Our second stop in Florida was St. Augustine. I was planning to pass right by, but since it was Saturday I thought I should look for where we could attend church and according to google maps there was a meetinghouse right near the downtown waterfront that we could reach by walking if we stopped and stayed at the city Marina. So we decided to stop. We had read about their mooring field and so when David called the Marina he asked if they had a mooring for us. In the past he has asked about mooring balls and we have always been told no—that we are too big. So we were pleasantly surprised when they said yes, they had a mooring ball we could stay on. So, a mooring field is like anchoring, but it is a permanent anchor with a line attached to a floating buoy, you then grab the line and either attach your own line to it, or their line, if it reaches, to your boat. It allows for more boats to stay in an area, and makes them organized and keeps them from drifting into each other. The mooring area used to be an anchorage, a year or so ago the city decided to put in the mooring field and charge money, so all the locals that either left their boats anchored and abandoned or lived on them had to move them, or pay for a mooring. Compared to paying dockage, picking up a mooring is super cheap. We paid $20 a night on the mooring ball; had we stayed in the marina it would have been around $120 a night. Big savings. The difference is you cant just walk from your boat to the street, you have to all pile into the dinghy and motor on over to the dock. Not too much trouble—unless you are stocking up your boat with a lot of supplies, and then it is a little more work—we did that. We had always been told our boat was too big for a mooring in the past, and after talking with the marina here I understand the issues a little better to deal with in the future. There are 2 reasons we may be too big at some mooring fields. first reason would be swing room—we are too long and could swing into other boats on a nearby mooring. So we learned we should ask what their max size is. Second reason, our bow is really high up, maybe 10 feet off the waterline. So if the line from the mooring ball can’t reach the top of our bow, then we can’t tie up to the mooring. This reason could maybe be solved with the help of someone in a dinghy, we could lower a line to use for tie up. It was a learning experience for us.
Back to St. Augustine—we are so glad we stopped, it is a beautiful city. We arrived mid afternoon, and as soon as we were settled and set dinner in the oven to bake, we all piled in the dinghy and set off for a walk around the historic town. They claim they are the oldest city in America. I had never heard this before, or I have forgotten it. But the Spanish settlled St. Augustine in the early 1500’s and as other colonies that had been settled died out, St. Augustine never did. It has existed since it was settled. They have maintained their historic waterfront and as you walk around, you feel as if you are in a European country. There are narrow streets and alleys, historic buildings with spanish flair, it is just beautiful. And since it was the holiday season, as the sunset the streets lit up with white Christmas lights everywhere. While out and exploring the town we passed by the Governors Mansion where the National Park Service performs a re-enactment of the Spanish Changing of the Guard, as it was done during wartime with the nearby French colony. We had fun watching the guards in their uniforms discharge their weapons and change places, listening to them take their orders in Spanish. We headed back to the boat, and as we finished preparing dinner we were treated to front row seats to a firework show over the water. We could see the little boat that was setting off the fireworks, we were that close. It was a great evening.
That night, I wanted to verify that church was nearby and find out what time it would start—we have found that google maps is not always right when it maps for an LDS meetinghouse. Well, it was wrong again. The nearest church was almost 10 miles away by road. Too far for us to walk or bike, and we did not have a car. I noticed the church was very close to the river though, so I started looking at google maps to see what was nearby, if we could somehow get ashore to walk to church. I noticed their was a neighborhood rec center with a pier almost across the street from the church. I hoped their pier would be low enough that we could tie up to it, it was hard to tell from the Sat photo. Church started at 10am, so a little after 9am we set out to attempt to go to church. It was a bit of a chilly, windy morning. We set out in the dinghy the 7-8 miles down the river to find the pier. It was low tide at this point and the pier was at least 10 feet up. There was sort of a ladder that you could climb up, so up I went to check it out. It wasn’t very easy to climb, and at the end of the pier I found a locked gate. So back to the dinghy I went to disappoint everyone that we would not be able to attend church. We checked out every private dock we motored by, hoping someone would be out that would give us permission to tie up and walk thru the neighborhood to attend church, but no one was out. As we thought about it, with it being low tide, most docks were at least 6 feet up, and if we were able to tie up—the barnacles would have rubbed on the dinghy, possibly damaging it. Our plan was not a good one and did not work out, but our hearts were in the right place. Back to the boat! It was a chilly ride back, we were driving into the wind now, and although we wore jackets, we were all cold and ready for hot chocolate once we arrived back at RCabin.
