After this 90-mile touch-and-go run from Isle of Hope, we took a short detour off the ICW to the city of Brunswick, Georgia. We arrived on “First Friday,” a monthly event when shops and restaurants stay open late promoting the revival of this historic “Gateway to the Golden Isles.”
Our biggest challenges were not all behind us, and we had a dockside meeting the next morning with fellow cruisers to discuss navigating past Cumberland Island. We were warned not to follow our charts between markers 58A and 63, since the magenta line showing the route was on the wrong side of the marks and the small island shown didn’t exist. Instead we were advised to strictly follow the marks and to watch for uncharted, temporary ones. Sure enough, as our depth dropped to five feet at nearly high tide, we saw small red nun A-1 in the middle of the narrow channel. Keeping it to starboard, we crept through this confusing maze, safely reaching deep water in Cumberland Sound.
Our reward for this stressful leg was reaching Florida and discovering the charm of Fernandina Beach. After tying up behind two cruise ships at Fernandina Harbor Marina (www.fhmarina.com), which protected us from the 30-knot blasts of cold, arctic air, we set out to explore downtown wrapped in our winter coats. Good restaurants, unique shops and historic buildings are an attraction to boaters and vacationers alike, since the luxurious resorts of Amelia Island are nearby.
Before reaching our final destination in Stuart, we made overnight stops in St. Augustine, New Smyrna Beach and Melbourne. Christmas lights and holiday activities in downtown St. Augustine were especially festive, and as always, it proved to be a favorite stopover. I hadn’t been to New Smyrna Beach since I was a young boy, and I am happy to say it still has its small-town charm.
The second leg of the ICW is definitely more challenging than the first, and it’s clear that parts of this priceless waterway are endangered because of limited dredging funds. Until the Feds can catch up to the shoaling, one must be extra cautious, passing through the trouble spots during mid to high tide.
Mostly, though, this is a trip worth taking at a more leisurely pace than our delivery schedule allowed. I discovered a number of towns and anchorages that I hadn’t been to before and that I’d like to spend more time exploring. Hmm ... perhaps the folks at Corvette need their 340 back in Annapolis this summer. I can’t think of a better boat for making this trip.
Subscribe to the Yachting Life newsletter for cruising and chartering guides, new boat announcements, event updates, special offers and more!