It’s impossible to define the St. Augustine lifestyle without including a healthy love and respect for the gorgeous blue waters that surround our city. From the Atlantic to the Intracoastal, salt water runs through the veins of all Ancient City locals, including Robert and Nicole Nettles. On good weather days, Robert and Nicole can often be found aboard their 2006 Pathfinder, joined by their daughter, Lilly, and French bulldog, Duke. Almost an extension of their family home, the 24-foot boat dubbed “Phish Food” has been the backdrop for many adventures from St. Augustine to the Florida Keys. Although he’s modified the boat largely for tarpon fishing, Robert still finds his greatest joy on the water is spending time with his family. “Sharing this amazing place we live in with my daughter is my favorite part of boating,” says Robert.
Even when they’re not fishing or coasting along the shores, the Nettles family finds other ways to incorporate their favorite hobby into their daily lives. In 2006, the couple opened Blue Water Jewelers on Anastasia Island, a designer and custom jewelry store that’s become a St. Augustine staple. Jewelry is what originally brought Robert’s family to St. Augustine. His father, Bob, moved to town from Georgia in 1980 to run a franchise jewelry store, before eventually opening his own shop. When it came time for Robert to step out and open his own place with Nicole, the couple knew they wanted the name to evoke something special. “When you head offshore and reach the Gulf Stream, it’s referred to as reaching ‘blue water,’” says Robert.
But the Nettles, like many other local residents, also know there’s another side to seaside life. When Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, the Nettles nearly lost their home and business to flooding on Anastasia Island. It was only by the grace of some gorilla tape and insulated spray foam that they managed to keep the worst of the waters at bay – an experience Nicole used to help many others save their homes and businesses when Hurricane Irma caused similar flooding a year later.
After overcoming both storms, Robert and Nicole have become even more grateful for the good things they can enjoy as a family on the open water. Whether the family is watching a manta ray migration, taking part in North Florida’s famous mullet runs, enjoying a full moon spawn, or catching blue crabs, they use every opportunity to share with Lilly the knowledge that they learned growing up by the ocean. “We teach her to always eat what is kept,” says Robert, “and to respect what God has given us.”
Photography by Addison Fitzgerald