About ChesapkLady

Author, graphic designer, photographer, I am a visual person, and delight in the beauty of this world. My husband and I, and our little dog Niya, live aboard our trawler, Aqua Vitae (means "Water of Life.")

It’s the KEYS!

Note: I’m back-tracking here, I know. We arrived in Marathon on January 25th, and left on March 30th – just over two amazing, interesting, short, months. We met many new people and made many new friends. We stayed at Sombrero Dockside Marina. . . one of those “interesting” places!  This post is a combination of what I started “back then,” and what I’ve added since we left. . . pardon any dis-jointedness!!Image


It’s been way, WAY too long since I’ve posted on our blog, and I’m sorry about that. We have discovered that down here, with 9 days out of 10 being sunny and 75 degrees there is a sort of easy ripple of days rolling one after another with the tides and the breezes. (If it takes a day or two more to do something, well, that’s okay, right? Or a week or two, okay?) On that tenth day we get “partly sunny,” and maybe a 20 minute shower. That’s the day we’re supposed to get work done. It goes quickly. . .

It’s definitely the Keys. No frills. I’ll bet there are places here that are fancy, but we haven’t found them (and by the way we aren’t looking). When I think about the fact that I brought two “nice” outfits and three necklaces I laugh. T-shirts, shorts, capris, sandals, that’s the order of the day. And sunblocking shirts and big hats or visors. There’s no pool. The water under the boat is 78 degrees and clear, the beach is 2 ½ miles by car from here (with the winds we’ve had problems with Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish, not to be fooled with. But the winds have finally died down for a day or two. . . We’ll see.)  Image

The Tiki Bar was closed a day or two before we arrived on January 15th. The bar was sinking. . . Yellow tape is draped around. For the first three weeks we were here there was some beeping timer alarm going off in there. But finally someone turned it off. It’s the Keys. . .



We are across the street from a golf course. Niya and I walk in the bike lane next to their fence (I’ve decided every community should have a bike lane!) every day.

Here is a sign next to one of the gates in their fence.Image

This is the pond where the crocodile has been seen. I tell Niya that if we are not going to feed the croc we need to hurry past! You can see our boat beyond the pond at the 10th hole.Image

Last year the croc decided to make its home in one of the golf carts and they had a tough time helping it decide otherwise. Why they didn’t just relocate it is beyond me. Niya and I hurry past. (Two days before we left Marathon there were two crocodiles spotted at the far end of the golf course near Sisters’ Creek; one was 13 feet long, the other about 7.)

There is a mooring field in Boot Key Harbor and even though we are in a marina, we look out on the mooring field. Here are a couple of views of it. We had amazing sunsets over it almost every night as you can see. . . stop me when you’ve had enough.ImageImageImage

Some of the folks in there are living on little or nothing, some just like not to be attached to land. Some are there for a week or two, some have been there for years. Every morning there’s a “Cruisers’ Net” on VHF Channel 68. It’s an amazing community resource, with a different moderator every day. People are hailed hello as new arrivals or farewell on their departure; people list their buy/sell/giveaway items; people list their questions or problems about engines, electronics, health care or whatever; people talk about doings: yoga, pick-up softball, the cheese man from Pennsylvania is back, don’t miss the new show at the local theater. . . It’s wonderful stuff! When you’re “on a mooring ball” (much less expensive than being in a slip at the dock) you come into a dinghy dock somewhere to do the laundry, or do some shopping, or commute to your job.Image

There are definitely Keys Characters here.Image

My theory is two-fold: 1.) if you don’t fit anywhere else, go to the Keys, and 2.) if you have nothing, nor any means of getting anything, go to the Keys. Here is a photo to prove #1.ImageThis man, who I have dubbed “Thor” for obvious reasons, has a vision. He’s living his vision, and I can tell you that others have just lapped it up, for there were several evenings when we saw him passing the stern of our boat with one. . . or more. . . young lady in gauzy white dresses fluttering in slow motion in the breezes of the Keys. . . Yep, it almost looked like the cover of a lusty romance novel!

And here is a photo to prove #2.ImageThere was a man who lived in the mangroves across the street from the Tiki Bar. He was quite possessive about his home, and chased Hans off one evening when he was walking Niya just a bit too close.

