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Watching the Wildlife

animals at dock

Animals abound in the Florida Keys

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St. Augustine

Bridge of Lions

It took a day to get from Cumberland Island to St. Augustine. We arrived about 11 p.m. in rough seas but we made it in safely to find an anchorage just north of this beautiful Bridge of Lions.

We were there for four days and found the city welcoming, beautiful and helpful to sailboaters. The City Marina Mooring Field was reasonable and the facilities were clean (a very good thing!).

We rode our bikes four miles each way to get to Walmart only to find out after we left, heading south on the I.C.W., that there is a great anchorage very near the store a few miles downstream. To find this place you’ll want to look for the public boat ramp south of the 312 bridge. This is about a mile or so south of the Bridge of Lions and from the looks of all the boats there, lots of people know about it. It seems easy enough to get to the big box stores from the boat ramp using public streets.

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The Bridge of Lions has beautifully carved lions guarding the entrances.

I love the detail, look at this paw!

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Here are more pictures of St. Augustine.

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The observation tower on one corner of the old Spanish fort. Walls seem sturdy enough; no wonder this fort is over 500 years old.

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These are either moat walls or good places to hide and shoot behind.

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Old and rugged.

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St. Augustine’s north mooring field sits between the Spanish fort and the Bridge of Lions.

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Time to leave and head on south down the ICW. This picture does not do justice to just how big these pieces of roadway are. It is an awesome sight to see them lifting high to let us pass underneath.

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We’ve set sail to destinations unknown – southbound!

Fort Pierce

Fort Mantanzas

It just so happened that we ended up at Fort Mantanzas at the end of a day of cruising down the ICW after we left St. Augustine. It was a good place and time to stop for the night. As it turned out, the moon was full and the spot, Mantanzas Inlet, ran strong with the current flowing between the ocean and the ICW. But we were unaware of the fascinating history of the Mantanzas Inlet and fort.

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The tide ran strong and swift as it went back and forth in the Mantanzas Inlet

Several other boaters chose the same inlet to spend the night.

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Strong and compact Fort Mantanzas from the water

The fort is a national monument today. There was a slaughter of five hundred or so French Huguenots there (Mantanzas is slaughter in Spanish) by the Spanish. The 1500’s were tough times with rough people, I guess.

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Fort Mantanzas viewed from the west side of the fort.

Another view of the fort. Sturdy construction makes sure this awkward-looking building will stand almost forever.

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Intercoastal Waterway view of Rattlesnake Island

As the left early the next morning to continue our journey south, we reentered the ICW and I grabbed this shot of the island the fort sits on. It is called Rattlesnake Island and it is fitting.

The history for Fort Mantanzas is interesting and it really was not that long ago. Look it up for an good read or maybe check it out in person with a visit to this historic site.

random pictures

Heading South

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Tall ships in the distance in the Cumberland Island anchorage

It was a cold rain we woke up to this morning as we made ready to leave the St. Mary’s River and Cumberland Island for points south. We were surrounded by beautiful tall sailing ships the likes of we had seen only a few times and those were mostly in pictures and movies. But leave we were determined to do so we prepared to set sail.

Before we left we couldn’t help admiring the two very tall sailing ships that were anchored near us. Don’t know who they belonged to or who was on them but they were very impressively large and well equipped. I couldn’t help snapping a few pictures of them.

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Impressive large sailing vessels in the Cumberland Island anchorage

We worked our way out to the ocean, avoiding the rocky jetty that lines the entrance to the St. Mary’s River. This is also the route the subs take going to and leaving the base so we certainly didn’t have to worry about shallow water.

Once out on the ocean, sails set and heading south, we caught sight of this beautiful rainbow.

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A good sign from the Most High God as we begin our journey

We made it all the way to St. Augustine that day arriving just before midnight. We traveled 66 miles averaging 5.4 mph. If you really want to get somewhere fast, you don’t travel on a sailboat. St. Augustine’s entrance is not one I recommend entering when seas are rough and it is dark but we made it fine thanks to the competence of an experienced and capable captain and Providence.

After day one’s adventures on the open sea, we decided I might like to try the Intercoastal Waterway for a few days so after a few days in St. Augustine we headed south on the “inside”.

Cumberland Island: A Treasure from the Past for Today

Sandy Road

Friends visited Cumberland Island in the mid-1990’s and came back with the most wonderful description of this isolated island.

My expectations of Cumberland Island were surpassed and that is an understatement. Riding our bicycles down the main road, underneath the live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, was just the beginning of this adventure. There was much to experience – with all our senses – and to savor.

I didn’t know about Lucy Carnegie before I went and I think if I had I would have understood what I was seeing so much more. She was a woman of wealth and privilege, certainly, but she was also a colorful widow with nine children living a very “large” life here in this place – and having three hundred servants to accomplish it all surely helped!

According to what I’ve read, Lucy didn’t care much for housekeeping – who would with either two or three hundred servants (I’ve heard both numbers but cannot verify the exact number of servants she had)? She preferred to be outdoors to hunt, fish and among other things, sail. She was one of the first women sailors and her boat was called, what else but “Dungeness.”

What remains can only hint at what Dungeness once was

What remains can only hint at what Dungeness once was

She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with lots of entertaining but what I found endearing about Lucy was her, undoubted courage, to live here in this wonderful place, raising her children alone after her husband had unexpectedly died even before the house, Dungeness, was completely finished. Many widows would have not taken the path this woman chose.

Salt marsh on the southside of Cumberland Island

Salt marsh on the south side of Cumberland Island

On the eastern, Atlantic Ocean side of the island is a vast expanse of windswept beach that goes on and on. Rising from this are the dunes and beyond them begin the live oaks that act like a canopy covering almost the entire island. There are camp sites hidden under the trees and around, behind and beyond the palmettos.

As we wound our way down the trail toward the ocean we happened upon a group of three deer who had very little concern with us. A little farther down we came across the infamous horses of the island. The second day we heard a huge gunshot and upon inquiring with a ranger discovered one of the horses had a stillborn birth that would not complete and the horse had to be put down. Sad. But, that’s life. The horses were beautiful.

Not too wild, the horses didn't seem to mind being watched

Not too wild, the horses didn’t seem to mind being watched

After a couple days exploring, we were searching the spoil piles for shark’s teeth when we decided to pop out on the beach. All this beautiful, peaceful nature and suddenly we were on a beach with the most surreal scene in front of us, totally unexpected: There was a submarine surrounded by many boats of every size and description being escorted back out to sea. I knew there was a base there but to actually see one gave me such a sense of pride in our men and women who serve our country that’s hard to describe in words. If you go to Cumberland Island, truly you don’t know just what all you will see!

Atlantic side of the island is a vast expanse of unspoiled beach

Atlantic side of the island is a vast expanse of unspoiled beach