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Heading North, against all reason

Travelogue - March-ish, 2013
"We can't go anywhere."
"What kind of a spaceship is this?"
"It's a spaceship with a missing man."
- Start Trek IV

We're still afloat, which is to be hoped.

But what's the point? We lost Goldie on April 3, at 10:30 a.m. Our hearts sit like lead in our chests. Sea Gator has never been without Goldie; our once homey boat feels like an empty shell with hard edges.


Here's to Goldie - and Linus and Funny Face, and all sea cats brave and good:

Fishing for stars Goldie, Yuri and Zebedee one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Goldie,
Yuri,
And Zebedee.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Goldie,
Yuri,
And Zebedee...

Fishing for stars All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
T'was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Goldie,
Yuri,
And Zebedee...

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Dutch Lullaby)
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)


But Before That

I had divided my time about equally between Working for clients and Worrying about and taking care of Goldie. Besides regretting introducing me to Free Cell, Rick has completed several Work deadlines, plus figured out our cruising itinerary with next-to-zero assistance from me. He's done a great job with all.

Gas pump doorpull Although the Worrying has been so all-consuming it has deterred me from 'logueing (how many times can I say "Poor Goldie"?) I'll include snippets of her story, which will be difficult since we now know how it ends.

Rick tells me that inquiring minds want to know. I personally am not that interested in what others want, but I promised him I would try.

Northern Climes

We last heard from Boathooked in Vero Beach. Vero was nice, as always. But COLD! We experienced more than a week of overnight temps in the 30s and 40s. We were relieved when the cold snap finally broke and Rick stated with confidence "This should be the last night in the 30's." Good, because when it's in the 30s outside Sea Gator, it's in the 40's inside.

Vero Beach

In between trying to do what was best for Goldie, we were very grateful to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with Rick's aunt Sandra and uncle Gil. It's always a mystery whether we'll catch those two during a brief layover between their exotic vacations, so we counted ourselves lucky.

This time they took us to lunch at the very fun Mrs. Mac's. The dining room is decked out like an old garage with tools and jack stands and old Goodyear advertisements on the walls - the door pulls are pump nozzles, right. If I tried copying that look out of a Martha Stewart Living magazine article it would look like junk on the walls, but at Mrs. Mac's it was funky and fun.

The following week, Judy and Henry stopped by on their way from Marathon to Orlando! Yay! We rendezvoused with them at Mulligan's seaside restaurant and had a wonderful visit, catching up on everyone's doings over the summer. It was a pleasure to spend an evening with these friends from the Keys, as we had been missing them this year already.

Rick Pat Judy Henry Judy and I felt ever so hip as we compared apps. She and I agree: we love our iPhones. Rick presented my first iPhone for an early birthday last year, and I chose my own Otterbox impact-resistant cover over the water-resistant model - knowing that the odds of me dropping the phone on a hard surface are far greater than the odds of me dropping it in water shallow enough from which to ever successfully retrieve it. Right?

On another day, Rick and I decided to take an afternoon off and explore the island side of Vero on our very compact, folding bikes. As we rode past a crowd one man suggested that maybe if we put our two half-bikes together we might get one whole bike. Ha! Well, those half-bikes are plucky - they took us far north on Highway A1A - a distance that suddenly seemed even farther when Rick's back tire went flat, the head of a 2" nail standing proud of the tread, and we had to hoof it down the highway back to town and then across the island to the marina.

We tried riding double on the one remaining half-bike, which was all fun and games until I swerved to keep our balance and Rick sailed off in the other direction. So it became a very long limp home.

On another chilly afternoon we walked to Vero's waterfront where we found a Dog Festival in process. A what? Who could resist checking it out? There were people and dogs of all shapes and sizes and embarrassing outfits; music; vendors of doggie accessories and snacks; and a pie eating contest which seemed an odd choice (shouldn't it have been a kibble-eating contest? That would have narrowed the field). The proceeds went directly to the canine units of Vero's City Police, County Sheriff, and Game & Fish, below.

