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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Palatka Boathouse Marina & Turkey Island....love anchoring in a peaceful places, but the bugggggs!

Palatka is one of the larger towns on the St. Johns River. We did not see much as it was a drippy, rainy day. The Marina is a bit primitive, but we find some fun every where we go. The Marina kitty was one of the friendliest cats I have ever seen. She wanted to sit on your lap and purred with a smile.


While at the Marina I found a boat like my Cal 25 Mark II, that I owned 25 years ago. It was a pretty cool boat for me at the time. It had a roller furling and an inboard diesel engine, but when Adrienne came around, I didn't have the time to drive an hour across town to work on the boat or on rare occasion use it!


The Marina has a history and the present owner purchases an old River Boat that needs big time fixing up. The River Boat was built at this marina and boat yard around 1900. Hope they get the funds together as it could be really nice.


In Welaka,we planned to visit the "Old Boat Museum", but they are only opened Wednesday through Saturday. We were in Welatka on Tuesday! Bummer! The City dock is downtown, but investigating we found it was constructed for smaller boats. The St. John River current is still pretty strong in Welatka, so it is difficult to dock onto small finger docks with a large boat.


We found an anchorage in our handy Skipper Bob's that was just lovely - Turkey Island. Water was deep enough and we quietly anchored, dropped the dinghy and went to shore to investigate (the smells for BooBoo). Kind of a spooky place as there were few people and many homes for sale. We are finding in many areas of Florida, a high percentage of homes are for sale. Wonder how it compares to Michigan! We seem to be suffering from the same problem. At least the weather is nicer here in the winter!



We love our dinghy rides and investigate where Crawdad cannot go. We bought a hand held depth sounder which is fun to use in the dinghy and we can use it to investigate before we bring in Crawdad. Tells us the water temperature as well.


We have been playing games at night and Adrienne is a champion Scrabble player. Last night we played Yatzee. Jim was the winner.


We downloaded the movie "The Fighter" and will probably watch it tonight if it rains. Weather says 100% chance of rain.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

St. Johns River Six Mile Creek.....Gators!

With a new water pump working splendidly, we cruised out of the Ortega River back into the St. Johns River. The river is huge and as large as a lake at this point. I was, of course (!) thrilled to see a sailboat race going on. Perhaps my sailing buddies can respond as to which specific boats are in this class. A red rose (I think) with a stem and leaves is on the sail. About 19 feet long and two crew.....anybody know? Please comment below.

Our mail service is located in Green Cove Springs and since we were passing by we called to see if they could perhaps drive 3 miles or so to the City Dock to deliver our mail. We have not received our mail in perhaps, 6 weeks. If you read the earlier blog, you know that St. Brendan Isle scans the important items at our request, so we know exactly what is in the mail. The items we miss most are our magazines. It is like Christmas when the mail arrives!

St. Brendan's Isle was "crazy" busy on Monday morning and could not deliver the mail to the City Dock, so we agreed to pick up the mail later in the week. Anxious for those boating magazines! Won't see Jim for a week after they arrive! Jim is hoping his favorite magazine is in the pack, Passagemaker. We both read it from cover to cover and Passagemaker will NEVER be thrown away. When we bought Crawdad, the former owner had old copies from years ago that he left on the boat. Those magazines are now in our "collection".

We decided to stay overnight in Six Mile Creek. Fellow Loopers had told us what a pleasant spot it is. Shallow coming in, but deep enough and worth the trip. Outback Crab Shack has a 1000 foot dock with cleats and posts. They only request that you eat a meal in the restaurant. Wow, was it great! The restaurant is all open, with one area "indoors" with screens. More than 1/2 the restaurant is outside under umbrellas. Pool tables, huge pots with fresh, live crabs. Don't want to give you the wrong idea. It is a primitive restaurant, but the NCAA basketball games were on and we enjoyed ourselves eating shrimp, crabs and watching the games. Life is good! So nice to have Adrienne with us to enjoy the fun!

