Friday, January 15, 2010

From Brunswick to St. Augustine

I've said this before: I love sailing at night, especially when there's no moon and it's clear. My friend Lee and I left Brunswick, GA January 12, 2010 around 6:00pm for an overnight trip to St. Augustine. We were in company of another boat, Overdraught with Heather and Stewart aboard. They're heading to Ft. Lauderdale but we'll meet up in the Keys.

The night was calm and beautifully clear. Also, very cold, dropping to 31F. Fortunately, Lee and I were dressed in so many layers that we looked like multi-colored Michelin men, so we stayed warm.

Around 8 pm, I made dinner of pork chops cooked in chopped tomato and chili peppers with cilantro and lime juice (sounds complicated, huh? Nope, opened a can of Ro-Tel. Wonderful!) I also made Cuban black beans and rice. Right out of a package. Still, the whole meal with Mexican cheese mix sprinkled on was delicious! Coffee and Milano cookies rounded up the meal. Not bad for underway, huh?

Lee just wanted experience with night time sailing. Too bad there wasn't enough wind to sail, but there was enough to motor-sail. So that's what we did. And other than arriving in St. Augustine, FL cold and tired, it was an uneventful trip.

Unfortunately, we arrived in St. Augustine too late for an early bridge opening and way to early for the first one during rush hour so we had to circle for 45 minutes until the 9:30 opening. Once through, however, we tied up at the St. Augustine City Marina and set the boat to right and waited for Lee's wife Karen to arrive so we could have breakfast - which we did in the Athena Restaurant right downtown. Honestly, it was just ok. But we were hungry and that's all that mattered!

We took a quick trip to Sailor's Exchange, a legendary boating consignment shop. There's tons of stuff there and I'm sure I could find a use for most of it, but hey, I'm cruisin' here. Projects enough when I get back, I'm sure.

Ok, well, after Sailor's Exchange, I went back to Pelican, tidied up a bit, caught up on email, and took a nap - it was about 2 pm, anyway. Got up, fooled around a bit, made dinner, went to bed and was dead to the world until 6:30 Thursday morning.

Thursday was a big day! A old, dear friend of mine lives about 15 minutes away from St. Augustine and one of my dock mates from Stamford who is a pilot had to fly to St. Augustine for business. So there was a lot to do!

After breakfast, I got a call from Brian that he'd arrived and went to meet him to walk around town for the morning. As I've written, I detest cute. Towns that are all made up to look old-timey make me uncomfortable. However, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States - it's been Spanish, British, Spanish again, United States, Confederate and finally the United States again.

When you stroll through the old town, it really is old - buildings built with cochina are hundreds of years old. The oldest schoolhouse is there. The shops are mostly all local crafts persons and the restaurants fit right in. It's a very pretty town because it really is what it purports to be. No cutesie, just old buildings that have been cared for.

As you walk along the main shopping street, you'll come across little nooks and crannies that have surprising things - a waterwheel, an artist's enclave of sorts. Restaurants are everywhere - from little hamburger joints to really fancy schmancy places.

St. Augustine is one of those cities that are eminently walkable - St. George street where most of the stores are is closed to traffic. The lights on other streets are timed to make it easier to walk around. And the city is not that big - you could see it easily in a day, although you'd probably want to take more - especially if you're going to explore the fort and the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.

St. Augustine is also the home of Flagler College. The main building was, at one time, a luxury hotel with amazing carvings and Tiffany windows. It's a beautiful place and apparently very reasonable. One of Brian's copilots has a son there. You could wander the grounds all day.

Brian and his crew had lunch at a little Mexican luncheonette that smelled so good I was thinking of having two lunches! But I sat and had a tea with them - and then left when my friend, Jaime, called to let me know she was there. We ended up having a very nice lunch at a place called Harry's - southern cooking, and very good. Moderately priced. You can get to it from A1A - the main road that runs along the waterfront.

All the food sounded delicious, but I had their signature pork chops. Mmmmm. It was very nice seeing Jaime again. It's nice to catch up with people on a trip like this.

As an aside, at the corner of King Street where it meets A1A and the Stone Lion Bridge is a microbrewery. The food is a notch above bar food and it's really, really good. So's the beer. Worth going to if your in St. Augustine. But I digress.

So in the afternoon, I explored the fort (sadly, sans camera) and met up with Brian for dinner around 4 pm. We wandered around town and finally decided to visit a tapas and piano bar, Sangrias, on the corner of St. George and Hypolita streets. It's upstairs and has a lovely balcony that you can sit at - if the evening was just a little warmer we'd have stayed out there.

Inside, Amy Hendrickson and Corey Peterson were playing - Corey with a sax, Amy on guitar. It's an unusual combination but they sounded great. They also belong to a group called Prime Directive playing all over Florida and Georgia.

Brian and I were only going to stay a while and then find a place for dinner - but as it got later we decided to sample Sangria's wares. Wow! Delicious - the tapas plates were enough to share and very tasty - the presentation was pretty, too. So what could be better than drinking nice wine, listening to excellent music and eating good food? Nothing, I submit.

Around 10 pm, we left and got back to Pelican for some port. Discussion of many things followed and Brian left around 11:30. He had to get up early to fly back north and I had to get up early to catch the tide to Daytona.

And so, I hope to see you on the water!

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