Stuart, FL to St. Augustine: Spring 2009

Cocoa to St. Augustine:

For this next leg of our trip we have two special guests onboard. Our 14 year old niece, Courtney,

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and our 6 year old nephew, Stormy, are joining us for the next ten days. We are really excited to have them onboard for their Spring Break. Courtney has visited several times but this will be a first for Stormy.

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We are up early the next morning and on our way to Kennedy Space Center. We spent the entire day there. There is so much to see and do that you really need two days to take it all in. The kids were very impressed with all the space capsules, rockets, and shuttles.

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They even got to meet a real live astronaut. The highlight of the day was a ride on the shuttle simulator. We weren’t sure how Stormy would react to all the shaking and noise. He is very tentative with most things but he really enjoyed the ride and especially the trip to the gift shop on our way out. It seems all tourist attractions conveniently locate the gift shops so that you must pass through them on your exit. We left with a model of the Saturn V Rocket and a space shuttle vehicle which provided hours of entertainment for a young boy.

The next day, we took in another tourist attraction, an air boat ride on the St. Johns River, which was also a hit with the kids. After meeting at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, we spent almost an hour traveling up and down the St. John’s River in search of alligators and other wildlife.

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The airboat ride was great fun and we saw lots of alligators. We were all really surprised at how fast these boats move. It was quite a change of pace from cruising aboard IT.

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After spending two days in Cocoa, the kids were ready to get underway. Our first destination was New Smyrna. The weather did not want to cooperate. We had 25-30 knot winds the entire trip along with rain as we neared our marina. The kids were real troupers and managed to have a good time in spite of the crummy weather. Many games were played during this six hour trip. This was going to be one of our most challenging docking situations. As we approached our slip, the winds had increased to about 35 mph and it was pouring down rain. Three dock hands were there to help with the lines. We have never had so many people show up to help. I guess they were a little worried also. Jeff did a great job once again and nothing was touched. We were very happy to be finished with this day on the water.

The weather gradually improved the next day and by afternoon the sun was out. This was a short travel day of only 5 miles to our anchorage of Rockhouse Creek, just north of New Smyrna. The dock master gave us instructions on how to enter the anchorage as there is a shoal along the southern entrance. His instructions were great and we were soon safely anchored between two beautiful barrier islands.

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Because this is such a great location, we decided to spend two days here. Our time was filled with fishing, shelling, and searching for pirate treasure. Stormy miraculously found a pirate treasure map which had washed ashore in a glass jar on Treasure Island.

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This map lead us to a buried treasure which consisted of a Bahamian $1, a paper clip, pirate stamps, and several other treasures belonging to “Captain Black”.

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It was better than Santa Clause for a young 6 year old. Courtney enjoyed fishing and also kayaking with Uncle Jeff.

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Sebastian especially enjoyed having his own little boy to follow around all day.

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Not surprisingly, he even managed to work his way into bed each evening with Courtney and Stormy for an all night snuggle. The only negative about this anchorage was the bugs which appeared right after sunset each evening. They ate us alive and we quickly retreated inside. Poor Stormy counted 80 bug bites by the time we left.

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After two delightful days at anchor, it was time to head to our final destination of St. Augustine. The weather cooperated this time and we had an enjoyable seven hour cruise up the ICW. We were greeted at the Conch House by Jeff’s Mom and Dad as they were anxious to welcome the kids to St. Augustine. Over the next four days we enjoyed taking in all that this great city had to offer. We visited the Alligator Farm, historic fort, Spanish Quarter, and even managed to get in some swim time at both the beach and pool. After 10 days, we finally managed to wear Stormy out as he fell asleep during a birthday dinner celebration for Jeff’s Mom and sister at one of the local Spanish restaurants. Uncle Jeff had to carry him all the way back to the boat and gently put him to bed on this last vacation day in Florida.

All good things must come to an end.

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Unfortunately the kids have to be back at School on Monday. Jeff and I were both a little nervous before their visit. We weren’t sure how well we could entertain a young boy and a teenage girl for 10 days aboard a boat. They were both fantastic guests and we are sorry to see our time coming to an end. Our car is loaded for the nine hour drive back to Chattanooga. The two birds, Nate and Homer, are in the back along with our luggage. Daisy and Sebastian are nestled between Courtney and Stormy in the back seat with our two hermit crabs, Pete and Crush, at their feet. We are full to the gills!!

We will be taking a break from cruising for the next month while we spend some time at home. We will be back aboard around the first of May to continue our “Great Loop” cruise as we head north.

Total Miles Traveled Cocoa to St. Augustine:121
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date:436

Vero Beach to Cocoa:

After taking the dogs over to the dog park one last time before sunrise, we quickly raise the dingy and are back on the waterway by 7:30 AM. “Wanderers Rest” is just a few miles ahead of us. We marvel at all the expensive homes along this section. There seems to be a lot of wealth in Vero Beach. Unlike other areas of Florida, we see very few For Sale signs. The waterway is very busy today with other boaters. We even see an ultra light flying above us.

