Hello from Florida! We have officially made it to Florida and are pretty excited about it! The warmth, or lack thereof, has not been exciting, but we are hopeful that we will reach warmer areas soon. Tuesday and Wednesday nights we were on a mooring ball in St. Augustine, FL, and Wednesday morning it was 37 degrees. But it did warm up to 53 degrees! Woo Hoo!
But all of Florida seemed to go through a cold spell, so we’ll just hope it passes quickly. We walked around St. Augustine’s on Wednesday in winter coats and didn’t let the cold deter us from doing things. St. Augustine’s boasts of being the oldest city in our nation and the history of the Spanish, British and French were all over. Some areas are a bit touristy, but when we walked around we could see buildings that have been there since the late 1600’s. We walked around the Spanish Fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, and learned how it was built by the Spanish to protect the land from sea invasions. We are not the greatest historians, but to see the architecture of the area was amazing.
We left St. Mary’s, GA, this past Saturday morning, Nov. 24, and headed to Fernandina Beach, FL. We were glad to leave as beginning Thursday afternoon the wind seemed to pick up and not really let up a whole lot until we left. The trip to Fernandina Beach was only nine and a half miles away, so it didn’t take long, but it was good to get to another area. We once again anchored off the channel and were glad to find good holding there. We often refer to the Waterway Guide and our Navionics charts to find good spots to anchor, and this worked well once again.
Fernandina Beach was a cute little town to visit. There is a main street that has a lot of artisan type of stores and they were all decorated for Christmas, complete with lights on the trees for night time viewing. The day before we arrived, which was the day after Thanksgiving, the tradition is to go shopping and walking along the main street in pajamas. A couple of the boats in our group were there a day early and told us all about how fun it was to see whole families dressed in the same type of pajamas doing their strolling along the streets. They apparently have had this tradition for years. Certainly was a new one to us!
We spent two nights at anchor in Fernandina Beach so had the whole day Sunday to walk around and see the town. Sharon attended a local church while Max and I walked about six miles to see the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the peninsula. On our walk I saw the first sign we have seen of the A1A highway, and I would imagine we were pretty close to the northern end of that highway. We have driven on it before in years past on our visits to Florida, so it was cool to see the sign so far north.
We left for St. Augustine’s on Monday morning, bright and early. We pulled up anchor about 7:40 am and headed south. As it was too far to get all the way to St. Augustine’s in one day comfortably we had as our destination for the day to go to a free dock at Little Sister’s Creek, just short of St. John’s River. Even though it was only about a 20 mile trip, it proved to be one of our most interesting ones because of the rain and lightning we experienced. Soon after leaving Fernandina Beach the sky north of us became darker and darker. We all hoped it would stay north of us, but it wasn’t to be. About an hour into the trip it started to rain, and at times it was almost impossible to see ahead of us. We follow the chartplotter so we could always see where we were on the river, but to look ahead of you and not even hardly see the end of your boat because of the rain is unnerving. A couple of times we would totally back off on the throttle to at least slow the boat down. The VHF is then used to send out a Securite to boats around letting them know what you were doing, and once the rain abated some we would start moving again. At times it felt just like being in a whiteout in the snow back home.
Oh, I forgot to mention the lightning! You know it’s close when you are on a sailboat and you duck! Ducking doesn’t help as the mast is taller, but we saw a number of lightning bolts close to us, and the thunder was deafening even with the motor running. Thankfully no one got hit, but it is scarey having it that close!
We did arrive safely at Little Sister’s Creek and all 15 of our boats, two of them stayed behind because of mechanical issues, tied up to the local free dock. Someone said a marina was planned to be constructed there, but it never materialized and the city of Jacksonville took the wall over and allows anyone to tie up free of charge. There is no power or water there, but at least it was a good place to pull off the ICW. It was not a long dock so we were rafted up to three deep as there were a number of other boats there before us.
Unfortunately that night the wind really picked up out of the west, which was the direction the bows of our boats were facing, and the current was running strong in the opposite direction. Made the boats sort of shudder throughout the night. The wind was in the high teens in the morning as well, so there were some close calls in all of us getting off that dock in reverse against the current and with the wind without hitting other boats. A neighbor boat almost squished our dinghy, but he did great in pivoting his boat around and getting away. Whew!
After 36.5 nautical miles we arrived in St. Augustine just in time to make it through the Bridge of Lions at its 1:00 pm opening. The marina was immediately after the bridge on the right hand side, and after getting fuel and topping off our water tanks at the fuel dock we headed out to our assigned mooring ball #7. Despite the high wind we were able to pick up the pendant with no difficulties and we were set. We shared a bit of what we did in St. Augustine’s above.
Today, Thursday, Nov. 29, we set the alarm for 5:00 am and threw off the lines to the mooring ball already at 6:30 am. An early morning, to be sure! But we had a lot of miles to cover today to get to New Smyrna, so off we went. We were in the first pack of about four boats and we did quite well. It seemed like we fought a current all day, which was odd, but we eventually arrived in the New Smyrna area at 4:20 pm. We went a total of 68.2 nautical miles, so it was a long day. We are starting to see even more homes along the ICW, and I am sure we’ll see even more the farther south we get. It was cool passing the Daytona Beach area today and seeing the many high rises and resorts along the water. We also are seeing more bridges, and today went under many tall bridges and through three bascule bridges. For the bascule bridges you have to hail them on the VHF as you approach so they can stop traffic and let you through. The last one opened on the hour and half hour so we had to time our approach so we didn’t end up circling and trying to stay in place before it opened.
We are currently anchored in Sheephead Cut in New Smyrna and tomorrow morning hope to leave around 7:00 am to get to Cocoa Beach where we will anchor out for four nights and have three days to explore. We are hoping there are things to do in Cocoa Beach!
Before I end this post, I have to share that today we saw many, many dolphins as we traveled along. It is so exciting to see them, and even Max loves to watch them! We have not had any swim ahead of or alongside the boat yet, but we know that will happen at some point.