St. Johns River '10

May 8 to 14

May 8, 2010 - Silver Glen Springs to 6 Mile Creek, FL

It was kind of an overcast morning with the sun peeking out every now and then. It should be another hot, 90 degree day. We had breakfast and pulled the anchor at 9:30. On the river, there were more fishermen out today, being a Saturday. We got to take a second look at the homes along the river near Georgetown and Waleka.

 
 
Shell Harbor had a neat looking restaurant at the water's edge built to look like a ship. Note the bow of the ship on the right side of the picture.

 
 
There were some interesting looking resorts and many places had their street addresses facing the waterway.

Our first stop, the Cross Florida Barge Canal, north of Welaka wasn't far. We had skipped by it on our way south yesterday, but we wanted to take a cruise down the canal to see what it looked like. We would only go as far as the Henry Holland Buchman Lock. (See notes on the canal from yesterday.)We turned left into the canal and stopped abruptly.

 
 
Good thing! Bob spotted huge tree stumps barely visible, breaking the surface of the water. If we had run into those, it would have been disasterous! Good eyes, Bob! We caught a glimpse of the dam, not far from the entrance, so we didn't miss much.

 
 
We continued on through a very twisty part of the river. On an overview map, the river reminds me of a lot of body intestines and the colon. I know it's weird, but it's just my opinion. I'll let you be the judge.

 
 
We passed the city of Palatka and the clock tower along the waterfront.

 
 
The wind had picked up and made white caps on the river. Unfortunately, we were traveling the same speed and direction as the wind, so we couldn't catch a breeze if our lives depended on it. We were feeling the heat!

 
 
Looking at the water and sticking my head into the wind seemed to give me some relief.

 
 
We finally arrived at 6 Mile Creek at 2:30 where we spent the night last week Wed. The weather forecast called for the winds to pick up tonight, so for the cost of a pitcher of beer ($5.25) we thought we'd find a secure place to spend the night. We went into the restaurant, plopped ourselves down in front of the fan, ordered a pitcher of beer, and watched golf on TV. We NEVER watch golf, but we were so hot we didn't care. After cooling down for an hour or so, we found out we could walk to a nearby convenience store, just "over on the other side of the bridge". Standing on the bridge we got a good view of the dock here at the Outback Crab Shack.

 
 
Well, we walked to the other side of the bridge, a short walk, only to find it was a little farther than that. By the time we got there, we were all sweaty and hot again, but we needed a few staples for breakfast.

 
 
We did our shopping and then Bob found us a ride back to the boat from a nice woman who felt sorry for us. We got back in no time, but the walk back to the boat on the pier was a long one. This view is from our boat looking back at the Outback, down the pier.

 
 
When we got here today, the dock was pretty full for a Saturday afternoon, so we had to park way at the end of the pier where it was quiet and we wouldn't be kept awake by the music tonight. We spent the rest of the afternoon finding a cool place to sit. Bob spotted a fish hawk, hunting for his supper along the creek. He sat there for the longest time.

 
 
People came strolling by on the pier and stopped to chat. All of a sudden, a float plane appeared and came screaming down the channel about 100 ft. off the water. He made 2 or 3 passes and then he was gone. Unbelievable!!

 
 
Some guys in an airboat came in hootin' and hollerin'. It was definitely a more exciting day than the last time we were here.

 
 
Lots of people were out enjoying the water in their boats today coming and going from this bar. We grilled out and had a later dinner. The froggy chorus started once the sun went down. We would be serenaded tonight. Our trip today brought us 56.3 miles.

May 9, 2010 - 6 Mile Creek to Jacksonville, FL

Happy Mother's Day! We opened the door this morning and what a difference! It was much cooler and so refreshing after a hot and sweaty night. We have had a week of 90 degree temps, so the next couple of days in the 70's should feel great. We were surprised to see that we were the only ones who had spent the night at the dock. The entire pier was empty except for the owner's two boats at the end of the pier.