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As we approach Cocoa, we radio “Wanderers Rest” to say goodbye. They are pushing ahead to Titusville today. Meg and Jamie are heading back to Philadelphia so they are trying to make as many miles as possible each day. We radio Cocoa Village Marina but no one answers. Having stayed here on our way south, we know the way into the marina so go ahead and make the turn into their channel. We continue calling on the VHF but no one answers. Just as we reach the marina entrance, someone finally answers the VHF. Today they have decided to put us into a slip instead of docking along the t-head like before. I had rigged the boat for a side docking and now must hurry and redo all the lines. As Jeff starts backing into our slip, I am still switching lines around. The dock master is at the slip waiting on us and helps with the lines. Jeff does another great job of backing in our narrow slip without touching the two large boats on each side.

We have a great location for watching the Space Shuttle Launch. Just 10 miles from our back deck across the Indian River is NASA. We anticipate the launch while watching NASA ready the shuttle on the NASA channel from our satellite TV. This evening the marina is full of weekend boaters also watching the launch from their back decks. At 7:45PM we are topside on our boat awaiting the launch. The sky suddenly lights up!! A huge fire ball quickly arises and heads out over the Atlantic.

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It is truly impressive to see this launch at sunset.

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The contrail from the rockets is lit up by the setting sun. This ribbon like trail lingers in the sky for quiet a long time. We next see the boaster rockets separate from the shuttle and visually follow their decent into the ocean. All of this is truly spectacular and we feel very fortunate to have such a great view.

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The next morning, we are again doing a bike ride to retrieve our car from Vero Beach. It is a beautiful ride down Merritt Island with the Banana River on one side and the Indian Rive on the other side. From Merritt Island, we continue on A1A passing through Melbourne. At the 50 mile point we pass Sebastian Inlet and are now starting to wonder how many miles we have to go. We are really starting to get tired. We ask directions and learn that Vero is still another 15 miles away. I had estimated the ride to be somewhere around 50 to 55 miles. By boat it was 54 miles. Where did the extra 15 miles come from? Jeff threatens to send me back to navigation school. The only saving grace is these great sidewalks and bike paths along the Florida coast. I have never seen so many miles of ped-ways. They go for ever. The last few miles are hot and painful. At least Florida is flat. We finally arrive to Vero after 65 miles. If we were truly in shape, 65 miles would not be so bad but this is only the third time we have been on the bikes and we are out of conditioning since being on the boat so much.

We will spend the next few days here in Cocoa anticipating the arrival of our niece and nephew. Courtney and Stormy are spending their Spring break with us on the boat. Daisy and Sebastian can hardly wait.

Total Miles Traveled Vero to Cocoa: 54
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 315

Fort Pierce to Vero Beach:

Having the boat back in the water, we both slept much better last night. It was nice to once again feel the gentle rocking of the boat while listening to the lapping of the water on the hull. It was much more enjoyable than being high and dry on land, tilted to one side. Today we have only a short trip to Vero Beach. As we exit Taylor Creek into the Indian River and continue north on the ICW, we see a beautiful old tall ship ahead. It is the “Dennis Sullivan” from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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There are quiet a few people aboard. It must be some sort of charter. This old boat takes up the entire waterway. We pull over to the side to let her by. After several uneventful hours, we arrive at Vero Beach Municipal Marina.

This marina is one of only a handful in Florida which has moorings in addition to dock space. We have elected to take a mooring, and radio the dock master for our assignment.
It is a good thing we are not superstitious as today is Friday the 13th and we are assigned mooring #13. When the mooring field gets full, the marina requires that boats raft up together so that there are two to three boats per mooring.

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Luckily there was a free mooring available and we did not have to raft up to another boat. We still are advised by the marina to put out bumpers in case another boat is rafted up to us. We are hoping that no one comes.

There is a very nice park just across the street. This weekend they are having a local outdoor art show. We walk over with the dogs but are quickly told no dogs are allowed. Jeff patiently waits outside while I take a quick tour. While walking back to the boat, we discover a dog park just fifty feet behind the mangroves from our boat. There are several other dogs there and Daisy gets all excited.

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One huge dog comes over to play with her. This dog is almost the size of a horse and about tramples over Daisy as they begin to run and play. He was only playing but it really took Daisy by surprise. After this she didn’t want anymore to do with the other dogs. Her enthusiasm was not so great for the dog park. She says Sebastian is a much better play mate. We enjoy a quiet evening at anchor. Luckily no other boats arrive and we have the mooring all to ourselves.