In the afternoon/evenings we often gather on the dock (there are always several gatherings on the dock) to talk about the day, the fishing or plans. Or war stories or boating fables.Image

Once a week there’s a potluck. And occasionally we do “field trips” like this one, where a number of us dinghied over to a restaurant on the other side of the harbor.Image

While there is the occasional dolphin this far back in the harbor, the manatees visit almost every day. One day there were seven of them! We never had that many come right to the dock — those were grazing along the shallows by the mangrove island behind us. But often we would have three or four, which would make their way, munching slowly along. They are UGLY! Gentle giants, most have prop scars along their backs where they’ve been struck by boats. They love (need) fresh water, so are enticed with a hose or rainwater falling off the boat. Deliberate coaxing is frowned upon with a $5,000 fine (they don’t want the manatees to become too comfortable around boats, which cause injury or death to these slow moving creatures.) Except there was one manatee named Scotty who has been entangled so horribly in discarded fishing line that we’ve been asked to get out the water hose for him in if we see him, and to call any one of several authorities to come for him. They’re afraid that without surgery any other attempt to remove the line he would bleed to death.

Here’s a sequence of photos that shows one that came to our dock coaxed by one of the boaters there. Much as I disapproved, I had to take pictures. You can definitely see the prop marks on this one, but some are worse. Did I say ugly??ImageImageImageImage

There are other critters in the Keys. We have a lot of little lizards. They skitter along like dried palm fronds blown in the wind, and you usually have to be quick to see them. I believe that they are Anole Lizards, but Hans thinks they’re geckos. (We’ve brought two of them back on the boat, a bright green one, and a slightly smaller brown one. They no doubt boarded the boat via the dock lines somewhere.) This one was in K-Mart. . .Image

The bigger lizards (MUCH BIGGER!) are Iguanas. They are not native here, but they’re everywhere. We’ve been told not to get too close, as they will lunge at you with claws out and they are reported to carry salmonella. They move fast, YIKES!ImageImage

The pelicans are lovely/ugly, and are all around. . .Image

. . . as are the White Ibis, who I think look like little old men with long noses.Image

Some of the people in the marina go out to the reef and fish, but we see fish in the marina as well. The water is very clear on days when there is little wind. This is a Needle Fish that visited us one day, and there’s a young barracuda that comes for table scraps at slip B-1.Image

This is what grows on the pilings supporting the dock. Oysters of some sort, sea anemones, and I’m not sure what the orange stuff is, but I think that’s a critter too!Image

There’s more, a lot more. . . I’ll save it for another post.



Jew Point Dawn on Card Sound

ImageThis was a spectacular dawn on our first night out. . . as you can see we shared the anchorage with one other very distant boat.

Yes, we’ve left Marathon, and are on our slow way back north. Our Marathon winter was wonderful, and we’ll be doing it again.  I’m afraid our blog has suffered while we were there. It’s been over two months since we’ve posted, and while I have a lot of photos and thoughts I’ve put into the blog folder on my laptop, that’s where they remain.

I’m going to try to pull together what I have and post new entries in the next week or two, but for now we will tell you that our Jew Point anchorage at the bottom of Card Sound was about as perfect as you can get for the first night on this part of our journey.

On to the Keys

Click on the Title

We left Ft. Lauderdale Monday morning, finally on our way to the Keys, our goal. The winds had subsided — not entirely, but enough, and we both wanted badly to be at our final destination.

We had planned to leave on Wednesday of last week, and ended up staying five extra days due to winds and waves down that way. . . call us “wuss,” when we’ve never done it, never seen it, never experienced it, Biscayne Bay looks GIGANTIC on the charts, and open to the weather! We were pretty sure that at the other end of it we would say, “What were we THINKING! We SHOULDA JUST GONE. . .” But we didn’t, and the week in Ft. Lauderdale was great. It’s a happening city, worth a visit, and we were located beautifully at the municipal marina.

More amazing boats lined the waterway of course. . . Image

South of Ft. Lauderdale is Hollywood, with many incredibly tall condo buildings. 


Miami. Whew! What a sight.Image

This is one of the many bridges we went through. Most of the bridges are “just bridges,” but a few, like this one have character.Image

And the cruise ships, all lined up ready to go!


Then we were in Biscayne Bay, Image

and below that several much smaller sounds, divided by incredibly narrow cuts through the mangroves. ImageImageYep, we had some wind and waves, in fact the boat was covered in salt at the end of the day, when we anchored off Key Largo in Buttonwood Sound. This is where we chose to anchor:Image



We’ve learned that Key Largo is really, REALLY long! And that the Keys are many, many, MANY small islands. Duck Key, Nest Key, Whaleback Key, Shell Key, Butternut Key . . . and on, and on, and on!ImageMost of these little islands are uninhabitable, but some of them of course house the rich and famous. In fact they are so exclusive that they (reportedly) have armed guards at the docks, in case you should be foolish enough to want to go ashore. We didn’t try. . .

