Our last blog post, about two months ago, had us heading from Titusville FL to Ponce Inlet, a short run. This would not normally have been a stopping point, but our good friends, Gary and Kathi's, daughter and family and in-laws were spending some time at this hidden gem of an ocean beach town. We spent 4 days there and it was fun to catch up with Brittney, Chris, Ellenore and Simon, and Chris' parents, John and Marsha. We enjoyed a couple of nice walks to the beach and a great dinner at the marina. Ponce Inlet is located about 12 miles south of Daytona Beach and claims the tallest lighthouse in Florida. As we continued our trip back up the east coast toward Jacksonville, our next stop was Palm Coast, about 45 miles. Since we are really in no hurry right now, we spent five nights at this marina. The area had a great paved walking trail along the Intracoastal Waterway that we took advantage of. Within walking distance of the marina was a shopping area called European Village. It had little boutique shops and many different restaurants and a Sunday Farmer's Market. COVID-19, of course, has taken its toll, but many of the establishments were open or beginning to open. Continuing up the Atlantic ICW our next stop was St. Augustine, but only for a night, since we have been here twice previously. We met up with Jeff and Cathy (fellow Wisconsinites) on Serendipity who we previously met in Melbourne and had dinner down on St. George Street at the Bull and Crown Publick House. St. George Street is a fun walk down an alley for about 6 blocks with nothing but shops and restaurants...very old St. Augustine style. From St. Augustine we continued north to a familiar hangout for hurricane season (Lamb's Yacht Center) in Jacksonville.
At the end of March, we began serious discussions regarding our next moves. The dilemma we face is Canada unwilling to open its borders. Because of this it is difficult for us to complete the loop this year. We are also unable to head back home to Wisconsin until the first week in June. Our daughter and family are living in our condo while their home is going through a major remodel. Timing wasn't an issue for this project when first discussed since we were heading up the east coast to Canada to complete our Great Loop trip. All of that changed when Canada decided to keep its borders closed so we have now decided to go to Plan C and add yet another year to our adventure.
We spent a couple of weeks in Jacksonville (last week of March) catching up, making some repairs and generally trying to decide what to do. After two weeks there we decided to continue north to Savannah, Georgia, a run of about 400 miles round trip. We made the trip to Savannah with stops in Fernandina Beach (last town in Florida before crossing the border to Georgia), Brunswick, GA, then a really serene and quiet anchorage off the Crescent River, and then to Savannah. Not sure what we expected, but as soon as we crossed over from Florida at Fernandina Beach to Georgia, the terrain along the ICW completely changed. The trip was very rural and the Georgia coastline is all marshland and grasses. It was very nice for awhile but got a little tiring mile after mile. We arrived at Isle of Hope in Savannah on April 6 and stayed for two weeks. We had a rental car the first week and played tourist in downtown Savannah on three different days. The area where the marina is located has beautiful old southern homes and lots of huge oaks covered with Spanish moss. The area is very much typical of what you would think of as old southern landscape. We were very fortunate to have a brother of friends living in Savannah, Craig (and Mike), who were gracious enough to give us lots of tips on what to see and do in their beautiful city. Savannah is unlike any city we have ever visited. It is full of history and beautiful old southern style homes. The city was designed by its founder General James Oglethorp and has homes precisely patterned around 24 public squares (parks). We even saw the park and bench that Forrest Gump sat on in the movie. We had lunch at Six Pence Pub with the infamous red phone booth in the movie Something To Talk About with Julia Roberts, and we attended a Sunday morning service at St. John the Baptist Basilica, an unbelievably beautiful Gothic cathedral. We definitely hope to be able to spend a little more time exploring this city next Spring as we head north.
We thought maybe we would continue to Hilton Head, but learned that there was a PGA golf championship going on and the place was very overcrowded. That will be on the agenda next year too.
We proceeded back south the third week of April and made different stops from when we passed north the previous month. We stopped at a very rural place called Sunbury Crab Co. It was raved about by many Loopers. Not much there but the dock and restaurant, but it was fun to see. We did the overnight anchorage on the Crescent River again and spent another weekend in Brunswick. Brunswick Marina is approximately 65% live aboards and we met a few Loopers there along with a lot of the people who live there. The Marina has a meet and greet every Friday and we met a couple on a 50' catamaran. They invited us aboard and we were really amazed at the room inside. The beam on this vessel is 22 feet. We continued south from Brunswick to Jekyll Island, one of the Georgian barrier islands. The marina was nice, somewhat rural, but we were able to use one of their golf carts and tour the island. The most outstanding site was the petrified wood beach. We've never seen anything like it.
As we continued heading South, we stopped at Fernandina Beach once again. We boated back into Jacksonville on May 3 and stayed for two weeks at Ortega Landing Marina, a very nice resort marina. Since Jacksonville now feels like our second home, we settled in very comfortably for two weeks. We are continually amazed at the people we meet from all over the United States. Boat cards are great (like a business card) and we have gotten in the habit of writing a little something on the back of each one to remind us about the people we have met. I would guess we have collected over 200 cards thus far and we have a long way to go.
On May 15 we idled down the Ortega River and have settled into our permanent hurricane season slip back at Lamb's Yacht Center. We have vowed not to go to the grocery store until we eat everything possible so we don't have to buy a huge cooler like we did last year. We are busy cleaning and repairing (which is a constant battle in the salt air) and generally readying WaterMarks for hurricane season.
So, "Plan C" is to return to the boat sometime in October, take her south to Stuart and cross the state on the Lake Okeechobee Waterway to the Gulf side and enjoy another Florida winter. We have a slip reserved at Uncle Henry's Marina at the north end of Gasparilla Island near Port Charlotte, but our plans are undecided as to how long we will stay at that location. We are mulling the possibility of maybe boating to Marco Island and then on to the Keys for a month. AND then hopefully by mid-March 2022 begin our route up the East Coast toward Canada.
When we began this Great Loop Adventure we had no idea that we would be fortunate enough to spend three winters in Florida! We will be home on June 4th and are so looking forward to the hugs and loves from our family and friends whom we have been missing.
Just as the TV prime time series are doing now, the WaterMarks Great Loop adventure is to be continued...............