The first stop was St Augustine, Florida. This is a very fun town with lots of history. It is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. The city is vibrant with lots of restaurants, shops, entertainment, historical sights and tourist traps (including a Ripley's believe it or not museum). We moored the boat in the pretty harbor which is right in the middle of all the activity.
I remember when I was about 6 years old driving in the family car from New Jersey to Florida for our fist mid winter Florida vacation we stopped here and visited the Castillo De San Marcos fort that was built in the 1600's to protect the harbor. Some memories from when you are young can be quite vivid and I remember driving my parents crazy because I wanted to buy a shell filled rock from the gift shop. They finally gave in. I'm not sure why but Gayleen felt the need to shoot at the Fort. I'm glad nobody shot back.
While we were in St Augustine we did a little boat shopping perhaps looking for more room. This Pirate Schooner looked good to us.
But then we had our hearts set on this beautiful Spanish Galleon.
After careful consideration we figured that we couldn't find the crew for those boats and certainly could not handle them on our own so we decided to keep Pearl as shes just right for us and is serving us well.
Our time in St Augustine came to an end and we were anxious to get on the way. Since the next major stop was too far to make in a day given the currents we went a short distance to a pretty secluded anchorage called Pine Island. This is all you can see in each direction.
It was just us, nature, a few wake board boats and tons of horse flies. We enjoyed the afternoon watching the birds and the locals do their crash and burn tow things off the back of their boats all the while trying to set a world record for how many horse flies we could whack with the fly swatter. By the evening the floor of the cockpit was littered with bodies and come nightfall the attack abated. We enjoyed the large full moon and went to bed early.
The next day we woke up early to get on our way to start a 42 mile jaunt up to a town called Fernandina, Florida. We had to wait until about 8:30 AM to leave so we could time the trip to pass under a bridge that has wicked cross currents at slack tide. Although it was a beautiful day, the day turned out to be the most stressful day on Pearl yet. There were so many places where shoals have spread across the ICW that presented many grounding opportunities even for out 5 ft draft. We also had to cross several inlets and much of the trip was in rivers that had strong currents flowing with us, against us or even across us.
We did very well with all the challenges right up until about 1/4 mile from our destination. We rounded a red mark and I had it all planned out to take a specific path through the shoaling. There was a large barge with a tug that was stick in the north part of the channel but I thought our path was fine to pass just south of him. Just when it looked good we stopped dead running aground in the sandy shoal. We were very stuck but the good thing was the wind was blowing nicely and in the right direction. Rather than trying to motor out and suck all kinds of sand into our engine we rolled out the jib. It filled with wind, leaned the boat and dragged Pearl into deeper water. I radioed the local marina for advice and they weren't helpful (probably for liability reasons) but they did say to contact Towboat U.S. The Towboat service is who helpd broken down boats and grounded boats all over the U.S. coasts. The fellow was very nice and told us to go back to the red mark and turn immediately right and travel 2 boat lengths from the shore heading towards a warehouse. This was VERY close to shore and I could see a brown shoal just outside that path. He said thats how he goes so we trusted him. It worked perfectly and going within spitting distance of the shoreline we saw no less than 10 feet of water at the low tide. Phew we made it!
Fernandino Beach is an interesting town with cultural clashes between tourism and industrialization. If we look one way from the boat we see a very nice marina with pastel colored buildings around it and many restaurants and shops.
But...if you look a little to the right you see what a friend of ours said looks like Gotham City from Batman. There are two huge paper mills running 24/7 giving off some interesting odors. Its a good thing that Gayleen said it smelled like coffee.
We are right at the border of Florida and Georgia and are planning our next move. Many have told us that the ICW through Georgia is long and winding and takes forever. If the weather is right we may try to go outside and bypass Georgia all together heading for Charleston, South Carolina. Today we are going to explore the town of Fernandina and decide what to do first thing tomorrow.