EXPERIENCE ST AUGUSTINE SAILING
- Written by Kim Brown
I took my four-year-old daughter out sailing with St. Augustine Sailing, and now I need to buy a boat. Well, not immediately, but she hasn’t stopped talking about sailing since our trip, and that was two weeks ago!
With summer vacation ending soon and my daughter Phoebe getting ready to start full-time school for the first time, it seemed like the perfect time for a mother-daughter staycation! We planned a whole day, including a sailing charter with St. Augustine Sailing. We chose the Dolphin Delight Adventure and set an 11am departure. As a full-time working mom, I appreciate the reminder email I received the day before, with the location, directions, things to bring and shoes to wear. It helped me get my mom-bag together!
As much as I love the charm of downtown St. Augustine, there was something so freeing about driving past its hustle and bustle, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t about to spend an hour trying to find parking. In fact, parking took less than a few minutes with a quick walk to the office in Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor marina, right at the base of the Vilano Bridge.
CAMACHEE COVE YACHT HARBOR
Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor wraps around a deep, tear-drop-shaped harbor. We saw a boatyard full of large yachts in various stages of maintenance. Various businesses and organizations are housed in clean, white, two-story buildings. My daughter and I walked along a bricked path up to the St. Augustine Sailing office, where we were greeted by one of the friendliest smiles I’ve seen in a long time.
Toste runs the front office, and it’s no wonder she was a finalist for the coveted St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitor Convention Bureau’s Tourism Employee of the Year. Her warm and friendly demeanor was welcoming, disarming my daughter, who immediately became her best friend. She pointed us toward the restrooms while simultaneously wrapping up a call about a private charter. She ensured we had everything we needed before heading out – drinks, a life jacket for my child and a short briefing about the trip and our crew. I declined beer and wine as I was driving, but there was a nice selection available in the front office, including some local beers that I noted for later.
Owner and captain Rose Ann Points came to collect us from the office, and it was immediately clear where Toste got her cheerful disposition. Mother and daughter share the same bubbly personality. Leaving the office and heading to the docks, my daughter was awed by the large sportfish boats and sprightly sailboats. We chatted as we walked, and Rose Ann showed us St. Augustine Sailing’s fleet of boats. Each vessel looked straight out of the pages of a magazine – clean, sparkling white decks, neatly wrapped sails and expertly maintained.
A LA MER
Our vessel for the day, A La Mer, is a gorgeous 35-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349. Dr. Dale greeted us from the cockpit with a friendly wave and hello. We easily boarded the boat, using a set of sturdy steps and a steadying hand from Dr. Dale. We got comfy in the cockpit and said a silent thank you for the bimini, a sturdy piece of cloth that provides shade and protection from the sun. As hot as it is in July in Florida, we were very comfortable. Dr. Dale expertly guided the vessel from its slip and through the marina as Rose Ann explained the safety features of A La Mer and what to expect from our journey. They raised the sails, turned the engine off and eased us north up the Tolomato River.
CHARCUTERIE BOARD … YUMMY
With our departure being just before lunchtime and knowing that my four-year-old would get hungry as soon as we left the dock, we opted for one of St. Augustine Sailing’s charcuterie boards. I’m not lying when I say that I’m still thinking about that board. Phoebe decimated the fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and olives. I am on the hunt for the dark, seeded crackers that were the perfect accompaniment to the creamy Boursin and Gouda cheeses.
While we happily munched away, Dr. Dale delighted us with his knowledge of dolphins and tales of his sailing experience. His sailing life is a real California Dream – I’ll admit I was just a bit jealous hearing him talk about sailing San Francisco Bay as a young college kid, docking at the iconic Pier 39 – it was free and available in those days – exploring and eating his fill of fresh seafood. He went on to gain more sailing experience, moving on to bigger boats with greater responsibility. He rounded out his sailing knowledge by completing St. Augustine Sailing’s full offering of ASA courses. We discovered that A La Mer is actually Dale’s boat, as part of St. Augustine Sailing’s Ownership Program.
His academic career is even more impressive than his sailing career. Dale earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Physiology at San Jose State University and his Doctoral degree in Physiology from the University of California. Dale’s work has been internationally-recognized for his research in the areas of biological rhythms, sleep physiology and translational science. In his retirement, Dale took his two loves – sailing and talking to people – and used them to make physiology accessible and fun to the public through the Sail Science adventures.
“Our knowledge of Physiology spans the animal kingdom,” says Dr. Dale, or ‘The Professor’ as he’s lovingly called on the docks. “We can study how animals, especially mammals like dolphins, adapt to different environments and compare it to human behavior. This research can help scientists create new novel treatments.”
As we discussed his research and how it translated to his knowledge of dolphins, each new fact was more interesting than the next. I was especially intrigued by his explanation of dolphin language – did you know that dolphins have a full-blown language, separate from the clicks and squeaks we normally associate with them? It was a topic that could have easily gone over my four-year-old’s head, but he made sure to involve her, using situations and comparisons that she could understand.
As we learned all about dolphins, each fact new and fascinating, Dr. Dale and Rose Ann sailed A La Mer north and then south down the Intracoastal Waterway, tacking and jibing so smoothly that we wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t paying rapt attention to their coordinated moves. Rose Ann very sweetly showed Phoebe the down below area – she’s ready to move in, Rose Ann! – and even let her take the helm. Anyone who has spent time with a small child knows how hard it is to keep them entertained for 20 minutes, not to mention two hours. Dale and Rose Ann had my daughter fully-engaged in the experience, making it an absolute blast for her.
LEARN TO SAIL WITH ST AUGUSTINE SAILING
As Dale turned his attention towards bringing the boat back into the marina, we had a chance to move towards the bow and chat with Rose Ann. I knew from exploring the St. Augustine Sailing website that they offered ASA classes, but I wasn’t fully aware of the school’s reputation! “We have lots of students that travel to St. Augustine to complete their certification classes,” Rose Ann explained proudly. “I see lots of them coming from New York and Atlanta especially. And this really is the perfect spot – we have a nice variety of sailing conditions right here. We’re right on the Intracoastal Waterway, but just a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic and its offshore conditions. We’ve got deep water, shallow water, shoals, sandbars, anchorages, everything you need to offer a well-rounded educational experience.”
I’ve been on many boats in my lifetime, and Dale’s docking was one of the smoothest I’ve seen. He expertly backed A La Mer into her slip, with another of Rose Ann’s children, Derk, catching the lines. We expected to say goodbye and head on our way, but Dr. Dale surprised Phoebe with a dolphin figure and a kid’s National Geographic book about dolphins. It was a sweet and unexpected gesture. Before leaving, we had to go by the office just to say ‘bye’ to Toste.
As someone who has done a lot of sailing charters – I find one on every family vacation – St. Augustine Sailing ranks at the very top. You won’t find a friendlier, more accommodating group of people anywhere. From their pristine vessels to their top-notch customer service, my family is now a die-hard fan. I’m talking my husband into taking their ASA classes and plan on taking my daughter to their Women on the Water! seminars – a sailing program tailored to women, which I love. I can say hands-down that this is a not-to-be-missed adventure; whether you live locally or just have the pleasure of visiting on vacation – you won’t regret it!