Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition*, or WordPress sucks for footnotes

Lots of stuff to see in St. Augustine, which probably explains the swarms of grammar school kids on field trips.  Arguably the top attraction is the Castillo de San Marcos.  No doubt this is the most fort-like of the forts we’ve seen.  Nobody using obsolete weaponry is gonna take down this place.  Not even “so-called Arthur King” and all his “silly English kniggits.”

The Castillo has been around in some form since 1672, which makes it really old.  And really popular with the tourists.

About that.  We’ve been on the boat for over a year now and have noticed a common theme.  Every time we try to tour a touristy spot, herds of annoying tourists get in the way.  They move way too slowly.  While in line ahead of us they can’t bother making the decisions they know full-well they’ll have to disclose when they finally reach the window.  Their kids are back-talking booger-eating menaces.  Often they even have the temerity to stop right in front of us to take pictures at the exact spot where we want to stop in front of people to take pictures.  That’s just plain rude.

img_7464But hey, the cannon works!  And the penis-shaped towers might scare away any overly-prudish attackers.  (Somewhere in here is a Trojan horse joke waiting to be developed.)

If Jody Marcil Interior Design or any of the other businesses on the far side of the Matanzas River ever line up trebuchets and begin a siege, the National Park Service guys will be ready, although we’d suggest that breathable clothing and ball caps might make the cannoneers more comfortable in battle.

St. Augie claims to be the oldest city in the country, dating itself back to 1585.  Apparently the Spaniards just pulled in and set up shop without any resistance from the weenie Floridians.**  That’s over 400 years of opportunity to build old Spanish buildings and to think up ways to separate visitors from their cash.  The former are really cool.  The latter are less impressive.

For example, there’s a gravestone tour.

Okay, we’ll concede that old graveyards generally are interesting.  But Cochise County has Tombstone and the original Boot Hill Cemetery.***  Advantage Arizona.

img_7457There’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not “museum.”

Gatlinburg has one of those as well, but also has Smoky Mountain salt-water taffy made fresh in the store on Highway 441.  Yum.  Advantage Tennessee.

Doug figured the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche was some sort of breastfeeding gimmick, but upon further inspection it turned out to be a pretty solemn and sincere tribute to Mother Mary.  Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Upon even further further inspection, however, it turned out to be just another commercial enterprise.

 

The gift shop was full of religious trinkets for sale.  Doug would’ve purchased some Indulgences—just to have around for an emergency of course—but unfortunately they seemed to be out.

 

Speaking of religion, saints are a big deal around here.  Heck, in our little blog alone we’ve covered a few.  There’s St. Augustine, of course, but also St. George, St. Mark (San Marcos), and St. Sebastian (San Sebastián).  However, Mallory and Shannon attended All Saints Episcopal Day School.  By definition, “all saints” encompasses the entire universe of ‘em.  Advantage Belknaps.

img_7449Although Pedro Menendez**** founded St. Augustine, as we’ve previously noted Ponce de Leon gets credit for finding and naming Florida.  The myth is that he was searching for a “fountain of youth” but failed to find it.  We know that’s a myth, because the fountain is right here in town, just past Ace Hardware and across from the defunct Subway.  The sign is huge and has an arrow pointing the way.  Anyone who missed it hardly could claim to be an “explorer.”

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We’ve also previously addressed Florida’s infatuation with all things Flagler.  Well Henry Flagler himself recognized the true father of Florida when he built St. Augustine’s grand Ponce de Leon Hotel.

“The Ponce”—as the patrons called it—was a beautiful hotel.  The ornate edifice indeed was a fitting tribute to “The Ponce”—as de Leon’s more hip friends may have called him.  But of course, being Florida, they turned it into Flagler College.*****  Big surprise there.

Taken with NightCapAnyway, lots of cool things around every St. Augustine corner.  Here’s one more.  After living out West for thirty years, we thought the Old Spanish Trail was a trade route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles.  It was, but this is a different one.  Apparently at about the time Henry Ford was cranking out Model Ts someone decided to hack out an automobile route from St. Augustine to San Diego.  In 1920 there couldn’t have been much traffic to support necessary infrastructure.  Like gas stations and McDonald’s restrooms.******

Now about our marina.  Rivers Edge looks to have been built at about the same time as the fort.

The docks are really nice, however, and the grounds are relatively clean.  Paul the Dockmaster is quite responsive and attentive. Hurricane Patty’s is just across the parking lot.  All in all it’s a quite comfortable place to stop.  Plus a manatee came right up within a few feet of where we sat on the dock, and performed about as much  s a 1,000-pound aquatic slug can perform.

