10/01/2010/6:56 am, New Smyrna Beach, FL
Wrote this on Sat - just got it posted on Sun morning. Leaving again now!
Our first travel day in a month took us from Fernandina Beach (11:30 departure) to the Three Island anchorage just upstream from the Atlantic Blvd Bridge. How cool that Tina and Dick saw us as we passed under it on Friday morning! We might have gone farther, but there didn't seem to be another anchorage that we could reach before dark, so we stopped about 4 o'clock, zipped up the sides of the cockpit enclosure but left the top open and sat with tea and our books till the sun went down. It seemed positively balmy.
After that one little reprieve, we're back into record breaking continuous low temperatures again and we're very happy we made the decision to take the ICW route rather than go outside. We have decided that we really like being able to stop at dusk, turn on the cabin heater, cook a hot dinner and get 10 hours of rest in our cosy berth under the down comforter. I've been cooking looong meals - the kind of rice that takes 45 minutes to cook, roasted root veggies that stay in the oven an hour - anything to keep the oven or stove on a good while! Mahi mahi and shrimp needed only a quick saute to go with them. Because we are not plugged in any more, we use our propane fireplace in the evenings, but by morning it is darned cold again. 8C inside this morning, and there were white fluffy things on the deck when I looked out the window!
As I climb up and down the companionway steps, I feel like a little kid in a snowsuit. Remember how awkward they always look with stiff arms and legs? With thermal undershirt, sweatshirt, polar fleece jacket topped off with my heavy foul weather gear (and similar layers on the bottom) I feel like I'm 10 lb heavier and many inches wider as I maneuver my way up and down. It does the job though, because neither Jim nor I are intolerably cold. That is unlike some of the poor fish that we've seen floating belly up as we travel. I can't imagine that the citrus groves will come through this unscathed.
Travelling down the ICW is a study in old Florida and new Florida. We see mammoth houses with screens around their pools and whole front yards. In some cases the screened part (mosquito proofing) is almost as big as the house. They have huge docks and gazebos and powerful motor boats out front. Then will come a stretch of small cottage type homes with plastic lawn chairs and simple docks and fishing skiffs. I wish I'd been quick enough to take a pic of the one with Santa's sleigh pulled by an alligator! We've seen a number of the big estates for sale and several unfinished developments.
We kept on going right past St Augustine - but have promised ourselves to spend some time there in the spring since it is a beautiful city. We had afternoon high tides and wanted to make Matanzas Inlet before we stopped for the night. We saw some skinny water and were glad we timed it that way. In contrast, our trip past Ponce de Leon Inlet today was effortless. Once again, we timed it for almost high tide but we never saw less than 15 feet.
Friday night's anchorage was in the little bulge at ICW Mile 796.7. Our book called it the Marineland anchorage, but I wouldn't give it such a grand name. It was a tiny bulge just outside the channel but it was enough! Our 8 hour trip today brought us swiftly past Daytona Beach and down to New Smyrna. Daytona has 4 bridges (2 65-foot fixed bridges and 2 bascule bridges that need to lift before we can pass under.) Those bridge tenders really have their timing down pat because as we approached each one and called to request their next opening, the answer came back, "Keep right on coming cap'n. The bridge will be open when you get here." It felt like playing chicken, because at 1/4 mile away there were still cars crossing, and we were coming straight on at 7 knots an hour. I had fears of needing to make a screeching halt (impossible of course) but in both cases, the barriers went down, traffic stopped, the bridges lifted and we sailed under without a hesitation. None of the bridge tenders want to have to stop traffic any longer than necessary and they always want the boats close before they open, but these two women were the best!
Saturday's anchorage was just off the channel again (behind G45 opposite the Yacht Club) and there was a lot more room than when we were here last time - fewer boats but more dolphins. We watched them leaping right up out of the water for quite a few minutes as they fished and played around the boat.
We plan to make Vero Beach by Monday night if all goes well. It's supposed to be a degree or 2 warmer there!
