Monthly Archives: May 2016

El Galeon at Santa Elena

El Galeon Under SailNot only do you meet people while cruising, you also join some groups. One such group is the St. Augustine Cruisers Net. Now, I’m able to keep up with all you’d ever want to know (and more) about the cruisers in, and cruising around, St. Augustine. One item I learned from SACN long after we left St. Augustine concerned the display of the ship at left, which is a full-sized replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon. I’m a big fan of the old pre-industrial square-riggers, and have seen several original and replica ships of that era, mostly of British and American design. I’ve never been aboard a Spanish ship. The ship would be at the municipal dock in St. Augustine for a time in April, and would be open to the public for tours. I learned of the event while we were in Vero Beach, and we’d be passing through St. Augie on our way home, but it didn’t appear that we’d get back in time to see the galleon before it moved on. This photo is a promotional picture of the ship under sail.

GalleonImagine my surprise, then, when we recently slogged through St. Augustine on our worst travel day so far, and there was the ship, still at the municipal dock. The same bad weather that we had been racing to stay ahead of, and which ultimately caught us that day, had forced the ship to stay in St. Augie. Even if we’d been able to get a safe mooring ball at the municipal marina, we might not have been able to tour the ship. We didn’t know the circumstances under which it was still there, or if it was still open for tours while it waited out the weather. I counted it as a lost opportunity, and was sad to have missed it.

Now skip forward two weeks. Suzy and I have arrived home late Friday night after dinner out with friends. The next day is my birthday (yay, I’m old enough for Social Security now — ugh) and she’s asking me what I want to do. Nothing, I say. So, I’m checking my Facebook feed and I see that a friend has “Liked” a picture of his son and daughter-in-law, and the picture now on my timeline is that of a young couple standing ON THAT SPANISH GALLEON. I immediately text my friend to confirm that it is the same ship. He soon replies that it is, and it will be in its current location of Port Royal for two more days. That’s Port Royal, SC, next to Beaufort, about two and a half hours by car from St. Marys, and location of Port Royal Landing Marina, being the home port of M/V Dubhe, the little Willard trawler owned by our new besties Perry and Nancy, to whom we just said farewell three weeks ago. Coincidence? I think not. Divine intervention? Possibly. Are they free on Saturday? Hell, yeah!

El Galeon

Saturday is a beautiful day, so we hop in the car and drive to Port Royal. We meet the Dubhes and tour the ship. Then we have lunch in town before going to their house to visit for a couple hours. It was great. We got back to St. Marys around six o’clock and didn’t do anything else the rest of the evening. My brother called to wish me happy birthday, and we talked for over an hour. Overall, one of my favorite birthdays.


El Galeon 3

View from the dock near the bow, looking aft, showing the main mast and mizzen. We traced practically every line on the ship, checking its function and how it was likely to be used. The replica was amazingly detailed. Of course, almost everything, including the blocks (pulleys), was made of wood. There was very little iron or bronze on the ship.




El Galeon 1View of the foredeck from the dock, showing the foremast and bowsprit. Unlike the replicas of British ships of the same era that I’ve seen, the stays and shrouds (ropes supporting the masts) on this ship were not saturated with tar. Tar was used to keep the ropes from rotting, but in hot climates the tar would ooze and drip on the deck or anyone below.


From the ship and the website of the Santa Elena Foundation, which sponsored the visit, we learned a great deal of history about the Spanish presence in America between the time of Columbus and the first English settlement at Jamestown over a hundred years later. The Spanish territory of “La Florida” extended much farther than we usually think, based on the current state boundaries and areas in the southeastern US that display a marked Spanish flavor. The intended capital of that territory was Santa Elena, a fort and town that was built on what is now the grounds of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, just south of Port Royal. The Spanish chose the site because Port Royal Sound is the largest natural deep water port on the Atlantic coast south of Norfolk. Now it’s just a sleepy little town, replaced by Charleston, Savannah, Brunswick and Jacksonville — all of which have dredged shipping channels for access. To avoid pirates and British and French privateers in the Straits of Florida north of Cuba and west of the Bahamas, the Spanish were trying to establish an alternate route for shipping the gold they took out of Mexico back to Spain. They wanted to carry the gold by ship from Mexico to Tampa Bay, then cart it overland from Tampa Bay to Santa Elena, then put it back on a ship for the final leg from Santa Elena to Spain. Of course, this meant subduing the local native population and keeping the British and French out of North America, both of which never happened, so the effort ultimately failed.

