Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fernandina, the Next Town Northbound

Centre Street -- minus the cars, it almost could've been the Wild West era.  Lots of interesting buildings in the 50-block historic district.  We played tourist, walking around with camera and guidebook. 
So after the pleasant sail, we tied to a mooring in Fernandina harbor for a (planned) week.  Funny that we've never stayed here before.  For all of its historic importance as a huge deep water harbor at the northern extent of Spanish territory in the New World, the harbor has always seemed pretty exposed to us.  On our southbound runs, we have often seen wind against the strong current here creating uncomfortably choppy conditions, and the smoke from industry blowing across the anchorage, so we've sailed right on past.  On our northward runs in springtime, we're usually out in the ocean non-stop from St Augustine, FL to Beaufort, SC, so we had no idea what conditions were like in town.  This time, with the encouragement of a Facebook/history reenactor/pirate friend, we decided to stop and explore -- all in keeping with our plan to make this a very slow trip north this year, with lots of adventures along the way.

It turned out to be a great week.  The first thing we had to do was recalibrate our idea of "old" from St Augustine, where we spent almost as much of our time in the 17th century as the 21st.  Although Fernandina traces its history back to French explorer Jean Ribault in 1562, and has been under 8 (!!) flags since that time, most of the structures in the historic district date from the period of the town's greatest prosperity 1875-1900.  We spent over 3 hours in the local museum -- I love visiting these kind of museums, love the stories small towns tell about themselves.

In town, there was music, farmer's market, good meals in local restaurants, and friends.  We also had plenty of time to unwind watching sunrises and sunsets; most mornings' coffee and evenings' sundowners were spent quietly in the cockpit.  We had several dolphin visits (once including a BABY, how cool!).  One day was windy and blustery enough to confirm my opinion of the anchorage, as it was rough enough that we would've gotten soaked going ashore, so we did nothing but sit around reading trashy novels and then making a simple dinner.   Still, by the end of a week we were ready to move on.  When the next weather opportunity came, we were up at sunrise and out the inlet, setting our course due north.

Peaceful sunset from the anchorage

There are several pirate statues around town.  This one is for my friend Greg, who does a mean blue-eyed Jack Sparrow impression -- the statue has blue eyes!

Gettin' our Jimmy Buffett fix -- friend Hambone and his mother came to visit our boat.

Moonrise over town

We were moored behind this odd structure.  Depending on who you asked, they are either marine archaeologist explorers, or treasure hunters, looking for wrecks in the area, which was a popular harbor with Spanish galleons.

Celebrating EIGHT cancer-free years in the Palace Saloon, oldest bar in Florida.
We made it back to the museum on our last day, participating in a little pirate skit to kick off a tour by Roads Scholars (educational travel group for seniors) (photo by Joy Sheppard)

Hanging out with the pirate crew at Palace Saloon.  While we were there, a girl celebrating her birthday asked if she could take a picture with the group us (of course).  But I never figured out why people would do that, pose with people they never saw before or would see after or care about or even know the names of, just to post on social media ... why, exactly?  To make it look like they were having an amazing time?  But after the photo, she didn't interact with us at all, so its not clear how we helped her have fun.  Sigh.  Oh well, glad to help (whatever it was that we did).  More fun for us, the bar has a resin statue of a "pirate" at the front door.  Some tourists were posing with the statue, and we gave them a good start when a group of us live pirates photobombed their picture with the statue!) (photo by Joy Sheppard)


  1. Awesome blog posting. We have not been there by boat but stopped by via rental car and loved it.

  2. Thanx Sabrina! It was a fun place to hang out, just about the right size / scale for walking.