Since we are only headed a short ways south of Jacksonville, we take this stretch on the Intracoastal. Destination: St. Augustine.
The Intracoastal Waterway (or ICW) runs from Norfolk, VA to Key West, Florida. And then there’s another section of it that runs along the Gulf Coast. The plus to taking the ICW is that you can avoid sailing out in the ocean (if that is not for you). The minuses are: you aren’t sailing out in the ocean! You aren’t actually sailing at all- you have to motor or motor-sail most of the way because the ICW is pretty narrow and there is a lot of boat traffic. Also you have to pay a lot more attention to current, tides and depth (so you don’t run aground). And, finally, it’s just not as fun. But, on this occasion, it was a nice change of pace. We got to sit back and look at the world go by – or, rather, us go by the world…
After a mellow seven hour motor / motor-sail (we put the jib up on a few sections of the ICW where the wind was in our favor), we arrive in St. Augustine. So here’s the deal with St. Augustine: they have large areas of the water sectioned off into “mooring ball fields”. A mooring ball is a floating ball that is affixed to a chain that is attached to some crazy strong cement-or-other-material on the bottom of the river (it is not going anywhere). Nice thing about a mooring ball is that once you are hooked up to it, you do not have to worry about your anchor dragging at night because the elements have overpowered it. $20/day for a mooring ball and use of the dinghy dock (this is where you dock your dinghy so you can access land). For boats who are anchored (i.e., not using mooring balls), $10/day for each day you decide to use the dinghy dock.
We went back and forth over this one but at the end of the day, we’re Free Rangers! We’ll go where we want, if we can, and if it makes sense. So we found a safe spot to drop anchor outside of the mooring ball field but right in front of old town St. Augustine. We’re actually in front of the old fort; they shoot “cannon balls” (or make the noise?) 4x a day during tours (first time they went off, I hit the deck; Stephane laughed). We’ve been here three days and used the dinghy dock one day- that’s $10 versus $60 if we were on a mooring ball. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I like the idea of anchoring where we want, not where someone tells us to; it’s less about the money and more about the principal of it.