09 May, 2013

St Augustine Florida USA

Malua is at 29:53.337N 81:18.190W at St Augustine Florida on 15/5/2013
I visited the West Marine store to purchase five C-Map chart chips for my Simrad chartplotter from Florida to north of Maine. No eyeball navigation in the dead of night as I find my way into a river entrance. My ASUS Transformer tablet power cord has decided that it will not work so that backup is not reliable. No chance of finding a replacement locally. West Palm beach is not an easy place to get around for a person without a car. While the buses do run and cover the main highways they are infrequent and one does not connect time wise with the other. The distance between shops is vast with the main shops in massive malls surrounded by expansive car parks. These run N/S up the coast and five block back from Highway 1.

I rode the buses, along with the indigents, misfits and down and outs of the area. I got on and off then walked the mile or two to West Marine. I might say in a rain storm which would rival any Queensland thunderstorm and flood.
On the positive side Michael of T-Mobile fixed me up with a sim card for my HTC phone. Unlimited local calls and no charge for calls to Australia plus 3.5 Gb of data. I also purchased a T-Mobile hotspot device plus $35 of data for my new Google Nexus 7 inch tablet. A great deal executed by a very friendly and helpful young man committed to service.
I now have connected phone, tablet and hotspot with adequate navigational aids to make my trip safe, informative and a pleasure. With all this equipment, a full freezer, fridge and cupboards I started the journey northwards.

I left the anchorage at West Palm Beach at 1:30 in the morning to make my way north. I was followed by Jack Tar later in the morning – they were going further north. At always in these cases the wind was not where it should have been and I was beating into a light wind. I took the view I would use the Gulf Stream for this 232 nm hop. The wind where against the current and the seas very confused by midnight the following day the wind had come up and I needed to furl the genoa. After reducing the sail area Malua would not hold a steady course and the autopilot would scream out a message – Rudder response error. The only solution was to hand steer for the next 15 hours. It was cold, wet and windy. I settled down to steer towards the distant star only to fall asleep after an hour. It was time to rest. I took all the sails down, tied the wheel over and lay a hull while I slept for about two hours.
Refreshed I continued towards St Augustine in place of my intended destination of Jacksonville.
I arrived just before the last bridge opening to find Eye Candy on a mooring ball on the south side of the Bridge of Lions. The following day Balvenie was towed into the Marina by TowboatUS with a seized turbo blower on their Volvo. A good insurance investment made while at sea!

St Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez. It is the oldest continuous European settlement in the USA. The British had a chance to rule it after the first Treaty of Paris. After the second Paris Treaty it gained its independence. Slavery and the civil right movement, plus the rail roads and hotel development made sure it would remain on the map. It has turned its history into a major tourist destination with many museums, tourist spots, retail outlets, tours and pubs all focused on informing the visitor about some some place or event in the past. Be informed at a heft price but wafer thin on real historic artefacts. Quite different from my experience of history in the Mediterranean.
My first impressions of Florida USA:
  • The ordinary people are polite, friendly and willing to help local and foreigner alike.
  • Enforcement authorities in the form of Customs,Police, Sheriff, Environment Protection, Coast Guard and Security at sites are every where with a visible show of their fire-power and ability to use force, fine or apprehend almost without good reason. Very, very scary for an Australian who seldom sees an enforcement officer.
  • The spread of wealth from the incalculable to the indigent and those sleeping rough is wide, visible and a sad reflection on this rich society.
  • The buit up areas are orientated towards the use of motor vehicles which in most cases are large, new and always with dark tinted windows.
  • Business of all shapes, sizes and offerings are set along the highways either in malls or their own building or adjoining single story fronts. The rents must be low for some of the speciality stores. The number of doctors, dentists and legal firms offering new smiles, a better body, improved health or your money from someone who either hurt you or did not provide an adequate service is just mind blowing. You start to realize that America has a very large population.
  • The corner store offering bread, milk and the paper has completely gone. It has been replaced by the mega outlet offering miles of shelf-space but miles from where people live. Buses don't generally run to these stores.
  • Prepared food outlets are cheap and the selection is wide however the food is very ordinary and frequently fried.
  • Services at pubs and restaurants is exceptional, fast, attentive but demands at least a 15% tip on the total bill including tax. This changes a cheap meal into something more.
  • You have to have a phone to interact with people, business and the authorities not only to get information – always select one of these?? options or to make an appointment to do business.
  • Commercial radio and television is full of ads on how to feel better, improve your home or get something for free if you call this number now. Radio has many religious stations.
  • The price of all goods does not include the tax which varies according to the goods for service. 18 to 22 % is not unusual so don't just buy a $4.99 ice-cream with the $5 note in your pocket because it will be more. Even the $35 monthly phone plan has additional taxes which if you only pay $35 you will not get and loose your residual download.
  • All my apps on my phone and tab work perfectly, show the local maps and store and places of interest. They are amazingly inexpensive but you have to have a USA address and postcode. Competition and a large market drives service and innovation.
  • Your Visa or Mastercard from Australia will not always work at every retail store or bank ATM. When standing at the check-out and it doesn't work, it is your problem – call your bank. I have walked away from two checkouts leaving more than $100 of goods bagged just because the card was not accepted. It works in some not others.
These are my first impressions of the USA after being away for some years prior to 9/11 and being a pure tourist. 


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