Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Our Cruise from New Smyrna Beach to St Augustine

Hello all-
Yesterday was an exciting day for everybody, ringing in a new year and completing our Great Loop. Hopefully it isn't bad luck to start a new year by looking back, but we have some great photos & stories from the last few days cruising.

Over the Christmas holidays, some boat work was accomplished. The Winnie W.'s engine was due for an oil change, so for good measure Doug also changed the transmission fluid. You can see the engine room is fairly roomy & well-lit but it's still a chore... for one thing, the engine is a big marine diesel that holds 14 qts (14 liters) of oil, and it's at the lowest point of the boat... no easy drain plug!

Starting from New Smyrna Beach, we cruised north past Ponce Inlet and entered the Halifax River. This is another slow-flowing marshy river, more of a sound or estuary bounded by a narrow sandy barrier island, not as big as the Indian River. But the area is well known by the name of the city, Daytona Beach.

The ICW channel is fairly easy to follow, although the tidal current shifts sandbars regularly. This marker is distinguished as being for the ICW channel by the reflective yellow square on the placard; red markers have a yellow triangle. It also has a metal radar reflector atop the post. These markers have a number sequence beginning at the next sea channel, going northward.

Ponce Inlet has a picturesque brick lighthouse, built in 1887 when the inlet was called Mosquito Inlet (it's at the north end of Mosquito Lagoon) and used by commercial shipping. Nowadays it is important for sport fishing from the New Smyrna Beach and Daytona areas.

We anchored in the Halifax River, basically surrounded by downtown Daytona Beach. It was quieter & nicer than one might think. Although there are a number of new high-rise bridges, there are still a number of lower bridges that open for boats on the waterway. The bridge keepers proved to be friendly and helpful with navigation & anchoring advice... it's possible that they liked the Winnie W. because we can lower our antennas & mast and don't need them to open their bridges for us.

Daytona spent some extra money to make their high-rise bridges prettier. We appreciated it and Kathie managed to get some photos. Here you can see the bridge piers, decorated with mosaics of colored tile encircling the lower part of the pillars.

Here is a close-up of the mosiacs (they are all alike). They show a porpoise and a manatee.

We appreciated the bridges and we appreciated the waterfront parks, too. We've had a long-running series of photos of Hank in his "sports car," the rowing dinghy that Doug designed and built. The spot that we anchored at Daytona was right in front of a very nice waterfront park which Hank enjoyed. (link to GoogleMap)

One of Kathie's artsier shots, partly due to the soft light of dusk. Looks like the boat is speeding along as Doug rows.

Next we found ourselves on the Matanzas River, which connects its inlet with Saint Augustine. It's unusual in that it is relatively deep and was navigable in historic times.

St. Augustine is the oldest town in the U.S., founded in 1565 (link to old map). As a port, it was somewhat unique because it could be reached by either of two inlets. In olden days, the lure of Spanish treasure from their mines in Central & South America brought pirates & privateers to the Florida coast (link to SA history). The Spanish soldiers at St. Augustine fought the French and the English both, and the city was sacked by Sir Francis Drake (whom the Spanish considered a pirate) and by real pirates. Both inlets were eventually protected by forts.

Here are two photos of Fort Matanzas , by which we anchored (link to Googlemap) and visited. Above you can see the sentry box at left, the cannons aimed over the wall, and the building which housed the soldiers & the magazine. One of the items on display is an old chart of the inlet & river. In the lower photo, you can see the cannoneer's view and imagine approaching enemy ships. The inlet is bridged by Highway A1A but in olden times it was wide & deep, with the main channel somewhat north of the modern inlet.
(link to Fort Matanzas history)

From this anchorage, we headed north along the winding Matanzas River to the town of Saint Augustine.

hurricane damage? carelessness? a sunken boat along the San Sebastian River

Yesterday in Saint Augustine we officially closed the Great Loop, since we bought & christened the Winnie W. here in 2002, and then cruised from here to our home in North Carolina. We have both sentimental & practical reasons for stopping here. It's a great cruising port, with good shelter (weather forecasts are grim), nearby stores, and interesting sights to see.

Among the first sights we saw in St. Augustine.

We're not serious birdwatchers, for example neither of us could tell you the difference between a Heron and an Egret. However we love to spot & observe wildlife & nature; Kathie has gotten pretty good at snapping quick photos.

So now we are restocking (bought a new camera; the old was dropped one too many times!) and waiting for a cold nor'easter to blow itself out. We're also meeting interesting people including fellow cruisers. It turns out to be a small world; the couple on the boat behind us at the dock are from a town very close to us in NC.

Best wishes to you all- Doug & Kathie

No comments: