21 Fernandina Beach, Fl to Vero Beach, FL

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We think the Fernandina Beach Marina is unique among marinas. Due to bad planning, all the finger piers have silted in. At low tide, all of the boats are sitting on the bottom. Sailboats in slips have punched a hole for the keel so they sit upright, but they sit on the mud, which at low tide is 2 feet above water level. Since the tides are 7-feet, they can get out at high tide. Very weird to see, makes you uncomfortable since boats are supposed to float, not sit on the bottom.

The town itself is an interesting mix. Two paper mills and a container ship port. In the middle of all of that is a Victorian era historic district and tourist shopping center in the old historic downtown. Everything is fine when the wind is right, however, once it shifts, you know you are down wind from a paper mill. We were surprised that it didn’t hurt the tourist business, or the residential restoration taking place. We stopped to talk with a man who was taking all the paint off of one of the old houses. He indicated he’d been working on the same street for the last two years. Restoration seemed to be big business.

We ended up staying two days because when we got up on the second day the wind was blowing 30 mph and pinning boats to the dock. We helped some boats get off and if we were determined we could have gotten off. The high wind however, was a good excuse to stay a second day. We were glad we stayed. Our friend Steven From Black Swan came in and we had him over for dinner. He was on his own again, having taken his wife to the airport. The bad news was that he was staying for awhile because he was going to pull his transmission for repairs. Boating is never simple.

We made a short hop down to the Kingsley Plantation on the Fort George River. We dinked ashore to visit the plantation. It was one of the first ones we recall that featured information about slave life and had the slave quarters. Very interesting and educational.

Having the dink motor fully operational was a treat. It now starts on one pull again. We put it to good use and motored down to have drinks and snacks on Kokomo with John and Nancy. Then they came back to Tranquility for wine and dinner. Made for a lively and interesting night.

We anchored out the first night in St. Augustine and went to the Conch House Marina the second. It was fun dinking ashore near the lighthouse and walking the streets of a very non-tourist area of the town and observing the mix of home styles thrown together. It was definitely non-tourist season as we walked along A1A. Most of the motels were empty, and a number of the restaurants were closed. When we went through the main St. Augustine historic district (10 or so historic buildings smothered by tourist type shops) there were more people. As you would expect, most were doing the shops and not the historic stuff.

Had dinner at the Conch House Restaurant. The food was great, but what had attracted us was the unique character of the building. Typical open air decks for eating, but then off the deck, up inclines were pods with seating big enough for four. A thatched roof for shade gave you a high private unique look out over the marina. It was too cold to eat outside, however, Ruth and Nancy took their drinks up for a test and figure we should go back again in warmer weather for dinner in the pods. Inside there were spiral stairs up to an observation area that was enclosed and great for our after dinner drink. We’ll definitely stop again in the spring.

At Daytona Beach, we met up with our friends from Cheshire Cat, Tom and Judee. They had come down by car, and ended up buying a motor home. They are now modifying their sailing plans. The four of us spent the afternoon walking the beach watching the shore birds, people and cars all sorting one another out. The low tide waves left large mirror like water slicks on the hard packed sand. The reflections and patterns as the birds moved through mirror like surface was captivating.

The Daytona Beach Christmas parade that evening was classic small town with a truly unique mix of bands and floats. We ended standing in front of the official reviewing stand and got the full treatment as each band stopped and performed. Made you wonder about what the area was like when the float for the drive in church went by. We’re still trying to figure out the high school band from Georgia. The marching girls had on red sexy (on some of them) outfits and were carrying rifles. Huge band, but it wasn’t clear that the front of the band was playing the same tune as the back of the band. We had a grand time and got a kick out of the parade.

Met up with our niece Nancy, her fiance Jeff and Mark who is living with them for a few days. Had figured out a way to sail down the narrow confines of the ICW but let it go since it was getting late when we all ended up at the boat. Had a fun reunion and are looking forward to the wedding next summer.

Added another unique capability to our folding bikes. We can now transport our CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) cylinder on the back of the bike for refill. Strapped it to the rear bike rack with bungee cords, it hung out the back a way and rode the couple of miles to the gas company for a refill. Looked a little strange, from a distance, it looked like the bike had a rocket engine on the back. The bike ride saved us over half the cost of exchanging cylinders at marinas. If you were wondering, we use CNG as fuel for our stove and oven.