That’s real-time, people, not slow motion.  These are about the goofiest-looking animals we’ve seen, although we’ve not yet encountered a platypus.  Except on TV.*******

Yesterday?  Cold and rainy.

 

Today?  Cold and rainy.

Tomorrow?  Off to Jacksonville.  Unless it’s cold and rainy.

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* “Our chief weapon is surprise.”

** Compare that history with the history of other Spanish forts, like say, The Alamo.  Travis and Crockett and the rest at least mounted the best defense possible before succumbing, and then Houston quickly trounced the Mexican invaders at San Jacinto.  Advantage Texas.

*** “Here lies Lester Moore.  Four slugs from a .44.  No Les, No more.”

**** Pedro likely had no connection to Lyle and Erik, but we don’t know for certain.

***** The Del is still The Del.  Advantage California.

****** The route covered 2,750 miles.  That’s a really long way to push a car while needing to pee.

******* “Curse you Perry the Platypus.”

Ho hum – until tomorrow

Sometimes on the Loop we have not-so-exciting days.  Still interesting—and still waaay better than working for The Man—but not necessarily blog-worthy.  That sort of was today.

At least the sun came up.  After the last couple of days we were getting worried.

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The first bridge we passed was the Bridge of Lions.  Supposedly it’s one of the prettiest ones in Florida.  At a minimum it has the best name.  So that’s something.

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We passed by the Castillo de San Marcos well within cannon range.  Fortunately there was no live shelling in our direction.

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We did come close to seeing some awesome stuff though.  For example, just through the trees and houses and less than a mile away was arguably the most iconic hole in golf.

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We’re the blue dot.  Inside the red circle is the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, aka “The Island Green.”  Rumor has it that they fish out a thousand golf balls a day.  Pete Dye’s wife supposedly designed the hole.  She died just a few weeks ago.  RIP.

Also, just off the coast on the other side of Sawgrass the USS Lassen—an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer out of Mayport—was running exercises.  We couldn’t see it, of course, but could hear it.  The captain kept announcing the drills and warning all boats to “stay at least five miles from my vessel.”  Dude must feel pretty powerful to be in charge of a destroyer, although in theory it belongs to all of us.  Anyway, we were well within guided missile range.  Fortunately there was no live shelling in our direction.

What should’ve been a four-hour trip to Palm Cove Marina took five hours, all because of a ten-mile no-wake zone.   It looked about like this the entire two hours we spent at five knots.

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The highlight of the day was running into It’s Someday.

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We technically passed Steve rather than actually run into him, of course, but hopefully we’ll meet up in Brunswick this weekend.  We first met on a rainy day in Schenectady, back when his boat still had the previous name on it.  Nine months later Steve has added the current boat name on a small hand-made sign.  We call that progress.

Here are a couple of pelicans sunning themselves on a bridge fender.

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img_7481Palm Cove isn’t really set up for fat boats so they stuck us off to the side, which is fine with us.

Robin (The Lower Place) texted us to describe the hazards we’ll face tomorrow at Sisters Creek.  One of us read between the lines and concluded that someplace between green 77 and red 66 we’re certain to run aground “unless you [meaning Doug] are on your A game.”  We haven’t even had dinner yet and already someone on the boat is pointing fingers.  That’s a dangerous game to play when we may need to jettison ballast.

The First Coast is The Last Coast

img_7493Gorgeous morning for a cruise up to Amelia Island.  The only threatening clouds were the figurative ones hanging over our heads as we headed towards skinny water on Sisters Creek.  To anyone hoping to read about us running aground and hoping to see pictures of Doug hanging his head in shame while Towboat US pulls us to safety, however, too damn bad.  None of that happened, thanks to expert boat handling, high tide, and aggressive dredging in the last 24-hours.  Maybe not in that order, but still.

We reached the St. Johns River just fine pretty shortly after leaving.  Dana read in the Waterway Guide that the Atlantic Bridge was dangerous and narrow with a strong side current, which had us a tad worried until we realized that we’d already gone through it.  (Going through was just bad enough for us to notify Late Harvest—traveling behind us—to be prepared, but not bad enough to cause serious alarm.  We didn’t even take a picture.)  In the St. Johns we encountered tows and barges for the first time in a while.  They felt like old friends.  Almost.