We dropped the dinghy over the side into the and went for a ride.....looking for gators. One gator flipped his tail directly next to us and Adrienne is now in need of a hearing aid in that ear from my scream. We saw two gators swimming across the river and later saw a friendly gator near the dock looking for food. BooBoo wasn't available!

Can't recommend this spot enough. It is delightful!

"They"














say on summer and holiday weekends, the boats are rafted along the 1000 feet 5 deep. You'll see in the picture, we were the only overnight boat that night!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jacksonville & Huckins visit.

We left St. Augustine and cruised up to Mayport to Morningstar Marina. Yuck! Bathrooms were office bathrooms and there were no showers or other services. Current just about did us in. Super moon has created incredible currents. Dock hand didn't know how to handle the current and when I asked him to cut us loose and let us start over he expressed he had no knife! Bad news! We finally were tied up on the outer dock. Not good! But every bad thing brings good people and Ken and Jean Powell from Ontario were delightful! Can you imagine traveling the world in a sailboat for 12 years! Their boat is for sail and they are looking to return to Ontario after all this time. So interesting!

Jacksonville Landing was a significant improvement. Current from the river and the tide was extreme, but docking was directly downtown and Adrienne, our daughter, flew in from Connecticut to cruise with us for 10 days. She will leave on April 2nd and we will begin our cruise with Erica and Joe, our son. Erica and Joe (angels from heaven) will have Buddy, our devil Labrador mix with them. Buddy has been in Michigan for the last 90 days. Erica and Joe have a chocolate lab who is Buddy's favorite. Hopefully, he will be glad to see us, including BooBoo!

Jacksonville Landing is a development downtown of restaurants, retail stores and other stores. We really enjoyed the location. Adrienne and I had a phenomenal run along the boardwalk which ran West for about 2 miles. Good run! Needed that!

For the first time we saw foam form in the water along the dock. The salt and wind forms a foam that runs along the dock with the current. If the fenders that protect the boat are large and run down directly to the water, the foam is trapped and collects next to the boat and creates a mess! We are learning at every stop!

It was here that we learned the water pump had a problem :( We had replaced the water pump in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, so this was indeed a surprise.) Without the fresh water pump, we have no water anywhere on the boat. No toilets, no sink water....bad news. Jim decided we should go to a marina near West Marina on the Ortega River and he could fix the water pump. OK!

We "landed" at the Marina at Ortega River. Incredibly nice marina which is located about a 1/2 mile from West Marine. We purchased a new pump of a different brand (oh, oh) and he began the process. This meant new connections, lines and lots of work, but the old pump was a from the "olden days" and made a lot of noise. The new pump had a lot of psi supply of water. What we did not know was it was too much psi action! Once it was connected (a big enough process), the pump blew out a number of connections on the boat. Jim replaced them all with help from our neighbor Ralph













. Jim then removed the pump and purchased a water pump with less power. Maybe Crawdad needed it anyway as our boat was manufactured in 1986. Jim even thought for a while we had blown out the hot water heater. Thank goodness that was not the case. Ended up it was the valve on the hot water heater that need to be replaced. (thank goodness)

The two days at the luxury marina was lovely for some of us!! though we rode on our bikes to West Marine at least 8 times. We got to know the staff at West Marine in Jacksonville and would recommend John to anyone!!

We left on Sunday to cruise up the Johns River. (finally!) First stop Green Cove Springs. Our mail is delivered to a mail service, St. Brendans Isle, at Green Cove Springs. We cruised into Green Cove Springs, looking for the City dock (recommended by our cruise guide) and found shallow water instead. Not stopping there! Maybe we don't have the correct location. Wouldn't be the first time!

The Huckins spotted at the Ortega Landing Marina. The co-owner is from Holland, MI.
During our stay on the Ortega River, I happened upon a Huckins. One had been tied at the dock at Vero Beach and I was intrigued. When we visited our friends at a neighboring marina, they told us about the Huckins Yacht Yard located only a few doors from our marina.  On our bikes!
Joe, the security guard who loves his job!
Do you think they would take a trade for a Grand Banks?
The patterns haven't changed in over 50 years.

