Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Key Biscayne

This is the second of two new postings since departing Cocoa, FL. Be sure to check out both.

Now, the title of this second post might not mean much to most. But to us it means 80 Degrees, mostly sunny and a slight breeze swaying the palm trees on the very white sandy beaches.

We rented a car and drove down to Key Biscayne to celebrate Christmas with Norm's sister, Joyce. What a blast! We had a great visit which included great "catching up", lots of food and wine and of course wonderful weather. On Christmas Eve, Joyce treated us and her good friends Pal and Mary to a fantastic steak dinner at Morton's. It was Mary's birthday too. Then on Friday Pal treated us to pizza at Archie's--one of our favorites. It was Indian on Saturday and breakfast at the golf club on Sunday. Needless to say we all had a "food hangover". In between the pig-outs, we chatted, laughed and played canasta. Vicki was the overall winner; but, it was nip and tuck all the way. So, a roust, it was not. You know, by the "hair on her chinny, chin, chin"! Oops, I mean no hair. No, there is no hair there.

Joyce had the apartment decorated for Christmas, including the "money tree". It kept growing with dollar bills that will, we're sure, find their way to the church offering. Or, to replenish the wine cellar! Same thing?

We are now on a diet--again!

Joyce lives in a great condo. It is situated right between the ocean and a county park. The grounds are lush, the pool is a comfortable temperature, and the sandy beach is like a fine powder.

View of the grounds.

View of the Ocean.

Iguana's live on the property. Can you find "Waldo" in this tree?

Our Home for a month!

Our most recent route and our new location: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?t=h&ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=102224145462847302635.00047b6b6f0f299ac7cae&ll=27.754038,-80.46936&spn=1.42672,3.337097&z=9

Tide Hiker is now docked at the Harborage Yacht Club and Marina in Stuart Florida. This will be our home for the next month while we visit Norm's sister, Joyce, for Christmas and attend the Stuart Boat Show here in mid-January. After that, we'll join up with September Song, Sea Pearl and Aurora for a cruise over to Florida's West coast via the Okeechobee waterway. More on that later.

We left Cocoa in overcast skies and 46 degrees F. The sun came out later, though, and the flying bridge was toasty. We were going to Vero Beach's mooring field when we heard that the field was full and rafting would be required. That's when more than one boat ties up to one mooring ball--not our cup of tea. And, the marina was full too. We decided that Vero Beach is not a boater-friendly place and just moved on to spend our money in the very boater-friendly Ft Pierce. That made for a long cruise day of 69 miles. But it was worth it. When we arrived we found a free Jazz and Blues concert had begun right on the marina property. So, we naturally migrated to the concert and enjoyed a couple of beers to the sounds of Iko Iko. A first for us, but a very good band that usually plays at the Green Parrot in Key West. We liked them a lot.

The next day we finished the remaining 26 miles to Stuart. We caught up with Bob and Stephanie aboard September Song and Joe Nicola aboard Sea Pearl. Bob and Stephanie welcomed us with a dinner of Bob's Famous Lasagna. You see, Bob heard that Vicki was in the search for the best Lasagna; and, Bob wanted to compete. Vicki brought some apps and desert and Joe brought the wine. Needless to say, a good time was had by all. Most importantly, Vicki says that Bob's La saga was the best she ever tasted. Bob wins the competition. His recipe is a secret. It was a blast even though this picture looks like we just woke up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Long Johns and Flannel Jammies.....

Our route and new location: Cocoa, FL

Geese, it's cold down here.  What are we doing here anyway?  Oh, yea, looking for warm weather and our Defever friends in Stuart, FL--just 2 cruise days away.  We had a great ride down here from New Smyrna Beach.  Cold, windy but mostly sunny.  Due to the expected cold temps tonight we plugged into the Cocoa Village Marina.

We walked the town after our arrival.  Very nice little village with loads of small shops and restaurants that are not chains.  We like it here.  Vicki looked for shoes (did you hear me Lisa Cicconi?) and I went to the Vault for a drink.  The Vault is an old bank that has been coverted into a bar and restaurant.  Nice!

