24/05/2008/9:51 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
As we sat with Tina and Dick in the Amelia Island Plantation Conference Centre Saturday night, listening to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra play an assortment of Gershwin, Berlin, Sousa medleys, I felt like I was just filled to bursting with life itself. I poked Jim to see if he was having the same feeling - and he nodded. We smiled the smile that has come to mean, "How about this!!" and sat back to continue enjoying ourselves.
The Devoes picked us up at 8:30 that sunny morning and we headed to T-Rays for one of their famous breakfasts - eggs done perfectly, sizzling bacon, creamy grits and a biscuit so tender it fell apart as I spread homemade grape jelly over it. From there we moved on to the Saturday farmers Market in downtown Fernandina Beach where we purchased cherries (all for me) and strawberries, crab cakes, muffalettas and wonderful peppery olive oil imported from Italy. Fiddle players made music, vendors sold veggies and cheeses and seafood and candy. People strolled and chatted and filled their cloth bags and baskets - just like in Farmers Markets everywhere.
Next stop was the organic farm where I bought those wonderful veggies earlier in the week. More pole beans, cucumbers, peppers and bunches of basil filled my bag. After a stop at Publix for grocery staples, we roared back to Tiger Point, cast off Madcap's lines and motored around the corner again to the main harbour. Afternoon siestas followed and then it was time for another adventure.
We loaded ourselves into Devoe's very cute new Honda CR4 and headed for the beach. Tina spread out her red, white and blue tablecloth, and from their basket and our tote bag emerged bowls and platters of gourmet picnic food: Crab cakes stacked with fried green tomatoes and topped with tartar sauce, crunchy veggies and curry dip, crisp-tender pole beans tossed in that new olive oil, chewy baguettes, strawberries, chocolate, biscotti - all washed down with some very good wines (purchased at incredibly cheap Florida prices.)
We cleaned ourselves up a bit and drove off to the Memorial Day concert I mentioned earlier. It was sponsored by ARIAS (Amelia Residents in Action for the Symphony), which assists the Symphony in presenting concerts for school children and sponsors several young people in their musical studies. One "new to us" portion of the program was the last offering. The lights in the room went up and the orchestra broke into a medley of the songs identified with each branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, beginning with the senior branch, the Army. As the music started, individuals stood up all over the room. As they sat down, others stood and it continued through each melody. We were completely puzzled by this until our friends told us that this musical tradition honours those who have served (or are serving) in any of these branches of the military. When their theme song is played, they stand. It was an interesting thing to see.
On the way home, we made one more stop - to the ice cream store. We each ordered exotic combinations of ice cream and syrup and nuts that were stirred together on a cold marble slab and scooped into cups. Rich, decadent, delicious. A perfect ending to an outstanding day.
23/05/2008/9:49 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
We're still hanging out in Fernandina Beach and the wind has ceased to blow.
It has been a real treat to spend precious time with our friends Steve and Sandra again - in favourite dining spots around town and in the comfort of their kitchen. As is usually the case, we fell quickly into our pattern of enthusiastic appreciation of excellent food and stimulating conversation that ranged from cruising/boating to politics and global affairs. My brain stretches when I hang out with these people! We ate fajitas (Pablo's), pizza (Moon River), steaks (Surf City), shrimp (T- Ray's) along with Sandi's shrimp and pickled herring and Steve's spicy tostadas. We enjoyed an evening of community theatre - A Bench in the Sun. We met new friends, John and Lily, along with friends who were new last fall, Dick and Tina.
Sandra and Steve headed north on a car trip to Nova Scotia where they will resume their sailing excursions and we plan to meet up again somewhere in the Maritimes in the late summer.
When Sapphire and Solitaire arrived we paid a repeat visit to Pablo's, and did the rounds of West Marine and Staples and Wal-Mart in our rental car. (Enterprise has a great weekend rate) Tina Devoe and I managed to eat a wonderful lunch at 29 as we talked nonstop about Healing Touch experiences and caught up on all the magnificent energetic news since we last saw each other. She took me to an organic farm where I bought the crunchiest cucumbers I have ever eaten, sweet banana peppers, crisp purple carrots and feathery fennel.
Jim and I visited St Mary's, across the border in Georgia, where we picked up some parts that UPS was holding for us. We lounged around on the waterfront swings and walked up and down the tree-lined streets with ice-cream cones in hand - and mouth! Cathy, at the bookstore, told us a wonderful story of lending her car to four young people who were visiting town on a training ship and watching as twelve of them emerged from it when it was returned. As we paid for our book (Amber Room by local author Steve Berry) and told her we were boaters, she offered her car to us if we needed it. We had never heard of such trusting generosity until we started cruising and now it happens again and again; it is so heart warming. We walked farther up the street and stopped in at the used bookstore, Read Em Again, where we found more books and signed the wall, spying many familiar names as we perused the autographs there.
I bought a couple of new tops at the Pineapple Patch - with shape/without spots - and some new books at the Book Loft - Charlie Wilson's War, Tourist Trap (Carl Hiassen), Florida's Living Beaches (Blair and Dawn Witherington) with pictures and description of all sorts of shells and birds and plants that we've seen in the Bahamas and on this coast.
On Monday we moved around to Tiger Point Marine, just around the corner from the downtown waterfront - at the mouth of Egan Creek. Their technician, David, installed a new Zantrex charger, and diagnostician, Mike Harrison, spent hours going carefully over our history, tracking energy usage, and teaching us more about electrical systems than we had ever thought we could understand. He traced part of our problem to the alternator, took it away to be fixed, brought it back and reinstalled it. He took Jim off with him to West Marine to track down a new fitting for our shore power outlet that had also shorted out. All this was above and beyond his usual diagnostic services and we are immensely grateful. Add to that, the fact that he is a born teacher and really interesting person to talk with and we consider that we spent happy and worthwhile time with him.