In the meantime, we were traveling through the Everglades National Park. It looks like you could go forever — but DO NOT STRAY off the path! Although the water is very wide, the channel running through it is very narrow, and the water on either side is very shallow. We could see birds standing (NOT floating, STANDING) nearby as we passed. And IN the channel in some places we had just 1 foot of water under the boat . . .  in those places we went very slowly. You don’t want to hit bottom very hard.

When we got into Florida Bay, that large body of water between “Southern Florida Mainland” and the big swooping curve of the Keys, the color truly turned to turquoise.Image The sky held scattered clouds, and the sun playing on the water left dark areas that were opaque, then big streaks of brilliant aquamarine (golly, I wonder where THAT word came from!!) and crystal clear. ImageWe could see the bottom as we cruised over it at our 9 or 10 miles an hour. Again, it was very shallow, our depth sounder showing only two or three feet of water under us, and . . . there were CRAB TRAP FLOATS. ImageImageWhen I say there were crab trap floats, they were everywhere, as far as we could see, crowded together only 50 or 60 feet apart. It was a challenging maze as we worked our way through them.

In the photo below, you can see the white sand trail we kicked up from the bottom in the super shallow water. The curve is because the channel actually turns there.  Image

Finally, we could see the Seven Mile Bridge! ImageThe Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key (part of the city of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. It is one of the many (MANY!) bridges on US 1 in the Keys, where the road is called the Overseas Highway. The old bridge was built by Henry Flagler, a hotel tycoon who built a railroad to attract people to his fancy hotels in Key West. The tracks were heavily damaged in a hurricane in 1935, so he sold the span to the US Government who turned it into a public road. A new bridge was completed in 1982, and the old bridge is still there and is used as a fishing pier. We haven’t walked out on it yet, but I understand that you can see many fish, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles when you look down from there!

We went through the bridge and were in the Atlantic Ocean.Image

Image The winds and waves were very much in evidence — as were the crab pots — as we made the eastward turn to our left — Marathon and Boot Key Harbor ahead!ImageOur friend Robin was on her kayak as we came near, and she took these photos as we passed her at the entrance to the harbor.Image


The “Mooring Field” takes up a massive amount of space in the middle of the harbor, and is occupied ­by many more sailboats than power boats — and is designated as “International Waters.”Image

And finally to our slip at Marathon Marina Dockside. This is what’s in front of us. . . Image

and this is looking off the stern. . . Image


We have arrived!



In Ft. Lauderdale

We stayed at the Las Olas Municipal Marina at the foot of the Las Olas Boulevard bridge. 01 Las Olas Marina 401 Las Olas BridgeJust two blocks to the beach, convenient to all the restaurants and dives of the “boardwalk” area, 01 Las Olas Marina it’s a beautiful marina, clean (no bird droppings on the docks — WOW!!) with security, scenery, an amazing laundry facility (don’t laugh — this is a cruiser’s priority!), recycling (we’ve found that a rarity in marinas, believe it or not) and a really great place to walk the dog. We were rubbing shoulders with The Big Boys there: “Bookends,” which seems to be permanently waiting with her 8 person crew for any command from the owner, is 163’ long.

One of the "Big Boys!"

One of the “Big Boys!”

The Lazarra (perhaps the world’s fanciest yacht, and very likely the most expensive) that was at the end of our dock was at least that big, and the one that replaced it was over 200’ long. So we’re not one of the big boys, we’re a little guy, very, VERY little, at 43’. We were certainly the dirtiest, still carrying some of the Baltimore grime, and the most loaded down with evident “stuff,” like bikes and kayaks — the Big Boys all have garages for their “stuff.”
We discovered that the piper who greeted us on our first night here does a regular performance on the on the other side of the bridge just before sunset. It was wonderful!01 The Piper
We walked every day to the “Boardwalk” area, really just the retail area across the street from the beach, and saw the sights.
A1A, this is "the main drag"

A1A, this is “the main drag”

Bars, restaurants, shops and people. Sitting with “2-4-1” drinks (buy one drink and get the other free) Bloody Mary and Mimosa, or with a little snack


(these were awesome!) the people watching was fabulous. You cannot imagine who believes they can wear a bikini. You would not believe who thinks they are still some young thang because they can still fit into it, whatever “it” is. There is a point in aging when “slender” turns to “scrawny,” and it is just as scrawny when blessed with a tan as not. And because you were once a young buck with long hair, a tan, a fancy fedora and a stogie, does NOT mean that you can carry it off today!
The two gentlemen sitting on the wall over by the beach . . . one is Peter, the other is Pan. Pan is the one with the fedora and stogie.

The two gentlemen sitting on the wall over by the beach . . . one is Peter, the other is Pan. Pan is the one with the fedora and stogie.

