Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Northern Florida

We made some cell phone calls to try to track down spark plugs for our sick outboard as we went from Georgia to Florida and past Fernandina. They claim that the shrimp business really started there.  They also have two big paper plants which belch rather aromatic smoke which the locals call "the smell of money."  We have never stopped there and hope to in the future.  Apparently the old town has a great deal of charm, largely because Flagler's railroad completely bypassed it.

  We finally raised someone at Amelia Island Yacht Basin who said he would track them down one way or another.  When he asked for my name so he could call back, he immediately said, "I'll bet you own a Camano Troll!"  It turns out we had been in communication with Tom and Gerrie Clare two years before when we were heading south and they were finishing up the Great Loop on a sister ship.  We ended up waving to each other as we passed going in opposite directions just south of St Augustine.  (See our December 2007 blog.)

Tom now works part-time at the marina where he has a slip for the boat.  He found the spark plugs for us at the local NAPA, offered us a discounted slip for the night at the marina next to his boat, took us shopping, took us home to his wife for a gourmet dinner and good conversation, and sent us back to the boat with some delicious home-made frozen lasagna.  It was a delightful day and evening and we thank them both for putting up with us boat orphans.

We waited for a while the next morning since we had a pea soup fog worthy of Maine in July.  We felt our way down the ICW for a while, but it cleared by the time we got to the busy St. Johns River junction. 

We pushed on through to Saint Augustine, one of our favorite cities but one of our least favorite anchorages because of strong currents and opposing winds.

We paid our $10 to park the dinghy at the Municipal Marina and made like tourists both on foot and on the Trolley Tour.  Saint Augustine purports to be the oldest continuous European settlement in America and is really quite beautiful with a very strong Spanish history, as well as French and English and, of course, American.

One of the streets is canopied by "live oaks" which are hundreds of years old.  The trolley also took us over to the beach and the lighthouse.  We didn't walk up to the top of the lighthouse, but we did watch some surfers at the fishing pier for a while.

Back at the anchorage, we discovered that Summertime from our home port and one of our clubs had dropped her hook nearby.  We left fairly early the next morning and looked back at the progress being made on the multi-year reconstruction of the historic Bridge of Lions.

The Art of the Slow Pass

When you are in a sailboat or a slow powerboat, one of the most unnerving sights is to see a large sportsfisherman coming in either direction at full speed, pulling a HUGE wake.  If he continues his course and speed he will, at the very least, create great discomfort aboard the slower boat and, at worst, create some real damage and personal injury with his wake.

ICW etiquette demands that the slower boat slow down even further so that the faster boat can slow down enough to throw a much smaller wake but still get by without taking all day.  If the faster boat is passing from astern, the slower boat moves in behind it as quickly as possible after the "slow pass" and both resume their normal speeds.  If they are passing in opposite directions, both slow so that they are throwing smaller wakes and they angle across each other's wake and resume speed. If the faster boat does NOT slow down after the slow boat has significantly reduced her speed, MAJOR problems can occur since the slower boat has reduced its ability to steer at idle speed and can be left to wallow helplessly in the swells left by the jerk who, rumor has it, compensates for deficiencies in his own manhood with a heavy-handed throttle.  Sometimes the slow pass is preceded by a radio call on VHF Channel 16 or horn signals, but usually eye contact or a wave and an obvious speed change is sufficient.

After Saint Augustine, we passed Fort Matanzas, the scene of the final annihilation of the last 300 Frenchmen in that part of Florida by the victorious Spaniards.  The fort was built later and never saw action, but supposedly discouraged invasions through the Matanzas Inlet.

We spent the night at anchor in Rockhouse Creek, just inside the Ponce de Leon inlet north of New Smyrna.  It's a fun dinghy ride out to the inlet past all the shoals. We had passed an old friend from home aboard Nomad who has been doing this trip every year for something like 24 years.  They anchored near us for two nights.

Florida is constantly building new canals into which they can put their yachts and new land from the sand dredged up from the ICW channels onto which they can put their mega-mansions and condos.  It seems like one big Disneyland for wealthy adults at times.

Along the cut canals are more modest homes, some with very creative boat houses at the ends of their short docks.  Elsewhere, there are true "house" boats beside the channel.

The route south took us through the Haulover Canal and past NASA's huge assembly building across from Titusville.  We missed a shuttle launch by about a week.
We passed friends of my brother's in Peace who we had seen in Abaco two years ago and who said they were heading there again this year. About six ominous looking go-fast boats from US Customs and Immigration were involved in some kind of simulation as we were going by.  Note the masks or whatever they are wearing.

Even the pros have problems.  This was a pushboat and large barge with large concrete beams aboard which apparently ran aground in the ICW at close to high tide.
There are all kinds of islands along the dredged portions of the ICW which were made from the dredging spoils.  Over the years, they have been seeded by wind and tides and birds and have become their own complete ecosystems.

Our goal was the Vero Beach City Marina where we are rafted with some other boats on a mooring, will use the free shuttle bus to go shopping, and share a Thanksgiving potluck dinner with over 100 other boaters from the moorings and docks -- the great majority being "snowbirds" like us on their way further south for the winter.

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