Fun in St. Augustine and WE START THE GREAT LOOP!!!

Summary:  Back in Jacksonville after our side trip up the St. Johns River, our friend Colleen joins us for a week.  We explore Jacksonville and cruise down to historic St. Augustine, FL.  Departing to return north, we officially start THE GREAT LOOP!  After dropping Colleen off back in JAX, Dave and I continue north to Jekyll Island, GA.

Click the Google Map button below to open in a separate window.  There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.

Jacksonville, FL

Mar 9-13, 2022

We made it back to Jacksonville  from our St. Johns River side trip just in time to wait out a couple days of rain and high winds at Lambs Yacht Center.  Besides being just a stellar marina/boat storage facility with wonderful staff,  it turned out to be the perfect place to ride out the storm because they were mostly covered storage for larger yachts.  While we were on an outside slip that was not covered, we benefited as soon as we stepped off the boat as the actual docks were sheltered from the rain and we could walk to all the marina facilities without getting wet.  How perfect is that?

The boat was in desperate need of a good cleaning after our two weeks on the St. Johns River, so we took advantage of the downtime to do lots of laundry, scrub the decks between rains, and clean the interior of the boat.  It was a lot of work, but we had good reason to get See Level looking her best – we had a guest arriving!  Our good friend and former Stillwater neighbor Colleen flew down on the 12th to spend a week with us.  We borrowed the Lambs courtesy car to pick her up, which is a Big-Ass Red Cadillac (BARC) —  how cool is that??? 

Once we got back to the boat and Colleen got the all-of-10-minutes orientation, we set off on foot to explore nearby Chamblin Bookmine.  This is without a doubt the coolest used bookstore I’ve ever seen, and it’s ginormous!  Aisles and aisles of books sorted by genre and alphabetized by author.  It was amazing.

Colleen exploring one of MANY long rows of used books at Chamblins Bookmine near the marina. This place was a bibliophile's dream.

The next day was still a bit windy for travel, given that we didn’t want to have Colleen’s first major boat trip tarnished by seasickness.  So we explored downtown Jacksonville by doing a phone app-based city scavenger hunts.  They are fun and a great way to see things and learn history you might not otherwise, and I would recommend them.  There are several out there, but the one we did was called Let’s Roam.  The scavenger hunt is done as a team effort.  We are proud to say that we scored higher than 86% of teams that have done the JAX one.  But I have to say I don’t like feeling judged by a phone app – they rated Colleen as ‘absent.’  That seems harsh and without context.  Let the record show that we regularly took attendance and Colleen was in fact present the whole time and an active participant.  We never once caught her asleep as the icon next to her name would imply.  Dave and I just entered the answers to questions and riddles on our phones after she came up with them. 

Kind of a creepy entrance to a park in downtown JAX -- but have to give whoever credit for uniqueness.
Another site on our JAX scavenger hunt.

Had to wash the boat down yet again that afternoon thanks to the mega-flock of seagulls that kept swirling overhead.  It was like something out of a Hitchcock movie.  The noise was bad enough, but all the seagull poop with which they pelted the boat just added insult to injury.

St. Augustine, FL

Mar 14-16

Downtown Jacksonville through the Ortega River Bridge.

Destination St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, founded in 1565 before there even was a United States and continuously occupied since. 

It was a beautiful day to introduce Colleen to cruising, and we passed through residential, downtown, and industrial Jacksonville before turning south onto the ICW.  Colleen and I were able to ride on the bow through the sheltered Palm Valley and gawk at all the fancy, expensive houses.  One thing we noticed, however, is how few of these houses showed any sign of people actually enjoying their beautiful pools and manicured lawns.  We arrived at Camachee Cove Marina in time to get out the bikes and scooter and do a short ride near the marina before the sun went down.

Colleen at the helm with Dave.
The recreated gallows at the old jail.

Colleen and I are both avid readers and had previously belonged to a book club together, so several weeks ago we picked a book of historical fiction that was set in St. Augustine as a way of learning the local history – Maria, by Eugenia Price.  We each started reading several weeks ago, and commiserated early on that it wasn’t a writing style either of us preferred.  But we were in it for the history.  Only problem was it turned out I was reading the wrong book!  I had downloaded Maria, by Price Eugenia, and it started out along the lines of the synopsis I’d read of the correct Maria by the correct Eugenia Price.   I took quite a bit of time to read through phrases such as a ‘whirlwind of rage and indignation roused her torpid pulse,’ and ‘the wild luxuriancy of noxious passions.’ But it wasn’t until I got to “Woman , fragile flower! Why were you suffered to adorn a world exposed to the inroad of such stormy elements?” (what does that even mean?!?) that there was the first reference to it taking place in England, not St. Augustine.   Aaaackk!!!  So by the time I started reading the correct book the bar for writing style was set pretty low.  In the end, neither of us really cared for the book, but it did mention locations in St. Augustine we could look for and provided a good frame of reference for the history of Florida as it passed back and forth between England and Spain during the late 1700s.

A Trolley Tour was our introduction to the history and city.  We learned some interesting tidbits, but in the end the guides talked so fast and because we were in the third car back we couldn’t see what they were talking about until they had moved on to talk about the next place.  We hopped off at the Oldest House because this was the home of the real-life Maria on which our fictionalized Maria was based.  I have to admit, the house was pretty much as described in the book, as was the history of the family during the Revolutionary War times that our Oldest House tour guide related. To Dave, who hadn’t read the book, it was just an old house and he probably found our interest in things such as if there was a fig tree in the garden to be rather random.

We wandered through the old streets of the historic/tourist district, the waterfront,  around the old Spanish Castillo de San Marcos, and found the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the US (since Colleen is a school speech therapist) before hopping back on the Trolley Tour to finish just as the forecasted rain showers started. We were greeted at the boat by an exuberant Roxy, who we suspect was starting to think she was going to have to launch the dinghy and initiate a Search and Rescue mission for her lost Humans.

