Friday, May 31, 2013

Up the St Johns River to Walaka - Day 8

May 31, 2013

Can you say ‘bug bites’, ‘heat rash’ and ‘humidity’?  Yes, we are both covered in bug bites from mosquitoes, “no-see-ems” and possibly a horse fly or two!  The positive flip side of these conditions is that we’re discovering a variety of anti-itch remedies (OTC and ‘home-remedies’ as well – a fellow drug store customer said she heard recently on Dr. Oz’s show to ‘put a regular aspirin’ on the itchy spot and it will help to make the itch go away).  Trying the aspirin remedy tonight…kind of making a paste of sorts, albeit I’m not sure that was the Dr’s recommendation (we’ll let you know what we think); and the humidity does nothing to help ‘hair’ so a new easy-to-keep, shorter style soon may be in the offing (for me that is; my handsome bald-guy need not worry as much).  
shallow and we think we were touching a little of the mud floor – but all went well and we were off!  Traversed further down the St. John’s River and are anchored in a small channel off Turkey Island, near Welaka.  Idaho boys get envious:  Grandpa plans to head out early, early in the morning to test out these waters as they are considered the “WORLD’S BEST bass fishing grounds”.  We’ll report on the hoped for successful outcome. 
We left our Deep Creek anchorage this morning around 9 am – had a small delay as water was
The St Johns River as it narrows is just a beautiful stretch of river with homes scattered all along the way, but mostly mile after mile of trees, wildlife and jumping fish.  The river narrows considerably so we are getting a lot more opportunity to read the charts and drive the boat the 

Took the dingy into Welaka tonight (in search of the anti-itch remedies, among searching for a few other needed supplies…like bait), and docked at the city’s boat ramp area.    After picking-up our few purchases, we took a walk
round the block and discovered “Shrimp-R-Us and More” restaurant.  After watching numerous cars pull up and retrieve takeout orders, and noting even more cars in the parking lot, we decided to venture over, find out more and take a look-see at the menu.  We decided to get a table in this ‘down-home-nothing-fancy’ restaurant:  Ron ordered a shrimp special:  17-piece shrimp dinner with two sides (he ordered collard greens and sweet potato fries) – came with two hush puppies as well – for $10.95!  I ordered the crabcake special…two 4” jumbo-lump crabcakes, that came with my two side selections of coleslaw and baked potato, and two hush-puppies of course (served with a cinnamon spread)…for $13.95!  The staff was southern-hospitality-friendly…and the food really hit the spot – we would recommend this local gathering place!   A near-the-dock sign we spotted post dinner proclaimed that the restaurant was one of the best in the county. 

Ron took us back in the dingy tonight via a ‘scenic route’ and then went out for a little ride by himself – pre-checking out  



May 30 - Palm Cove Marina to St Johns River - Day 7

Departed the Palm Cove Marina and back on Pablo Creek north for Jacksonville downtown and up the St Johns River.  We joined the St Johns not and took a left turn to downtown and the many bridges before turning south to go 'up the river' as the St Johns is one of those rivers that runs North and not South.  We quickly found a change of pace from the relatively quite ICW to the bustling commercial maritime traffic on the St Johns.  We could feel the change in current as the Spirit Journey was pushed and pulled by the larger currents in the river and the numerous side channels used by military and commercial traffic.  (I was impressed with the boat house at Palm Cove Marina so had to get a picture)

