The Cement Plant

Brian and I have experienced the Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. Admittedly, we aren’t fans of motoring for hours and hours…but fortunately the ICW enables us to continue moving when weather doesn’t permit offshore passage. In VA, NC, and GA there were many opportunities to sail along the ICW. We could leave in the morning without a solid plan and late in the day scout out a creek on the charts that we could tuck into to anchor for the night. The scenery amidst frequent line-ups of traversing boats consisted of winding rivers, gaping sounds, and lush marshes that were alive with jumping fish, playful dolphins, herons on the hunt, cackling ospreys, and swooping pelicans. After a day or two of motoring, if the weather permitted, we could usually find a nearby inlet to pop out for a jaunt in the ocean.

The ICW through Florida is a different animal. The winding rivers have transformed into straight canals; depths remain questionable. The marshes are gone and canal banks are lined with homes, docks, cityscapes, beach towns, and bustling roads. Bridges span overhead; some 65′ and others requiring a call on the VHF to request an opening for safe passage. (A great listing of all the FL bridges and schedules can be found here.) One can still catch a glimpse of herons, ospreys, pelicans, and dolphins. And now, manatees are abundant too. The challenge for us along this section of the ICW is that anchorages seem to be few and far between. (As evidenced by our running aground in search of a nook to drop the hook.) Inlets presenting opportunity to get offshore are also few and far between along Florida’s never ending coastline. We plan long days, but we hope to not motor into darkness. The changing tidal currents influence our speed (as they do all along the ICW); sometimes boosting us at a steady 6 knots, sometimes slowing us at 3 knots or less. We don’t push hard when motoring because we are diesel hoarders. This is why few anchorages make travel plans difficult; we cannot simply run until an hour before dark and then drop the hook. There are, however, ample marinas but that just goes against our cruising ways and budget.

Fortunately, we have access to the internet while underway via our AT&T data plan. This has enabled us to search the infinite wisdom of Google in collaboration with our charts to find anchoring opportunities. Some frequented cruising sites for this area are: ActiveCaptain, The Salty Southeast Cruising Net, and Dozier’s Waterway Guide. Imagine our dismay when searching to find nothing between St. Augustine, FL and Daytona Beach, FL…we’d be motoring all night! Thank goodness for the knowledge of fellow cruisers! We found one blog, and thereafter a few others, that shared with us this hidden gem. Thanks, Bill of s/v Galena, for great record-keeping and even better blogging! Of course, s/v Galena is a Westsail 32!

The Cement Plant is a canal near mile 809 that runs to a non-operating cement plant. The coordinates are: 29-29.8N 081-09.0W


Along the shoreline are a few homes and a Sea Ray boatyard.



To enter, it was recommended we favor the south shore. We favored the south shore, near the docks, and moved toward the center as we entered the canal. Depths at the entrance ranged from 5.2-ft, 5.5-ft, and 6-ft at high water. Through the canal depths were variable 6-ft to 7-ft. Continue past the Sea Ray boatyard to anchor at the end of the canal where depths increase, varying from 8-ft to 10-ft. These depths remained consistent when we exited the following morning, although at that time the tide was falling.

There is swing room for light conditions with 3:1 rode; but you will find yourself close to shore.


We shared this space with two manatees and one small sailboat. Below you can see the back of one manatee and the hairy nose of the other. This was the best view of the manatees that we saw as they lay atop the water, taking occasional breaths and seldom flicking their tails.


Cruisers on the Town – January 12, 2013

It was a bustling day in St. Augustine and Brian, Matt, Jessica and I had planned to be part of the action! We went first to a farmers market held at the Anastasia Island Amphitheater.


We found various artisans and of course fresh produce, meat, eggs, and honey. We chatted with several booths. At a dip booth we sampled nearly every dip as we chatted. At a shark tooth jewelry booth we learned how to distinguish different types of sharks by differences in the teeth. We listened to music by the Dune Hoppers.



