We reluctantly left Cumberland Island after a short visit due to the incoming weather, but it was the right choice. We tied up at the free dock on Sister’s Creek near Jacksonville and spent the next three nights hunkered down while the wind blew and the rain poured. We picked this particular spot based on the forecasted wind direction, and it did not disappoint. We were rather protected by Florida standards, and after the system passed we were ready to move on to St. Augustine.
St. Augustine was the first place we’ve been where some cruisers spend the entire winter. We knew that wouldn’t happen to us because we’d prefer a bit more warmth, but we were still looking forward to staying for a bit and exploring, so we made a reservation for five nights on a mooring at the municipal marina. We had such a nice time that we extended our stay for two more nights!
We had arrived in St. Augustine on our 19th wedding anniversary, so we celebrated by picking up some nice items for dinner at Rype & Redi, a farmer’s market near downtown. We enjoyed dinner in the cockpit and as we were getting ready to go back in I glanced over and saw the most incredible moonrise. For a moment it seemed as if it was the sun coming back up! I said to Jeff THAT would be the perfect night for an overnight passage. Not at all like the moonless, cloudy night we had down the Jersey coast! The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was stunning. It was a nice way to spend our first evening in St. Augustine.
Our first morning was equally amazing when we were able to watch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral from the cockpit. At 130 miles away it was too far to hear it, but we listened to the live broadcast online so we would know when to look south. The speed it had as we watched it fly up into the sky was quite something to behold.
Of course the rocket launch was a one-off. Typically our days in St. Augustine began with listening to the cruisers net on VHF channel 72 at 8:00 a.m. Because there are a fair number of people who stop in St. Augustine, and a not-insignificant amount who end up sticking around, St. Augustine cruisers have a few organized activities such as regularly-scheduled gatherings at local restaurants and bars, along with a daily cruisers net. This was our first net, and I was pretty excited to see what it was all about.
The net followed a format that began with a list of historical events that occurred on that day, the day’s weather, tides, and fishing report, and a chance for people who had just arrived to say hello (and those who were leaving to say goodbye). People who were sticking around could check in, and there were announcements such as upcoming events and gatherings, items for sale, etc. We really enjoyed listening and participating, and that, along with attending a few gatherings which gave us the chance to meet other cruisers and exchange boat cards, made us feel like we were starting to become part of a community.
Our stay in St. Augustine also gave us some time to hang out with our friends Jay and Tanya on S/V Minx, who we had gotten together with in Beaufort, SC and Cumberland Island, GA. We celebrated Christmas with them by going out to The Floridian on Christmas Eve for a late Christmas Eve lunch/early dinner and a lengthy stroll around the city. Tanya and I also enjoyed some girl time when we went grocery shopping together one afternoon, and Jay came over to Pegu Club and spent a few hours giving us many extremely helpful suggestions and tips for when we go to the Bahamas. We had a nice time together and although they left a few days before we did, we cheerfully said goodbye knowing we would be seeing them further down the road in Vero Beach.
In addition to hanging out with S/V Minx, we also were able to finally meet our fellow Bristol 29.9 owners, Dennis and Stacey from Señora del Mar. They have been working hard refitting their boat to get it ready for sailing to the Caribbean and maybe beyond, and we have exchanged texts and blog comments for awhile now. They kindly treated us to lunch at Pizzalley’s Chianti Room, and we had a great time hanging out for a few hours, talking boats, and exchanging tips. It was so nice to be able to meet the people behind the words, and we are very much looking forward to sailing together on a future visit to St. Augustine.
St. Augustine claims to be the oldest city in the United States and it’s filled with Spanish colonial architecture. It’s a beautiful city so when we weren’t busy hanging out with fellow boaters we spent quite a bit of time simply walking around and soaking it in.
City Hall and the Lightner Museum are both located in the former Alcazar Hotel, built by Henry Flagler. The courtyard was very pretty. The St. Augustine city employees are very lucky to have such a beautiful area to work in.
This was the most ornate looking Presbyterian Church I’ve ever seen. Having grown up Presbyterian, I’ve seen a lot of them!
While the city was very pretty during the day, it was absolutely stunning at night because we were fortunate enough to be there during the annual Nights of Lights (one of the few advantages of our taking so long to get down to Florida this year). Every year St. Augustine’s 144 square block historic district is covered with literally two million white Christmas lights. National Geographic lists it as one of the top ten places to see holiday light displays in the world, and it was magical. Beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving and running through the end of January, we were very glad to be able to see it because we are hoping in the future to be well past St. Augustine by Thanksgiving! My iPhone pictures weren’t going to be able to do it justice, so I took these from Google Images:
Last but not least, we walked to the Sailor’s Exchangewhich is a very large consignment store filled with boat bits and bobs. We picked up some chain, line, and a bag for our dinghy anchor along with a strip of teak to replace a piece that had broken off of our companionway hatch, and a rubber gasket that we’re going to install on our chain locker lid – all for a great price!
We had a great week in St. Augustine, filling our days with socializing and sightseeing. We didn’t even get to a fraction of what was there (including touring the fort because it was closed due to the government shutdown). We are definitely looking forward to a return visit to St. Augustine in the spring or fall.