 
 
There was no dew on the boat this morning, the first time during this whole trip. Bob walked down the pier to the restaurant. The Bible Church was getting underway around 8:30. They invited him to the service and a free breakfast afterwards. Maybe another time. We had our usual Sunday morning breakfast and got ready to leave. We are heading up to Jacksonville with a stop at the Black River and for fuel somewhere along the way. We left the dock at 9:10 and headed north on the St. John's River. The sky was a clear blue and cloudless. We breezed by Reynolds Park Yacht Center and the town of Green Cove Springs. Just north of the town of Green Cove Springs we turned into Black Creek.

 
 
The wind was strong out of the north which made cruising up the river a little wet and messy. We crossed under the bridge and into the wide, deep Black Creek to do some exploring.

 
 
The banks were well wooded and almost tottally undeveloped. the creek is deep from shore-to-shore and provides good protection for anchoring.

 
 
However, because it is so deep, you need to find a shallower cove to drop the hook. It is 18 miles up river to the old river town of Middleburg, which rivals St. Augustine as one of the nation's oldest settlements. We traveled up this beautiful river about 2 1/2 miles and then turned around. We would have to come back again sometime to explore it a little more and spend a few nights. It was pretty rough coming into Jacksonville and the boat got a salt water bath as we rode into the waves. The Jacksonville skyline really stood out against the blue sky and water.

 
 
With the wind and cooler temps today, I had to wear my fleece sweatshirt at times. What a switch from yesterday! Just as we got to the RR bridge in Jacksonville, the bridge closed. Wouldn't you know it? From a distance we could see that it was open all that time and then just as we got up to it......darn! There was not only one, but 2 trains going in opposite directions! Then a single engine and another train came down the tracks. How unlucky can we be? We had to wait 35 minutes for the trains to pass and the bridge to open.

 
 
The smell of Maxwell House coffee was in the air as we waited. At 1:05, we went through the RR bridge and took a spot on the wall at Jacksonville Landing near Gallivant. We had gone 38.2 miles today. Pam was there to help us dock and once we got tied up, we got a chance to visit. Donny had gone by bus to Home Depot and returned soon after we arrived. Jacksonville was pretty busy on a Mother's Day afternoon. We settled in and Bob rinsed off the boat to get rid of the salt. We went to have a couple of beers at Hooters and catch up on things with Pam and Don.

 
 
There were lots of families out today, sharing Mother's Day with their moms. This mom got a new pair of banana sandals for Mother's Day. They were COOL!

 
 
In the center of the plaza, kids were running through the fountain and having a good time. The band was setting up to get ready to play later.

 
 
Afterwards, Pam and I put on our walking shoes and took a walk along the waterfront, over the RR bridge, and down the other side. We stopped to watch the train pass under us.

 
 
Bob took a nap and Donny took it easy until we got back. Then we all went to have dinner at Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican restaurant. After dinner we sat on the bridge of Gallivant and just watched the people and boat traffic at the Landing. The water taxi brought boatload after boatload of people to the Landing for the evening festivities.

 
 
I took Bob's picture next to the post that measures the height of the water during a hurricane. They call it the Reality Check pole.

 
 
We could hear the band playing from where the boat sat at the wall. People everywhere were enjoying their Sunday and their Mother's Day. After awhile, we went back to our boat and took some time to relax before going to bed. It was good to see Pam and Donny again. We would go our separate ways tomorrow.....Gallivant to the north and Justavacation to the south. Who knows when we will meet again...

May 10, 2010 - Jacksonville to St. Augustine, FL

We woke up at 7:15 after a pleasantly cool night and were ready to leave by 8:00. We said our goodbyes to Pam and Don for the second time and were on our way by 8:15. We will meet again....somewhere. The Jacksonville waterfront is very pretty during the day,

 
 
but is especially awesome at night with all the colorful lights. We have enjoyed our stay in Jacksonville very much.

 
 
Gallivant left after we did (that's them on the wall) and followed not far behind us on the river. They turned off on the ICW going north and we turned off at the ICW intersection going south to St. Augustine.

 
 
We took a slow ride up the St. John's River and got another chance to look at all the action going on along the working waterfront. We saw yachts being loaded into a transporter ship and other ships being unloaded.

