Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Florida and North

After leaving Old Port Cove, we arrived safely and soundly in Fort Pierce, Florida. Ft. Pierce has a nice marina that is cheaper than Old Port Cove by about $23 per day. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but hey, $23 here and $23 there and after 43 or so days, you have a BU. Okay, so we only spent six days there, and didn’t quite make a whole BU; it is the principle of the thing. While at Ft. Pierce Ann walked around quite a bit, we Ubered to Publix and West Marine, I sanded the aft railing on the boat, and we got re-acquainted with our friends Scott and Teri Miller aboard their huge 58’ Kadey-Krogen named … what else? … Miller Time.

The real news from Fort Pierce, though, is that our friends Dave and Joan drove all the way from northern Virginia to bring back our cat. YES, SPOT IS WITH US ONCE AGAIN!!! As I am certain Ann will tell you below, Spot fit right back into her first home. After a quick “sniff over,” she approved Traveling Soul for cat habitation and settled right back into her regular sleeping habits. In addition, Dave and Joan are joining us for a couple of weeks during our trip up the Intracoastal. So, with four humans and a cat, we had a pretty full boat when we left Fort Pierce the morning of the 9th. Our destination was the Space Coast of Florida – specifically Cape Canaveral.
We had, of course, passed what Floridians call the “Space Coast” many times. And while we had visited Cocoa and Cocoa Beach, we had never taken the extra time and effort to cross the Indian and Banana Rivers to get to the area around Cape Canaveral itself. This time we did. To get to our marina we had to locate and traverse the Canaveral Barge Canal which has two bridges and one lock. I think the lock raised us a total of about one foot each way, so it was not a very big deal. The marina where we stayed, the Ocean Club Marina at Cape Canaveral, was pretty nice; it had a swimming pool that Joan checked out, clean restrooms, good showers and very nice docks.

Ann's photo of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket.
Appreciating the marina, however, was not why we were there. What we really wanted to do was get to the Kennedy Space Center. We took Uber (a cruiser’s best friend) and paid less than half of what a taxi would have cost. It took us about 20 minutes and cost about $30 for the four of us (Spot did not want to go; she wanted to sleep instead.)  Now for those of you who have not been to the Space Center, I can only describe it as Disney-like. After paying a healthy sum up front ($57 for seniors), you can attend several different Imax theaters where you can see a number of alternative three dimensional movies. You can also take a bus tour of the Cape Canaveral Space facility where you can visit various launch pads (including “39A” from which nearly all Apollo Missions were launched), see and receive information on different kinds of spacecraft and rockets, see the original “Mission Control” from the old days and enjoy number of other exhibits – some fascinating, some interesting and some ho-hum. In short, I would probably recommend it to just about anyone for different reasons. Kids will enjoy the 3-D movies, some of the simulations that are available and a number of different kids’ exhibits. We seniors will get more of a kick out of seeing in person what we had previously seen on TV and usually in the company of Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

