January 14, 2015

We rise early, as is our habit when we’re getting ready to sail. We’re feeling anxious because the weather has been unpredictable, lately slanting towards bad. As forecast, Sunday the weather started turning rainy around noon and Monday it was a mix of heavy fog in the morning followed by at times torrential rains and then more dense fog in the afternoon. There was a mean wind whipping in out of the north and temperature dropped rapidly.

We had planned to leave Palm Cove on Tuesday and head to St. Augustine since the forecast was for a 30% chance of rain, but we were greeted Tuesday morning by more heavy fog when we got up. As happened the day before, the fog dissipated around 10:00am but we remembered that it had set back in later in the afternoon the day before. One thing we don’t want to do is be moving in fog, especially since Just One Dance’s radar is not currently working. We decided to err on the side of caution and spend another night at Palm Cove. It turned out to be the right call as the fog settled back in early in the afternoon, so dense we couldn’t even see across the marina.

Marina Fog

Marina Fog

We hunkered down in the boat’s salon with the heat cranked up during those three bad weather days, both of us working on our computers and getting caught up with work back home. We took advantage of being at Palm Cove to hit the nearby Publix grocery store and reprovision our boat stores and to eat dinner at the Marker 32 restaurant. I told Cindy, if we were to live in Jacksonville Beach, this would be our regular go-to restaurant. We’ve always had a special place that she and I love to go to after a long day…first The Jazz Factory on the square in downtown Huntsville and then Vinotini’s in Madison after The Jazz Factory closed. Once Vinotini’s shut down, we couldn’t find another spot in the Huntsville area to replace it. This place could easily have fit the bill.

However nice the Palm Cove marina might have been though, we also wanted to continue our journey down the Florida coast. We were feeling apprehensive Tuesday night that Wednesday morning would greet us with more fog. This dependence on weather, tides and currents is a new thing for us. Our previous sailing experience in the Caribbean was simple by comparison. The weather was always perfect, there were no tides to speak of at those latitudes and currents seldom had a significant impact on our sail plans. Our weather app seems to change its forecast every few hours so there’s really little way to predict what we will find Wednesday morning. All we can do is wait and see.

We roll out of bed at 7:00am and thank God, there’s no fog in sight. That said, the weather is still crappy, overcast with a wet cold North wind clawing at us whenever we step outside the cockpit enclosure. We get a hand getting off the dock from one of the marina workers, tricky since the wind is blowing us back onto the dock, and then head out of the marina and back into the ICW.

We motor down along the waterway, noting the density of McMansions that line the shore. Cindy and I wonder out loud who the people are that live in these houses. Do they live here full time or are these just vacation houses? What do these folks do that they can afford these places, which must easily run into seven figures? Do they just have so much money that the cost is insignificant to them or are they juggling payments just to live “the good life”? Both of us agree that we would not want to pour everything we have into a house that would lock down our lives, no matter how nice the house or the location.


ICW McMansions

Our deep philosophical musings are sharply interrupted by the sound of an alarm. We snap back to the present and scramble to find the cause. It’s not an engine overheat alarm (that’s very good) and a quick look shows both engines are running along smoothly. After breathing, collecting ourselves and listening to locate the alarm, I realize that it’s coming from our VHF radio. A quick listen and I realize the cause for the alarm…it’s a test of the marine weather alert system. Apparently, just like the NOAA weather alarms that you hear on your car radio, the marine VHF weather channel sounds an alarm whenever it interrupts to broadcast a weather alert. And Wednesdays at noon is when they test the system. And scare the snot out of us.

Eventually the housing developments thin out and then disappear entirely. Once again, we are gliding along the north Florida marshlands without a sign of civilization, scoping out wildlife and checking the markers to stay on track. We have several sources to help us keep from getting into trouble. We of course have the traditional paper navigation charts. Cindy found a company, FrugalNavigator.com, that lets you print up charts on demand at about half the cost that traditional chart companies like Imray charge. They are also updated with the latest changes and revisions, which is a big plus since paper charts are seldom 100% accurate and the waterways change over time. We also have our Garmin GPS chart plotter at the helm and have GPS chart plotters on both of our iPads. There are also the traditional cruising guides, books that provide us with general information about our route, marinas and anchorages and what amenities are available in different areas.

One of the newer sources Cindy found is a site called ActiveCaptain. This site crowdsources information from mariners who have recently been along the same route that we are taking, so we can get the latest on where the channel is shoaling and what route to take through tricky spots so we can avoid running aground.

As we sail past Deep Creek, a narrow tributary to the Tolomato River, I spy one of our sister ships. A Lagoon 380, identical to ours, has tucked up inside the creek and dropped anchor. I don’t know why but it makes me feel good to see this, though it also makes us wonder why they would stop here. It’s a little past noon and it appears fog is starting to set in again. It’s nowhere near as thick as it had been the two previous days at Palm Cove but we can see it forming in the distance. We figure that as long as we can see the next set of buoys we can continue on. But if it gets too thick, we’ll have to drop anchor along the shore and wait it out.

As we continue, the fog thickens. We strain to see the next marker and pray that the fog doesn’t set in heavily, since we know we are nearing St Augustine. It works, the fog eases up and we sail into the Camachee Cove Marina just north of the Vilano Beach/Usina Bridge and tie up on the facedock. Since it’s now almost 2:30, Cindy and I are ravenous and head off to find Vinny’s Pizzeria on the south side of the marina. We get an 18-inch pie and demolish about half of it before we come up for air.

Just One Dance Camachee Cove

Just One Dance Tied Up At Camachee Cove Marina

We spend the next couple of days exploring St Augustine. We visit the Castillo de San Marcos, an old fort built in the late 1600’s when Spain ruled Florida. I visited this place with my family when I was a kid and still find it fascinating, though it seems a lot smaller than I remembered. We also happen to be in St Augustine while the galleon Andalucia is in town. The Andalucia is a full scale reproduction of a 17th century Spanish galleon built in Spain. She is currently sailing around the world and we caught up with her in St Augustine. We took the tour and spent a bit of time talking to one of her volunteer crew. These guys staff the ship for 6 months at a time (the length of time that their visa allows), living aboard, sailing the ship and acting as tour guides.

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

Cindy and Martin Castillo de San Marcos

Cindy and Martin at The Fort

At night we head to the St Augustine historic district, charmingly lit up in Christmas lights and lined with bars, restaurants and art galleries. We stroll, window shop and smell the savory scents wafting out of the restaurants and decide we like St Augustine. We meet up with a friend of ours, Pete Gulick and his lovely wife Anna, for dinner at the Floridian Restaurant. Pete was the broker who found Just One Dance for us and helped make this trip possible. We eat and drink late into the night and then head back to the boat, mindful that we are taking off for Palm Coast the next morning.

El Galeon Andalucia

El Galeon Andalucia

Total Distance Traveled: 92 miles