TERRIBLE FOG THEN BEAUTIFUL ST AUGUSTINE 12.8.2017

TERRIBLE FOG THEN BEAUTIFUL ST AUGUSTINE 12.8.2017

We woke up in the WTF anchorage to very thick fog. Bob and I agreed that we would not leave until we could clearly see the bridge which was about 300 yards away. We had originally wanted to leave at 7:00 am and when we woke up at 6:00 the bridge was not visible. About 7:15 am the fog cleared enough that the bridge was in site so we pulled up the anchor and left.

Boat houses along the ICW.

We were traveling at a conservative 5 knots but shortly into the trip the fog got thicker and we really couldn’t see too far ahead. I stood on the bow and with our marriage savers on to keep a lookout and let Bob know if any fish traps were in our path. We traveled like this for about an hour and then the sun did finally come out and burn off the fog. There were beautiful homes on either side with a variety of boat houses both big and small. The ICW is narrow here so even in the fog we couldn’t go too far wrong.

Right before St Augustine there is a bascule bridge that we had to pass through.

Trekker under Bascule bridge

A bascule bridge is one that opens in the middle with two portions opening straight up. This particular one, the Bridge of Lions, opens on a set schedule and on demand. We followed a barge through so that we could go through at noon – when it usually doesn’t open. Had we not followed the barge, we would have had to wait another half hour – fighting the current to stay in one place. Once through, we went up the San Sebastian River to Rivers Edge Marina.

The City Marina of St Augustine suffered damage during Hurricane Irma and only 9 of their docks have power and none of those were available. Bill and Michael decided to stay on a city mooring ball and Trekker and Her Diamond went on to Rivers Edge. I was concerned that the weather was supposed to turn rainy and after three days of anchoring – I wanted the security of a slip – not to mention a chance to fill the water tank, pump out the holding tank, fully charge the batteries and do some shopping. The marina is far from fancy, but we were safely tied up and that is what mattered. As stated in Active Captain, Paul, the Dock Master is friendly, helpful and generally wonderful.

We pumped out the holding tank – saw a huge sea turtle right by the pump out – and then moved into our dock. Once situated we ubered into town and met Michael and Bill for drinks and dinner at A1A, a great restaurant in the center of town with good food and reasonable prices. We met Ley and Neil from Australia and had a great dinner. The entire city is lit up for Christmas with hundreds of thousands of white lights and it truly is beautiful.

Tini Martini Bar lit up for the holiday.

Right outside the door of the restaurant is the old slave market and park with a statue of Ponce De Leon who founded St Augustine. He was under 5 feet tall and wore a tall hat so that he would appear taller.

Ponce DeLeon Statue in St Augustine

The next day we took a jump-on-jump -off tram tour of the city which was a great way to learn about the history, see the town and get around afterwards. One of the 23 stops was the Castillo De San Marcos, the oldest masonry 17th century fort in the United States. It is made of coquina, a type of limestone that is very porous and compressible so that it was able to withstand the impact of cannon fire. This trip has really heightened our awareness of the military conflicts between Great Brittan, France and Spain – as they tried to control larger and larger holdings in the Americas.

Draw bridge at fort

View of the bay from the fort (Karen took this picture)

Old gates to the city

Sunset from the roof of the fort

Guards quarters in the fort.

After touring the fort, we went to a “cruisers happy hour’ where about 40 cruisers met to mingle and exchange stories. It was a blast. We saw Vicki and Mack who we had gotten to know at Delaware City back in September, Ley and Neil who we had just met earlier in St Augustine, Monique and her husband who Karen and Hugh had met at Alligator creek along with many new friends. We all exchanged boat cards and shared our plans for the next legs of our journeys. The beer was cheap and they provided free dinner - a rice, cheese broccoli, chicken casserole that was very good. There was also a vegetarian option. A large group of us left together to get some more substantial food, but we had to break up into smaller groups so that we could find a restaurant that could accommodate us.

Day three we went back into St Augustine in the pouring rain and stopped at the San Sebastian Winery and then Flagler College building. Henry Flagler made his fortune building hotels. He also had vast railroad holdings and was responsible for bringing the railroad to southern Florida. His ornate and beautiful Ponce De Leon Hotel, built in just 18 months in 1885 was once the winter home for many wealthy Americans.

Flagler College - once the Ponce DeLeon Hotel

Ceiling of the entrance to Flagler College

Dining room for the college. The balcony was used for musicians when it was the hotel.

Fountain at Flagler

Edison clock in the ladies parlor.

The hotel is now a liberal arts college for about 2600 students. The buildings appearance is essentially unchanged from the 1800s, and is known for its 79 Tiffany windows - the largest collection in the country of Tiffany glass in a building still in use. The hotel was very advanced in design and accommodation and had electricity even before the White House. There is an original Thomas Edison clock in the ladies parlor – it has “IIII” for Roman numeral IV which was Edison’s trademark. Flagler also built the Alcazar hotel across the street which had the largest heated indoor swimming pool in the country.

Restaurant in the Alczar hotel that was a heated swimming pool.

The building is now St Augustine’s City Hall and the pool is now a restaurant.

After the tour and some additional roaming, we met Vicki and Mack for drinks at a Spanish restaurant and then came back to the boat. Bob and I binge watched (three episodes of) The News Room, which we completely enjoyed.

Friday morning we walked over to West Marine to pick up a few things and then to the Sailors exchange, a boating parts salvage and consignment store, to hunt for treasurers. I have never seen so much used boat equipment in one place. We came back to the boat for lunch after which Bob started on some boat projects and I walked to the post office to mail a few packages and then into town to do a little window shopping. I met Bill and Michael in town, went to the catholic cathedral (absolutely beautiful) and walked to the conservative synagogue. The synagogue was damaged by the hurricane and the sanctuary is currently being renovated.

The first day we were in town I noticed many homeless people. One pregnant girl caught my eye and I had been thinking about her ever since. I sought her out and bought her a sandwich and drink. I would like to think if one of my girls ever got in trouble and needed help, people would reach out and help her as well.

On the way back to the boat I stopped at a farmers market that also had live animals. Having gone 17,000 steps I was too pooped to move and sat down to write in the blog when I got back. As we sat and enjoyed dinner on the boat several waves of rain and a thunder storm came through. The boat feels like such a snug and secure cocoon during a rain storm. Tomorrow we are off again. The Journey continues………..

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