Canine corps Our favorite was a demonstration of the units' training techniques, and of search procedures and attacks. The City patrol officer had a nifty device on his belt - when he was being menaced by a perp he could remotely open the door of his cruiser at which point his watchful, protective and increasingly enraged dog/partner would barrel into the fray at full velocity.

Finally, we learned that the dogs' jaws can exert over 200 pounds of pressure. I wondered what 200 pounds does to human flesh, and the officer told us that "the bad guy" gets to decide how bad it's going to be: if they settle down it will be a bruise, if they fight back it will be worse. A lesson for us all, I'm sure.

Northward

Goldie asnooze in the sun Wednesday, February 20, 2013: At last Goldie seemed stable and somewhat perky, so we cast off from our mooring and headed north. She opted for a sunny place on the helm, left, protected from the wind and within easy reach for frequent ear rubs.

Though most of our boating friends have traversed this section more than once it would be all new territory for us:

The ICW follows the Indian River, which is a tidal waterway just inside the chain of narrow north-south barrier islands. There are a few inlets from the Atlantic, and those can present frisky currents. Rick had reviewed the tide tables, however, so he was well prepared and traversed the passes with no troubles.

It is a pretty channel, the riverbanks lined with discrete homes and wooded passages.

We anchored mid-afternoon just off the Melbourne Bridge.

Oops. As the tide shifted Sea Gator lumbered pretty close to a crab float. As long as the line didn't become caught in her running gear all was well - except this poor guy showed up right about then to check his traps. Sorry! He was good-natured about it, and we got to watch him at work. Rick peppered him with questions about his catch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013: Moving right along. Soon we spotted a tower in the distance. It didn't seem too far away, but as the hours passed and we were no nearer we realized that it had to be HUGE. It turned out to be the assembly tower for the space shuttle. And that meant we were nearing Cape Canaveral - home of Astronaut Tony Nelson and his genie Jeannie.

We picked up a mooring at the Titusville municipal marina. Whoo-hee what a change from Vero! This field is more like Stuart's, out in the open and not protected by a no-wake azone. We brought Goldie inside, and when she was comfortably basking in the sunshine streaming through the windows we bundled up and dingied to shore. It was a lengthy trip, as the mooring field lies outside a band of shoals, but we stayed dry so it was all good.


Titusville town pier The Titusville Municipal Marina is adjacent to a very nice city park, and the little downtown is only a couple blocks away. We followed the shoreline back to the river to enjoy a pleasant dinner at Cracker Jacks.

Our table provided a fine view of several fishermen getting themselves organized. What a process - they took an hour get situated, drop lights into the water and run electrical cords to generators, and futz around forever. More and more fishermen were arriving by the minute to set up lights and lines and nets along the adjacent fishing pier.

After dinner we strolled outside to discover what was going on. Everybody was out hunting shrimps! Shrimp are nocturnal, and as they scoot around just above the riverbottom the fishermen spot them in the lights and scoop them out with nets on long poles.

Huhn! Since they had to either bring a generator or pay for use of the pier's outlet, Rick asked one guy if he caught enough to make it worthwhile, and he assured us that he did. It's always fun to see so many people out and about, enjoying public access to the water.

Visitors

The next day Rick's brother's family drove south from Ormond Beach to meet us - it was the last day of their vacation, and we were sorry we hadn't made it further north to be closer to their home. But it was great to see Dac, Tanis, Bradley and Tanis' nephew for lunch.

We enjoyed a very pleasant repast in the shaded outdoor terrace at Kloiber's Cobbler Eatery. No really: that's what it's called, and they had an eclectic menu in addition to cobblers. The folks there were so nice; in fact, instead of telling us that they were out of the bread that Tanis requested, the owner ran down the street to a bakery and got some. And when he noticed that the boys weren't eating much he brought them creamsicles from his personal stash.

We have to move fast to catch up with Dac and Tanis as they're always on the go, but we're always glad when we do. The next day the family would begin their northward journey home. Safe travels!

