16/01/2010/10:20 am, Vero Beach, FL
Oh what fun we are having! The days are warm and the evenings are filled with fun. This is cruising.
On Thursday evening, we joined Cori and Eric (Further), Ellen and Dave (Cordelia), Ann and Bob (Baloo) on board Melodeon at a musical potluck hosted by Chris and Frank. The grand tour was fascinating - Melodeon is the result of years of hand building, personal design, and searching out of parts and accessories at mariners consignment shops. The salon easily handled 8 people as we chowed down on plates heaped with yummy food, and later as the guitars, a mandolin and various noisemakers came out. Dave, Eric and Frank produced some fine music and it was an absolute delight to listen in (and add some noise) as they drifted through their repertoires, putting their own touch on songs that they all knew and playing off each other on the originals.
Friday evening saw us joining friends in 2 different locations. Along with Pat and Wayne (Kolibrie) we dinghied across the ICW to visit the Dockside Grill - up the canal beside the Lobster Shanty - where they had discovered the best deal on Happy Hour in the area. A full pound of tasty ribs for $5, crab cakes, calamari, chicken fingers and other goodies for between $3 and $5, and beer at half price between 3 and 6 daily. We sat on the patio just because it was warm enough to do it finally, and there was lots of room even by the time we left, but Pat said the key is to get there early if you want space with the inside crowd. It was fun to share Bayfield stories with owners of a sister ship, and to learn of places to go and things to do from these explorers. Our excellent server told us she has family ties in St. Andrews, NB ( a couple of hours from Amherst where we grew up) and her son is a chef at the Algonquin Hotel. Small world!
We moved on from happy hour to join Barb and Mike in the warm and cosy salon of Nelleke for the first BBQ of the season (well, the BBQ was on the stern rail!) Eric and Cori were there too, and we filled our already comfortable stomachs with still more good food as we chatted about boats and itineraries and experiences on land and afloat.
Our days have been filled with walks on the beach, trips to the grocery store, topping up of fuel and water tanks, and we even made one stop at West Marine. There is a cruisers gathering at 4 this afternoon and rumour has it there will be music there too.
Stephen and Nathalie (Katmandu) picked up the mooring ball behind us yesterday. The last time we saw them in Fernandina Beach, they had no mast so it's good to see that they look like a sailing vessel again!
14/01/2010/12:20 pm, Vero Beach, FL
Hmmm... Buses or Bars? They're both wonderful people watching spots.
We walked to the beach last night, searched out Waldo's - part of the Driftwood Resort across from Cravings on the main drag along the waterfront. The music was great - and the people watching was just about as good. Voodoo played great old rock music in a bar/restaurant that has seen its share of good times, I'm sure! Above our heads was an old tin ceiling, walls were wood and plaster and the decor was "beach" with shells and twine enlivened with lighting from Tiffany styled lamps. The bar opened inside and outside on the deck and beer was unquestionably the drink of choice. The place had good vibes!
With the exception of a few cruisers, including Cori and Eric (Further) and Frank (Melodeon) with whom we sat, the crowd seemed mostly local. How did we know this? Lots of hugs and kisses when people came in, some enthusiastic dancing, a "standing by the band" crowd instead of a "sit at the tables" crowd. There were some battered old hats, and interesting hairdos, and a guy with an instrument that seemed to be made of a board, a coke can, a string or two and a lighter that served as a fret. We never did hear it, but it was pretty neat looking.
We both loved watching the human interactions, listening to the music and drinking Island Lager with new friends.
This morning (Thursday) it was quite a lot warmer in the cabin when we woke up (13C) and as the sun rose, it got warmer still until it was a coffee in the cockpit with a book kind of a morning. Ahhhh...
Then I headed off on the bus to the library to use the internet. I can't pick up a good enough signal to use at the marina without paying for it and why pay when I can take a trip to the library?
Besides running into Pat and Wayne (Kolibrie) and making plans for meeting tomorrow for happy hour at a place they've found, I spent my time listening to the fascinating one sided conversation from the robust and friendly woman behind me. She kept up a lively commentary as we rode along - Banks and how they treat people, Ice cream parlours and her favourite flavours, thugs who elbow old ladies out of the way. A girl across from me was intently reading a college text on Accounting, a couple of fellows were doing the typical slouch with ipod plugs in their ears, and a lovely gentle young man got on with a sweet little girl in tow. Yesterday there was another young man with a child - equally warm and kind.
As I sit at the library table, there are a couple of 50 ish men doing a practice test for some sort of exam. I'm listening in shamelessly and think it must be a math test of some kind. The talk is of adding and subtracting and they are working hard at it.
Down the aisle, a very stylish 70 something lady is checking with the librarian on some topic or another. The easy chairs are filled with seniors and the computer stations have mostly intent younger faces at them. The signs around the room announce tai chi and calligraphy classes, Zumba Dance opportunities and book clubs and a valentine tea party.
Think of the opportunities!!
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)