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Old 26-01-2012, 12:59   #1
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St. Augustine, FL - The Dangers and Downfalls

We've been staying in downtown St. Augustine FL for a while now, and we finally have enough real solid experience to feel like we know the place.

This place is hazardous and not welcoming to cruisers! It's worse if you are a cruiser that doesn't want to pay for a slip or a mooring!

Just in the time that we've been here one sailboat sank (fully down on the bottom) and one sailboat dragged into the bridge of lions yesterday and nearly was dismasted (above). We've seen almost a dozen sailboats drag in the anchorage. A few collided with other boats at anchor. Others drifted clear across the channel into the mooring field.

The current at the new and full moons can reach 4 knots and reverses every six hours of course. Don't drop anything overboard, or else it is lost. If your dinghy motor quits and it is not exactly slack tide, then call for help because you wont make it rowing against the current.

If you bahamian moor here, watch out! The current is so strong that unless you have all chain, the tension on your windward or upcurrent anchor line can be so much that your keel or rudder or prop will catch on it as the boat swings around at slack tide. Good luck getting it undone as the current increases!

Put down just one anchor and you risk pulling out when the current reverses because it is so strong. Not only that, but the bottom of the anchorage is covered with abandoned anchor lines and chains and other things to foul on.

Then there's the attitude of the majority of the city administration to boats that anchor! They consistently attack such boaters with laws and regulations that force them either out of the city or into the city marina. But, to get into the city marina for a long term mooring (e.g. monthly rate), you must provide proof of insurance. Not only that, but the cost of the mooring or slip is higher than any other marina in the city! Just a year or two ago the city claimed dominion over the entire anchorage, put in a huge mooring field that I've never seen full, and restricted anchoring to only a few places that have the worst current. See this map to see whats currently available for anchoring. side note: they also just restricted anchoring anywhere in the san sebastian river. FWC is authorized to start ticketing at $100 a pop.

The policy of the marina (that you sign but aren't given a copy of when you register) is that they are completely liability free even from gross negligence of their employees. They require YOU to maintain liability insurance on your boat incase THEIR mooring gear breaks! How absurd is that? Isnt a major reason to take a mooring so that you use guaranteed ground tackle and not your own!?!

Also to get the local resident liveaboard rate, you must have property or an appartment in the county! e.g. they make it impossible for a liveaboard boater to get the local rate, even if he has lived in the city for years, has a job in the city, votes in the city, and has his boat and dinghy and car registered/titled and insured in the city! To get the live-aboard rate, you must prove that you are living in an appartment or a house! It's just another example of how the city is attacking the non-wealthy boaters!

Hypocracy appears other times at the city marina also. The harbor plan states that they want to clean up the city waters by promoting the use of pump out facilities. However, for boats on anchor who are paying a facilities use fee through a dinghy/access pass, they will not pump the boat out for free! They pump out anyone at a slip or a mooring ball, but if you are on anchor (even though you are a paying marina customer) they charge you to pump you out while simultaneously requiring you by law to pump out every five days. Instead of encouraging anchored boats to pump out by offering free pump out, they charge a fee for it. Do I need to say that in my opinion this directly discourages pump out use?

The internet wifi signal is terrible. Let me re-phrase that. It is un-usable. They purposefully don't throw the signal out very far (like to the entire mooring field), and the router goes down about every five minutes, takes another five to come back up and then is up for about two minutes before repeating the process. The county just doesn't view the internet/wifi of the marina as an essential service. It is considered a "free" service, and therefore it is not guaranteed or prioritized.

So for $180 a month dinghy/access pass, you get to tie up your dinghy and use the bathroom, but you don't get free pump out, and you dont get internet. However, the scorn from many marina crew is free. So the almost $200 per month pass gets you nothing more than any non-marina customer gets, except to tie up your dinghy and use the shower. At that price, I can't help but think that it is so expensive to discourage its use and broaden the gap between those that can afford a slip and insurance and those who can not. $180 is a heck of a lot for a shower and a tie up. In Marathon (for comparison) $150 gets your tie up, showers, usable internet, a workshop, tiki hut social area, a parking space, and a protected anchorage with no real current.

Many of the staff at the city marina are very nice, but many of them are rude and biggoted regarding sailboaters who anchor. In my opinion they view them as trash and druggies and criminals. Consider yourself lucky if they look at you and dont joke about you while you are within earshot.

Add on top of all this that fishermen have been allowed to put their crab traps in the middle of the mooring field and anchorage! You literally have to dodge crab pots with your dinghy at night in the dark in the middle of the mooring field and anchorage.

Other assorted things that make this a place that you might just want to skip include the fact that the fishermen cruise at full speed right through the boats in the anchorage and mooring field as they are NOT listed as no wake or minimum speed zones. So you get ROLLED every 5 minutes all morning every morning starting at 6am and then again every evening when they come home. They run right over your anchor line at full speed, even if they see you in a bosuns chair at the top of your mast! Even the coast guard and the border patrol/us customs wake the hell out of the anchorage each and every time they come into and leave the city. Don't leave a glass of wine unattended unless you are on a catamaran!

Now, lets add to that that the anchorage and mooring field are completely exposed to the north with over a mile of fetch. When a decent front comes through, I've literally seen the sailboats bucking like broncos and popping their bows completely out of the water like when you are beating to windward.

Then there's the effect of a strong wind opposing a strong current! This puts your boat sideways rolling uncomfortably just like all those fishermen and the coast guard and border patrol boats waking you. Good luck making it to the marina dock in your dinghy without getting completely soaked. Bring a change of clothes, a towel and a dry bag!

All this said, we love the city itself. It is a delight. Many of the people at the marina are very nice, but I just can't and won't recommend this place as a destination for anything more than a day or two visit due to the above stated issues.

But, as I understand it, that's exactly what the majority of the city administration wants anyway. Boaters should be rich and stop by and spend lots of money and then move on promptly. Otherwise you are trash that bothers a city that wants to make themselves into a Boca Raton.
Cruising on in a 1968 Islander 37 sloop. Visit our blog. We were on an Albin Vega 27 last year, but upgraded to a more livable sized boat so our cats would have more room.
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Old 26-01-2012, 13:49   #2
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Location: Saint Augustine, FL
Boat: 1975 Downeaster 38' Cutter
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Re: St. Augustine, FL: The Dangers and Downfalls.

You have summed it up nearly perfectly.

But, as I understand it, that's exactly what the majority of the city administration wants anyway. Boaters should be rich and stop by and spend lots of money and then move on promptly.
Exactly. The anchorage was ruing the view of the rich folk with houses on the water, and since more money = more speech they were heard and pandered to. The expensive mooring fields made cruisers and liveablards move elsewhere.

However, the boats anchored near the Vilano Bridge seem to be holding strong and have been for some time. Though that is way too far for anyone to live-aboard unless you can convince Comanche Marina for you to dinghy dock and use facilities.

Once my boat is back in the water I will be living aboard at the boat yard marina (Oasis) or up the creek at Hidden Harbor Marina. That will be temporary while I save to cruise
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Old 26-01-2012, 13:54   #3
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Saint Augustine, FL
Boat: 1975 Downeaster 38' Cutter
Posts: 359
Re: St. Augustine, FL: The Dangers and Downfalls.

By the way, a few sailors are attempting a gathering this Sunday if you can make it. Just read on the blog that you are having trouble meeting people, might want to check it out:

Looking for sailors in St. Augustine, FL - Page 2 - SailNet Community

I am rebuilding my boat at Oasis boatyard. If you ever need a hand, a ride, or someone to grab beers with send me a message.
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