Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

We will be flying out soon for a two week Christmas at home, staying with grandma and grandpa in Burlington. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and wishes throughout this first major leg of our journey. Here is a musical wish from Christopher!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wild times by the water

Now that we are further south we have come across some new friends that deserve some blog time. Seems like each day we are fascinated by the rich wildlife on and around the water. Now that we have some relaxed time
here in Eau Gallie we were able to row the dinghy up the shallow Eau Gallie river a bit to see who lives here. Getting pictures of some of these locals is much harder with our little HP camera. Sure wish I had my sister's camera! As you will notice in the fine picture of the manatee's nose, the shutter delay doesn't allow for catching the great shot as it happens. We were hoping to see a gator but no luck this time. The white bird is an Ibis - beautiful to watch as they fly around in formation. The pelicans are amazing as they continually plunge head first into the water after the fish. And then when they are successful it is entertaining to watch them wrestle with the fish to make sure it goes down right. The sandpipers at the beach are hillarious to watch as they scurry like little cartoon characters avoiding the waves as they wash up on shore. The dolphins are everywhere now, but still hard to capture. Below is a video we tried as a few of them came up to the boat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tied up in Eau Gallie

December 8 - 10

We left Daytona with the thought that we could make it to Eau Gallie in 2 days. It is the destination that really would mark 'Part 1 of the Adventure' for us. That is because we are fortunate enough to be able to return home for a couple of weeks to spend Christmas with family (and attend a few medical appointments). Dave had done his research and found a marina there that seemed like the perfect spot to leave Tiffany Rose. We wanted to get there with enough time to do a good size list of boat chores before we leave, and before some unsettled weather that is forecast for later in the week.

So we headed south from Daytona passing the Ponce de Leon Inlet which we had read might be a challenge as far as having enough water depth, but all was fine. We travelled through Mosquito Lagoon and then through the Haulover Canal where we had heard and read that manatees were often seen. Dave was up front with the camera and we were sure that we saw the round back of a manatee until a dolphin showed itself close by, then we weren't sure.

We anchored at Titusville and after Christopher sighted a train going by on land we got the motor on the dingy and headed in to the marina. We ran into a number of people that we had met along the way. John and Karen from Brockville had decided to leave their boat there to travel home for the holidays and two of the Port Stanley boats had stopped there to provision and get ready to head offshore to the Bahamas soon. We did hang out at the tracks for awhile but with the darkness arriving earlier every day we had to head back without any up close train sightings.

We weighed anchor the next morning feeling that this was a significant day. Providing that all went well and we made it to our destination, it would mark the end of this last three months of travelling south, which has been quite an experience for all of us. After anchoring for five days we needed to pump out the holding tank and so we headed in to the Titusville marina first thing to do that. That meant docking at an unfamiliar dock which always gets our pulse rate up a little. That went smoothly and we headed on our way.

I'm sure we've mentioned more than once that this trip south has felt temperature wise more like a trip north. So that morning when we had awoken to warm temperatures, we had opened the hatch in the v berth, something we hadn't done in all the cold weather we'd been having. So........ what had been a well established routine in the summer of always closing the hatches before getting underway, was forgotten seeing as this was not routine for us to have opened a hatch. Later the same day.................. a large power cruiser passed us leaving a larger than normal wake. I angled into their waves, but they were large and the bow dipped down and the waves came over the bow and then I saw the look of 'Yikes!' on Dave's face as he remembered that the hatch was open. Did I mention that the v berth is Dave and my bedroom? Sigh.........now completely soaked with saltwater.

After we each took turns trying to mop up and somewhat salvage things we tried to philosophize with forced cheerfulness that this was probably a good lesson and how fortunate that this happened on a day where we were going to a marina and so the clean up would be somewhat easier (laundry,etc.) than if we were at anchor.

Before we got to the marina we needed to stop for fuel so we started looking for a spot that had fuel. The first place we contacted was waiting for a delivery of fuel so no go there. The one we found we meant a short trip up the Banana River, again wondering on approach what this dock would be like. The first glimpse brought a "You expect us to tuck in there?" reaction but as we got closer there was plenty of room, the only really unnerving part was that the marina man undid our dock lines and cast us off before we had started the engine. Thankfully it did start in a timely manner and we were off to our new temporary home.

