Friday, January 27, 2023

St. Augustine for Christmas

 Kim really wanted to spend Christmas in St. Augustine, so we reserved a mooring ball for a week from December 20th to the 27th. When we arrived, we had beautiful settled weather. That did not last long. 

The second day we were in St. Augustine a strong northern came in with winds around 30 knots and much colder temperatures. The good news it only lasted one day, but it was a day that we could not safely get of of the boat to get to shore in the dinghy. 

We had wind out of the worst possible direction. It was coming right in the inlet off of the Atlantic ocean. We had white caps and swell in the mooring field. 

The following day was a totally different picture. We had no wind and calm conditions. We even took the dingy across the bay to Vilano Beach. It felt good to get the dinghy up to full speed and up on a plane. That was the easiest place to get provisions. 

It is amazing how much more comfortable it was. 

Vilano Beach and the S. Augustine inlet beyond

Vilano Beach looking north

The forecast for the 23rd through Christmas looked very bad. The winds were going to be coming from a better direction than a couple of days earlier, but we were expecting lows at night below freezing and highs around 40 degrees. We had one more day before the second front would arrive, so we took a walk around town.

We started the walk with a tour of the Castillo de San Marcos. 

We toured the fort last May, but it was very hot. This time it was much more comfortable.

The view of the harbor from the fort. SHIFT is the third boat from this end.

This is Flagler College

The inside of the dome was awesome.

Kim in front of a Christmas Tree

This is the old St. Augustine Town Hall

The cold arrived as predicted on December 23rd. We did all that we could to say warm. We were very cozy under covers in bed and under blankets on the main couches in the salon. It was a bit warmer out on the water than in town and we never saw below freezing temperatures. It was cold, but we did just fine. On Christmas day we went to shore to go to church after taking a much needed hot shower. 

The Basilica of St. Augustine

We then took a walk through the old city. The older building were built right along the streets. This building was built in the 1600's during the Spanish period. 

Kim decided to stay at the marina on the 26th and do laundry and not go for a walk. I had an area of the city I wanted to learn more about. Did you know that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's began in St. Augustine, Florida? I didn't. There is an area just south of the old city called Lincolnville. This area was settled by emancipated slaves in the 1860's, Many of the churches that were established in the area became the meeting places for planning early demonstrations at the beginning of the movement that lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many of the old churches are still there and are being restored. 

This is an AME Church that Martin Luther King Jr. came to and spoke.

This old church is being completely restored. 

Being a Catholic, I was surprised by the history of the Black Catholics. The local Sisters of St. Joseph convent had three nuns arrested in 1913 for educating young black students. 

 I found this day to be both educational and emotional. That is why we don't erase history, we learn about it and learn from it. 

Well, that is about it for St. Augustine. We were now very ready to get further south and warmer weather. The way I figured it, we were 4 days from Vero Beach. That has been the objective from the beginning of this trip. In my next entry, I will write about the final move south.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine for Christmas

 I know that I am behind on this blog. We have been having a great time in the Bahamas and I can't wait to write about it, but first, I have to get caught up. 

We really enjoyed our time in Fernandina Beach. We met up with another Island Packet, with Nancy and John on board. We last saw them in April in Marathon. We also met another couple that are entertainers, Gaylyn and Allison. They were doing a gig at a local place, so we decided to go listen to them play. They are excellent singers and songwriters. They cruise on a boat called Molly Nogger and entertain by the name of Sail Bums. They had been in Fernandina for a few months and they really needed to clean the bottom of the boat, but Gaylyn was having trouble in the cold water. I offered my wetsuit, which they gladly accepted and made us feel good to help out a fellow boater. We later saw them as we cruised south. 

They took a picture of us as we passed.

As boaters do, we took a picture of them. on a pass the following day. 

From Fernandina Beach it was about 53 nm to St. Augustine. We decided to split it into two days and we stayed at a free dock in Jacksonville. The dock is in a river just off the Jacksonville inlet and has some crazy strong current. We made it in there and with the help of another boater, we got tied up. The cool part is we were later joined by John and Nancy on Orion, and then by Don and Debby on Hallelujah, another Island Packet 420. 

This is 5 of the 7 boats on the free dock, the three to the left are Island Packets. 

This was the first time we had met Don and Debbie. Unfortunately, their trip down from the Chesapeake Bay was not going well. Don was a marine mechanic and worked on their boat for many years, planning for their retirement and cruising. His health is not good, and during the trip they had decided that it would not be a good idea to continue. They were bringing the boat down the ICW to Florida to sell her. Lesson to all of us, Don't wait too long! We would later see them in St. Augustine and then again in Vero Beach. 

