When the five men walked from the St Augustine Municipal Marina into our morning coffee meeting at Athena Restaurant yesterday, they remarked about seeing us here “last year” — and wondered if we had ever gone home; always the one with the best response, Herbie Wiles turned and said, “No, we keep a change of clothes in the kitchen”.
For the past three years, the men have made St Augustine one of their water-travel destinations; but not in the traditional way you would expect for men in their 60’s and 70’s who are visiting from as far away as Grand Junction, Colorado — they came by Yamaha and Sea-Doo personal watercraft.
“We set into the Intracoastal at Beaufort South Carolina on Monday and made an overnight stop in St Simons Island Georgia,” 68-year-old Bobby Lovell of Columbia, Tennessee told Historic City News editor Michael Gold. “Last night we tied up at the marina and stayed at the Bayfront Hilton, and this morning, we’re headed back home.”
Some of the men have known each other since the 1960’s, one as recently as two years, while some are acquainted through their wives; who have their own watercraft and will occasionally accompany the men on one of their excursions.
The award for the longest travel distance to make the trip goes to 68-year-old Gary Cranston who trailered his vessel from Grand Junction Colorado. Two Rock Hill, South Carolina men, 69-year-old Jim Barrett and 76-year-old Jim Fischer, say that although they usually run about 25mph on their Yamaha’s, the four-stroke engine watercraft have up to 220 horsepower and can run up to 70mph on the high end.
The youngest, and only Floridian on the trip, is 63-year-old Steve Butler of Fort Myers Beach. He said that he enjoys the trips with his friends which have taken them up the Tennessee River, Myrtle Beach South Carolina, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The group says there is safety in traveling together — last year one of the members ran out of fuel along the way and the others were able to get him to the next stop. They run for about 8-9 hours in a day and stop for lunch, to refuel, and to add more sunblock.
As they pulled out of the marina, they said that they would see us again next year, if we were still drinking coffee around the Plaza.
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News staff photographer