Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fountain of Youth is fictional

So we're still the same age today as we leave St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is lovely!
But it sure is a beautiful town and we felt like we were in Spain in the "Old Town" area. There's the oldest house, oldest school, oldest church, oldest drug store, etc. to provide the authentic atmosphere.

We decided to stay at the Municipal Marina for a third night since I wanted to visit the Lightner Museum (in the former Alcazar Hotel) and Pete preferred (anything but shopping) to climb up the Lighthouse and see alligators up close and personal. The Alligator FARM (a real zoo) provided this thrill.

Touring Henry Flagner's Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) was one of the highlights of our trip. It opened in 1888 to much fanfare, and it still awes visitors--and the girls who now experience it as the girls' dorm. The dining room has the largest collection of Tiffany stained windows in the WORLD.

The "gilded age" certainly was an opportunity for the rich and famous to spend money. Flagner required hotel guests to book a suite for the entire 3-month holiday period (Jan-March). Women changed their jewelry 6 times each day. The largest indoor pool, spa, bowling, etc. were available across the street at the Alcazar Hotel (also built by Flagler.)

Today, it's the cutesy pedestrian-only St. George Street that entertains most visitors--plus the great restaurants. We left the Grenada look for an hour for lunch in the French Bistro de Leon. It was the first day for the release of Beaujolais Noveau, so ver y appropriate. Then we again boarded the touristy sighseeing trolley-train to check out the rest of St. Augustine.

Gary and Rita join us for dinner
Pete had called one of his old Bristol-Myers buddies and lucky us, their grandkids had just left town. We hadn't seen Gary and Rita for about 14 years, so we had lots of catching up to accomplish over dinner. We'll catch up some more next spring on our way north. Re-connecting with old friends has really been another highlight of this trip. Time and distance are obstacles we can easily overcome.

On our "separate afternoons" yesterday, I walked all over Old Town, found something I liked for Dave's 29th birthday in a gallery (sorry Dave, but this small frog bronze was priced at $450), and toured the super eclectic collection of the Lightner Museum. Mr. Lighner took advantage of the 1929 financial demise of many rich Chicago folks and bought up their "stuff." Then he bought the Alcazar Hotel here in 1947 or so and started moving this humongous collection here. In addition to the crystal, furniture, Churchill's stuffed lion, artwork, stained glass from homes that were being demolished, and all kinds of other collections, there's even a shrunken head.

Shrunken head in Lightner Museum
How many blogs have a photo of this shrunken head?

Luckily I was there at 2 p.m. when one of the docents shows off the collection in the music room. She wowed us by playing the 1904 nickelodean, 1800s German orchestrarian, and a gizmo that included a violin.
Flagler College

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's NOT easy being green. . . on a boat!

We recycle on MicMac (just like at home)--or at least we attempt it. And I'm now on my environmental soapbox.

Plastic drinking water bottles accumulate faster onboard than wine bottles or soda cans. Fluid intake is important. Vineyards and breweries can't supply it all! And I don't completely trust the water in the 70-gallon tank. We buy a local newspaper too whenever we can.

So MicMac's recycling container fills up faster than our garbage can, but we were able to "deposit" the recyclables in ONLY 3 marinas so far.

Green Kudos to the Oriental Marina (even though in a very small NC town), Charleston City Marina Megadock, and Beaufort (NC) Downtown Marina for providing recycling to boaters.

Much to Captain Pete's chagrin, I insisted on stashing the overflowing bags of recyclables that the NON-GREEN marinas (Coinjock, Alligator River, Beaufort (SC), Swansboro,  Southport, Georgetown, Edisto, Thunderbolt, and St. Simons) didn't accept. "Fooey on them," I said, "We can wait until Florida. That state has always been ahead of the recycling curve."

But NO. Fernandino Beach, and now St. Augustine Municipal Marina, do NOT recycle either. We finally had to throw the recyclables into the garbage. Otherwise, wharf rats might have invaded MicMac! Plus I had to move the stuff to take a shower onboard.

I don't understand how the state of Florida can award its "Clean Marina" sticker so generously. Yes, this program does keep lots of gunky stuff away from the dolphins and manatees (we finally saw one today!), but the program sure doesn't address the waste disposal problem for boaters. I do commend Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, however, for increasing the number of pumpout stations in the state from 135 to more than 600 during the past ten years.

Maybe we'll find some more "super-green marinas" farther south. I'll keep my fellow boaters informed. If you share my concern, complain to the marinas you visit.

We just pulled into a slip here in this historic oldest U.S. town after a very relaxing day of motoring. The nuns taught me lots of info about St. Augustine that I've forgotten. After some engine needs are addressed, we have some serious sight-seeing to do. At least two days here in St. Augustine.

Yesterday was NOT relaxing as we motored against a 5-knot current in the narrow span under the Atlantic Beach bridge. Our speed went from 3.5 to 1.7 knots, and we felt like we were almost "standing still" in the water. The dockhand told us that going with the current was even scarier since you lose control of the boat more when you're being flushed through at 8 knots.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Into Florida waters . . . MILE 717!

