Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Birthday Gift

Cape Canaveral to Palm Bay
December 5

What we saw of NASA's Orion test flight
We didn’t have special plans for December 5, Keith’s birthday. Unless you count being on a boat in Florida. But some days turn out better than you’d plan.
What official NASA photographer Bill Ingalls saw

The only thing on our agenda: to move from Point A to Point B. We set the alarm and weighed anchor just before dawn. Fifteen minutes later we witnessed the launch of NASA’s first Orion test flight from Cape Canaveral, about ten miles away. Even though we didn’t have a close-up view, it was exhilarating. A promising start to the day.

At the end of the day we dropped anchor in the Indian River and sat in the cockpit of Pelican to enjoy some moments of calm. Suddenly an amazing pelican show began. We like to think pelicans seek us out, that they somehow sense our boat is part of their squadron. At first there were around ten birds, then their numbers increased to about twenty-five. In funny, gawky, and graceful movements, they put on a fishing extravaganza. They circled high in the sky and, once fixed on a glinting, moving target in the water, dive-bombed with technical precision. As they started to dive they looked clumsy, wings and beak akimbo. But just before impact, they streamlined, every awkward appendage tucked in and perfectly aligned, and entered the water like missiles. With a tremendous splash. Followed by a huge gulp. Over and over, they repeated the sequence, two or three birds at a time.

Maybe a personal pelican squadron was Keith’s birthday gift from God.
All the things in this world are gifts and signs of God’s love to us.
The whole world is a love letter from God.
Peter Kreeft

These aren't the dive-bombing pelicans, just pelicans at the Fort Pierce jetty
"I seem to have something stuck in my craw!"
A pretty posing pelican
The facilities...

Friends Along the Way

Fernandina Beach to Fort Pierce
November 11‒December 7

It’s often said that the best part of cruising is the people you meet. That’s so true. In the cruising community, you know even before you learn a person’s name or story that you share a lot in common.

With John and Sally in Fernandina Beach
That said, we didn’t actually meet John and Sally while cruising. We met them at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota. But our first connection centered on our common enjoyment of boats and sailing. John and Sally are now fortunate enough to live in Fernandina Beach, and we’ve stopped to visit them twice: a year ago and two hours into this year’s trip. This time there was plenty of news to catch up on. They didn’t know about Sean and Maggie’s wedding in October, we didn’t know about their daughter Jennifer’s upcoming wedding in January, so that gave us (mostly Sally and me) plenty to talk about: venues, centerpieces, sand (the wedding kind), engagement stories, and more. They served up warm hospitality and a delicious dinner in their lovely home. Thanks, John and Sally!

With Claus, Rachael, and a beautiful turkey
Thanksgiving fell during our time in St. Augustine. I love Thanksgiving, partly because there isn’t much to commercialize about being thankful to God for what you already have. When we’re home, being with our families is the best part. Gathering with strangers or eating in a restaurant is just not the same. Fortunately for us, Claus and Rachael live only three hours away and were also going to be alone for the holiday. They’re friends who are like family ever since we got to know each other cruising together in 2007-2008. For the second year in a row we spent Thanksgiving with them. In keeping with tradition, Rachael and I cooked up a fabulous turkey feast on Thursday, we all savored oyster steamers on Friday and decorated their tree
Decorator elves
in full elfish splendor on Saturday. We love you, Claus and Rachael! Thanks for the second annual Thanksgiving weekend.

Bob and Ilona in Fort Pierce
On December 6, we stopped in Ft. Pierce to see Bob and Ilona, who will be keeping their boat, Ihana, at the city marina there this winter. In Minnesota it’s about a 30-mile drive from our house to theirs, but we had to go to the Bahamas to meet them last year. We traveled together for about a month and have the greatest respect and admiration for this couple. They crossed the Gulf Stream for the first time on their way to the Bahamas when they were in their 70s. That’s gutsy! They’re full of energy (Ilona) and humor (Bob), so they’re a lot of fun to be around. We’ve spent time in Ft. Pierce before, but until Bob and Ilona showed us around, we had no idea all the town had to offer. Thanks for hanging out with us and giving us the special tour, Bob and Ilona!

We’re grateful for all the friends we’ve met along the way who have added so much to our lives and our cruising experience. On this trip, we look forward to getting to know other friends we haven’t yet met.
We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, 
and the best that we find in our travels is a friend. 
They are fortunate voyagers who find many. 
We travel indeed to find them.
Robert Louis Stevenson

All of the elves, including Bentley the dog

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Stops, First Coast

November 11 ‒ 30
St. Marys, GA to St. Augustine, FL

Covered with shade cloth at St. Marys Boat Services
Our winter of 2014-2015 journey is underway and Pelican is very happy to be back in the water. On November 4 we returned to St. Marys, Georgia, where she had been stored on the hard just across the river from Florida to fulfill insurance requirements. She needed serious cleanup after being laid up in a dusty boatyard (no surprise there) but otherwise was in very good shape.

Ready to splash
On November 11, we splashed and began our cruise. The first stop was just a couple hours downriver. Fernandina Beach is the northernmost town on the coast of Florida. It’s a uniquely desirable location, evidenced by the fact that this is the only place in the US that eight flags have flown over. We stopped here to fill the water tanks, which we hadn’t done in St. Marys due to the unsavory sulphur taste of the tap water there. We also wanted to visit friends there. More about that in the next post.

After our first night aboard, we continued down the ICW and stopped overnight at Pine Island, a peaceful anchorage in a remote area. The anchor chain clanked as it paid out, and soon the day-long clamor of the engine halted. Silence reverberated. It took a moment for the senses to adjust. Then peace reigned. Winds were calm and, at first, we were the only boat there. Blissful! The slanting rays of sunlight glinted golden on the marsh grass. Only squawking shore birds and splashing fish broke the stillness.
At Pine Island after other boats arrived

Reenactors in St. Augustine
The next morning we left the quiet solitude for the lively city of St. Augustine on Florida’s First Coast. The name refers to the first permanent European settlement in the New World. Spanish explorers discovered this coast and never left. We’re tempted to follow their example every time we visit. The weather has a lot to do with it, as well as the distinctive architecture and charm of the old city. The real reason we stayed for three weeks this time was that we were waiting for Cooper’s Canvas in Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor to make zip-on shade cloths to protect our cockpit and an awning to shade the cabin roof. They did excellent work, and we hope to have plenty of the sunny, warm days the shades were designed for.
Handsome little machines

While we waited, we did a little sightseeing and a lot of preparation. We replaced the chart plotter, which means that our radar will work again; replaced the VHF radio and remote mike with newer models that include an AIS receiver so we can identify and track large commercial vessels during overnight passages; bought nonperishable foods for the Bahamas; had our folding bikes tuned up, and added my favorite upgrade: a set of Magma nesting pots and pans.

Our first stops on the First Coast haven’t taken us far. First things first—now we’re ready for the next legs of the journey.