Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Melbourne, Florida (#3 of 3 postings today)

Looking at Daytona
The Daytona area gave us our first glimpse of mega-condos and highrises. I'm afraid that we'll see lots more of this look as we get farther south, especially around Miami. The St. Augustine city fathers (and mothers?) got it right when they ruled against any additional buildings higher than two and a half stories in the historic area. But the Florida coast is the major example of development gone wild in America. Plus, most of it is build on swampland!

We prefer to see the natural areas surrounding the ICW, although some of the most natural are the man-made canals connecting the rivers. We passed by a number of non-Ritzy "fish camps" yesterday.

We've been looking at the Cape Canaveral missile launch towers in the distance for the past two days as we zigged and zagged in the ICW channels around Titusville. Sure hope that a blastoff is scheduled when we come north in the spring. THAT would be a sight from a close-by anchorage. Most Americans are so blase these days about space launches too, except for the folks who live here.

The Titusville Marina dockhand was very friendly, but we won't get a slip here again. The Titusville Chamber of Commerce should make some effort to make this  neighborhood more cruiser-friendly. No sidewalks into "town," no cutesy shops or restaurants within walking distance, sketchy folks hanging out in a nearby park, and no Bobuli pizza crust in the nearest grocery store! The grocery clerk suggested a crust mix in a box. How bad could it be? REALLY bad, but we were hungry and it had started to rain by the time we got back from our less-than-scenic walk. But we were thankful for the wine!

The funniest thing was courtesy of the frozen Mrs. Smith pumpkin pie that we bought last night. I put it in the frig to defrost and woke up today wanting a slice for breakfast. Captain/MicMac chef Pete took it out this morning, mumbling about the box being drippy. Then he described the pie as "soupy." Not knowing that you needed to bake this pie, we have now earned the "Mr. Du Mass Award" of the month!

We've gone under (or requested openings) from 19 bridges since we left St. Augustine! We noticed the Christa McAuliffe Drawbridge on the chart, but it's off the ICW. That provided the most somber moment of the day as we recalled that tragic mission.

Today's a glum, gray, rainy day. But we can't complain since it's the first day that we've motored in the rain. Not bad when you consider that we've been gone for more than 6 weeks. We headed to Cocoa Village Marina today since it's raining. What a nice marina--with super showers and laundry. If it stops raining, I just might tackle some of the laundry. We got to Cocoa in time to visit all the cute shops. Pete was just thrilled! We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Cafe Margaux. Then we visited the unique, humongous, historic (built in 1885) Travis Hardware Store. It's the old-fashioned kind of hardware store that has everything and then some.

Tomorrow, it's south to Melbourne Harbor Marina where we have Thanksgiving dinner reservations at the Chart House. We'll finally get that pumpkin pie! So much to be thankful for! Then onto a mooring at Vero Beach, and then a few more miles to Fort Pierce.

Like Being in Sea World

We enjoyed a short day (2 hours) on our way to the Rockhouse Creek anchorage two days ago. Pete explored the mini-island off to the south which turned out to be a spoils area for the sand the Army Corps of Engineers dredged out of the nearby ICW. I spent a LOT of time looking for the elusive manatee.

Yesterday we motor-sailed down Indian River to the Titusville Marina since rain was forecast and it's sometimes a tad bouncy at anchor during a thunderstorm. Again we looked for manatees.

First thing I wished for on this trip (6 weeks so far!) was a dollar for every dolphin that we saw. Hardly an hour goes by on the ICW that we don't see one. There are loners, devoted pairs, and the occasional pod. None of them have had SeaWorld training, however, so they don't leap out of the water. We usually only see their backs and dorsal fins. But one scared the beegeebers out of me one day by blowing out his/her airhole inches from the side of the boat as I was immersed in my book. Captain Pete found my levitation very amusing.

Then I wished that I had a dollar for every pelican we saw. They are definitely NOT endangered any more. Their droppings on docks even less so. We even saw lots of pelican rookeries.

Mary Ann looking for manatees
But what we really kept looking for were manatees. If you believe that "Manatee Zone" signs equate to the manatee population, they must be lurking throughout Florida waters.

This morning we lucked out, just as we were getting ready to leave our slip in Titusville. Thanks to a leaky water hose on the dock near us, five of these huge gentle mammals were taking turns getting a drink. Four of them were at least 6-7 feet long, and one must have been a juvenile. They politely took turns, although one big old guy kept swatting his buddies out of the way.

All of them did indeed have boat propeller scars on their backs or sides. Ouch!
Finally found some thirsty manatees
Ouch! Those are propeller scars.

Potty Police board MicMac

As we left our quiet anchorage, the Volusia County Sheriff's Department boat speeded up to visit us. We had read postings on fellow boater's blogs about the POTTY POLICE who have been very vigilant about the holding tanks on boats in the ICW.

They politely asked, "When you flush your head, where does it go?" We assured them that our holding tank's Y-valve was locked down and we were frequent visitors to pumpout stations. After Captain Pete told them that he's a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel safety checks examiner and  looks for locked down Y-valves too, they knew we were kindred spirits. I've been on a pumpout crusade for a few years as well, and written in a number of publications about boaters who choose to dump overboard. My solution is that they should be forced to jump overboard and swim in the "stuff."

They told us that about 40 percent of the boats they check do NOT have locked down holding tanks--and that most of the offenders are sailboats. Yikes. I assumed that sailors were especially environmentally wise. Guess not.

The manatees and dolphins are dumping enough "stuff" in the ICW, fellow boaters! Puleeeze use those pumpout stations!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now In Daytona

We've had uneventful but relaxing two days after leaving St. Augustine. No scary bridges or shallow spots, and the current was with us all day yesterday--but against us all day today.

Last night we stayed in the super-quiet residential-like Palm Coast Marina and enjoyed a steak dinner on board. It was like staying in Two Rivers Marina.

Now we're in the huge Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona. I have no idea where the name Halifax came from here in Florida. Maybe we'll sightsee tomorrow and find out. I am NOT interested in any Daytona 500 activities. They must have something here besides cars.

The good green news is that Halifax Harbor Marina gets a gold star for having recycling bins on the docks. This is REALLY a "Clean Marina." MicMac will no longer look like a "garbage barge" with bags of recyclables in the shower and v-berth! We'll have so much free room onboard!

Pete will cook some salmon in a bit. We have NOT gone to the dark side by staying in so many marinas, but good anchorages are few and far between. Plus we have to eat down our freezer, so we can leave it empty when we fly home in 10 days (MAYBE?)

The game plan is to end up in Fort Pierce, Florida, in about a week. It's only about 135 miles. We've reserved a marina slip there on a monthly fee basis. So we'll tidy her up, change the oil, and leave MicMac there and fly back to Williamsburg and north points for Christmas. Then fly back in mid-January and go to the Keys. After that, who knows.