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We had left our car in Fort Pierce and were up early the next morning for a bike ride to retrieve the car from Crackerboy Boat Yard. We bike along A1A for 18 miles with great views of the Atlantic Ocean. Florida has some great bike paths. We arrive at the boatyard just before a torrential downpour. Boy, were we lucky. Today is Saturday so we make a second trip to the farmers market here in Fort Pierce. We stock up on fresh bread, vegetables, and fruit before heading back to the boat. People come from miles to this Farmers Market. It is one of the biggest we have seen. This afternoon Jeff loads the dogs in the dinghy and makes the short fifty foot boat ride to the dog park.

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Today there are lots of small dogs. Daisy and Sebastian have a good time socializing with them all.

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Late in the afternoon, we hear “Wanderers Rest” calling for a mooring assignment. Jamie and Meg, owners of this Krogen sister ship to ours, were our neighbors while we were in Stuart for the last month. They are assigned the mooring just behind us. We enjoy a nice evening visiting with them.

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We will both be leaving early tomorrow morning. Jamie and Meg are hoping to make it to Titusville tomorrow. Our destination will be Cocoa, about 15 miles south of Titusville. There is a Space Shuttle launch scheduled for tomorrow evening and we are both hoping to have front row seats.

Total Miles Traveled Fort Pierce to Vero: 12
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 261

Cracker Boy Boat Yard:

The marina workers show up right on time at 8:00 AM for our scheduled haul out. I am glad we were ready. I hardly have time to get the dogs off the boat. They already have all of our lines untied and are pulling us into the sling as I jump off IT onto the dock. They weren’t kidding when they said 8:00 AM. Within minutes IT is being lifted high up into the air.

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The big lift quickly moves her from the lift pit up onto land. Even after having her hauled out several times, it is still a little unnerving to watch as these two woven lift slings protest IT’s heavy weight. I have read too many stories of slings breaking and boats being dropped onto the hard ground. They quickly pressure wash the hull before moving her to our home for the next few days. After backing her into our space, they quickly brace both sides of the hull with jack stands. Our keel is resting on large wooden timbers.

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Two yard workers are immediately sanding underneath the hull in prep for the bottom paint. Our stabilizers are removed to replace the zincs.

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They have never been opened up and it was recommended after three years of service to do so. Jeff ties a ladder to the back of our swim platform. This will be our way on and off the boat for the next few days. Several times each day, Jeff carries Daisy and Sebastian up and down the ladder.

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They seem to understand what is going on as they have been through this before. It is kind of like camping on the boat.

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We have to plug up our sinks so that no water drains down the hull. Luckily the marina has a shower which we can use. It is not the cleanest of showers as this is a working boat yard. But I guess beggars can’t be choosy. We were glad to be able to stay aboard while they do all the work. Luckily it is not too hot. We would not be able to use the air conditioning while out of the water. We are hooked up to shore power and that is nice. All the workers leave at exactly 5:00 PM. The yard quickly becomes quiet. There is only one other boater staying on his boat besides us. As we start enjoying the peace and quiet, we notice that the boat is leaning to one side. Jeff checks the jack stands and they seem to be holding us. We can both feel the boat swaying. Jeff says it is just because our bodies are not adjusted to land and are still rocking from being on the water. I still wasn’t able to sleep the first night. I was sure that we were going to fall over. Every time we walk through the boat you can feel her swaying from side to side. Jeff also becomes a little concerned and finds the yard manager as soon as they arrive the next morning. He puts some more jack stands under our keel and says we should be fine.

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I am still not convinced. We are really tilted to one side. The boat continues to rock back and forth. Boy, I hope we don’t fall over.

Tip, the yard worker, has the bottom painted by the second day out of the water. Hazel comes by and starts the waxing of the hull just as he is finishing the last bit of painting.

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They seem to have everything very well coordinated. Hazel is from Jamaica and we learn that he is Tip’s father-in-law. They don’t waist any time and things get done right on schedule. While they are working on the hull, Jeff and I work on the superstructure. I get to try out my Christmas present, a buffer/sander. I bet not many wives got buffers for Christmas from their husbands. What a romantic husband! We spend the next two days waxing the upper portions of the boat. Having never waxed a boat before, we ask Hazel for some hints. We learn that Hazel is using a compound before applying the wax. Jeff also notices that he has a much better buffing pad than the one we have. After making a quick run to the local marine store, we too have all the necessary tools. It is hard work but we are proud to be doing this on our own. Plus just think of all the money we are saving. We learn how to put the compound on the places that need extra attention. Our waxing job doesn’t quiet have the mirror shine as the area Hazel is doing. I guess we have some more practicing to do. We also have the fire extinguishing company come and service our fire extinguishers. We have one large halon extinguisher in the engine room along with 5 smaller extinguishers.

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The Coast Guard requires them to be serviced each year. It really seems a waste of money. All they do is change the tags on the smaller ones and weigh the large one in the engine room. But at least now we won’t get in trouble if the Coast Guard decides to inspect us.