This wonderful sculpture is made of empty plastic bottles — what a great way to recycle! — and it is lit with LED lights at night.
Ft. Lauderdale Fish

Ft. Lauderdale Fish

On Sunday, our last day there, we stopped in at our favorite ice cream place. It’s a “pump your own,” sorbet, low fat yogurt, soft serve ice cream, and everything in between. Lots of flavors. . . pistachio, red velvet, cookies and cream, vanilla, peanut butter, cake batter, peach mango. . . you get the idea. In case you can’t decide which to choose, the guy behind the counter comes out with these little paper “pill cups,” and an offer to let you taste whatever flavor you might like to try. Gotta tell you, taste ‘em, pump ‘em, and you are in possession of delicious flavors worthy of a return trip.
Ice Cream and People Watching

Ice Cream and People Watching

All yummy! But WAIT! There’s MORE!!! Sit on the shady bench outside the ice cream place to savor your choice, and just watch. . .

On to. . . Fort Lauderdale

We spent three nights total in Cocoa Village, thanks in part to our friends Robin and Jim Roberts who gave us the “One Free Night” certificate they had gotten at the DeFever Rendezvous (another boaters’ group we are in) and which they couldn’t use.

Continuing on the Indian River, which seems to go on forever paralleling the ocean shoreline, there are many bridges. Some bridges are high enough so we can go under them without asking for an opening, others we have to have opened for us. We have what they call an “air draft” (translated to “height above the water”) of 27’. Our mast carries our radar, a TV antenna, lights, a weather station and some GPS antennas and is VERY HEAVY. Image

We could lower the mast if we had to, although it would take four strong men and a winch, OR. . . a clever Hans with a VERY clever rig he has devised for doing it single handed, but  . . . with no small effort. We do not lower the mast. So for a bridge with 9’ clearance, or 16’ clearance, or 24’ clearance, we ask for an opening via the VHF radio. The answer will be something like this:  “Opening in 24 minutes, Cap’n,” if they have a posted schedule, which is usually on the hour and half hour, or every fifteen minutes. Or it will be, “Yes Cap’n, get a little closer and we’ll open for you.” Sometimes they do it immediately, and sometimes you just hang there, waiting. But you almost always have observers.Image

So you’re traveling along the Indian River forever. There are barrier islands between you and the ocean, where there is often development and sometimes not, but there is also often a second set of barrier islands, sometimes east of the ICW, and sometimes west. On the chart they look like a string of beads, and in actuality it looks like some of the islands are big enough to live on. Or not.Image

ImageWe had many dolphins join us along this stretch, with one group that followed us for a good ten minutes. There were four of them; the smallest would leap fully out of the water in a big arc, and re-enter with a determined ­­­­­splash; the largest one would splash his/her tail really hard after every couple of “soundings” or whatever they call the graceful arcing into breathing time. . . ; the third had apparently lost its dorsal fin at some point, although it didn’t seem to affect its swimming;  the fourth one was sort of speckled, and swam on her side with one eye focused on us the whole time. Niya was overjoyed, and she squealed so much I thought she might lose her voice.

On Saturday, January 5th, we stopped at the Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce. A longish walk to the nearest supermarket let us replenish our stores. We’ve been pretty successful with the groceries. I think the inclination on the part of most boaters (or possibly just those of us who are new to long term cruising?) is to carry more food than you can possibly use. The unfortunate truth is that after carefully stocking refrigerator and cupboards, local restaurants and eateries are often too tempting and you eat out rather than on the boat. Which of course we did that night, as there was a restaurant/tiki bar right there at the marina. . . Sometimes what you can fix in your own tiny galley with limited ingredients and a creative mind is better than what you can get at the local tiki bar. Okay?

Getting farther south we’re seeing bigger and bigger personal yachts.Image

ImageA “Personal Yacht” is beyond what we have. What we have is a . . . well. Let me think about the perfect definition, because sometimes with our peeling paint and worn varnish (both of which are on our list of “things to fix when we get to Marathon”) we don’t really look like we belong in some of these marinas.

­­Passing through the Jupiter area was interesting. There are many bridges at or near the Jupiter Inlet that were low enough that we had to wait for openings, so it’s slow going. The ICW takes a little snaky curve there, and with all the bridges and Sunday boaters in their small go-fast boats, water police were very much in evidence. That area felt almost carnival-like in atmosphere. Image

LOTS of Golf Courses!Image

And getting into Lake Worth in North Palm Beach — YIKES! Wide open water, lots and LOTS of Sunday boaters, many of them no longer so small, gave us a pretty bumpy ride down to our Sunday stop just north of the Port of Palm Beach at the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina.

