Northern Florida (Cocoa to Amelia Island)
21 Jan to 4 Feb
Florida seemed to go on forever, trying to write a blog post for each stop has become quite a challenge to keep up with so I’ve attempted to summarise. The rest of our US East coast adventure through this sunshine state took us to Cocoa, Titusville, New Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach, St Augustine, the Tolomato River, Sisters Creek (Jacksonville) and Fernandina Beach (Amelia Island). Over 2 months we have dropped anchor in 20 different places along the Atlantic ICW panhandle and there is still another 8 states to go.
Cocoa – ICW Mile 894 (21 Jan)
has many tales of how it got its name but my favorite is the one about the town’s mailbox. Way back when folk travelled by horse and cart and people spoke face to face or hand wrote letters a riverboat would deliver mail to an empty Baker’s Cocoa tin nailed to a pillar in the middle of the waterway. Hence the name Cocoa stuck.
Whether the truth or a myth it seemed a fitting story as this place felt like being in an old fashioned sweet shop, a miniature town full of interesting and curious shops & cafes. Antiques, fancy knick-knacks and jewelry, my magpie tendencies struggled to hold back and I was particularly drawn to the enticing ‘Bad Birds’ art gallery with fun painted floors and walls bursting with colour.
We arrived on a warm sunny Sunday and kids were playing in the fountain of the lovely Riverfront Park. It had a great Children’s playground and everyone was out enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately there was no dock as it had been destroyed by hurricane Irma but managed to get ashore by climbing out onto a tiny rancid bit of beach (if you could call it that) covered in debris and rubbish that had all been washed in by the waterway. With the lack of access for getting off the boat and no grocery shop we didn’t stay long.
Titusville – ICW Mile 879 (23-24 Jan)
Situated along the Space Coast not much was going on in this strange little town apart from the odd ROCKET LAUNCH every now and then. It was the closest anchorage to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. We spent the day at the visitors complex, which was out of this world, such an amazing experience I’m going to dedicate a single blog post on it after this one!
New Smyrna Beach – ICW Mile 846 (25-26 Jan)
Now we’re no longer in a tropical climate mooring alongside is much more convenient and boasts moral so being tied up to a free town dock at the Riverside Park was wonderful. Scrumpy had grass to chase his ball on and Daisy an amazing kids playground and not only that we’d arrived just in time for the free Images Art Festival.
Square white tents and food stalls were set up all along the Canal Street Historic District presenting 238 artists. Jewelry, paintings, graphics, glass sculptures, photography, the quality of creative talent was amazing. If only I had the money to buy and the space to put it!
Daytona Beach – ICW Mile 831 (27 Jan)
Probably one of the strangest stops so far! The anchorage wasn’t close to anything of any interest, the dinghy docks unfit for use due to hurricane damage and a children’s climbing frame that looked like a death trap waiting to happen. Hoping to find an ice-cream parlor we trudged to the shops in downtown but all that was there was a homeless man feeding some ducks, a graveyard for second hand books, a magic trick shop and a place selling nativity scenes!
St. Augustine – ICW Mile 771 (28 – 30 Jan)
The East Coast is the home of the Thirteen (British) Colonies that declared independence in 1776 forming the United States of America. Therefore its not surprising that all the towns are desperate to boast of historic landmarks and links to historical events. All over the US signs mark these places providing a short history lesson for those who bother to read them some are genuinely interesting but lots are a little tedious. However that can’t be said for St. Augustine, which is the genuine article. Founded by the Spanish in 1565 it is officially the oldest settlement in America.
After a long and desolate 55mile passage from Daytona arriving in the dark to a beautiful Waterfront lite up with thousands of fairy lights was a lovely welcome and going ashore was not a disappointment either. The Spanish colonial architecture and ancient structures make this a very attractive city.
The Ponce De Leon Hotel was magnificent; with ornate fountains and Grand entrance hall the designers had not spared any attention to detail. Built in 1888 it now stands as the Flagler College teaching liberal arts.
Wondering up and down the cobble stones of St George Street admiring old buildings covered with wrought iron and dipping in and out of endless shops and boutiques was so much fun. Horse drawn carts passed by taking visitors on tours around the city and we found a fabulous Farm shop with pet sheep, chickens and goats.
This place felt special so obviously required a treat meal at Harry’s New Orleans style restaurant Simon even stepped out of his comfort zone and ordered Jambalaya (with chips!). A historic moment in the history of the Boat Hobos, perhaps we should also erect plaque to mark the occasion.
Tolomato River – ICW Mile 765 (31 Jan 18)
Towns are now few and far between so passages can be long so stopped here for the night, anchoring off the ICW. There was nowhere to go ashore as its all soft mud, marsh and oyster beds.
Sisters Creek (Jacksonville) – ICW Mile 739 (1 Feb)
A free dock situated within the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve, which comprises of 46,000 acres of wetlands, waterway and other habitat. There was no town just a car park, boat ramp and small kids playground, it was cool being surrounded by nothing but saltmarsh and wildlife. A few people were fishing off the pier and two other boats turned up for the night, but when we woke they had left. It was a beautiful morning so enjoyed the dock all to our selves. Messing around like a couple of overgrown kids on the slide with Daisy was hilarious and I laughed so hard my tummy hurt.
Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island – ICW Mile 717 (2-4 Feb 18)
Another charming, historic seafaring town with a visitors centre in an old railroad depot and lots of enticing shops selling nautical trinkets and pirate themed booty. Socialising seemed to be the theme of this stop and it was full of friendly folk so making conversation was easy.
The Saturday Farmers market was laced with free samples and live country music. We chatted to local parents in the park while collecting pinecones and Daisy made friends with a little boy at the local library. It is so sweet watching her interact with others her own age as there isn’t usually much opportunity. Despite this she is very gentle and considerate towards others always sharing her toys.
Bumping into old salty friends is one of the highlights of cruising and by chance our friends Michelle & Mike happened to be passing on their journey south. The last time we saw them was in Antigua over two years ago. They spoilt us with real* English Mature Cheddar Cheese and lots of red wine on their catamaran. It was lovely socialising especially as the majority of time it is only the three of us (and Scrumpy). However time is ticking on the Visa’s so after only 2 nights it was onwards to explore a new anchorage and a new State.
*Sorry America one thing you need to up your game on is cheese this aluminous plastic stuff you eat is awful!