We had reservations for a mooring ball in St. Augustine from December 20th to December 27th. We left the free dock on the 20th and were ready to make the 33 nm cruise down to St. Augustine for Christmas. The only problem is a notorious bridge that was 5 miles south of the free dock. The tidal current can run as fast as 5 knots under that bridge, so timing was critical. I looked at the tidal charts and determined that we needed to leave at sunrise. I told the other boaters on the dock my plan, and just after we left, most of them were right behind us. We all hit the bridge at slack tide and had minimal current to deal with. 

There was no wind on this beautiful day, so we just cruised on to St. Augustine. The mooring field in this historic city is located right next to the old waterfront and the festival of lights that is done each year around Christmas. The bad news is there are very strong currents in the bay. After our very bad mooring ball pick-up in Fernandina Beach, we were a bit nervous. I have to admit I did not plan it, but we arrived right on slack tide and there was no current and no wind. That made the pickup very easy and Kim had it done before I could get forward to assist. We were now ready to enjoy the city and celebrate Christmas in the oldest city in North America. 

This is a shot of the dinghy dock and the main City Marina in St. Augustine. They have a nice boaters lounge/laundry room and nice showers.

SHIFT tied to her mooring ball in the harbor.

We met up with Rich and Laura on No Doubt and went out for a tour of the city and dinner. Stay tuned, they will have a recurring role in this adventure.

They do an amazing job with the lights in the city and it is jammed with viewers each night.

Along the waterfront

Views from the boat.

 Rich and Laura were leaving the next day, so we said, see you later, and settled in for our time in St. Augustine. It had been a bit cool, but fairly comfortable, but that was all about to change. We were in a fairly exposed place, but at least we felt confident in the mooring. The forecast did not look good. In my next entry, I will write about our winter in St. Augustine. Remember, we don't have a heater on the boat when we are not plugged into a dock. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

We made it to the Bahamas!

 We were up well before dawn this morning to start our 58 mile sail to the Bahamas. We motor sailed for the first half and the were able to shut the engine off and sail the second half. We are tired, but so happy to finally be here. I  will write all about the trip in coming entries.  Thanks for following along. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Real Time Update and St. Mary's to Fernandina Beach

 We have been extremely busy for the past week getting ready to go to the Bahamas. Tomorrow is the big day. We are currently in West Palm Beach and we are ready to head out the inlet in the very early hours of the morning and sail the 60 or so miles to West End on Grand Bahama. The weather forecast looks very good and those days don't come often this time of year, so we are going to go for it. I will try to update this blog in the next few days to let you know if we made it.

So, now back to the regular blog. In my last entry, I wrote about our first two days in St. Mary's, Georgia. We ended up staying 4 days there. The last two days were more of the same, walking around town and checking out the beautiful old Oak trees. They actually have a brochure for a walking tour of the largest trees in town. Did we do that? Yes we did.

This neighborhood was built around these beautiful live oak trees.

Another historic house. This was one of a sea captain. 

The tree on the left that has fallen over is still living and has been for more than 50 years.

I just think this is a beautiful shot. The experts estimate that the oldest trees are around 400 years old. 

 On December 14th, we left St. Mary's and motored all of 8.9 nm to Fernandina Beach. There is a large marina there that also has a mooring field. As we came in, we called the marina to come to the fuel dock to get fuel, water and a pump out. I noticed then, that there was a very stiff current. The wind was also blowing about 15 knots. 

We have picked up mooring balls many times and most of the time it is not a problem. Kim does a great job. This time, things did not go well. Kim had a very difficult time getting our boat hook on the pendant because it was wrapped in tape. She was finally able to get it and then the wind and current caused me to lose the bow of the boat and it ripped the boat hook out of her hands. Now what do we do? That is the only boat hook we have. Kim was thinking quickly and asked me to maneuver the boat next to the floating boat hook. I was able to do that, and she snagged it with a dock line. That all happened right before I almost hit the boat moored next to us. The good news is I avoided them, and then we went back at it for another try. This time Kim got it done with some serious straining. Wow, that was stressful. 

The marina has a very nice dinghy dock and showers for the boats in the mooring field. We really enjoyed our time there. The first objective was to find a hardware store and buy some things I needed to get my Starlink dish permanently mounted on the boat. I was directed to a very cool old hardware store, but they were closed on the first day we were there, but we got the dish mounted on the radar arch and it is working great. 