The marina is undergoing a major renovation, as they are adding floating docks. These were still not available to the public (next week is “launch” apparently), but were fully occupied by birds. Evidently birds can be a real problem in Florida in the winter, as this is where many of them come when they “head south.” The docks — and boats! — can be pretty disgusting with bird droppings.Image

Our dock was right across from the Tiki Bar, which looked to be VERY popular.

Our plans to head out Monday morning at 7 were cancelled when we realized that our Port transmission was not working. Several years ago we replaced the Starboard transmission with one that is more modern and is definitely smoother in operation. It’s not an easy or inexpensive job, but we had decided to replace the Port transmission before we left Baltimore. . . unfortunately the wrong part arrived from Volvo, so we are still limping along with the old transmission. One of the parts of this mechanism is called a “damper plate.” It is the weakest link in an archaic system, so we carry spares. Hans has had experience in changing the damper plate, but it still took almost three hours of hard sweaty labor.Image

After getting underway again, we realized that we were seeing water that was that wonderful green that means you’re in the southern waters! ImageIt’s a gorgeous color, and unlikely when paired with blue skies. It just doesn’t look real!

Lake Worth narrows down at Boynton Beach, and we travelled through a long canal of attractive condos and homes. As we neared the megacities of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami there were more canals on both sides of the waterway lined with expensive — or derelict! — homes, and pretty much everything in between.Image


Image It’s very odd to see lavish homes with carefully manicured gardens and lawns and swimming pools (frequently guarded by life-size bronze or stone Grecian water nymphs for some reason) flanked by falling down and sometimes clearly abandoned homes that look like they were built in the ‘50s. It brings obvious questions to mind: where is the owner? Still alive? Was it a place of wonderful memories for a generation or two and then forgotten? Are the heirs not aware of the property? Where IS the owner??

We arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale Las Olas Municipal Marina after they closed, but before dark. With our slip assignment already taken care of by phone, we took Niya for a quick walk and then scrambled to the flybridge for sunset cocktails. Across the ICW, at the foot of the Las Olas Bridge on the other side, a bag piper was playing. Can I just tell you how awesome our arrival was??

An unusual weather system has brought “unseasonably warm” temperatures in the 80s, and strong south/south-east winds to Southern Florida and the Keys. We are sitting tight here until those winds subside and we can cross Biscayne Bay comfortably. There are many, many worse places to be stuck, wouldn’t you say?Image

A few things I’ve learned so far:

  • You can vacuum up “half-a-dog’s” worth of hair one day and the same amount two days later, but there’s still a whole dog here.
  • House plants that we nurture at our windows up north make great hedges when cut and trimmed correctly.
  • It may look delicious in the supermarket, but the temptation of a menu on the board outside a restaurant almost always wins. Unfortunately.
  • The floating thing in the water in front of your boat is not likely to be the head of a swimmer or even, God forbid, a decapitated head. It is a coconut.




A New Year, New Voyages

Happy New Year Friends!!

So I jumped ahead on the blog and posted the video of our dolphin family following in our wake — I just had to! They are delightful, charming, and the baby is a doll, as most babies are! Apparently most dolphin Moms have either an older daughter, or younger sister, or some other “Non-Mom” helping to watch the baby. She is a second set of eyes, often necessary when babies are around. As you can see in my video, the baby has  a tendency to go places he shouldn’t, just as all babies do, and they do it really fast. . . like all babies do! Here is just a reminder of that scene:Image

And here is Niya when she’s not standing at the rail squealing: She is very watchful of our wake in case any dolphin come by!Image

In the meantime, we left the boat for our “holiday evacuation” in Palm Coast, Florida, a beautiful community on the water.

ImagePhil and Sarah Lowe are amazing hosts. They became our friends very quickly, as the warmth of their welcome goes beyond what “Port Captains” do. To-ing and Fro-ing to car rental places, offers of any and all help and hosting we might need — and when they run out of dock space they enlist their neighbors’ assistance.ImageWe were graciously hosted for two weeks by their next door neighbors, and were sad to say goodbye. . . Niya LOVED romping and chasing with their wonderful dogs Maggie and Casey. . . ESPECIALLY Casey, who pretty much equaled her in speed and agility. What a sight that was!

We passed Daytona Beach. . . Image

And saw many pelicans. . . Image

ImageImageAnd the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse.Image

Our next stop was New Smyrna Beach Marina.Image

I think we could have stayed there for the rest of the winter! There is ­­­SO MUCH GOING ON!!! Dolphins, pelicans, deep sea fishermen in COMBINATION with pelicans, what a scene! The successful day of fishing started the crowds gathering, both on the dock and on the water. . .

