51 Titusville, FL to Vero Beach, FL

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As we walked down the Titusville Marina dock Ruth wondered aloud whether we would see one of the manatees known to hang out at the marina. As if answering her question, a manatee appeared along side the dock and moved slowly along paralleling our path. I ran ahead, grabbed a hose and turned it on. The manatee responded by stopping for a drink. We were delighted. We watched our huge friend slowly roll over on its back and with eyes shut hold its mouth open to let the fresh water pour in. I lowered the hose and its prehensile lips reached out, grasped the hose and pulled it inside its mouth. Our manatee floated lazily on its back while filling up on fresh water. We reached down and gently touched it on the nose. The manatee didn’t seem to mind. The wet skin felt tough and leathery much like elephant skin. Along the side of its head were a few barnacles. Sadly, one flipper was missing.

Our friends Stan and Cathy showed up and warned us that letting the manatee get hold of the hose could lead to unexpected problems. Manatees have taken off with a firm enough grasp on the hose to win the tug of war with the faucet and break the hose. We pulled gently on the hose and our manatee reluctantly let go but continued to fill up on water. We spent 20 minutes watering our manatee, tiring before the manatee had had its fill. We finally shut off the water and left the manatee happily swimming along side the dock.

We’d stopped in Titusville to visit Stan and Cathy on Gone With the Wind. Originally from Maine, and avid salespersons for the beauties of Maine, they had helped inspire us to change plans and spend the summer cruising Maine. We stopped to swap and compare notes now that we too knew what Maine looked like. We spent a pleasant evening talking about the beauties of Maine and comparing favorite places.

The launch of the space shuttle Endeavor with the first section of the International Space Station was postponed and we decided to move on rather than spend a second night in the marina. We said our good byes to Stan and Cathy and headed south the next morning. We made about 5 miles to Addison point, where off to our left the Vehicle Assembly Building caught our attention. Looking closer through binoculars we found we could see the gantry holding the space shuttle. We pulled off the ICW, anchored and spent a pleasant day relaxing on Tranquility, reading and watching a perfect rainbow during one of the brief showers. We could see both ends of the rainbow touch the water. The rare secondary rainbow was clearly visible. In all it was a grand, restful, lazy day on the water as we waited for the predawn shuttle launch.

Between the GPS and our charts, we determined we were 10.8 miles from the launch pad. We weren’t sure what we’d see at the scheduled predawn launch around 4 AM. Just as we were getting up at about 3:30 AM we saw the light from the shuttle and as we climbed into the cockpit the first sounds arrived. Off in the distance white rocket exhaust rose in a straight column lighted by the light of a nearly full moon and the glare of Endeavor three rocket engines. We were awash in sound, not loud, but a deep rumble we could feel as well as hear. Mixed in was a sharp crackling sound giving a sensation we had never before experienced. Visually we were surprised to see how low the shuttle appeared to be when it executed its roll program and instead of traveling straight up headed off toward the northeast, climbing slowly as it accelerated away from us. We watched until the bright glow of the rocket engines disappeared from sight. Then we headed back to bed, but found it difficult to get back to sleep due to our excitement of having witnessed our first on site shuttle launch.

We’d missed Dragon Point on our two prior passages on the ICW. This time we headed for the point and found a place to anchor just off the whimsical piece of artwork that gives the point its name. We sat back relaxed and watched other boats arrive and anchor. One Canadian boat cut too close to the point and went hard aground. Instead of the normal ICW mud, they were up on coquina rock and stuck fast. Two or three attempts by dinghies and small powerboats failed in getting them off. They finally got free a few hours later when Towboat US pulled them off.

The Riverside Marina near Fort Pierce advertises as a working do-it-yourself boat yard. We’d made a reservation there to have Tranquility hauled out so we could repaint the bottom after 18 months in the water. Riverside’s entrance channel proved to be shallow. Only 0.2 feet showed on our depth sounder as we headed in on a Sunday afternoon. No one answered our calls on the radio, or our calls on the cell phone. We made two attempts to nose into slips and were stopped short each time by soft mud. Finally, as a last resort we left Tranquility with her bow almost into a slip as we went searching for deeper water with our lead line. We tied a token mooring line (it looked more like a leash) from her bow to the piling on the end of the dock just in case she might move when we got off. She didn’t. Our search for a slip with some kind of depth proved futile. We finally tied off in the boat well used by the boat yard travel lift. We went aground there too.

