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St. Johns River Cruise – Part 3: Lake George to Sanford (Living in a Wildlife Documentary!)

And now, the final episode on our southbound cruise of the St. Johns River – the final push into Sanford.

If you missed the first parts, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.

And as always, the video version of this segment. This is our very first 4K rendered video – we thought this episode worthy of the extra bandwidth and effort to create:

 

Stop 9: Silver Glen Springs

The 9.9 nm cruise to Silver Glen Springs – cruising time 1 hr 33m.

We waited out some breezy wind overnight just north of Lake George – Florida’s second largest lake. The morning was all clear for calmer conditions, so we set off across the roughly 15 mile expanse.

Since weather was looking good all day long, we decided to take a side diversion to Silver Glen Springs – a class 1 natural spring that outflows from an ancient ocean. We anchored just offshore, dropped the dinghy and motored in.

It was amazing to watch the tannin stained root beer colored water turn crystal clear in mere seconds.

It was a chilly day, so we didn’t opt for swimming this time around – but many boats were anchored up closer to the spring itself. We could have likely navigated Y-Not up this far too, but then we would have been in tighter quarters than we prefer.

It was lovely, but more populated than is fun for us. With the fetch increasing out on the open lake – we opted to complete the Lake George crossing and get to more protected areas for our overnight.

 

 

Stop 10: Morrison Island Anchorage – Astor

6.7 nm into Astor, for a cruising time of 1 hr 13m

We selected a little side area off the St. Johns just north of Astor for our overnight anchorage. And then we motored in on the dinghy up to Blackwater Inn for some shore time.

We enjoyed a walk around town, and a light dinner before a sunset cruise back to Y-Not for the evening.

In the morning we weighed anchor, which took a bit of effort with the extremely thick sticky mud.

 

Stop 11: Hontoon Dead River Anchorage

Our relaxing leisurely 20.6 nm cruise into Hontoon Island. Cruising time, 3 hr 39m of pure bliss.

South of Astor, the St. Johns River gets much more narrow and twisty. It’s reminiscent of the deep creeks we explored further downstream.

And it’s absolutely gorgeous.

We decided to take it slow and meandering. Putzing along at a mere 6 knots and just enjoy this living nature documentary.

We passed manatees, alligators and were buzzed by bald eagles. We were surrounded by miles of nothing but trees and no signs of civilizations for long stretches.

It was absolutely magical.

We attempted to capture some extended real time footage of this section to share with you, but unfortunately the camera on a tripod picked up the boat’s vibrations. We’ll give it another try on the return trip.

We ended our day’s cruise up a creek behind Hontoon Island State Park.

This state park is only accessible by boat, and even offers a small marina that would have been suitable for our boat. At only $22/night with water and electric, it was tempting. They even had a sign out for a marina host – volunteer 20 hrs a week for a free slip (the workamping equivalent!).

But we opted for continuing our anchoring-out streak.

We found a magical and secluded spot about a mile and half up the creek – and then dinghied in to the dock for exploration on foot of the trail system within the park. Day visits are completely free (crazy!).

We stayed two glorious nights here, waking up to mist on the water with water hyacinth floating by. Nature surrounded us, and I think we even heard monkeys.

 

Stop 12: Butcher’s Bend – Final Stop

11.7 nm miles to our last stop before Sanford. Another 2 hrs and 18m of idyllic cruising.

After two lovely nights tucked up behind Hontoon Island, it was time for one last stop on this river sojourn. We picked out Butcher’s Bend (doesn’t sound all that appealing, right?) as our final anchorage before Sanford.

This little oxbow is within spitting distance of our destination. You pass neighborhoods as the sprawl of metro Orlando starts to descend upon you, and then wham – you’re right back in nature again.

We had a tough time getting the anchor to set in the bottom here – it’s very deep in some spots. But we found the magic spot of ample swing room to appropriate scope.

And just as we’re settling in for the afternoon – we spot an alligator cruising by.

Chris launches the drone to get an arial view, and ends up tracking manatees checking us out too.

We decided to brave the alligators, and each enjoyed some paddle boarding to check things out.

Butcher’s Bend is so named for the cattle ranch surrounding the bend. While we could hear the cows mooing, we didn’t actually see any.

From here, it’s just a quick 6.9 nm cruise into Monroe Harbour Marina in downtown historic Sanford.

St. Johns River Stats:

  • Total Cruising Nautical Miles:  142.8
  • Nights on the Trip: 14 (all anchored out)
  • Engine Hours: 26.6
  • Generator Hours: 59.7

Current Update:

This post wraps up our cruise into Sanford, where we arrived on Halloween day.

