Finding New in the Old

We continue south through South Carolina, Georgia, and on to our destination of St. Augustine. FL. We look for new things in the very familiar stops on our fifth trip on the ICW, and get lots of help from the holiday season. 

Open in a separate window to click on the various icons and see pictures and route data.

One aspect of making our fifth trip on the Atlantic ICW is the familiarity of the route.  This can be a good thing, as the navigational part becomes easier and we are more confident for some of the trickier parts , i.e. shallower, shoalier, busier, or currenty-er.  (Yup, half of those words are made up but devoted readers know I do that regularly because sometimes it’s just more descriptive.)  There has long been a seasonal migration of boats south in the winter and north in the spring to avoid the meteorologic extremes.  For many, the repetition of the journey is fine because it’s all about the endpoint.  Following the same route and making the same stops is easy, it’s comfortable, it acts as an anticipatory countdown to the gratification that awaits at the destination. 

That’s not Dave and I.  We like to have change and newness and exploring and adventures.  For us, it keeps things fresh. We satisfied that as we came through North Carolina with side trips (see previous blog post).  But South Carolina and Georgia have fewer such opportunities.  With the cold nighttime temperatures making anchoring out undesirable for us, our daily destinations were all familiar towns and cities.  So we would just have to go looking for New in all the Old places.

South Carolina

Dec 3-8, 2023

Little River




One easy way we sought to keep things New was  intentionally traveling during the holiday season.  I love holiday lights more than fireworks, and I think small towns have the big cities beat here.  While all our stops in South Carolina were well known to us, seeing all the holiday décor and festivities added a layer of uniqueness to all of them.  Many balconies of the surrounding condominium complex in Little River were brightly was their signature lighthouse at the entrance to the marina’s basin.  (I went to walk out to the end of the dock for a better picture only to see a raccoon at the bottom of the ramp.  With nowhere for him to go on the four foot wide dock, I was pretty sure that if I tried to get by I would either end up in the cold water or in the ER getting rabies shots, and I am just not that dedicated to my photography hobby.) In Georgetown, the historic Kaminski House and grounds were elegantly lit.  This was also where we saw our first ever Christmas goat yard décor – who knew this was a thing?  

A dog lovers Santa and his Sleigh in Little River.
This little guy jumped up here from the dock and was looking a little trapped.
Christmas Goats in Georgetown.
HIstoric Kaminski house in full holiday regalia.
Georgetown sunrise

The decor in Charleston’s Battery neighborhood was more understated and sophisticated, predominantly garlands of magnolia leaves along wrought iron fences fences and wreaths adorned only with a red bow.  One exception was a waterfront home with a large blow up Christmas Vacation display, complete with Cousin Eddie pumping out his RV and Clark and Ellen Griswold mannequins at the front door.  Ironically, we had just watched that movie a few days earlier in our usual Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday movie fest and realized how incredibly bad the movie and utterly tasteless 1980s humor is when viewed through middle-age glasses, which made this yard display particularly incongruous in the stately Charleston neighborhood.  

Chareleston holiday decor: from the elegant... the 'what were they thnking?'
Beaufort sunrise.

Beaufort was the epitome of small town holiday charm – giant Christmas tree in the town park and festive shop windows, complimented by multicolored lights on homes and Santa hats on people and year-round statues. 

Passing a cruise ship on the ICW in route to Beaufort.


Dec 9-21, 2024




The holiday newness sheen continued in Georgia.  It was in Thunderbolt that we finally caught a boat parade.  We’ve been trying to see one for two years, and it always seems we are in a place on the wrong weekend.  Last year we were cruising along the Florida panhandle and northern Gulf Coast, and if the local boat parade was on Friday, we arrived on Saturday.  We would be a weekend too early in one place, only to move along and find that our next stop had their parade the previous weekend.  We have joked that we are the Masters of Bad Timing in many areas, but when the same lack of Boat Parade Schedule Synchronization happened in North and South Carolina again this year, we were starting to feel like it was jesting in earnest.  When we checked in at the marina in Thunderbolt (near Savannah), I was thrilled to learn that the tiny town was having a big holiday soirée complete with boat parade that very night.  Okay, so it was only seven small boats in the parade.  But they went back and forth four times so that kind of made it 28 boats.  And they had music blaring, Santa effigies on the bow, and were wrapped in minilights so it met the criteria.  One more box checked on my bucket list.

