15/12/2009/2:17 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
After a pleasant drive back from Ocala to Fernandina Beach on Sunday, we've been doing a combination of work and play.
We managed to get new flights home for Christmas (Dec 17 to 30), from Jacksonville since we didn't quite make it to Nassau - so much for optimistic planning! I think another time, I'd make reservations from Fort Lauderdale, since it is easy to get to from the Bahamas and other Florida points. We initially booked so early to take advantage of a West Jet seat sale, but with all our delays, it became an impossible arrangement. It would cost us more to make changes than to cancel those tickets, save the credit for another flight somewhere, and book new ones on United Airlines so that's what we did. West Jet very kindly waived the cancellation fee. I like that airline!
Our condensing unit and freezer box arrived on Monday and Jim and Steve spent several hours removing the old part and installing the new ones. That turned out to be somewhat of an exercise in frustration because despite Jim's and my careful measurements and calculations, we didn't order a long enough tube to run from the unit in the cockpit lazarette to the freezer. So, now we wait for an extension to come by UPS on Wednesday. We were both just sick about it, but it was the result of not understanding just where the line had to run in the new set up (farther than in the old one) and trying hard not to order so much that it had to be all coiled up in the locker. The lesson from that - overestimate, and coil! Steve has been working upside down in our fridge (like many boat models, it is a top loader), and has crunched himself down in the locker to work sideways there. That man deserves a dozen medals. He has done this before, knows what he's doing, and keeps doing it for his friends. Pretty nice!
I've been browsing through the lovely shops along Center Street here, checking out consignment stores and department stores with Sandi. Jim and I both got haircuts - mine at the very convenient and very pleasant Aveda salon half a block from the marina; Jim's at an old fashioned barbershop where he got shorn of most of his hair and had to listen to racist jokes from a man with sharp scissors in his hand and the ability to shear him even more. We've attempted to do some cleaning and tidying of Madcap but it seems to be a losing battle till we have the tool boxes put away and the fridge contents stowed again. We are also currently tripping over purchases made on a wine buying trip to Harris Teeter with Steve. He pointed and we paid! The experience appeared to make us all happy and although our pockets were lighter, they were less so than they'd have been without his advice, and if we were shopping somewhere other than Florida where wine prices are excellent.
Jim has spent many hours trying to get our TracFone working again. After the first few days, the original phone refused to work unless we entered a password that we didn't have. Jim returned that to K-Mart, received a replacement and got our useable minutes restored. The new phone worked for another few days before it told us that it was not in service. We think we are back on "trac" with TracFone, but so far, Jim has spent far more time on service problems than talking on it!
The "Food Report" includes dockside drinks with Karin and Ed "Passages", dinner at Pablo's, a really good Mexican restaurant here where we tried to cheer ourselves up over the fridge affair, lunch with Ken and Connie at T-Ray's - the local diner at the Exxon station on 8th St. where the sign says, "Eat Here and Get Gas." My shrimp was excellent and the burgers got good reviews as well. We have continued to enjoy the comfy bed and fine dining at Steve and Sandra's on a regular basis, and on Sunday night, enjoyed a lovely stroll under spanish moss laden trees and glimpses of starry sky to the view the lights of the Amelia Island Plantation.
Despite our continuing tale of boat woes, we are so very lucky to be among friends in a warm climate, anticipating Christmas with our family.
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!