Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Cruising North From Manatee Pocket

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005  Manatee Pocket to Vero Beach
(38.6 miles)
Today both of our computers conspired against us. Their impact wasn't quite as disturbing to our peaceful voyage as the  efforts of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they did have strong emotional impact.
First, the anti-virus program on our non-navigation computer expired.  Of course it had been warning us of its impending expiration for over a month, but we kept putting off dealing with it.  So, today it expired, and we decided to just go ahead and renew it before we left.  How difficult could it be?
How many times do we have to learn this lesson?
Over an hour later, after the computer took interminably long downloading the updated program, it stopped in the middle of installing the downloaded information, and we couldn't get it to contiinue.  After deciding we were hopelessly over our heads, we decided to try to call tech support later, and turned the computer off.  Unfortunately, we couldn't turn off our frustrated and negative feelings so easily.  Once again, we vowed never to start a computer project when we had time constraints of any sort looming.
Off the dock at a most tardy 9:50, we were on our way north to Vero Beach.  Our frustrations were easing away under the influence of sunshine and balmy breezes when, less than an hour into our trip, the chart plotting screen on our navigation computer froze.  None of Dick's efforts to reset and check wires could correct the problem, so he disconnected our boat GPS and attached our back-up handheld GPS unit to the computer, and were good to go.  Losing the computer navigation in this spot posed no danger--it's well-marked, and until recently we had navigated the ICW without a chart plotter.  It was just the principle of the thing that bothered us.  What if it went out in a spot where we really needed it?
Once again we were irritated, and once again we couldn't sustain those negative feelings too long in the face of a beautiful day and cavorting dolphins.

Starsong in the mooring field

We arrived at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina at 2:20, and had our first experience catching a mooring ball.  We lost the boat hook on our first try, but caught the ball on our second try, and met our neighbor on the next ball, when he zipped over in his dinghy, retrieved our boat hook, and told us our ball was missing a hanging rope pendant, which would have made our job easier.   "Raise hell at the office," he said, twice.
We didn't want to waste any negative energy raising hell at the office.  We had bigger fish to fry.  Dick called tech support for our anti-virus program, and spent two hours on the phone working under their direction to get the program we managed to download this morning installed and operating.
We decided to reward ourselves with a walk over to The Lobster Shanty, a restaurant highly recommended by Dad and June.  We could see the restaurant from our boat, just the other side of the highway bridge, but because of the way the roads go, it is a 45 minute walk.  One the way over, we ran into the broker who sold us our boat--her office is right next door to the marina.  She offered us a ride over the bridge, and dropped us off just ten minutes away from the restaurant. After dinner, we really needed the full walk to counteract the effects of two baskets of hushpuppies and generous quantities of butter used in broiling our entrees. 
March 16, 2005  Vero Beach 
Happy Half and Half Day
Every morning we have a ritual of listening to the weather radio as soon as we wake up. Today, we learned that the sun rose at 6:30 and would set at 6:31, making it almost perfectly half daylight and half darkness.  Happy half and half day--from here on our days will have more bright than dark.  Hurray!
We also learned that tomorrow would be stormy, keeping us an extra day in Vero Beach.  Today was our chance to walk into town and enjoy the beach and interesting shops.