Thunderbolt Marina
Boat Parade!
Kilkenny Marina office. Note hte swing and the old gas pumps on the right.

Kilkenny was as rustic as ever – and why we love it.  With no Xmas decorations at all, it could have been any time of year because the place is timeless anyway, with its homemade docks floating on barrels and porch swing hanging from a 200 year old oak tree next to the old gas pump with number reels instead of digital displays.  We did have an otter swim over to the boat that evening, which was something new for us. 

We were the only boat on the transient dock at Kilkenny.
Our new otter friend.
Early morning departure down Kilkenny Creek

Then we pulled into Brunswick Landing Marina.  We had previously spent all of January 2022 here, where we left the boat for a week to drive back to Norfolk so Dave could have knee surgery. In 2023, it was déjà vu all over again as Dave had to fly back to Norfolk for an Ortho follow-up on his wrist.  We had planned on being in St. Augustine, Florida for him to fly out of Jacksonville.  But with a nasty offshore storm moving up the East Coast, we couldn’t find a two day weather window to get further south with any reliability.  So we decided to just extend our few days into 10 so the storm could do its thing and Dave would just go an hour south to Jacksonville for his flight instead of an hour north if we had made it to St. Augustine.  The benefit was that Brunswick Landing is a large, very sheltered marina with pretty much the best boating community we’ve ever seen.   We hardly felt any effects from the storm, and when Dave left the following day for his 36 hour trip to his 36 minute doctors appointment (including x-rays and physical therapy consult) I was perfectly comfortable.  In the end, I think Mother Nature did us a favor.

Brunswick Landing Marina

Historic Brunswick is easy walking distance from the marina and has restaurants, shops, a brewery, a distillery, and spas/salons.  The main commercial area is four blocks with small public squares in each block on both sides.  Each square had a themed display with lots of lights.  We even took in a local theatre production of A Christmas Carol at the vintage Ritz Theatre. 

Almond Joy Shaved Snow

We tried a culinary New called ‘shaved snow.’  It’s some non-dairy thing that is not ice, but it’s frozen and artistically presented in your flavor of choice.  We tried Almond Joy and it was actually pretty good.  But the name of the place was the best part – Vampire Penguin.  Pretty sure it was just two random words pulled out of a hat, but would make a really good name for an alternative rock band, wouldn’t it?

Good News:  Dave had healed enough to be able to stop wearing the splint and start physical therapy and using the hand.  Still has a ways to go to regain more function, but this is good progress!  And he was true to his word that he would shave his beard off once he was out of the splint and had that done before boarding the plane back to Jacksonville.

Winner of the Goofiest Xmas Decoration along the ICW.


Dec 22 - 31


St. Augustine

Our overall plan had been to spend the holidays in St Augustine FL.  Now that we had clear weather, the doctor’s appointment behind us, and a clean-shaven Dave it was time for the final leg to Florida.  We crossed the several Sounds that had been problematic with the recent storm and had an easy but long transit to Palm Cove Marina just off the ICW south of the St. John River.  This was the only stop that was new for us and just a quick overnight stop.  There was a touch of New-but-Old though, as on our evening Roxy walk we discovered a nearby vintage auto import dealer with classic Citroens, VW, Land Rovers, and Fiats that Dave could gawk at through the showroom window.