John Gambill and Libby Ellis, owners of Hotwire Enterprises (www.svhotwire.com) arrived on Thursday night with our new KISS wind generator. They were on their way to the Florida Folk Festival and stayed to help us install it. Well ... perhaps I should say that we helped John!! Jim wired and connected; I was the designated locker diver whenever there were screws to screw or wires to tie up in awkward places. I'm pretty sure that by installing this, we changed the weather here. From steady winds of 15 knots and more over the days prior to installation, we didn't have enough to move those blades even an inch in the next 48 hours.
We have decided to wait a bit for solar panels. There is only so much we can do at one time - between financial considerations and decisions about where to put them. We know they will be part of our equipment eventually because Jim read that by using both systems, we could meet 90% of our energy needs. There is something really appealing about doing that without using fuel.
Madcap is turning into a cruising boat and while we are changing the look of her with all these gadgets, we are trying to keep her beautiful lines and graceful profile. This is a boat made for cruising and we have places to go and people to see.
It was a treat to be situated in the Creek for a few days; snowy white egrets tiptoed up and down the wharf on our starboard side, leaning far over and stretching out their long necks as they fished over the edge. Dolphins surfaced and dove along the port side as they moved up and down the creek. A blue heron stood motionless in the marsh grasses last night, red-winged blackbirds circled and called out with their distinctive voices. Mockingbirds sang great melodies from perches on posts. Apparently we missed a family of manatees on Friday night as we dinghied up the creek on a sunset bird watching cruise. Those mammals are like mythical creatures. We've seen signs everywhere to watch out for them but have yet to see one.
On Saturday we're off to T-Ray's for breakfast and to the Farmers Market with Tina and Dick; we'll move Madcap around to the main harbour; we'll do another load of laundry and pick up some shrimp and fish, and continue enjoying this area.
18/05/2008/12:07 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
Ever since we arrived here, we've been on the go. So much for the laid back lifestyle. Mind you, I'm not complaining - we've been having a wonderful time.
Our delicious lunch at Karibo on Thursday - fat, tasty wraps with potato salad and a wedge of melon, dinner filled with laughter that night at Surf City with Sandra and Steve and their friends Lily and John - steak and baked potatoes with sour cream, started us off on a whirlwind of dining out and enjoying the fellowship of good friends in this attractive town.
We met Bill (and his dog Limo) at Tiger Point Marina on Friday. He has kindly agreed to let us tie up there for a few days while his electrician does a thorough diagnostic assessment on Madcap and installs our new charger. Later in the week, our new wind generator and solar panels arrive and will also be installed. Jim will write a posting on all the details of that.
Enterprise had a really good weekend rental rate so we picked up a Dodge Caliber (neat car, Liam!) and headed off to the UPS Store in St. Mary's to pick up a parcel that was waiting for us. We were also pleased to find mail and packages waiting for us at Steve and Sandi's. St Mary's is a pretty little town just across the border in Georgia. Many of our friends were there for Thanksgiving and we were glad to explore the place. We signed our names on the wall at the Read 'Em Again Book Store - a really nice one - as we picked up some new reading material. We sat on the swings along the waterfront, chatting with local folks and gazing out at the Georgia marshes across the river - now greening up with spring growth.
I got my hair trimmed at the well positioned Aveda salon on Centre St- it's been growing out from my usual short cut since Christmas and I thought "Why cut it all off?" so I just got it shaped a bit. Today, Sunday, it feels really hot so probably next time it all goes!
In the evening, Sandra, Steve, Jim and I started out with drinks in the leafy courtyard of the Florida Place Inn, moved on to a fabulous Mexican dinner at Pedro's and finished off the evening at the Community Theatre. The play was "A Bench in the Sun". It is always enjoyable to take in some local theatre and this one was no exception. It was an older cast and all the volunteers were in what we'd call the "senior" category, and Jim and I just loved the reminder that there is much to get involved in and have fun with, no matter what the age.
Jim had a reminder of a different kind the other day - and another bit of culture shock. We are so accustomed to Bahamian streetside conversations, that when a fellow about his age called to him as he walked through a residential area, he went over to talk. The first question was "Are you from around here?" to which Jim replied, "No, I'm Canadian," thinking that would create a warm, pleasant feeling (Feel free to chuckle here) No warm feelings followed and the man then asked him for a cigarette, which he didn't have. That's when things took a turn for the worse. Jim said he knew this wasn't a good situation and turned to walk away just as the man said, "You're not going anywhere; you're arrested." Just as thoughts of knives and weapons went through Jim's mind, the man grabbed his arm to turn him around and hit him across the face. It's a good thing it was an open handed slap or he'd have lost teeth. Jim said he was so startled that he shook himself loose, pointed his finger in the man's face and said very loudly, "You stop that right now!!" The fellow looked surprised and immediately turned and walked away. Jim figured he must have a mental problem because he didn't seem drunk.
Normally, neither of us would do anything more than say Hello as we walked by someone in a situation like that. He thinks that he was just so much in the habit of encountering friendly people that it never occurred to him this would be any different. We all laughed at Jim's reaction - anger and admonishment rather than fear. Good thing it worked! (Can those of you who know Jim picture him doing this?? He's got a fierceness that shows itself now and then.)
Every single other person we've met here has been fine and friendly. This incident will neither stop us from walking through the neighbourhoods here nor being sociable with folks we meet. That's what we've spent months enjoying. It has just made us more observant and careful again.