We also met up with our friends Nancy and John on another Island Packet called Orion. We went out to dinner with them and two other cruising couples the second night we were in Fernandina Beach. 

Lots of very historic building is Fernandina Beach. It was first settled by the Spanish in the 1500's

This is a very cool county courthouse.

This is one of the oldest homes in town

Here is a shot of the marina.

We were treated to some beautiful sunsets while we were there. That is the boat that I almost hit. 

This guy was just begging to have his picture taken. 

This guy took an old Chris Craft and mounted it on a car chassis

Another nice sunset over the marina

Kim wanted a selfie in front of the Christmas tree.

Downtown Fernandina all dressed up for Christmas

This is St. Michaels Church where we went to church.

The one downside of Fernandina Beach is that there are some large factories there that make a lot of noise and smell bad when the wind is right. All in all we liked Fernandina and will probably go back when we can actually visit the beach. 

This is kind of a quick post, so that I can keep the blog going. I have a number of entries to get current and I will try to work on that when I can. In the next entry, I will write about our very good Christmas in St. Augustine. I will write when I can, hopefully from the Bahamas. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

St. Mary's, Georgia

 We left Cumberland Island on December 10th and motored across the St. Mary's inlet and then went past the  Kingsbay Naval Submarine Base and then into the St. Mary's river. The entire trip was only 6.6 nm. We were expecting some fairly strong north winds in the coming days and the town of St. Mary's has an anchorage right in front of the town that has excellent protection from the north. They also have a nice town dock that is free to dock the dinghy and check out this very historical town.

Very nice floating docks that are provided by the City of St. Mary's

We have been to many small towns and most don't have docks this nice. If you look closely, you can see SHIFT at anchor in the distance.

 We decided to take a walk around town to see what there was to see. As it turned out there was a lot to see. This is where you can take a ferry over to Cumberland Island, so there are two different museums dedicated to the history of the Island. There was also a local craft market going on, that earned a bit of our money. We then went to the local visitor center and got a calendar of events including a boat parade that evening. We then went to one of the local restaurants and had a Greek lunch that was excellent.  

Kim at the visitor center for the Cumberland Island National Seashore

A small local craft market. We actually bought two things, both edible. 

The main waterfront street in St. Mary's, Georgia

We came ashore that first Saturday because we wanted to visit the St. Mary's Submarine Museum. You may know that our son, Michael served on the USS Hartford, which is a fast attack submarine. He never came to the Kingsbay Base, because this base is set up for the big missile carriers called "Boomers". The museum was for all submarines and their crews. 

A Plaque dedicated to the boat that our son served on, the USS Hartford

I enjoy learning about military history and hardware, so this museum was right down my alley.

There are many historic buildings around this town that has been a seaport since the 1600's. We enjoyed walking around town and reading about the history of each one.

The old houses and churches were dressed up for Christmas, so all looked quite festive.

The following day, we decided to take a walking tour of the Oak Grove cemetery. Yes Mom, you would have been proud of us. The local cemetery is very historic as it is the final resting place for a number of men that fought in the Revolutionary War. Many of the graves are very ornate and certainly old. 

The Spanish Moss in the trees made the place look quite creepy

Many of the graves were surrounded by walls. This was an area dedicated to some Acadians that died here before moving on to Louisiana. 

The Angel is the most ornate in the cemetery. 

We found the entire tour quite interesting. Then something kind of strange happened. We were walking back to the docks when an older man in a car stopped and started talking to us. After a bit he told us his name was Paul and he had been living in town for 21 years. He told us he was out for a Sunday drive and asked us if we wanted to go along. After a little hesitation, we decided to go. We ended up having a nice time listening to his very funny stories and jokes. We saw lots of beautiful homes and it was interesting to hear some local history that you would not see in the local brochures. He told us that he was a music teacher and performed in many places including for the President of the US. We drove to his house and he said he would play for us. There was no denying that he was a very accomplished pianist. He showed us newspaper clippings that he had framed of him at the White House. It was a bit of a strange experience, but cool at the same time. He then took us back to the marina and we said our good byes. 

I took a few pictures later that day of both Kim and some Christmas Trees and of our floating home. 

SHIFT at Anchor in St. Mary's River, Georgia

Kim LOVES Christmas!

I think I will end this entry there. We ended up staying at St. Mary's for 4 days waiting for the weather to pass. We had a very enjoyable time there learning all about the place. In my next entry, I will tell you what else we did while we were there and let you know what we did next.