Friday, April 24, 2009

Titusville, FL to Georgia

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #33

I finally finished my “Stars, Moon and Sun” hooked rug that I designed and started a year ago. The majority was done on this trip and I just had to show it off especially for my rug hooking friends who follow this blog.

This week we left Titusville, Fl and are now in the wilds of Georgia. We anchored off of Daytona and then off of St. Augustine Municipal Marina. We never went in at Daytona, but did go ashore in St. Augustine to walk around the old section of the city. We saw the oldest Catholic Church in the US, Basilica of St. Augustine, which is from the 1500’s. The Spanish influence could definitely be seen with the black and red ceilings trimmed in gold. The one man band who played on one of the side streets was a interesting character also.

When motor sailing from St. Augustine to Fernandina in the ocean it was not a very comfortable ride due to being rocked side to side by the waves. I could not wait to get in, but we had to have some excitement first. We were getting close to St. John’s inlet when all of a sudden we heard a siren and saw a boat with flashing lights come zooming toward us with a soldier with a gun on the bow. By microphone they instructed us to maintain our course and to stay away 500 yards from the navy ship. As if we planned to go anywhere near it! Why they had to scare us half to death, to tell us to maintain course is beyond me! I guess they just were bored and wanted something to do.

We got into Fernandina and the moorings were full so we had to anchor near the mooring field. We took the dinghy ashore and went to Arte’s Pizza. We had tried their wood oven baked pizza and sangria on the trip down and returned once more to satisfy our craving for pizza.

The next day we planned to leave but predictions of gusty storms deterred us to stay another day. We actually got to sleep in to 7:30am. What a treat! We were in slow mode that morning puttering around the boat which was good, because around 10am we had a blast of heavy wind and rain. It did not last too long and then the sun broke through the clouds. We went ashore to walk several miles for some exercise and to see more of the town. It looked threatening but nothing more developed. Out on the marina dock we saw some people who had gone to the Bahamas that we had met on the way down in Charleston. We chatted with them awhile and then went to the seafood market next to the marina for some fresh shrimp for dinner. With that shrimp we also had another wonderful sunset!

Our sailing buddies from Saltaire who went to the west coast with us showed up for fueling at the dock at Fernandina. We were hoping to get together; however, they had to keep moving because they needed the high tide to get to the marina where they were taking their boat to store it until next winter.

We motored to Brunswick Landing Marina in Brunswick, GA the following day where we planned to stay for two days. We got our bikes out to see a bit of the town and then did laundry at their FREE laundry at the marina. That is a first; to be able to do laundry for free!

Then next day we biked to the grocery store to restock. We connected with some high school friends of Al’s, Shirley and Tony Guthrie, who live on St. Simon Island not far from Brunswick. Unfortunately Tony works in Atlanta during the week, but Shirley and her friend, Pam, came to see our boat and to take us on a tour of St, Simon, and Sea Island. Both places were extremely nice and were told that a lot of “trust fund babies” have homes here. We ended the evening going to a wonderful restaurant own by Shirley’s daughter and son-in-law. The seafood was fantastic as well as the company.

We left the next morning at 7am in a bit of fog which lifted after an hour or so, not causing any problems. We did not get to the anchorage until about 4:30pm, motoring 95% of the time. Georgia consists of marsh grasses, coarse white sandy beaches, 8 foot tides, mud flats, lots of current, birds and insects. We anchored in the boon docks of Georgia at the “prettiest anchorage of Georgia” on the Wahoo River as described by the writer of the cruising guide. However, the no-see-ums were horrendous so we did not get to enjoy the sights because we had to go below to save our bodies! Now we understand why a lot of people try to go the ocean route and by-pass Georgia. Next stop; will be somewhere in South Carolina.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Manatees, Alligators, and Storms, Oh My!

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #32

We had a nice sail to Fort Lauderdale in the ocean making six knots with the wind behind us. We entered Port Everglades and it was filled with cruise ships for trips for the Easter holiday. This was just one of the small boats on the docks in Fort Lauderdale. Al and I thought we might consider it for our next boat! Yeah, right!!

All eight of the moorings at Las Olas Municipal Marina were full so we went over to Lake Sylvia not far away and anchored. Usually you stay away from the edges toward the land, but here it was different. The edge was where the deep water was until you were in the lake. We luckily did not have any problems but we watched others running aground coming in.

Later we followed the cruising guide’s instructions and motored by dinghy to the Raw Oyster Bar where we could land the dinghy for $10. However, the $10 could be used toward food and drink at the restaurant. We needed groceries and the store was across the street from the restaurant. After having a libation since we already had lunch, we did our shopping and went back to the boat to pack it all away.