ImageImageFinally squabbling broke out on the water. . . Image

The two small islands just outside the marina were evidently “bedrooms” for the pelican gang.

ImageNiya decided that after dolphins, she loves pelicans the best, because they splash when they go into the water. We all had an amazingly entertaining evening on the flybridge. It was the first time that we really felt that we were “here,” wherever that is. Feet up, warm breezes, hours watching birds, dolphins, water, sunset. . . .

THEN. . . dinner at the restaurant next door, grilled shrimp for me, fish and chips for Hans. It was reasonably priced, well prepared, generous in size, and DELICIOUS! Served on paper plates with plastic utensils, by the way.

We really COULD have stayed there forever, but left at 8:30 with a quiet tide, no one about, the deep sea fishermen already gone, the pelicans still sleeping.

The ICW beyond there is long, with a very narrow channel, but the water is wide. We were in Mosquito Lagoon, looking to the west at tiny islands, to the east at wide water and dunes, then tiny islands, white pelicans (YES!!! The American White Pelican! Bigger than their brown cousins, evidently these birds hunt in flocks, and will “herd” fish to shallow water for easier harvesting.)Image

Interesting to note that while standing or swimming these birds look all white. But clearly from the next photo, the wing tips are black. Image

To the east, there is a narrow barrier island separating us from the ocean. Dunes, or not. You can see the buildings, and yes, even the launch pad, of NASA!Image

There’s a lot of shallow water, and fishermen take advantage of it.Image

Manatee warnings everywhere!Image

These are slow-moving, endangered marine mammals that are protected by strict speed limitations. . .don’t know if that works. Evidently they get hit by props in spite of all efforts, but there were long stretches where we couldn’t go faster than about 4 knots (translation: very slow!)

At one point we left Mosquito Lagoon via the Haulover Canal to enter Indian River. This little canal is just a short cut through a barrier island, and is fishermen’s haven apparently. ImageImageImage

And here is what that looks like on the chart:Image

We are at Cocoa Village Marina and will be staying here one more day. The weather turned nasty this morning, cold (yeah, I know it’s relative, but spitting rain, gusty wind and 62 degrees is COLD!) Cocoa Village is a charming area of the city of Cocoa, with many little shops and restaurants. The shops are more interesting than the ones we saw in Fernandina Beach — not as many “flea market” shops. Much like the feel of New Smyrna Beach, this city is less glitzy than many Florida coastal towns. There is a slower tempo, and less intense development. We like it!

Dolphin Family Riding our Wake


Mom, Baby and Auntie riding our Wake on Mosquito Lagoon in Florida. You can hear our little dog Niya squealing her excitement about our visitors — she LOVES DOLPHIN VISITS!!! (I know it sounds like we’re torturing her, but the torture is that she cannot join them in the water!!)
We were going just under 10 miles an hour, and you can see Mom smack Baby a couple of times, as a reminder to stay away from our propellers.
(Sorry I can’t actually imbed the video here. . . but please do follow the link. . . I will update our posts tomorrow, this was just too exciting to let go!)

St. Augustine, Palm Coast, then. . . home

12-14 St. Augustine

Today we are in St. Augustine. WOW what a current coming in the inlet!! This is what it looks like on a floating mark. . . .


and this is what it does to our speed:


Remember, our “normal” speed is 8.5, we were FLYING! Can I just tell you, this was a scary inlet, with water going fast in every direction. When it can push a 30,000+ lb boat in every which direction, you understand the power of it.

To backtrack just a bit, the long cut approach to St. Augustine is interesting. This whole long stretch is soup to nuts in housing. Again.



We are staying in a small, “down home marina” on the BACK of St. Augustine proper. Our friends Jim and Judy Foster told us about it (less expensive, more sheltered, which is great because the wind has been howling and the seas rough!) and when we looked it up we found out that you can have a fuel truck come and deliver fuel right to the dock. So when we called for a reservation we asked if they could arrange for that, which they did. For a GREAT price, too! “ONLY” $3.65 per gallon including tax.  We took on 300 gallons. . . .

And Jim and Judy (and her sister Joan) were here with their car. Jim took me for a quick trip for groceries (good lord, we were out of Milk Bone dog biscuits, that would never do!) and then suggested that we join them for dinner in town and to see the lights. WOW! ST. AUGUSTINE WITH CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IS AMAZING!!!





Here is the famous Bridge of Lions


The entire city seemed alight with celebration, activity, and oh yes, LIGHTS! Jim said he thought there were supposed to be over a million lights, and we believe it.


12/15 Hans’s Birthday!

