Monday 9 Dec, St. Augustine FL, day 3: A beautiful day for a GoCycle tour.
Bright sunny day and so warm. Feels like spring is coming. When Glen goes out for the usual inspection of the deck, he finds that Cloudy has been bombarded with seagull poop. And no discreet one, but large quantities of it all over the front deck and the spray top. Actually, there is so much of it and of a consistency that could actually be vomit! Was it a seagull or a drunken British teenager flying over head? Whatever, it’s horrible and must be washed off before it stains. With the deck flush pump on, it soon all cleaned off and down the scuppers.
After breakfast Glen is keen to start connecting the receivers and wiring loom for the furling remote controls. The storage boxes under the mid-cabin berth are all taken out and after a bit of fiddling he has it all lined up where it has to go.
Then an email from EmpirBus diverts him to the nav-station electronics. The switch membrane which has all the important sail controls (hydraulics, winches etc) kept turning off on its own. They recommend to install a new membrane, which we do have 2 spares of. A relatively simple job, the new one is soon in and programmed. The good thing about issues with gear is that it compels Glen to learn and understand things. This EmpirBus was a mystery till recently, because it rarely went wrong. But now Glen is quite competent at investigating it via the laptop to see what’s going on, updating firmware, uploading new configurations etc. The EmpirBus remote soft-fuse and switching system controls every single 12 & 24volt output we have on the boat. So a good understanding of it is pretty important. We know other HR owners who have simply ripped it out and completely rewired the whole boat, converting it back to a standard breaker-switch system.
Once Glen has finished his faffing we decide to take the bikes out since it’s such a lovely day. Last time we used them was in Bermuda, one year ago! Surprisingly, the batteries are still fully charged. Unsurprisingly, the tires are flat. Few pumps later, all is ready to go and we load them in the dinghy.
We start our excursion over the Bridge of Lions towards the beach avenue. Once off the bridge we head for the back roads for a more scenic route. And we find ourselves on very quiet roads with lots of neat and tidy small houses.
At the St. Augustine lighthouse, painted like a Christmas candy stick, we stop for a while but don’t go in. It probably is interesting to visit, but we’ve seen quite a fill of light houses, thanks 🙂
So we cycle on and few minutes later find ourselves at the gates of Anastasia National Park, where we pay a small entrance fee and then pedal the one mile to the dunes and the beach. It seems that this national park is very well organized to accommodate camper-vans, but this time of year the parking lots are rather empty. Maybe the scene is completely different on a weekend day.
As we lock the bikes we spot a small shop advertising hot dogs, and we can’t resist the temptation. After we sample some we head off to the nearby boardwalk. There are several of them in fact, maybe every hundred meters. The first one we take is quite short and ends to a small observation deck which is not high enough to give us a good view of the surroundings. So we venture to the next boardwalk which is much longer, quite impressive in fact. This one ends on top of the dunes and we have a great view over the beach to seaward and to the marshy wilderness behind.
The surf is rolling in and surprisingly, there are people sunbathing on the beach and even swimming. 18degC ocean temperature doesn’t seem to put them off. “Well, that’s warmer than the British seas even in the height of summer!” Glen states. We take in the view and comment on how we look forward to some beach days ourselves, and after we click few pictures we are ready to move on.
Out of Anastasia Park we cycle southwards on yet more quiet roads. These ones are bordered by large shady trees which are absolutely full of Spanish moss (or Spanish beards as Glen calls it). Here and there are some nice properties with lush gardens.
Then out on the main road it’s a different story. Busy traffic, the usual outlets selling beach wear and fast food on both side of the road.
Soon we come across the Fishing Pier and decide to go have a look ourselves. As we buy our entry tickets we also buy our first ice creams this season. Yes, it is that hot!
Lots more people on the beach here, and the pier itself is the classic seaside tourist and fishing pier. The surf creates lots of spray and the beach is lined with a mist which we can see all the way to the horizon. Several surfers also out in the water, all wearing long wetsuits, waiting on their surf boards for the perfect wave.
A fair number of fishermen are lining both sides of the pier, all geared up and hoping for a catch. We observe some of them skillfully “launching” their rods, and some who are filleting their catch on specially installed fish-gutting tables.
We continue cycle southwards down the beach road but then realise it’s passed 3pm already and decide to head back to town. We chose yet more back roads which are just as shady and scenic. And we notice lots of houses have huge mosquito nets on elaborate framing over their outside terraces, almost like having aviaries attached to the backs of the houses. Clearly mosquitoes are a problem here.
Back in St. Augustine we feel pleasantly tired after our exercise and decide to retire to Cloudy Bay for a cup of tea before making a plan for the rest of the afternoon. Tea turns into dinner, just as the sun sets producing a red sky over the town which gradually switches over to the beautiful Christmas decorations. Absolutely stunning. And that decides it, for the evening we head to town to walk the historical center and admire all these lights from up-close.
The waterfront street (funny how we still don’t know the name of this street) is the most heavily decorated one. Actually, the entire waterfront of St. Augustine is a bright glitter of white light. And the Hilton Hotel stands out by far, not a square inch left without twinkling lights. We walk the street up and down, taking it all in and gradually feeling festive ourselves. Especially after several trolley tours passed us with loud Christmas songs playing in their speakers and the passengers shouting “Happy Christmas” to anyone passing.
The park in front of the Governor’s House is also beautifully lit up, all trees sparkling white. It’s a Monday evening but there are still lots of people about, enjoying just as we are.
We then have a look at the Flagler buildings and stroll through what we call “the shops streets”. Nice walk, but these streets are just normal compared to the waterfront.
Since the Tini Martini Bar caught our eye (again) earlier, we return to the waterfront street to have a drink. Not a martini, since we are not a James Bond who appreciates a good Martini. But we settle for a couple of our “usual” cocktails instead. The venue is absolutely packed and it has a nice atmosphere. Sitting on the terrace at 9pm on a December evening, wearing short sleeves and sipping a nice drink, now this really feels like vacation time. And we feel like tourists once again.
Our waiter seems to be either smoked or inebriated, but then who are we to judge him? 🙂 Everybody wants to have a good time.
Although it is very tempting to order another cocktail, by 10.30pm we head back to Cloudy Bay. As we walk towards the docks, the town seems to have become deserted. Quite a difference from three hours ago. The water is mirror like now. Our little new dinghy takes us home gliding effortlessly, and Glen comments once again how much he loves it. As for me, I will declare my verdict in the Caribbean, after it transports me dry (or not) in those winds and waves.
The swim platform comes down from first button press on the remote control, which means hydraulics have worked perfectly since morning when Glen installed the new membrane (yesterday hydraulics switched off twice). We will test it a couple more days before we get too excited that the issue is solved. Over the last couple of days we left the swim platform down, worrying it might not come down when we return to Cloudy Bay.
Onboard we find 22degC, lovely. We seal ourselves in, switch on a music radio and have a relaxed rest of the evening. Well, sort of. Glen continues to play with the EmpireBus software and membranes, realizing now that he has replaced one, he has no spare membrane (he was convinced we have one more spare). Hm, that’s why one should have an up to date inventory list…