We got hold of Steve the manager by cell phone who told us what side to have lines ready etc, then headed up the channel into Eau Gallie. When we saw him gesturing where to turn we both misunderstood and thought he wanted us to tie up there and it did not look good. When we got to the spot we realized the spot was really the entrance to a row of docks. Steve was then gesturing to us to turn into a particular slip, which Dave did perfectly I must say until we came to a complete stop part way into the slip because we were sitting on the ground. There was some discussion then about what to do as this was the only slip available and couldn't we just plough through the mud, but no, with a wing keel we couldn't, etc. So then Steve said if we could back out he'd double us up with another boat in deeper water. We weren't sure what that meant or if we could back out, but soon Steve had moved back up the row and was gesturing by a space on a dock. This meant that after Dave managed to inch us back out of the too shallow slip he then had to back all the way down this row with not a lot of space a maneuver up to the dock. Anyone who spends time around sailboats knows that backing up in tight situations is not something that sailboats are designed to do particularly well. I must say that if I were Dave I would have been hyperventilating and whining "I can't do this' and wishing for some magic force to beam me out of there. But he backed us down the row with a wide eyed "I can't believe that I'm doing this" look on his face, but did a great job, as I sprinted back and forth from one side to the other as it was not clear at all with which side we would be approaching the dock. Eventually the prop walk made that decision for us (the tendency of a boat to turn one way in reverse) and we tied up with the help of Steve and two other boaters who had arrived a day earlier. Doubling up meant that we are blocking the exit of a slip holder who apparently does not go out very often. Christopher turned off the engine with ceremonial pronouncements of it being the last 'turn off the engine' of 2008.

Now that we are safely tied up it is a nice spot. It is more a marina that is associated with a condominium, where there are a few boats who have come to stay for a few weeks like us, then there are a group of liveaboard boaters (people who live full time on their boats), then the rest of the slips are rented out to people in the condominium or local residents. It is not really a place where people come in for one night while travelling. The other boaters tell us that it is a good hurricane hole, meaning that it is well sheltered for bad weather. There are manatees in the water by the boats!

Today was the last day for the forecast of nice Florida like weather so we put off boat chores (except for numerous loads of laundry when the machine is free) and went to the beach. We actually dug out our bathing suits for the first time and played in the waves. Seeing as we are staying put for awhile and it is the Christmas season, and we have electricity, Dave put up a string of Christmas lights on Tiffany Rose. Some boats are very decorated.

We are still in the " Wow, I can't believe we made it here from Ontario" phase. We are here until we fly home on the morning of the 18th. It will be Christopher's first time on an airplane. We return on January 2nd and hope to move on to the Keys for a bit before going to the Bahamas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

50 Is Happening Here

We decided to enjoy some of the warmer weather and hang out here in Daytona Beach for a couple of days. And it so happens that I turn 50 here. The idea for this family adventure started to bubble around more than a year and a half ago – before Shirley or I had learned anything about sailing. Turning 50 is somewhat significant in the grand scheme of life, if you are inclined to keep score at all, and this voyage was in part a way for us to celebrate this. And boy, is it working! As we walked along the beach today, amongst the cars driving along, Shirley and I were commenting on how good an idea this has been. Christopher seems to be thriving on many aspects of the trip and we are feeling very alive being kept on our toes everyday by the twists and turns that adventures are. So to celebrate we went out to the Aquarium Restaurant, which was right by the dock. Now the dock in itself has been its own adventure. And dinghy docks, by definition, are not supposed to be adventurous. We tie up to the ladder here and look way up to the dock, while the current is trying to push the dinghy underneath. Good thing we have had a ladder in the barn all these years for Christopher to practice. With ample spotting we make it to the top with our stuff and then it is a dash along the very skinny dock, somewhat like a gymnastic balance beam routine. Fortunately not 40 ft away is the on-deck bar! Complete with 2 for 1 happy hour underway. Which is what we did. The restaurant itself was fun being all decorated and lit up like an aquarium, even in the restrooms. After dinner some new friends we met, Larry and Karen, who live here in Daytona Beach treated us to further drinks on the deck. As usual, the people we meet along the way are a large part of the wonder of this journey. By the end of the day it is affirmed that turning 50 is good.

A surprise in Daytona Beach Dec 5

Throughout this journey there are times when we miss people and events from back home. The Santa Claus Parade in Orangeville is one of those. Christopher has faithfully marked it on the calendar each year and has his favourite spot along the road that he likes to view from. A couple of weeks ago Willie Brown left a note on our blog commenting on how Christopher’s spot on the parade route was empty this year. So here we are, anchoring off the shore of downtown Daytona Beach in the Halifax River. Our dinghy took us to shore for some initial reconnaissance and immediately we noticed a banner exclaiming that the parade was tonight! Bonus! So we checked out a few more things in town and headed back to the boat for supper. And then, in the cover of darkness Sea Jay ll (our dinghy) took us back downtown. You could feel Christopher’s anticipatory excitement. We walked by the Firehall and it was all abuzz with a bubble machine, decorations and trucks ready to be in the parade. The street was lined with crowds of people, music was playing and choir getting ready. It was all very energized. The only odd part was that the trees were palms and people were in T-shirts and flip flops! Not often the sight in Orangeville at the end of November. But we were not there to complain about the warm weather – Santa contradiction we were experiencing. The parade began and it was all we hoped for. Not a big city glitzy parade, but more of a small town, small budget parade, with kids marching and shouting school slogans. Of course being in Daytona Beach there were a few noisy race cars and motorcycles in the mix. Santa, of course, provided the finale for the parade and that was all that was really important. So once again unexpected and unplanned events on our trip provide a great, memorable experience.