 
 
The wind was strong today out of the south and blowing against the current which made for bigger standing waves in the St. John's River. Once we got into the ICW we were more protected from the wind and the ride was dryer and smoother. It was a cooler day with sunshine and blue skies. The section along the Tolomoto River south of St. Augustine is a wildlife habitat and full of birds. We saw quite a few bald eagles along the shore's edge.

 
 
We passed a sailboat that got too far out of the ICW lane and was aground until the tide came up or he got towed.

We were treated to an unofficial air show as we passed the airport and got to see a stunt pilot practicing his tricks right above us. We were able to watch for about 10 minutes before we were out of range. What a treat! On today's trip we were passed by no less than 34 cruising boats (I counted them) traveling in the other direction....more than we've seen in a month. There were so many sailboats actually sailing down the ICW along with catamarans, trawlers, and a couple of older antique boats. Where was everybody going?

 
 
We passed under the Bridge of Lions (still under construction) and into the city marina.

 
 
(I read today that the Bridge of Lions really does have huge marble lions sitting on each side of the bridge, but while it's under construction, the lions are being stored somewhere else until it is done. ) We traveled 56.9 miles and were tied up in our slip by 2:00.

 
 
We relaxed a little before checking in at the office and then Bob gave the boat a thorough washing. While he worked on that, I did the wash in the marina laundromat. They have a beautiful facility here which includes a laundromat, TV room, ship's store, showers, and restrooms. The staff are very helpful and friendly. We are right in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, just north of the Bridge of Lions.

 
 
Tomorrow we'll do a walking tour of the town and see the Fort. Bob came up to the laundromat to help. When we got back to the boat, we saw that the sailboat next to us was crawling with 5 Customs and Border Patrol agents.

 
 
They even had a drug sniffing dog with them. They spent about 3 hours searching the boat while the owners were gone somewhere and then left. The "word" from Carl, the dockhand, was that there were 2 men and 1 woman on board (hence the woman's underwear hanging on the rail).

 
 
The owner was supposedly arrested and in jail last night, and owes the marina some money. The CBP agents interviewed all the boaters around, including us, and searched their boat from top to bottom wearing black gloves. It made for a pretty exciting afternoon. We watched another guy come in on his jet ski with his yellow lab sitting comfortably behind him. What a pair!

 
 
We had cocktails on the back of the boat while watching all the action. Bob grilled pork chops for dinner and we settled in for a relaxing evening. We sat out back until the sun set and saw the Black Raven, pirate ship, come back from it's evening tour.

 
 
We'll get a good night's sleep, so we will be rested for our tour of the city tomorrow. I am looking forward to it.

(Update: The people under suspicion finally returned to their sailboat about 7:30 and worked on their engine...in the dark. What's up with that?)

May 11, 2010 - St. Augustine, FL

We had a peaceful night, but we heard a constant clicking sound coming from the hull. Bob thought it might be shrimp or fish eating algae on the bottom of the boat. Hmmmmm. This morning the wind was 15-20 mph out of the southeast causing waves to roll into the marina.

 
 
That made the boat bounce around in the slip a little. The suspicious sailboat left early this morning and by 8:30 a large Grand Banks pulled in. That helped to deflect some of the waves from us. (Note: A guy from the Ship's Store told us that the owner of the sailboat had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest. When he went to do Customs, he was arrested. I guess Customs Border Protection got suspicious and hence, the search of his boat. For what? We don't know.) Bob did a small repair on the boat. Thank goodness for the Ship's Store. Then we left the marina and we began our walking tour of the city. Our first stop was the Plaza de Constitution (central town plaza) and the Old Market.

 
 
When towns were developed back in the 16th century, they were required to include a central plaza and market place where the people could gather. Our next stop was the fabulous Old Alcazar Hotel which now houses the City Hall and Lightner Mall of Antiques. The Alcazar Hotel was a Henry Flagler creation and is an example of the grandeur of those earlier days and Spanish architecture.

 
 
It is beautiful both inside and out. We looked around a little, but didn't take the tour.

