Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Page 2 Cocoa and points south
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Friday, January 18, 2007
New Smyrna Beach to Cocoa anchorage
51.5 miles
We began the day with a big $2.99 breakfast at a local hang-out restaurant in New Smyrna Beach.  Great food, endless coffee refills and local flavor -- if only they sold the New York Times it would have been our version of the perfect restaurant.
We were on our way under sunny skies by 9 am.  Soon we were pulling off our sweatshirts, rolling up our plastic wind curtains, changing into shorts, and enjoying a day about as opposite to yesterday as a day could be.
Our cruising route took us through Mosquito Lagoon and along the Indian River, some of the best areas for birding from the boat of our entire trip.  Because the channel is narrow and runs through shallow water with lots of sandbars, and sandy shores, there are lots of wading birds and shorebirds near enough to the boat to see them with binoculars while moving.  While Dick kept his eye on the channel markers, I was in birding heaven, sighting a couple dozen brilliantly pink roseate spoonbills, over a hundred radiantly white pelicans (among their more mundane brown brethren), marbled godwits, black skimmers, oystercatchers, reddish egrets dancing for their dinner, lots and lots of loons, and many more ducks, egrets, herons and other birds that love the water as much as we do.
We saw plenty of dolphins, including one that swam in our wake while playing with a shiny little fish --  he took the fish in his mouth, spit it out, and then caught it again while rolling on his side or back.  I watched him repeat this game of fetch three times before he swam out of sight.
We also spotted at least four or five manatees munching on what looked like an aquatic salad bar.
It was a glorious cruising day. 
We dropped anchor in Cocoa a little before 3 pm.  About a half hour later, Canadian Loopers we met in New Smyrna Beach set anchor nearby.  We radioed to see if they wanted to hitch a ride into town with us, and we all piled into our dinghy to see the sights.   We wandered through the quaint downtown district, window shopping and scoping out the options for dinner and ice cream.  We found a bar restaurant with happy hour drink prices and good food where we had a merry time drinking, eating and getting to know each other.   We wondered about the name of their boat, Grania, and learned that they named her for an Irish lady pirate. So, technically speaking, they are piloting a pirate ship.
There was a festival with live music in the waterfront park that night, and we slowed to listen a bit to the blues band, and to watch a face painter at work, but it was getting chilly, and we hadn't brought enough layers to be warm without the sun.  Not a problem, though --we could hear the music from our boat as we rocked at anchor.  
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Cocoa to Vero
53.0 miles
As we cruised the Indian River today, we passed two points of special interest.
The first was a tiny island, just two acres in area.  There are so many islands along the river, many of them much bigger, that we could easily have passed it by without noticing it or appreciating its significance, were it not for our cruising guide, which pointed out that Pelican Island was  our country's first national wildlife refuge.
Back around the turn of the last century, the island was the only brown pelican rookery on Florida's east coast (which is hard to believe, given the prevalence of brown pelican rookeries today).  Pelicans were scarce then, because people hunted them for sport and for their plumes.  It was great fun for folks on yachts passing the island to take a few shots at the pelicans.
A local resident, Paul Kroegel, petitioned to Teddy Roosevelt to take action to preserve the pelicans, and the President made the island our first national wildlife refuge, and Kroegel became our country's first national wildlife warden, earning a dollar a month for his labors. 
The other area of special interest to us was a small town called Wabasso, on the river's eastern shore.  Wabasso is Ossabaw spelled backwards, and Ossabaw is the island just south of the island where we live in Georgia.  The story goes that settlers from Ossabaw Island moved to Florida in 1898 and named their new home by spelling their old home backwards.
Another perfect cruising day came to an end as we  turned into the Vero mooring field and  hooked up to our mooring ball with just one easy pass.  We dinghyed to the mooring dock, walked to Vero Beach, where we had an Abbott's Frozen Custard (a beach treat originated in Gayl's hometown of Rochester, New York) and walked the beach.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Vero to Peck Lake Anchorage
40 miles
When we untethered ourselves from our mooring ball at 8:30 a.m., the temperature had already reached 71 beneath a cloudless sky, so we slathered on the sunscreen and covered our arms with long-sleeved shirts, Dick donned his super coverage hat that leaves slightly more of his face exposed than a burkha, and he put clip-on sunglasses over his dark prescription lenses.  Fully protected, we were ready to face the day.