Brian and I are both garlic lovers and couldn’t pass the Artisan Black Garlic booth without pausing for a sample. The master chef of these garlic infused vinegars was very animated. He provided enticing introductions to each sample loaded with adjectives such as “sparkles” and “dances” to describe the flavor sensations we’d experience. Brian, Jessica, and I even encouraged other passers-by to stop for a taste. We were quickly becoming acquainted with the chef and so he pulled out his very unique family photo album. He and his family comprised the Silver Condors (the link I’ve provided has some of the photos we saw); a team of High Wire, Trapeze, and Double Sway Bar acrobats. Fascinating! He then flipped through to show us the photo of his setting a new pole vault record during competition. “We pole vaulted too,” we exclaimed. We’d hit the mark, his face lit up and we got to swapping vaulting stories. He was most impressed to meet a woman vaulter in person, as this was unheard of during his vaulting days. Such fun!

We walked back to St. Augustine from Anastasia Island. We had a beautiful view of the mooring field and the Castillo de san Marcos fort from atop the Bridge of Lions.




There was a brief stop at Rode Trip for refreshments and a tour of the newly remodeled engine. Jessica missed Rode Trip so much she hugged the boom! We shared Rickard’s Cider while Matt and Jess enjoyed being on a boat in the water once again.



Now for the day’s BIG event…dun da da! Welcome to Hotel Ponce de Leon.


The hotel is celebrating it’s 125th year since the grand opening in 1888. The hotel was built by Henry Flagler who thought the charm of St. Augustine would be just the place for a luxury hotel that would attract high society guests escaping the Northern cold. He spared no expense. It took 2-years to complete the hotel with 300-400 workmen on site. The magnificent building has held many roles throughout the years including a training location for the Coast Guard during World War II. In 1968 the building was sold and became Flagler College.
Entry dome, viewed from the second floor.

Stairway view.


Mirror in what was once the Barber Shop in the Gentleman’s Lounge. The lounge currently houses college offices and a board room.

The Women’s Lounge. The three-seater couch you see in the foreground of this photo was used for dating; one seat provided for the gentleman, the lady, and the chaperone. No touching!

The Dining Room. There are 79 stained glass windows in the hotel by Tiffany Glass Co., many of which light the dining room.



Silver place settings.


We needed a snack after our tour, the perfect moment to try French Fry Heaven. And it was glorious!



Then, off to the Memorial Presbyterian Church. Henry Flagler had this church constructed in memory of his daughter and granddaughter, both passed away during the granddaughter’s birth. Henry Flagler’s tomb rests here with his first wife, daughter, and granddaughter. Again, he spared no expense! The church is well preserved and has a very active congregation.



We had prime seats when the bell was sounded, signaling the end of a long and wonderful day.



St Augustine, FL – January 9, 2013

Anxious to continue moving, Brian peeked his head out of the hatch before our alarm even sounded. He returned to the v-berth with a weather update, “back to sleep,” he said, “we’re fogged in.” Fog!? In Florida!? I had to see for myself and sure enough the fog was so thick that I could not see the Sisters Creek bridge about 1/4 mile away. So we slept, and had breakfast, and waited.

At 10:30am the fog hasn’t lifted but we had to get moving to make St Augustine by sunset. We hauled anchor, lit the running lights, switched on the radar, and were off…very slowly. The bridge tender lifted the Sisters Creek bridge at our request. We waved as we motored through.

Intersection of Sisters Creek, St John River, and Intracoastal Waterway; here you can barely see the shipyard and our next navigational buoy.



Brian masterfully steering through strong currents; we weren’t expecting currents either in Florida. Our New England experience was paying off today!


Under the bridge.



Pelicans lazily peek to see who’s passing by.


The fog has lifted!


We had a lovely showing of prime real estate along the Intracoastal Waterway.




The neighbors were out for a stroll.




We need some help from our bird watchers, have’t yet identified these birds. They do like to crowd small spaces.


The fog and opposing current had slowed us down all day, but we were able to make it past the St Augustine inlet just as the sun was setting. The Municipal Marina guided us to our mooring ball. We were welcomed to St Augustine by the brilliantly shining Christmas lights (which remain lit through January). What a sight!


As soon as Rode Trip was settled, we headed ashore to check in with the marina and use the facilities to freshen up. Then out on the town, we were reunited with old friends and enjoying new friends too! Good times were had with Matt, Jessica, Frank, and Yu.