Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
We have several new virtual crew members who came aboard while docked in St Augustine. Welcome aboard Gayla H., Bikephilosophy, Dave M. And Shan M.
The crew took a day trip south to Marineland Adventure and back to Marker 8 in St Augustine so their guest could cruise aboard Still Waters II. The crew also traveled north two days this past week, spending one night on the Jacksonville Free Dock and then on to the Ortega River, just southwest of downtown Jacksonville.
Click on the link to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, and a summary of the day’s experience.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:
1- What was the nickname for the St Augustine Methodist Church when it was first built in 1883?
2- Where was the original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum?
3- How many laps do you have to swim to equal one mile at the De Leon Springs?
This week’s video shows Still Waters II exploring St Augustine and viewing a rocket launch. Enjoy!
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.
With David and Shan safely aboard, the gang of four set off to tour St Augustine. They walked across the Bridge of Lions and bought tickets to the Red Train Tour that makes 22 stops in the Old City.
A few of the skippers favorite stops:
1- The Old Senator, is a Live Oak Tree that is believed to be around 600 years old. The Train Conductor reported that it is named the Old Senator because it is old, it is crooked, and it is shady. That seems a fitting analogy for some of our elected Senators for sure.
2- The original church was built in 1883 and was nicknamed the Methodist Mud Hut. The church was a small cabin built on stilts above the muddy marsh. In 1885, Henry Flagler bought the marsh the church sat on to build his Ponce de Leon Hotel. He built the Methodist a new church north of the marsh. The elders of the church were initially split about whether to sell or not. The elders sued each other and it took two years to work the purchase thru the court system.
3- Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, was originally the Hotel Warden. Robert Ripley stayed at the hotel while in town. He attempted to purchase the hotel in the 1940’s but the deal could not be sealed. His estate closed the deal in 1950, a year after his death, and opened the first Ripley’s Museum to house his collection of oddities he amassed during his world travels.
After making the grand tour around St Augustine, the gang hopped off the train at the Castillo de San Marcos, the old Spanish Fort that was completed in 1695. They arrived just in time to walk up to the top of the fort and watch a cannon firing demonstration. One interesting fact about the fort is that it never lost a battle in its history of defending the Old City.
After visiting the fort, the gang wandered the Old City streets and made their way back to the boat at Marker 8.
The gang woke early and headed to the sunrise service on Crescent Beach. The morning was initially foggy, so there was no watching the sun rise. The gang was about a hundred yards from the stage on the beach, so hearing over the waves crashing and people talking was a bit difficult. However, it was a neat experience to see that many people out packing the beach for Easter Sunday.
In the afternoon, the gang headed back over the Bridge of Lions to partake in the second oldest Easter Parade. The St Augustine event started back in 1956. The oldest Easter Parade you ask, well that would be in New York City. Their parade has been going strong since the 1870’s.
The gang headed out to tour some of the surrounding area today. The first stop was at the De Leon Springs State Park. There is a large underground spring that provides 19 million gallons of 72 degree water every day. The pool is about 500 yards in circumference. There were a few women swimming laps around the edge of the pool. Nine laps would be just about one mile.
The only thing our gang came to swim in though was the pancake syrup. There is a replica Sugar Mill on the edge of the pool. The specialty of the Sugar Mill is cook your own pancakes. There is a grill embedded in each table. You order up your ‘all you can eat’ pancake mix, pour and cook the pancakes at your table, and eat to your hearts desire. Very interesting business model, and unique experience.
The next stop was along the Haulover Cut to try and spy some manatees. The stop did not disappoint. The gang spotted a couple of manatees close to the overlook upon arrival. Then at one end of the overlook, they noticed two manatees just hanging out in some shallow water.
Then it was finally south to the ultimate destination for the day, Titusville to watch a rocket launch. There were several hundred of the gangs closest friends also with the same idea. The gang found a good spot to observe the launch and waited for the countdown to reach zero. It was a good thing that ice cream truck vendor rolled by to provide a late afternoon snack.
The clouds were moving in and rain was intermittent, but the launch did go off on schedule. This was the third launch the crew has observed. The crew was close enough this time to actually see the rocket on the launch pad, the big fire ball on the ground, and the rocket in the air. A few minutes after the launch, the crew heard the low rumble from the take off. Once again proving that the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound.
The weather has not been cooperating very well to get a cruise in due to high winds. However, today looked like the best day to go, so the gang headed south to visit Marineland Adventure by boat.
The gang arrived in time to catch the end of the dolphin interaction exhibition. After that, the gang headed back to the boat for lunch. Then it was back to Marineland for a few hours to round out the visit.
