Sunrise is an hour away, though the sun won’t be seen by anyone in or around St. Augustine Harbor this morning: the incoming fog will see to that. The crews of the moored boats will slumber below decks longer than usual while the watery air muffles the usual a.m. sounds.
The Nasty Habit’s engine revs, then idles, then coughs and revs again, her captain endeavoring to keep her from drifting back into the inlet as he waits for the Bridge of Lion’s master to raise the bridge’s central section. The boat’s belly is fat with shrimp, both more so and sooner than most days, so she is heading home early, sated. The crew, to a man, is sharp awake and diligent in their duties, though each steals a look toward the buildings along the quay to the far side of the bridge, and each constructs his own day’s promise.
A single masted square-rigger anchored in the harbor last night. I have never seen such a boat before, but it is unquestionably well-suited for this antiquated harbor of ours.
From where I stand on the south side of the Bridge of Lions, I see five boats moored in a row along the sea wall approaching the Castillo’s ramparts, like so many English ships of the line in battle formation.
Here is the Seven A.M. Harbor Report: There is currently an almost slack, incoming tide with light winds out of the northwest and some cloud cover that will clear later this morning. The water and air temperatures are both at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from water slapping against hulls and the unpeopled docks and the occasional splash of a fish, the marina is quiet. The sun has cleared the horizon, freshening the starboard sides of the moored sailboats at the harbor’s southern end. Two pelicans land in untroubled waters near the lead schooner there, and one is filled with a sense of peaceful confidence that all is as it should be.
I am a break-of-day photographer who lives at the edge of land in St. Augustine, Florida. Since moving here, I have become drawn to moored sailboats in our small harbors that open into the vastness of the Atlantic. My attraction is related to a notion I have of man’s boundless curiosity that has historically driven him to undertake dangerous, far-ranging seagoing adventures.
The best time to capture this mood with my camera, I have learned, is during the brief period before and after the sun rises on days of partly clear skies and gentle winds. The sun’s light is not blindingly bright then, and its position is low, horizontal to objects on the water and beneath the clouds, resulting in deepened colors, highlighted shadows, long reflections in still waters, and, when I am lucky, an arresting photo.
Someone has tied up a skiff at the southern end of the marina flood wall. It sits hard aground in the outgoing tide amidst sea grasses and rocks. It has no oar locks, so whoever brought it to shore likely used a small outboard and then took it with him for safe keeping (a two horsepower motor can weigh as little as 30 pounds). There are two to three inches of water in the hull so the boat has been here since at least Tuesday when we last we had a heavy rain. Perhaps it belongs to the captain of one of those half dozen sailboats I see moored to the southeast. I wonder where the captain is now, and I turn west to study the houses and inns that line the quay, as though I might see him hurrying along on his business, as though I might learn in which of my mind’s thousand stories he belongs.