While at Canaveral, we got lucky. The night we were there, there was a launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. It was cool having seen the rocket on the launch pad earlier in the day and being able to watch it take off and disappear on its way into space. I have kind of “before” and “after” pictures.
The Bridge of Lions at St. Augustine.
After leaving the marina and anchoring one night where we ate some luscious steaks cooked on the grill by yours truly, we were off to what is undoubtedly our favorite location in Florida, Saint Augustine. There, we took Dave and Joan to the restaurant that serves what is probably the best fish and chips in the country – the Prince of Wales. The following night we tried to go to Harry’s, our favorite Cajun restaurant in Saint Augustine, but even on a Monday night it was too crowded; the waiting time was 45 minutes. Instead, we went to the Tini Martini Bar, then to Aviles, the restaurant attached to the Hilton. The martinis were, of course delicious, but the meal was only okay and for the price should have been better. In fact, Ann’s was cooked so poorly that she had to send it back. I don’t think we will be returning. For future reference, I think the only way to get into Harry’s without waiting forever is to go to the Tini Martini Bar (our favorite place for a drink before dinner) at 4:30. That should put us at Harry’s by about 5:15. I am guessing that by going that early, we should be able to get a table.
Other than go to restaurants, we went to Starbucks each morning while in Saint Augustine, went to the market street a couple of times and visited the Spanish Military Medical Museum – a fascinating experience for anyone interested in either the military or medicine. In addition, Ann, Dave, Joan and Teri Miller (from Miller Time) went on a tour of Flagler College while I vegged out on the boat. 
We left St. Augustine on April 16th. About ten miles north of the city we saw three individual Customs and Border Control boats checking on local fishermen. Okay, now think about this. I understand that our president is concerned about the security of our border with Mexico, but at least eighteen border control officers, three machine guns and several hundred thousand dollars in equipment are currently massed protecting America’s border with … uh … no one along the ICW north of Saint Augustine. Maybe they were trying to keep the Georgian Rednecks from fishing in Florida’s waters, or maybe some Cubans were trying a strategic envelopment along the coast.  Otherwise, I am confused. 
Since we had spent three days on a mooring in St. Augustine and a day before that on the hook in the Indian River, we needed to fill up our water tanks, so we headed to Beach Marina just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Now most every cruiser knows that the water throughout the marina is very shallow. We were kicking up a lot of mud in our slip on the outside of the T-dock. But what most people don’t realize is that the individual piers do not have any rubber or plastic trimming. That means that when your boat ribs against the pier, it is aluminum on fiberglass – a battle that the boat is sure to lose. Sure enough we had two long scars on the side of the boat. (Yes, I know we should have had a fender down there. We did, but our fender got squeezed out of the space between the boat and the pier.) Dave and I managed to clean the black mark off, but the scar will probably remain until we get a god waxing.
One of the still-standing slave cabins at Kingsley Plantation
After Beach Marina, we cruised only about 13 miles to Fort George and the Kingsley Plantation. It is a very small anchorage just outside a National Park Service facility based around the Kinglsey Plantation just outside Jacksonville, FL. We had visited twice before and thought Dave and Joan would enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, one of the things that had made the trip so informative was the use of the “Audio Tour” capability that the NPS had maintained – until recently. For technical reasons (read budgetary reasons) the audio tour is no longer available. Since so much of the facility was based on the audio tour, it was kind of a letdown from previous visits.

Our initial intention had been to cruise from Ft. George to Cumberland Island where we would anchor for a couple of nights, then travel to Jekyll – which is just  few miles down the waterway – and finally to Brunswick, GA where Dave and Joan would leave us. However, because a front was coming in and Gale Force winds were expected, we decided to reverse the order of our Cumberland and Jekyll visits. In other words, we would go to Jekyll first so we could enjoy the relative protection of a marina, then we would backtrack a few miles so we could anchor at Cumberland in better weather. 
Spot back on board and in one of her favorite haunts.
Ann’s Notes: Our sweet little feline is back!!! Thank you Dave and Joan for taking such good care of her when she got so sick. She has been eating like a little oinker; put it in her food bowl and she goes right to town eating. Like Michael said, she adjusted to the boat in just a matter of a few hours. It is wonderful to have that sweet feline spirit back on board.
The time has really flown by with Dave and Joan on board. We all had a great time together. We went back to some of our favorite locations and experienced a few new ones.

I really enjoyed the Kennedy Space center, I remember watching all the space launches and splash downs with my dad. He was a real fan of NASA. It just really brought back so many fond memories.  My dad would be just amazed on how different space exploration has become. When the SpaceX was already in orbit, the two fuel  rockets  were returned to earth on two different landing pads, and will be used again for another launch, the sonic boom told us that the they had returned to earth. No more parachutes and splashdowns.

I know Michael wants to get this blog out so I am going to keep it short.