Double-parked at the dinghy dock

The marina has 57 mooring balls, most with two boats sharing a ball.  Last time we passed through, some of the balls even held three boats rafted together. With that many moored boats, the dinghy dock is always crowded this time of year, and rules require you to leave slack line at least equal to the length of your dinghy when you tie up, to facilitate double and triple parking.  We double parked our dinghy, and had a pleasant, but humid stroll into town. 
We lunched at The Lemon Tree, a favorite lunch spot we found during our boat hunting trip to Vero Beach last year. Their lobster bisque is some of  the best we have had anywhere, and the complimentary tangy lemon sorbet they serve in a martini glass with a demitasse spoon as they bring you your bill is a perfect finishing touch.
We browsed a shop or two together, then Dick found a spot on a bench to read the New York Times, and turned me loose to try on some resort wear.  After much looking about, I found a pair of periwinkle pedal pushers (I guess they call them capris now) that fit my exacting standards of bargain pricing and easy care.
By the time we walked back to the boat in the middle of  the afternoon, the temperature was in the mid-80s and the humidity was 93%.  It was pretty sticky walking.
When we arrived yesterday, we saw a Grand Banks Motor Yacht like ours just a couple mooring balls away.  The owners, Dick and Barbara Seed, stopped to greet us as they were taking their dinghy to the dock, but they couldn't talk long, because they had to catch a bus.  We did learn that their hull number is 959, and ours is 963, meaning that Starsong was made just four boats later than their boat.  They have the same dinghy davits as we do, and Dick Seed installed them himself, just like Dick Glover. We had to get to know these people better! 
When we got back from our walk to town, Dick dinghyed over to see if they wanted to join us for happy hour.  They did, and we had a pleasant time in the building breeze on the flybridge, comparing notes on our boats, and getting all sorts of useful tips about anchorages and marinas of note as we travel north. 
The Seeds have a home on a river just off the Chesapeake Bay, and their dock has space and power for extra boats.  They invited us to come stay there when we are in the neighborhood, and we hope to take them up on their offer as our Great Loop Route takes us to the Chesapeake.
Thursday, March 17, 2005 
A Rainy St. Patrick's Day in Vero Beach
The rain we had on St. Patrick's Day in Vero Beach would do Ireland proud.  The rain lasted all day and into the evening, sometimes letting up a bit, but never stopping.  Every once in a while we would see a bit of lightning followed by far off thunder, but mostly, it just rained.  And rained.  By day's end, the total would be 2 1/4 inches.
What do we do when it rains?  Head for the nearest museum.  In this case, the nearest museum was the Vero Beach Museum of Art, featuring an exhibit of Mongolian Art. Neither one of us had any idea what Mongolian art might look like, and only a vague idea of where Mongolia was, so a trip to the Museum was definitely in order.
When  we began preparations for our departure, we realized that we had no idea where our foul weather pants were.  After nearly an hour of looking in every nook and cranny of the boat, covering some spots three times, we gave up.  It's pretty amazing that we have gone this long without needing foul weather pants.  It is also pretty amazing that we could be missing such an important part of our boating wardrobe.
Nonetheless, we donned our foul weather jackets and some quick-dry pants, grabbed an umbrella, got in the dinghy, and headed for shore.  The museum was about a quarter mile walk, and by the time we got there, we were soaked below the thighs.  Fortunately, the museum wasn't overly air conditioned, and we dried out comfortably as we wandered through the special exhibit.
We learned that Mongolia is sandwiched between China and Russia, and has a history of strife.  Most of the exhibit was religious art saved from the three Buddhist Monasteries in the region that survived, out of 700 in existence when the Soviets set out to destroy them just before the mid-twentieth century. Seeing what was saved made us yearn for what was lost, and wonder how any civilization could systematically set out to destroy art and try to extinguish spiritual values.  We felt the same way when we visited China, and saw the slim pickings in their art museums after  the Cultural Revolution.
After seeing the Mongolian art, we took a quick pass through the two other galleries of this small museum.  After determining that the permanent collection is mostly contemporary art, we decided not to try to use this visit to educate ourselves to appreciate it.
Probably the most amazing thing we saw today was not art, but nature.  The resurrection ferns growing on trees around here looked brown, shriveled, and near death yesterday.  With today's rain, true to their name, they were lush and green.
After our art museum experience, we took a free bus from the Marina to Publix, and reprovisioned.  Although the bus makes many stops and anyone can ride, it seemed that most people using the bus were from the Marina. So the conversation was nautical and lively.  We ended up meeting friends of friends yet again.  In the world of boating we are all connected, but it still never fails to be a source of wonder when we find connections where we least expect them.
Friday, March 18, 2005  Vero Beach to Titusville
(74.5 miles)
The deciding factor for our departure time from Vero Beach was the Titusville swing bridge schedule.  The bridge will not open between 3:15 and 4:30 pm.  Based on how long it took us to get between Vero Beach and Titusville when we came from the north, we decided we had to leave Vero Beach by 6:30 to beat the 3:15 curfew.  Otherwise, we might as well leave around 7:30, and just count on getting to the bridge after  4:30.
We were off the ball and on our way at 7:20, and ended up making such good time that we had to slow down and lollygag around starting after noon, so that we wouldn't get to the bridge before 4:30.  We were through the bridge at 4:35 and at the marina by 4:45. Before we even got to our dock, we saw Barbara Hewton, a friend from our time at the Fort Myers Marina, waving and shouting greetings to us. 
Dick backed us into the tightest slip we have been in yet like a pro.  We had about six inches to spare between the boat and the pilings of the dock when we were all tucked in.   As we were putting the finishing touches on our docking lines, Barbara walked by, and invited us to join her and Norm for happy hour.  We joined them and their Canadian  friends, Gil and Maureen, aboard Beta Omega, the Hewtons'  comfortable  homey Hatteras 42.
After happy hour we decided to order pizza.  When Norm determined that it would take Papa John's 45 minutes to deliver to us, we just braved the cold and walked five minutes to their shop, ordered the pizzas, waited 10 minutes, and carried them back to Starsong, where we continued our convivial evening with Norm and Barbara. We learned from them that 9 pm is boaters' midnight -- they left after midnight.