 
 
The grounds were impecably groomed and contained a wonderful fountain.

 
 
Across the street, The Ponce de Leon Hotel is one of the most striking edifices in St. Augustine.

 
 
It is currently home of the Flagler College of Fine Arts.

 
 
This is an incredible example of opulence from that age of luxury. It was considered a luxury resort for the rich and famous.

 
 
It was the first building in America of any size to be constructed of poured concrete. The interior is decorated with vast marble slabs, carved oak panels, and massive murals. The stained glass windows are the creation of Louis C. Tiffany. The domed ceiling was gorgeous.

 
 
The old hotel was converted to a college when it fell on hard times in the 1960's. Our next stop was the Cathedral of St. Augustine.

 
 
The parish dates back to 1594, but the cathedral was built in 1888. It represents the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in the U.S.

 
 
On the wall of the cathedral was a sundial reflecting the time of day. Bob checked and it was off by 37 minutes, but that's not bad.

 
 
The Government House was across the street and was the site that many of Spanish and English governors lived during colonial times.

 
 
It is now a historical museum and a visitor's information center. We turned the corner and walked down St. George Street.

 
 
Much of the street is lined by retail shops and restaurants that are decorated in an old Spanish style. This was a Cuban cigar shop where this man was rolling cigars. We stopped to watch. Bob thought it didn't look that hard.

 
 
We stopped in a few shops to do some shopping and Bob tried on this pirate hat. Argh.....

 
 
We took a peek at San Augustin Antiguo, a re-creation of an 18th century Spanish-American village.

 
 
It contains several authentic colonial homes and a working forge. Each exhibit is occupied by participants dressed in period costumes and going about the tasks of 18th century villagers. St. George Street is closed to traffic and makes for a nice pedestrian walking area. We came upon the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S. Notice the schoolmarm at the door.

 
 
This interesting character was a one-man band entertaining everyone on this side street. Notice the tambourines on his ankles.

 
 
This cypress and cedar frame building is one of the oldest wooden structures in the city.

 
 
We saw many people taking advantage of the Old Town Trolley Tours.

 
 
Others opted for a horse and buggy tour of the city.

 
 
St. George Street ends at the Old Ctiy Gates. These pillars were originally part of the outworks built during the 18th century to strengthen the city's defenses.

 
 
In 1739 a log and earthen gate guarded the north side of the city. Coquina pillars were built in 1808.

 
 
Our last and most impressive stop was the Castillo de San Marcos.

 
 
Construction of this fortress began in 1672 and completed 15 years later.

 
 
Coquina, a natural mix of crushed sea shells (coquinas) and sand was quarried nearby. Coquinas becomes as hard as concrete when dry. Here is an example:

 
 
It displays a spongelike quality that concrete lacks. So effective was its design and construction that the fort was never taken by hostile force in 150 years of warfare.

 
 
We walked around the fort with a self-guided tour map that explained everything about the fort.

 
 
The view from on top of the fort was extraordinary!

 
 
Bob was very helpful in explaining the military strategies using canons and mortars.

 
 
It was well-worth the $6.00 entry fee, especially since I got to have my picture taken with this very accommodating soldier. Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest and largest stone fort in the continental U.S.

 
 
St. Augustine, founded in 1565, was 300 years old by the time the Civil War ended in 1864 and is the oldest European settlement in the U.S. and Canada. Very impressive! I am SO glad we got to spend a day seeing the sights in St. Augustine!! Walking back along the waterfront, we stopped to check out the Santa Maria Restaurant.

 
 
It is built on pilings out over the water. Beside most pf the tables is a trap door which can be opened to "feed the fish" that gather below. Stale bread is provided by the restaurant for this activity.

 
 
We also had to check out the Columbia Restaurant after we heard so much about it. It was beautiful inside and had a decent menu. Prices for dinner were not bad either.

 
 
For dinner tonight, we chose to treat ourselves to some New Orleans fare at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill. Bob had the jambalaya and I had the boubon glazed shrimp. Yum! They have a very nice courtyard dining area and tonight they had live music.