The skipper wanted to leave at 1500 so that they would arrive at low tide and slack current to make docking easier. The plan was working well until about 30 minutes before their arrival back at Marker 8 Marina. Without much warning, the calm 10 mile per hour winds kicked it up to 18 mph with gusts over 20. It took the skipper three tries to get lined up to enter the slip because of the strong side winds.
On the third try he finally got the stern of the boat into the slip and was backing in when a strong gust pushed the whole boat to starboard. The starboard side crashed into the pilling with enough force to break the handrail. Then the bow of the boat swung around and nearly hit the boat in the next slip.
The two boats would have hit if it were not for the owner of the other boat. He could see that this would be a difficult dockage, so he had retrieved a large ball fender and managed to get the fender between the boats just in the nick of time. The other boats anchor then snagged the handrail and it took a few minutes to get untangled.
With David, Shan, and the other boat owner holding the two boats apart, the skipper was finally able to finish backing into the slip. Two other people came off their boats to catch lines and get Still Waters II safely secured.
Yes, that will have to go down as the worst docking experience to date. The good news is that nobody got hurt, well except the skipper’s ego. The other boat suffered no damage, and Still Waters II handrail needed to be fixed anyway.
Lastly, this is why boaters have a long tradition of dock-tails following a cruise. Someone please get the skipper a whiskey, he sure looks like he could use one about now.
On the bright side, there was a beautiful sunset to end the day.
Today, the gang decided to go over and visit the St Augustine Lighthouse. The view from the top, overlooking the bay at the historic town makes for a beautiful view and what motivates visitors to take the 219 steps to the top. The fudge in the Visitor Center gift shop is good motivation also.
Then it was time to relax and take in the view as the sun set on the Miller vacation.
David and Shan disembarked about 0830. So after saying goodbye, the crew shoved off the dock and headed towards Jacksonville. Getting out of St Augustine was a bit of an issue though. Race week started today and there were many sailboats in town to take part in the three days of racing.
The sailboats were all leaving the docks about the same time as our crew. There are three locations for the races: the youth races are just off the fort, there is a course just north of the Vilano Bridge in the ICW, and a course three miles off shore for the truly adventuresome racers. The skipper checked the off shore sea conditions and took notice that winds would be 18-20 mph with seas 5-6 feet. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
After getting under the Bridge of Lions and past the inlet, the skipper found himself surrounded by thirty sailboats getting ready to start the race on the ICW. After a few more minutes he finally got north of the race course and things settled down for a nice cruise up to Jacksonville. The crew spent the night on Sisters Creek at the Jacksonville Free Dock.
The crew has made arrangements to get the handrail repaired at Lambs Yacht Center which is just southwest of downtown Jacksonville. The skipper attempted a repair of the handrail and discovered that this is not the first time the rail has broken. The third stanchion has always been a weak point of the safety rail. After getting the rail apart it was obvious that somebody had southern engineered a past repair. That repair was not very good. In fact one piece of handrail is actually about an inch shorter than it should be. To compensate, somebody pushed a half inch pipe inside the hollow handrail and then riveted the pipe to the T on the stanchion. The Admiral is looking forward to getting the handrail fixed right since she spends the most time out on deck handling lines and is the most at risk of the rail failing.
The crew made it to downtown Jacksonville and thought that they would finally make it past the RR Bridge without having to wait for a train to pass. Unfortunately, as the crew passed under the Main Street Bridge the skipper heard the RR Bridge tender sound his horn. That is the warning that the bridge is about to be lowered. Sure enough, the bridge started down. A few minutes later a train came crawling down the track. Once the train passed, the bridge was re-opened and the crew passed thru. This was the seventh time the crew has passed thru this bridge and they are batting 100 percent. Yes, they have been stopped by a train each and every time. Go figure.
While the crew were in St Augustine at the Marker 8 Marina, they met a very interesting couple, Albert and sweet Sarah. They own and operate a couple of restaurants in Newport, Rhode Island along with some Inns.
They invited the crew over for dock tails one evening. They shared tales of raising their kids on a boat and once even owned a classic motor yacht that had been previously owned by Humphrey Bogart.
A special shout out goes to Albert and Sarah for helping dock Still Waters II in that nightmare cross-wind that damaged the handrail. You just will not find many folks better than Albert and Sarah. Hope to see you again on the water!
The crew will sit at the Lambs Yacht Center all week. While the repair center works on the handrail the skipper and Admiral will also tackle a few other projects around the boat.
The skipper will also spend some time planning the 2018 Platinum Quest. So next weeks blog will unveil the 2018 cruising plan.