Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shore Leave, St. Augustine

Sunset at Cumberland Island, Georgia
         Our tour of Cumberland Island, Georgia was extraordinary.
The best words to describe our visit were isolated, secluded and unexploited.
It was an exceptional experience.

Mooring field in St. Augustine Harbor

After moving on and anchoring overnight in a remote creek 
Simple Life arrived at St. Augustine harbor in late afternoon. The St. Augustine municipal marina has a mooring field which replaced the anchorage. This city is in direct contrast to the natural state of Cumberland Island. Lights, traffic, bars, tourists, restaurants and strains of jazz, folk and hard rock music intermingle with sounds of the city.
     The historic Old Town section of St. Augustine consists of a few narrow streets lined with bistros, galleries and museums that have been nicely restored. At this time of year Christmas lights adorn most of the buildings including the plaza and the Bridge of Lions. After sunset twinkling white lights embellish every building, tree and lamppost beckoning cruisers from their boats.
     Joe and I were drawn toward the bright, shiny lights as was every other cruiser in St. Augustine harbor. Although, most would certainly return to their respective boats by "cruiser's midnight" at 9:00 PM. Not us though, after the isolation of Cumberland Island and an overnight anchorage in a creek, we were like two drunken sailors on shore leave! The town was ours and we were seduced by its allure.

          First and foremost hot showers at the marina facility were on the itinerary. I longed for for a hot shower. While waiting for me Joe spotted a restored nearby pub that offered two for the price of one happy hour drinks. That was just the beginning of our night of debauchery.
     I had researched the restaurant guide for St. Augustine and found a few good reviews and reasonably priced choices. We decided on Bistro de Leon which offered a special if seated before 6:30 PM. I swore I would never take advantage of an "early bird special" since I prefer to eat after 8:00PM, but this was too good to pass up. The offer included an appetizer, a cup of soup, an entree (coq au vin) dessert and a glass of wine for $22.00! Delicious!

     Weather had been relatively balmy and seemed ripe for an apr├Ęs dinner stroll. After dark St. Augustine evokes a cross between New Orleans and Key West. Music filtered from pub doorways and bistros rendering trails of an ebb and flow that tantalized us. Stogies Jazz Club and Listening Room was our first stop. A chalkboard sign advertised a beer and cigar for $4.99. Drew Dixon, a singer-songwriter from Georgia was playing a few covers of Steve Earle's and some of his own compositions on acoustic guitar and fiddle near the doorway to the bar. His music had a warm, down home sound http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_edit?ns=1&feature=vm-privacy&video_id=FLMY7Lr2BBg. We were drawn in.

     Stogies had an atmosphere all it's own. Smoky with big over-stuffed couches and chairs, a loft upstairs with an opening to the seating area below. It was "artsy" & laid back versus sophisticated or stuffy. Joe puffed the cigar and drank beer while we enjoyed Drew's musical arrangements.

     When the cigar was snuffed out it was time to move on, perhaps it was time to head back to the boat.    

     Within a short walk we heard music filtering through the shuttered windows of the Tradewinds Lounge. It looked and sounded enticing and seemed too good to pass by. A succession of tricked out Harleys in front of the bar clued us in to the clientele.
These people were serious
Harley Davidson aficionados.

     Two formidable "greeters" (bouncers) wearing an array of studded leather accouterments guarded the doorway. We must have looked indecisive because they beckoned us and told us to come in and have a seat. The band was playing some pretty hard rockin' material, people were dancing. Was there really any harm in enjoying another night cap?

     It wasn't long before we got into the groove of the place. The band called Matanzas played mostly southern rock, Allman Brothers, ZZ Top and a few lighter pieces by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. Most of the bikers wore leather chaps, and other identifiable biker club regalia. One biker who had a guest appearance with the band sang "I've Got Friends in Low Places" and did a phenomenal job. He wasn't shy and was very engaging.   Our night on the town was everything we'd hoped for and more, but it was midnight and time to call it a night.

     The next day was designated for chores with laundry at the top of the list. The municipal marina has only four washers and dryers. On any given day, it isn't adequate for the number of transient boaters checking into the marina. As a result it took hours to do two loads of laundry due to the wait time. It's prudent to bring a book, computer or anything to stay occupied while waiting. It's best to relax and make the best of the situation. I usually spend part of the time getting to know the other launderers. Joe calls them my "laundry friends." I usually manage to gain very useful cruising information from my new friends.

     There was still time for city exploration after the chores. Old Town was of particular interest to me for its rich history and one gallery in particular. The Worley Faver Pottery Studio and Gallery on Aviles Street was delightful discovery. The gallery which appears to resemble more studio than gallery with its open windows and welcoming atmosphere is home base for the potter Worley Faver www.faverpottery.com. We were greeted by Worley's wife Dena who directed us toward the back of the gallery where Worley was setting up a new display. His hand built masterpieces were displayed throughout the gallery, even on open window areas.

Worley Faver with one of his masterpieces
     There were also a smattering of paintings of St. Augustine and surrounding areas by other artists on display throughout the gallery. We were introduced to Worley and I told him how much I admired his work. He explained some of his techniques of firing and burnishing to us. I personally have never seen hand built pieces like these with such fine craftsmanship. This gallery was inspiring and will be on my must visit list the next time we pass through St. Augustine perhaps next spring.