 
 
We stopped to admire the statue of Ponce de Leon in the town circle on the way back. He was a Spanish conquistador who was searching for the Fountain of Youth.

 
 
We relaxed on the boat as it rocked in the slip as the sun set. It remained pretty windy all day, but hopefully things will calm down overnight.

May 12, 2010 - St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, FL

It was a beautiful morning with sunny skies. Temps in the next couple of days should get close to 90 degrees. We sure enjoyed those 80 degree days a lot. The wind was down this morning so that would make getting to the gas dock easier. We planned to go over there at slack tide, so we wouldn't have to deal with that as well as the wind. We fueled up and were on our way by 8:30. We really enjoyed our 2 days in St. Augustine and left a few unexplored places for our next visit. We traversed the treacherous Matanzas Inlet with ease, since we were already familiar with its intricasies. We took a slow ride (9-10 mph) south to Daytona Beach and enjoyed the view. We passed Fort Matanzas which we had missed seeing on the way north. It was once a Spanish outpost and is now a national monument.

 
 
It is near Matanzas Inlet on the north end of Rattlesnake Island. We passed 31 cruising boats going north on our 51.4 mile trip today. Many boats had ports of call up along the east coast of the United States as far north as New Hampshire. There was one from Rotterdam. He wins for the one the farthest away! The ride was pretty uneventful today. We did see a dock that had a toilet seat perched on the end of it.

 
 
As we approached Daytona Beach, we slowed down and created a large wake behind us. Two jet skiers appeared and enjoyed jumping our wake with their jet skies. They were fun to watch.

 
 
We arrived at the Loggerhead Marina in Daytona Beach just before 2:00 and got all settled in. Shortly after we arrived, the Starlight Princess pulled in and docked ahead of us.

 
 
She was an actual working paddlewheel boat back from her daily tour.

 
 
We relaxed a little, checked in at the office, and looked around. They have a nice pool and hot tub.

 
 
On the premises, is the Carribean Jack's Restaurant. It had a cute decor and a great menu.

 
 
As we walked back to the boat, I spied a couple of cute boat names.

 
 
This next one is great if your last name is Rohe.

 
 
Sitting right on the ICW, we had a great view of all the boat traffic and the city. We sat on the back and enjoyed the afternoon.

 
 
Bob needed a bull horn to get the attention of boaters who were not paying attention to the "slow-no-wake" zone in front of the marina. Some of them really rocked us at the dock. We ate dinner on the boat. The wind calmed off as darkness fell and we watched a little TV before going to bed. Tomorrow we plan to walk or take the bus across Main St. Bridge to the beach, Daytona pier, and the boardwalk. It will be a busy day!

May 12, 2010 - Daytona Beach

We got up to a beautiful day. Bob rinsed off the boat from the salt yesterday and we got ready for our bus ride to the beach. We left about 9:30 and got to the main entrance to Daytona Beach.

 
 
Here is where you pay a fee to drive your car up and down the beach. How things have changed!

 
 
The beach was pretty quiet with activity as we walked a short distance to the south.

 
 
We turned around and walked north heading towards the Daytona Beach Pier Restaurant.

 
 
It's in somewhat of a shambles now, but it looks like it is being fixed up. There used to be a chairlift that ran out to the end of the pier from the pictures I've seen, but they are gone now.

 
 
There is a ferris wheel and a boardwalk out to the end of the pier.

 
 
We continued walking north towards all the big name high-rise hotels and the Ocean Walk Shops.

 
 
Nearby was the famous bandshell we heard so much about.

 
 
We walked on the beach along the water. The beach is very wide with hard-packed sand. The packed sand beaches have been famous for years. Daytona's 23 miles of beach were once a proving ground for automobile engines in the early 1900's. Automobile pioneers like Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet found the hard-packed sand, gentle slope, and wide expanse of beach to be the perfect venue for auto racing. The speed that is allowed on the beach is now 10 mph. Automobile racing moved to the Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

 
 
The tide was going out, leaving all kinds of coquina shells stranded on the beach. The water temp was a comfortable 72 degrees and I enjoyed getting my feet wet. There were more people enjoying the beach and swimming in the water on this end of the beach. We spotted a tiki bar along the beach, so we stopped in to check it out.

