Fernandina, Cumberland Island, St. Simons Island

Last Tuesday we pulled out of St. Augustine and headed north to Fernandina.  Fernandina is on Amelia Island and is the northernmost city in Florida.  Fernandina was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew and the marina is still mostly closed. They can only dock smaller boats and only have a few mooring balls reinstalled for smaller boats.  So, we anchored around the bend in a lovely spot and took the dinghy in.  They do have one dock that they’ve set aside as a dinghy dock so we tied up there.  It’s really sad to see all the closed signs on the marina and docks under water, power pedestals torn apart.  When we were in the Bahamas it didn’t shock us to see hurricane damage still being rebuilt.  But it is so much worse here on the East Coast and that surprised me a little.  I think of America as having more funds and more resources to get everything fixed and yet the damage is so vast and takes so long to regroup and repair.  We are trying to do our part.  We stay in marinas where we can, shop local in the small towns and frequent the local restaurants.

Anyway, we docked the dinghy and walked into the adorable historic downtown.  We took a quick walk around the main drag before grabbing some dinner.  Made a stop for me at Fantastic Fudge…it was fantastic and is all gone.  Looked at a beautiful old church and City Hall.

City Hall is one of the last remaining buildings of this architecture with the square dome at the top.  We walked past Florida’s Oldest Bar.  I poked my head in but having two little girls with us didn’t scream go sit at the bar.  Even the cute Amelia Island Welcome Center was adorable.  We grabbed a quick dinner by the marina and then let the girls have a special after dinner ice cream.  They can’t manage sugar and going to sleep so they usually don’t get to have dessert late – I have no issues with fudge and ice cream at 9 AM however!  But we had such a short time in Fernandina we made the most of it and ice cream it was.

We took the dinghy back to the boat in yet another beautiful sunset and turned in for the night.

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Wednesday we got up and headed to Cumberland Island and into GEORGIA!  We have been in or around Florida since early November!  It felt crazy to enter a new state.  We did spend 6 weeks in the Bahamas but otherwise we’ve explored a lot of Florida.  Cumberland Island was only about 7 miles away and we pulled in and anchored quickly so we could take the dinghy over to the island.  Cumberland Island is run by the National Parks.  There are no trash receptacles on the island. There is a visitors center/ranger station.  There are campsites and there is some running water.

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There are a couple of hikes you can take.  The longer one is about 2 miles each way plus time to walk the beach and we thought with the tides coming up and Madelyn’s short legs we likely wouldn’t make it that far.  That hike goes out to some ruins that we’ve been told are neat to see.  We did about a third of that hike to look for horses and did the full hike out to the beach.  A much shorter, yet incredibly beautiful walk.  Much like on Manjack Cay in the Bahamas we went through beautiful woods opening up into this amazing beach.

The tide was way out and the beach stretched on for what felt like miles.  The girls ran and played.

We had originally planned to anchor here Wednesday night.  That would have allowed us to spend all day, do the longer hike slowly, have a beach day and just chill out looking for horses.  But after the electrical issues while anchored the night before (that Ben wrote about previously) he wanted to get to a marina so we could figure out what was up.  We also knew storms were moving in Thursday so we wanted to get settled safely.  So, we enjoyed the time we had.

My only regret is that we saw NO horses.  Everyone has told us about the amazing horses.  We were determined to see them.  None.  Nada.  No horses.  Madelyn was especially upset.  We did find a lot of evidence that there were indeed horses living there.  And we did get a lovely brochure about the Horses of Cumberland Island.  Guess we’ll have to go back!  On our walk back towards the other side of the island we were trying to walk as quietly as we could.  And….we heard a horse!  It was loud and in the brush and sounded very large….but even with Ben craning his neck we couldn’t see them.  Darn!  But Cumberland Island was beautiful none the less and I’m glad we took the time to stop.

When we walked over to the ocean side of the island we noticed how calm it was!  With all the wind we’ve had we haven’t seen that in awhile.  So, instead of heading up the very nervous making shallow ICW we headed outside!  We had planned to go up the ICW a short ways to Jekyll Island.  But just past the marina, the end of Jekyll Creek is very shallow with a lot of known hazards.  By being able to go outside we were able to go past that up to St. Simons Island and avoid Jekyll Creek altogether.  By this time Ben had already become acutely aware of the engine shake we had that turned out to be another prop ding (floating debris he wrote about in his blog).  So we were happy to avoid any more shallow water.

