St. Augustine: Boats and Cruisers

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Every Palm Sunday, St. Augustine holds its “Blessing of the Fleet” ceremony.  The bishop was there to bless not only fishing and commercial boats, but pleasure boats.  He stood on the marina office dock directly across from the visiting Spanish vessel, El Galeon Andelucia (above). I was permitted to photograph from the raised office platform and had the best advantage available barring the top deck of El Galeon which had a front view of the bishop and an amazing event overview.

El Galeon Andelucia is a replica of a 17th century Spanish tall ship and the only galleon class vessel sailing today.  It is captained by Rosario Fernandez and has sailed from Spain to China, back to Spain, to the Caribbean and now making its way up the East Coast of North America.

A week later, I met some El Galeon crew members.  Graciously, Edita said I could come make sunset images some time.  One nice evening I went to the vessel’s top deck with her.  It was that same deck I wished I had access to only a week prior.  Now, here I was, at sunset with my camera on the top deck of this magnificent Spanish vessel. Edita is from Puerto Rico and would like to be captain of a cargo ship one day.  She is having a great experience sailing the Galeon.

On any given day, there is plenty of action right on our dock.  The pirate ship, Black Raven, has a slip here.  Each day visitors board for a fun action tour. This is Black Raven during the blessing of the fleet event.  You can see El Galeon, as well as another Spanish replica, the Nao Victoria in the background.  The Victoria was part of a Spanish expedition commanded by Ferdinand Magellan and the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.

Also, Eco Tours leave from the marina with visitors who opt for a sail, motor boat, or kayak eco tour.  I noticed this egret boarding without permission.

While browsing a sailor’s store in hopes of finding a throttle handle for our old engine controls, we met Olha from Toronto.  She was looking for charts for her trip home.  Rob gave her our phone number in case she was unable to find what she needed.  Later that day, she came to the boat so Rob could give her and her husband, Roman, some information on the inlets.  What a great adventure story they told.  Thankfully, they are here to tell it.  Perhaps she will write the story for the magazines.  The super short version:  They went to Cuba, ran up on a reef, called May-Day on the VHF, but received NO RESPONSE from Cuba. Then, Olha used the ham radio to call for help. It was ham radio operators that were finally able to get embassies involved. Olha reports that a very capable and helpful Cuban salvage company was finally able to rent a boat from the Cuban government to free their steel boat from the reef and tow them to safety.  For 35 hours they smashed up and down on that reef with each swell.  Each time the boat came down they wondered if this would be the one that would bust open the seams of their steel boat. Rather terrifying.

The St. Augustine Cruiser’s Net is a helpful network of boaters with local and general cruising knowledge that plan both social and informative events for cruisers.  They broadcast information over the VHF every morning at 9:00.  Jaye invited us to a fun social meet up downtown, and we also attended a presentation by St. Augustine Sea Tow.  They provided information about the changing inlet conditions at St. Augustine for those of us about to go out.

What do we do when we need fresh food aboard?  In St. Augustine, there is the Yellow Bus.  The route includes Publix and in one hour it returns. So, I shopped fast. That’s where we met Darcy and Wally – on the bus.  That evening they came for sundowners and we had such fun getting to know them.  They do great work as volunteers at a children’s home in Black Mountain, North Carolina.