We also ran into Jim and Ann O'Mally, DeFever Cruisers members and folks we have met before at the last rendezvous.  They just purchased a slip here and moved their boat here.  They live here too and offered to take us shopping; but, we are nicely provisioned at the moment.  We're looking forward to seeing them again at the Defever Rendezvous in Stuart.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

91213/14/16--Jacksonville Beach -to- New Smyrna Beach

Our route and destinations over the past 3 cruise days.  Current location: New Smyrna Beach

What an adventure this is.  We cruised 3 days to New Smyrna Beach.

Our first stop was St Augustine.  We spent Christmas here last year with our friends Mike and Fran. But this year we stopped at the Oyster Creek Marina.  It's a short distance south of the municipal marina and up the San Sebastian River about 1.5 miles.  Very convenient to town and to shopping.  And, no currents to contend with.  Paul, the dockmaster we very accomodating and helpful.

Our second stop was Palm Coast.  Barry and Barbara Kipnis hosted us at their home dock.  We met Barry and Barbara at the MTOA Rendezvous in Crisfield, MD this summer.  We got reacquainted and had a wonderful vist.  We were able to capture them from their busy evenig Christmas social schedule and go to breakfast.  Good time!  The forecasted winds kept us at dock here for two days.

Our third stop was in New Smyrna Beach.  There, we met up with our friends Pete and Lillian Satterlee.  They let us raft up to their boat (which is also a DeFever 49 RPH, just like ours).  We ordered pizza in and had a great time eating pizza and drinking wine and hearing all about Pete and Lil's European cruising in the Netherlands, France etc.  Awesome adventure and their stories peaked our interests in maybe doing this too some day!!  The pictures Pete had on his computer wers fantastic.  Unfortunately, we were so absorbed in the discussion, we did not take any pictures.  Bummer!!

We stayed in New Smyrna for a couple of nights.  Again, the winds and forecasted thunderstorms kept us off the waterway.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Going South, from Jacksonville, FL

Our route and destination today:  Jacksonville Beach, FL

It was a short cruise day today because we wanted to time the tidal currents in Pablo Creek, which can rip at 6 knots.  So, we planned to depart Jacksonville Landing late morning to hit Pablo at slack.  BUT, after a brief walk in the morning we returned to the boat to see signs were posted that "Unauthorized Vessels May Be Towed or Impounded".  Now these were new--not there for the past two days.  Well, it seems that on game days (Jaguars were playing at home) the free public dock where we were tied up becomes unavailable.  "A big stern-wheeler party boat is due there any minute" says the water taxi captain.  "You better skedaddle!"  So,  we rushed our departure to make room for the bigger boat.  And, just in time.  The stern-wheeler was in the channel waiting for us to leave.  That early departure required us to pretty much float in idle speed North to the ICW. And, even at that, we were making almost 8 mph sometimes.  But, it worked out ok and we were able to slow down enough to hit the Pablo Creek bridge at slack--as planned, I might add.

It was getting late, so we pulled into Beach Marine at Jacksonville Beach for the night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Going Back North...to Jacksonville, FL

Our route and location today: Jacksonville, FL

We had a 15-20 MPH head wind today and 90% clouds--bleak.  But we timed the currents right and had a good push in spite of the winds.  The currents really rip through this lower St John's River and we were expecting a tough docking situation at Jacksonville.  But, as I said, we timed it right and arrived here at slack tide.  "Piece-o-cake"!!  Our Nobletec system has a fantastic application for currents, telling us slack and the current at any time of day for many places -it's been a very valuable piece of software for "Navigreator" Vicki.

Two hours after we arrived here in Jacksonville, a very nice woman came to our boat and said that she was from "Haskell Marine" and she had the motor part we ordered.  Is that service or what?  The part was only $4.50 and they still delivered it to our dock.  So, if you are ever in Jacksonville, FL and need parts we highly recommend Buddy Haskell's shop.  Tell em Norm and Vicki aboard Tide Hiker sent ya!!

