After our adventure being grounded (as live streamed) we were able to anchor a few hundred yards from the docks at the Plum Orchard location on Cumberland Island. We had been to Cumberland Island in November via ferry, but at the south end. We took the dinghy to shore and walked around the old mansion that is there. Due to the government shutdown we were not able to take a tour of the inside. The two volunteers that normally give the tours were even there, but rules are rules! We saw an armadillo in the yard of the house and Louise really wanted to chase it. Back at the boat we decided to take the dinghy to St. Mary's which was about 12 miles away. So about 30 minutes later (everyone loved the long high-speed cruise!) we arrived there. The city dock is damaged from a past hurricane so we docked at the restaurant/marina. It was $12 to dock there for the day or we could become restaurant customers, so we had a couple beers and an appetizer. Then we walked around the town, revisiting the sights (this is where the ferry had left from, back when we still lived in the camper).
As we returned home and approached the boat we saw a young couple on shore. We said hi and proceeded to unload stuff from the dinghy. They were still standing there within shouting distance so eventually we started talking to them and invited them over for drinks. Aaron picked them up in the dinghy from the dock and back at the boat we talked for a couple hours. They (Austin and Leigh) had just sold a sailboat that he had lived on for a year or two in Charleston, SC and they were now living in an RV. They had kayaked a few miles over to the island because the government shutdown precluded their ferry ride to the campsite that they had reserved. We had much in common, same sailing channels on YouTube that we follow, etc. They were also on the way to St. Augustine so we promised to reach out when we got there.
On the morning of January 26th we left for Jacksonville. The route took us past a nuclear submarine base. We didn't see any traversing the channel but Aaron imagines that he saw the conning towers of a couple through open hangar doors. For an hour it was warm enough to do some sun tanning so we shed a few layers. Then a chilly breeze returned. We made it to a free dock in Jacksonville just before sundown. They had water there (no electricity) so we filled the tank and then washed down the boat and dinghy. The next day was rainy (also Aaron's birthday) so we just stayed at the dock. It was pretty cold too, so we just huddled inside and read. It was a very cold night, especially with the humidity.
On the 28th we headed to St. Augustine. We planned to spend three nights there, and seeing that the forecast for all of those nights was about 40 degrees, we decided to stay at the Municipal Marina. We took on fuel at the face dock there and then they directed us around to a slip--first time navigating in amongst docks and into a slip rather than just staying on the long and straight face dock. That evening we walked around the historic touristy downtown area. Lavender ice cream is delicious!
The next day Aaron's great-aunt and uncle (Sandy and Lon Drevecky from Minot, who are also former neighbors/friends of Anna's grandparents) took us to Lowe's to get some parts to make another attempt at fixing water heater leaks. It was connected with PVC fittings which were getting stretched out when exposed to the high heat (it is heated by electric like a normal heater and also by engine coolant. After extended motoring the water could possibly approach 180-200 degrees which is much higher than normal water systems). Aaron also wanted to add a tempering valve which when required mixes cold water in with the output of the water heater, to prevent 180 degree water from going to a faucet and burning someone. Lowe's didn't have that in stock so Amazon was nice enough to deliver one to the marina office the next day. We also stocked up on groceries. Then we stopped by the winery and took the tour, including some excellent wine samples. We had a round of drinks at Scarlett O'Hara's where Anna loved the Gone with the Wind memorabilia, then some Mexican food back in the modern part of town.
On the 29th we toured the main building of Flagler College, formerly known as the Ponce de Leon Hotel for wealthy people to stay at. The architecture was amazing. In one room they had 11 Tiffany chandeliers made of Austrian crystal (only 11 were ever made). Tiffany stained glass was also found throughout the building (largest private in-use collection in the world where the pieces are in their original places). Now it serves as dorms and dining hall for the students. When it was a hotel, guests had to pay for the entire prime season of 3.5 months no matter how long they stayed. They usually paid in cash--roughly $250,000 in todays dollars. Then back to the boat for lunch. It was cold and windy so we putzed around the boat. Then we went to happy hour at a place which offered two beers and a slice of cheese pizza for the price of one beer, where we met up with Austin and Leigh for the evening.
