Sailing Where Juan Ponce de León Sailed, Maybe

Schooner Freedom

Schooner Freedom

Some historians say he landed at St. Augustine, but others say he landed south of there. The record shows that Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled the city in September, 1565. It had been at least 40 years since I had visited America’s oldest city. Besides the fine dining and historical sites,  a highlight this time was sailing on the Schooner Freedom.  It’s a 76 foot long,  double-masted replica of a 19th century blockade runner.  It has something they didn’t, an engine.  The Coast Guard  requires it.  Also, it makes it possible to make at least three excursions a day.  Sailing against the wind and a strong current means almost stranding still.  The trip I was on took 90 minutes.  The skipper did turn the engine off for a little while and used only wind power on the way back when the wind was behind us and the tide going in.

St. Augustine 046

One of most interesting sites at the St. Augustine docks was a replica of a Spanish galleon like the ones that plied the Florida coast between the 15th and 16th centuries.  It’s really looks at home in St. Augustine since Spain used ships like it to bring people and supplies to the city in 1565.  I asked the Freedom’s skipper how it compares in size with one of Columbus’ ships.  He said, “It’s huge.  C0lumbus’ ships were really small.”  He told me that Columbus’ ships were about the same length as his schooner, which is 76 feet.  The galleon replica is 175-feet long.

If you go to St. Augustine, I recommend the cruise.  It was fun.  Also, I recommend the Reef,  a restaurant on Vilano Beach.  My Mahi Mahi was really good; the decor is nautical, and every table has a view of the Atlantic. There are many good restaurants in St. Augustine, but that one really stood out to me.

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