December 11, 2018

Sailing Florida’s Northeast Coast

We arrived in historic St Augustine, Florida, one of America's oldest cities, on December 1 after an offshore sail from Cumberland Island National Seashore on the Florida-Georgia border.

St. Augustine is a popular port of call for tourists and cruisers, and we definitely plan a return visit. While a bit touristy, with trolley tours and kitschy souvenir shops, the old town area is picturesque and charming and has an abundance of dining and shopping choices. We were lucky, since the marina was only steps away from popular St George Street at the center of the old town. 

During the holidays, St. Augustine lights-up its downtown area for its annual Nights of Lights holiday display. We stayed on a mooring for three days at the St Augustine Municipal Marina, just north of the Bridge of Lions and were treated to a nightly dazzling display of lights along the bay front. 

St Augustine is home to Flagler College, a liberal arts school, which occupies the Ponce de Leon hotel, built in 1888 and fully restored, and has beautiful sculpture gardens. 

During our visit we also toured the Castillo de San Marcos fort, built in 1672 as a Spanish military outpost. 

Costumed re-enactors offer historical insights about the fort and soldiers' lives there and they perform military drills and musket and cannon firing. We happened to visit during Colonial Night Watch Weekend, which included a parade and other festivities, as well as hourly cannon fires. Our mooring was only about a half mile from the fort, and each cannon fire really took us by surprise! 

Humorously, on the day we visited the fort there was a cannon misfire. 

We also rented a car one day and made our way to a nearby DMV and courthouse to establish our Florida residency! 

In the U.S., you pretty much need to have a permanent residence for tax purposes, voting, banking and other legalities, which can be a challenge for people like us who live on a boat and no longer own any real estate. :) We opted for Florida because of the ease of establishing residency (filing a few simple forms), it has no state income taxes, and it was along the way south! :) 

We also use a mail service in Florida as our main mailing address, which collects our mail and packages (shredding any bulk/junk mail), scans or holds any important letters, and sends it to us any where in the world upon request. 

On the last day of our visit to St Augustine, we connected with and said farewell to our new friends Larry and Barbara on S/v Hoodless, who we met up with several times along the journey south. St Augustine will be their home port for the winter, and we've enjoyed their camaraderie and tips along the way.

On December 5th, we stopped to fill our diesel and water tanks and then hopped back into the ICW and further south. Without any safe coastal inlets until much further south, and no good weather window, we opted to stay inland for the next leg, and also visit some must-see spots. 

We've read for years about Florida's problem with wrecked or abandoned boats, and it is amazing to see it firsthand. While we've seen the occasional derelict boat up north, the problem is definitely widespread in some areas of Florida, sometimes making navigation difficult and dangerous. It's in stark contrast to the lavish ocean and riverfront homes we've also seen pop up. 

A sunken sailboat just outside the channel marker as we navigated a bridge opening

After leaving St Augustine, we ran 47 nm to Daytona for a quick overnight stop. Along the way, we were lucky enough to catch the rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. While we wished we were a bit closer, it was still cool that we were able to see the rocket and flames with the naked eye. 

That squiggly line is a rocket launching from Cape Canaveral; while this iPhone photo is poor,
we were able to see the rocket and flames with a naked eye

We've continued the trek south from there - to Cocoa, Melbourne, and our current location in Vero Beach, Florida, where we are once again waiting out some weather. We've spotted a lot of dolphins during these mostly uneventful trips, but sadly no manatees, which are frequently spotted this time of year along our route. 

Thankfully, we've had sunshine and warm temperatures in the 70s the past few days (we ditched the jackets and even put on shorts) so a little cool weather and rain won't spoil the fun!

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