We had a fantastic stay in St. Augustine! While we were there we went out to lunch with one of our faithful blog followers, whom we had never met. Jim lives in St. Augustine and several times emailed us inviting us to visit. We took him up on it as St. Augustine was a great stop to get out of some nasty weather!
While in St. Augustine, we became typical Memorial Day Weekend tourists. First order of business we bought tickets to ride the trolley for the next three days. The trolley ride was actually quite fun and informative. It was an easy way to see a bunch of the sights in St. Augustine and you could hop on and off all day long.
St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and the Castillo de San Marcos fort was built during the 17th century. After nine previous forts were built out of wood, the current well preserved fort was built out of coquina. This rock which is made of compressed sea shells is so well able to absorb cannon balls without cracking that it was never destroyed in battle. In fact, the only time the fort changed hands was through a paper treaty rather than by battle. We were lucky enough to be at the fort when they were firing off two cannons. The ceremony was done by a group of volunteers who dressed in traditional garb, all except for their ear plugs. I was grateful that we weren't in the bay on the sailboat when the cannons went off!
We were also lucky enough to be in St. Augustine when El Galeon was on display which is a replica of the 16th century Spanish galleon ship. The replica is 170 feet and 495 tons. We spent quite a bit of time aboard asking all sorts of questions to one of the men on board who sailed the ship over from Europe. It takes about 1.5 hours to get their sails unfurled and ready to be used. The crew does have to climb the masts to the sails in order to unfurl them. The ship sails about as fast as our sailboat. Because of the rounded bottom of the boat it rocks quite a bit at sea, leaving most of the crew seasick for the first couple of days. Because the ship has to comply with current maritime standards, it does have radar, autopilot and all of the other modern conveniences. Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and wondered how we could volunteer to do a leg on the boat. Now, that would be fun!
We stayed in St. Augustine a few more days than expected trying to wait out some stormy weather. We ended up leaving before the weather cleared and took the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach, Florida (the last stop before entering Georgia). Luckily, a neighbor at the marina gave us all sorts of great information on how to safely make our way along the ICW. The great thing about the day on the ICW was all of the scenery. It was a great change of pace to have something to look at besides water and an occasional cargo ship. The frustrating thing was how much attention you need to pay along the way. No more reading a book or watching a movie while underway. Luckily, there were plenty of beautiful homes, boats and docks to look at.
We did run into a bit of trouble along the way. We were a bit nervous about the bridges which all were about 65 feet in height. Our mast height is 62 feet but we have a three foot antenna on the top of our mast making us just able to fit. We did end up waiting for the tide to lower outside a bridge because the marker showed the height to be at 64 feet when we arrived at high tide. We waited about an hour while the tide came in so we could have our 65 feet of clearance. At the next bridge, the water level measured at 64.5 feet. Instead of waiting, I suggested we give it a go. We now know that we can get under a bridge at 64.5 feet. Mark refuses to investigate any further whether we could get under anything lower. So 64.5 feet is our absolute lowest clearance. Good to know.
That really wasn't the trouble though. We were trying to find a suitable place to anchor for the night and we wanted to get as far as we could up the ICW. We decided to go until the sun went down as we found a great spot to anchor up a way further. At about 6:00 pm it became low tide so we started to really watch our depth gage as some of the areas we were going through had about 7 - 8 feet of water. The first time we ran aground was in the middle of the channel in 20 feet of water where suddenly we hit 4.8 feet of water (we draw 5 feet). With a bit of reverse and some turning we were quickly on our way. Over the course of the next two hours we ran aground another 3 or 4 times (can you believe we lost count)? Almost every time we would tap the bottom a bit, maybe get stuck for less than a minute, and then maneuver the boat into deeper water. One time Mark needed to pull out the main sail which heeled us over enough to get free. When we finally arrived at Fernandina Harbor Marina, we decided to pick up a mooring ball instead of anchoring because all we could think about was waking up the next morning, aground, and leaning over. It was well worth the $21 for a good night's sleep.
The next morning while we were getting fuel at the marina, the gentleman helping us told us that because of the full moon the tides were particularly troublesome right now. He explained that low tide was probably 1 - 1.5 feet lower than usual. He further stated that his buddy who works for a local towing company has been particularly busy over the past week freeing boats which had run aground. We certainly felt better after that conversation!
After getting the fuel (too much motoring lately), we exited the ICW with a sigh of relief and entered the Atlantic Ocean. We went back to reading our books and relaxing a bit more. We certainly were no longer fearful of running aground. We again needed to motor almost the entire way up the coast and again we headed to shore to get out of some bad weather. We entered the Chesapeake Bay at night which was a little unnerving given all of the cargo ship traffic. We stayed just outside the shipping channel and didn't have any problems. We found a small marina at the mouth of the Potomac and pulled into our slip late in the day. We were so happy to find that the marina has a restaurant on site and we quickly tied up the boat, checked in and went to dinner. For some reason both of us were exhausted from this trip despite it only being five days. We had a quick dinner, two glasses of wine went right to my head, and I was fast asleep by 8:30 pm.
The day after we arrived, I was quick to find the laundry machines. Despite doing seven loads of laundry in St. Augustine, we had a bunch more to do. Mark went to the service department and got some oil so he could change the oil in the engine. We have been running the engine so much lately that it needed to be done. It has been a wet and windy stay here at Point Lookout Marina but a nice break.
Tomorrow morning we are leaving bright and early to go up the Potomac to Washington, DC. We are so close and we cannot pass up the opportunity to visit there. We will pass Mount Vernon and Quantico along the way. There is a marina right next to the Washington Monument where we are planning on staying for a night. Sounds like it will be an amazing visit!