In the days leading up to our departure from New Smyrna Beach, we hadn’t quite figured out where our next stop would be. And frankly, there’s not a lot of choices anyway.
We knew St. Augustine would be a must, but it was more than a comfortable day’s cruise for us – so we’d need at least a stop or two along the way.
In reading reviews, Marineland Marina particularly stood out – across the street from the world’s oldest oceanarium, and access to hiking trails? Sounds good to us!
But first, the video version:
The Cruise and A Bridge Out!
We plotted it out and decided to skip Daytona and points in between which have limited options anyway. Many anchorages are still fouled after last year’s hurricane season.
Making Marineland in one shot would constitute our longest cruising day yet of 44.1 nautical miles.
We left New Smyrna Beach just after sunrise, and kept a pace that would hopefully have us arriving before afternoon thunderstorms popped up.
We even ran the boat up on plane (ie. we went super fast – 16-17 knots, as compared to our normal 7-8) for a solid 30 minutes just north of Daytona before the ICW got super narrow – cutting our cruising time down a bit.
It was a lovely cruise.
Until a sailboat heading south hailed us:
‘The bridge is closed! The bridge is closed!’
Sailboats have a much more difficult time with bridges, and require far more openings than we do. With our 18.5′ air draft – we can often times just slide on through without too much worry.
But Knox Bridge is reported in at 15′. We called ahead to the bridge tender to get the status of the bridge, and they confirmed the 15′ clearance and that they expected repairs to take another two nights at least.
Unlike RVing, when a route is out, there just aren’t often detours to take when stuff like this happens.
Our options at this point are to turn around and back track about thirty minutes to find a place to anchor and wait it out..
We bought a boat with a hydraulic folding arch precisely to clear a 15.5′ fixed bridge we’ll encounter later on the Loop if we take the optional historical Western Eerie Canal route.
We were still a few miles out from the bridge, Y-Not use the feature?
Chris got to work taking down the biminis while I puttered us along to buy him more time. It’s a bit of work to get the arch down, especially with just one person – it would have been more ideal to anchor for a bit and work together, but we were in a pretty narrow stretch.
The hydraulics were a bit crusty, as we’ve not done this since our tow up the Miami River last year to be hauled out. But after some percussive maintenance (hitting the relay with a wrench a few times), the arch came down.
As we approached the bridge I had my eyes on the gauge – which actually read 10′, not 15′.
(may not have been the actual words uttered…)
Gauges are usually calibrated at the sides of the bridge – and many bridges arch in the middle giving you 2-3 extra feet. The bridge tender and our guidebooks indicated we should have an extra 3′ to work with.
So we probably had ~13′.
The prior owner had told us with the arch down, Y-Not’s clearance is 12 – 12.5′. He regularly cleared a 14′ bridge to get the boat out of his neighborhood.
This was gonna be close!
And of course, even if we can squeak under, it didn’t leave much margin should there be wake or a rogue wave that comes through that would smash us up into the bridge.
Chris put the engines essentially at idle speed – so if it looked like we wouldn’t be able to clear we’d have time to reverse. The couple little fishing boats hanging out around the bridge moved out of the way in plenty of time for their wake to dissipate.
I stood on the bow and kept careful watch… and whew, we slid right on under just like butter!
Chris reported that we had about 8″ to spare above our anchor light.
The bridge tender radioed over to say a job well done, and the work crew on the barge applauded.
But.. whew. That was a butt-clenching moment and definitely upped our experience level!
We’re super thankful for the sailboat that gave us the heads up, for a calm day on the ICW and for our teamwork in problem solving.
We had a couple more hours to complete our cruising day, and we arrived just in time to get docked before the skies let loose with buckets and buckets of rain.
Marineland Dolphin Adventure is another one of those tourist destinations, and claims to be the world’s oldest oceanarium celebrating 80 years since it opened. It’s original purpose was as an underwater film studio, where Creatures of the Black Lagoon was filmed.
The facility is also where scientists discovered dolphin’s use of echolocation and a lot of research conducted here lead to better understanding dolphins both in captivity and in the wild.
