March 11, 2010
We are in lovely St. Augustine at the Municipal Marina and at present are rocking and rolling with a strong south wind on our stern (where is that north wind when you need it?).
After our really nice day coming up from Daytona we were brought back from our fantasy of fairer weather to reality when we woke up to another grey, gloomy day, threatening rain. In spite of the dismal forecast, we pushed on for a fifth straight day of “get up and go.” The best part of the weather was there was very little wind. Soon after we left the marina we heard some chatter on the radio about the Matanzas inlet. We switched up to listen to the conversation. A sailboat had run aground at the inlet even though he was well inside the green can marker. We listened to the unfortunate mariner question two northbound sailboats as to where the deeper water was. They replied close to the red markers, where there was reportedly nine feet. We switched back to 16 and after a while heard that grounded sailboat (Doneka was the name, I think) try to warn off a trawler from the shoal. The trawler (Old Salt) said, “Too late, I’m already grounded.” As we came closer and closer to the inlet, Bill called the stuck sailboat and asked if he would talk us through the inlet when we got there. He cheerfully agreed to help. Bill was nervous as a cat as we approached, since it was close to dead low tide. This also was the place where we had bumped and backed up on our way south, barely avoiding grounding. With the captain of Doneka on the bow of his boat directing us, we gingerly traversed the inlet and had plenty of water as we hugged the red markers. We felt so sorry for the unfortunate boats in the inlet. We had heard from a boater at Palm Coast that there had been about 30 groundings in that inlet during the last month and I believe that. Previous information we had about crossing the inlet was to favor the green markers, but obviously the strong currents have changed that! We thanked the captain that assisted us and wished him a quick re-floating, though he was still there by the time we got to St. Augustine.
Matanzas Inlet has a rather gruesome history. It is where Pedro Menendez, the founder of St. Augustine, after bargaining with 300 shipwrecked French sailors and promising fair treatment, slaughtered all the captives, except 10 which professed to be Catholics. Shortly thereafter, he convinced Jean Ribault and 120 French refugees to surrender just south of the inlet. They also were summarily slaughtered. That is how the inlet got its name, as Matanzas means place of slaughter and it is still commanding its fair share of victims. The fort at the inlet, which is a Spanish one dating back to 1660, was built about 100 years after Menendez’s bloody rampage.
We only had one bascule bridge to cross under and that was open on demand, so our day was not very stressful except for the inlet crossing. We were amused by the sights along the river, especially the big fish exploding through the roof of a boat house. Because we were riding with the current most of the day, we had another short day on the water, arriving at St. Augustine just after 12:00, where we fueled up, secured Cool Breeze in her assigned slip, and headed on shore for lunch.
We debated whether to head out again the next day for Jacksonville as storms are forecast for Thursday and Friday. However, we are weary of the constant travel and in desperate need of clean clothes, so the captain made the decision to stay put, hoping the predicted weather pattern will change.
Today was laundry day. The marina has a nice Laundromat and I made use of just about every machine available. While there I met the man who owned the sailboat/trawler pictured in an earlier blog. He was a nice man who had spent the winter in Melbourne where his son lives and was traveling back home to the St. John’s River in Jacksonville. He gave me a detailed explanation about his cable on his engine and something about gas cans and crimping, about which I hadn’t a clue, but I think I managed to nod at the appropriate times and say, “That was good,” when he said he got a used cable at the sailor trading store. I guess he didn’t know I had no idea what he was talking about.
While I was at the Laundromat, Bill talked to a man who had a large wooden double-ended rowboat. He had a tent-like canvas covering on it yesterday, but today he had removed that and was in the process of preparing to leave. Bill told him it looked like a boat that you row across the ocean, but the man told him no, he had only been rowing on the Intracoastal waterway and he had started in Key West. He is headed to New York and hopes to get there by May! He was happy that a friend of his was coming along with him for the next few days to help him row. Can you even imagine that? As you can tell from his picture, his constant rowing has earned him a ripped upper body. Let’s hear it for the Baby Boomers!
We wandered around old town St. Augustine and had lunch at an Irish Pub just across from the Castillo de San Marcos just up from the Bridge of Lions. This bridge has been under construction for over 5 years. The bridge was originally scheduled to be removed and replaced by a high rise, but the people of St. Augustine refused to give up their bridge. So now, after 5 years and more than 5 million dollars St. Augustine will have their new/old bridge back with the original steel having been refurbished and re-used. It will still be a bascule bridge and open on a restricted schedule. There are still more closings scheduled for the waterway when the bridge is closed for all traffic for about 4 days for construction work, which can be a real pain for those traveling the ICW who arrive at the wrong time. It is probably really hurting the marina business as the marina has many, many vacant slips. By the way, St. Augustine will begin preparing new mooring fields in March north and south of the Bridge of Lions and in Salt Run with scheduled completion this summer. It should be a nice addition to the municipal facilities with almost 200 mooring balls.
With a 70% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow and the same forecast for Friday, we may be here in St. Augustine a few more days. I have been clicking my heels together and repeating, “There’s no place like home,” but to no avail. Right now it’s looking like we’re a week away from home, although if we can get the right weather to go outside we may make it home earlier. We’ve told lots of people who question why we’re going north that we’re going home to get warm. One south-bound sailor said he had just been there and we sure weren’t going to be warm going north, but then he didn’t know we were referring to our house with the heat cranked up to 80!
I have tried to upload a video of sailboats racing north of the Bridge of Lions. It is very shaky as I was standing on a floating dock with the wind blowing, but I thought I’d try to take advantage of TripSailor’s new feature.