13/12/2009/2:14 pm, Ocala, FL (boat still in Fernandina beach)
I had my first bite of Alligator. Good thing it was that way round and not the alligator having the first bite of ME!
We visited the Stumpknocker Restaurant on the banks of the Withlakoochee River (don't you just love those names?) with Christine and Art - our Florida friends who spend their summers in NS (smart people!). It was a very cool locale - all drippy with moss and water and tree roots and vines. Just the sort of place alligators and swamp creatures would live. We didn't see any though so we went into the restaurant and ordered catfish platters and gator nuggets - neither of which I'd had before. The gator was white meat, chewy and quite tasty. I don't think I'd want a whole plateful, but a few nuggets were good. The catfish (farmed) was a sweet, soft textured fish, and the batter was really light and crispy. After making our best attempts at finishing off the huge platters, some of us left with take-away containers in hand. Art didn't leave a morsel of his fried oysters!
We were interested to learn that Ocala is significant horse country. We passed great numbers of fenced fields, classy gateways (one with fountain and pond), well kept barns and paddocks. If I had a dime for every board foot in those fences, I'd be rich! Christine said the airport there is an international one, but the clientele is horses - not people!
Evening saw us at Silver Springs - a park near Ocala. We got there in time for a glass bottom boat tour over the seven springs that feed the river. We got a look at a canoe that has lain on the bottom for over 500 years, some statues left from movie shoots, a variety of fish, and a downed cypress tree that apparently would still make good lumber after being submerged for many years. Sea Hunt - that show that I remember watching as a child was filmed here, along with scenes from many other movies - like Creature from the Dark Lagoon.
As the sun went down, the place came alive with lights. It was truly magical to walk along paths with lighted archways, looking at candy canes and tin soldiers, angels and a nativity scene, flowers and birds and bows. It reminded me of the family Christmas visits to Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, but instead of the climbing aboard the little train there, we climbed into seats on a rotating tower and were lifted high above the folks below. It was like being at a carnival - but the purpose was to get a better look at things - not a scare! The Silver Springs part of the evening finished with a parade of decorated boats, and the chez Miles part ended with frozen Margaritas and sweet fudgey brownies. Then off to bed, perchance to dream among Christine's beautiful quilts and teddy bears.
10/12/2009/4:47 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
There is something about this bit of northern Florida... we feel very much like we've arrived somewhere home-like. Perhaps it's the fact that we have several friends here (an oft-mentioned benefit of cruising), perhaps it's the friendliness of the folks around the marina and the town, perhaps the way those huge old trees laden with spanish moss just envelop a person, but this is a place to linger.
After the best night's sleep in a long time, we left Steve and Sandra's (in their graciously loaned car) to see how Madcap had fared overnight. All was well, fortunately. We picked up Ken and Connie and drove to K-mart and the other big stores on Sadler Road. Jim managed to replace our cell phone that stopped working, we picked up some other odds and sods and Ken and Connie took care of some things.
In the evening, the four of us returned to Steve and Sandra's for dinner and, once again had a lovely, conversation filled time. These folks are superb hosts!
We have checked in with the Cruisers Net on SSB a few times. We've often been able to connect with the Bahamas. Today, Karin on Passages just down the dock relayed for us so our buddies know where we are!
After Wednesday's wild night of wind and rain that had us straining at the dock lines and every line/halyard/assorted other pieces of rigging on the boat rattling loudly, we woke up to cold weather again.
Thursday saw us at work on computers and phones. Jim ordered a new condenser unit and freezer bin from Sea Frost, I caught up on postings, and we booked ourselves into a slip at Fernandina Harbour Marina for a month. We had planned to fly home from Nassau on Dec 17th. That is clearly not going to happen so we're trying to negotiate a change in departure locations. After much discussion about getting farther south, and weather windows and fronts and possible marinas, we decided to just stay here. We got a good rate at the marina - they'll deduct the daily fees we've already paid from the monthly rental, and we don't have to be trying to meet one more schedule. We will just have to hope for decent weather after we come back to get us on the move again.
We're off to Tina's tonight for more fun and keeping our fingers crossed that everything falls into place!
08/12/2009/9:23 pm, Fernandina Beach
(This posting replaces the one in which I told you that 27 hours after we left Charleston, we arrived back there again!)
Those overnighters are always tiring, even when we maintain watches and get some reasonable sleep. But boy oh boy - is it ever nice to turn 4 or 5 ICW days into 27 hours on the ocean!
We departed Charleston on the ebb tide - about 1230 hours with a reasonable wind and I really thought we might be able to sail this one. No such luck. Once we turned out of the channel, heading southwest, that very nice NE 15 knot wind was right behind us. I always get grumpy for a bit when I realize we'll be motor sailing, but fortunately, Jim has learned to expect this and cope with it, knowing it will pass. We tacked a bit for the first while, trying to get a somewhat comfortable angle of sail so that we weren't yawing and pitching quite so much and eventually settled into a reasonable compromise - being basically headed in the right direction, with small adjustments for comfort.
The evening was quite magical, really, despite the noise of the engine. We were treated to a fabulous display of dolphin play. They leaped and dove, coming in close to the boat and moving away again. The sun was setting and both sky and sea were a subtle shade of pink. I managed to catch glimpses of sleek dophin bodies zooming along barely below the surface - grey under blue-grey just touched with pink. The magical part appeared when I looked up to the sky and saw a dolphin shaped cloud just hanging there low in the sky. It was pretty impressive! No pics - I decided to sit still and absorb it all.
I had cooked some pasta earlier in the day, so despite my wildly swinging stove, I heated up the Bolognese sauce, added in the fusili, tossed some freshly grated parmesan on top and voila - pretty decent dinner! The only thing missing was the red wine due to the Madcap rule of no drinking on passages.
We weren't alone out there this time - Oz flew along ahead of us, and Restless was travelling too. Restless had some engine problems for a while, but got them fixed up and came in under their own power. We saw a couple of "big ships" during the night bound to and from Savannah, but nothing that we had to take major pains to avoid. With our enclosure up, we were really quite warm, and hot chocolate and granola bars at watch changes took care of blood sugar levels and kept us alert. We have found that roughly 3 hour watches work for us - 4 hours are too long to stay fully awake, and 2 hours don't give us enough continuous sleep. Kind of like Goldilocks - we had to find out what feels "just right!" for us.
We turned into the St Mary's entrance channel just after slack tide so the ebb wasn't too strong, and made the turn to Fernandina Beach. By 1530 hours on Tuesday, we were pulling up to the Fernandina Harbor Marina. On past occasions, we've picked up a mooring ball here but there weren't any deep draft ones left so we pulled in along the inside of the long floating dock. (I am getting way too used to this!)
The temperature was 76F and humid so the first thing I did was take off my socks and roll up my pant legs. Yeah! Then, dark'n stormy's in hand, we were off to debrief the trip with Oz. At 6 our good friend Steve arrived to whisk us away to dinner at his and Sandra's house. It was absolutely joyous to reunite with them. Tina (our other local friend and my Healing Touch soul sister) and Mike, (currently doing some work for Steve) joined us so warm and wonderful conversation flowed as we dined on chicken, veggies, roasted potatoes and salad with a banana/custard concoction to satisfy our dessert stomachs. I managed to totter off to a comfy bed there before I fell off my chair and had the best sleep in weeks. Jim wasn't too long following me either!