The east coast of the states so far has been unforgettable. Where the giant body of the Atlantic meets the tropical land of America there forms some of the strangest weather, consistent only in its unpredictability. We have been perturbed by large thunderstorms rising in front of our eyes, radio weather alerts warning of hailstones the size of large pennies, winds and waves, thunder and lightning. All quite disconcerting. This is a coastline I would not voluntarily sail again!
The towns that we have visited, though, have been so worth it. I have only ever visited the west coast of the states where life is still in it’s relative infancy with most buildings no older than 100 years. The east coast is a completely different experience with each town boasting a historic quarter dating back as far as 500 years. Obviously in British terms this is still young but these towns are so reminiscent of Europe, some with castles and cobbled streets. Some with ancient city walls and old cannons. They breathe a breath that draws on old civilisations but has a feel of new beginnings, their history marked with the hopes and dreams of new settlers in a new world.
The architecture in St Augustine was beautiful and the history was interesting but far more impressive were the innovations used here at such an early date. A massive hotel was built in the late 1800’s by Flagler with the help of Thomas Edison. It was one of the first buildings in the USA to have running hot and cold water and electricity all powered by a massive generator built onsite. It served the elite of Florida for the princely sum of thousands of dollars per night. Amazing. The hotel spurred Flagler to invest in the tourism industry in St. Augustine which has led to it being today one of the most polished tourist towns I have ever been to!
We loved listening to the legends of the town regaled on the tram tour we took, one such driver pointing out an old house that had been home to a famous Floridian, his wife and 14 children, 13 of which were girls, the tour guide cheekily joked that the (women heavy) house only had one bathroom. “Purgatory!” He quipped in his delicious southern drawl, I could have listened to him all day long.
We arranged a surprise meet up with our friends from ‘Lodestar’ whose paths we were so pleased to cross after having met them first in Lanzarote then again in the USVI. The girls screamed with delight when we pointed out their boat next to ours and the girls, all 5 of them, have been virtually inseparable since we reunited. Jocie had her first ever sleepover, somewhat unconventionally, on a boat rather than in a house!
The girls visited the living museum of the town jail where they were told of the gruesome stories of the inmates and their various demises. We have visited crazy ‘believe it or not’ museums, alligator farms, tasted the local wines and bourbons. Who knew an old fashioned could taste so good. Ryan and I managed to find what may be the best pub yet in our travels – the ‘Tiny Martini Bar’ where they bring you your own tiny martini shaker to the table, delightful!
Yesterday we waved goodbye to Lodestar as we continue our sail north. Our journey has been punctuated by so many hellos and goodbyes that it is second nature now – the places we have been, friends we have met; maybe we will meet again, maybe not, but we have made lifelong connections and memories. We are trying to wean the most out of these final weeks on the boat, but invariably our thoughts are turning to home and the next chapter. When after lunch on route to Charleston, we were visited by a pod of dolphins, Jocie said, “Ah, that’s nice, they’ve come to say goodbye and have a nice flight back to England!”
Such a bittersweet sentiment and one that brings a lump to my throat.
It’s not over yet though, not yet, just a bit more exploring and togetherness to experience. No more thunderstorms though, we hope!