Friday, December 5, 2008

More History - Dec 4

St Augustine to Matanzas Inlet - Dec 4

With a short travel day ahead we weighed anchor in time to go through the 8:00 am lift bridge in St Augustine. On the other side we stopped for fuel and a pump out. They do it right here. Pump outs are free in an effort to keep the water cleaner. Some places, especially in North Carolina, it was hard to find a pump out and when you did they wanted $15. I don’t think I’d want to swim in those rivers. Our journey today was only 15 miles and the sun was shining and the wind was light. That meant peeling off the layers and letting some skin show, even on the water. Our new anchorage was on the Matanzas River just beside Fort Matanzas. More history! This is an interesting spot. To get to the fort we had to dinghy past it, go to the national park visitor centre and beach the dinghy there. Then we got on a small ferryboat that took us back across the river to the fort. An interpretive guide in full costume accompanied us and filled us in on the life and times of this small fort. It’s main purpose was to guard the back route into St Augustine. Its name, matanzas means massacre referring to the Spanish massacre of French soldiers in 1565. Brutal times. Our guide provided some information that helped better explain some of Christopher’s boat schooling unit on Florida as well. The visitor centre had a fine nature trail so once again we got our walking exercise amongst the ever more tropical flora and fauna. And all this was free – hooray for the National Park Service! We are getting good at finding the free stuff as it is often better than the places with admission charges and they fit much better into the travel budget – especially with the Canadian dollar in the slumps. Speaking of the dollar, we saw a wintering loon here in the river today. Not sure if it recognized us but it didn’t disappear when we dinghied right by it. We have also seen many turkey vultures, some of which I am sure have circled over our Mono Centre home. Could be a good way to send messages home in the spring…

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

St Augustine Dec 2-3

Historical St Augustine – Dec 2
Our next port of call was St Augustine. We were warned about very busy anchorages in fast current with poor holding for the anchors. We arrived just after lunch and were lucky to find a good spot to drop the anchor, with a stiff wind blowing. We hung around on the boat for a while to watch what the wind and current would do. When all seemed well we once again piled into the dinghy and docked over at the municipal marina. They charge $10/day to dock and you get use of the showers, laundry etc. Everything about St Augustine is historical. It claims to be the oldest settlement in the country dating back to 1565, which Christopher knew already from the boat schooling unit he had started on Florida. The architecture is fabulous and every other building seems to be a significant something. And you could pay to go into almost anywhere. An impressive fort with moat guards the entrance to the city and we watched one of our fellow boaters come in as we sat by the walls, with the cannons aimed at them. We took a very long walk to a grocery store and grabbed a cab back. Our driver was great and took us on a bit of a tour. She was a younger women and told us she is a descendant of some of the original settlers – the Minorcan’s (from Minorca in the Mediteranean, owned by Spain). That was quite interesting. At the marina there was a mini golf course, which we were told was also somewhat historical since it was still the original, well maintained, course built in 1949. Christopher was quick to point out to the attendant that it was built the same year as our house in Mono Centre. We’ll be offering tours after we return home…
One really nice part of town is the old narrow streets that have been closed to traffic and are open to pedestrians. Most of the shops are housed in the old original buildings providing a wonderful atmosphere for wandering around.

December 3 today. My brother (way older brother) Steve’s birthday - #52!! Happy Birthday bro!

Kingsley Plantation, Fort George River Dec 1

December already!? Things are zipping by!

We headed out from Fernandina Beach around 9am and continued down the waterway. We passed many saltwater marshes as we had seen in Georgia and started to see more land with trees. Everything is very flat here as it has been for many miles. Not much elevation at in through most of Florida. By early afternoon we reached the Fort George River where we would anchor for the night. After settling the boat in its spot, you can see it in the picture, and having lunch we were visited by the crews of the boats Mary Lee and Tropical Breeze who told us of the interesting spot to visit ashore. We loaded into the dinghy and headed towards the state park dock just a couple of hundred meters away. As part of the Fort George Island Cultural State Park we landed at the Kingsley Plantation National Park. This was a really interesting place to walk around. It is the site of an old plantation, first Indigo for the blue dye and then cotton. Much of the interpretive information was on the use of slaves during that time period. What a different world that was when people owned the rights to other people and totally controlled what they could and could not do. Working 14-16 hours a day for someone else with no benefit to yourself. And that was the way fortunes were made. What would they think of the newly elected President of the USA? What a change!
I saw cotton and I saw black
Tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern man when will you pay them back?
Neil Young - from the song Southern Man

This more southerly environment was also evident on this island. Our wanderings found us face to face with a couple of armadillos! Cool! I always thought they were slow moving but these things bounded off like mini armoured kangaroos! Hard to get a good picture but here is the best one we could get.