November 2010 - Rockville, SC, - Fernandina Beach, FL, - Jacksonville, FL, - St. John's River Cruise, FL, - Palm Coast - New Smyrna Beach - Merritt Island - Stuart

November 2010                                                                            #27
                                      Bender Cruising Chronicles

Bright and early on the first day of this month we were ready for the Rockville Marine crew to take us out of the water for a short haul to clean and inspect the hull and repack stuffing boxes. After some touch-up bottom paint we were back in the water and on our way south.
Kindred Spirit's Hull Getting a Breath of Fresh Air
We've had outstanding weather for cruising with cloudless and azure skies paired with imperturbable winds and seas. It's been so amusing to see dolphins again - I've missed those sweet mammals! As if in a Welcome Back greeting, on our first day south 2 gargantuan dolphins, 1 on each side just beneath the bow, swam with us for 1/2 hour or more and it was as if they were pulling us along. We took full advantage and drafted behind them as we were charmed by their antics. At day's end as we were anchoring, 8 to 10 of their kin were swimming in circles off our stern. A bit later as we kicked back in our chairs to relax and enjoy the close of another day, 2 dolphins swam very near to us and each with a solo performance, saluted us with a complete and arching jump out of the water. We and we interpreted those "signs" to be the consummate reception for being southward bound!

Results of depending on electronic charting
The above pictured cruiser blew past us in an anchorage and no-wake zone and continued to pass, on plane, sailboats and anyone else in his path. Could this be "pay-back" as well as an example of the fact that high tech can't replace eyeballs, paper charts and common sense on the waterway.

Because of a predicted electrical storm, instead of anchoring as we'd planned, we tucked into Fernandina Marina for 2 nights. Bob and Helen aboard Allez were also there and we had a delightful evening catching up on our lives since our last visit. We especially enjoyed hearing about the wedding of Jonathon, their son.

Strolling the streets of this little town was more delightful than I remember it. Maybe it's because we saw so many boarded up store fronts and poverty as a result of the waning economy on Maryland's eastern shore. Fernandina has some fascinating little shops as well as excellent restaurants. For our afternoon caffeine shot, we went into a coffee shop and immediately struck up a lengthy conversation with a gentleman from Crete who has spent his life sailing the 7 seas. Chatting with him was absolutely intriguing. We so often say that the best part of this lifestyle is the people we meet!

In Jacksonville we joined the trawler group, MTOA First Coast Cruisers 10 day St. John's River Cruise.

Jacksonville, FL

This river is 150 miles long and one of a small number of North American rivers that flows north! The weather was perfect. Very calm winds, Carolina blue skies, shorts and tee shirt temps enhanced the extraordinary beauty of this river.
Jacksonville Fire Boat
We enjoyed our stay at the Jacksonville's Metropolitan Marina, flanked by the water taxi "depot" on one side and an expansive and well manicured park on the other. Jacksonville Landing was a quick walk away as was Winn-Dixie. Our cruise kick-off dinner was at the Chart House, built in the early '60's, and is a restaurant of interestingly unique architectural design. This restaurant sits on the south bank of the St. John's River which offered a panoramic view of Jacksonville's skyline.

Rescue Drill

We continued south and into Six Mile Creek to tie to a 1500' dock belonging to the Outback Crab Shack for a dock gathering which preceeded samplings of the restaurant's menu.

Some of our St. John's River Cruise Fleet
Six Mile Creek's Outback Crab Shack
Farther up river is Hontoon State Park. The park is a fascinating, undeveloped island, with 2 large mounds of snail shells left more than 3 centuries ago by the Timucutan Indians. There are ample trails and paths for running and walking. I put my iPod away in deference to the sounds of nature. The only euphony was the sound of my feet on the packed sand, the serenade of birds, and snapping of dead limbs as the forest's inhabitants scurried about their woodland duties. There were neither cans nor Styrofoam but shame on the smoker who flicked a butt on the trail because that was the only visible remnant of current civilization.

We took our dink to the Blue Spring aquifer with 72 degree water making it a sanctuary where manatees winter. 112 million gallons of crystal clear water gushes from this natural spring every day. There are numerous species of fish whose colors are enhanced by the refraction of the sun through the lucid water and off the white sand bottom.

Blue Spring Manatees
 The little town of Sanford that has weathered disease, a fire, a toranado, and a smattering of hurricanes, continues to sit atop the southern banks of Lake Monroe. This was our turn-around point. The afternoon was beautiful for strolling this well-kept little town. When you're in Sanford, put The Willow Tree on your restaurants-to-visit list. Despite the name, this is a German restaurant extroidinaire complete with live German music and a waiting line a mile long. This is definitely a jumpin' happnin' place.