Just after lunch Matthew was pulling himself over an ottoman and fell into the metal part of a chair, he managed to hit it in a way that sliced his lip open. Of course, on a Sunday afternoon. So again, David and I headed off with Matthew to the Marina to take a taxi to a nearby urgent care, where we were told—he’s not 2, so we can’t see him here. So next stop was the ER across the street. This was a nice hospital. The staff was really nice and helpful. The Dr. put in 3 dissolvable stitches while Matthew screamed and screamed. Poor little guy. And while the Dr was getting us a prescription for infection, I looked down at Matthew and saw that all 3 stitches had come out. He had to be tortured again. I felt so bad for him. 3 more stitches, this kind with stronger thread that would have to be cut out. The Dr. told us if we took the prescription to Publix, that it would be free for this particular antibiotic. So I looked up where the nearest one was, and off to Publix we walked. It was a little less than a mile away. While we waited, Matthew passed out from all the excitement of his day, we laid him down in a shopping cart to sleep till we were ready to go. Once we had our prescription we called our taxi driver to come pick us up. David told him we were at the Publix nearby. When he picked us up he said he couldn’t believe we had walked here from the hospital, it was so far. I told him it was less than a mile and only took 15 mins. I have heard this before from people when we mention we walk or ride bikes to get to places, they just think it is a crazy idea. However, living in Poland and visiting Europe, many people walk to get everywhere they need to go. I guess here in most of the US we are just so accustomed to driving, we forget we could walk.
That afternoon, david took the kids, and his mom for a walk down the shoreline to the fort nearby, while Matthew and I took another afternoon nap. On Monday we set out first thing to go tour the fort. The kids earned another junior ranger badge. This was by far my favorite fort. It is perched high right on the river, just a few blocks from the historic area and has a beautiful view from the top.
Once we were done, we loaded back on the boat and head about 15 miles south to Fort Mantanza. We anchored near the fort and went ashore to earn another junior ranger badge and tour this small fort. The Spanish built this fort after fighting with the English. England blockaded their entrance into St. Augustine and they could get supplies in. After they won this battle, they decided they would not let that happen again, so they found another inlet, south of St. Augustine and built Fort Mantanza. At one point English ships entered the inlet to sneak up on St. Augustine, and were met by cannons firing on them from the small fort. They backed out and never came back. It is a very small fort. The visitors center is across the river from the island the fort is on, so we had to dinghy over there and then ride the ferry over to the fort. They do not allow private boats to use their docks at the fort. Inside the fort is one open room that housed the few soldiers that were on guard there. In that room is a steep 10 ft. ladder to climb to the roof. I was surprised they let us climb up and enjoy the view from the top. It was a pleasant night spent there, with only one other boat anchored nearby. The sunset over the fort was pretty to watch.
On our way down to St. Augustine David was anxious to try our new upsized stabilizers, well when he turned them on, they wouldn’t come on, the system wasn’t getting the pressure it needed to run. Because of the cutlass bearing issue we had stopped using the port engine—the one that runs the stabilizers, so we didn’t know there was an issue until we tried to use our new fins. David assured me that the new fins we had waited an extra week in Jacksonville, docked next to a constant train for, was not the problem, but it was a problem with the system itself, which hadn’t been touched by the new fins coming off and back on. So we called the stabilizer company and consulted with them while making our way down to Fort Mantanza on Monday. They recommend we have an authorized tech look at the system. So we called the nearest one, a company right next door to Huckins Yacht. They were too busy to have a tech meet us to check out our issue, so David called Huckins and they agreed to send a tech down to St. Augstine on tuesday to take a look. So Tuesday morning we headed back to St. Augustine, to the same mooring ball we were on before. While we waited for the tech to arrive we took the dinghy out to see more of the area by water. We headed over to the lighthouse and park nearby, then back to the boat for lunch. The tech arrived shortly after lunch and he and David dove into the stabilizer system. He is a smart tech, but does not work on these systems, but with the help of a company tech on the phone they decided to switch out a part, hoping it would fix it. We had the part sent to us overnight, to arrive the next day. The tech showed David how to install it himself. This was David’s moms’ last night on the boat with us, so he took his mom and sister out for the evening to a nearby cuban restaurant. Wednesday morning I went for a run to pick up a rental car for us to drive David’s mom, later that day to the airport in Orlando, 2 hours away. I got about a quarter of a mile down the road before I realized that I did not have my drivers license or credit card with me. So back to the dock where david was anxiously waiting for his part to be delivered. He motored me in the dinghy back to the boat to retrieve my necessary items, then off for my run. I was just getting over my morning sickness and hadn’t been running in several weeks. It felt nice to be out and active again. When I returned with the car, David had his part and was installing it. However, it didn’t fix our problem. Time for a new plan. We would head south tomorrow. In a few days we would make it to Stuart Florida. We would arrive on Christmas Eve. On Christmas we were expecting our friends from Idaho to join us for a week on the boat. After that we would return to Stuart and have a boat yard there look at the issue and fix it.
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