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Across the river we turned north up Sisters Creek.  Pretty different and quiet as compared to the ICW we’ve traversed so far.

That’s not to suggest it all was painless.  One of our go-to navigation apps is Navionics.  Generally Navionics is a helpful iPad supplement to our array of Garmin instruments on the bridge.  Sometimes, however, we have to wonder whether the dude responsible for the hazard warnings is just trying to be funny at our expense.

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Confusing Area?  Mostly it’s confusing only because of the ambiguous description.  Someone probably had a good laugh with his or her buddies about sticking random worthless warnings on the chart.  Anyway, we passed through the “confusing area” as well as the shallow section before red 66 with a level of worry that with hindsight proved unwarranted.

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When we reached the point of most concern, the dredge busily was clearing the intruding shoal, allowing us to pass incident-free.  Nothing to see here.

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Dana found time to photograph an absurdly-long walkway to a private dock and an eagle.

A hard turn at the teeny sign put us into the marina channel.  Again they stuck Misty Pearl off on a wall by ourselves, over in the ship yard.

The marina folks assure us that the gate won’t be locked tonight so that we can get Oscar and Benny off to walk.  Hopefully they’re right.  Boys gotta do their business.

Thanks to the early high tide, we left Jacksonville in time to hit up lunch after we docked for the day.  Thanks to the marina courtesy car, we tooled over to Fernandina Beach.  After lunch we checked it out.

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They call this the First Coast, presumably because it’s where Ponce de Leon landed, although there’s probably some way Florida gives Flagler the credit.  Unless something bad happens, however, this’ll be our last photo of a Florida beach.  Because this’ll be our last night in Florida.  We’ll probably celebrate by watching some Survivor and some Justified.  Too many mosquitos around for us to sit outside.

Bye, bye, Florida, it’s been real

The Florida portion of our Loop has been the longest.  By far.  Nearly five months and more than 1,060 nautical miles.  More time and distance in Florida than in Canada.  Our first stop was in Pensacola on November 11.  Yesterday at 9 a.m. we crossed the St. Mary’s River into Georgia.  The Carolinas are the only new states left.

img_7498Yesterday started off, however, as a crappy day to travel.  Rain kept us in the pilothouse as we worked through the exit channel.

From there, not much of interest left in Florida.  Fortunately the day brightened both in terms of weather and in terms of cool stuff.

First up, the U.S. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.  The Waterway Guide says to watch out for subs, which makes sense when the ICW is the only path to the ocean from Kings Bay.  We didn’t see any, but then maybe that’s the point of subs in the first place.  We did see a RIB with a bow-mounted machine gun, however, which lessened even Doug’s desire to poke around.

Off to the right we cruised along the inside of the Cumberland National Seashore.

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Hey, that’s our second National Seashore at least.   And heck, until this trip we never knew they existed.

The rest of the cruise mostly was all about boats (and the shallow water of Jekyll Creek.)  There were boats in an anchorage that seemingly would appeal only to those interested in a horrible lung disease, and an abandoned cruise ship carcass, and a cargo ship in a place that looked way too small for a cargo ship.

There also was a, well, we weren’t sure what it was.

The boat name is John Paul DeJoria.  John Paul DeJoria is the billionaire founder of Paul Mitchell hair products, which under other circumstances Doug might use.  Apparently this is a former Island-class Coast Guard patrol boat now owned by an outfit that fights illegal fishing with support from old John Paul.  It’d be a bit more menacing to the poachers if it had more guns and fewer “Peace Love Happiness” signs, perhaps, but it’s still pretty cool.

Then there was the barquentine Peacemaker.   More on her later.

7CEDB58A-5D1A-407E-A336-2E19B940975EIt wasn’t all subs and boats though.  We were reminded that (1) you don’t navigate directly to lighthouses and (2) channel markers don’t always mark the edge of a channel.

We passed under our second string-art bridge.

This time fortunately we weren’t stuck in mud after we got by it.

303770A5-B06A-4503-9A19-109758A6AB15The scary part of the trip was Jekyll Creek, which at low tide has way less water than Misty Pearl needs to keep afloat.  We hit it someplace between high and low tide, but we still were too focused to take pictures.  Adding to the confusion were mixed messages from our usually-trusty resources.  One said to favor the green markers.  The other said to favor the red markers.  This would’ve been a good point for Navionics to put one of those “confusing area” warnings.  We did, however, get some pictures of the water park moments before the puckering

Now here’s the really interesting stuff.  Some dude calling himself “Yoneq” collected some followers in Chattanooga and started Twelve Tribes, which either is a cult or isn’t a cult, depending on whether the person you’re asking is a member of the cult.  But they have a quirky restaurant that used to be out on Brainerd Road then was gone for awhile and then opened again downtown next to UTC.  Good sandwiches to be had at the Yellow Deli.