Fortunately we began to enjoy cooler temperatures as a cooler front moved thru the area... unfortunately this also ment a very noticeable change in wind conditions.  Our wind meter in the helm began to alarm constantly as the wind picked up to 30 mph and we couldn't figure out how to change the setting on the gauge or shut the blasted thing off for a bit.  Downtown Jacksonville has one of those train bridges that lifts some 10 minutes before a train comes through... lucky us, we got there as the bridge closed, now caught between a highway bridge and the RR bridge in nice wind in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.  The river ferry decided that we should be treated as a normal fixture and easily moved around us....  well, the train came eventually and left... and the bridge stayed down... nothing in the chart books suggested that a bridge attendant was available so we just 'waited patiently' and practiced driving and backing the boat... we need the practice.  After 20 minutes or so (we had now been here for over 40 minutes) we decided to call the highway bridge office and see if there was something we were missing... .sure enough, he suggested we call the rail road bridge operator... who uses the same channel 9 as the highway operator but I guess the RR operator won't answer unless he is specifically invited.... anyway, the short is he would be glad to open the RR bridge after the next northbound train passes which will be within the next 10 minutes... which turned out to be 15 minutes and well, we finally got thru the RR bridge over an hour after we first presented outselves.... the two things that we constants was the closed bridge and the steady wind...

Tugs and barges 'roll' through this city... this huge barge had at least 5 big tugs pushing and pulling as it rolled at least 20 mph through the river.  The barge swung sideways such that it almost blocked over half of the river... glad we were on the short side of this one!

Once through the city center we proceeded to travel south for another 40 miles.  The wind for the balance of the day down the river (which is really a lake at this point) was in the 25 to 30 mile an hour range which made for some nice wind waves that gave us a chance to use the windshield wipers and their auto spray system.... luckily for us!  With an advancing thunderstorm chasing us we found a nice recommended anchorage on the east side of the lake (the wind was from the east) which was skinny getting into.  Once in we found the promised 7 to 10 foot deep creek which provided us good anchorage for the evening.  Next morning we found ourselves on the mud and had to wiggle a bit to get off the mud bar... oh well, we had a nice anchorage to ourselves for the night and found that wind can move water around a bit!

Our anchorage on Deep Creek was nice and quite as the evening came on....









May 27 to May 29, 2013 Day 6

May 27, 28, & 29 – Jacksonville & St. John’s River, FL

We departed beautiful St. Augustine early on Memorial Day, May 27, with the intent of being off the water at a marina in Jacksonville before the holiday traffic became heavy later in the day.  Our travel up the river from St Augustine was smooth and uneventful and we were able to get into our marina before noon.  Saw some lovely homes along the way.   We did encounter some traffic late in the morning but local law enforcement was quite busy keeping everyone under control.  We heard later that 3 young folks died and one was seriously injured in a boating accident very near our anchorage in St Augustine the evening before (we wondered what all the Coast Guard helicopters were doing that evening…).

We docked at the Palm Cover Marina.  After lunch we washed the boat, almost finishing before we were visited by our friends Julie and Jim Ford.  (The Fords own two Woodcraft stores, one in New Hampshire and one in Jacksonville; we had traveled with them previously for a quick week in Italy a few years ago.)  It was great to see Julie and Jim again and we enjoyed docktails on the fly bridge before joining them for a wonderful dinner at one of their local favorite haunts.  We enjoyed catching up on children, grandchildren and of course, the news of the Woodcraft stores.

The Fords graciously took us food shopping after dinner as well so we could restock up on some water, milk and other essentials.  While we expected to depart on Tuesday we found that our water heater had ‘bit the dust’ and so Ron decided to replace the element on Tuesday pushing off departure until Wednesday.  Jim offered to be the ‘taxi’ around to West Marine and ACE (largest ACE we’d ever been in) in search of the correct heater element.  Water heater fixed by 6 pm, dinner with the Fords again (at Irish Pub – “Culhane’s” – see an episode of Diners, Drive-in’s and Dive’s – Jim was one of the customers filmed BTW; and Ron had the really yummy ‘dingle fish pie’:  scallops, shrimp, salmon, peas, garlic, parmesan in a white cream sauce if we recall correctly) and the new plan:  we’d shove off on Wednesday.