Morning started with Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts in the marina office, and a gathering of live-aboards and transients outside sharing war stories. A nice touch! I walked over to the produce stand that is just outside the entrance to the marina and bought the most incredible tomatoes, juicy grapefruit and some gigantic oranges. . .


. . .all for $5. I think I would have had to pay $5 just for those tomatoes back home!

We decided that THE best birthday celebration for Hans would be the walk to Sailors’ Exchange, about three city blocks away, and a no-pressure, no-timeline visit there.


When we found Sailors’ Exchange it was everything that was promised and more. If you’re looking for a bronze hinge for a gate in the railing of a Taiwanese trawler like ours. . . how many, which side, and how big? There was so much there that you couldn’t buy anything. But it was cool.

ImageWhen we’ve lived this life for another couple of weeks or months, we might be able to wrap our heads around what they had there, and buy something.

Then lunch at Hurricane Patty’s which is right on the marina grounds. It’s great to be able to stop by for Nachos or Fish and Chips, our choices. Unfortunately the clientele has a tendency to leave food in the parking lot, a total and complete distraction for Niya, who cares more about her stomach than her bladder!

We had “Danish” open face sandwiches for dinner — who else gets to prepare their own meal on their birthday, I ask? Curried herring on black bread, egg, tomato, mayo and caviar on white bread, and if you can get that far you’ll have liver pate and sweet pickled cucumber called Asier.  All of COURSE with schnapps and beer, a Danish delight. Happy Birthday Hans!


12-16 to Palm Coast

THEN, a short, three hour trip to Palm Coast.

We have seen dolphin all along, but they haven’t seemed very interested in us, so “photo-ops” have been difficult at best. Dolphin usually love to ride the wakes on boats going through their area, and whether ours just wasn’t big enough, or fast enough for them, we didn’t know. But suddenly we drew them on this leg of the journey. There were five of them, and Hans went out with the whistle and they stuck around for a good fifteen minutes or so.Image


What made it even more fun was that Hans took Niya out so she could see them. WOW! She was SO EXCITED and she said so, with barks and whines and little leaps, as she watched them weave in and out of our wake. Once she was back inside, she spent the rest of the way standing up on the settee with her paws on the window sill and her eyes glued to the wake, waiting for more.

We had contacted Sarah and Phil Lowe, MTOA folk we’d met years before but never “known,” about the possibility of staying on a neighboring dock for a week or ten days. Sarah and Phil are exceptional in many ways. They received the “Port Captain of the Year Award” this year at the MTOA  (Marine Trawlers Owners Association) Rendezvous. But what did that mean?? We had no idea what a Port Captain does. YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Phil has cultivated a network of neighbors who have docks but no boats. . . and who are willing to exchange dockage for. . . a Purple Martin community? Or maybe help with getting electric power to the dock? Or much more, I can assure you. So he’s got all these “chits” out. When a member of MTOA calls or e-mails, Phil can match it all up. He’s paid for our dockage with his knowledge and expertise, and we are very, very, VERY appreciative. Phil and Sarah are Port Captains of the CENTURY, as far as we’re concerned. They are delightful, intelligent, generous people who have a lot of experience and knowledge to share, and share it they do! We had a wonderful dinner with them, and discovered that Sarah is a fantastic cook, AND baker: the “pumpkin bars” for dessert were amazing.

BUT WAIT, there’s MORE! They have a fenced-in yard and two beautiful little dogs who are READY FOR A RUN!  Niya was beyond happy about this, she was hackles-up-running-hell-bent-for-leather happy about it, and . . . she went “cracker dog.” Poor thing has been cooped up on a boat for three weeks, walked on a leash, dragged away from carrion and chips dropped in parking lots, and she was READY TO GO!  Sarah and Phil’s Casey and Maggie let her loose and gave chase, and joy was produced, happiness smeared across Niya’s grinning, drooling face.  She is now legs up, eyes flickering, whimpering in the chase of her dreams. She’s determined to beat Casey, I know, and we’re pretty sure they’re so equally matched that there will be NO winner!

Sarah and Phil live in a lovely quiet neighborhood right on a basin in a community canal. Here is Hans showing his sister Nina what it looks like. (Nina is in Copenhagen, and Hans and Nina have been talking almost every day via Skype, a fantastic benefit of new technologies. She is “almost” going along with us this way!)Talking with Nina


12/19 We are home. . .

Phil drove Hans back up to St. Augustine to pick up a rental car Monday morning, and we took two days to do the 790 mile trip back to Maryland.

Here is Niya on her first visit to a motel:


This is one of the stops we made along the way. We stopped in for the crickets, of course. . . (what are they selling crickets FOR??) and ended up getting fuel. Can you believe the price?