We are slowly making our way home, we have more friends to visit on the way. We should be back in Solomons, MD by the end of May.
We will keep you posted..
Traveling Soul…OUT

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Bimini and Home

The infinity pool at the Bimini Sands Marina. Absolutely beautiful.
If you will recall we were having problems getting Bimini Sands Marina to respond to our phone calls (their number was out of service), to our e-mails or to any other form of communication. Although we had made back up reservations at a less desirable marina, we really wanted to stay at Bimini Sands. Our plan was to leave Chubb Cay early in the morning, arrive at the marina at 1500 or so, take on fuel and ask if they had an extra slip that we could have. Surely they would respond to face-to-face communications. Okay, I won’t keep you waiting other than to say, don’t you love it when a plan comes together? We arrived at the marina at 1515, took on fuel and moved right into our slip. The cost was a buck a foot (the last one of those we will see for a while), but we had to pay $30 per day for electricity regardless of how much we used. That is a little high, but not out of line with other marinas in the area. So what did we do? We pulled into our slip and promptly turned on the air conditioning. This is the first time we had the AC on since we have been in the Bahamas. Did we really need it? Well it was a little warm and there was very little breeze, but we certainly could have survived without it. However, we were paying plenty for electricity, dadgummit, so we decided to treat our selves.

Bimini consists of two islands, North Bimini and South Bimini. South Bimini has an airport and several smaller resorts (including Bimini Sands a Resort and Marina). North Bimini has Alice Town, Bailey Town and Resorts World International – a Hilton property. Resorts World is very pricey and, according to the reviews we read, not a very nice place. Alice Town is home to most of the other marinas in the area and is crowded, not very pleasant aesthetically, not a secure place to leave your boat, and has drivers who drive down the only road on the island like a bat out of hell. Our marina in Bimini Sands addressed all those issues and was well-protected from any weather that might come around and had two really great pools – one was an infinity pool! Moreover, you could take your dinghy or a taxi-ferry combination to North Bimini if you wanted.

We took the taxi-ferry combo and, for the first time in the Bahamas, the taxi and ferry drivers tried to cheat us! The taxi driver told me to pay him for both the ferry ride and the taxi ride. It sounded kind of odd, but I did it anyway. Then, when we got off the ferry, the ferry pilot wanted another $3 for the ferry ride. Rather than argue, I just paid it; it was only a couple of bucks after all. The same thing happened coming back. This time, however, I started to raise some questions when the ferry driver wanted me to pay for the ferry and the taxi up-front. When I explained what happened to us when we came over the first time, the ferry driver said, “Oh you must have taken the wrong ferry.” I pointed out that could have been the case, but there was only one blue ferry – which the taxi driver had told us to ride. He immediately backed off and said he could explain things. He didn’t and in the event he decided I didn’t have to pay him after all.

While in South Bimini I walked the beach that was just around the corner from the marina. Man, that was a hard beach to walk! Usually, I can find some hard sand near the water’s edge. On this beach, however, all the sand was soft and mushy. It was almost like quick sand. I made it about half way down the beach, but finally had to turn back.

As I mentioned we took the taxi/ferry into Alice Town. As you probably remember I am a big Hemingway fan – that is why my writing style is so close to his. In fact, some say I am a better Hemingway than Hemingway. I’m just sayin’. It is true that I haven’t won the Nobel YET. I will. I am certain. Probably after the Pulitzer for Poetry (see my previous two blog entries). I say this because Earnest and I have kind of the same philosophy of writing.  When once asked about writing, he replied, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Actually, I usually reverse that process. I often bleed from working on boat projects, then sit down at the typewriter while waiting for the bleeding to stop.  

Ann, in front of the ruins of the Compleat Angler
At any rate, since we were in Bimini, we had to see the Complete Angler which is the hotel where he stayed while in the islands fishing. It was here that he was inspired to write The Old Man and the Sea and, of course, Islands in the Stream. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the hotel because it burned down in 2006. We could and did see the dock where he kept his boat Pilar back in the day. In fact, the last time we were here we stayed there.

We were also going to eat lunch on North Bimini. The ferry driver told us the best Bahamian food was at Sherry’s, a shack on Radio Beach. Great, I thought, our last lunch in the Bahamas will be real Bahamian fare. As it should be. We went to Sherry’s about 11:45. There were two guys at the bar in various stages of inebriation, and one Bahamian woman who was chatting up the guys and nursing a beer. Unfortunately the grill itself wasn’t opened. We asked when it would be, we got some hems and some haws and the lady said Sherry usually opens at about 12:00. Ok, we can wait. We decided to stroll around Bimini for a little longer and came back forty-five minutes later. Still no Sherry. The men suggested we go down to the next shack on the beach, which was CD’s, CJ’s, CQ’s or something like that. We walked down and, while I really like Bahamian food, and I understand that Bahamian food shacks aren’t always the cleanest and most sanitary places around, there was no way I was going to eat at C-somebody’s. We ended up going to Sharkey’s, an outdoor bar and grill on the marina side of the island. Ann and I shared a grilled lobster and we each had a Kalik. Although it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, it was pretty darn good.

