When we left St. Augustine, we had planned to spend one night at anchor near Daytona Beach, one night at a rare courtesy wall in New Smyrna Beach, and then arrive our “holiday” destination of Titusville near Cape Canaveral. We had made reservations at a marina in Titusville for a whole month in order to secure Belle Bateau so we could travel “home” for the holidays, plus stay in one place long enough to get some maintenance work done. Monthly slip fees can be quite economical (vs. daily/weekly slip fees) so we had chosen Titusville with that in mind, plus it was close to the Orlando airport where we had booked Southwest flights. Dudley will fly to Atlanta for a visit with his sister and her partner, and they will be joined by his daughter Kat who is flying in from San Francisco. I will be flying to Baltimore and plan to split time between my parents’ home near Harrisburg PA, and a friend’s house in Ellicott City. Both my sons will be doing the same. We are a bit nomadic now without a “house on land” to come home to, but we have warm invitations to reside with friends and family so all is well.
As planned, we spent a beautiful night at anchor outside Daytona Beach before waiting for the high tide on the morning of Day 58 to help us navigate a couple of tight spots just south of Daytona.
We had read that there was a courtesy wall in New Smyrna Beach (NSB), but with room for only three boats we weren’t sure if we’d arrive early enough to get a space. As we approached, our binoculars spotted that there was room behind two other sailboats, as long as we could squeeze in front of a small dinghy that was rudely tied up at the end of the courtesy wall rather than the dinghy dock. We received a warm welcome when Justin, from one of the sailboats, came out to take our lines for a smooth docking. Love when that happens!
We tied up, were briefed by Justin about the town, and walked just a short block to the beginning of Canal Street, the main street of the City of New Smyrna Beach. What a quaint town! Great shops, restaurants, people, activities, and vibe. And a great coffee shop! Within minutes, I knew I wanted to stay more than one day. Turns out Dudley felt the same. So we walked to the city’s marina and inquired about a monthly slip.
This is quite late, mind you, to be asking for a slip for a month during the holidays, especially at a small marina. Marinas typically hold a few slips for daily transients (that’s been us), since rates are high and supply is good with boaters meandering down the ICW. They also have their long-term residents, like we were back in Baltimore, with annual leases. This particular marina has a waiting list for long-term leases.
However, we were about to enjoy yet another serendipity of our journey. The dockmaster checked his reservations, and a boat in a leased slip was about to leave the following day, and we could have that slip for a month. Yay! So that’s what we did (after canceling our other reservation of course).
Since then, we have been completely wooed by this town. Actually, we consider NSB to be two towns. There’s the City of New Smyrna Beach, where our boat is snug in a slip at the city marina, a short walking distance from Canal Street with its many shops, restaurants, art galleries and classrooms, parks, and city offices. And of course, the town’s outstanding coffee shop, aka my new home away from home.
And then there’s the beach town, 1.9 miles away, accessible by walking or Uber (taxi). Sadly, there are no courtesy bikes here. We visited the beach for the first time on Day 60, when our Uber ride was Larry, a fellow boater at the marina. He pointed out good restaurants as he drove us down Flagler Avenue, eventually dropping us literally on the beach.
Cars are allowed to drive on these beaches during daylight hours. I didn’t know that beaches like this existed on the East Coast other than what I’ve heard about the former racing days of Daytona Beach, which ended in 1958. Guess my head has been buried in the sand!
The beaches I’m familiar with in the northeast are lumpy, with soft squishy sand that gets on and in everything. The NSB beach is firm and packed, with low gentle slopes to the ocean’s edge that are caressed by changing tides. There is a “lane” marked for cars at the upper edge of the beach, and sunbathers, walkers, bicyclists, joggers, and surfers enjoy the rest of the beach. Cars are allowed to park on the beach too, which means that lugging coolers, sand chairs, and umbrellas is a simple short event. And best of all, that beach blanket I put down and the shoes I walked in don’t leave sand everywhere. How cool is that!
We visited the beach on a warm 83 degree day, late in the afternoon. There was a gentle breeze, and just enough people out to make the beach feel pleasantly welcoming. As dusk fell, the beach patrol reminded cars that they had to vacate the beach. We decided to walk into the beach town to Flagler Tavern for dinner. Great vibe in the beach town too!
Since then, we’ve been on vacation: relaxing, exploring the town near the marina, shopping, hanging out in Donna’s Canal Creamery, catching up on blog writing, eating in the restaurants, visiting the farmer’s market, buying postcards at the local “five and dime,” and listening to live music. The local arts council is quite vibrant, and both Dudley and I have researched upcoming art classes, just in case we decide to extend our stay. Donna and Kari in the coffee shop have become friends, and already know how I take my coffee and what pastries I prefer. I’ve met Donna’s kids and Kari’s boyfriend, and feel strangely at home here, after just a few days.
Yesterday, as I watched kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap in the small hut in town, I couldn’t help but think I was in a Norman Rockwell painting. The town is lit for the holidays so everything is festive and bright. I’ve even become comfortable with seeing palm trees decorated with holiday lights.
Frankly, I am surprised how much I’m enjoying northern Florida. Although I’m looking forward to visiting family and friends “back home,” I’m quite glad that we’ll be returning to NSB just prior to New Years Eve, and get to stay here for another couple of weeks before continuing south. I’m hoping to see the NSB New Years fireworks on the beach (if my flight arrives on time), and look forward to renting a car for a few days so we can explore the nearby sights.
It feels good to take a break from the constant moving. But better yet, we are smitten here in New Smyrna Beach. Seduced, wooed, and smitten.