As plans sometimes happen, our return from dinner lead to a “stinky” discovery that our toilet system for the guest room was going to need some work, likely a new vac-uflush pump.  Cleaned up a little mess and Jim kindly agreed to again be the chauffer on Wednesday as we searched for parts to repair the sanitation system.  (For your enjoyment, we are not posting pictures.)  We did find most of the parts, Ron made the repair (Michele assisted ‘the surgeon’) and – darn – the entire housing unit would need replacement!  As Jim stated, at least the whole attempt provided ‘boat bonding’ moments/time.   So, after canceling a dinner engagement with the Fords we ‘cleaned up’ and prepared to depart on Thursday using one toilet for a few days.  This will allow time for a new pump and motor to be shipped into Jacksonville.   We then went ahead with plans to explore the St John’s River. 

Cruised the waterway on Thursday for about 50 miles with a light chop, with some waves spraying water on the windows.    Made anchorage late Thursday on the River in an anchorage called ‘Deep Creek’; had pot roast, salad, and potato salad for dinner and hit the hay early. 









Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26, 2013 - Day Five

We had such a delightful time with Lisa and Lucas introducing us to “their city” – and our enjoyment of history – we decided to spend an extra partial day in St. Augustine today.  We caught an extra 40-winks this morning, took care of ‘housekeeping chores’, and had a ‘real’ breakfast.  Then, in early afternoon we “dinghy-ed” (not sure if this is a word, but I like to take license with new word creation anyway…like “Bombeckian” – in the spirit of Erma Bomeck; or “nichefy” – to search for one’s niche), into the marina for more of a look-see around town, and ended up taking a red-train tour of the city’s historical landmarks.  Wowee – we both learned a great deal and were fascinated with all the interesting facts!  Ron insisted that he never learned about Juan Ponce de Leon and other Spanish explorers while in elementary/junior high/high school but I’m guessing that rather, he simply had “more important” things on his mind at the time.  ;-)  However, it was very apparent that I had ‘missed’ a lot of history lessons from school days too!  We also toured “El Galeon” a replica of a ship that traveled the coasts of Florida between the 16th and 18th centuries transporting soldiers, colonists, and goods between America and Europe; Spain’s need for an ocean-crossing cargo ship capable of fending off pirates.


Woodworkers take note:  we saw a stunning 600-year old tree!  Yes, we’re taking pictures of interesting “wood” related items along the way and will post (a wood fish; an interesting design of a rocking chair, and so forth); found a quilt shop today but alas it was closed – once I finally get “the sewing room” set up on the boat, we’ll post a picture.     


Last, but not least, we’re moored at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina which we think has been great and has a really terrific and helpful staff!
This is the 0 mile marker for








May 25 - Day 4

May 25, 2013

Departed New Smyrna Beach overnight anchorage at Rockhouse Creek at 0800 after a great night of rest.  The location, being near the Ponce De Leon Inlet to the Atlantic had a significant tide flow which we did not realize on anchoring.  Wind started early in the am and by the time for loading the dingy (too much current the night before should have been a sign…) the wind was constant 20 mph plus and current was strong again with incoming tide.  Net result, we got the dingy loaded after some trial and error and the anchor up…. Captain Michele at the wheel did a great job with the dingy and driving the boat into the anchor pickup!  We learned a couple great lessons today… now if we can just remember them!

Soon after departure we entered the Halifax River leaving the Indian River we had come to understand behind us.  Despite the warnings of shoaling in this section of the river we stayed mid-channel and adjusted as we could read the water and made the day without kissing the bottom - which is better than I can say about the explorations the evening before in search of the biggest fish that ever swam this part of the river.  (Bottomed the dingy hard in a river side channel – thought about getting out to lift the dingy off the mud – then thought better as it looked like great alligator country!  Don’t know c. those critters but figured I was too tired this late in the day to be wrestling one.  Upped the motor, made a rooster tail and got back to the main channel…. Another lesson learned.)
Thinking of our friend Billy Baugh, Master Adirondack Chair Builder / Teacher at Woodcraft Seattle!  I don't remember your classes covering this paint style Billy!

