The lead up to leaving Charleston was hectic. I had to keep focusing on sailing to Florida Amelia Island. Saying our goodbye’s while fixing necessities on the boat and stocking her with food wasn’t easy. So much to do. And we had a new crew member join us – Andrew from the UK. Thankfully Andrew fit in immediately and helped get stuck in with all the jobs.
Aside from making Britican look pretty by polishing her stainless steel, topside and hull, there were various little and large jobs. My husband Simon and I had an Excel list of around 30 jobs prioritized with a one, two or three. The ‘one’s’ were must-do jobs.
The day before departure we discovered a problem with our batteries.
Simon went to test to the main engine and it wouldn’t start. Within an hour all our floorboards were up, friends were lending their knowledge and a waft of uncertainty loomed in our saloon.
Would we be able to make it out of Charleston?
I couldn’t help but feel a pull. There was something similar to a magnetic force that we had to overcome. We had to gather all our energy and firmly decided that it was time to set sail again. After a year of living on our boat in the Charleston Harbor Marina we had grown roots (and barnacles). Heck, we had so many valid reasons to stay.
As the boat was being seen to, I sold our car at CarMax, a large car supermarket. I didn’t get what I wanted for it but the luxury of walking in, handing over the keys and getting a check was very convenient. Giving up our car was a difficult hurdle. I’m not sure if you’re like me, but I develop relationships with some of my possessions. To me, our sailboat, Britican, is certainly alive – I talk to her often! And I grew close to our car too.
It felt so abrupt to park her in a parking lot and walk away.
The day to leave finally came – it was a week after Andrew arrived and the weather had turned freezing cold. It was gray out with a mist of very cold rain.
Friends came to wish us off and, as usual, there were tears. I tried my best to stop the blood flow to my heart so I wouldn’t feel the sadness. I kept reminding myself that I wouldn’t feel so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that I had so many lovely friends and great memories. Sailing to Flordia Amelia Island was going to be great.
How many people visit an area for a year, make amazing new friends, and then say goodbye?
It’s not normal. And it’s not easy for any of us. The people around us in Charleston were more than friends…they were family. We’d do anything for them and they’d do anything for us.
After making an epic trip into the city to give my license plates back to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and to the tax assessor to request a refund, I took and Uber (taxi) back to the boat. I experienced the last walk between the resort hotels, the final viewing of the main dock to the jetties. I looked around and felt heavy yet there was a tinge of excitement too. The day to head out on our new adventure was here. It was time to stop looking back and turn to face forward.
We finally untied our lines and motored out of the marina and then out into the Channel.
We said our ‘thank you’s’ to Charleston. Sienna and I clambered into bed to have a Scooby Doo cartoon marathon while Simon and Andrew navigated us south towards Florida.
With Andrew on board I didn’t even have to pull the fenders up. He was eager to get to work. Andrew runs a boat sightseeing company in the Farne Islands (North England) so he was no stranger to dealing with fenders, warps and general boat management.
Andrew freed me up to go down below, get under the covers and endure my first sail for a few months. Within the past year we took a few small day trips out and one extended trip to Bermuda. My last experience of sailing included 16 Atlantic squalls so I was a bit apprehensive about being back on the sea. (Check out our Sailing in Rough Seas episode if you haven’t seen it already)
I took my ginger pills (to settle the stomach), Kwels (British anti sickness remedies pills), and had my head down on my pillow. I covered Sienna and I with all the blankets we had – it truly was freezing.
A crazy cold front moved in and although the sailing was good the wind was bitter.
While settling into bed around 11:30am I felt relief. After all the planning, preparing, goodbye’s I just wanted to sleep. For the entire day I felt so relaxed. I didn’t have to do anything or be anywhere. Upon reflection I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so devoid of responsibility or a self-imposed pressure to get things done.
While laying in the aft cabin I simply felt calm and peaceful. The time resting felt like a necessary, but welcome, letting down. A smile kept coming over my face when I thought that I could sleep the entire day if I wanted to!
That evening, Simon made us some macaroni and cheese that Sienna and I ate from big bowls in bed. Our Scooby Doo marathon turned into a movie night. With the lead up to Christmas we decided to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ Having watched the movie with my mom for years I wondered if Sienna would share the tradition with me. Being a long black and white movie I wasn’t sure if it would hold her interested.
When the movie ended, Sienna turned to me with a tear in her eye and said, ‘Mum, that’s the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen.’ My heart warmed and I felt grateful to have such a lovely daughter.
After checking on Simon and Andrew I went back to bed ready to embrace a night sleep at sea.
The waves weren’t particularly large but the angle of our sail caused quite a massive back and forth motion. The Atlantic Swell was certainly present and I had to do my best to keep myself from feeling green.
Sienna seemed to drift off effortlessly. For me, on the other hand, it wasn’t until 3am or 4am that I finally fell asleep. The back and forth motion was just too much. And if it wasn’t the motion, it was some sort of projectile flying around and crashing that kept me up. We did our best to secure everything but stuff was sliding, clanking, and at times, soaring through the air.
In the morning I woke and laid in bed.
