Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle

Tuesday may be Soylent Green day, but Wednesday was manatee day.  For the first several hours, a large aggregation of them bobbed around us at manatee speed, which basically is the speed at which a manatee would struggle in a race against a sloth if sloths were aquatic.  And yes, we looked it up.  A group of manatees is called an aggregation.  This one had a population of at least fifty, although they stretched out over miles.  More manatees than we see in Arizona, that’s for sure.

The problem with manatees is that they barely break the surface—so photos are hard to come by—but right about here we were surrounded by dozens of them.

Dana did manage one decent photo out of significantly more than one try, however, which should be enough to prove we’re not making this up.

Although this time through Haulover Canal we didn’t see any alligators, in addition to photo-averse manatees there were lots of birds hanging about.  And a collection of trees that are very vaguely reminiscent of the big W where Smiler Grogan buried his loot, although Dana mostly took the photo because they look cool.

Haulover Canal bisects NASA property, which explains the signs.  That’s why they call this the “Space Coast.”  Duh.

Speaking of NASA, we can’t pass through here without a photo of the Vehicle Assembly Building.  That’d be like ignoring the Statue of Liberty.  It’s just not done.  Any building that can house a vertical Saturn V has to be one of the coolest buildings in the world, at least according to us.

While on the subject of NASA, how about VFL Josh Dobbs?  Despite the fact that almost single-handedly he extended the abysmal Butch Jones experiment, that time he drove the Dobbnail boot into the lyin’, cheatin’ Georgia Bulldogs was historically awesome.  Then last week the miserable Cardinals—who desperately want the opportunity to squander the first pick in the 2024 NFL draft—traded him because they can’t afford another win.  Whereupon the NFL promptly named him the Offensive Player of the Week after the improbable Viking victory in Atlanta.  That’s goosebump stuff right there.

After all that exciting wildlife and NASA stuff, we rolled up to Cocoa Village.  Cocoa Village is a short scooter ride from Cocoa Beach, which would be very important information if (1) we had felt like scootering to the Ron Jon Surf Shop and (2) we hadn’t already used more than an acceptable number of I Dream of Jeannie references in prior posts.

Yesterday brought a glorious sunrise that the Hubert Humphrey Bridge mostly blocked, before we made the run down to Melbourne.  

As we pulled in to Melbourne Harbor late yesterday afternoon, we learned that NASA was launching a SpaceX Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Center at 8:28.  Well, well!  This’ll be awesome!  The dockhand said the rockets fly right overhead, and Tumbleweed’s bow would be an excellent vantage point.   Let’s tie up, eat dinner, and get ready.

As the sun set, youthful sailors returned from sea, undoubtedly as excited as us to watch the early stages of the trip to resupply the International Space Station.

Meh.  We set everything up for a fabulous photo.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  We watched the countdown and the launch on NASA’s website so we know it happened, but it damn sure didn’t happen over us.  So here’s a photo of where the rocket was supposed to be, taken at precisely the time it would’ve been visible if the dockhand hadn’t brazenly lied to us.  Or maybe there were clouds.  Or maybe it went the other way.

Whatever.  The rowers were out this morning even before we walked past the public art installation on our way to breakfast.

Now about planning.  What the hell is the point of it?  When we first headed towards Florida and the ship that’ll carry Tumbleweed to British Columbia, the loading date was about Thanksgiving.  No worries, we’ll have the girls fly to Florida for a few days.

Then the shipping date moved to the first week of December.  Grrrr.  Okay, book plane tickets and a rental car and we’ll fly to Sacramento for Thanksgiving with the girls at Shannon’s house in Napa, then fly back to load the boat.

Then a couple of days ago, word arrived that we’re pushed out at least another week.  Now we know why people abandon their boats in Florida.  The point is, we had been slow-playing the trip down but who wants to sit around in Florida for a month when you can’t even see a flippin’ rocket launch?  Nobody, that’s who.  So luckily we found a spot in Fort Pierce and hustled down this afternoon.  Cancel the plane tickets.  We’ll drive a rental car across to Arizona, have Thanksgiving with the girls, then fly back when it’s time to meet the cargo ship.

But first, some more abandoned-boat porn.

Turns out, people even drag boats from other places to dump them in Florida.  For example, here rests the sad remains of Ultim’Emotion 2.  This quite-expensive racing trimaran was 160 miles from shore and leading a huge field in a race from Newport to Bermuda when her 102’ mast snapped off.  Now her future is uncertain, because the guy who bought her failed to realize that (1) there’s no place along the Florida coast that can accept her beam and (2) the ICW bridges only have 65’ of clearance.  Oops.

This guy hasn’t abandoned his boat, but slowly tacking back and forth across the narrow channel—with no radio—still makes him a jackass in our book.  It wasn’t until later that we realized he basically was naked to boot.

So we’re tied up in Fort Pierce for the next month.  We’ve schlepped stuff up to the minivan in anticipation of a morning departure.  When we next post something, hopefully it’ll include a photo of Tumbleweed being hoisted for her journey to Victoria.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Boats, boats, and more boats

Hey, here’s the Atlantic Ocean again!