We had plenty of company on the water this sunny Sunday.  Kayakers paddled along the shoreline, windsurfers boldly zipped across the channel as we prayed they would not wipe out in our path, fishing boats staked out their spots oblivious to whether they were in the channel, and all manner of power craft from jet skis to luxury yachts wove around each other more courteously than we have come to expect in Florida waters.
We anchored in Peck Lake, a wide spot in the ICW between the mainland and Jupiter Island.  The lake and seashore are part of Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.  When we arrived at 1:30, there were about twenty boats at anchor and half a dozen more pulled up on the sandy shore of the narrow spit of land separating the lake from the ocean.  We couldn't see the ocean, but we could hear the surf breaking.
It took us about thirty seconds to go by dinghy from our boat to the shore, and another thirty seconds to walk a sea grape-lined path from the dinghy to the beach.  We could see high rise condos far to the north, and nothing but golden sand and turquoise water to the south. 
We walked the beach for an hour or so, careful not to step on the man-o-war jellyfish and other perilous debris washed up on the sand.  We were surprised -- appalled, really -- at how much plastic debris littered the shore, and were sorry we hadn't brought trash bags with us.  Truth be told, even if we had both filled a trash bag, our efforts would hardly make a dent in the trash.  From afar, the beach looked pristine and wild, but up close we clearly hadn't escaped civilization.  We have walked many a deserted beach in our time afloat, but this one had by far the most flotsam.  We wondered from whence the dirty currents flowed, and bemoaned the indestructibility of plastic, but otherwise really enjoyed our day at the beach.
Monday, January 22-Thursday, January 25
Palm Beach
We docked our boat at the Palm Beach Yacht Center early Monday afternoon, and only used it as a place to sleep for the next several days, as we enjoyed a relaxing visit with dad and June in South Palm Beach. 
We had breakfast at our one of our favorite restaurants out on the Lake Worth Beach Pier, watching the old folks with their metal detectors combing the sand for treasure and the young folks playing in the surf.  We had lunch on the big patio of a festive restaurant overlooking the ICW next to the Delray Bridge, the first of fifteen bridges we will have to ask to open for us on the day we leave here.  We made a Cincinnati Chili dinner for dad and June.  But, our most memorable meal was probably the $5 spaghetti and meatball dinner (with $1 wine) we enjoyed at the North Palm Beach Moose Lodge.  We were the guests of dad's cousin-in-law Jane Ward. 
After hearing dad speak fondly over the years of his now deceased cousin Dave and his wife, we were glad to get a chance to meet Jane.  She is a woman who puts the "viva" in vivacious, and she thoroughly charmed us.  We sat at a table with a bunch of Jane's friends, and one told a story about her that we thought was quite unique.  Some of Jane's friends maneuvered themselves to make an empty seat for Jane at the Moose Club bar next to a widower they thought she should get to know.  In the car on the way home, Jane told her friend that she and the man had something in common.  Delighted, her friend asked Jane what it was.  Jane replied, "He has his wife's ashes in her favorite pan in the kitchen, and I have Dave's ashes in . . . "  I didn't actually hear where, because everyone at the table was laughing so hard by this time that the speaker was inaudible.
We made a visit to Wakodahatchee, a preserve developed in the settling ponds of a water treatment plant.  It is one of our favorite birding spots, because a network of catwalks criss-crosses the ponds, and the water birds seem to pay little heed to people looking down at them from above.  Consequently, we are able to get much closer to them than we normally can.  The weather was overcast and a bit blustery, so we didn't get great photographs, as we usually do when we visit, but we had great views of many birds.  The herons are starting to get their fancy breeding plumage, and the anhingas are developing the appearance of exotic turquoise make-up around their eyes.  As always, we were entranced by our time spent close to the birds here.
We also had a great time playing Rummikub with dad and June almost every night.  We joked that we were getting June in training for the daily Rummikub games she enjoys poolside at the condo.  We knew when she roundly trounced us in our final game that our mission here was complete.

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