got back to the marina, Michael found a horseshoe crab molt. Ugly creatures but they are pretty cool and prehistoric! He’s saving it for his collection. Of what? Random things found on the beach.


The next morning, we headed an hour west to Orlando to spend the day at Universal. All I have to say is the new VelociCoaster is the best. The Hulk used to be my favorite coaster but there is a new top contender. You gotta try it!

We spent a bit of extra money and did a group tour. They have two types of tours: private and group. On a private tour, you get to dictate the day and pretty much ride whatever you want whenever you want. On a group tour they have a basic schedule and hit all the popular rides in both the parks. With both they take you right up to the ride and there is very little waiting. It also included breakfast and lunch. You can get spoiled with the tour. Highly recommended if you are only visiting once or infrequently. It is worth the money to get the most out of a day trip.

Tree Trek

On the final day in the area, we headed back to Orlando to hit the Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park. The Trek is not a normal obstacle course. The catch is it’s suspended in the air. It took me a few obstacles to get over my aversion to heights, but I managed to complete the four courses included. Michael was so excited that he was now tall enough to do the adult course. He’d been talking about it for days and I think he may have been more excited for it than Universal.

Oh yeah, and we had donuts before heading to the Trek. Tastee Donuts wasn’t much to look at from the outside though the donuts were pretty tasty.

Day 26 Trip Details:
Merritt Island, US to Titusville, US
Time: 2 h 8 m (07:05 to 09:14)
Distance: 14.10 nm

Great Loop: Hot Cocoa

Days 23-25: February 9-11, 2023


The next stop on the trip was a one-and-a-half-day layover in Melbourne (Florida). We originally planned for a day but that stretched to two to give us a bit more down time. On the arrival day we did a bit of provisioning. There was a marina close to our anchorage and only a block away from the Publix grocery store as well as a few department stores. Always good to have close access. The checkout boy at the store told us to borrow a cart so we used it for the block back to the marina.

We spent some time fishing off the boat and caught a few hardhead catfish. Not my favorite fish because they are so slimy, though the kids had fun and it occupied their time for quite a bit.

The second day in Melbourne we decided to check out the downtown area. First stop was to Jacqueline’s Bakery for some coffee and tasty treats, and hot chocolate for Tonia, of course. After a nice morning snack, we strolled the town, checked out the shops, and had a nice morning.

When the fun was had shopping, it was time for lunch. And when there is a place named Squid Lips, you have to go! It was a fun restaurant and we saw a manatee surface from our dining viewpoint.