The rocking wasn’t as bad and I smiled when I heard that we’d make land within a few hours. The first trip is often the hardest – your body had to get back into the swing of things. Although I didn’t sleep well I was still feeling okay. I wasn’t able to get up and walk around but a trip to the heads didn’t cause me to spiral into a full-blown seasickness. I kept feeling ever-so-thankful that Andrew was with us.
As we entered the passage way towards Amelia Island I couldn’t help but wonder why this particular stop-over was selected.
I could see a bit of green land but otherwise the riverbanks were filled with factories and smoke stacks. What an eyesore! This isn’t what I expect to see while I’m sailing around the world.
Let me back up a bit to how we planned our passage. In fact, allow me to start off with the big picture and work backwards.
Our ultimate goal is to go to Grenada, an island just above South America way down in the Caribbean Sea. We’d like to be anchored off this island for the next hurricane season. Considering that we got hit by two hurricanes and one tropical storm in Charleston, we’re hoping to have better luck in Grenada.
Furthermore, we’ve heard from other sailors that it’s a great place for kid boats. So…hurricane season starts in June and it’s December now. We have six months to get to the bottom of the Caribbean.
It’s worth noting that sailing plans often revolve around hurricane, typhoon and/or winter seasons. Our insurance won’t fully cover us if we’re in a hurricane zone during hurricane season so that helps us determine where we’re going and when we need to get there.
Our plan on getting to Grenada is very lose.
We intended to take short 1-day sails down along the coast of Florida in an effort to get me back into sailing. After our last passage, the 6-day sail from hell (Bermuda to America) I wanted an easier ride. Simon had a few places picked out but then he started talking with our boat neighbor, Michael, Captain of Entitled.
Michael had a passage plan lined up to get to Fort Lauderdale stopping at six different locations. One thing led to another and we decided that we’d join Michael all the way down to Florida.
The great thing about sailing is that you not only make fantastic friends easily, but you can learn a great deal from those with experience.
Michael has sailed the east coast for many seasons – he knows the good spots, the great restaurants and all the less expensive marinas. Thankfully Michael was willing to share his passage plan and his company with us. And being a solo sailor, I’m sure it’s nice to have a sailing companion for him too. We can enter a marina or anchorage first, get settled, and then help him. And when there’s something odd on the sea, (ex. a tanker that we can’t determine his/her intentions) we can call on the VHF and discuss our thoughts.
Back to Amelia Island.
As we motored up the river there was smoke and smog. The air was bitterly cold and it was raining. I was happy to see land but I couldn’t help but think we erred when asking Michael for ‘good’ spots to visit on our way down to Fort Lauderdale.
When we arrived at the anchorage around 11am and discovered a mooring ball field. Simon called the marina and a very nice gentleman gave us all the details about the fees, facilities and where to find the dinghy dock. Within minutes we tied onto a mooring ball ($20/night), dropped our dinghy and the boys headed over to Michaels boat to see if he needed any help.
Meanwhile I fried up some bacon preparing for a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast.
All three boys came back to the boat and we enjoyed a lovely meal. After doing a night watch system of three hours on and three hours off, Andrew and Simon were very happy with the comfort food. And so was Michael!
We then tidied up the boat. I did Sienna’s homeschooling, which takes around two hours. And at 3pm, we put our wet weather gear on, go in the dinghy and headed to the marina. After a bit of paperwork and paying $20 for the mooring ball, we headed to a bar/restaurant right at the marina. (Link to the marina we stayed at below).
We all wanted to catch up using WIFI and cheers our beverages to our first successful sail. Inside I couldn’t help but think, ‘thank God we made it out of Charleston!’
It was such a push to make it happen but that first sail made me realize that we’re not done sailing yet!
The four of us then strolled up the main street. There was a Christmas Festival planned for the weekend. Unfortunately, due to the cold raining weather it was canceled. I’m sure it would have been amazing as the line up of music, food, and entertainment seemed extensive.
As we strolled along the street it dawned on me why Michael suggested Amelia Island as a stop. The town was beautiful. The main street was lined with adorable boutiques, cute cafes, eclectic bars and some great looking restaurants. Surely when the sun is out this town is a bustling hive of activity.
Furthermore, the marina was well kept, had nice bathrooms, laundry and everything you could ask for is in walking distance.
Unfortunately the marina is closed due to hurricane damage but the mooring balls, dinghy dock and facilities are available.
We settled on an Italian restaurant for dinner. Looking like drowned rats; we walked in and were greeted as if we were family. After peeling our wet weather gear off, we settled into our meals and enjoyed each other’s company.
COMING NEXT: Heading from Amelia Island to St Augustine. And after that we head to Cape Canaveral. Make sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter to get a notification of my latest video/newsletter. Sign up here
Sailing to Florida Amelia Island Video
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Links to things mentioned/covered in the video
Grab a copy of the FREE GUIDE, ‘How to buy a boat without getting screwed’
Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides/books shop. All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon.
Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!
The marina we stayed at (on a mooring ball) was Fernandina Harbor Maria (highly recommended – the staff and facilities are great there) and if you’re not familiar with how to tie onto a mooring ball, avoid making mistakes by reading my short easy-to-understand Mooring Balls Explained – A Checklist For A Secure Mooring.
Check out Andrew, our guest crewmember’s website at: Farne Island Tours UK
Am I missing anything? Did I leave anything unmentioned? Let me know 🙂