According to the St. Augustine city website, “Historians credit Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of the Island of Puerto Rico, with the discovery of Florida in 1513. [Although the native Timucua knew it was here long before that!] While on an exploratory trip in search of the fabled Bimini he sighted the eastern coast of Florida on Easter Sunday … and claimed Florida for the Spanish Crown, naming it Florida after Pascua Florida”, Spain's "Feast of the Flowers" Easter celebration.
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. About 42 years before the English colonized Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established St. Augustine … and here we are! All that's left of the original buildings is the fort, Castillo de San Marcos, completed in the late 17th century. Dubbed as the Ancient City, it's hard not to fall in love with St. Augustine as soon as you sail past the historic fort and pass through the beautiful Bridge of Lions.
As usual, the first day or two, we didn't wander too far from Cups as we recuperated from our passage, tidied up, caught up and began repairs. We managed a bus trip to the local Winn Dixie supermarket, found the West Marine and bought some boat supplies. There's lots to do here and I'm compiling the “play list” as David works up the “to-do list” … with negotiations to follow. The plan is to stay about a week, then weather depending, we'll head north to the Chesapeake.
We've visited St. Augustine before … 2001 … but lots has changed since then. Instead of anchoring, we now have a mooring in the Matanzas River, just inside the Bridge of Lions. We have access to all the amenities offered by the St. Augustine Municipal City Marina including a convenient dinghy dock, beautiful showers (with hot and cold water), laundry, propane exchange, ice (!!), free pump-out at the mooring, free wifi and even a pleasant cruiser's lounge. Best of all, we're right downtown in the heart of this beautiful little city. We're talking cruiser's heaven!
One of our first important discoveries was J.P. Henley's across the street from the marina. It's a small, friendly, neighborhood pub that offers 70 (cold) beers on tap, moderately priced meals, a happy hour and a chance to watch a little baseball … all part of the passage recuperation process. Needless to say, we've visited several times though we've barely made a dent in the extensive beer offerings.
There's a Cruiser's Net on the VHF every morning at 0800 which provides lots of info about happenings in the St. Augustine area. Since we're right in the downtown, most everything is accessible on foot or via the bright yellow buses of the Sunshine Bus Company.
It's sometimes hard to believe we're back in the USA. For the past nine years, whenever we've been aboard Cups, we've been in a foreign country or at sea. We see something in the grocery store and have the urge to scoff it up because it might not be there the next time we shop. When we ask if a shop accepts credit cards, they look at us as if we're from a different planet. Not thinking, I commented the other day that it was odd to see so many American flags on the moored boats. DUH! We're in America.
Stay tuned. We've got lots of exploring to do in the Ancient City and, of course, we plan to take you along with us.