Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been settling in nicely to our new port of Jacksonville, Florida. We call the quaint Ortega River Marina our home and are surrounded by friendly neighbors and lots of seagulls. Although we’re comfortable now, uncertainty and anxiety gnawed at our thoughts as we made the final stretch of our journey. Where were we going to live? Where will we be happiest? Where are good jobs? The laundry list of questions went on and on.
Originally, we had our hopes set on sunny South Florida. We still wanted to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful water that we’d grown fond of while cruising. That’s not so much to ask, is it? Fearful that anywhere north of Vero Beach would be too cold for our liking, we focused our energy on finding a marina down south.
Unfortunately, even after our best efforts, we had no such luck. Snowbirds heading south had occupied all of the marinas up and down the coast which included any slip that was available, demanding a premium price. We thought perhaps we’d have better luck on the Gulf Coast, but quickly discovered that marinas rarely allowed live aboard boaters because of strict regulations in the area.
Once we exhausted all of our options, it seemed like Jacksonville was our only choice. To be honest, we were feeling a bit let down. I mean, the water is brown and it gets cold in the winter. What the heck? After we did some research, however, it actually seemed like the most logical place for us to go.
The deciding factors
1. Hurricane protection
The National Weather Service has already forecasted another hellacious hurricane season giving us much to consider. Since we’re going to be liveaboards for the foreseeable future, we’d like to keep ourselves and our floating home in a safe and protected spot. After seeing the numerous boats washed ashore and extensive damage from hurricanes Maria and Irma, we’re not interested in toying with mother nature. Our marina is about 12 miles inland and is in a well protected area on the Ortega River.
You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find a slip during the ‘high season’ in South Florida. Basically impossible. We called dozens of marinas up and down the ICW and they’re booked solid for the next two to three months. With plans to find jobs and visit Pennsylvania for a few weeks, we needed a safe spot for our boat ASAP. With the exception of one other marina (which was isolated and in an inconvenient area) Jacksonville marinas were the only ones that had available slips and allowed us to live aboard our boat.
$1500 a month for a slip is completely outrageous. This was the average price we were quoted when calling marinas in South Florida. Newsflash – after cruising the Caribbean for a year, we’re poor. We just wanted a reasonable place to rest our heads and have access to showers, parking, and laundry facilities. The marina we found actually fit the bill and had all the amenities we needed to be comfortable.
With Jacksonville being the largest city in the entire state of Florida, we figured we’d have a better chance at finding jobs here than anywhere else. Both Dave and I want to get back into our preferred area of work and this seems like a good place to start the hunt.
Ideally, Dave and I would like to be in a small town. A perk of Jacksonville is that it’s fairly close to smaller, more charming areas like St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach. If we get lucky enough to find work in those places, it’d be an easy move. If we do stay in Jacksonville, we can always take a day trip to satisfy our appetite for cozy, small town living. Additionally, Tallahassee, Orlando and Savannah, Georgia are only about 2 hours away which will be fun to explore. Perhaps these places could be a better fit for us. Time will tell.
So there you have it
We’re not sure if we’ll stay in JAX for the long haul, but for now it seems like a good fit for us. We still have to find jobs, and settle back into land life. Although there is much work to be done and lots of unknowns, we look forward to exploring our new city and are excited to call Jacksonville home!