Beaches: Wrightsville Beach to New Smyrna

“When I sit here by the sea and listen to the sound of waves, I feel free from all obligations and people of this world.” Henry David Thoreau

Crashing waves for the surfers at Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach provided us a wonderful place for walking on the sand and observing a multitude of surfers for 3 days, just what we were looking for. It was a little breezy and cool so we didn’t get in the water, not that I would have anyway. After seeing the large shark just a few feet off the beach at Cumberland last June I am even more reticent about actually entering the water.

Scott had wanted to visit Bald Head for years and we managed to get a reservation for two nights. Bald Head proved to be the perfect place for 2 long bike rides to explore the interior plus time on the beaches. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed and we were unable to climb to the top. Fortunately, we were able to see Scott’s nephew and his wife, Marc and Denise! Our second day there we did Zumba, yoga and took a 7 mile bike ride, all the while planning to leave the following morning. Just as we sat down to relax at dinner, Scott decided the best time to go offshore to avoid big waves was ASAP. This last minute decision was based on a phone call with Chris Parker who closed our weather window by 12 hours! This would ensure calmer waters offshore and slack tide transiting both inlets. After gobbling up dinner in 5 minutes…we were off. A gorgeous sunset was our send-off.

The man in the moon, my midnight companion

The moon is like a companion traveling along with you during an overnight passage. He’s not too chatty but it’s comforting to know he’s along for the ride. He began bright and white, casting a visual path in the water.  In the path I scan for the Right whale, dolphins, or flying fish, always awaiting a welcome surprise.  As he lowered, he resembled a big, beautiful, orange pumpkin; shrinking and sinking lower towards the water. Suddenly, I was alone.

What a glorious sunrise as we entered St. Mary’s river in an exhausted state.

“We need the tonic of wilderness. We can never have enough of nature.” Henry David Thoreau

Our time at Cumberland Island filled our souls with the tonic of wilderness and nature beginning with the spectacular sunrise which greeted us as we left the big water and entered the St. Mary’s River. This double overnighter was our toughest one yet. Not because the weather was bad, but because neither of us slept well. By the time we pulled into Cumberland Island, GA, we were absolutely exhausted, so much so that we couldn’t drag ourselves to shore that day. Two great days of hiking through the lush and peaceful interior and long walks on the beach were rejuvenating along with two days of rest on the boat due to high winds.

I always say that low tide is my favorite time of day (except when traveling the ICW!) What appears to be barren sand is actually a landscape teaming with life, and sadly, some death. We saw the obvious birds, some beautiful butterflies and tide pools filled with tiny fish, scurrying crabs, and amazing sea stars. Sadly, we saw 10 horseshoe crab shells in just one small area.

Fernandina Beach has a charming downtown and a brand new dock which had the largest, stoutest, stainless steel cleats we’ve ever seen. I’m disappointed I didn’t take a picture. This town is a great stop. Hopefully it will fare well in Hurricane Eta.

St. Augustine is another favorite stop where we had booked a ball for 4 nights. It is delightful walking among the historic homes and neighborhoods dotted with small museums. However, it just wasn’t the same when we avoided going indoors to shops and restaurants. As the days went by we were constantly following the circuitous path of Eta and decided that moving to Rivers Edge Marina, up the San Sebastian River, would be our safest option to avoid some potential winds and rain. Nothing serious materialized and we went to bed last night seeing Eta’s path head north into the panhandle. Our plan was to head south today to New Smyrna.

Crazy, circuitous, never ending Eta! We awoke this morning to see that she had turned northeast and was heading toward St. Augustine. What??? Hopefully, we have timed our get away properly and will be far enough south to avoid any problems. New Smyrna tonight and Melbourne tomorrow then we would should be home free to Stuart!

One never knows what will be around the next bend on the ICW! For a moment I thought we were in Africa!

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