9 May, 2015
Long Time, No Say,
As planned, we hit the entrance to Marineland harbor at high tide. We were concerned about the depths on the way in, and as it turned out, it was nice to have a little extra water under us. The depth sounder was telling us 7’ or so, but apparently 2’ of it was very loose mud which created quite a cloud in our wake. We had no sooner tied up when another Krogen, “Allegria” rolled in. For some reason, it was a little challenge getting onto the face dock, but after 10 minutes or so, Eric and I had them securely tied. As it turned out, we had met the owners, Greg and Sue at a Krogen rendezvous several years previously. We unloaded the bikes and headed south, traversing the state park hiking trails through a hardwood forest that emptied out on A1A a mile or so from the marina. Our goal, Captain’s BBQ was several miles distant, and as we rode along the highway, the lack of other humans was kind of eerie. There were very few cars, and as we rode past a high rise building of condos, we noted that the parking lots were empty. Guess it was all about it being offseason still, but it seemed like we were in a Twilight Zone episode wherein everyone had left Earth. Along the way, we passed by the studio of an artist that carved incredible sculptures from the root balls of unearthed trees. The place looked closed, but we tried the door and found it unlocked. We gave a shout into the dark interior and got a response from somewhere deep within. Turned out that the studio was indeed closed, but the owner had stopped in to take care of some bidness, so he flipped on the lights, and let us take a peek around. His work was incredibly imaginative and well executed (see attached pictures in the gallery). Captain’s did not disappoint, and Suzanne and I enjoyed some good grub, eaten off Styrofoam plates while sitting on the screened porch overlooking the ICW. Since it was 1630, (blue hair special) we had the place to ourselves, chattin’ and listening to some Blues coming over their nice audio system. The ride home was a little longer, as we were against the wind, and the lowering sky was starting to spit a little drizzle. The following morning, when we ambled over for our kayaking ecotour, we sported our raingear and hats. With high winds and rain all around us, the other couples on the tour opted out. Bonus. Suz and I had the guide to ourselves, and according to him, we ended up covering about twice as much ground paddling through miles of protected marshland across the ICW than he usually covered with less-fit folks. Never rained, but it blew like stink, making the upwind legs a bit more challenging. After kayaking, we headed across the highway to MarineLand. After the hurricanes of 2004 and 2006, a decimated MarineLand was a shadow of its’ former self. Once large enough to be a city, complete with movie studios (Creature From the Black Lagoon, etc.), residences, theater, a water park, and other attractions, the facility was now reduced to a couple of outdoor dolphin pools, some turtle rehab tanks, and an indoor exhibit area largely closed to the public. Being purchased by the Georgia Aquarium a few years ago probably saved the park from extinction. As we approached the entrance to the park at the gift shop, we were greeted by the 1950’s era sign that started the Admiral on another trip down memory lane. When her family had lived in Jacksonville, her Mom had brought her and her sibs here several times. Suz credits these visits for fueling her interest in, and eventually leading to her degree in marine biology. After watching the trainers working with the resident dolphins (who, by the way, were all born in human care (not captivity)), we purchased the “behind the scenes” tour, and again were the only participants. Seeing the physical plant, including the ozonators, aerators, protein skimmers and etc. really enthralled my inner (and outer) nerd. One of the aquariums’ biologists was finishing work for the day, and when he found out that Suz had been a visitor years ago, and was a biologist grabbed us and gave us an even deeper tour. He showed us a juvenile octopus that was barely as big as your pinky fingernail, and a young Cowhead Ray that he was tube feeding until it could eat on its’ own as well as lots of other critters. By the time we left, it was well past closing time, and the end of another great day. We were having so much fun that we decided to stay another day, so after paying the rent, we hopped back on the bikes and headed south again to the Washington Gardens, a Florida state park. Originally a plantation owned by a distant relative of George Washington, it was gifted to the state of Florida and became a state park in 1965-donated by Louise and Owen Young, who owned the property from 1936 until 1965. (A story in itself, Owen was an industrialist, founder of RCA Corporation, chaired the WWII reparations committee, and Time magazine’s “person of the year”. Louise was a self-made millionaire by age 19.) We biked the trails through the woods, and were educated in the local flora by the numerous placards describing the various species of vegetation. After biking, we visited the formal gardens and the visitor’s center, which had exhibits explaining the history of the area. After our visit to the park, we biked past the marina to the northern extent of the island, where we enjoyed a late lunch at the Matanzas Grill, getting a preview of the following days’ route
As an aside, Matanzas Inlet’s name comes from the Spanish word meaning “slaughter”. In 1565, the Spanish claimed all of the land which is now Florida. The French had recently established an outpost (St. Caroline) in the mouth of the St Johns River which would provide the perfect platform for raiding Spanish treasure ships returning from the New World-not good for the Spaniards. Long story short, in an ill-fated attempt by the French to attack, their ships were blown off course by a hurricane, whereupon they blew ashore somewhere between what is now Daytona Beach and St. Augustine. Having heard of a group of white men on shore from the Timucuan Indians, the Spaniards mounted a party of fighters to dispatch the French and their fort at St Caroline, then their men on shore to the South. This resulted in the killing of 350 or so of the French men (Hugenots who would not convert to Catholicism), and the displacement of their women and children who were sent back to France.
The next day, we were anxious to get underway, but figured that we had better wait for the tide to start rising, so we occupied ourselves by cleaning the Girl inside and out. Finally on our way by 1130, we headed along the familiar route to St. Augustine, where we would meet up with our pals Jeff and Susie who were helping out with Jeff’s Dad while his Mom had her knee replaced. Instead of mooring at the city, we bypassed and headed to Salt Run, a narrow, and in places shallow, inlet leading up to a marshy bay. It turned out to be a delightful and quiet spot that was a short dinghy ride from “Idyll Time” where Jeff picked us up and drove us to his folks house, where we met his Pop, Sis, and enjoyed waytoomuch take-out barbeque. Suz and I hadn’t had a chance to visit the Flagler College dining room, which is housed in the old Flagler Hotel, and is adorned with the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass windows(79) the last time that we were here, so Jeff’s sister, Sue agreed to take us through as she is a student there. The next day, we took the tender to the head of the bay, where we felt like we were miles from the city, in marshy lowlands. The water teeming with mullet, leaping from the water, and then flopping back onto their sides. We thought that they were catching bugs, but one of the locals explained that this behavior allows these bottom feeders to clean the silt out of their gills-go figure. At lunchtime, we joined Jeff, Susie, and Sue for lunch at the Conch House Grill. After lunch, we said our “Goodbye’s” to Jeff and Suzie, who were on the parental duty detail, and headed to Flagler College with Sue. Turns out that the school was in between terms, so the building was closed. Ever resourceful and determined that Suz and I should see the Tiffany windows, Sue sweet talked a security guard into letting us in, and we had the room to ourselves. The windows and the room were breathtaking. Much of the furniture was original, and is used every day by the students eating here. After spending as much time ogling as we wanted, the guard took us under his other wing, and gave us a tour of the Solarium, located on the 3rd floor, then out onto the roof, where we were treated to a beautiful view of the city and harbor beyond. Before leaving, we were allowed to enter the Women’s Grand Parlor, which ensconced hand crafted Austrian chandeliers, original art and furnishings as well as a clock sporting the largest single piece of white onyx in the western hemisphere. Sue then toured us through her church, First Presbyterian, which Henry Flagler built in 1890 to honor his daughter who had died in childbirth a year earlier. Suz and I agreed that Sue could be our tour guide anytime, and headed back to the boat sporting huge smiles.