Jacksonville Landing is an indoor/outdoor restaurant haven--right downtown.  There's so many different types of food available you would have to be here a month to eat at them all.   And, I'm not talking fast food, although there is also a food court up on the second level.  There's also a honky tonk and an upscale discoteque (sp?), both with live bands. So, it might be a bit noisy here tonight.

We are at the city's free floating dock.  We can stay here for 72 hours; which is good, because the weather is predicted to get a bit gnarly tomorrow and Sunday.  No services here (electricity or water).  So we will have to run the generator for battery maintenance and we'll have to conserve our water.  Even still, the 15th annual 100-member tuba orchestra will be doing their Christmas show tomorrow here at the landing.  Until then, it's Sushi tonight!!

Home Sweet Home for the Holidays.....

Good news! Norm will fix the dinghy after we get the $4.50 part in Jacksonville, our next stop. So, a replacement motor is not necessary Unfortunately, though, we had to put her in the garage until it's fixed and couldn't continue our alligator hunting on the St John's River. No new shoes for Norm or purse for Vicki this year.

So, we decided to go home. We reversed our route and cruised North, downstream, from Welaka, past Palatka to GREEN COVE SPRINGS. Our journey today: Home for (some of) the Holidays

We're at the Reynolds Park Yacht Center.

A bit bleak, but functional and the price is very right including water and electricity. More importantly, the folks here are very nice and have been awesomely helpful. They drove us round trip over to St Brendan's Isle, our "old homestead".

We arrived home today--Green Cove Springs, FL. The place looks the same with a couple of newer homes on the block--some bigger and some smaller. Come on in....

As you can see, the neighborhood is a bit dense. We don't know too many neighbors because we all travel so much. So, when we are home, it's nice and quite. There's Doreen, our mayor.

There it is--our home! She's an architecturally award-winning high rise beauty. But, we couldn't afford to be on one of the higher floors. If you are interested in the servises offered by St Brendan's Isle, check them out at: www.sbimailservice.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Alligator Sightings, and more........

Our most recent journey:
Palatka to Welaka; Alligator Hunting in Oklawaha Creek

It was a short 20-miler to Welaka yesterday.  We're here for two days because the winds were 20 knots today with stronger gusts.  We tied up to the free dock here.  Unfortunately, the Cafe Bleuu Restaurant is closed till Thursday.  This restaurant was recommended to us by Todd and Brenda.  So, instead we had an early dinner at the Shrimp-R-Us-and More Restaurant, also recommended by
Todd and Brenda.  This was very good and we recommend it.  We had an excellent dinner there last night and lunch today. The sandwiches are humongus and a meal all alone.  And, very tasty.

It was a beautiful ride from Palatka.  The clouds were reflecting on the water as we departed the dock.  And, the St. John's River south of Palatka is a paradise.  Upon our arriveal at Welaka yesterday, we took down the dinghy and did some more alligator hunting.  And once again we were in luck while cruising the Oklawaha Creek.  And, tons of birds and turtles.  Some of the turtles are over 1 ft in diameter.  Coooooool!

We sighted this flock of egrets and ibis on the branches.  And the prize of the day was this black alligator sunning on this log.  it was very sinister looking because of the black color!

The ride into this creek was like we were on the African Queen.  The creek was narrow, but plenty deep with cypress branches hanging over, in some instances providing a canopy blocking the sun.

This is a female Anhinga, or sometimes called the "snake bird" because they swim submerged with their head craning around above the water - the first time we saw one was in Palatka and it looked like a miniature Loch Ness monster.  See her perched on the tree limb.  Cool huh?  And we saw lots of turtles, also sunning on logs.  They are a bit more skittish and jump in the water as we get near.  The alligator did not.  So, we got a bit skittish and didn't bother them.