January 31st saw us headed south again, but not very far. About 15 miles south of St. Augustine in Palm Coast is where Sandy and Lon rent a condo for a few months per year. We anchored near the dock that their condo association provides on the Intracoastal Waterway. There weren't known anchorages nearby and we wanted to be close so we just anchored off to the side of the channel. If the wind/current were unfriendly they pushed us towards the channel itself so we probably got a few sour looks from passing boaters but most of the time we nicely walked the line between shore and channel. That evening their friend Dennis Wolsky from Minot came over to visit. We had looked at his for sale Tashiba 36 sailboat on Lake Sakakawea about 9 months ago, which included a couple hour sail. He didn't mind that we didn't take his boat, but he was ticked off that we were able to take this year-long adventure like he always wanted to! We hung out at the condo and grilled some chicken for supper. We also stored all of our freezer stuff in their freezer so that we could defrost ours.
The next day we did some laundry at their condo and Anna baked some cookies. Aaron walked on the beach and found a shark tooth (one of Sandy's favorite past-times). We grilled again for supper. After eating, Sandy and Lon went to a friends condo to watch their granddaughter play in a hockey game that was being live streamed from N.D. and we went to relax in the hot tub.
February 2nd we left Palm Coat with Sandy and Lon on board. They had arranged for a friend to pick them up at a dock on the waterfront about 10 miles south. The whole way there was crazy waterfront houses and boats to look at. We had some appetizers and such at the restaurant with their friends and then headed south about 30 more miles to the Daytona Beach area.
The next day we had a delayed start due to fog. We would have left around 9:00am but it didn't clear up until about 11:00am. Even with the late start we made it to our planned anchorage in Titusville. This is the main town near Cape Canaveral. It was overcast and hazy for most of the day so we couldn't see any of the huge buildings and launch pad infrastructure until the next morning. We anchored sort of near a restaurant that was playing the Super Bowl really loud so could hear a few things. Aaron also streamed it on his phone--we have much greater technology accessibility than cruisers did even a few years ago!
February 4th we did our longest day yet of 55 miles to anchor a few miles north of Vero Beach. We had picked a spot to anchor but it wasn't very good…very wavy. So we continued south towards an anchorage near the bridge in Wabasso that seemed OK but we weren't really excited about that either. Then about 2 miles from Wabasso we were travelling past a bunch of spoil islands (where they dump the dirt/shells from dredging out the ICW) and saw a pretty sheltered spot that seemed to have good 8-foot depth according to the chart. So we slowed down, did a circle through the area to verify depth, and ended our journey there. Our second time inventing a new spot to anchor! We took Louise over to one of the spoil islands to do her business (green outdoor carpet training on the boat has not gone well and Aaron likes dinghy rides anyways) with some drinks (our first real sun-downers) and were swiftly driven away by mosquitos. We had some really good pasta and red sauce for supper.
Today we were planning to go to Port St. Lucie and spend about three days there working on some projects. But by the time we felt like going it was about 11:00 so we decided to spend the day here. Also we read in the guidebook that this area is the last place to expect to be secluded as it becomes much more densely populated further south, so why not spend another day. We did work on a few projects. There are some 400 pound test monofilament lines that keep our sail stacked nicely on top of the boom and only one of those was still in place so we got that mostly fixed up (needs a little adjustment when it is more calm). And we got the lines put in the rest of our fenders. Dolphins were frequently nearby throughout the day, and Louise even got excited enough to bark at a couple and ask Aaron to take her out in the dinghy to say hi. Didn't happen though! We grilled pork chops for supper.
We still plan to spend a couple days in Port St. Lucie and then one day further south is Lake Worth from which we plan to leave for the Bahamas. Our friend Walter in Hollywood (near Miami) will probably come visit us there, and we have maybe a week's worth of preparations before the crossing. And then probably one or two weeks of waiting for good weather.
Oh yeah, we did have the jib (front sail) out for quite a bit for the last couple days of travel. It allows us to shave a few hundred RPM off the engine speed or gain a half knot of water speed. The ICW down here is mostly 5-10 mile straight sections so fairly easy to have a sail up.
The weather down here is finally warm so we don't shiver all night! And the sun feels soooo powerful!