Later that afternoon Rick and I took another stroll through the little downtown, left, and we don't understand why Titusville doesn't have a better reputation among boaters (other than the uncomfortable mooring field). Recent improvements to their streetscape are evident, and look at the cute buildings! It was a quiet day in the shops, but there were several decent-looking restaurants and some fun places to explore.


Also worth a visit is Space View Park, which starts downtown and heads toward the river. Exhibits tell the complete history of NASA's missions, from the earliest unmanned capsules to the shuttles. Included are bios of all the astronauts, and their handprints and signatures in bronze.

By the time you've read your way down several blocks to the conclusion of the shuttle program - punctuated with a flourish by the massive sculpture, photo right, representing... um... hmmm... you're on the edge of the riverbank. And WAY across the river is the shuttle assembly tower, in the background to the right of the statue. Miles away and still enormous.

Saturday, February 23: It was a relief to cast off from the bumpy moorings. We left at 9:00 a.m., and by midafternoon were anchored in the river in mid-town Daytona, just off marker 39A. We had been watching the Goodyear blimp for quite some time, and were mystified when it appeared to land in a field nearby. Everyone was gearing up for the Daytona 500. Although Tanis reports that they can hear the race cars on the speedway from their house, we didn't hear anything unusual although the next day we did hear the sad news about the crash into the stands,

Sunday, February 24: North from Daytona. Mid-day we passed through Ormond Beach and spotted Dac and Tanis' house! It was a quick view between houses and down the street, but there it was. We waved.

We followed the river as it wound past fishermen and wooded islands, past fancy homes and rows upon rows of docks and boathouses. At last the river widened and we cruised into historic St. Augustine. At last! We'd been looking forward to visiting this city since we got Sea Gator in the water.

We picked up a mooring within sight of the famed Bridge of Lions, tended to Goldie, then dingyed in to register and see the town. There was way too much to take in, but we did our best.

For example, here is one of the older streets near the waterfront, right. The city was founded in the 1500s, and changed hands repeatedly among the Spanish, English, Spanish, French, Spanish, Yankees, Confederates. It's a bloody history, but from the safe vantage point of 500 years it's all very interesting. We knew we would learn a lot, and enjoy it as much as possible all things considered.

In and Out of Their Right Mind

We hadn't met any new friends on this trip so far... weird. We cautiously sniffed our armpits until we realized that it wasn't personal hygiene at issue, but the eau du sorrow that seeped from our every pore. Nobody in their right mind would want to befriend us under these conditions... and we had actually begun to appreciate the respectful berth that everyone, by unanimous consent apparently, was leaving us.

So we were surprised and then cautiously pleased when a fellow boater stopped to chat us up on the dingy dock. We enjoyed a friendly conversation, and soon he tossed his rangy dreadlocks behind his shoulders and confided in us that he planned to run for President, to see what he could do to straighten out this country. Because, he explained with a huge smile, he knew how things were done behind the scenes. He revealed these truths at great length and repeatedly, pausing only to ask us, "Did I teach you something? Did I teach you something?" Woo yeah, buddy.

Our suspicions were confirmed - that no one in their right mind would approach us - so we kept to ourselves for the remainder of our stay.

Northern(er) Climes

It was COLD! We hunkered down as best we could for 10 days, until the latest front passed through and Rick declared, "Well, that's the last of the nights in the '30s!"

Well good, it's about time.

Goldie needed more supplies, so Dr. Herman's office referred us to the Vilano Mobile Vet, who turned out to be the extremely knowledgeable and kind Dr. An Nguyen. An arranged to meet us downtown - on the very street pictured, above right, for tea late one afternoon.

I said, "How will we recognize you?"

He said he'd be the one carrying a case of cat food into the cafe. And he was. We were glad to meet him, although we know that he IS in his right mind and he didn't have any choice but to make our acquaintance.

A Reunion Far From Home

From their winter home in Ocala, our Wyoming friends Fran and Phil arranged a luncheon get-together between the four of us and their son Grant, his wife Jessica and the couple's darling daughter Mabel. It was a lot of fun to meet them at last, since we'd heard so many great things about the family from our friends.