Once secured, we broke out our bikes and headed into Fort Pierce to meet up with Tom and Judee on Cheshire Cat. They had been planning on coming to Riverside. We’d called and recommended they try somewhere else.

As we biked into town we encountered a sight I thought only existed in the movies. Ahead was a chain gang. Six prisoners with wide horizontal black and white stripe uniforms stood by the side of the road. No leg irons, but there was a very serious looking guard with a sidearm keeping them company.

Riverside was definitely a working boat yard. It was jammed full of boats and during the day there were a lot of people around working on various boat projects. The place was hot, dusty and had very bad well water loaded with hydrogen sulfide. You could smell the foul order of the water 10 feet from the hose. Needless-to-say, we didn’t drink the water.

It took four days to get the bottom cleaned, sanded and repainted with two coats of bottom paint. The old paint had remained effective in keeping barnacles off even though it was covered with heavy green slime when we hauled out. Most of the slime came off with the power wash, and I got the rest by scrubbing and sanding. While I took care of the bottom, Ruth washed and waxed Tranquility’s sides.

Using a halyard, we were able to hoist the old stove up and out of Tranquility and down to the ground 9 feet below the top of the deck. Using the same process, our new propane stove was hoisted up and then lowered into the galley. One more step completed in conversion to propane. Now we have a new stove, but still need to hook it up to the pressure regulator and propane tanks.

Friday morning we were back in the water and heading back to Vero Beach. Boat speed was up, almost 0.8 knot both because of the new bottom paint, but more significantly because we had replaced the existing fixed propeller with a feathering Auto Prop. Speed under power and sail will be faster because of the ability of the propeller blades to adjust for maximum thrust under power or feather for minimum drag when sailing.

As we pulled into the Vero Beach City Marina for water we realized our approach angle was a little sharp and that we’d have to back down hard to avoid hitting the dock piling. However, not being used to the new Auto Prop, we didn’t realize how much throttle was required to stop our forward motion. Locked in unforgettable memory is the sight and sound of Tranquility’s bow pulpit crunching into the piling, bending back and crushing the bow running light. The bow pulpit was destroyed. We were devastated. We’d severely damaged our home. We both felt terrible.

Linda and Steve were in town visiting Mom. Steve helped me get the pulpit off and take measurements for repair or fabrication of a new pulpit. Late Friday afternoon, we turned the pulpit over to a marine service.

The bow pulpit started a series of frustrating incidents. The next step in our propane stove installation required two unplanned trips to the hardware store for fittings. The dinghy motor broke. It needed a trip to the repair shop. Then a gasket in the toilet failed. The toilet pump case cracked during the reassembly process. Because of other complications we ended up installing a new toilet. While running errands with Mom’s car, the battery failed and we replaced it. Then a hot water line developed a leak and I had to replace a fitting. That also took two trips to the hardware store. In all it was a frustrating week.

There were highlights. We went to McKee Gardens with Linda, Steve and Mom. The five of us had great time visiting. We rafted off of Cutaway upon arriving at Vero Beach, met Ron and Mary on Cutaway and have enjoyed their company as the four of us made various provisioning trips for the Bahamas both by car and on the free shuttle bus the city provides. Childhood memories came rushing back when Art Crocker came over for an evening. We hadn’t seen him in years. It was fun catching up. Ruth and I felt very proud making up a stainless wire lifting cradle for the dinghy. It looks very professional. Don and Cynthia, our friends from Milwaukee came down again to spend the days before Christmas with us. We got to Harbor Branch, the Navy SEAL Museum and a number of hardware stores as we mixed visiting with boat repairs.

On the 24th our repaired bow pulpit came back. Of course it didn’t quite fit the old hole pattern. With a lot of pushing and pulling we were able to use 10 of the 12 bolt holes. However two of the lifelines will need to be replaced since they are now too long for the new pulpit.

Christmas Eve everything seemed to settle down. We took Mom out for dinner and then drove around enjoying Christmas lights. We were back to Tranquility early, out on a mooring by ourselves and everything seemed very peaceful.

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