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. 

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