This was our first year celebrating Thanksgiving with our boating family. Just as the Spanish colonists did in 1565, we decided to celebrate the holiday in St. Augustine.
**Colonial records show that on September 8 1565 Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived to celebrate a “Mass of Thanksgiving” with the locals, including the Indigenous Timucua Tribe. Historians have argued whether St Augustine is the first site of our american holiday, Thanksgiving. A great book in reference to the early history here is “The Cross in The Sand“.
One of our friends, Tom (S/V Nomad), sailed into port after his long trip down from New Jersey. He was just in time for Thanksgiving. He also had a few friends from Canada (S/V Lotha) following a few hours behind him to join in on the festivities.
Once everyone met up, we spent the day exploring the area and waiting for the Famous Night of Lights Celebration to start. Once darkness fell, we walked through the city in amazement. It was magical and probably the most beautiful light demonstration I have ever seen. As the trolley went by playing Jingle Bells, I quickly realized how close it is to the holidays.
**The St Augustine Night of Lights Celebration is listed by National Geographic as one of the top Holiday light shows in the world. The entire city lights up with over three million lights.
The next afternoon, we made it to the Municipal Marina to join in on the Cruisers Thanksgiving Dinner. It was so great to meet so many other people who share our common dream of sailing and cruising. It was just as exciting to talk to the many of them that have already sailed to Cuba and the Bahamas. They have so much helpful information on anchorages, regulations and the best islands.
**I think at this point, we have met more Sailors that have been to Cuba or the Bahamas than have not.
Willow spent most of Friday at Home Depot and Sailors Exchange with the guys, while I got caught up on laundry and app updates. Black Friday shopping did cross my mind a few times. However, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would.
Now that Thanksgiving was over the guys decided it was time to help get the mast back on Lotha. Since Lotha was previously berthed in Canada, her mast was removed to get through the Erie Canal. They have since then been searching for a place along the east coast to get it stepped back on.
Due to the recent hurricane (Matthew), many nearby marinas were unavailable to assist with the task, without placing everyone on a waiting list. The guys all discussed alternatives to get it back on, including rafting all three boats together to use the masts of Willow Mist and Nomad to hoist it up and in place.
After discussing the options, we decided we will head south with Nomad and Lotha. Mainly, it was getting cold. Much colder than we were use to. Also, they may have found a place south of here with access to a crane for the mast raising.
**This seemed to be the safest logical option as rafting the boats together to step a mast is not a normal procedure and could be dangerous.
The time had come. On Sunday morning, we headed out of the St Augustine mooring field along with Nomad and Lotha.
**St Augustine has became one of my favorite ports. The community puts so much effort into making cruisers feel at home here.
We decided to stay within the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), due to rough seas and high winds in the ocean. We still had substantial winds for sailing (considering we were in the ICW). Lotha swiftly passed us both.
**With a diesel engine in a 50 foot concrete sailboat, we knew we probably wouldn’t be seeing Lotha again until we reached our destination.
We were running with the wind, averaging around 5 knots when our steering cable broke. We were nearing a turn in the channel and a shoaling right beside of it. I called Tom to let him know we would be delayed about 15-20 minutes while Willow got the sail down. Tom responded back with “Ok, I’ll raft to up to you while he gets it fixed”. Oh. Ok.
Tom drove up perfectly beside of us. He already had his fenders in place for protection. Willow quickly grabbed the line to tie us to his boat. Tom asks “Are we having fun yet?”. Of course!
Tom was able to steer us while Willow quickly fixed the cable. Without Nomad there, we would’ve had to throw anchor to prevent us from drifting into a shoaling. That’s what I call teamwork!
**Its a good thing Willow knows how to fix engines, cables and all of the random things that break on a sailboat!
Once Willow repaired the steering cable we were back on our way. Since it was such a beautiful day we discussed stopping somewhere to grab a bottle of wine and beer for later.
We contemplated anchoring, as we usually do, to dinghy over to a store. Willow talked to Tom and suggested maybe taking the dinghy a few miles up to a store instead of us stopping to anchor. Both Nomad and Willow Mist would continue on the route, then he would meet back up with us shortly.
And that he did. He jumped on the dinghy and headed up to the store. We continued on our path for about 30 minutes until he arrived back to the boats to distribute store supplies. Improvising on a sailboat. you just can’t make this stuff up.
While I don’t enjoy navigating through the ICW at night, it was much more comfortable just following along behind Nomads bright light once darkness fell.
**Driving a sailboat after dark in the ICW is like driving a car on a highway after dark with no headlights! If not anchored by sunset, I’d rather be in the ocean after dark.
We made it to a safe anchorage near Daytona Beach just a few hours after dark. We anchored in around six feet of water. The depth was a bit concerning for everyone due to the tide changes in some areas of the ICW.
**Some tides are as high (and low) as a nine feet difference in some areas of the ICW.
We checked the local tides to realize we were at low tide. That was a plus, as it isn’t fun to wake up aground and sideways after the tide goes down.
During the night, the winds shifted around. We spent the entire next day motoring straight into the wind. There would be no sailing today. Fighting the current didn’t help matters as it took a lot of our speed. Luckily, we had less than 20 miles to go to catch up with Lotha.
Then, we ran out of gas in the main tank. The current immediately started pulling us toward a shoaling. Willow quickly started getting the gas reserve tanks while I radiod Tom to let him know our situation.
We started losing depth fast. Willow advised me to drop the anchor while he was filling the gas tank and trying to restart the engine. As I start running toward the bow, I see Nomad coming up toward our starboard side. At that same time Willow yells for me to grab lines instead of dropping the anchor. Before we could even get the lines cleated, Willow had the tank full and engine started back.
We were back on track to making our way south again. We made it through the many bridges of Daytona to finally meet back up with Lotha with a few hours of daylight to spare.
We surely missed our family and friends back home during this holiday weekend. We’re also so very thankful for the friends and community we found out here that have became our boating family.
“I am thankful to all the souls, I meet in the journey of life.”