The facility fell into disrepair especially as Sea World opened up in Orlando, and is now owned by the Georgia Aquarium. It’s registered as a non-profit and has been updated and scaled back with a focus on education (although a new movie was just filmed there coming out this winter).
Chris and I actually visited here back in 2006 just after it re-opened, as part of our first exploratory RV trips around Florida while we were dating. So it was a no-brainer we’d want to return.
What we didn’t know is there’s a marina – and not just any marina – a highly rated one. We quickly changed our intentions from a 1-night stop and utilized their weekly discounted rate, which also includes tickets to Marineland (pretty cool!).
While there’s not much in Marineland but the oceanarium, what the area does have is direct beach access and hiking trails. Like actual, shaded, hiking trails. We’ve been missing those!
We had a fabulous week exploring around the area, enjoying easy beach access and hiking. And lots of nicely protected bike paths for a provisioning run up to Publix six miles away. There’s also the Washington Oak State Park which was beautiful to bike around, and Cobbs Landing with fabulous dinghy accessible BBQ.
Oh, and did I mention that every Sunday morning there’s a Farmer’s Market right in the parking lot??
The stay was marvelous – a nice mix of relaxation, keeping on top of work and just enough to do to keep us busy.
And dockmaster Eric (hi Eric!) is fabulous – extremely knowledgable and passionate about the area.
We’d definitely recommend making this not-as-obvious stop if you’re transiting the area by any mode of transport.
Great Loop Log (8/1/2018)
- Distance: 636.5 nm
- Stops: 42
- Marina Nights: 342
- Anchored Nights: 31
- Bridges : 117
- Locks: 0
Other Travel Posts in this Great Loop Travel Series:
- Florida ICW:
- One Week Turns to Five in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
- Cruising the Space Coast – Melbourne to New Smyrna Beach
- Ft. Pierce to Melbourne with Mom Aboard!
- Two Months in Ft. Pierce, Florida – Causeway Cove Marina, Tackling Boat Projects & Enjoying ‘City Life’
- Continuing North up the ICW – Boca Raton to Ft. Pierce & the MTOA Southern Rendezvous
- Leaving Miami in the Rear View – Heading North up the ICW!
- Leaving Miami and Resuming our Great Loop Cruising Season for 2018!
- Miami the Hard Way – Boat Haul Out, Repairs & Living On the Hard
- The Keys:
- South to the Keys:
- The Great Loop: South to the Keys (Part 1) – Ft. Myers to Naples
- The Great Loop: South to the Keys (Part 2) – Naples to Marco Island
- The Great Loop: South to the Keys (Part 3) – Cruising Ten Thousand Islands
- The Great Loop: South to the Keys (Part 4) – Everglades National Park – Little Shark River & Cape Sable
- Sometimes Nomads Need to Grow Some Barnacles (Two Months in Fort Myers)
- Starting the Great Loop – First Adventure: Punta Gorda, FL to Fort Myers, FL
View all our Great Loop Posts
on our Interactive Map!
We are still in Jacksonville at the absolutely fabulous Marina at Ortega Landing – we’re being spoiled rotten here with world class amenities, an excellent staff and amazing community.
It’s also a known hurricane hole (ie. a spot considered to be reasonably protected).
Which, we are now in the peak of season. We’re having flashbacks to this time last year as we made the frightening decision to leave Y-Not tied up in Marathon, FL and save our bus also in the path of Hurricane Irma.
We count our blessings every day for the outcome of that, and aren’t taking this season lightly either.
Once we feel safe doing so weather wise, our intentions are to travel UP the St Johns River heading south to Sanford.
We also have some exciting boat projects commencing this week…
Our general goal is to find longer term storage for the boat in these parts for the winter while we return to RV life in the southwest. We’re booked for both the Xscaper’s Convergences for New Years Eve in Quartzsite, AZ and the big Annual Bash in Lake Havasu in January.
And then we’ll resume cruising north and pick back up on the Great Loop in spring time.