I’m writing from the Conch Marina, in St Augustine. Awoke this morning to the sound of bacon frying. Or a crackling fire. A little worrisome until I read that that sound is of shrimp hitting the bottom of the boat with their tails in order to dislodge accrued vegetable matter, providing them an easy meal. Weird world.
Yesterday was a fairly short day–only 18 nautical miles. Somewhat stressful because there has been a lot of “shoaling” (shifting of the waterways bottom, usually due to hurricanes) so we had to pick our way fairly carefully. We watched a sailboat ahead of us go just a few feet too far to the right, and even though they were technically still inside the ICW markers, suddenly came to a complete stop– stuck in the mud. Buying up to date navigational systems was critical to us before starting; besides our Garmin electronic charts that came with the boat, we also are using “Coastal Explorer” on a PC, and Navionix and AquaMap, all updated frequently by NOAA, on my iPad. Each one has their pros and cons, but the important thing to note is that I get to sit next to David and tell him exactly where to proceed according to the chart d’jour. I’m his official back seat driver–and he HAS to listen! I am only slowly learning how to maneuver Golden; MUCH more satisfying to tell someone else how to do it.
Other than watching for shoals, following the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is fairly easy. This is by design. The ICW, forming the eastern border of the Great Loop, is actually a 3000 mile long marine highway extending from Boston to Brownsville, TX. Construction began in the early 1800’s in order to establish a safe shipping route along the Eastern seaboard. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. Its purpose is to provide a navigable waterway without the terrifying (to me) thought of traveling on the open sea. That last sentence provides the key to my decision to come on board with this whole idea in the first place. All we have to do is watch for red triangles on the port (left) side, and green ones on the starboard, and be mindful of the possibility of shifting sands underneath us. Theoretically, the ICW should be 12 feet deep and 150 feet wide, but, like most of the infrastructure in this country, often fails that standard by a wide margin.
Enough about navigation. We expected this marina to be fairly posh by its description online, but find it to be actually a bit derelict. This is through no fault of their own–they were hit hard by Hurricane Irma last fall, and have not yet recovered (see pictures).
However, the location is ideal–we are within walking distance of historic St Augustine, within biking distance of a hardware store, a Publix (grocery), and West Marine–our three major shopping destinations. The people we’ve met here have been incredibly, remarkably, insanely friendly and hospitable. Five minutes ago, a woman stopped by Golden and offered us her car to use–she’s a boater currently living in St Augustine, and explained she realizes how difficult it can be to go shopping sometimes. This was before we had even told her our names!
Beautiful sunset, invisible David:
Finally, we bought a new dinghy! David, as most of you are well aware, is an inveterate peruser of want ads (right, Shumans?) and before we’d even left Alaska had found a Portland Pudgy for sale here in St Augustine on Craigslist. No matter that we had to drive from Orlando to come look at it, arrange to buy it, then several months later drive Golden from Fort Myers to St Augustine to pick it up, and worry about what to do with the OLD dinghy (a perfectly serviceable inflatable, like everyone else who’s normal uses). David loves to fill our lives with complications, and he’s very successful at it. I love him anyway. We picked the Conch Marina mostly because it is literally a few hundred yards from the Pudgy’s owners condo and (currently destroyed from hurricane) boat slip. Mike Tait, the owner, and his son Jack rowed it over yesterday afternoon and we secured the “Doodle” between Goldens’ hulls. Then we all walked back to their condo, finished the transaction, and carried all the included items like oars, sails, rudder, and motor (luckily Jack is a young strong man) back to the boat. See the bad picture below. In my defense, Jack was lugging a motor, for god’s sake, so I couldn’t exactly spend a lot of time composing!
David and I soon discovered the engine had been sitting unused so long, it even had a wasps nest in it–obviously not in tip top condition (no one will ever accuse us of being the savviest of buyers). So now we are stuck with two dinghies, and no serviceable engine. David has taken up our kind neighbor’s offer of her car, and is currently off getting Doodle’s engine serviced. We’ve had three people consider buying our inflatable, but apparently Florida is really picky about titles to all boats, no matter how small, and Alaska is not at all, which means we can’t provide all the paperwork for the hoops they have to jump through to buy essentially a tiny rowboat. So we may have to drag two dinghies up to Georgia or South Carolina and sell it there. Thanks David! Remember, I love him anyway.