07/01/2010/8:11 am, Fernandina Beach, FL
I had a great time Tuesday night at the Island Art Association Portrait Drawing Workshop. A group gathers every Tuesday night and my friend, Tina, is a regular. According to the association newsletter, there are lots of other opportunities to get involved in various classes and groups. I'm not sure that portraiture is my thing (in fact I'm pretty sure it's not!) but the group was so friendly and welcoming that I'd go back in a minute. With Tina's encouragement, I'm going to be quicker to get out my art supplies along with my camera and pen as we travel this winter.
Which leads me to the next learning experience ... another interruption in travel.
When I got home, it was to find a discouraged husband. While Jim had been happily reading his book, he heard the water pump start up and keep running. Since there were no taps turned on, it was a puzzle. As he pondered the cause, and then followed the sound, he traced it to the hot water tank. Upon opening the locker where it lives, he discovered that it was belching steam - like our own resident dragon. It turns out that the temperature must have gotten too hot and the escape valve was doing it's proper job, but why?
After some sleuthing yesterday by Jim and Ken (Oz) they determined that one of our water tanks was not filling properly. The vent line was blocked by backed up water from the other tank. Then, of course, it would run out of water too early. (We had already been curious that we seemed to have to switch tanks far more often than we'd expected.) That's what happened here we think. The hot water tank didn't have enough water pumping in and what was there got overheated. They did a simple fix on the vent hose for now, but we'll probably have to put in dedicated fill holes and vents for each tank later on. And if the dragon starts up again, we'll know we have a different problem entirely.
So the upshot of all that was that we didn't leave yesterday! Instead, after all the fixit work was done and the boat put back together, we took the advice of the many friends who said "Avatar" is a must see, and went to the movie theatre. Wow!! You were all correct! It is a truly amazing film and must surely be stretching boundaries in the movie business. The photography/scenery is astounding; the story has all the elements of any good story - adventure, battles between good and evil, love, tragedy - and lots of humour in the stereotypical characterization and names. It's done with amazing 3D animation and an imagination that combines elements of history and future into a remarkably entertaining story. We add our voices to the "Go see it!" group.
It has warmed up a little here and the wind has dropped. The pelicans that were huddled in next to the lounge building trying to keep warm have moved back to the pier.
Right now, (8:30 am Thursday) our keel is still nestled in the mud but as soon as the tide rises enough to float us, we'll head down the ICW in the direction of St. Augustine. It will be good to be on the move again.
05/01/2010/9:32 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
I've whined and moaned about weather long enough. We often say that's the main topic of conversation for Canadians and I've been a prime example lately. Let me just say that we have stayed in Fernandina Beach because of weather and that has not been a bad thing and this is why:
This morning, we woke up knowing that we weren't going to St Augustine today. The wind was howling and despite the heater, it was cold. So we made the decision; no fussing or doing the "will we/won't we" about it. Jim got up at 6:30 to tune in the SSB (single sideband radio) to listen to Chris Parker - the southern weather guru. It's the first morning this year that we've listened and it was a nice, familiar thing to do. He brewed some excellent coffee - another nice, familiar thing. We breakfasted on bread from the local bakery, spread with Peach/Angelica Jam from the Tangled Garden in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
After checking email at the boaters lounge, we got in our rental car (from yesterday's run to West Marine) and drove out Atlantic St. to Main Beach on the ocean side of Amelia Island. The wind was blowing from the Northwest so that side was more sheltered, and it was there that everything really jiggled into perspective. As we walked down the beach, listening to the waves roll in, it all just settled into place. Yes, we had hats and gloves and scarves on, and a couple layers of fleece, AND we were walking down a beautiful deserted sandy beach with the sun on our faces, listening to the waves roll in, watching the birds skitter along, and keeping an eye out for pretty shells. We had no agenda - no place we had to be - and we were on a beach. That's what we set out to find this winter, and that is exactly what we have!
Interestingly, the three boats (Nelleke, Further and Passages) that had planned to leave here today and go outside for a 40 hour+ trip to Lake Worth (shiver, shudder) changed their minds and stayed put. We are not the only ones who adapt to our environment!
I'm going painting with Tina tonight. As for tomorrow ... we'll see!