Why is that interesting?  Because we bumbled into a Yellow Deli in Brunswick after tying up at Brunswick Landing.

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The folks were quite friendly and seemed impressed that we’ve patronized the mothership in Chattanooga, and that Doug even used to go to the original joint.  One of them invited us to the Friday-evening “celebration,” which she assured us was just singing and dancing.  Although the woman was both sincere and non-pushy, we know that singing and dancing leads to fornication so we politely declined.

Today we jammed in some great pickleball with Bruce and Bev (SeaQuest) and Charlie before the rain set in.

Oh yeah.  The wild thing about Peacemaker?  The Twelve Tribes owns her.  If Twelve Tribes is a cult, it’s at least a cool enough cult to have a boat.*  Suck it Warren Jeffs.

Cards with The Lower Place tonight in the thunderstorm.  We’ll be here until Monday.

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* Although the Scientologists own a bunch of boats and there’s nothing at all cool about them.

We thought The Mosquito Coast was in Central America

Brunswick brought more mosquitos and noseeums than everywhere else we’ve been combined.  We thought the worst thing about Georgia was the continuous line of football dirtbaggery from cheating Kirby Smart to druggie Hershel Walker to that time Wally Butts conspired with Bear Bryant to fix a game.  It’s possible, however, that the bugs are worse.   Brunswick the town at least was pretty cool though.

Yesterday we awoke to fog.

Not a big deal because we didn’t plan to travel, but concerning because it might come back the next day.  Anyway, the sun came out so after pickleball we hit up the marina Oysterfest and hiked through the shady park.

Brunswick’s most famous landmark is Lover’s Oak.

This beast is famous because it prexisted America.  Supposedly it’s some 250-years old.  We couldn’t verify the claim, of course, but it looks pretty old.

img_7518On the way home we passed a pot that may or may not have been used for the first Brunswick Stew, a somewhat ambiguous soup found throughout the South.  We couldn’t verify the claim, of course, but the pot looks pretty old.

We capped off the day with The Lower Place, SeaQuest, and No Snow.  Charlie couldn’t bring himself to pay a dollar for each of the chicken wings he wanted but made up for it with a huge cookie and ice cream.

Today, no fog.  Dana’s tide and current calculation said we should get to Little Mud River at 11.  So we left at dawn.  Most of the day was cruising on snakey rivers through flat marshes.

FB1402CC-9749-4698-ABA3-E90D74592544At one point we passed close to Glynco, which basically is noteworthy only because it’s the home of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which is where Raylan and Art were shooting instructors together before Raylan shot the Miami drug dealer and was reunited with Art in Kentucky.  Sometimes there are boats along the ICW on training exercises.  Sadly we saw the same number of cool military-type boats today as the number of submarines we saw on the way to Brunswick.  However, a big cargo plane buzzed us way closer than was necessary.

We reached Little Mud River shortly before high tide, which was good because at low tide we’d be three-feet short of the five feet we need to float.  The vultures gather on the channel markers at the entrance awaiting the carcasses of injudicious boaters.

Okay we know that vultures don’t have webbed feet, but maybe these are duck vultures or something.  The point is, we made it through without incident.

EA9EC03B-BEA1-4E28-9E38-FDE5D39AE773We also safely made it past Blackbeard Island, which supposedly still holds treasure buried by the pirate formerly known as Edward Teach.  Now it’s a National Wildlife Refuge, however, so we probably weren’t in much danger of having our gold doubloons hijacked.

A long day traveling led us to the mouth of Kilkenny Creek.  Kilkenny Creek is identified easily by the ridiculous Shell sign on the northern bank at the entrance.

The marina was just around the corner.47B5EC9D-3A8A-4DA8-A97F-32A5FDEF6C53

On the scale of Sunset Harbor in Miami Beach to Logsdon Tug Service in Beardston, Kilkenny Marina is about Bobby’s Fish Camp.  A welcome stop with a serviceable dock for a few boats, but not necessarily a destination.  Fortunately we like quaint.

We also like good meals.  The only nearby restaurant has a reputation for great food.  Unfortunately it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays.  Tomorrow’s Tuesday and we’re not staying until Wednesday.