Fun with Friends

BendersWe were at the boat yard on Wednesday when our new friends on Kindred Spirit III arrived. We had been raving about the great yard at St. Marys Boat Services since we met them, and I guess they decided to see for themselves. When not cruising on the water in their trawler, they are cruising on land in their motor home. They’ll leave the boat at SMBS while they hit the road during the hot months. We met Bill and Laura in Moore Haven, FL, while transiting the Okeechobee Waterway, and crossed paths with them several times as we both headed north. Before deciding to try out SMBS, they had intended to leave their boat in the water in Brunswick. But there are advantages to having a boat on dry land if it’s going to be unattended for several months, so they headed for St. Marys instead. We welcomed them to our home town and chatted for a bit before finally asking them what their immediate plans were. Their primary need, Bill told us, was to rent a car and drive to Brunswick to get the car they had left there. Well, since Brunswick is only 45 minutes from St. Marys, we wouldn’t allow them to rent a car — we’d happily take them ourselves. We headed out the next morning for Brunswick, where their car was waiting for them (in good shape, starting up right away), and then shared lunch at a quaint little spot that we’d never heard of. They’ve headed out now to pick up their RV, which is in another part of the state, while we babysit the contents of their freezer in our freezer for a few days, so they don’t have to use up power in their boat till they get back with the RV.

Having taken our leave of the Kindred Spirits and after returning to St. Marys, we invited some neighbors (who are also yacht club friends) over for happy hour. They had been keeping an eye on our home while we were away, and we wanted to visit with them and thank them for their help. We gabbed long past dinner time, so then, since there was no time to prepare a meal at home, we all went out for Thai food. The following evening, some other local cruising friends invited us to dine with them at our favorite gourmet Southern/French restaurant in Kingsland (the city adjacent to St. Marys). Of course, we couldn’t turn that down. We’ve enjoyed wonderful visits and great food, but we’ve eaten out so much in the past two weeks that I can barely remember the last time we sat down to dinner at home. And we have more invitations pending.

I guess this just proves that if you want to be well-liked by your friends, go far away for an extended period of time.

Back on The Hard

Home AgainMadge is back in the yard at St. Marys Boat Services. I’m tired of putting diapers under the leaking rear seal of our old Perkins 4.108, and I don’t like the dark gray streak down the side of the boat under the bilge outlet. I’ve worked real hard to make sure only clean water goes over the side, but the old stain is a red flag that just begs for us to get boarded by the environmental authorities. We’ll have to pull the prop shaft to get to the seal, so Madge needs to be on dry land. While we’re at it, we’ll work on the heat exchanger, the wind turbine, and the steering cables — and anything else we can think of or have time to do while she’s out of the water. I need to add some fans in the salon before the really hot weather hits, and fix the main hatch, which makes a horrendous shrieking noise (like fingernails on a blackboard) when you open it.

While all that is going on, Suzy and I have doctors and dentists to visit — as well as family and friends. Except for FaceTime, we haven’t seen our granddaughters in five months. Too long. So we’ll be putting some miles on the car between days in the boat yard.

We’re hoping to be on the water heading north some time in mid to late June.

Can’t Rest Yet

We’ve been as busy ashore as we were on the boat. We’ve got a lot to do before we are ready to head north for the next phase of our cruise.

We landed on Friday, April 15. Some sympathetic friends from the yacht club (and long before that, too) decided we shouldn’t have to feed ourselves, and cooked us a wonderful dinner with real vegetables. We ate well on Madge, but one of the things we couldn’t manage, and therefore did not carry, was fresh green vegetables. We had to settle for canned. The food was excellent and greatly appreciated, and we were surprised we were able to stay up as late as we did, drinking wine and telling tales. That night, we slept on a large, comfortable bed (that didn’t move!), and slept late the next morning. I didn’t have to worry about the wind, weather or if the anchor was dragging. It was wonderful.

Our daughter arrived Saturday with all the mail she’d been collecting for us while we were away. The post office had managed to forward most of it to her address. Since the date for filing tax returns had been pushed back to Monday, and now that I had all the documents I needed to file, I got to work preparing our 1040. I had put in for an extension before we left, since our original plan did not have us returning until the end of May, but decided not to use it. I had about as much fun as I usually have, and by the end of it we had almost broken even. We had to pay the Feds, but got a little back from the state. The net loss was not as much as putting Madge in a marina for a couple of days, so I counted the effort as a victory.

We went to Jacksonville to visit our two grandsons on Sunday (oh… and our daughter and son-in-law, too). They fed us while we were there. We had been home for three days, and had yet to eat at home.


On Monday, we drove to Brunswick to finally catch up with our Canadian friends on Wind Song II. They had stayed one step ahead of us on the water, and would only be close by for another couple of days. We had spent a great week rafted up with them in Vero Beach in January, and wanted to see them again before they headed back north. As the picture shows, we managed not to eat at home yet again. We promised to visit them in Ontario in the next summer or two, and they in turn promised to be our sponsors if we ever had to move to Canada. We had a great time with them, and stayed very late. The drive back to St. Marys after midnight didn’t seem to take any time at all.

Some sense of normalcy finally returned on Tuesday. We went to the grocery store in a car — first time this year. Now we get back to the grind. Madge needs some repairs, and so do I. But as soon as we can both manage, we’ll be off again.