And then we began to worry that we’d have to have Tranquility hauled out to prevent her from sinking. It started innocently enough. The stuffing box that seals the prop shaft as it exits the boat had started leaking again. My patch earlier now needed to be pulled, all the flax seal around the shaft pulled out and new flax added. Fairly straightforward, and not too much risk. Water comes in at about 2 gpm (gallons a minute) when the stuffing box is opened and the electric bilge pump can take out 5 gpm. I had purchased a special cork screw extractor to make it easier to get out the old flax. Things were going fine. I got out the first layer of flax and was working on the second. Then the corkscrew broke off inside the stuffing box and we were stuck with a stuffing box we couldn’t seal and water running in faster than I expected.

We tried everything. The reach was down into a confined area. We were working backwards, reaching down and under then back into the stuffing nut. Ruth would help, then stop to research potential mechanics, or the nearest marina where we could get the boat hauled if we failed to get the corkscrew out. Finally, after two hours of trying every combination of tool we could think of, I managed to get it out. I figured we were home free. The last two layers of flax came out using a nail set as the pry tool.

And then we were ready to put in the new flax. The first layer was tough, but after some forcing, we got it in. The second layer wouldn’t go in all the way and we couldn’t get the nut started to force it home. We finally pulled it out and will run with just one layer until I can make a tool to force the flax down into the seal area.

The frustrations of the ICW hit home as we started around Ponce Inlet. We bumped up onto the sand while still in the channel. It was a falling tide and the swift current turned us around and pushed of off. A minute later we were aground again while still in the channel, this time it took more effort. Ruth worked us forward and back and I stood on the stern and rocked us. A few minutes work and we were off. For the next 3 hours we continually slowed down as the depth sounder showed we had only 2-feet or less below the keel. There was a bright side to all of this. We saw a number of osprey, oyster catchers and large flights of pelicans; 50 or more flying by following the leader. The leader changed altitude from the surface-skimming glide to a few feet higher to flap wings without touching the water. The rest would follow, creating a sine wave of birds. Not to be outdone, the dolphins were out in force. We even had a group of 3 swim along side for awhile keeping pace with Tranquility.

To my relief and surprise, we ran fine all day with only one flax seal in the stuffing box. I’ll rest my sore arms, back and knees some more before I go to work on getting the remainder of the seals in. Just as well, I’ve also got to figure out if the refrigerator has died completely and has to be replaced, or if there is something that can be repaired and get it working again. In the meantime, we are back to blocks of ice and have an icebox instead of a refrigerator.

As a town, Titusville is a bomb, wrecked by having the main street and one side street made one way with high speed traffic through the heart of town. Killed the downtown area. The one nice thing was its closeness to the Kennedy Space Center. One of the local marina boaters runs a jitney cab service and took another couple Anita and Dene form Claire Sailin us over to the center. We were all overwhelmed. I knew the scale was big, but seeing it in person brought out how really big everything was and gave you a feel for the risks involved. The security force was impressive. As we rode the bus to the launch pad it stopped a couple of times to point out alligators. As the driver said, they are on duty 24-hours and don’t take coffee breaks. One building has the entire Saturn rocket with the Apollo module that went to the moon. The scale and the way information is presented is not to be missed. We spent the entire day and had a great time.

Overnight we got 0.9 inches of rain. It was still raining as we started to head south with Claire Sailin. Just as we were about to leave, we heard boats talking about anchoring in the ICW because they couldn’t see. We called them, learned their position and decided to wail awhile. An hour later, with a break in the rain, we headed out. Lots of rain, but not bad visibility. Luck was with us, as we watched on our radar, the thick parts of the storm went behind us. However when we checked our rain gage after getting into Coco, we had 1.5 inches of additional rain. We took umbrellas and explored Coco. There’s a small village area and the shops seem like they are doing well.

Part of the marina complex has a shop that handles refrigeration. Worked with them all-day and determined that we need to install a new refrigeration system. It’s not like at home where you unplug the old refrigerator, and plug in a new one. We pull the mechanical components, replace them with new, do a little plumbing and have a new refrigerator. We’ll make the best of it and do some additional work to modify the box to making the freezer portion more efficient and easier to use. Now have a big project for our Vero Beach layover.

Pushed off for Vero Beach with 2.6 inches in the rain gage. Rode all day in steady rain. Nice having a full cockpit enclosure in weather like this. A little problem with the inside fogging up (no windshield defoggers) but other than that, we are out of the wind and wet and are relatively dry.

We’ll spend two weeks in Vero Beach for R&R; repair and refit. We have a long list of things to accomplish. It’s also a time for the more fun type of R&R since Ruth’s mom Marion and Jim and Doreen are here. We’ll have family to visit for Christmas, and are looking forward to fun holidays.

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