 

st simons lighthouse

St. Simons Lighthouse

 

We pulled into Morningstar marina in St. Simons.  It was right off the inlet to the ocean and an easy approach.  This marina also sustained a lot of hurricane damage.  Many docks are still under water.  But they have a large face dock that they are putting transients on.  Three of us pulled in at the same time.  A 70 ft. boat pulled in awhile later and a few days later a 93 ft. boat.  So, plenty of room for all of us.  Unfortunately they wanted us all docked a certain way and the wind was howling.  The marina has essentially no protection from the current and we had good 4 ft. waves hitting our stern coming in with white caps from the wind.  They were slamming under our swim platform and jarring the boat nonstop.  I didn’t sleep much more than a few winks for two nights in a row. Turns out the lady on the boat behind us had the same issue.  We both wanted to turn around and face the other way but we had no props on our boat and couldn’t move!  Friday night it was finally calm when we went to bed but by 3 AM the wind had returned and started bouncing us around again.

We didn’t see much of St. Simons.  Between a trip to the AT&T store and 2 trips to Simply Mac trying to get my phone working along with a trip to buy some battery cables and a new battery Ben mostly did errands and worked on the house battery system on the boat.  The marina had a pool so after school I hung at the pool with the girls.

While sitting at the pool Thursday Ben texted that the diver reported a dinged up prop AGAIN.  WHAT?!?!?  HOW?!!??  We have no idea.  Floating debris?  We didn’t hit bottom again.  So Ben started working on finding someone to fix that.  Friday we waited for a diver to arrive and then when he was about half done with his work we headed out to Simply Mac and to return the rental car.  We made a quick trip out by the pier to walk around a few cute shops and see some of touristy St. Simons.  As we were dropping the car off Ben got the call from the prop guy that the key ways for the props had washed off the swim platform into the water and he couldn’t finish the job that day.  REALLY????  Well, it was still windy so we likely weren’t going anywhere anyway but we had planned to at least pull out of the marina and anchor somewhere.

Friday night we grabbed the courtesy car again and at the advice of the marina headed to Southern Soul BBQ.  A local treat!  It was delicious and nice to get out and do something fun!

 

southern soul

Southern Soul BBQ

 

Saturday again we sat around waiting for prop repairs.  The diver lost his phone in the water as well.  So when we hadn’t heard from him Ben called his wife’s phone and texted.  He finally got a text back that the diver woke up and couldn’t walk so he went to the hospital and had a slipped disc. He had to stay off his feet for 24 hours but would be there Sunday.  I’ve suffered from back pain for years so I feel for him….but seriously…NOT OK!  Like a fellow looper said…we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried!  Ben waited a bit and then texted back and said he’s sorry but can he find another diver.  At this point the marina had said they needed us to move.  Turns out that no one on the dock left so we didn’t have to move…..all of us were winded in together.  But the other divers showed up eventually and it took them until 5:30 PM Saturday to get our props back on.  The girls got to swim three days in a row.  It’s been getting chillier at night the last few days so by yesterday the pool was cold for them and they were in and out quickly and instead played hair salon in the sunshine on the pool deck.  Their never ending creativity for imaginative play never ceases to amaze me. I am thankful every day for how well they get along!

We woke up this morning to NO wind, NO waves and YES props!  A good start.  We pulled out and went up river a few miles to Brunswick, GA to get fuel.  They were nice enough to let us tie up and leave the boat to walk around town.  We are anchored tonight so wanted to get off the boat for a little bit first.  We walked into town and there was nothing!  Ghost town!  Nothing open.  No people.  Nothing.  The girls and Ben grabbed lunch at a Subway. I opted out.  Hey at least we took a little walk.  We headed back near Morningstar and the inlet and are anchored around a bend in a nice quiet spot.  On our way to our anchorage a HUGE ship passed us after coming in the inlet.  Apparently she didn’t care about the Atlantic ocean waves!

Tomorrow morning we plan to pull out early and expect to see a nice flat ocean waiting for us to make our way north to Savannah!  I’ve been bored and frustrated with the wind these last few days and am excited to get to Savannah.  Once there we will need to rent a car to drive back to Brunswick to pick up my new phone and our repaired props.  But despite these hiccups we are thankful every day for this adventure, for our health and our happiness.  A few days of wind and repairs are hardly worth all my whining!  I do try to remember to be aware of that.  Here’s hoping for smooth seas and an easy trip!

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