Several days later, everything is painted, buffed, and ship shape. Good Marine comes and reinstalls our stabilizers.

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IT hasn’t looked this good in several years. Our scheduled launch is for 1:00 PM today. At 11:00 AM the lift pulls up and says they are ready to put us back in the water. We rush to get things ready. Boy are these people fast. It seems they have been one step ahead of us the entire time. The dogs and I stay on the boat this time. The lift slings are soon under IT’s belly and her weight is lifted from the jacks. The slings creek and IT gently swings from side to side. We are soon being wheeled down the driveway and into the lifting pit. The dogs are really confused. These strange motions and sounds are something they have not heard before. In no time, we are safely tied back up to that rickety old dock. It feels really good to once again have IT’s weight supported by the water and not have to worry about falling off those jack post.

We decided to stay on the dock for one more night. We wanted to give IT a good washing. All of the dirt from the gravel yard plus the debris from our waxing has left IT needing a good bath. Plus it is a great spot to spend the night. While washing the boat, we get our first close up glimpse of the manatee that all the caution signs warn you about along the ICW. Three huge ones gently swim directly under our boat as they work their way up Taylor Creek.

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A gaggle of pelicans arrive like clock work at 5:00 PM. The same thing occurred several days ago when we were tied up here. This time we know why. The Stuart Lady, a local charter fishing boat arrives at the dock across the creek just minutes later. The pelicans anticipate her arrival, and are here to beg for food.

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It seems to be a daily routine for them. They all gather behind the stern and patiently wait for fish scraps to be thrown overboard. Several of the pelicans are brave enough to sit on the stern rails just a few feet away from the fish cleaning station. It is quite entertaining.

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Tomorrow we will be underway once again.

Stuart to Fort Pierce:

We are a little sad to be leaving Stuart this morning. We have enjoyed our time here and would have liked to have a few more weeks to enjoy this great marina and town. As we warm up the engine, several Krogen owners stop by to wish us safe travels. As we work our way up the St. Lucie River, we see several of the Krogens out for sea trials testing their repairs before heading off to the Bahamas. We cross wakes with John and Pam aboard Compass Rose while they are out doing last minute checks of their systems.

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As we approach the inlet, things become very busy once again. Many boaters are heading out on this nice Sunday morning. This area has a real problem with shoaling from the inlet and the Coast Guard has several temporary channel markers out to mark the deeper water. It is a very confusing and congested area known as “The Crossroads” with the St. Lucie River and ICW all converging with the inlet. Just our luck, a big sport fishing boat decides to pass us at this junction. He is on our port side and pushes us way over to starboard. We briefly touch bottom but no harm is done. The fishing boat is headed out the inlet but we need to be turning left onto the ICW just at the point he decides to pass. We slow to idle and wave him on as we are running out of turning room. Once back on the ICW things calm down to a more relaxed pace.

As we approach Fort Pierce, the boat traffic once again picks up. We really don’t like to travel on the weekends with all the crazy boaters out on the water. However, our haul out at Cracker Boy is for 8:00 AM Monday morning. So here we are on a busy Sunday afternoon traveling through Fort Pierce along with all the other boaters. Just before the bridge, we spot the Taylor Creek channel markers which lead us to our boat yard, Cracker Boy. We had prearranged to stay on their T-head overnight which is next to the travel lift. We had checked out the facility earlier in the week. The dock is an old rickety wooden pier just ten feet long. There is no one around on Sunday’s so we have to negotiate the docking by ourselves. It is a little difficult with the dock being only ten feet long and these high wooden poles. We have to somehow lasso our stern lines around two poles behind the fixed dock. Luckily there is not much wind or current and no one is watching. We pull up alongside and I have to jump about three feet from IT to this rickety old dock. There are no cleats on the dock so somehow I have to wrap our lines around these two huge poles and then get a line around the stern poles off the rear. After about 10 minutes of yelling back and forth, we manage to get IT secure for the night.

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Although not what I would call a luxurious marina, we have a great spot in this small Taylor Creek. Sebastian almost fell through the dock while going to shore. There are gaps of about 6” between some of the old rusty planks. We end up carrying the docks back and forth to shore. This dock doesn’t even have electricity. I shouldn’t complain though because we are staying on the t-head free of charge. It is a very peaceful spot and we actually like it here. We are the only ones around. From our back deck we can watch all the boats parading up and down the ICW.

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Lots of birds seem to live in this small creek. We enjoy watching the pelicans and blue herons while they search for their dinner along the sandy banks just a few feet from our boat.

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Just before sunset, we see a manatee swimming out from the creek. We can’t really see much of the manatee just its head and the ripples on the water from its body as it meanders out into the ICW. Tomorrow IT will be high and dry.

Total Miles Traveled Stuart to Fort Pierce: 30
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date:249

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