Sunday, October 25, 2015

Historic St Augustine, FL (mooring field)

Iconic lion statue at the Bridge of Lions bridge (note sailboats in the background)

St. Augustine is the oldest-continuously occupied European-established city in the United States. (We'll later learn New Smyrna is older, but didn't make it initially). It was founded by the Spanish in 1565 (remaining in their hands for over 200 years) and would become a US Territory in 1822. If you haven't visited, you probably should.  The architecture is Spanish influenced, including the Flagler University (Tiffany did some of the interior decorating, including the wall of windows in the dining hall). There are some old churches and cemeteries to explore (one of the oldest homes is now Ripley's Believe it or Not).  It is also, supposedly, the sight of Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth (but there is an admission fee). 

We paid $120 to stay on the mooring ball for a for the week (this is a real bargain when you realize parking in town is $10/day!)

Greek Orthodox Shrine in Colonial Downtown

We took a few walks downtown, but the crowds and commercialism made it unpleasant.  However, one morning after stumbling into a particularly gaudy "Colonial Downtown," I discovered a Greek Orthodox Shrine, free admission. Huh. It was peaceful, absolutely breathtaking and very spiritual. I ended up having a long chat with a few of the employees in the gift shop, who pointed me to some of the restaurants and activities that they frequent. We also did the pilgrimage to Sailor's Exchange, a used boat part store. It's really surprising we haven't seen more of these considering the prices at West Marine vs the number of abandoned boats we've seen that could be salvaged.

You can't swing a cat without seeing Pirates in Florida!
During our stay, the dinghy quit holding air on one side. It went from needing to be pumped up once a week, to every few days, to not lasting through the day. I issued a public apology on Facebook, and after daily attention during our stay from Pappa, it suddenly started holding air again.

Something unique for cruisers in this area is a Cruiser's Shuttle that runs to many area stores (separate entity from the marina). This allowed me to run to the grocery store while the Captain went for a leisurely bike ride. When I got back with frozen pizza (!) and 1/2 & 1/2, I decided to run out to the boat in the dinghy instead of waiting. Suddenly, the dinghy wouldn't restart for the trip back to get the boss!  About this time, The Captain started calling, but our phones were acting up, so (another first) I tied the kayak to the mother ship, threw it off the front deck (Yeah! It landed right side up) and paddled in. He paddled out, got it started and came back to get me. And that's why it takes forever to run errands!
Of course, we couldn't resist a bike ride to West Marine.  They even gave The Captain new flip flops when we told them the one's he was wearing were super glued back together & only five months old.

Some kayak sunset photography

I got in a few sunset paddles in the pink-tinted, calm water. It's also a great way to check out the shoaling and other boats including the boat with two bird cages mounted on their rear arch & the Nautitech 47.  (A few days later, while anchored out, we heard a familiar sound.  The "bird boat" had anchored next to us again!)

Amelia puked on her blankie. That's kind of what it's for--mostly to absorb cat hair. But she chose a marina where laundry is $4!  Thanks, pukey. 

The dinghy docks are getting busier...
The great credit card/UPS rant (you can skip this paragraph if you are subject to high blood pressure): Someone tried to use our credit card, so we had to get new ones shipped overnight. It's amazing in the world of Amazon 2-day shipping that this is such a problem. You would also think marina's would be used to receiving packages for cruisers, but it's still a huge hassle. I received a text that the package was delivered, so I dinghied in to the marina gift shop ("We just sign and throw them on the floor...") and they hadn't seen the UPS man. I walked down to the dock master's office and asked if they had seen it or had any other ideas where it could be ("Nope."  These guys really weren't overly friendly or helpful in many respects). I walked back to the gift shop and she said, still nothing, so I started asking around at the other businesses in front of the marina. These people were all very helpful, including asking who signed for it and pointing me on to other businesses nearby.  Finally, I called the credit card company who told me it had "been delivered."  
"I'm standing here. It's not here."
"Well, it was delivered an hour or so ago.  Let me get you the tracking info."
"I have the tracking info.  I've been wandering around since I got the text."
She finally calls UPS, who again, tells me it's been delivered.  I start into the "Our credit cards were stolen. We're travelling.  I'm standing in the office. It's not here.  Call your driver and get more info" rant and she says, "what's the street address?"  After I tell her, she says, "that's not a valid address."  THEN WHERE DID YOU DELIVER IT TO?!  "It's not our fault if the address isn't correct."  I'll edit out the cursing, but she finally calls the St Augustine branch, who gets the driver on the phone, and suddenly they are being nice to me.  "Please hold. We're working on getting more info."  It turns out that instead of delivering it to the marina at 11 Avenida Menendez, he delivered it to Harry's Restaurant at 46 Avenida Menendez (and somebody signed for it!). ""Oh, I'll stay on the phone with you while you walk down.  Thank you for using UPS.  We're sorry for the inconvenience."  I'm pretty sure she almost hung up on me right before that!

During our last few days, there was a Northerly forecast with winds gusts to 28 and overcast (no solar ie. no movie marathons), so we hunkered down with our books and watched the white caps, the motion of the other boats in the wind, and people trying to dinghy in the waves (a few had their engines die, but got them restarted before we had to jump in our dinghy.  Later, I'd hear that a couple and their 2 dogs flipped and were assisted by some other cruisers).  We even had some "deck slap" on our catamaran, which is waves hitting the bottom of the bridge deck between the hulls--we usually only get that underway on rough water!

The Fort facing the inlet
Of course the problem with St Augustine is it's a tourist town. The crowds. Everywhere you turn they are trying to sell you something. The trolley, trams, horse drawn carriages, the school groups, the lines, and during our visit, a large motorcycle group!  We like St Augustine. Very historic city and lots of restaurants, everything we could need within biking distance but we were ready to move on...

This motorcycle rally was three blocks long, or maybe this is just a weekend in St. Augustine!

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