Dave & Colleen at the historic Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

By the next morning, the rain had stopped and it was sunnier and warmer, so we borrowed one of the marina courtesy cars and drove around the outer areas of the city.  Once again looking for areas described in our book, we first headed north along the beautiful beach of Ponte Vedra, then around the town and south to Anastasia Island.  We climbed the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse there for the beautiful views (which was not part of our book). 

View from atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
Beautiful view from atop the historic lighthouse in St. Augustine.

That evening we enjoyed dinner at Kingfish Grill right there in the marina to celebrate our start of The Great Loop the next morning.  The ambience was great as we sat on their outdoor patio overlooking the water and our boat.  We thought the perfect end of our time in St. Augustine would be to watch the sunset, but the no-see-ums quickly trashed that plan and we retreated inside to watch a movie instead.   Those buggers are vicious, and laugh in the general direction of bug spray.

The patio of the Kingfisher Restaurant at night, at the marina in St. Augustine and where we celebrated the start of The Loop.
Celebrating the start of our Great Loop from St. Augusting the following day.
Note the can of bug spray. It didn't help and we were soon driven inside by the 'skeeters.
Green lights in honor of St. Patrick's Day!


Mar 17-19

We officially started the Great Loop on St. Patrick’s Day.  It was an even better day on the water than our trip down, and Colleen and I spent a long time sitting on the bow.  The highlight of the day was a dolphin swimming with us for several minutes.  We saw him swimming toward the boat, so Colleen and I each manned a hull and watched as he played in the bow wake.  He kept moving between each hull, and we gave Dave an excited play-by-play via the headsets.  He’d come up for a breath right beneath where one of us was peering over the railing and we’d get a little dolphin spray.  It was super cool!!!  And no, I didn’t manage to get any video.  I was too busy enjoying it, and knew that the chance of getting the phone out of my pocket and not dropping it overboard in my excitement were pretty slim.  So maybe next time.  It was a wondrous show, though. 


Colleen looks the seasoned deckhand as we depart St. Augustine early headed back to JAX
First day of our Great Loop!

We docked at The Marina at Ortega Landing in the early afternoon.  While we liked Lamb’s, we wanted to end Colleen’s visit with something a little more resort-ish and we took advantage of the pool in the hot afternoon.  Met lots of other Loopers there, and Colleen was impressed with how friendly everyone was and the exchange of stories and knowledge.  This aspect is one of the things we look forward to the most in our future travels – the people. 

The next day dawned gorgeous (we had been getting progressively better weather as the week went along), so we dropped See Kiddo and did a dinghy tour along the Ortega River.  Of course, it was really to look at all the waterfront houses with their large lots and private docks.  Colleen and I continued our house commentary, and Dave probably now has enough knowledge of what we like and don’t like to design the perfect house for each of us.  Finished off Colleen’s last day with us with some more pool and hot tub time. 

Out for a dinghy ride along the Ortega River in Jacksonville.
Photo credit goes to Colleen for this lovely moonrise pic over the Ortega River in Jacksonville.

We sadly said good-bye to Colleen early the next morning.  It was a lot of fun to have her with us, but her spring break was over and we had to start migrating back to Norfolk. 

Dave and I then jumped into several hours of laundry, a walk to the nearby grocery store, and other preparations for the next four weeks of travel.   In the afternoon we took a bike ride to a suburban area of Jacksonville called Avondale.  It’s an older residential area, with an eclectic mix of tudor, art deco, colonial, and other architecture.  There’s also a quaint main drag commercial district.  We had a great ride weaving in and out of the neighborhood. 

Sunset from the marina at Jacksonville

Jekyll Island, GA

Mar 20

As we left for Jekyll Island, the St Johns River around JAX was feeling very familiar as we passed by the same sights for the sixth time in the past month.  It was a long but relatively easy trip, arriving at Jekyll Harbor Marina in mid-afternoon.   We will be here a week, exploring the island and killing a little time to allow things to warm up a bit further north.  We are back to chasing 70 degrees. 

Jekyll Harbor Marina. We're neear the end of the line of boats on the right, just before that last sailboat.
Jekyll Harbor Marina office, with Mo the Cat.

Exactly two months ago we finished our southern migration, but it seems like it’s been only a couple weeks . We are basically retracing our route along the ICW back to Norfolk over the next month, but will be staying in some different places for the sake of variety.  Things have changed though.  For one, it’s way warmer than when we had winter nipping at our stern and we won’t have to worry about frost in the mornings.  There are many other boats now starting the migration, though we are probably ahead of the main pack for now.  We look forward to meeting more fellow Loopers, as they will all be heading up the ICW as well.

In the meantime, I’ll be honing my writing style to impart upon my blogful devotees the wild luxuriancy of the nautical passions shared with my beloved, while the lamp of life expends itself to chase the vapours of a stormy sea fueling a whirlwind of rage and indignation that rouse a torpid pulse.  

Pops’ Stats Corner*

  • Tot days covered this blog: 12
  • Travel days: 3
  • Miles traveled to St. Augustine:  60.5
  • Miles traveled on The Loop:  119.3
  • Total miles this blog post: 179.8
  • Pages into the wrong book Karen was before she figured it out:   70 (of 340)
  • Boat washes: 4
  • Pool days: 3
  • Steps to top of lighthouse:  219.

*’Pops’ is  the family name for Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.

1 thought on “Fun in St. Augustine and WE START THE GREAT LOOP!!!”

  1. What fun to see Colleen in your blog/trip!!!
    I love reading your about your adventures and am excited for your upcoming Looper tales!

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