13/01/2010/4:00 pm, Vero Beach, FL
We can see how Vero Beach has earned its nickname - Velcro beach. It's extrememly well set up for cruising visitors. From the protected harbour with heavy duty moorings that will hold 3 boats, to the free bus service to town and the beach, to the large library with free wifi and lots of options for activities, to the Fresh Market, Publix, West Marine, Walmart (all accessible by bus) to the theatre and arts centre and the fitness trail that are within walking distance, it's a place to stay a few days, or weeks, or even months if one is so inclined. I met a couple in the laundry room this morning who are in the last category. They are on a mooring ball near us and plan to stay the winter. Another couple has been travelling south for years and now pull into a slip here and spend the winter. There are many more of us though, who are still on the move - staying long enough to meet friends, shop, wait out weather before venturing onward. We were delighted to see Kolibrie (another Bayfield 36) and several other familiar boats in the harbour. As we dinghy back and forth to the dock we say, "Oh, we last saw that boat in ..." and sometimes I leaf back through the pages of my boat card book from the 2007/08 cruise and there it is!
We got here on Monday afternoon, intending to stay a couple of days and already we've been lulled into a couple more. Steve and Sandra (Princess) were waving as we went past the docks and we weren't long getting the dinghy in the water and going ashore to see them. It was the first time we'd set foot on land since Thursday noon and it felt good. First stop was the showers and, oh boy, those felt good too! We enjoyed a yummy spicy pork and greens dinner with them before dinghying back to the north end to bed.
On Tuesday, Steve, Jim and I rode the bus to a local breakfast place near Publix (it was a number - I'll have to look when the bus goes by!) where the eggs and bacon with home fries, toast and coffee are $2.99! (and everyone else there had a good 15 years on us) Next stop was the public library where I got a card that allows me to use my own computer on their wifi system - and borrow books too, of course. The place was filled with people - just like a library should be.
Princess left her slip and rafted up next to us for the night before the 2 crews went off to explore the trail along the waterfront and get some exercise. By the time we got back (knowing that our achy muscles had been out of practice), we moved into host mode.
We were happy to host our first cockpit party of the trip. Our neighbours, Steve and Sandra (Princess), Karin and Ed (Passages) and Barb and Mike (Nelleke) joined us for the first occasion when it was warm enough to sit in the cockpit for happy hour. As always, the combined food was delicious (we coveted the pecan sauce on cream cheese and wished Barb had been able to tell us of a source closer than Beaufort), the conversation was lively as we shared experiences and plans, and by the time the evening ended we really felt like we were cruising again instead of just getting to where we'd be living the cruising life.
Princess left for points south on Wednesday morning, and we spent the day doing laundry, filling the propane tank and making a trip to Fresh Market - stocked with delectable produce and gourmet foods. (Speaking of propane, we are very happy we bought that new tank in Fernandina Beach because the last one ran out in the middle of dinner preparations on Sunday night. As Jim says, it would have been even frostier than usual on Madcap if we'd had to go without a hot dinner, heat and morning coffee!)
Tuesday night was cold again but Wednesday's sun warmed things up considerably. Tonight we'll join a number of other cruisers at Waldo's - a beach place that has free live music.
(The pic is from our stern looking back through the north mooring field)
12/01/2010/10:50 am, Vero Beach
We tied ourselves to a mooring ball in Vero Beach on Monday about 4pm, dropped the dinghy and went ashore for the first time since we left Fernandina Beach at noon on Thursday.
This is an interesting place and I'll write lots more later. We'll stay here till Thursday anyway, catching up on laundry, e-mail, and connecting with friends.
Best of all, it really is warmer during the daytime. Not a lot but enough!
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!