Wait, what?  What’s the Atlantic Ocean doing on the “Intracoastal” Waterway?  Well, this is the one place the ICW pokes its nose out into open water.  Not coincidentally it’s also the place at issue when our healthy aversion to six-foot waves kept us at Jekyll Island.  Sunday it was a bit chunky but not too bad.

Collectively we know a lot about submarines, because we both toured USS Silversides in Muskegon, Michigan, and one of us has watched The Hunt for Red October at least a dozen times.  What we really wanted, however, was to see one in the wild.  It’s not like we haven’t had chances.  We were all around Naval Submarine Base New London, aka “The Submarine Capitol of the World.”  Nothing.  We heard radio chatter from submarine escorts bring them in and out of Norfolk.  Nada.  On prior trips we passed NSB Kings Bay, where—according to unkept promises in the Waterway Guide—mariners should keep a sharp lookout because subs zoom by at high speed, creating big wakes.  Nope.

This time past Kings Bay, however, we found one in her pen.

Despite our best efforts at identifying her, we came up empty.  The British Navy Flag made us a bit suspicious, however, and then that little crown confirmed our suspicions: not one of ours.*

But at least it’s still a sub.  Give me a ping, Dana.  One ping only.

Then past Fort Clinch, which both sides used during the Civil War until someone realized that masonry walls were no match for rifled cannonballs.

There’s more than just Civil War and Ponce de Leon to the history around here.  In May of 1777, for example, the British had the temerity to fight back during an “invasion,” whereupon an American officer righteously burned British houses and killed British cows.

And now here we are tending to their submarines.  Crazy.

Anyway, we do like Fernandina Beach.

Hey, there’s Sunset Delight!  We last saw Clark and Evelyn when we followed them through the shallow shoals at the Matanzas Inlet, after that dinner at the fake European Village in Palm Coast.  They go up and down the ICW every year, however, so maybe it’s not that odd that we met up again.

Up and out early, past Florida swamps and Florida ICW docks owned by people who wish everyone would cruise by at no-wake speeds. Some of these sights along the ICW are just timeless.

No really.  Here’s Timeless, who we followed all the way to St. Augustine.

Whoa now!  That’s Ocean Voyager, who last appeared in this blog way back on Lake Huron and who now rudely tied up with the sun behind her such that our photo sucks.  Small world indeed.

More boats!  Here’s USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer most famous for that time she collided with a tiny fishing boat in Japan.  We’re not sure who, but somebody probably was more focused on doing the Wordle than watching where they were going.

Our former friends at Rivers Edge Marina apparently didn’t value our friendship enough to have space for us, so this time in St. Augustine we stopped at Camachee Cove instead.

Everybody will tell you that Vinny’s has awesome pizza, but really it’s just okay.  We only had time for mediocre pizza and a walk through town before Tennessee opened the basketball season with a win, so basically passing the Bridge of Lions on the way south this morning was the next noteworthy thing we did.

The dredge people were dredging that shallow part where we previously used Sunset Delight to test the waters, so no worries this time through.

In our travels we’ve seen all types of boaters, and we try not to be judgmental.  The owner of this beauty, however, obviously has no idea what he’s doing.  A seasoned mariner would know to put the fenders between the hull and the palm tree, not leave them dangling uselessly on the other side.

Yup, we’re back in Florida alright.

And by the way, claiming that you just wanted to give pelicans a place to stand is not a valid explanation.

None of that should suggest, of course, that we have a problem with all Florida boaters.  Our buddies on Exhale and Bucket List and Blue Goose, for example, are awesome.  And so is the guy who owns this pontoon.  Anybody who paints Tennessee Checkerboards on their boat jumps to the top of any list of cool people.  Rocky Top, you’ll always be, home sweet home to me.  Good old Rocky Top.  Rocky Top, Tennessee.

After a long day we collapsed at New Smyrna Beach.  Tomorrow, Cocoa Village.


*We were hoping mightily that the sub would prove to be HMS Vigilant, but sadly it isn’t.  A Google search of the Vigilant shenanigans from a few years back is worth the effort.

Fabulous Jekyll Island and other stuff

It’s been a good while since our last post, because it’s been a good while since we last moved.  Grrrr.  Sailors may like big wind but normal boaters don’t.  Big wind has kept us pinned down on Jekyll Island for what feels like a month but probably isn’t.  Grrrr.  The point, of course, is that this post contains an extraordinary amount of Jekyll Island content.  But first we had to leave Isle of Hope.

Last weekend brought a full moon, which for both sailors and normal boaters meant the tidal current was raging.  However—despite the fact that the old Shell sign is gone but perhaps because the old Shell sign has been replaced by a big blue sign with an arrow—we were able to find and flawlessly execute the starboard turn up Kilkenny Creek.

Not a hell of a lot going on up Kilkenny Creek.

On a positive note, however, this time we made sure to come in on a day the restaurant was open.  Yum.

Did we mention the full moon?  Big tides suck, but the moon over the marsh from our back porch was pretty cool.

