Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shore Leave in St. Augustine

Joe checking out the drawbridge into Castillo de San Marcos
     St. Augustine's harbor on Matanzas Bay has been a popular stop along the north south route for centuries. Today it still offers safe harbor as well as numerous amenities for cruising boats. Historical landmarks, restaurants and cafes, a modest but well stocked grocery on nearby Anastasia Island, a liquor store, marine consignment exchange and the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. The municipal marina offers a mooring field for a modest price where boaters can stop for a few days, catch their breath, catch up on laundry duties and reunite with fellow cruisers while visiting this historic city.
One of four bastions overseeing Matanzas Bay

A young boy enjoying the joy of music 
      We always look forward to having quality shore leave in St. Augustine. Even though we've made this stop several times it seems we always make new discoveries. Each year the National Park Service offers free admission on Veteran's Day for tours of Castillo de San Marcos. We'd arrived a day before the holiday and were able to take the free tour. The fort was once the northernmost outpost of Spain's New World Empire. Construction which began in 1672 was completed in 1695. The tour of Castillo de San Marcos was self guided with a few guides dressed in period costume stationed in rooms throughout the fort who were well versed in lore of the time period.

Crowds enjoying the beautiful day

      It was an interesting day albeit crowded with families along with us enjoying the fee waiver. Later that afternoon we met with fellow Island Packet cruisers at the Legion Post. This is a local "best deal in town" favorite of ours where drinks are always happy hour prices with the best ever shrimp basket for only $9.00! Great friends and good food. It's an extraordinary and occasionally a simple life.
A spontaneous rendezvous of Island Packet owners at the
St. Augustine Legion Post.
from left Kismet (Jim & Laurie) Salt Shaker (Gwen & Walter)
Simple Life (Michele) Slo Flight (Steve) Passages (Mo & George)
photo by Joe Boulsy

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cumberland Island

Skeletal remains between marshland and beach
     Cumberland Island's spectacular beauty is best illustrated in photos. Words cannot capture the sights and whispering sounds of this wild island's palmetto palms rustling in the breeze or the swaying, Spanish moss hanging from Maritime Oak branches where each seemingly reach out in search of someone who'll climb.

Marshland along the island's southern end

Dungeness where the forest ends


     The forest abruptly terminates at the island's southern end where it morphs into lush green marshes and miles of pristine beach. It's here where the forest startlingly unveils the ruins of the Carnegie mansion Dungeness where during the Gilded Age the 1% enjoyed "conspicuous privacy" by throwing elaborate house parties for wealthy guests. The island encompasses 36,415 acres of wilderness area and 16,850 acres of marsh, mudflats and tidal creeks where a few Carnegie mansions dot the maritime forest.

Cumberland Island's beach
Simple Life anchored near Plum Orchard
Three hunters, Brandon, Blake & Bradley
     During our recent visit Simple Life was anchored near the northern end of the island in the Wilderness area where the woodland seemed ripe for exploration. That was until we met a few hunters along a trail who warned us not to venture farther. The annual three day controlled hunt for deer and wild boar was well underway. They advised us not to wander beyond the grounds of the former Carnegie mansion Plum Orchard. Shortly thereafter a park ranger spotted us and verified the hunters' warnings. As consolation she offered a private tour of the interior of the mansion. What luck! Under normal circumstances the mansion is not open to the public.
Pauline the park ranger during a private tour of Plum Orchard
Plum Orchard Mansion


Local shrimper with a cast net at our anchorage


       The following day the tides were in our favor allowing us to travel over a shoaled area from the southern entrance of the Brickhill River at the Cumberland Divides to where it rejoins the ICW. Within an hour and a half our anchor was set at a popular anchorage near the Sea Camp on Cumberland Island where feral descendants of the Carnegie horses roam freely on the island. This area was deemed safe for hiking and exploration since hunting was not allowed near the camp. This was our second excursion to Cumberland Island and certainly will not be our last.
Feral mare and her filly near Dungeness

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Day in Savannah

Does this church steeple look familiar?
Think floating feather, Forrest Gump
      Last week, while waiting for the local bus in Thunderbolt, Georgia near historic Savannah, I answered a
call from my cousin Mike. We chatted for a brief time because the bus we'd been waiting for finally arrived and I had to go. I later received a text from Mike. It read, "it just occurred to me that you were in Savannah waiting for a bus. Did you happen to sit next to Forrest Gump while waiting?" Mike always had a good sense of humor.

       Stopping in Savannah had always been on our southern itinerary, but somehow it never happened. Usually, we're waiting for a good opportunity for an offshore overnight passage from Beaufort, SC to Florida bypassing Georgia. This year we decided to stop in Thunderbolt where we could catch a local bus to Savannah.
     We arrived at the bus stop outside the campus of Savannah University one block from Thunderbolt Marina ahead of schedule. A few students were preparing for classes...smoking weed. It was 9:00 AM. much for impaired concentration abilities during classes. As you can imagine the bus route traveled through some marginal areas. At one stop a man boarded the bus on crutches. I wanted to ask why he was on crutches, but Joe warned me earlier that morning, "Don't talk to strangers and don't stare." Joe is a veteran bus commuter. He rode the bus to and from Providence to his job for over 20 years. It wasn't long before the guy began spilling his guts about his injury. Apparently, he was involved in a robbery and held up at gun point. He slipped and the rest was history. Another bus patron also on crutches informed the masses that he was on a "free, get out of jail pass." We didn't find out why he was on crutches.
One of Savannah's architectural gems
     After one bus transfer historic Savannah suddenly morphed from dereliction where poverty and crime appeared to be the norm to a picturesque southern jewel. Live oaks draped with Spanish moss lined streets, antebellum homes featuring elements of Gothic, Greek and Romanesque Revival, Italianate, Regency and Second French Empire examples of architecture. Savannah's 20 plus emerald squares exuded feelings of peace and tranquility amid its urban landscape. The city exemplified historic preservation at its finest.


Chippewa Square the site of Forrest Gump's
narration scenes on the bench
     Since we had only one day to tour the city we opted for a local historic trolley tour of the city with an informative tour guide. It was entertaining with actors portraying Forrest Gump to Civil War veterans hopping onto the bus at designated stops along the tour. The tour was enlightening allowing us the opportunity to see all of the city and squares in just over 90 minutes.
     At lunch time Paula Deen's Lady and Sons restaurant sounded like a good option. After stepping inside with one sniff and a glance around the place I deemed it the equivalent of an oink joint. In other words a trough with a buffet where we were being herded into a third floor elevator toward another buffet. By the way there was no sign of Paula Deen cooking any of her heart attack on a plate specialties behind the counter. For some reason I at least expected a "Hi ya'll!" We walked out without eating in search of a more authentic Savannah dining experience. We later enjoyed a nice meal at Huey's in The Cotton Exchange along the historic riverfront. (I actually make a few of Paula Deen's recipes, but I was disappointed with the lack of ambience in her restaurant.)
The Waving Girl Statue on the riverfront
by Newport, RI sculptor Felix De Weldon

     Our one day in town was not long enough to cover everything we'd hoped to see and experience in Savannah. We needed to catch a bus back to the Simple Life before sunset for obvious reasons. It did offer us a taste of the city which we look forward to visiting again during one of our future migrations.

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