19/11/2011/9:56 pm, St Augustine, FL
We arrived here Thursday, picked up Mooring Ball 5 north of the bridge, and headed ashore for a lovely long walk. We hadn't walked through much of the Lincolnville area before and I'm really glad we did this time because we were able to see the contrast between this part of town and the St Augustine of Henry Flagler and the opulent Ponce de Leon Hotel.
It is the neighbourhood south of King St - an area of old homes - some large and elegant, some small and homey. We spotted several notices of an upcoming neighbourhood meeting, and some signs naming properties Garden of the Month so it appears to have an active community organization. On Blanco Street, we stopped to read a little sign in front of a house and discovered that it belonged to the White family. Their son was one of the people who sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth's one day as part of the 1960's civil rights movement. At the back of the property is the last remaining slave cabin in town. Around the corner is a house once visited by the wife of an Episcopalian bishop from up north - and the picture on that sign shows a mixed group of whites and blacks seated at a restaurant table and being read the "undesirable guest" act by the local sheriff. It is such a clear reminder that not so very long ago, there were huge injustices in this place (and so many others) and brave people who decided not to take it any more. A beautiful new monument in the central square pays tribute to local people who played active parts in the civil rights movement.
The wind came up and we spent another restless night. This time we weren't worried about dragging or swinging into other boats, but with the constant pitching and rocking it was somewhat uncomfortable, and then my mind got to worrying about chafe on the mooring line as it came up over the anchor roller. The dinghy was double tied, and I wondered if we should have put 2 lines on the mooring too. At each check it seemed OK though and it was still intact in the morning.
Friday was laundry day, and Jim and I spent the better part of the afternoon in the marina lounge/laundry room getting us all clean again. (There are 4 washers and 4 dryers, all costing $1.50 per load and a change machine dispenses quarters. What a clatter $10 worth of quarters makes!) The pump out boat came by to empty our holding tank so we got cleaned up that way too.
We debated whether to leave on Saturday to go outside to Ft Pierce and ran into an interesting planning experience. NOAA and Chris Parker both said the wind would be marginally better for sailing if we left Saturday. The seas would have died down to 5 -7 feet with a 7 sec interval and wind would be 10 - 15 kn. Seas would be a little lower on Sunday but wind would be lower also, meaning a motoring trip for sure. But it is our first overnight this year and we don't really want to battle the sea. Here in St Augustine, it is race day with lots of music and celebration, and the town has its Christmas Light Up event in the evening and although we saw all the beautiful lights last year, we thought it would be fun to stay for it.
So that's the back story - stay or leave - lean a little this way and a little that way. Toss a coin? Then Jim sent a message to Chris Parker and asked his opinion specifically about which day would be better. Same answer - better wind today, sea state about the same. Until ... Chris added, "Let me just check the buoy report." And then everything became clear. Wind was 090 degrees 15 - 19 kn with gusts to 22 and seas were 7 feet with a short interval. Chris was audibly surprised, saying, "It is much windier out there than it is supposed to be!" and he went on to recommend a day's delay to allow the seas to settle enough for a greater interval between waves. (Sometimes the interval is as important as the height of the waves - too close together and it feels like banging and pounding - farther apart and we slide up and down them.) Plus, we would have to go out the inlet against the strong East wind. We've gone in and out this inlet several times with no problems, but motoring against tide and wind is not a lot of fun! We were reminded of last year's experience when we headed out only to turn around and come back in because of the wind against us and higher than expected waves.
The new information made our decision so easy. Of course we stayed - and we didn't feel a bit wimpy about doing it!
A morning walk took us up King Street to Sailors' Exchange where we dropped off some more unneeded boat bits and pieces and had a look around to see if anyone else's junk was treasure for us. Nothing found today though. After lunch on board and readying Madcap for her off shore voyage - jack lines out, battery fluids topped up, jerry cans of diesel brought back in the dinghy, food made ahead, we went ashore again to attend the Annual Light Up Festivities in the square. A local band played great music - familiar carols and then some wonderful blues, the square was filled with adults and children, the Mayor spoke from his balcony, and then the switch was pulled and the whole place lit up. This city really does lights well. We wandered through some lovely shops and galleries afterward, and even got a bit of Christmas shopping done.
I have to say, it seems like such a muddle of Thanksgiving and Christmas all mixed up together down here. I think we Canadians do it much better. Have Thanksgiving as a separate event earlier in the year. Have it on Monday so people enjoy a three-day weekend. Here, it gets all confused with Christmas carols and shopping, and it's on Thursday so while some people take Friday off and make a four-day weekend, others get just the one day. We got the big start to Christmas here today (and it was beautiful, don't get me wrong) but we drop back to Thanksgiving on Thursday and then forge ahead into Christmas again right after that. There - that's my nationalistic rant for today!
