We’ll soon need a third binder for boat cards

Thursday the sun reappeared and the wind went from gale force to something less, so we walked down to the beach, which mostly was covered with high tide.

But nobody else was around so it was pretty cool.  The sidewalks around Palm Coast also are pretty cool.

Miles of smooth and flat concrete winding through the trees.  Perfect for Doug’s SoloWheel Glide 3.   Except Santa mistakenly failed to deliver one.  Maybe next year.

Because we have no SoloWheel Glide 3, the highlight of the day was dinner back at the pizza joint in the fake European Village.  The Lower Place, Red Pearl, Sunset Delight, and Gammel Dansk made a party of ten.  Mary and Dan (and Tori the seeing eye dog) drove us over from the marina.  The horrors of Vietnam left Dan legally blind but they don’t seem like the kind of folks who will let that get in the way of adventure.  Hell, they’ve already done the rivers.  Clark took the only group photo but we don’t have it yet.

Anyway, we pulled out yesterday at about 8:15 under puffy clouds.  A tad chilly but beautiful overall.

The three-hour cruise up to St. Augustine was uneventful.  This part of the ICW is the Matanzas River.  Where the river meets the Matanzas Inlet was supposed to be a scary swirly currenty mess with confusing markers and dangerous shoals.

Under the guise of being courteous, we let Sunset Delight pass us just before the drama.  Our working theory was that if Clark and Evelyn were swept away, we’d be able to just turn around.

Meh.  Much ado about nothing.

Dana’s timing projections were spot on and we hit the San Sebastián River right about the time the tides turned.

They put us way out on the face dock along the river anyway, of course, so we probably could’ve parked successfully even in the current.

Hey hey, welcome to St. Augustine.  For us this is another milestone.  It’s the northernmost place we wanted to stay for a few days in Florida.

We took a quick walk down to St. George Street to see the sights, but probably will go back without boys.  We love them like our own sons but they tend to be limiting in such situations.

So far, historic St. Augustine feels a bit like the French Quarter, but without the raw sewage and the transvestite hookers.  (Actually that makes it nothing at all like the French Quarter.)  Lots of tourists.

Three slips down A dock we found Allure.  More Loopers. Rich and Connie sat out on the dock with us last night until the cold chased us inside.

One nice thing about being on the face dock is the unobstructed river view.  Among other things, we watched a shrimper heading out at dusk.

And a great orange sunrise this morning.

And sailboat reflections.

Right now we’re all sitting on the bow enjoying a sunny afternoon.

Dinner with Red Pearl in a couple of hours.  Here until Wednesday.  Hopefully more Loopers will show up.

More rain on the way.

Booooo rain.

Any port in a storm

Tuesday morning brought a typical Florida sunrise.

Unfortunately Tuesday also promised evening rain and wind up and down the Florida coast, as corroborated by the New Smyrna dockmaster.

The key here was the warning at the bottom.  Every weather source we use agreed that Wednesday and Thursday wouldn’t be pleasant.  We decided to add a day to our Palm Coast reservation and stay until Friday.  But first we had to get there.

Mostly this stretch of the ICW is green and easy, often without much shoreline development.  Which is nice.

We even got a bunch of dolphins again.  And another cool lighthouse, this one at Ponce de Leon Inlet between the waterway and the Atlantic.

Although old Ponce basically discovered and named Florida he gets way less love around here than does that Flagler guy with the big house we visited in West Palm Beach, but an inlet and lighthouse are at least something.

We also passed the backside of Daytona Beach.

We almost could see the spring break debauchery from our flybridge.  Daytona may not be as sinful as, say,  Tuscaloosa or Gainesville or Athens, but it’s still no place for innocent women and children.  Or Misty Pearl.

A moment here to talk about bridges.  For planning purposes we use several sources of information, all of which generally agree when it comes to bridges.  Well in advance of reaching a bridge we need to know whether it’s fixed or opens, what clearance is charted at high tide, what VHF channel the bridgemaster monitors, and whether the bridge opens on a schedule or on request.  Often we can’t see the gauge—which tells boaters the exact clearance at that water level—until right up close.  Up close, however, is nowhere one wants to be if there’s current or wind or traffic or shoaling or rocks or anything else that makes it difficult to hold a tight position.

The point here is that the evils of Daytona Beach go well beyond just spring break shenanigans.

As we cruised up towards a confusing jumble of Daytona bridges, the various guides provided no real help.  The bascule bridge had a 24-foot clearance (which is too low for us) but was being replaced by something much taller.  65-foot replacement was supposed to be done by November but apparently wasn’t.  Nobody around to call for help.  And a nice cross-current driving us hard to port.  Crab-angling Misty Pearl is tough enough in open water; it really sucks when the only safe path is very straight and very narrow and an insurance claim or worse lurks on either side.

No worries.  It looks like the bascule bridge is gone, so we should be fine.  Let’s just head on through.  What the hell?  Worries after all.  That’s a stinking construction barge, it’s blocking half of the already small opening, and we’re going sideways.

