Monday, March 23, 2009

Working Our Way Up Florida

It’s hard to believe we left Ft. Pierce a week ago today (Sunday). The week has flown by so quickly, like all the others have, and this has been another great one, with very nice weather—albeit high winds—it’s March, for sure! We’re now on our third day here in a marina at Palm Coast—this area being just about equidistant (30 miles) between Daytona (to the south) and St. Augustine (to the north). I spent a couple of days earlier this week writing the previous blog about Sunday’s fantastic space shuttle launch when we were at Dragon’s Point, and today just realized I hadn’t caught “Bella Luna” up to where we are now. Opps!

So after finally getting to sleep Sunday night, (and I don’t want to miss mentioning Kay’s great day of fishing that very afternoon on the back of her boat—go Kay!), we left Dragon’s Point Monday morning and headed to the neat little town of Cocoa—we would stop just for a couple of hours for lunch. There’s a free city dock there at Cocoa, and “C-Life” wanted us to not miss that particular town. So we tied up to the dock (saw several manatees lazing just several feet from our boat), and walked through the nice park one block to “main street”. We were headed to Travis Hardware Store—an unbelievable two-story, whole-block long, brick institution. We saw things there we’ve never seen anywhere else before—from new wooden wagon wheels to sleds (imagine those here!), to every dimension of pipe, screw, nut, bolt, tool, and anything else you could ever need or want. I can’t imagine what their inventory must amount to—and if they don’t have it in stock, no one else does anywhere else around here for miles and miles! Louis and Robert had a ball and could have stayed there all day—Kay and I were greatly impressed too. But hunger called us all, so we went to the recommended Ryan’s Village Pizza for lunch—having the best pizza and strombolies on our whole trip to date! If we ever make it back this way, this will definitely be a stop for us.

After lunch, we walked back to our boats and headed just a short way up to Canaveral Barge Canal for fuel and an overnight—Harbortown Harbor Marina. We found fuel there for an inclusive $1.75—the lowest fuel “Bella Luna” has ever received—color Louis happy! “Sunshine” and “Blue Max” pulled in just a few minutes ahead of us into the marina—it was good seeing them again.

Tuesday morning, just as we left the marina at Harbortown, we saw our first alligator or croc—we couldn’t tell which—swimming alongside the boat in the canal—thanks, Kay, for spotting it! We got a quick photo of it too—the first one we’ve seen so far on our whole trip! We also passed under the Christa McAufille Memorial Bridge—so named for the woman astronaut who died when the space shuttle Columbia tragically broke apart and all aboard were killed. A somber reminder of just how dangerous space travel really is.

From Canaveral Barge Canal we were headed up by Titusville to an anchorage. On the way, we passed NASA’s huge assembly building where all the rockets and shuttles are stored and eventually “rolled” 3 miles out to the launch pad. Having “the largest doors in the world”, this building was awesome even from our far-away vantage point. A huge American flag painted on the outside of the building—110 feet x 209 feet vertically—was painted on its exterior. As reported in Skipper Bob, it took 6,000 gallons of paint just to paint 1 stripe on this American flag—imagine!! And then just a little later on, we came through another canal and took a hard left and saw behind us the rocket launch pad sitting out on a tip of land where the shuttle took off Sunday night! What fun it was to see firsthand that famous spot where all launches take place—even from 3 (?) miles away—I’ve seen it all before on TV—so recognizable. I took several pictures, but they were from far off and it wasn’t entirely a clear day—I hope they turn out. Next trip, I’m going to have a really good zoom camera!

We were headed Tuesday to an anchorage about 30 miles up the ICW, but fierce winds forced us to go another 20 miles further up to New Smyrna—it would have been miserable on anchor—making a longer day of travel for us than anticipated. We wound up tying late in the afternoon to a city dock marked “No Overnight Docking”—how funny. I have a picture of Robert & Louis tying our boats up right at the sign—but we really did need the comfort and safety of a land tie-up that night regardless of what the sign said! Robert hoped to get a new battery the next morning from the local Napa store—which he did get—and so we hoped his/our excuse would let us stay there overnight without any problems. As it turned out, no one came to chase us away and we stayed comfortable, snug, and secure for the evening. People walking alongside the park and talking with us continue to be so interested in our extended and year-long trip.