The next morning we took our dinghy to the Las Olas Municipal Marina to be able to land and walk around the beach front. The fee is usually $15 but because we did not want to use showers or laundry, and because we had stayed at their facility in February, he waived the fee. We learned that it can be very difficult to find a public mailbox. We had to walk forever and that was after being told where the closest one was.

Later in the day we returned to the municipal dock to meet Al’s aunt and cousin for dinner. We had a wonderful Italian meal and time to chat about our experiences with them. Being that they live in Florida, we do not see them often, but this year it was a treat to see them three times.

A cold front came through, and although this seems warm to northerners, the high sixties with 15 knot winds seemed quite cold to us. We left Fort Lauderdale and went out in the ocean with the wind on our nose. There were large rollers but the distance apart was about 75 ft. which did not make it horrible. If they had been close together, it would not have been pleasant. Even though it was cool, it was clear and sunny which made for a pleasant day ending at the north end of Lake Worth.

The next day we motored through seven bridges that had to open for us in the ICW only having to wait for one for any extended time. We were anchored at Peck Lake by 12:30pm. This gave us plenty of time to dinghy ashore and cross the barrier island to walk the beach looking for shells and sea glass. I even convinced Al to take a nap on the beach which gave me more time to enjoy it. (Al is not a “beach” lover!)

The next morning we were leaving at sunrise and what a beautiful sunrise it was after having a beautiful sunset the night before that looked like the sky was on fire!
Al was pulling up anchor and I was snapping pictures left and right as the skies changed.

We motored to Vero Beach and were tied to a mooring by 1pm. This was where we celebrated Thanksgiving, now we are here for Easter. We shared the mooring with another boat called Camelot. No one was on it when we came in and did not come until two days later.
While here we met Al’s fraternity brother and his wife for a nice dinner in town and on Easter Sunday we met our friends Chick and Dorothy Hundley whom we met in Stuart for brunch. It was nice seeing familiar faces and visiting with them.

Later in the day on Easter, I kayaked in the Vero Beach lagoon area. What was neat is there were four or five dolphins swimming all around me. It was fun watching them surface so close and hearing the air from their air hole. Kayaking with dolphins was a whole new experience!

We left Vero Beach after three days and had a great sail up the ICW to the north side of the bridge at Cocoa. It was blowing 15-20 knots out of the south west so it wasn’t a very quiet night. We were up early to get to a marina in Titusville. We knew some unsettled weather was coming but in hind sight we should have left an hour earlier. Thunderstorms were predicted for afternoon but around 11 am the skies darken and we prepared for a storm. This was the worst storm we had the entire trip. Al got the anchor down along side the channel just as the winds gusted to 31 knots and rain pelted down. There was lightning and thunder and I started praying. We had suffered a lightning strike many years ago on our former boat so I was a bit jumpy. My prayers must have worked because the storm passed without incident and we motored into Titusville Municipal Marina. It felt good to be tied up because the wind was howling all day.

While Al sprayed all the salt off the boat with the hose, we had a visitor manatee. We heard manatees love fresh water and he stayed at the corner of the stern slurping as much fresh water as he could get. In the picture you are seeing his face looking up with his tongue licking the water. Manatees are very slow creatures and never seem to look like they have eyes, just a nose and mouth. Other manatees were at the pipe at the marina wall doing the same thing after the storm. We certainly saw plenty of mantatees at this marina, probably ten or more.
The next day we rented a car and went to the Kennedy Space Center for two days. We could not have asked for more gorgeous days; blue skies and temps in the high seventies. It was fascinating to see what all goes into our space programs and to see all the types of rockets and satellites we have sent into space. The astronauts are definitely extraordinary people. And it still amazes me how all these people on the ground and in the air work as a team to accomplish our space exploration. It is mind boggling and the whole Kennedy Space Center was out of this world!(Sorry, I could not resist!)

While at the space center we finally saw our first alligators. We have been looking the entire trip. We did not even see one in the Everglades but saw lots on the space center properties.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hundreds Come to Al's B-day Celebration

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #31

A front came through and cooled things off a bit, and Saltaire (the catamaran in the picture with Nancy and Dave Hall) and Blue Heaven were finally able to leave Marco Island. It was a bit lumpy at first but then quieted down so that we could sail until about noon and then the iron jenny (motor) had to get us the rest of the way to Little Shark River in the Everglades where we had been on the way up. This time there were twice as many boats there and the no-see-ums and mosquitoes were out in full force since it had been so warm. We had dinner on Saltaire and planned our next few days. When we rowed back to our boat, it was pitch black with large splashes all around. We could not see if they were fish, alligators, or huge mosquitoes landing on the water but we did not want to find out. I never saw Al row so fast!