 
 
It was part of the Regency Hotel and was a cute little place. We lucked out! The tap beers were $1.25 today, so we enjoyed a few in the shade with a cool ocean breeze blowing through.

 
 
We had the bartender, Danielle, all to ourselves for awhile, so we enjoyed sharing traveling stories of far away places with her. When the place started getting busy for lunch, we bid her adios and walked down A1A, stopping in a few shops along the way.

 
 
The streets seemed very quiet, compared to the "spring break" Daytona I'm used to, but Danielle said that the "official tourist season" begins on Memorial Day weekend and goes until Labor Day weekend.

 
 
Why would people come to FL to vacation in the summer? Cheaper prices? Kids are off of school? Got me! We caught the bus and were back on the boat by 1:30. It was a very nice day and a successful adventure. We relaxed in the shade on the back of the boat and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Bob grilled chicken for dinner and we watched some TV. Tomorrow we'll leave early for Titusville to see the Shuttle launch at 2:20. Should be exciting!

May 14, 2010 - Daytona Beach to Titusville, FL

There is a shuttle launch at 2:20 today! We both woke up early today in anticipation of our departure. We prepared the boat and left at 7:45. The day was bright and sunny. Temps were cooler in the 70's with a light breeze, but it felt humid. Today we ran a little faster to be able to get to Titusville in time to anchor and watch the last launch of Atlantic at 2:20. The lighthouse at Ponce Inlet stood tall above the calm seas today.

 
 
We passed 21 large cruising boats going north today, including a houseboat from Canada.

 
 
It turned out to be a little windier than they forecast as we made our way south to Haulover Canal, which is the cut from Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River. As we entered the Haulover Canal, we could see the launch pad in the distance. Three Auxilary Coast Guard boats were patroling the Security Zone to the south.

 
 
There were notices out to mariners on the marine radio from the Coast Guard, reminding boaters where the Security Zone is and fines for entering it without authorization. The canal was busy with fishermen and kayakers. Many had great spots to see the launch. A manatee surfaced (with propeller scars on her back), so we were very careful as we passed through. As we neared Titusville, we could feel our excitement mounting. There were hundreds of cars parked along the causeway from Titusville to Merritt Island (Hwy 402).

 
 
There were people everywhere lining the shores! Boats were anchoring, choosing prime spots to view the launch. We chose an anchorage on the north side of NASA Parkway (Hwy 405), with a clear view of the Assembly Building and the launchpad where the shuttle was sitting.

 
 
Other boats were anchored in this spot with us as well. We followed along on the NASA website blog where they post each step of the final preparation up to the launch. I could hardly contain my excitement, but it was only 1:00 when we dropped the hook. I would have an hour and 20 minutes to wait. Across the ICW on the other shore, there was a Missle Exhibit (listed on the charts) where I saw a shuttle sitting on display there.

 
 
I counted over 50 boats anchored in the same area as we were. It was 1:25 with less than an hour to go and boats were still coming in. We were anchored in the Indian River about 9 miles from the launch pad. There were cumulus clouds in the sky around us, but the weather looked good for the launch. We listened to a radio station that gave us updates on the progress of the launch.

 
 
At exactly 2:20, Atlantis took off with an orange flame, a cloud of white smoke, and a roar of the engines.

 
 
The sound of the engines at liftoff was delayed in its arrival to where we were, but it was spectacular! It only took Atlantis about 30 seconds to disappear from view, but we did see the solid rocket boosters drop off.

 
 
This was the 32nd and last launch of the shuttle Atlantis, since its first launch in 1985. It was amazing--a sight and sound I'll never forget! We were so lucky to be able to be there. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon in our anchorage, watching all the traffic leave on the causeway after the launch. The sun finally went behind the clouds and gave us some relief. The wind kept up until sunset, causing the water to slap against the hull and make lots of noise. Hopefully, the wind will die down tonight and give us some peace and quiet. We had dinner and did some reading before bed. We had traveled a total of 56.7 miles today.

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