It was a short final day transit, and by noon the 500 year old Castillo de San Marcos came into view and we had arrived in St.Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in the US and where we would be staying for a month.   It also was the pièce de résistance of holiday lights, for its annual Nights of Lights was in full swing.  Lights were strung high up in the tall trees of the central Constitution Plaza, spiraling up palm tree trunks, along rooflines and porches and across the Bridge of Lions.  String lights in sheets hunt from restaurant facades along the waterfront,  and the many horse-drawn carriages and tour bus trolleys had lights and sparkly decorations.  Our evening walks through the nearby neighborhoods of homes and bed and breakfasts were quite festive.   A 10 foot fiberglass Santa waved from in front of the Grilled Cheese restaurant, although he would randomly be noted to be missing one arm or the other, which probably traumatized many a young child.  The city was packed with people, and being right there at the marina was a great place to spend Xmas and New Years.  We decided to enjoy from afar  and look for new museums and stuff until January because it was just too crowded.     

Note the pirate boat lit up to look like a sleigh.
Santa when his right arm was still intact.

Last Christmas Dave and I did something new, and since we did it again this year I guess that makes it a New tradition.   We don’t do presents for each other, but on Christmas Eve we each have $25 in cash and go shopping for the other in a small general store wherever we are for stocking stuffers this year it was a Five and Dime).  The finds range from goofy to utilitarian to sentimental, and there’s also always something sugary thrown in as well.  It’s fun and funny and we will be keeping it going.    

The People

This leg has been a fantastic mix of Old and New with respect to people as well.   We had lunch  in Beaufort with our next door neighbor when we lived at the Navy Yard in Washington DC .  A high school friend of mine from Southern California was spending the holidays at their second home near Kilkenny, and when our stay in Brunswick was extended she and her neighbor picked me up and we had a girl’s afternoon in Jacksonville.  That was an old and new friend in a single encounter! We met two couples in Georgetown making their first trip down the ICW, discovered our Uber driver in Charleston had actually lived in Stillwater for four years, and spent a lot of time with a couple we met in Brunswick.  At the Brunswick Marina Happy Hours we saw  people we had met two years previously as well as made new friends.  And we got to visit with Dave’s brother Jim and wife Tammy, who are on their own nomadic lifestyle in their RV, when they were camped in Brunswick for a few days.

With Jim & Tammy in Brunswick.
With Bea on Beaufort, a long-time friend from our Navy days.

There have been a few Looper encounters, including a couple in Thunderbolt who we had done some lower river locking with last fall.  But since those actively Looping would be on the west coast of Florida right now, it’s mostly been fellow Gold Loopers like us doing the southern migration.  And while seeing the Looper burgee on the bow of a boat still serves as an instant social introduction, it seems to be on a different level without the same anticipation of future encounters and shared purpose – more of a steady state than a dynamic one.   

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, the biggest New in the Old factor is us.  We are not the same people we were three years ago, or even a year ago.   Of course, everyone changes with various experiences in life, but I think travel in general is a powerful catalyst.  Doing it by boat, visiting places that you probably  wouldn’t visit any other way, and with a drastic lifestyle change additionally has been a super accelerator for us.  We can actually look back and see how we’ve changed. Right now it feels like we are in a sweet spot where Old life experiences provide a solid  foundation for New learning and adventures.  It’s the onion analogy in reverse — we’re adding layers to create us rather than peeling them back to discover  who we are.  (Does anyone else always think of Shrek every time they hear that onion analogy?)

We’ve started talking about what  life back on land might look like.  No specific plans, but more a recognition that we won’t be able to do this forever.  So we bat around options and possibilities, what we do and don’t want, and are starting a list of criteria to help ecide which fork in the road to take when we come upon it.  It’s kind of a pragmatic form of dreaming at this point.  The one thing we do know we want – know that we personally need – is to always find ways to keep life fresh.    

Fresh like an onion.   “And in the morning, I’m making WAFFLES!”

Pops’ Stats Corner*

  • No of Days:  29  
  • Travel Days:  9
  • Miles Traveled: 492.2 (428 nm)
  • Boat Parades Seen:  1
  • Beards Shaved:  1

*Pops is the family’s affectionate name for Dave’s dad.  He had a mind for sports statistics, earning him the nickname Numbers from the coaches of several Stillwater teams with whom he worked.  This regular section of the blog is in his honor, because it’s the kind of thing he would love.

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