Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shortened Stay in St. Augustine

Sailboat about to cross under bascule bridge to St. Augustine
      November has been plagued by unseasonable cold fronts that have lowered temperatures in North Florida by only a few degrees. Though, the fronts have ushered in heavy winds and sea conditions for those planning offshore passages. Ocean travel days in November have been limited. Boats have been staging in harbors along the eastern seaboard such as Charleston, SC and St. Augustine, Florida for days awaiting favorable weather windows. Some have ventured out of inlets into the offshore waters only encounter rough sea state conditions and have opted to return to port to wait for milder circumstances another day.

White pelicans migrate to the south east coast from
central and western United States
      With our low aspect ratio rig 49.5 feet Simple Life has the option to travel the inside course along the ICW most days when severe weather threatens. We don't concern ourselves with fixed bridge heights at 65 feet and Simple Life can fit under the few bridges that have a 55 foot clearance. The numerous shallow areas can still throw a monkey wrench into the mixer and we still have to be careful negotiating these notorious ICW problem areas. Although, we try to make a point of traveling at mid to high tide whenever possible even though Simple Life draws only 4.5 feet. We've gone aground occasionally and with Simple Life's full keel it's not fun. So we make every effort to avoid grounding. Though, sometimes even careful planning isn't sufficient.

Lawrence and Elaine from SV Elle and I
      Our stop in St. Augustine was abbreviated with the weather forecast this season. It has always been a favorite stop in the fall and we reserved a mooring for a few days hoping to tour the city. More high winds were in the forecast and delivered as promised. It was nice to be secured in the mooring field when the 25+knot gusts kicked up during the night. Friends Elaine and Lawrence aboard SV Elle and I were scheduled to arrive the next day and we looked forward to having them aboard since we hadn't seen them since last winter in Marathon. Their plans of spending time at Cumberland Island, Georgia were dashed when they were chased south sooner than expected by the clever north winds. The news of their early arrival was good for us since we'd hoped to catch up with them along the way.

Joe on a cool day in St. Augustine
   The day before Elle and I's arrival during early afternoon on our second day in the harbor a fellow cruiser aboard Island Packet 38 SV Slow Flight dinghied over to invite us to join him and the crew of Pendragon a Beneteau 52 for happy hour and dinner at the Legion Hall across from the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. It sounded like fun and we headed ashore. We were introduced to Mary Ellen and Joe from Pendragon whom we'd seen along the way last season but, never met. Since they were New Englanders from Canton, Massachusetts we had an instant bond. Perhaps it's the New England accent that we have in common. We had a couple of drinks, chatted about where we've been, where we're going and ordered dinner. I must say that the shrimp basket and fries were the BEST especially for the reasonable price of $6.50! It's such fun meeting new people and instantly feeling like old friends.
     When dinner was over it was obvious that we would all be heading in our own directions in the upcoming days. Slow Flight had to be down to No Name Key, in Biscayne Bay by a certain date, Pendragon was waiting for an offshore window since they can't travel on the ICW due to a 72 foot mast height. Simple Life was waiting for subsiding winds to move south on the ICW toward Vero Beach for the annual Thanksgiving Day Bash. That's the cruising life. Meeting new friends, parting ways, catching up again and sharing the excitement of reuniting in a new sheltered harbor with laughter and sundowners.