We seven managed to all arrive at The Floridian within minutes of each other. The restaurant had been recommended by folks far afield so we were glad to hear that it's one of Grant's favorites - sure enough the food and decor were really great and we recommend it to all.

After lunch Fran, Phil, Rick and I visited the restored Alcazar Hotel, a grand hotel of the Gilded Age, now beautifully restored. The hotel once boasted the world's largest indoor swimming pool - the pool is now a series of shops and a cafe, right. The Hotel's northern wings are City offices and the southern wings are home to the fascinating Lightner Museum. The museum is an eclectic showcase of Mr. Lightner's Victorian era luxuries, gathered throughout his lifetime of travel and shoulder-rubbing (and apparently bargain hunting) with the rich and famous.

The place was enormous and it was easy to get lost in the many ballrooms, parlors and lounges. At one point I was drawn down a tempting spiral staircase and thought I was heading for the ground floor, but instead found myself on a mezzanine looking down into the hotel's old spa rooms - where I spotted Fran and Phil enjoying a collection of cut glass. Psst! Yoo hoo!!

Rick was stunned at the elaborately carved chairs, dressers and mantels on display. He found one chair he insisted must have taken a craftsman a year to perfect - it was exquisite.

Following the Receeding Icebergs, North

St. Augustine has some fascinating, beautiful old Victorian homes on the back streets in various stages of disrepair, and some not-so attractive neighborhoods out along the highway. But we went for several long exploratory bike rides for groceries, medicine and sight-seeing.

We didn't see a fraction of the sights, but we knew we'd necessarily be coming through again on our southward journey (no way to avoid it other than go "outside", the fast route along the Atlantic coast). But for now - northward. Again.

Thursday, March 7: Time to continue our explorations. We planned our departure by the tides, since the next two inlets would provide some respectable currents.

We cast off at 7:45 a.m., traversing the next 35 miles of the ICW through the Tolomato River before coming to the intersection of the ICW and the St. John's River. Here the ICW continues northward in Sisters Creek; eastward one is flushed into the Atlantic through Fort George Inlet. But we turned inland, navigating up the waters of the St. John's River. At last!

Sea Gator's speed dropped abruptly from a record-setting nine knots down the rushing Tolomato to a lackluster five knots up the St. John's, the instant her prop bit into the two-knot outbound tide. And it immediately began raining. We hurriedly moved our cat and charts and binoculars to the lower helm station where it was warm and dry.

Rick piloted Sea Gator upriver, 20 miles toward the city of Jacksonville. All along this stretch of river there were commercial ports, and we watched in amazement as huge cranes and enormous lifts unloaded freighters. We saw a blocky freighter unloading near a Toyota terminal, using a huge moving elevator and ramp. And a flotilla of no fewer than three tugs pushed an enormous freighter into her berth just behind us.

The nav chart of this stretch of river is fascinating, as each and every leg and turn is named: Brills Cut Range, Dames Point Turn, St. John's Bluff Reach, Chaseville Turn, Long Branch Range, Terminal Channel. It reminds me of Mark Twain piloting on the Mississippi; I'm sure the modern-day tug captains and harbor pilots know the St. John's every bump and mood as well.

Soon we arrived in downtown Jacksonville, and we lassoed a piling of the famed Jacksonville Landings, right. This floating pier is free to boaters and is an excellent stopover. It's pretty busy with wake, but is an excellent overnight stop.


That evening we strolled a couple hundred yards along the shoreline for dinner at Cinco De Mayo, bypassing Hooters and its ilk. We returned after dark to Sea Gator and her elegant backdrop: the Main Street lift bridge in the distance, right.

So - there we were... ready to begin our long-awaited adventure up the famed St John's River.

It's 4:30 a.m. as I write this, so I'll leave us safely at the dock while I get some sleep and try to recall what happened next.

Wishing you all well. Stay soft and furry.

Pat and Rick

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