Since we’re posting this blog entry it’s probably obvious we didn’t die.  Somehow we slid our 16-foot  beam through what felt like a 17-foot slot while the dudes in construction vests stood on the barge smoking cigarettes and hoping for a good story to tell their friends at the bar.*

Other boats in the area weren’t as lucky.

We know it’s possible they sank in a storm or something, but our money’s on the construction barge.

Crisis dodged, but as the day progressed, so did the wind and the cold.  We layered up and stayed on the flybridge.

Everybody in these parts has a dock, which makes sense since they bought houses on the ICW.

Everybody also has a screen around a good chunk of their backyard.  It’s almost like they’re scared of a little mosquito, which—unlike the guys blocking the channel under the bridge—won’t kill you.  Unless the mosquito carries malaria or yellow fever.  And Zika looks to be pretty uncomfortable as well.  Come to think of it, we’d probably put up a screen if we lived here.

We were going to ride out the storm at Palm Coast Marina with The Lower Place and Red Pearl.  But since we were coming a day early they said we’d be on the fuel dock Tuesday night and then have to move on Wednesday.  Don’t they get the same weather info as the boaters?  35-knot winds on Wednesday and Thursday.  We ain’t planning to move.

So instead we took a starboard turn after the last bridge, pulled in to The Marina at Hammock Beach, put out extra lines and fenders, and met Robin and Charlie and their Gold Looper friends at European Village.

European Village isn’t really a European village, of course, it’s just a cluster of condos with some restaurants under them.  But we enjoyed the food and company nonetheless.

The rain pelted us all night and the winds came in as predicted, forcing us to do some cleaning and engine stuff.  To celebrate our success on those fronts we went over to the resort, although the wind basically required horizontal walking.  Lunch was good but absurdly the house-made chips came with no seasoning.  Seasoning was an upcharge.  Who ever heard of such?  The Cajun spice cost us ten quid plus a Johnny Rotten t-shirt, and even then wasn’t spectacular.

Gale-force winds and 13-foot waves off the coast, but we’re holding steady.

If all goes according to plan, the Vols will beat Purdue tomorrow and we’ll travel up to St. Augustine on Friday.

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* Maybe it would’ve been safer if Doug had waited until AFTER the bridge before starting to draft a lawsuit, but still.

Saddle up and follow your dreams*

According to Waylon, Willie, and the boys, the only two things that make life worth living are well-tuned guitars and firm-feeling women.  Tom T says it’s old dogs, and children, and watermelon wine.  Confederate Railroad prefers whisky on ice and women on fire.**  For us, it’s none of those.  For us, gorgeous sunrises, 75 degrees, light clouds, cool breeze, no current, and no waves, are at or near the top of the list of good things.  That was today.

We settled in to serenades by Danny Shirley and the boys from Confederate Railroad.  Then we moved on to Chris Ledoux.*  Damn, that’s some good stuff right there.

But wait.  Before we left Cocoa Village we had some things to do.  Yes, pickleball was among them.  Also on the list was basketball, which begs the obvious question.  Does every fan base suffer through as much angst as Tennessee’s fans?

Then the Kennedy Space Center.  NASA is just cool.

One of us really wanted to see the Saturn V and the Vehicle Assembly Building (the “VAB” to those in the space biz.)  Turns out what visitors get essentially is a Disney experience.  Expensive parking, then expensive tickets.  And THE WORLD’S LARGEST SPACE SHOP.

If the boys had opposable thumbs and the wherewithal to get off and then back on the boat unassisted maybe we could’ve taken advantage, but $120 for about two hours of walking around seemed foolish.  Plus the VAB isn’t even on the premises.  So we took a couple of photos through the chain-link fence and left.

Given the size of the Saturn V it’s remarkable that they kept it hidden behind the paywall, but they did.

One more thing.  We went to the burrito place in Cocoa Beach that Shannon said was awesome.  Except it wasn’t in Cocoa Beach, it was twenty miles away.  And it was okay, but certainly not awesome.  Just across the side street was a big sign designed to remind us of the scam Key West pulls on gullible tourists.

We did make it up to Cocoa Beach, however.

And Doug was able to replace the Cocoa Beach Ron Jon shirt he last saw about forty years ago.  Dana got a hat.

Anyway, the cruise up to New Smyrna Beach today was about as easy as possible.  For a bonus, we actually got closer to the VAB than we would’ve gotten if we’d paid.

This supposedly is the largest one-story building in the world.  It’s big enough to have indoor rain clouds.  It’s big enough to hide a Saturn V—since it’s where they were assembled in the first place—so maybe it wasn’t at NASA Magic Kingdom after all.

The trip was so peaceful we had time for art along the way.

If we’d paid the $120 to NASA, there’s a good chance we’d have seen that iconic photo of the Lunar Flag Assembly right where Buzz Aldrin placed it.  We saw basically the same thing for free.

After an uneventful docking and a solid early dinner, we stopped by the New Smyrna Old Fort.

Here’s the interesting thing about this place, which is on the U.S. Register of Historical Places.  Nobody knows what it actually is, which probably explains why there aren’t any signs telling visitors what it is.  It doesn’t look like any fort we’ve seen so far, and we’ve seen a mess of them.

