East Coast Sailing: Dispatch 20

12/18/12**, Green Cove Springs (back in the water at last):

(**Back to the US date convention, now that we’ve left CR)

Paul spent about two weeks preparing DW for our next voyage: new water tanks, dw 1212anew bottom paint and zincs, plus other minor repairs. I have no doubt whatsoever that regardless of how much Paul has done and what he’s fixed, other stuff will crop up! It’s just the nature of sailing.

Being back in the US has felt very strange. We’ve had a rental car and I understand Paul’s complaints about the roads: wide, good roads with bright striping, but everyone drives so fast on the freeways! We’re so used to driving in CR: there is one stretch on the road we take to Alajuela that’s actually signed for 90 kph (about 55 mph), but that’s only for a few km; for most of the way, it’s 80 kph (50 mph) or less. So 70+ mph feels very fast, indeed.

And the supermarkets! I’d forgotten how big they are and how much variety there is, not to mention all of the out-of-season produce that’s available. One “innovation” we see here in FL is shrink-wrapped vegetables. I thought that maybe it was just at the one supermarket, but, no, we saw it at other chains. Just what I always wanted: shrink-wrapped bok choy! Maybe the shrink-wrapping extends the shelf life, so it makes sense. So used to just seasonal items being available, it was very surprising to see not just carrots and lettuce and cabbages, but … artichokes? green beans? Now where do they come from at this time of year?

JacksonvilleIt was very exciting to see hoisin sauce, which we haven’t seen anywhere in CR, not even at the American-style supermarket, which carries a lot of US products. Will I use it on the boat? Probably not, but again, my mindset really is Costa Rican: better buy it now because next time, the store may not have it in stock….. So of course I bought a jar.

First stop Jacksonville, then we spend about 8 – 10 days heading down the ICW, and then renting a car to visit friends on FL’s Gulf Coast, and waiting for a weather window to cross the approximately 55 nm to Freeport.

 

12/21/12, Palm Coast, FL:ICW

Back to the cruising life: pump your fresh water from the tap with your foot pump, make sure you have plenty of ice for the ice box, and heat the hot water you need for dishes on the two burner propane stove. Given the variable weather, we’ve had to dig out heavy blankets one night when it got down into the 40s, and then threw them off the next night when the low was in the 60s. Paul had to find the foul weather gear he bought for our Alaska trip (back in 2005) because today it was sunny, breezy (around 15 knots), and cold, with highs in the This is Florida???50s. Lows tonight and tomorrow night will be around freezing, so we’ll use the propane heater to stay warm. The heater is tiny, but keeps the cabin toasty. Welcome to subtropical Florida!

As always when cruising, we’ve met some very nice people. It is surprising how generous people are with their knowledge. Paul and I have both asked a number of people about crossing the Gulf Stream and about the Bahamas. Differing opinions about where to go, but everyone is enthusiastic, and everyone talks about the clarity and color of the water.

In the meantime on the home front, our housesitters are settling into our house and getting used to las mascotas. CRD (Costa Rica Dog, AKA Oksana) immediately bonded with the husband, and, in fact, she spent the last night I was there sleeping in their room rather than on her blanket near me, so smitten was she. CRC (our 17-1/2 year old cat Mischa) took longer to adjust to the new people, but evidently is also doing fine. It was very hard for me go on board DW this trip and not have OSC (OSC=Official Ship’s Cat) and OSD waiting. I really miss them, but Paul pointed out that this is much easier for them and for him, as well. He was always the one to row ashore when OSD needed to relieve herself.

The other day when we were tied up in Jacksonville Beach, I watched a great egret pelicanscarefully wading in the shallows, followed by what almost could have been babies, except that they looked very duck-like and colorful: probably harlequin ducks, about half a dozen of them, just waiting for any small fish the egret stirred up, and bringing up the rear was another high-stepping wader, a great blue heron. A short distance away there was a pair of pelicans. Pretty amazing bird life within about 15′! (And it must have been very good fishing.)

12/23/12, Daytona Beach, FL:

The weather has broken and it’s actually pleasant to be outside in the cockpit. Afterfishing along the ICW days of seeing no one other than bundled-up marina staffers, we’re increasingly coming upon men out fishing in the warm sunshine, as well as that peculiarly Southern thing, people lounging in their chairs or leaning over the railing on their private piers. Some of the piers are designed to handle small power boats, but others have no purpose other than as a place for people to take advantage of being on the ICW: long outdoor decks that happen to be over the water. Everyone is friendly, returning our waves as we go by. Calm or light winds, sunny days: it’s all very pleasant and the bitterly cold and windy conditions are past, at least for now.

Lots of wildlife as we travel down the ICW: I stood on the wooden benccormorants, gulls and pelicans...h seat in the cockpit, taking everything in while Paul was driving DW (can’t say “sailing,” when all you’re doing is running the engine and the sail cover hasn’t even been removed from the sail). Not quite warm enough to be sitting at the bow, as when we were in the Great Dismal Swamp, it was still possible to see most of what was passing by. It was a thrill for us to see one or two egrets, those snowy white birds as large as great blue herons, but today we saw them in flocks, congregating along the shore, on sand spits, and on a few low grassy congregating egretsrises. Hundreds of them in one place! We saw pelicans, including one perched rather precariously on an ICW channel markers.

Dolphins surfaced alongside the boat, close enough that it was startling. Paul said that one swam alongside DW for a bit. Used to orcas in the Pacific Northwest, it’s surprising how much smaller these dolphins are, maybe only 6 or 8′. As we crossed Mosquito Lagoon, a very wide, though quite shallow, body of water, we saw four playing a distance in front of us, another small group well behind us, and several near the boat. They didn’t seem to be hunting, just playing in the warm water.

houses on the ICWAs in many of the places we’ve been along the ICW, lots of “McMansions” line the waterway, some quite grand (at least as grand as those we saw in NC and SC). But continuing along the ICW, a short distance beyond, we’d see mobile homes or RV parks, with equally beautiful views of the ICW. And on many stretches, nothing but grasses, palmettos and other trees, or scrubby brush. One of the cruisers I talked to said, “Oh, the ICW is so boring,” having taken it for close to a dozen trips. Maybe after a dozen times, I’d feel the same way, but for now, it’s sheer pleasure.