After two peaceful nights and hike-filled days at the Sea Camp anchorage on the Cumberland River in Georgia, we motored into Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida today. Mile 717! Yeah! Only took us 36 days to get here from Norfolk—with a nice side trip to the Suggs’ Edisto beach house. Too bad that there is NO sign on the ICW to welcome boaters to Florida.

Pete the pirate with his parrot
Here is Captain Pete in his pirate motto shirt, along with our new onboard pet, Jekyll. The mustache is back! Baffi!

We got a slip at Fernandina Beach Marina since our batteries needed "topping off." The new solar panels work nicely but the freezer is making it difficult.

I had never heard of Fernandina Beach before a week ago, but what a memorable little town. It seems that Henry Flagler bypassed Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach when he chose the path for his new Florida East Coast Railway.

Fernandina Beach is a cute town.
So Fernandina is almost frozen in time. Little has changed since 1900. It's the epitome of "old Florida." We walked around town for a few hours trying to see the 450 historic buildings in the 50 blocks that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now it's 5 o'clock somewhere. The Palace Saloon claims to be the oldest bar in Florida. Dinner at Gennaro's was fantastic.

Below is the Lesesne House, one of the oldest homes here. I think we'll prefer this "Old Coast" of Florida to the "Gold Coast" of mega-condos.
Lesesne House in Fernandina Beach

Bigfoot was in Georgia

I never knew that pelicans on Cumberland Island had such big feet!

Last stop in Georgia

Finally, blue skies! It was time to leave St. Simons Island at slack tide on Friday. Melissa at the docks was a great help. Getting through Jekyll Creek's shallow spots was a "piece of cake" thanks to Captain Pete's adept use of our depth sounder. The sailboat in front of us was a good guide too!

We anchored alone on Friday night in Delaroche Creek where I saw three shooting stars after dark--which comes very early these days (around 6 p.m.). I was hoping for a pitch dark night for sky-watching, but the nearby Navy's Kings Bay submarine base is lit up like a Christmas tree.

Delaroche is another marsh creek anchorage where we heard a unique new sound--that of the marsh hens called Clapper Rails. They should be called clacker hens since they make loud and rapid clack-clack-clack calls as they look for dinner as the tide drops. They are skinny little things (although we never saw them) and supposedly the source of the saying "thin as a rail." They go to sleep at dark, so their loud noises soon stopped. Photo is from Google.

Yesterday we saw a sub (they are huge!) coming down the Cumberland River as we turned to go up a side branch to a popular anchorage. Friendly-looking fellows in flak jackets with machine guns were in small Navy patrol boats to "discourage" cruisers from approaching.

Anchored off Cumberland Island, GA
We soon anchored, "splashed the dinghy" for the first time this voyage, and dinghied to the nearby Sea Camp dock where campers can arrive. The only way to get to Cumberland Island is by boat and it's now run by the Park Service as a National Seashore.

We took a 5-mile hike to the ruins of Dungeness, a big mansion built by Thomas Carnegie (Andrew's brother) that burned down in 1945. Mrs. Carnegie requested that her horses always be allowed to remain, so MANY of these wild horses wander the beaches and island. MANY piles of road apples were proof. It was much worse than Duke of Gloucester St. in Williamsburg. We saw some armadillos too. No one knows how they got here.
Dungeness House ruins

The history of Dungeness dates to James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony, who built two forts and a hunting lodge he called Dungeness on the island in 1736. In 1783, Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene (who sounds familiar to Governor's Land folks) acquired nearly 11,000 acres of the island in exchange for a bad debt. After Nathaniel died from sunstroke, his widow built her own Dungeness house in 1803, which burned in the middle of the 1800s. Looks like bad karma for a home in that spot!

We walked along the almost deserted beach for a mile or so, then returned to the dinghy where we bumped into Art and Jeannie. We had talked with Art back on the docks in St. Simons, so of course we were invited to their trawler, Change-O-Pace III, for happy hour. Art is a bronze sculptor who has done some impressive life-size golf scuptures.

Then we noticed Moondance anchored near us, so dinghied over to say "Hey" to Harriet and Skip, whose progress we've tracked on their blog. We last saw them in Beaufort, NC, and they invited us onboard later for a drink. But we really didn't want to drink our way around the anchorage, so we had to decline. If you see a trend here, you're not mistaken. Cruisers do become instant buddies, and we have one major common interest--happy hour!

On the next day, we took another long hike to Greyfield, a very exclusive luxury inn on Cumberland Island. We had hoped to dress nicely and eat lunch there today, but a phone call confirmed that we could merely peer in through the gate. If I was paying $500+ per night, I guess I'd prefer to not see riff-raff boaters in my dining room either. BTW, this hotel was the site of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette's  hush hush wedding reception.