The St. Johns, a lazy river flowing at 0.2 knots, induces relaxation. No need to be in a hurry here because of the gators, manatees, and crooks and turns of the river that keep cruising at a snail's pace. The moss-bearded cypress trees bow low over the tannin-stained waters reflecting their images skyward. This has got to be nature at her best!

Epping Forest Yacht Club
Jacksonville, FL
Our end-of-cruise celebration was an enchanting evening spent at Jacksonville's Epping Forest Yacht Club. Built in 1920, this was the luxurious riverfront mansion of industrialist Alfred I. duPont and was considered one of America's finest estates. It has evolved over the years into one of the most exquisite yacht clubs in the South and it retains its original charm. Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, Epping Forest Yacht Club now offers a traditional elegance reminiscent of times gone by, while offering the modern conveniences of today. It is meticulous and the dining room offers an unforgettable view of the English Gardens and St. Johns River. The Fitness Center has 6 pools so you know I was in my element!!! We can't adequately thank our hosts, Barb and Bill for making this respite possible.

             View from dining room of English gardens and St. John's River

Back in Jacksonville for a bit where we cycled through Avondale, Riverside, and San Marco -- relishing every thing we saw as each area presents a different flavor of the city.

Continuing south we spent several nights with Barry and Barb at their Palm Coast dock. We were saddened by the death of Barry's mom during our visit necessitating a trip for them to Miami. One evening at a ristorante Italiano in the European Village, we side-stepped (once again!) healthy eating and had a gastronomic repast in the company of the Slatterys, Lowes, and Roberts. The evening was culminated with John and Mary in their new and extraordinary home equipped with the touch of a button to accomplish any comfort need that you might have. Barb, Barry, Bill, and I were also the guests of the Slatterys for a pasta dinner at their yacht club. Any wonder why we waddle!!?? To atone for our irresponsible eating habits we cycled a bit less than 40 miles scoping out this area as a possibility for living on land, if that necessity ever presents itself---heaven forbid! We met a very interesting couple who invited us into their home---after chatting with them for 5 minutes. I'm telling ya, we have the most fun meeting a schmoozing with total strangers---and with many we stay in touch.

Last time we cruised through New Smyrna Beach, we didn't get to see our sailing buds, Cozette and John--they were busy being new grandparents so we were eagerly looking forward to a visit with them. They were waiting at the dock when we arrived, gave us their car for provisioning, had happy hour ready for us upon our return, and we saved a bit of room for dinner at a favorite seafood restaurant of theirs. We've known them such a sort time but it never feels that we're new friends. We always enjoy their company. Bill and I celebrated my birthday in a rather eccentric manner but it was fun and we do enjoy the "unusual".  God gave me an beautiful birthday present!  As we were underway that day, there were 7 dolphins swimming just beneath our bow and we were flanked by 5-6 each side.  They gifted us with their performance for 20-30 minutes!  I grinned for the rest of the day.

Next was our much anticipated visit with Bobbi Huck in Merritt Island. Again, she gave us a vehicle to do running around beyond the distance and safety of our Bike Friday's. The 3 of us have a fave Tex-Mex restaurant there so we spent our Thanksgiving Eve with our faces in the chip basket. Kelly, her Jacksonville daughter, was visiting for the holiday weekend.  We enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast at Eau Gallie Yacht Club that was fit for a gastronome. We love Bobbi and cherish the time we were able to spend with her.

By-passing Vero Beach where there were 2-3 boats to a mooring ball was not a cause for anguish. When we had small cruisers we didn't relish rafting and we've not had a change in attitude. Sunset Bay, Stuart, is quite full but each has her own mooring. Would you believe Mexican again! Sailing friends, Kate and Steve and Wayne and Linda, whom we've known for several years and from 2 different cities are here so we had to descend on the local Tex-Mex and continue our study of who has the best chips and salsa. Jury's still out. Our first full day was another day of cycling and refreshing our memoires of this town. We're looking forward to getting together with a long-time friend from Charleston's marina, David, who lives aboard in Stuart.

Our plans are cast in Jello so no telling when we'll leave our mooring here but when we do, we're going through the Okeechobee and on to Ft. Meyers on the west coast. Stay tuned.

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III
Sunset Harbor Marina
Stuart, FL


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