Hans drove the whole distance, bless him. Day one of the drive was horrible with heavy rain, bad windshield wipers, wind, and tornado warnings through Georgia and South Carolina; day two was horrible as we neared DC on I-95 with crazy drivers and way too many of them going way too fast while talking on the cell phone.

It took us three weeks to go from Maryland to Palm Coast. Two days for the return trip was eerie;  we left 70 degree weather, palm trees, Spanish Moss and the slow pace of trawler life, for overnight temperatures of 35 degrees and the hectic pace of suburban Maryland.  Br-r-r-r. We’ll go back some time next week.

Overnight in Fernandina Beach

No pictures here folks, just experience. . . Tonight we are in Fernandina Beach for the second night, and we are definitely rockin’ and rollin’. The Florida Cruising Guide talks about seeing 3 foot+ seas in here, and I’m telling you I am a believer. I know we’ve seen over two feet, and when that’s coming at you from an inlet into a dock, ya gotta believe. (Here’s a question: when I get to shore will my body adjust to NO MOTION instead of CONSTANT MOTION??)

 Hans got up three times last night to add stern lines. I’m listening to the lines tonight and I hear sawing. Hope there are more lines where we need them, in all the right places. Thank you Hans.


Fernandina Beach

We saw this house yesterday on our approach into Fernandina. A little taste of the architecture to come, as Fernandina Beach was apparently an early “snowbird” destination and the flocks built many Victorian homes here . . .


as well as what I would call “Florida Beach Bungalows.”


. . . and a reminder that this is a town with not one but TWO paper mills, one north of the marina —



— and one south of the marina.


Yes it’s a charming town!


There are many gift shops and little restaurants so it’s quite obvious that they are geared toward the tourist industry. They’ve done a nice job maintaining the appearance, including the use of the original railroad station as the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. I’m guessing that the “normal” clientele here is different from who we are: for the most part everything is either too glittery, too cute, or too expensive for us. Granted that may have something to do with the fact that we are living in a tiny space which has no room for 8” glass Christmas ornaments, or 10” carved wooden pirates, and that we are trying to be as frugal as possible. Nonetheless, the buildings are definitely Southern. From the Post Office. . .


. . . to the Florida House Inn, which apparently is the oldest surviving Inn in Florida.


I thought this one was pretty cool, with its wonderful paint choices. . .


And I took this one to remind myself that yes indeed we are in Florida, where hibiscus plants grow outside quite happily in the warm sunshine along Center Street in Fernandina Beach . . .


even though today it was 48 degrees, misting rain, and wind howling at 15 to 20 knots early, finally dying down to 10 to 15 around noon. I am SO GLAD I brought earmuffs, gloves, and my fleece-lined LL Bean Windbreaker. I used them all today.

And I am SO GLAD we weren’t going out St. Andrew Sound into the ocean today. Geesch.

This evening while I was taking Niya for her walk, we met up with two dogs we had met in St. Simons Island — different dog-walker, but I recognized the dogs. He was from the blue sail boat that left moments before we did yesterday morning from St. Simons Island, and they only arrived here this afternoon. He said that they had gone aground in The Crooked River, along with another sail boat. They were fortunate that they were right side up for the whole four hours they waited for the return of the tide. The other sail boat was not so lucky, as they were lying on their side. We’ve not only been lucky (because I KNOW we’ve gone through shallows when we’ve had no business being there!) but I also know that Hans has worked hard to learn how to read the water. Which of course only works when conditions are right, and that’s where the luck part comes in.

So here’s the thing about shrimp and grits. I had a great experience in Georgetown, SC, where the shrimp boats come in. It was really good, tasty, and worth another try. Tonight we had dinner at Brett’s Waterway Cafe, right here at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Reportedly “good value for the money, but a bit pricey.” I had shrimp and grits, and it BLEW AWAY what I had in Georgetown! There was SO MUCH FLAVOR! Red and green peppers (just the right amount!), fresh diced tomatoes, carrots (just a few), the ham and sausage were more evident, smokier, tastier, bigger chunks, but not too many of them. The shrimp. . . the shrimp were tender and tasted like shrimp, sweet tender shrimp, not rubbery. The menu boasted, “Tasso Ham, Red-Eye Gravy, Anson Mills Cheese Grits.” I shook the hand of the chef after this one, literally,­­­ and told him that this Northern woman had been converted to Southern with his shrimp and grits. Oh my oh my oh my. . . . Y’all heah this now? There’s gonna be a bit a’ drawl from this New Yawkah. I have eaten Suthin’ heaven.