We just went outside yesterday for the first time sine the Jersey coast. Before that we met up with a few other sailors that were all waiting in St. Augustine for the weather window to open.
We pushed into St. Augustine late in the day, passing up a nice marsh anchorage around 3:30pm. We tried to sail for a little while, but the wind was on the nose again, even though the sun was out, and it was beautiful. On approach to St. Augustine at sunset, we were greeted by a pirate ship! It came out of the city harbor and through the drawbridge covered in lights and pirates. The city skyline was a veritable feast for the eyes.
St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, they say. Ponce de Leon landed there and fathered the city, just like he did in Puerto Rico. There is a fabulous Spanish fort there that matches the fort in San Juan Puerto Rico. All of the buildings on the waterfront were covered in lights, and the central park full of immense live oak trees was a carnival of lit trees.
We decided to pick up a mooring ball from the city marina rather than anchor out. That gave us access to the city through the marina, laundry facilities, bathrooms, and showers. Sweet!
We called our other cruising friends to see if anyone else was in St. Augustine and found that Roark & Sherry, our Vermonter friends from s.v. Good Goose were there! We’d expected them to be long gone south, but they’d held up in St. Augustine because it is such a wonderful city.
We resolved to connect up that evening at a bar with fifty beers on tap! We were so happy to see each other and reminisce and process about running aground on the Wahoo river. Turns out that they ran aground the very next day! Twice! The second time they had to wait out the tide until the boat floated off! Lucky for them they were not in a gale like we were.
The day after we ran aground, we decided to rest in our anchorage on the Wahoo river, while Roark and Sherry decided to head out and continue on. The logic was that it was better to continue on in nasty weather rather than sit on anchor in nasty weather and make no progress. They “got the snot beat out of them” though! Roark said that the gale winds were right on the nose the entire time and the chop was too. It was so strong that he couldn’t even keep his boat’s nose into the wind. It would just get blown over to the other side every time he woud try. At that time, even at full throttle, he made only 0.2 knots headway! All day was around freezing but with a 30+ mile per hour windchill. Add to that the fact that they took on water over the bow filling the cockpit and soaking them with bucketfulls of water every wave for hours!
We were nice and tidy in our anchorage while they were going through cold wet hell. Glad we decided to wait it out! We both learned lessons from that one!
After the 50-beer bar, we went to another place where a blues band was playing and a bunch of sailors were hanging out that Roark had cruised with at times along the way south. The walk there was a fun filled adventure through a boisterous town with eeryone out in santa hats and raindeer horns. Choo choo train shuttles toured around the city full of laughing happy people that would wave and shout “hey” to everyone on the street.
At the blues bar we met the other sailors, namely Roberto on Dream Catcher, and Sam on Zarnitsa. We would later travel with them both on our way outside on the ocean from At. Augustine to Daytona Beach’s Ponce de Leon inlet.
As it turned out, I knew Sam! He and I had met years before at Morningside flight park in New Hampshire. He’s a paraglider pilot who’s flown in Iceland and lots of other places in the world. As it turns out, he was also the yacht broker that brokered the sale of our sailboat to its previous owner! He also had brokered the sale of Good Goose to its previous owner, so he knew both our and Roark’s boats personally! Who knew! He played harmonica with the blues band, and the only person dancing was a crazy one armed man that looked like a skeleton or a pirate!
We all went back to Sams boat to check it out and hang out a little before heading to bed. His boat, Zarnitsa, is amazing. It is a 31 foot long mini-transat boat, which means that it was built for transatlantic racing in a class of boats that are less than, say, 40 feet long. It is a gorgeous, sleek knife of a boat with a huge mast and long fin keel. It is all rich Siberian chestnut & Russian white oak wrapped in fiberglass with mahogany interior. It has a delicious warm feeling inside. That boat is a lot to handle, though! Performance and speed come at the cost of constant attention and difficult handling in heavy weather. All the things that made it sexy also made it a bit scary. What a beautiful small boat.