The next morning, after the old battery was hauled away and the new one installed, both boats headed off a short distance to downtown Daytona. Along the way, we passed one particular stretch of “fill islands” where we saw our old friends the white pelicans—hello again! These magnificent birds with their huge wing spans (imagine, 8 feet!) have been migrating with us since our days on the Illinois River, yet we haven’t seen them in a while. Along with these white pelicans, we also saw for the first time many beautiful pink spoonbills. Huge birds too and looking so much like flamingos, these birds were fun to see flying and fun to spot sitting in the marsh and up in the low-lying trees—pink is easy to spot. We’re told these birds don’t migrate too much further up the east coast—but they sure were plentiful here.

Soon we were arriving at The Halifax River Yacht Club in downtown Daytona. Early last summer we joined MTOA and The White Rocks Yacht Club in Rock Hall, Maryland with help from our boating friends, Robbin and Roger Seal—thanks again for a great evening with you! We were therefore able to have reciprocal privileges with other yacht clubs along the way and we really hoped to use this privilege as we traveled. Yet, here were on the last leg home and have just used our membership for the first time—boy was it a good place to begin! We had just tied up our boat there and got a call from Brantley and Brenda—they were on their way to Marathon and were just coming around Daytona. They drove to the marina, we got hugs all around—even from “Rudder”, and they brought us some Wilber’s bar-b-que—how great to have a “taste from home”! Thanks, B & BG—hurry and catch up with us—more good times ahead!!

We wound up staying two nights at the yacht club and all the time there, the members made us feel so welcomed—it was just like being in Morehead. The facilities at HRYC were pristine too—an inviting 88 degree pool, a spotless laundry (did 3 loads!), good cable TV, high speed wireless, a great “swap” library, a really nice shower facility—plus the fabulous restaurant/clubhouse was so delicious and wait staff were so pleasant that we ate 5 meals there! We met Commodore Lyn and his board of directors over drinks one night up in the clubhouse—a really super bunch of dedicated people—we can see why this club is so viable. Also, West Marine & other specialty shops (a chocolate factory, yea!) were so close by too—even the Jackie Robinson Ballpark was right across the street, although Spring Training doesn’t begin for another few weeks yet and we, disappointingly, weren’t able to take advantage of any baseball games. A lot of the HRYC members wound up traveling Friday morning, like us, up to Palm Coast for a rendezvous weekend there—they all wanted us to join them for more fun, food, and fellowship on their docks—making us feel even more welcomed.

So we arrived here in Palm Coast Marina Friday afternoon, coming through some narrow parts of the Florida ICW dotted with dolphins, ospreys, pretty homes and docks—looking more and more like home—we’ve lost our pretty aquamarine water though. But thankfully we arrived just before small-craft-warning winds began to blow— getting into our slip with no problems. Robert and Louis rented a car (actually a pick-up truck, the last they had—Hi, Betsy!) for Saturday and Sunday—we all four needed a major grocery shopping trip. We also planned to drive back down to Daytona Saturday to go (the girls) to the famous weekend flea market there—(hello Barbara!) and the guys to West Marine, Boater’s World, Home Depot, etc—Louis and Robert needed a good McDonalds fix too. Kay and Robert have long-time cruising friends from the Chesapeake staying here at this marina for the winter on their boat, “@ Home”, Cathy and Jim Fisher, whom we will be spending some time with over the weekend—Jim is the Vice-President of MTOA. Sunday, Kay & I will have the car by ourselves & plan to do some “retail therapy”—Bealles is having a huge sale (50% off & then 50% off of that!)—we just can’t pass that up and we’ll take advantage of near-by Target and TJ Maxx too! After three nights here in this nice quiet marina, we’re off to St. Augustine & Jacksonville tomorrow—Monday, March 23rd. The weather has really cooled off as we have traveled up the coast to the top part of Florida—we’ve been in long pants and long sleeve shirts each day—I’m not so sure we’re headed in the right direction! I know it’s spring now and we should be headed home, but is it too late to turn around?


Anonymous said...

i have enjoyed reading your blog. feels as if I am along for the trip! I have a vacation home in Atlantic Beach and heard about your trip from Sam Rich. I also follow friends from Birmingham, Ala who are doing the Loop....they are leaving the Bahamas now......we hope to see them in Morehead.......You might have seen "THE SALVAGE CREW"

Jay Stockard said...

No matter how far you roam, all it takes is one taste of NC BBQ and it all comes back to you in a flash! Take care, and be safe!