We took our time leaving our New Smyrna Beach anchorage, as we were not in a rush and only going 35 miles that day. The ICW is very pretty there with lots of “nature”, but the channel is still too skinny to sail.
With some following current we motored at around 6 knots towards our next anchorage, a small inlet by an abandoned cement factory. When we got there, we decided that the spot may be too narrow and shallow for us, so we kept going, it was only 3 pm. We passed 2 marinas and still went on, heading for a recommended anchorage about 15 miles south of St Augustine, in the Matanzas River by Fort Matanzas. As we rounded the bend in the river, the green marker buoys were suddenly on our left (they were supposed to be on our right), but the GPS showed 8 feet of depth, so we headed towards shore where the markers were. Turns out there was an unmarked sand bank between us and the markers, and suddenly we were hard aground on the sandbar in 2.5 feet of depth. The tide was still going down, so we had no hopes of getting off of there fast. A call to St Augustine Sea Tow gave us no more hope, as they told us the best thing to do was to wait for high tide, which was going to be at 2 am. We hoped that we would get enough depth by 10 pm to get off, but of course by then it would be dark. Rob jumped off the back of the boat with a life vest on and a line tied around his waist, to walk around the sandbar and find out which way would be best to get off of it:
Then Anya made dinner, since we had to spend at least 4 hours waiting, and we enjoyed a “sunset on the sandbar”. At about 9:30 pm (it was really dark) we could feel the boat moving, so we started her up and with a little persuasion from the engine we were off! Thankfully our floodlight was fully charged, so we could see where we were going and follow the markers this time… We decided not to go into the anchorage at Fort Matanzas, as we were still quite shaken and not sure we wanted to risk another sandbar party in the dark, so we kept going towards St Augustine, slowly following the markers in the dark. Not our most fun time on the water! There were a few other marked anchorages we tried to get into, but they all proved too shallow for us, so we ended up going most of the night until we got just south of St Augustine to a deep anchorage. There were quite a few boats in there and most of them were not lit, so we anchored on the outside towards the channel in 35 feet of water. At 2 am we were finally anchored, and instead of a 6 hour 35 mile run we ended up with a 14 hour 60 mile run, almost half of it groping around in the dark in a skinny channel, praying not to run aground again.. But we were afloat, safe, and anchored, and a cold beer never tasted so good!
Since we were so close to the channel, we decided to keep a night watch, and Rob got to go to sleep at 3 am with Anya on deck. At 5 it started getting light, and Anya started to relax too, dozing off in the cockpit at 5:30 am. After a few hours of sleep and a big breakfast, we continued north into St Augustine, and towards the Municipal Marina where we had made a reservation. We were in by noon, so we had the rest of the day to explore St Augustine!
We walked around the historic area and really liked the place, as touristy as it may be. We figured we could stay here for hurricane season if we found a decent protected marina, so we started looking.
The next day (Friday August 23) we decided to walk to the “Sailors Exchange”, a consignment place for sailing. We found a few odds and ends we needed, but most importantly got some great info on recommended marinas and used bicycles. We put the marinas on our research list, but the bicycles didn’t work out, so we ended up walking 4 miles to the Walmart to get some cheap ones there. We found two very decent $100 bikes there that we could use if stayed here or throw on the boat if we were going to motor further north.
On the weekend, we visited the Castillo de San Marcos, an old fort built in 1672, a very interesting tourist spot! 🙂 We were very proud to find a depiction of “our sandbar party” marked by an arrow displayed on a steel plaque!
Researching marinas proved difficult, as they all close early on Fridays and we thought Monday was a holiday (we were off by a week, although August 26 was National Heroes’ Day as well as National Dog Day, which included neither us nor our cats). So Tuesday we were at it again, now with tropical storm / hurricane Dorian headed our way forecasted to be here in 5 days. We called several marinas from Daytona to Brunswick Georgia, but they were all full, and we started to get a bit nervous with a storm coming and nowhere protected to go to. Then Anya found the Rivers Edge Marina, all the way up the San Sebastian River in St Augustine, and they had 1 dockage spot left! We hopped on our bikes to check them out, and they turned out to be our perfect spot and have the nicest dockmaster Paul. We booked it on the spot, and now have a protected home port in St Augustine to spend the storm season before we head over to the Bahamas. With “Dorian” prognosed to be “only” a tropical storm, we should be fine at Rivers Edge Marina, and if we may need it later in the season, there is a marina across the river where we can get a haul-out if we act fast enough ;-).
Now on to find jobs, since this is a tourist town we hope we can find something for 2 months that we can ride to on our bicycles. There is a job opening for an actor on the ghost tour, and Anya thinks it would be perfect for Rob!