We also walked the town and toured  the Aquariam and Fish Hatchery.  Small but nice.  Lots of native species in the tanks.  The breeding ponds were dry though.  So, we were wondering about that.  A "no-fishing" sign gave us a laugh!

Our walk around town included these dirt streets; and, they like their trees here.  They build roads around the live oak trees.  Very neat!!

A special treat was a tour of the Maritime Museum.  Mr. R. Speas spent his retirement building wooden boats.  They were all hand made by one man.  Take a look at these masterpieces.

This was a boat called the Eagle.  We were really impressed by the craftsmanship and detail.  All the boats did at one time and some still do cruise on the water in parades and such.

When not building boats, Mr Speas made vases.  The one Vicki is pointing to is in the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest wooden vase.  Notice the wooden propeller in the other picture?

Gordon, the town mayor stopped down today to greet us and to invite us to stay till Saturday for the holiday festival and boat parade.  Unfortunately, we'll be back in Jacksonville by then.

Tide Hiker at the end on the street at the free town dock.

Remember we told you that handy Norm fixed the reverse gear on the dinghy motor?  Well it worked for our dinghy exploration yesterday, but when we arrived back at the boat, Norm tried to reverse to slow down and the boat went into forward and almost rammed Vicki's head into the boat, then when he tried to maneuver the dinghy for lifting it up to the boat deck, it lost all gears.  So, that ended our creeks exploration on the St John's River.  Bummer.  We stopped at a boat store today, the mechanic came out to diagnose the problem - turns out it's a simple fix when we can get the part which they didn't have in stock.  So, we're headed back upriver toward Jacksonville tomorrow, a few days ahead of schedule.  We'll come back and do the rest of the St. John's River another time - we like it - it's definitely worth another shot when we have more time and a working dinghy. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Alligator Hunting........!

This morning we hiked, yes hiked.  Did I say hiked? You know, what we like to do when we are not cruising, snowboading, being with family, etc.  We finally had a decent day weather-wise, in the 70's.  So, we power walked 1.5 miles to the Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka.  The park was built in the depression as part of the WPA.  There are several deep ravines which retain their natural foliage, and gardens are planted along the rim along with an amphitheater - you can see Norm sitting in the middle.  Over 100,000 azalea plants are here, but alas, it's not the bloomin' season.  It's a way cool park and we highly recommend it, especially if you've never seen an air potato. 

Then, this afternoon, we took the dinghy down.  Yes, we took the dinghy down after 5-6 months up there on the boat deck.  We knew the reverse gear on the motor didn't work.  A mechanic did something to it when we had him fix the steering cables.  And, we were suspicious of the fuel, since it had been sitting up there since before our cruise to the Bahamas last winter.  But, handy Norm fixed the reverse gear and the fuel was stable enough to take us on a 20-mile round trip to Murphy Creek and back.  Did I say the weather was decent?  Well, sort of.  While in Murphy Creek, the clouds opened up and we had a brief shower event.  Didn't stop us from continuing our alligator hunt though.  And we were in luck.  Below you can see the alligator hunter at work and the first alligator sighting - a five-footer.  It was beautiful, especially in the smooth parts of the creek where the trees reflected in the water (last photo).
Our route today:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

South, Upstream, on the St John's River, Florida

Our location and route for the last 2 cruise days.
Upstream (south) on the St John's River Florida

Again,  best laid plans are temporarily stalled.  We intended to depart Fernandina Beach for Jacksonville, FL Saturday morning at 9AM.  But the wind was howling, the rain was pouring, the old man was snoring.  So, we decided to stay another day and go have breakfast at our favorite breakfast restaurant, Bright Mornings.  After breakfast, we meandered back to the boat and the skies opened up.  So, we departed a couple of hours later than planned.  Getting out of the inside dock was a bit of a hassle because the fairway was a bit narrow and the current was ripping.  We were able to negotiate our way out safely and were on our way.  It was a cold, but much calmer cruise to Jacksonville, FL.