I also never saw Al get the anchor up so fast as he did the next morning because the no-see-ums were horrendous! He and I looked like we were doing a special dance as we swatted those pests off our bodies. Once out in the open water they finally departed and we could relax. We had decided to by-pass Marathon and head straight to Channel Five on the inside which saved us one day of traveling. The winds were very light so it was a MYBO (motor your brains out) day. However, the next day we went under a bridge, out to Hawk Channel (which is on the Atlantic Ocean) and were able to sail on a beam reach up to Angelfish Cut. Once through, we anchored once again off Pumpkin Key. With Al’s birthday the next day I baked a cake and some bread for his celebration before retiring for the night.
Our next spot was Boca Chita Key in Biscayne National Park which we had not seen on the way down because it was a weekend . Everyone who has a boat in Miami goes there, or to No Name Harbor so you avoid those two places on weekends unless you are the type who likes to dance the night away to salsa music. I am glad we got to see it on our way back because it is a beautiful small harbor where boats tie up to the bulkhead. There is a pretty but nonfunctional lighthouse, picnic tables and a small beach. A gentleman informed us that at slack tide snorkeling was good at the cut. Neither the Halls nor Al wanted to do it, so I tried itmyself with other boaters who were on the island. There were hundreds of fish mostly one kind that all faced into the current looking like they were in school facing their teacher. A few other varieties of fish, a conch and starfish were sighted but you did not have the colorful coral or fans like the Caribbean, but it was fun nonetheless.

Since it was Al’s birthday the Halls came to help celebrate to have dinner and cake, as well as a hundred others. The only thing is that they wanted blood not birthday cake!
As dusk came, the mosquitoes were the most ferocious we have ever had. We knew they were bad, because just walking across the grass earlier, many landed on you, but we never expected to suffer as we had that evening in our boat which has screens. (Here Al is trying earlier his own brand of bug spray called "ode de stinky cigar!" ) Al finally used tape to go around the hatch screens and after killing about 50-80 mosquitoes between the four of us, we finally were able to finish enjoying cake and a game of Dominoes. We were told by people who are familiar with Boca Chita that it is very unusual to have mosquitoes especially this early. However, they had a lot of rain about two weeks previous which is probably the cause. Lucky us!

Al enjoyed reading all his birthday greetings from many of you. It was definitely the most birthday wishes he ever received!

The next day we parted ways with Nancy and Dave because we wanted to go into Dinner Key Marina at Coconut Grove, and they were not able to accommodate the Hall’s wide catamaran. The few spots they have for such a boat were all filled. Dave finally found a spot at Grove Isle which was about 1 ½ miles from Dinner Key. It was blowing 20-26 knots but luckily it was behind us once we left Boca Chita We were in the slip by 1pm, and then it was chore time with Al cleaning the outside of the boat to get the salt off of everything while I did four loads of laundry. It was close to ninety degrees with high humidity which set another record, and we were glad to be in a marina where we could use our air conditioning.

The next day we went for a bike ride after getting needed groceries. We went to see the accommodations at Grove Isle where the Halls got a slip. Well it was something! It was a gated community where they took our picture before they allowed us to pass. It was definitely for the high paying customer at $3.50 a foot per night. Dave never asked the cost because he needed a spot because his daughter and son-in-law were coming for a visit and they needed to pick them up. There were several pools, spa, high-end restaurant and beautiful landscaping. They only have four transient slips, and they just had a cancellation when Dave called which he took because he had called all around with no luck elsewhere.

That evening Al and I went to a great little French restaurant called Le Bouchon du Grove on Main Street. The food was excellent and I never had a restaurant start you off with complimentary champagne.

The next day we took our time leaving the marina because it was hot and humid again and we were only going across Biscayne Bay to anchor outside of Hurricane Bay which is at Key Biscayne. When we anchored we were with about 150 other boats most that were there to party for the day on the long sand bar that comes out there. It sort of reminded me of Hart/Miller Island for those familiar with the upper bay, just the boats were a lot larger! I went in for a swim around the boat like many of the other boaters and had just been thinking no fish would come around this area with all the commotion when not far from the boat a huge fish leaped out of the water and I did too, right onto our boat!

That evening I made a great salmon recipe with mango salsa which we enjoyed while watching the sunset. I have found having the time available for cooking that I have enjoyed trying new recipes on this trip. Al says why go out when he gets better food on the boat. I say, if I have to burn a few things, I will!

We will be heading to Fort Lauderdale next.