Fernandina to Fernandina

In the 4 days at Fernandina Harbor Marina we did some shopping, laundry, visited with friends, gave the engine fresh water cooling system a chemical flush and changed the coolant. So it was a busy 4 days to say the least. The area and the marina have changed since we were last here. Mostly the prices have increased considerably for dockage and the marina is pretty empty. We are not sure if they are related or if it is just the time of year. In the anchorage across the river from the marina they have installed a mooring field, like so many other municipalities. The moorings are $15.00 per day for transients and that is the highest we have seen so far other than Marathon. It does include the use of the dinghy dock and showers but so do all of the others for a lot less money. Unfortunately this is no longer a Florida thing and towns all along the waterway are getting into the mooring business. The folks that work at the marina are extremely friendly and helpful and we felt very welcome.

The transient dockage is on a long face dock and, if docked on the outside and not in the basin, the wakes from the boats on the river and any bad weather coming from the west makes it bothersome. If one has the maneuverability and draft you can tie up on the inside of the face dock and this is not so much of a concern. A very strong current runs through the river here so that needs to be taken into consideration. The tides average 7 to 8 feet and there are many shallow areas at low tide. The daily transient dockage is currently $1.75 per foot and the weekly rate is $9.50 per foot and both increase in the season which begins October first. We did find another marina in the area, Tiger Point Marina, which charges $1.25 per foot for daily transient rates. It is not in the heart of downtown like the city marina and it does have limited space. They can also do haul outs and have a very good service department on site with some friendly, knowledgeable techs and mechanics.

On Saturday morning we moved to the fuel dock, also on the face dock, and topped off the fuel tank. Diesel was $ 4.72 per gallon plus 7% tax, so not the cheapest we have found, but not the most expensive either. There is a fuel dock not far from the marina that discounts fuel at about 30 cents a gallon right now but they were closed when we needed to head out. Once fueled up, we made the short trip north to the anchorage off Cumberland Island. This is a state park and is well known for the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic side and the wild horses that have lived on the island for a long time.

We anchor off the dock where the ferries from St. Mary’s arrive with tourists and campers and we can dinghy ashore and tie up to the same dock. There is a $4.00 per person fee to go ashore and spend the day on the island. There are lots of spectacular hiking trails with lots of flora and fauna and many different critters besides the horses. It is a short walk over to the beautiful white sand beaches on the Atlantic side and we had a very nice afternoon walking the beach and the trails. The anchorage included 5 other boats and we were evenly divided between sail and power. The per person fees can be collected at the ranger station if someone is there or paid by the honor system at a box as you get off the docks.

The evening went well and even though storms threatened from the north they fizzled out before they got to our location. We had planned to visit St. Mary’s the next day but after a good nights’ sleep, we decided we really needed to get north and again the weather was not looking great for the next couple of days. So late morning we hauled up anchor at about low tide and headed back on the waterway and northbound. Approaching the Kings Bay Naval base one must stay to the east side of the ICW and away from the base. There are patrol boats standing watch and ready to challenge anyone that approaches too closely. Our run was to be a short one, only about 15 miles away. That would give us an early anchorage and a decent spot if weather closed in. It would also mean a shorter run the following day. The trick for us right now is to be settled before the afternoon storms build. This is all getting so old and really grates on your nerves.

Our anchor was down in Brickhill River, about 17 miles north, at around 1:30 PM and the storms were starting to build off in the distance. We chose this spot because although it did not give us any actual wind protection, we did have reasonably good protection from the waves. The holding was good and the river is wide enough for plenty of swinging room. This area and most of the anchorages in Georgia are simply low marsh grass not so great for wind protection. By around 5 PM we had rain all around us and the winds only reached the 18 to 20 knot range. It seems the bulk of them traveled just to the north and south of us only passing a mile or so away.

Checking the engine fluids the next morning revealed that our coolant issue was still not resolved. We had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to take the chance and nurse the boat along for the 100+ miles to Beaufort or turn back the 20 miles to Fernandina. Of course we decided to return to Fernandina. After all of our years on this boat we have learned not to ignore problems since they don’t go away or get better on their own. Since the folks at Tiger Point Marina had started and already done some work on the coolant system we turned back and called them on the phone.

On our trip back we had a real treat just as we passed the Kings Bay Naval Station. We noticed a ship heading up the channel toward us and soon noticed that it looked like several ships and a bunch of small boats. As the parade neared us we realized that this was a nuclear submarine with its entourage/escort. We were quickly approached by a Coast Guard inflatable with machine guns mounted and manned front and back. They were actually very friendly and asked if we could run just outside of the channel until the sub had passed and of course we said no problem.

 They stood by and kept their craft between us and the sub at all times and at one point were joined by another Coast Guard boat equally armed. Since they were only about 100 feet away from us we asked if pictures were OK, and they assured us we could take as many as we liked. The gunner on one of the boats noticed our hailing port of Norfolk and asked if we had ever visited a restaurant there. It was all pretty impressive and between the sub and the accompanying support vessels, the waterway was pretty choppy from all of their wakes. They all passed quickly and we continued on to the marina with no problems. Our concern was getting into the canal at the marina since we were at low tide, but we slid in with inches to spare. Once tied up, the diagnostic process began and we decided that no matter what, we would stay around for about a week and just relax.

Well that changed too. Our vehicles are at a relatives in central Florida and only about 150 miles away. Beaufort is about the same distance so if we brought one of the cars here we would have it much nearer to pick up. We have a good friend here that has an extra vehicle so we could use that to drive over, pick up the car, bring it back to their house and leave it until we got to Beaufort. In the mean time the mechanics can work on the boat. So much for just hanging around and relaxing.


  1. Chuck,Susan,
    Great blog. Having fun reading about your travels. It's very upsetting to hear about all the mooring fields. I worry that by the time we're able to untie, that we'll have to have about $5k, just for mooring fees. I wonder what the legalities are with just dropping a mooring wherever you think you can make a buck. How can someone, or town just label a section of waterway a mooring field? Do they have a legal right to do so, and not allow anchoring?
    We have an anchorage here in Sodus Bay NY, that has a new mooring ball every year it seems. I'm assuming someone has to apply for permission with the town, or state, but I'm curious about our right to drop anchor there.
    S/V Alert M44
    Sodu Bay, NY

  2. The municipalities must apply for permits from whomever controls the bay bottom. This might be the state or the Corp. of Engineers, etc. They usually get those permits. Anchoring has been an issue but the courts in Florida have limited the towns from passing laws that conflict with state law which says anchoring shall not be restricted. That of course can change at any time. Outside of Florida there are still lots and lots of free anchorages. And there are still plenty in Florida.


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