All in all, a great afternoon and evening.  In addition to that delicious meal, Tennessee whacked Mark Stoops and those checkerboard-copying Kentucky dirtballs, Texas thumped the Mormons, and the Diamondbacks evened the World Series.  The latter of which sadly lasted all of one hot minute.*

Sunday morning the sun came up over that same marsh, signaling the start of a run that promised to be somewhere between seven and nine hours, depending on the current that we still are powerless to predict.

So off we went.  From the ICW, Georgia barrier islands between Kilkenny and St. Simons all look the same, and mostly like marshy nothingness.

But looks can deceive.  Sapelo Island, for example, has a rich history that may or may not include the first European settlement in what wasn’t the United States in 1526 but now is.

What isn’t disputed by historians is that Sapelo Island currently is home to Hog Hammock, wherein some 26 souls live in the last remaining Gullah-Geechee community.  There’s also a palatial plantation mansion that survived the Civil War where one can spend the night for about $250.  BYOB as there’s no alcohol.  None of this, of course, is visible from the ICW.

St. Simons has a lot to offer, but not for us.  We made it to the West Marine and the grocery store.  That’s about it.

Monday morning threw fog at us, but we got the last laugh because we weren’t planning to travel anyway.

Actually we didn’t get the last laugh.  Because when the fog didn’t screw us, Mother Nature whipped up predictions for the gale-force winds about which we’ve already complained.  Starting Wednesday and lasting through today.  Six-foot waves in the places we need to cross to get to Fernandina Beach.  And we don’t do six-foot waves.  But at least we had a nice day to jump the hour down to Jekyll Island, where they said there was room for us until Sunday.

Turns out, by “room” they meant one slip with less than eighteen feet of clearance, with very little opportunity to maneuver, with the nose of a big Riviera sticking out in the way, and with a two-knot side current.  We knew there was a problem when we sat in the channel watching a Defever try to get into an even smaller space that the dock guys swore was big enough but which we later confirmed wasn’t close to big enough.  Our worst docking experience to date—by a significant margin—made palatable only by much profanity and by the fact that Bill on B-Juled had fenders we were able to ride.  Absolute BS.  But we made it.

At least they have Moe.  Moe was born at the marina some nineteen years ago and has lived there ever since, which is somewhat surprising given all the signs warning about alligators on the island.  If that cat could talk what tales he’d tell.**

While stuck on Jekyll Island we’ve been able to watch boats piloted by braver folks than us go by.

This outfit charges $5,000 for basically the same trip we’re taking from Charleston to Fernandina Beach.  They don’t get to eat at Marker 107, of course.  They also don’t get stuck on Jekyll Island, although our dock guys almost certainly assured the Captain that American Eagle could fit into one of these tiny slips.

Jekyll Island is famous as the former home of the Jekyll Island Club, founded by turn-of-the-last-century gazillionaires.  These dudes laid the foundation for the Federal Reserve System right here in their clubhouse, because once you have a gazillion you want to keep it.  Regardless, the club now is a resort with historic buildings and spectacular grounds.

Long before the rich people moved in, however, one William Horton owned everything.  British Governor James Oglethorpe gave the island to Horton after his countrymen successfully aligned with the natives to push out the Spanish and French and then—in a twist nobody possibly could’ve seen coming—pushed out those same natives.  This all is important only because it explains the house slave-owner Horton built in 1742 as the jewel of his plantation and which now is a tourist attraction.

Some fifty years after Horton died, the du Bignon family purchased the island, and continued enjoying the fruits of slavery for fifty years or so.  This is important mostly because it explains the small graveyard full of du Bignons.

Not surprisingly, the abolition of slavery after the Civil War made plantationing markedly less profitable.  Whereupon the last of the du Bignons built the club to attract those rich guys.

Now, Jekyll Island mostly is owned and preserved by the State of Georgia.  Which is nice, because it’s full of trails and wildlife and such.

Jekyll Island also has a turtle rescue joint.  Not quite as big as the one we visited in Marathon, but still cool.  Enough with the pollution, people.  Fortunately Bandit may be released soon.

But wait.  There’s more!  The Wanderer Memorial Trail is along the beach where Wanderer—one of the last slave ships to arrive in the United States—delivered human cargo on November 28, 1858, with the help of one of those evil du Bignons.  Sobering stuff, to say the least.

The great Tennessean Michael Reno Harrell told us to remember that above the clouds the sky is always blue.  And he was right, because the wind didn’t prevent us from attending the annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival.  And awesome it was.  Except for the pork rind booth.  There’s very little in the universe more disgusting than fried pig skin.  The shrimp & grits, however, were delicious.

One last thing about Jekyll Island.  Remember that time there were two boats from Arizona at the marina on Prince Edward Island?  We now can beat that.  Three Arizona boats on Jekyll Island.  Crazy.

Tennessee won.  Texas won.  So today was a good day, made even better by the fact that we’re able to move tomorrow.


*No offense to Mama Cass, but we’ve never seen the funny side of losin’.

**But the cat was cool and he never said a mumblin’ word.  RIP Hoyt Axton.