January 17, 2015
We are casting off from St. Augustine this morning after spending two very enjoyable days at the Camachee Cove Marina exploring the oldest city in the United States. The historic district was only 2 miles from the marina and the walk was enjoyable after being on the boat, especially given the tree canopied road we strolled along. We had a very nice dinner at the Kingfish Grill at the marina and Missy made friends with the local dock dogs. But we are seeking warmer temperatures and it’s time to head further south.
St Augustine Waterfront
We pass underneath the Vilano Beach/Ursine Bridge almost as soon as we leave the marina but we are focused on the next target. Our first drawbridge of the day is only about 3 miles from the marina and this one does not open on request. The Bridge of Lions carries traffic through the heart of St. Augustine and the car traffic couldn’t tolerate a bridge that opens at random intervals. Therefore, the bridge opens on hour and the half hour. We try to time our departure to reach the bridge as close to the 9:30 opening time as possible, but it’s a crap shoot. We realize that fighting the current on the nose as we are, we won’t make the bridge by the next opening. Given the way the tides and currents work out today and a reasonable departure time, we will be fighting a current on our nose and will be at or close to low tide the entire day. Not ideal conditions but what are you going to do?
We slow roll our approach to the bridge in order to minimize the amount of time we’ll have to circle. We hail the bridgekeeper on the VHF and request passage at their next opening. In spite of the regular schedule they will not open if there is no traffic waiting and from what we have heard, if you do not request an opening, they will not open even though they can see you waiting. The bridgekeeper tells us that the next opening will be at 10:00 and we tread water for the next 20 minutes. Off to the side, we see the Castillo de San Marcos standing on the shore, the same view ships pulling into St Augustine have been having for almost 350 years.
Bridge of Lyons
Right on the hour, the claxon sounds, the barriers come down and the bridge opens. We motor through and pass by El Galeon Andalucia, the square rigger we toured the day before. The volunteer we had talked to told us they cleared the sides of the bridge with about a meter to spare on either side. Bet that was nerve-wracking! As we pass the south mooring field at the St Augustine Municipal Marina I see Tempo, our Lagoon sister ship from a couple of days ago, tied up on one of the mooring balls.
The day passes slowly but uneventfully. With the current on our nose, we only average about 4.5 knots as we move down the ICW so it promises to be a long day. We get into shallow water at several points since we are hitting most areas at low tide but with our 3 ft 9 inch draft and Cindy’s steady hand at the helm we never touch bottom. Things get interesting at the tip of Rattlesnake Island (love that name!) where the channel is narrow and shallow and cruisers have reported shoaling. At its most treacherous point, the channel is marked only with green buoys on our left, no reds to mark the right boundary. ActiveCaptain reports tell us to stay to the right, even though we will be uncomfortably close to the shore (as in literally throw a rock to the beach) and not to miss any of the buoys. I’m spotting the markers and trying to discern the edge of the channel from changes in the water’s coloration but the water is too murky. At one point we’re in 6 ft of water but in the end we transit the dangerous stretch without an issue. We pass by Ft Matanzas, a Spanish Colonial fortification built in 1740, sitting on the north end of Rattlesnake Island.
It’s 3:00 before we reach Palm Coast Marina, our destination for the day. We’ve been sailing for 6 hours and we’re both tired. We approach the dock and are surprised to see it is not a floating dock. Floating docks are used when the is a large tidal swing, but here at Palm Coast, the tide only runs about a foot between high and low tide, so the expense of a floating dock is not necessary. The dock has pilings on the outside though and our fenders are not rigged for those (need to be horizontal rather than vertical) but the marina guy helping us dock helps us get them rigged right and we tie up safely. Missy immediately makes friends with the marina guy and he tells us that the marina is very dog friendly. A couple of the local liveaboards introduce themselves and we feel right at home.
Palm Coast Marina
We go up to the marina office to check in and find Rose at the front desk to be just as friendly as the other folks we’ve met so far. She explains the marina layout and shows us a map of a shopping area that’s within walking distance with restaurants and bars aplenty. She mentions that one of the places on the map had closed down and that a jazz and wine bar had opened there instead. I immediately perk up!
I love jazz and I love wine. Whenever I travel, I always look for jazz places but they’re difficult to find (the genre is not that popular I guess) and even if you do find them, the music usually turns out to be funk, R&B or Motown. Nothing wrong with those genres but they ain’t jazz. It’s Saturday night,727 Jazz has live music, it’s less than a mile from us and we’re going!
Cindy and I shower at the marina and then walk over to the European Village shopping center (never did get why it was named that, it didn’t look at all European). We get a table right up front by the stage, where a duo is playing guitar and saxophone. The sound is mellow and the wine is good and I let both wash over me. We order food, opting for a variety of appetizers since they were out of the lamb chops we wanted to split (even though it was only 8:30). I wish I could say the food was great but three out of the four dishes were terribly under seasoned. Still, it was a wonderfully relaxing end to a long day. This was one of the things we had wanted to do during this trip…explore the communities we visit, meet people and enjoy spending time together. We paid our check and strolled hand-in-hand back to our boat.
Total Distance Traveled: 118 miles