It is 94 miles from Bimini to Lake Worth, where we reentered the good ol’ USA. For most of the trip we were headed NNE and took advantage of the Gulf Stream. It pushed us forward at 2-2.5 MPH faster than we would have been going. At about 3:00 we entered Lake Worth and by 4:00 we were anchored and trying to tell ICE that we were back in the country. In years past, all we needed to do was make a phone call, answer a few questions and voila, we were legal.  This year, not so fast, they wanted us to use their new easy-to-use App!. Ann spent about an hour on the phone getting acquainted with ICE’s interpretation of “easy-to-use” and becoming increasingly frustrated. Eventually she threw up her hands and was willing to throw her phone overboard and turn us into fugitives for the rest of our lives. I can see it now: Traveling Soul hitting its top speed of 10MPH and a high speed ICE boat with well armed men in black uniforms chasing us.

Well, instead we waited until the next day and, after fiddling with it for over an hour, completed the form on the App. It sends video of us to the Customs Officer, but get this, he comes in all dark on our phone so we can’t see his face. It was kind of like an anonymous source testifying in court, or perhaps even more appropriately described as the mysterious cigarette-smoking guy on the X-files. The more I think about it, though, the more I understand. If I had any affiliation with an App as terrible as this one was, I wouldn’t want anyone to know my identity either!

After what will hitherto be known as the “App episode,” we anchored for a night at Lake Worth, then, the following day, went to our designated slip at Old Port Cove Mariana. We rested there for a couple of days, then headed out to Arizona.

My mother hasn’t been in particularly good health, so we decided we would go visit her as soon as we came back from the Bahamas, which coincided with the time my sister was going to be there.  I am not going to go into any detail concerning her health, other than to say that Mom looks and sounds like she is improving. Nevertheless, we all agreed that it would be good for her to move somewhere so she can be closer to family. Since my mother is not an eastern girl, and won’t even think of coming to Maryland, that means she is going to go to Louisville, Colorado (near Boulder) to be closer to my sister and her family. It looks like she is going to move in late May, so we can take maximum advantage of her Long Term Care Insurance.

When we got back from Arizona, we spent a night or two at Old Port Cove, then headed north about 50 miles to Fort Pierce’s Municipal Marina. And here we sit. Dave and Joan Wolf are due in today with Spot, our cat. The five of us will leave tomorrow morning on our way north. We ain’t going too fast as I don’t want to outrun the warm weather.

Our last sunset in the Bahamas.
Ann’s Notes. I am so happy to be back in the United States, it is hard to believe that less than 100 miles off the coast line of Florida you can be in a third world country. Bimini, at one time, I am sure, was a beautiful island. Now cars, plastic bottles and pollution has really made the island sad to visit. I just feel badly when I walk in the town that all I see is trash and pot holes. The people are friendly, and how they even afford the basic essentials of living, I can’t figure out. The cost of food alone is high, they grow very little of their own food and have no farm land. Everything is imported from the states and then taxed upon entry to the Bahamas. I feel even the oceans around them are going to fail them soon.

Ok…on to happier thoughts

Remember to count your blessing when you are in the grocery store, the shelves are full, fresh produce is available and affordable.

Spot was been with Dave and Joan for 81 days, loving and excellent care, I will admit. However she is coming back to us TODAY!!!. I am more than excited. I have to keep reminding myself that she will more than likely have mixed loyalties when she arrives. We need to give her time to readjust to Michael and me. Having Dave and Joan travel with us for several weeks will make that transition for Spot easier.  I need to give her time and space to do that, that is what I keep telling myself.

We have some new travel intentions on our trip north on the ICW. It is always fun to explore new places.

We will keep you posted on our stateside adventures..

Traveling Soul OUT..