20 Jekyll Island, GA to Fernandina Beach, Fl


The subtle quiet charm of Jekyll Island captured us. We ended up staying six days. Bike trails wound through live oaks with Spanish moss filtering the sunlight and adding interesting shadows as we rode in the coolness catching glimpses of shore. We went for long rides every day. On most days we’d invite other boaters to join us and we’d explore together enjoying the scenery and the company. We found a new place for lunch every day and enjoyed the variety of eating locations the island had to offer.

One afternoon we carried our bikes over the dune cross over walk to the beach and rode on the sand for 3-4 miles. The tide was out and the beach surface was hard packed. It was almost as easy as riding on the bike path. The hard part was hauling the bikes back up the stairs to get back over the dunes. Even that had a nice flavor since the path back through the trees was spectacular.

After two days of absolutely spectacular sunsets, we decided to try a sunrise on the ocean side of the island. We were up early and walked the half-mile across to the ocean beach. The sunrise looked like it would be great, but at the last minute low clouds covered the sun. We made the most of it exploring the beach and enjoying the sanderlings run in and out with the waves in their search for food. We were amused by one bird as it darted in and out dodging around sea foam that the wind was blowing down the beach each time a wave lubricated the sand letting the foam blow a few more feet to leeward. The bird was determined to look immediately ahead of the foam and stayed just a few steps away from being overtaken each time the foam moved. The gray sunrise was witnessed just the birds and us. We walked the beach for over an hour enjoying the ocean.

At one point in the island’s history, names such as Morgan, Rockefeller, Macy, Goodyear, Carnegie, Vanderbilt and other millionaires owned the entire island. They built “cottages” and the Jekyll Island Club for dining and a place for their guests to stay. Today some of the remaining cottages are open for tours and the club is a hotel. We spent part of one afternoon exploring the club, enjoying its old fashion elegance, poking in its lending library and then having lunch on the veranda. Made for a fun afternoon.

There was a small pond on the island where we diligently looked for alligators one afternoon. Didn’t find a thing. The next day we were riding by and people commented that they had just seen the alligator family, took us along the path and pointed them out. Mom was resting just below the surface with just her eyes and nose visible in the shadows. There were three little ones along the shore and you could hear them calling to mom. We got a kick out of seeing them in a totally natural setting and not part of an exhibit. On our last day we went back early in the morning and found them again.

We met most of the other boaters who were living aboard. One couple had come for 2 days and were still there six years later. A number of people stay the winter before moving back north. Some were like us and stayed days longer than planned. People we had bike ridden with had signed up to stay a month and will then push off heading south again. We were tempted, but still have the urge to see what’s around the corner.

Thanksgiving Day we finally pushed off and went all of 10 miles to Cumberland Island, the next island down from Jekyll Island. It’s now a national seashore. We dropped anchor early in the afternoon but didn’t bother to go ashore. We just sat, relaxed, read and enjoyed swinging at anchor with the island on one side and the marsh on the other. Around 5 Ruth fixed our Thanksgiving dinner. We had turkey breast and stuffing cooked on the grill, gravy, homemade rolls and pumpkin pie. Nature added a colorful sunset and we had our first Thanksgiving afloat.

We dinked ashore and went off exploring. There was a welcoming committee of no-see-um’s. On Jekyll Island we had had a few. On Cumberland you ran the gauntlet along the shore of clouds of them. They don’t have the annoying buzz of mosquitos, but they have a bite that is about 5 times bigger than they are. We were into insect repellant big time.

There is a deserted plantation manor house call Plum Orchard built by one of the Carnegies in the late 1800’s. Seemed out of place to see this huge relic of a home in the middle of what is now a wilderness. As we walked a trail over to the ocean, we came across our first armadillo. It wasn’t afraid and we got to within a few feet. As we hiked, we ended up seeing 8 of the strange little creatures. The hike through the woods and into the dunes was wonderful. It seemed like the character of the island changed every quarter mile presenting us with new sights. When we got to the ocean side, we enjoyed a deserted beach and its raw beauty.

As we hiked back, ran into Steve and his wife Janet from Black Swan. We had met Steve days earlier at Jekyll Island. He was traveling the ICW alone in their 52-foot custom powerboat. He’d picked up his wife who had come down for Thanksgiving and come over to Cumberland for the holiday. The island is 13 miles long and the odds have to be interesting for running into them on a woodland path. We were commenting that we were disappointed in that we hadn’t seen any of the wild horses. No sooner said and Janet said: “Look behind you.” Sure enough, 2 horses came out about 50 yards away and a third one hung back in the bushes.

Steve and Janet joined us after their hike for ice tea and snacks aboard Tranquility. They then took off in their rather large dink back to their boat anchored about 5 miles north. The next day we moved over to where they were, anchored off and hiked together on the north end of the island. This time there were more horses, and we caught a glimpse of some of the wild pigs that also roam the island.

The new anchorage was not a good pick in hind site. During the night the forecasted front with its rain and wind shift came through. For the wind direction there was a long fetch and we had a bumpy night. I was up a number of times making sure we were secure, and then as the wind rose, I was up again taking down the flag and moving the dink to eliminate some of the noise. I got some sleep, Ruth had trouble sleeping and had a restless night. Since the forecast was for even higher winds, we changed our plans and instead of staying a 4th night at Cumberland we headed to Fernandina Beach and a dock to get a better night’s sleep. As we departed, we saw wild horses and pigs grazing on the beach. Seemed like a fitting good bye from a delightful island.

As we got ready to go, Ruth checked the rain gage, our evening storm dumped 1.5 inches of rain on us. You could tell in the dink. When I got in to take off the motor, the water was up over my ankles. One bummer was that the dink motor wouldn’t start. Later when we got to the dock, I found a split in the primer hose. The now shorter hose let’s the motor start again.

Were now in Florida and it feels different than Georgia. Smells different too. However that’s because of the paper mill upwind.


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