The balance of the day travel went smoothly -  traffic through Dayton Beach was lite as we were relatively early in the day.  Traffic picked up as we moved north and the day warmed up.  Constant wind in the 10 to 25 mph range (thanks to the cold front moving through) likely dampened some boaters’ holiday plans for boating, but most were courteous and we enjoyed seeing the many fine homes and developments along the ICW.   Before we knew it the Matanzas River was on our bow and we passed its inlet to the sea and the river became a series of turns and curves which kept us on our toes at the helm.  We ran all day from the flybridge despite the wind but the cooler temperatures were so welcomed from the previous day’ss heat.  Soon we began to notice the currents of the St Augustine Inlet to the Atlantic and decided to call it a day at St Augustine harbor. 

Initially we had decided to pass St Augustine as we had been to this historic city before during our travels.  This is another lesson learned, we found a whole new perspective from the water and we quickly realized what a mistake it would have been to pass by!  Michele called her cousin, Lisa, to see if she and her husband, Lucas, were available for dinner, and Lisa and made reservations for the four of us at one of her favorite restaurants:  La Pentola!   (La Pentola is just about two short blocks north of the historic park – the part across the street from the municipal marina/bridge) .   We had a most enjoyable dinner – the food and the company - at this quite charming, Italian-style courtyard restaurant – if you’re ever in St. Augustine we would recommend this jewel to your dining list!  Lisa and Lucas ordered a vegetarian fettuccine, Ron had a daily special – the Bouillabaisse, and Michele had crab cakes.  All were excellent.   

After dinner. Lisa and Lucas gave us a brief walking history lesson of some notable downtown buildings and graciously offered us a ride to a grocery store to replenish needed supplies – mainly bottled water.   A nice walk across the Bridge of Lions to Lisa and Lucas’s car and we were off on a brief tour of ‘their neighborhood’ – St. Augustine Beach.   A short “full moon-light” dingy ride back to the waiting Spirit Journey and we called it a day.  Before turning out the lights we decided we enjoyed the St. Augustine history enough that we would stay Sunday, to do some further exploration.





 The Tall Ships were in town - couldn't resist another picture... we're going aboard tomorrow!


 St Augustine Municipal Marina in the historical downtown.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Day Four and we're moving NORTH

Friday, May 24, 2013 

Early departure from Vero Beach past Cape Canaveral – we weren’t in the right place at the right time to benefit from seeing a rocket launch.  Bummer, however, we did hear the Coast Guard announcement regarding the planned firing of some 4 rockets about a dozen times.  The announcements sounded ominous given the heavy fines and imprisonment if a boater was caught in the 'restricted' zone and we somehow refused to take the time to figure it all out.  We thought better of that decision about 9 am when we looked around and we were the ONLY boat out.... fortunately others joined us soon after and no one was ever arrested that we could see!

We did not see a lot of boats out today until we reached the New Smyrna Beach area.  HOWEVER, we did get to make our 'first official pass' today when we were able to pass two sailboats !!!

  But, we did see several manatees resting and swimming today, as well as numerous dolphins jumping and playing everywhere! 
These really are Manatee's... a whole herd were in this hole on the Haulover Cut!
Lot's of these little islands scattered along the way.  Ron told Michele that if the boat 'sank' we could at least walk over to one of these little islands and wait for help!
This is the Haulover that is apparently a railroad bridge leading to the NASA launch facilty.  The bridge was open today so we breezed right thru..... after we took down all the antenna's of course so we could make it under the bridge!


Our chart plotter looks like this a lot today... 12.6 feet of water  and nice straight runs.

A full moon tonight while anchored in Rockhouse Creek north of New Smyrna Beach.  Ron did a little fishin’ today after anchoring (which proceeded a bit better today), and caught a flounder that he threw back
YeMMore of our favorite birds... one island had hundreds of these covering the entire island.... must have been a real convention going on!