Tomorrow we are off to do the 30-some hour trip off shore to Ft Pierce and then probably up to Vero Beach for a few days. We always feel a little anxious about our first overnight passage of the year, but everything seems to be in good working order at the moment and the weather is benign so I think it will go well. See you down the way!
17/11/2011/1:16 pm, St Augustine, FL
We had a pleasant little trip down to St Augustine this morning, arriving at 12 and are now moored north of the Bridge of Lions. Sue and Terry: If you were standing half way between the fort and the bridge, you'd be looking at us!! Off to check in now and go for a good walk.
This pic is one of the homes along the waterway. Not too shabby!
16/11/2011/1:18 pm, Pine Island Anchorage, ICW Mile 765
What a difference a couple of days makes! From being a little discouraged on Monday, to being excited on Tuesday, to being underway on Wednesday, it has been quite the tumultuous few days.
The first excellent event was Jim's call down the companionway, "Come quick! There's a sailboat coming up the creek!" Now this might not sound too exciting in itself, but we knew Nomades was due at Tiger Point on Tuesday for haulout. Sure enough, it was our good friends Mireille and Christian, from Trident Yacht Club, Ontario arriving here in Fernandina Beach. What a joy it was to catch their lines and welcome them to Florida. They have been having a wonderful time, and the smile on Mireille's face reminded me of our first trip south, when everything was new and thrilling. She has been taking fantastic pictures of the scenery and wildlife as they travel so have a look at onthewayornot.blogspot.com. It is a feast for your eyes.
We got caught up on each other's news over lunch and as we watched Nomades get securely placed in the cradle that will be her home for a month, and then we topped off the day with dinner at 29 South. That continues to be on our top 3 or 4 dining spots in Fernandina Beach. It's a little more upscale than Arte's (the best pasta and pizza) and Café Karibo (where we had a most excellent farewell lunch with Tina and Dick the other day) and specializes in local, seasonal food. We all started with PEI mussels, and moved on to such goodies as shrimp and grits, pulled pork cobb salad, and kobe beef burger. Oh - mouthwatering - and with wonderful conversation between bites. We have talked so much about how much we loved sailing our boat from Ontario to Florida and beyond, that it is a true thrill to see our friends discovering the same joy in their journey.
Our new pump pieces arrived on Tuesday at noon via good old UPS and by 4 o'clock, the head was put back together. I spliced together a new hook and line affair to attach the 2 stern eyebolts on the dinghy to the block on the davit. I hope this one is more secure than the last one! The Nav station GPS is still not working, but it is only one of the three on board so we have time to play with it.
We listened to the Wednesday morning weather report from Chris Parker and from NOAA, and thought we'd like a mooring for a couple of days as we finished off our last minute chores in Fernandina Beach and enjoyed some more time with Mireille and Christian, but it was not to be. Jim arrived in the Fernandina City Marina office at 6:45 this morning just in time to hear them give the last ball to the lady ahead of him. The city marina is having some trouble with mooring balls this year and few of them are available. It is very frustrating for the many cruisers who want to stop here.
Knowing that the alternative was anchoring behind the mooring field, that winds 20 -25 knots were expected to move in, and that we really did have to get ourselves off the dock at Tiger Point, we made a quick decision to head straight down the ICW toward St Augustine. Accordingly, we bustled around to get the car moved over to the storage lot across the road, the dinghy lifted and all the odds and sods stored away. All too soon we were waving regretful good byes to Mireille and Christian as they released our lines and tossed them to us in a reversal of Tuesday's events. We waved again to Baird as we passed Romulus at the mouth of the creek, and turned our bow south for the beginning of this season's excursion.
The smell from the mill was very strong as we passed the mooring field so we ended up feeling happy to continue on. With the wind on our nose (20-25 knots at first, decreasing to less than 10 as the day went on) we were happy enough to be in the ICW. It is a pretty trip for the first while, winding among the marshes, and then the navigation gets decidedly boring for the straight parts. We amused ourselves gawking at the massive houses that are interspersed with older, more modest ones with docks and gazebos stretching like fingers into the waterway. Just at dusk we met a barge loaded with airplanes shrink-wrapped like aerial mummies. We made it as far as Pine Island, pulling into the creek in the dying light to join the 5 boats already there.
The tide was fairly low and we stopped in 7 feet of water, thinking it would get deeper, but we saw 0.1 on the depth sounder before that happened - no bouncing though, just settling into the mud. (Our depth sounder shows us what is under our keel.) The no-see-ums were out in force so we headed below quickly for dinner, books and an early bedtime. That turned out to be a good thing because rain drops through the hatch, crashing thunder and flashing lightning woke us at 5 am and while I went back to sleep, Jim stayed up to monitor our position relative to that of the other boats.
How "delightful" to have bugs, storms, low water all visit us on our first night out. It was a wry little reminder that for all the joys of lapping water, dolphins fishing around us, pelicans swooping down beside us, life afloat is all about balance.