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  • Writer's pictureDeanna Sansbury

Fernandina Beach, FL

After our exhilarating offshore experience the other night, we were more than happy to pick up a mooring ball in Fernandina Beach for a couple of nights to calm our nerves and get our bearings again.  Plus, there were some minor boat projects that needed to be done like changing the oil, impellers, and giving the boat a good rinse to get rid of the thick layer of salt she’s accumulated over the past few days of being out in the ocean.

Fernandina Beach is the northernmost city on the Florida coast, about 25 miles north of Jacksonville.  Interesting fact – it’s the only municipality in the US that has flown eight different national flags since being founded in 1562: France, Spain, Great Britain, Spain (again), the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America, and finally the US flag.  Geeze, talk about an identity crisis! 

Most cruisers will say to skip it and continue on to Jacksonville, but Matt and I wanted to stop here since it was the town we departed from when we did our first offshore trip together with our friends Tim & Mischelle back in June.  Glad we did!  We had a great time walking around town, looking in all of the small shops and (me) ogling over all of the historic buildings. And the palm trees… they’re everywhere!  Love that!  It feels so exotic!

Lots of places were putting up their Christmas decorations already, which felt odd amongst the palm trees and the warm(er) temps.  Then I discovered that XM has their Christmas stations going already.  I tuned in, lit a holiday bayberry candle and settled right into the Christmas spirit.  That is, until Matt begged me to switch to another station after the fifth repeat of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You came on.  Guess I’ll have to wean him into it.

We stayed on a mooring ball belonging to the Fernandina Harbor Marina.  For the small fee of $20 a night we got access to the marina facilities (hot shower with unlimited water!  Laundry!) and had the peace of mind that we were securely tied to the mooring ball so we wouldn’t have to worry about dragging anchor in the 20mph gusts that were still coming in from the coast. Great bargain if you ask me.  While we were waiting for our laundry to dry, we spotted a bunch of people gathering on the lawn a block down from the marina.  There were a few stands set up and we could hear music.  What could it be?  A farmers market?  A festival? With an hour to kill, we decided to head over and check it out.

Turns out it was a Petanque (pronounced pay-tonk) tourney, with players coming from all over the world to participate.  It’s like the French version of bocce, where 2-3 players on two teams throw hollow metal balls at a target, called a “pig” which looks like one of those super bounce balls you’d get out of the quarter machines as a kid. The goal is to get your balls as close to the target as possible and/or knock the opposing teams balls farther away from the target.  You get a point for each ball that’s closest to the target.  Pretty cool!  What are the odds of us being here on the very same day?  We wandered around and were soon taken in by an official who explained all of these rules to us and seemed very happy that we were spectators at the event.  Apparently these things don’t get a of attention from the public.  Wonder why?

We left Fernandina Beach on Sunday and decided to stick to the Intercostal to our next stop in St. Augustine.  It was a good choice (not just to avoid what would inevitably be a rough ride down the coast) and we were surprised when the stretches of (boring) marsh gave way to some amazing homes along the canals.  It was a chilly start, but the temps gradually warmed up to the 70's! We were really jealous of the other boats we passed with the cockpit enclosures to keep them warm. We are so tired of freezing our butts off! C'mon, we're in Florida!

We didn’t get as far as we planned and anchored for the night about 10 miles north of St. Augustine.  I didn’t have anything pulled out for dinner, so we cooked up an old standby – a combination of rice/green pepper/onion/black beans and Rotel – and decided to try one of the dozen cans of Vienna Sausages we (Matt) got when we provisioned before leaving Annapolis.  If you’ve never had a Vienna sausage, consider yourself lucky.  They taste like dog food hotdogs, but are super mushy on the inside.  For people who have a texture thing with food, these would be downright repulsive.  Determined to make the hated Vienna palatable, I decided to grill them to see if it would improve their appeal.  It did not.  Oh well.  Maybe we can use the remaining cans as fish food when we get down to the islands.

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