What was intended to be a 1-week stay before we turned around, is now going on an amazing 4-month immersion.

We’ve had an incredible winter here, and we look forward to sharing with you more about how Sanford completely captured our hearts. And all of the boat projects we accomplished.

We’re currently wrapping up the solar installation project, and have our departure list created.

We’re aiming for a shove off in early March to make the return trip to Jacksonville back down the St. Johns River. Editing this footage these past couple of days really has re-ignited our enthusiasm for getting back out there and seeing this stretch in spring time.

After we reach Jacksonville, we just committed to attending and presenting at the RVillage 2.0 Rally over in Live Oak, FL from March 27-31 – just a quick hop over.

If you’re in the area this spring and want to attend – there’s still 30A and boondocking spots left, and RVillage has given us a 10% discount to pass along (use code ‘Techno10’). It’s shaping up to be a huge event!

We’re super excited – we’ll not only be presenting a ‘Mobile Internet Fundamentals’ workshop, we’ll be meeting up with Anthony Nali – producer of our upcoming PBS TV Show – The RVers. We just received word that this thing is going into production – it should be airing by end of this year, if not sooner!

We’ll be filming many of our segments for the show at the rally, with a real-life professional capturing it. We also hope to  meet up with new and old friends.

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33 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. That sounds like a lovely trip. I remember those late afternoons in our boat and how we wished we could just stay the night.

  2. Cherie, Chris & Kiki

    Love Kiki’s cameo spot. Such a brave kitty to ride in the dingy. She may be the first cat to do so. She seemed to be agreeing that she needs some time on the hard to walk about. She is a trooper. Love seeing her in your videos.

    The river looks so tranquil. Enjoyed the beautiful sunsets. The underwriter images from “Just Because” are unique and gorgeous. Glad the wind did not blow your iPhone overboard.
    Love cruising with you and look forward to the next video. Be well and take care,
    Sherry

  3. I love seeing your adventures, I have traveled that section of the river many times and have not immersed myself as you both have.

  4. Glad you enjoyed your tour of the St Johns.We lived in Satsuma on the St Johns and frequented Blackwater Inn an excellent restaurant at dinner time.

  5. Great part 3! I enjoyed the drone shots of the calm river. Beautiful sunsets! Higher resolution makes a difference. Hope you return to the Island State Park on your next adventure.

  6. Very nice adventure! Great narration.
    I’ve been exploring, cruising, fishing and camping the St John’s for 30 years. I mainly stay between lake Monroe and the North end of lake George. There’s sooooo much backwater along that stretch you might never see it all.
    And I believe I’ve explored just about all of the scarce dry land along the way.
    It really is one of nature’s jewels. The only other place that might compare is the wilderness waterway through the Everglades. And only because there is zero civilization out there.
    Definitely check out blue springs on the way back. That tour boat dock has only been there a few years. I remember beaching a rental houseboat there 25 years ago, and they still do it. I was just there again 6 weeks ago with my 22ft tritoon and it’s still amazing. Swimming is closed there this time of year but you can still see manatees and a huge variety of fish. There’s a loop just north and across from it that should be suitable for you to anchor if you want to take the dingy to the beach. Don’t even think about the lake just south as it’s like a foot deep!
    I look forward to seeing your return trip. Be careful and cheers to you!!

  7. Been enjoying your adventures in Central Florida. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, (but that was about 30 years ago, wow long time ago) my mom lives in Mt. Dora.. Been though Sanford many times but never have stopped. Never been on the the St. Johns either. Will have to check out some of the places you’ve been next time i visit my family.

    • We definitely can foresee ourselves returning to Sanford one day. But plan is still that eventually the boat will be wintering up north while we RV around warm areas. There’s really not the great accessibility from an RV in Sanford like you get with a downtown marina we’re so enjoying.

  8. I always get a bit excited when I see you’ve added a new post, and I can’t wait to delve into your adventure. This one did not disappoint. Hope your trip back over this area is even more fascinating than the first time.
    So glad you will be at Rally 2.0. Hope to see your presentation and learn from you. We’re not full-time, and don’t need connections to make a living, but I am guessing I can still learn so much from you. It will also be great to meet you after following you for several years.
    Maybe some LTTE testing can be in the works while there : ) !

  9. Of all your travels and video, I think this one most says to me “you guys have the best life”. So happy you’re living it, and sharing it.

  10. I’m glad you decided to continue your blogs. I really enjoy following your travels as I’m an ex boat cruiser as well as rv’r.

  11. Great to see your excitement! While I’ve enjoyed your travel stories, I’m really looking forward to the “geeky” stuff — details on your new solar and lithium batteries setup. Thanks for bringing us along.

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