Friday, December 11, 2009

Going Back 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:

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!