Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Sisters Creek (near Jacksonville, FL) to St. Augustine, FL //
We motored on across the St. John River for a second time, this time during high tide, hoping we could get through the entrance of the next section of the ICW without running aground. As per cruisers recommendations online, we “honored the markers” and hugged the red side (right side) avoiding what in our chart looked like a clearly dredged channel — the charts were just not to be trusted in this particular area. We made it right through without any problems.
We continued on to some pretty dandy areas of the ICW with mansions lining the waterway. I myself couldn’t help but conduct design review on some of the outrageous looking homes as we cruised along. Entertainigly enough, most of them fell in the McMansion Hell category. But soon after passing the array of pleasure homes, we were welcomed by the Tolomato River with soothing scenic views of the marshes and bird life. It was a clear, sunny day and the temperature was climbing into the 60s. There was even a gentle breeze blowing from our stern which allowed us to put our jib up for a brief time and motor-sail within the channel. It was finally feeling a bit more like Florida.
By early afternoon, after meandering through the river, we arrived to St. Augustine! As we passed through the inlet, we glanced at the ocean to get a peek of how rough conditions were. Things seem a little bit choppy, but we weren’t going to venture out anytime soon. We had reserved a mooring at the Municipal Marina for the next three days given there was another cold front coming through over the weekend with potential thunderstorms and hazardous winds. We had decided we would stay put until the system moved out of the area.
Nearing the Bridge of Lions, we radioed the marina and were happy to hear they had located us on the north mooring field which overlooks the bridge and the Castillo de San Marcos, an old Spanish fort striking similar to Old San Juan’s El Morro. We settled in and immediately dhingied in. We were excited to dive in to the history and culture of this charming little town. We explored Castillo San Marcos until closing, then strolled around the quaint narrow streets. We enjoyed taking notice of the various colonial architectural styles that made up the street fronts which were influenced by both the Spanish, who first founded St. Augustine, and eventually the British. As we walked back towards the waterfront, we made a pit stop at Odd Birds Bar for celebratory cocktails and Venezuelan empanadas before heading back to Sparidae for dinner.
By Friday, we continue monitoring the weather and decided we would get back on the ICW on Saturday instead of staying one more night so that we could continue making progress south. Even though the winds would be strong, the rain and potential thunderstorms forecasted earlier were not an issue anymore. Given that, we headed back into town to soak every last bit of what St. Augustine had to offer including walking around the historic Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) built by Carrère and Hastings, and observing an exhibition on the history of St. Augustine at the Government House Museum, which went over the how the Timucua Indians, who first occupied the region adapted to colonization. We wrapped up with a tour of the St. Augustine Distillery located in an old Ice Plant building preserved but retrofitted for its new use.
After all that fun, it was time to get serious and go provisioning. We found a great farm stand directly across the distillery but still needed to Uber to a grocery store to stock up on other items. On our way back, our intention to cook aboard that evening quickly went out the window as we were enthralled by the Christmas spirit in full swing around us —lights were decorating every single building in town. We bought into the idea of dinner in town and under our bartender‘s (from the previous night) recommendations ended up at Catch 27 for some amazingly delicious catch-of-the-day (Red Snapper, Cynthia’s favorite) tacos. The charm of St. Augustine worked it’s way into our wallets. But it was worth every penny. With our bellies full of fresh seafood and our icebox fully stocked, we headed towards Daytona Beach down the ICW the next day.