Since it was going to be 35 degrees, we decided to skip the free dock in Jacksonville (no electric) and plug in at the River City Marina across the street which is in the business district.  Everything was shut down on Saturday night, so we spent the evening on the boat.  We'll tackle the other shore of Jacksonville on the way back.

Today we cruised 7 hours upriver to Palatka.  We're on a very nice free dock with 15 amp electric.  Tomorrow we'll get the dinghy down and explore creeks in the area which are supposed to be fabulous.  Hopefully the dinghy will work - it hasn't been used for awhile.  Our fingers are crossed!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day!

Todays route and location:
Fernandina Beach, FL (Yes, Florida!)

We're a day behind schedule.  We fueled up at Ocean Petro in Brunswick.  They are the cheapeast around.  They  serve the shrimp boats and also fuel up the recreational boats as well.  So, we get a good price.  BUT, we planned to depart the marina at 9AM, get the fuel, and depart Brusnswick at 10 AM.  BUT, the boat fueling up at the dock before us had mechanical problems and took 3 hours to get it's business done.  That put us behind the tide and could not negotiate Jeykll Creek's "skinny water" with our draft.  So, back to the marina for another night of laughs with our friends and good pizza at Fox's Pizza Restaurant.

AND, Gale never showed up!  We were very dissapointed because there were more lines on our boat than on geezer's face.  So, it took us a bit longer to untie and get under way this morning.  It was a misty, cloudy, cold run to Fernandina Beach today.  Where's the darn sun and warmth and dry and shorts and t-shirts?

Brunswick, GA is a good size port. Lots of really big ships come in here.

While departing Brunswick we sighted this sunken fishing boat.  It reminded us of the perils we face in this adventure we're on. We pray daily that we make the right decisions, develop and grow our skills and just stay safe.

You! Over there on the left.  Straighten up, suck in that belly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gale is coming tonight......!

After a wonderful ThanksMas with the kids and grandkids in Ohio, we set out again for points south and warmer climes. We already miss them though and wish we all could be cruising together always. Watching the younguns open Christmas gifts was a real treat. Have not seen that in a very long time. And Christine, our baby, is having a baby. She has that "glow" and looks beautiful.

Our location and route today,  12/1/09:

Brunswick, GA

Folks, meet Gale, and she's really mad!  Her picture is on the left.  She's coming tonight and by the looks of things, within about 4 hours.  This storm has been working its way east for a few days and has produced gale force winds and tornado's in Alabama. 

We arrived here yesterday late afternoon.  Our original intentions were to only go half way to an anchorage, but we got "scardy-cats" about the forecasted weather and kept on going to this marina.  We have lots of fenders and double lines out on this outside dock. 

Also, we reconnected with a couple of friends we met last year on the chesapeake and then again in New Bern.  Ed and Connie aboard S/V Surprise and Bob and Sue aboard M/V Seahorse III (also a DeFever).  We met this morning for breakfast and will see them again tonight at the Marina 'happy hour" shindig.

This is our first time in Brunswick.  It's a neat small town with the storefronts not changed from the old days.  We toured old City Hall and walked and window shopped.  We also got the remaining Christmas presents in the mail today. 

Tomorrow, it's off to an anchorage in Fernandina  Beach, if Gale leaves us in one piece.  But, not before we fill up with about 500 gallons of diesel at the cheapest place on the East Coast.  Yes, folks, we will be in Florida.  And the weather is forcasted to be very nice. Could that be an omen?  Did you hear me Gale?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving with the Family

Our recent route:

Colleen, daughter #1 and hubby, Brian

Katie, daughter #2 and hubby Dave

Christine, daughter #3 and hubby Joel and expected "Little Normie".  Grandma Bette in the background.

Grandsons Jacob (5) and Evan (2)

Evan showing Grandpa Norm how this toy works...........
Grandpa, Jacob and Grandma Vicki

Light show at the Columbus Zoo..

Christmas in November..........

Traditional home-baked apple pie with melted sharp cheddar cheese and french vanilla ice cream...