The teak on the boats in the shop gives Jim a challenge with our teak. Go Jim! You can do it!

The shop hasn't changed since the 30's.
Fairfoam Flyer. Perfection.


 We were amazed at the boats in the yard. Some older, some new. Difficult to tell the difference as the design has changed very little. Fairform Flyer! Gorgeous! Our friends from SeaSea told us they might give us a tour. Saturday morning? Give it a try!  We knocked on the door and an older man came to the door. Interested! Come on in!

The tour was amazing. We climbed on a boat under renovation. The wooden hull is encased in fiberglass and requires other changes as the weight is redistributed. We found out our tour guide was the security guard! He had been there forever and had seen it all! He showed us the patterns, pictures of boats constructed and the boats in the building presently under renovation. Our lucky day! We will be looking for more Huckins along the way up the ICW.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

St. Augustine....one of the best yet!





























St. Augustine is the oldest city in the Nation, dating back to 1565. Architecture was strongly influenced by Spanish rule. Tour trains cater to tourists and we rode the choo choo with our red train sticker proudly beaming from our shirts!

The most interesting tourist site undoubtedly is the Fort. The original cannons made of brass are a brilliant green. Some are simple, but others are ornate and truly beautiful. The fort looks over the Matanzas River where Crawdad was moored.

St. Augustine Municipal Marina was recently renovated with many mooring balls, most available. We were surprised how few boating tourists there were in St. Augustine at this time. Most were sailboats. As we approached the Marina Office we were greeted by a "Gold Looper", which means they have completed the loop. They carry the same flag we carry proudly off our bow, but they carry a yellow flag. (We bought our flag when at Wheeler's Landing Rendezvous and are ready to fly it proudly as well!) The captain of Admirals Choice showed us a huge gash in the hull of his Carver. Just above the waterline. Current and wind are a dangerous combination. We are extremely vigilant, but often we have no control, as apparently happened to Admiral's Choice. He said the sound of the damage was gut-wrenching. I bet!

Again, the scenery on the way to St. Augustine was interesting. One portion of the trip was through another "ditch". This is a straight portion that is dug to connect two rivers. Portions of the ditch was nicely developed with homes on one side and natural growth on the other. Other areas along the ditch looked like "fish camps". That is not a compliment. Fish camp marinas are the simplest and often pretty darn bad.

Fort Matanzas is a National Monument run by the National Park Service. The fort was built in 1740 by the Spanish. We didn't stop to walk the property, but our friends have anchored nearby and enjoyed the tour. We cruised by and took pictures. Can't see it all, though we are trying. There is a lighthouse nearby on the Matanzas River and the blue and white striped lighthouse with a red top is a beautiful addition.

One picture included above is my view under the bridge. Sometimes the available space is barely more than the boat, but with bridge openings only on the hour or half hour, we try to comply when we feel "pretty" confident we can pass underneath. I will admit that occasionally I hold my breath. Jim drives and I direct him to the right or left, as often the highest part of the bridge is in the middle.

In an earlier blog describing Marathon, we mentioned Henry Flagler and his railroad. You will remember Henry Flagler started Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller and Henry Rogers. Henry Flagler and his wife visited St. Augustine and fell in love with the area and climate, so he built the first of what were to be a series of hotels. He built the railroad down the East coast of Florida and finally to Key West.

The Ponce de Leon Hotel, his first hotel, is an architectural dream and is now Flagler College.The campus is amazing and the fountain in the front garden was especially entruiging to Jim. Many of you know of Jim's fountain. A long-term labor of love in front of our home!

Roaming the streets of old St. Augustine feel like Europe and Boo enjoyed much of the city with us. He especially enjoyed the dinner on the balcony of the Brew Pub as a "service dog".

Yesterday a dear friend called and said he and his family are moving to St. Augustine to begin work on June 1st. We love St. Augustine and now have another reason to return to lovely and charming St. Augustine!

Now off to Jacksonville to pick up Adrienne to cruise the St. John River. They say it is like "old Florida"!