Saturday, March 19, 2005  Titusville to Daytona Beach
(45.3 miles)
Part I:  Dick has a bracing swim
We were off the dock at 8:15, about 20 minutes after Beta Omega.   The sky was clear, the sun was bright, a light breeze blew, and it was a perfect day to cruise, as long as we kept our jackets on. The temperature was a chilly 50 degrees, but destined to climb as the day wore on.
Less than an hour after we began, Dick noticed we were going more slowly than we should at our current engine rpms.  It seemed as though we had some engine vibration, too. Thinking we were probably dragging something, Dick reversed and went forward several times, and turned us this way and that, with no effect. He isolated the problem to the port engine, and headed down to the engine room to investigate.  Nothing amiss there.
Dick picked up the radio and called an expert--Norm--for a consultation on next steps.  After he got Norm's advice, the captain of Wooden Nickle, who had been listening in on the discussion, called with a couple helpful suggestions.
Dick ended up deciding to get out of the channel, anchor and jump in with a diving mask to get a look at the running gear and propellers.  We had this vague memory of hearing water temperature readings of 70 degrees during our morning weather radio reports.  Dick donned his bathing suit and mask and eased himself into the water off the swim platform.   The water was, in Dick's word,  "bracing." He made multiple dives, but could find nothing amiss.
He got back on the boat, took a hot shower on deck, and changed back into warm clothes.  He tentatively started the engines, and they ran fine.  Whatever had been causing our problems was gone now. 
After the excitement was over, I took our heat sensing gun and aimed it at the water.  It read 56.5 degrees.  Not quite 70.  Definitely bracing. We'll have to listen to the Weather Radio water temperature report more closely tomorrow to find out where the water is 70 -- in hindsight we are thinking maybe that's the jet stream effect on ocean beach surf. 

Part II: The Day of the Dolphins
Less than an hour after we pulled anchor from Dick's swimming hole, two dolphins came to play beside our boat.  They swam in our side wake, just slightly below the surface, popping up to surf the wave a while, before diving down to ride inside the wave again.  They stayed with us at least five minutes, long enough for me to go below, get our non-digital camera, and take some pictures. Unfortunately, there were only a half dozen picures left on the roll, so I missed some great photo opps.  On the other hand, being eye-to-eye with dolphins just a few feet away beats watching them through the camera lens.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light

We had great bird sightings, too, as we cruised through Mosquito Lagoon and the marsh-lined Indian River. We are noticing the drab winter plumage of many birds is starting to brighten up as spring comes.  Many laughing gulls have their distinct black hood, replacing a dirty white winter head. The intricate black and white netting pattern is appearing on the backs of the loons, replacing drab chocolate brown feathers they wear in winter.
We had beautiful views of the Ponce de Leon Inlet light on this clear day.
We arrived in Daytona Beach just a little after 3 pm, leaving us plenty of time to explore around Halifax Harbour Marina.  We determined that a West Marine store and a half dozen geocaches lay within walking distance of our boat, and we set out to find them.  We think we were in the historic downtown district at one point, but, with the exception of one fine dining restaurant and a very interesting and eclectic bookstore with so many books that they overflowed in boxes in the aisles, not much was happening on the main street.