America’s Oldest City

February 18, 2023

This day had two events that were terrifying.

First: I have to wrestle a boat and ball

We arrived in St. Augustine Saturday early evening and reserved a mooring ball in the heart of the old town. Securing to the mooring ball is its own story.

The wind was extremely strong and they recommended using two lines to secure the boat to the ball. As we approached, I’d grab the mooring ball line and strung my two lines through the loop. This was a huge challenge as the boat is moving around from the wind, the rope is being pulled tight, the lines are getting tangled around the anchor (trying to do two lines is hard), and I feel like I’m wrestling the boat. Once I think I’m set, I realize I had the lines on the rails and had to release both lines and try again.

The second try, I cut myself when the line I’m holding suddenly pulls tight and slams my hand into the hull. The cut isn’t bad, but I’m bleeding everywhere. Boris is trying his best to get the boat steady, but I’m still having to physically pull the boat to the ball (with Boris’ assist) as we are bouncing around. I am finally successful and we are secure.

Second: The dinghy tried to sink itself

At the end of the evening, we prepare to take the dinghy back to the boat. All six of us get into the dinghy, just like every other time, but this wasn’t an ordinary night.

The strong wind produced strong waves that started to splash into the dinghy. The little bilge pump couldn’t keep up and we were filling up with water. Wave after wave we are getting fuller and fuller. We all start leaning forward to reduce the weight in the back that’s getting flooded, which causes are faces to meet the waves. Finally, we reach Lil Sudden and all pile out. Wet and cold, we wait for the dinghy to empty out (bailing with a bucket) and return to our boat to clean up.

Our takeaway lesson: make two trips on very wavy windy days.

We at least got to tour the Oldest House that day. The González-Alvarez House is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial house in St. Augustine, Florida. The site has been occupied since the 1600s, but the current house dates to the early 1700s.

February 19, 2023

St Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European established settlement in the US. It was founded in the 1500’s by Spanish explorers to protect its Gulf Stream shipping route and solidify its claim to Florida.

Ding Ding Ding. That’s the sound of the Old Town Trolly. 22 stops around the Historic Saint Augustine. We’d hop on, get to an interesting destination, and hop off to take a tour. Hop back on and onward to the next interesting site.

Some of the sites we visited include

  • Castillo De San Marcos
  • Fountain of Youth
  • Old Jail house, old store, and old school
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not
  • Old City Gates
  • Distillery
  • Winery
  • Chocolate Factory

Wooden forts were originally constructed, but in 1672, the stone fort of Castillo De San Marcos began construction. Due to its unique stone walls, the structure never fell in battle.

The stone, known as Coquina, is formed from seashells. The shell walls, when hit by cannon, would compress and absorb the shock. As a result, the cannon balls would bounce off or sink in a few inches.

We were able to tour the fort in time to see the cannon firing demonstration.

The Fountain of Youth is supposedly the location location where Ponce De Leon first saw Florida and discovered the healing waters as well as the Timucua village. We took a sip from the spring and toured the park. Interesting thing about the park is that the village outer wall had oyster shells imbedded to cut people who would try to climb the wall. The inside of the wall was smooth so children wouldn’t accidentally get cut. They also had peacocks that you could feed peanuts to.

We strolled past the old jail house, store, and school, but did not tour them. The jail house didn’t look like a traditional jail house. It was designed so it wouldn’t be an eyesore.

Once done with the tour, we walked through the old city gates and strolled along the cobblestone streets looking at shops and restaurants. The kids wanted to return to the boat and Matt had a friend who lived in St Augustine come out for a visit. We finished the night with a pub crawl and had dinner in an old ice plant.

February 20, 2023

When I was a kid, my parents took me on a tour around the country. One fun memorable stop was a Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Turns out, the original Ripley’s was founded right here in St Augustine! Boris and I ventured in and spent a few hours looking at the amazing wonders of the world.

Have you ever heard of Whetstone Chocolates? They produced chocolate for Disney for a very brief period of time and then had a commercial division where they provided chocolate for the big three companies. They sold that division and now focus on local, handmade chocolate. We were able to tour the facility and sample a variety of chocolates.

The day was wrapped up with some mini golf, a stroll around town, a stop at Flager College, and a delicious dinner at the Conch House.

February 21, 2023

It’s our final day in St Augustine and there were a few tours remaining to see. Boris, Matt, and I toured a distillery that is now housed in the old ice plant (it also houses the restaurant that we ate at) and a winery. The distillery was interesting as it turns out the chiller is in Auburn, WA. I also enjoyed learning the health benefits of the grapes grown in Florida.

I thoroughly enjoyed St Augustine. There is a great deal of history here. We spent the perfect amount of time to leisurely explore the area.

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