After all that we climbed aboard a Mainship 400 for a delightful evening with Steve and Kathy.  It reminded us of good times aboard Second Wave.  The boat name?  Red Pearl.

Tomorrow another fairly long run up to Palm Coast, which apparently is an actual town not just a nickname.

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* RIP

** Croce of course argues that whiskey and wild wild women—and cigarettes—will drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane.

Madness in March on the AICW

Before breakfast Doug broke out the drone.  Not so much because there was spectacular stuff to video but mostly just to keep up the droning skills.  Dana walked the boys.

On the subject of breakfast, Doug drafted a riff on black water and our meal with Charlie this morning.  Dana the editor then noted that the place actually was “Backwater,” not “Blackwater.”  That actually makes more sense, of course, but they really should make the signage clearer.  (In his defense, only one of Doug’s eyes works properly.)  So we took out all the good stuff since it was inapplicable to “backwater.”  Anyway the food was delicious.  Which redeemed Melbourne a bit after the Ole’s debacle.

Off at 10 for the short cruise up to the Cocoas.  The Vols were scheduled to tip off at 2:45 and one of us was determined to be tied up well in advance.

Some of the ICW has been narrow.  Not today.  Today was more like lake crossing.

In fact, it felt a lot like that time we crossed Oneida Lake behind Second Wave after what history books call “The Incident in Lock 21.”  Except today we weren’t shaking from a brush with death.

Under the bridge and a hard turn to port took us into Cocoa Village Marina.

Easy docking and then time for a quick lunch.  And time to stop by Travis Hardware.  Travis Hardware supposedly is the most awesome hardware store in the country.  Everyone said it’s a must-stop.  The place has been in business since 1885.

That makes it really old and really cool, but that’s not what makes it awesome.  Nope.

Travis Hardware has endless aisles with floor-to-ceiling stuff you typically don’t find in hardware stores.

That makes it really interesting and really cool, but that’s not what makes it awesome.  Nope.

What makes Travis Hardware awesome are the decorations.

UT stuff everywhere.  Turns out the owner, his wife, and their daughters all graduated from Tennessee.  Clearly that’s a sign from God that the Vols will win the tournament, although the sketchy win over Colgate today may suggest otherwise.

On the way out to dinner we passed what turned out to be a big concert.  No way we were going in, but we did sneak a back-stage photo through the fence.

If it had been, say, The Possum or The Hag, we would’ve paid and gone in, and not just because they’re both dead.  RIP Possum and Hag.  But it was that loud rock-and-roll music that leads in a straight line to premarital sex and hard drugs and then eternal damnation, so we passed.

We’ll be here for the weekend.

That’s why they call Vero Beach The Rainy Coast

Tuesday the wind died down but the rain came.  It almost was like Muskegon, or Ludington but without the Badger.  We all stayed inside—which the boys liked just fine.  Except when we had to take them outside—which they liked not so much.  Somewhere in there is a parody of the classic Everly Brothers song about crying in the rain.

The rain took away pickleball but gave us the end of season 2.  Mags and Coover and Doyle Bennett all are dead, leaving weasely Dickie to face Raylan and Boyd Crowder, who turned good then bad again and now has taken sweet Ava down the dark road with him.  An Uber driver recently told us unsolicited stories about how the big mining company scared her parents into selling their eastern Kentucky farm and how her dad constantly has to guard the new farm against the druggies.  We thought Justified was implausible, but maybe not.  All we know for certain is that UK sucks and Paducah was awesome.

Vero Beach was fine, but would have been more fine if it still was Dodgertown.  The Dodgers took their ball and left some time ago, however, leaving only memories.  Like memories of when The Rifleman suited up for Brooklyn.  (Not the cheating Auburn dirtbag who stole the nickname and now will be playing forward for the prison team, but the real one.)  Being from Arizona we hate the Dodgers but still would’ve hit up a spring training game if given the opportunity.

Thanks to Doug’s amazing former assistant Sharon the mail arrived this week.  We kind of know how the pioneers must’ve felt while waiting for the express ponies to come along.  Anyway, as often is the case the sun finally came out, so we enjoyed Vero Beach.

Before leaving, we got back to pickleball, the wind kicked up again, and we watched some more Justified.

By the way, congratulations to Chris and Heather.  We didn’t meet them but anyone who posts an open wedding invitation on a marina door is pretty cool by us.

Today we headed out, anxious to get docked in Melbourne in time for a little March Madness.  All games are live streamed on the app but watching basketball while trying to stay in a narrow channel with uncharted shoaling at every turn might’ve been unwise.

When we left, the sun was warm and the wind was light.  “Wow.  Dana, can you bring me up some shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt?”  Literally two minutes later it all changed.  “Damn.  Dana, can you bring me some fuzzy socks and a fleece pullover?”   Mostly the four-hour trip was on the cool side and looked a lot like this:

We docked in Melbourne and went to dinner with Charlie (The Lower Place).

(Anyone who likes good service should skip Ole’ Fire & Grill.)

Here are the boys, just because the girls say we don’t include enough photos of their brothers.