Friday, January 22, 2010

St Augustine, and Making Friends

I spent a fairly full day today in St. Augustine, starting with an early morning walk with Spook, and ending aboard S/V Peter Rabbit with some new friends I had met while up in Fernandina Beach. Here is how the day unfolded, and some of the places I went, and things I saw.

This morning started with a dinghy trip over to the sea wall at the St Augustine waterfront, at the foot of Castillo de San Marcos, a 16th century Spanish fort that dominates the water front. There is a little sand beach there that is revealed at low tide, so Spook and I made the trip over, and then set out walking the town. Lots of very cool places to see, lots of old buildings from the original Spanish settlement, that dates all the way back to 1565. That was when St Augustine was founded, and even though the territory changed hands several times over the next few hundred years, the town remained and flourished. There is alot of distinctive architecture here, much of it is either restored original or reproductions of the original buildings. Many of the buildings are made from coquina - a type of rock that is made up of seashell and found here in the local area. I spent the day wandering about the old downtown area, that was part of the original settlement.

There is a really nice shopping section in downtown along St George's Ave, it is now just a pedestrian lane, but there are shops of every description, most of them catering to tourists (hey, I am one of those) but there were some really nice places mixed in with the t-shirt shops and the old time photo joints, one that caught my eye in particular was a place that specialized in all things Irish. One thing that is different about this shopping area is the fact that most of the businesses are in buildings that have quite a bit of history, or are located on a significant piece of historic property. Very much a blending of the old and new world. After browsing for a bit and taking lots of pictures, I headed over to the Cathedral-Basilica of St Augustine. I don't know, or can't recall if I have ever been in a real cathedral before, but it was very moving going in there, it is a very impressive place.

Later in the day, after returning Spook to the boat I decided to head down and check out the St Augustine Municipal Marina. I had just tied up the dinghy when I was greeted by Roger Wells, who I had met up in Fernandina Beach. He and his wife, Earldean, are out of Kittery, Maine, and are sailing south aboard the S/V Peter Rabbit, a really nice Irwin 42. (I believe it is a 42, I may be mistaken) We were soon joined by David Schaake, who is aboard the S/V Journey with his wife Peg - they are out of Annapolis and left there the same day I left Solomons. I had met Peg in the laundry in Fernandina, and all of us had talked at length Tuesday morning before setting out from Fernandina Beach, Peter Rabbit and Journey taking the ICW, and me aboard Arden going outside. David has been following the blog, and he knew I was here in St Augustine from the post I had made just after arriving, so they had been on the look out for me.

So after catching up a bit, and giving me what knowledge they knew of the town, we agreed to hook up a bit later and trek out to the local boating consignment shop, The Sailors Exchange. The Sailors Exchange is alot like Bacon's in Annapolis, but a bit less organized with a lot more clutter. But man if they don't have a lot of stuff, and I was hard pressed not to buy a bunch of things for Arden. I need to replace the bilge pump, and seeing as they did not have one I liked, I managed to make it out of there empty handed, but gosh that was tough. A bit earlier in the afternoon the air cooled down considerably, and a very dense fog rolled in, and as we were walking back I think I was a chilled as I have been since I arrived in Florida. And to think I had contemplated wearing shorts today. (yes, it was that warm)

We made the walk back, about a mile or so, and then went aboard Roger's boat, had a few beers and swapped stories and ideas. Was quite a good afternoon, and it just proved to show what a small community this cruising bunch can be. Dave, Roger and I shared info on what cruising sites we use on the net, and what weather sites we go to as well. Roger also showed me his internet set up, that he says pulls in wifi signal for about 8 miles, and is more affordable than what I have looked at before.

Speaking of the cruising community, I heard from Clay and Mary yesterday, they are down in Vero Beach, and were telling me all about the trip down, where to go, what to watch for, and the fact that it is down right WARM down there. It seems that the tropics start in Vero Beach. It is nice to have a set of eyes and ears ahead of me, and it is great that Mary and Clay give me updates and info on the places I will be passing through. I will probably meet up with them again before this journey is over, and I can't thank them enough for the things they did and helped me with in our 2 weeks together on this trip.

So tomorrow I set out for the local West Marine, and a new bilge pump. I need to replace my old one before setting out again, and the West here is not all that far from the boat, maybe a mile and a half or so. While I was out and about today I checked on diesel prices at the local gas stations, and the fuel at the marina is cheaper than the fuel out in town, so I am going to top off at the dock tomorrow afternoon sometime. I'm not sure how long I will stay here in St Augustine, but I suppose I had better start looking at the weather and seeing when I am going to have a good sailing window.

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