A quick note about the photo gallery. I've updated the gallery and added several new albums of pictures. I also grouped some of the older albums under one title called "Goin' South - Cover Album". So the older albums are still there with pictures (and accessible), but grouped as sub-albums under the "cover album" so that the main album index is reduced in number and will generally have newer pictures. A couple of the older albums still show but I will be adding photos to those as we continue the trip.
In another note: I'm able to email and post to the blog while underway almost all the time. But (for technical reasons) I can only post photos at wifi hopspots ashore which are usually several days apart. So photos only appear every several days and you may often see a blog posted with no accompanying photo for several days more.
This web album stuff is new to me so I'm learning along the way. My hope is illustrate the trip with attractive and interesting pictures while retaining a pictorial record for Nancy and myself in our dotage. If the albums seem overloaded with birds, it is simply because they are beautiful to watch regardless of what they are doing and I am thoroughly beguiled.
Suggestions and ideas are always welcome.
Christmas lights in the park, downtown St. Augustine
Puffin continued south under a warm and soothing sunshine as she nudged into the mooring field at St. Augustine, Florida. Temperatures lifted to near 70 degrees, rekindling our enthusiasm for the south after the brutal cold snap. This is the south that had lured us south!
Shedding clothes to the appropriate level, we dinghied into town for a closer look at "oldest, continuously occupied, European-established city and port in the continental U.S." Wikipedia's long-winded parsing of the city's birth goes on to specify 1565. Other sources simply say America's oldest city.
The "Castillo de San Marcos" is a massive fortress completed by the Spanish about 1700. It still dominates a portion of the waterfront today and was responsible for repulsing numerous, but unsuccessful incursions by the British and the French. It remained under Spanish dominion until 1763 and the Treaty of Paris when the British took over and Spain colonial ambitions focused on Cuba.
The early Spanish and Moorish architectural influence is today what gives St. Augustine much of it charm and we marveled at the massive but detailed appearance of some of the early twentieth century buildings in the historic district last night as we continued walking around. Ensconced in this district are an incredible number of shops and boutiques, even shops within shops. The trees in the central park and elsewhere were stunningly draped with festive lights for the holiday season
The banner picture was shot at one of the sumptuous homes that line portions of the waterway as Puffin slipped toward St. Augustine. When a large home is already immaculately landscaped to a fare-thee-well, then the truly artistic landscaper discards restraint, grabs his handy hedge trimmer and make an eight-foot horticultural statement. Masterful!
Florida greeted Puffin today with temperatures far less benign than snowbirds expect as they flock to Florida fleeing the frigid fingers of a frosty New England winter. (At times, I cannot resist these ribbons of redundant alliteration, no matter how lacking in meaning. The useless nuggets stream through my brain like a ticker tape - I am simply addicted to this diminutive stampede of sound-alike consonants and I apologize.)
If I have said nothing meaningful yet about our travels today, it is because at this point there is seems little difference on the waterway between southern Georgia and the very upper reaches of the Florida salt marsh. The rolling patois of the native Georgian is now largely disappeared from the VHF radio chatter between bridges, barges and other locals we meet. In Florida it becomes the more neutral, flat "American" dialect that is probably more characteristic of Florida today.
I see some birds I don't recognize and haven't noticed in Georgia. The birds are small, dark and flitter in small flocks across the water and I can't retain an image so I don't look them up.
Temperatures have been freezing at night since we left Charleston and little better during the day with a nasty wind to ensure a thorough penetration of the inadequate clothing we brought to wear. But the forecast is for warmer weather this coming week and we continue south with surging optimism.
Tonight Puffin anchored in the Ft. George River a few miles south of the Florida border and just off the ICW to enjoy another beautiful sunset. One of the several boats nearby was from Vermont, which we had learned earlier by radio. After coming to join us aboard, our new friends said they had endeavored to set two anchors. Unfortunately, the rode from one became entangled in his propeller. During that commotion, the current set the boat aground at the beginning of a falling tide of about 3 feet. His sailboat was compact at 27 feet and the wind had died down, so the boat wasn't in particular jeopardy. As he explained the plight, we concluded that there was little to do but drink wine, munch and wait for the tide's maximum ebb three hours hence. At full ebb, his boat was heeled over and the propeller was less than a foot under water. I brought over a serrated dive knife, which Nancy located, along with a underwater spotlight. Our friend's diligent efforts at hacking and sawing with his arm immersed in the 48 deg water for an hour or more was finally rewarded with a freed propeller and at about 4:00 AM the stout little sailboat finally floated free.
The pictures posted in the photo gallery under Jekyll Island Club title are another aspect of the Jekyll Island that makes Jekyll Island a fascinating spot to visit. On the one hand there is a magnificent and well cared for maritime forest that occupies a significant core portion of the island and is accessible only by manicured paths. But the Island gained its fame as a late 19th century enclave for a few of the most unconscionably wealthy American of that time: gilded denizens of Wall St. whose rapine grasp of America's resources had festooned them with uncountable wealth.
For fifty years a small group of these men (by invitation only) and their families built houses, a hotel and all the accoutrements in between as a winter playground on a private island and a respite from both the wintry weather and the unceasing curiosity of the press.
The island was purchased in 1948 by the state of Georgia to make it available to all. More recently the buildings that formed the Club have been undergoing an incredible restoration and are now open to the public. The buildings are sited on a beautiful campus that is incredibly landscaped and cared for.
There is a museum on site which reveals a detailed record of the amazing era at the island.
Tomorrow Puffin will head for Florida, a mere 30 miles away, and perhaps some warmer temperatures.
After a calm, cold (37 degrees in Georgia - jeez Louise!) night, Puffin headed for Jekyll island, in part upon the recommendation of our friends Ken and Sylvianne on Sylken Sea. An easy and event free day brought us to anchor off Jekyll Island at 1:30 PM, plenty of time for a walk ashore. With no preparation save for Google maps on my Ipad (which has grown to be a personal appendage in two short months), we started walking. Lucky us, after a half mile down a paved road, two bicycles emerged from a path in the woods. We turned in and a sign announced we had entered a real "maritime forest". Several more signs by the Georgia Dept. of Parks along the pathway explained what made it a maritime forest and identified some of what we were seeing.
A serendipitous confluence of care for this tract a century ago combined with continuing care through the years and propitious plantings of a more recent nature provided us with a dense and dramatic woodland tapestry. Huge live oaks draped with Spanish moss, palmettos and even taller sapel palms towered overhead. At mid story were cedars and cypress and other shorter trees and at eye level, the "saw" palms with their sunburst pattern of fronds graced the edges of the path.
As we returned later toward the dinghy dock, we noticed a modest building that had earlier appeared to be closed. It was a wildlife center run by the University of Georgia and several young people were preparing to feed the animals.
Nancy and I were invited in and discovered an intriguing collection of the fauna that might be found on a typical Georgian estuarine island. The collection was more wide ranging than inclusive. There were some rat snakes, a corn snake and a number of aquaria with small fish, shrimp, a turtle, crabs, mollusks and even a pair of very small alligators. There was a diorama of the very tiny things that might be found in the spartina grass that is the backbone of the low country marshes. Nancy thought the most fascinating exhibit was a excellent description of how a shrimp net caught shrimp while releasing the "bye-catch" such as fish or turtles. We had seen several large shrimp boats working the day before.
The overall exhibit offered a homespun effect as displays were put together with more care than money. It was not the slick exhibition of a big city museum but nonetheless fascinating for the effort and thought that went into the collection on a very limited budget.