FLORIDA!!!! 🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴 🐬🐬🐬🐬🐬 Landed on November 21, 2018

For many boaters, this state line is pretty significant…I know it was for us!  When we think about the miles we have traveled, the obstacles we have overcome, but most importantly, the fun we have had, the wonderful places we have seen and people we have met, this is a destination that we are all super excited to reach. It’s a bit of a carrot., and one that is well deserved! 🥕💕 So, HELLO FLORIDA!!!! 🌴

20181121_092953

We made the short 7.5 mile crossing from Cumberland Island, GA. to Fernandina Beach, FL, on Amelia Island, shooting for Fernandina Harbor Marina, right in town. The marina is closing to undergo much needed upgrades and repairs from recent severe storms, but the mooring field is open and awesome, as is the staff.  While coming into the harbor, we were surprised by the two big industrial plants on either side of the marina and mooring field.  They weren’t noisy, but there are trains along the shore that are pretty active and at times loud, but overall, it was a very restful spot, most especially at the end of the work day.

We dropped the dinghy and went ashore, leaving the dinghy on the docks, filled with pelicans and their friends resting in the sun.

20181121_104140

The town of Fernandina Beach is adorable.  There are a lot of great shops and restaurants, beautiful homes, and a lot of pirates!  We have a running joke with our friend, Ami Wieners, who expressed concern about pirates before we embarked on this journey!  So, these are for you, Ami! Rest assured that we weren’t hurt!

Pirates!  And, Ami, we’re AOK!!

We had a beautiful day exploring this incredible town, wandering its great shops and neighborhoods.  I bought a book in their amazing book store, The Book Loft (total fluff, and pretty bad second installment of the “Crazy Rich Asian” series, “China Rich Girlfriend”…hey, I wanted something mindless!).  This is an adorable small town bookstore, with a super friendly staff.

The Book Loft

We wandered through town before settling on Fernandina Tavern for a yummy lunch outside on their patio.  Great service, fun atmosphere, delicious food! Highly recommend it!

Fernandina Tavern

We continued to meander through town, and made an amazingly decadent stop at Nana Teresa’s Bakery, where everyone was picking up their pies for Thanksgiving, and they looked delicious! Since we didn’t need a big pie for two, or have the space for it, we instead bought cupcakes for Thanksgiving dessert!

Nana Teresa’s Bakery

We enjoyed a peaceful afternoon on the boat, with sunny skies and warm weather.  It was especially cool to HEAR the dolphins breathing in the water as they circled the boat! We have seen plenty of them, but almost always while under way…which means we can’t hear them over the engines.  This was a first, and a real treat to hear them puffing around in the water!

DOLPHINS puffing away!!  Great backdrop for reading and relaxing!

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and rising moon that evening.

Sunrise and moon rise over Fernandina Beach,FL.

Our next stop was St. Augustine, where we stayed for 3 nights. It was a 6 hour run from Fernandina to St, Augustine.  While we had a beautiful morning to depart, we knew that the weather was going to be kicking up, with some wind and chop later in the day, so we needed to get going!

Leaving Fernandina Beach, the St. Augustine Inlet and lighthouse.

We raced to get to the 12:00 pm St. Augustine Bridge of Lions opening to beat the worst of the incoming winds for docking.  According to both Aquamaps and the Waterway Guide, we were told  that The Bridge of Lions opens on the hour and half hour on national holidays, and we arrived on Thanksgiving (a National Holiday).  When we called the bridge (at 11:55 am) to alert them of our approach, we were told that the next opening wouldn’t be until 12:30 pm.  WHAT??  So we bobbed and manuvered for 35 minutes in rising winds to get through the bridge to the St. Augustine City Marina just on the other side.  Sigh.  So close, yet so far!  FYI, we took a walk the next day across the bridge, and asked the bridge tender on duty about that, and he confirmed the information we had from Aquamaps and Waterway Guide was correct, and was surprised we (and others) were forced to wait.  Sounds like someone was cranky about working on Thanksgiving.

Waiting in the wind for the Bridge of Lions to open

We left at 6:40 am, so we had a nice piece of the afternoon to explore downtown once we got settled in at 12:40 pm. We loved St. Augustine, except that it is a super touristy (a bit tacky) town outside of the immediate downtown center. Our advice:  focus your time in the beautiful, historic core of downtown, and stay away from the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”, “Fountain of Youth” and “Alligator Farm” displays.  We wandered a bit of downtown in a drizzle, but it was a short-lived walk due to increasing rain (and flooding).

St. Augustine wanderings before the rain (again!)

At the suggestion of our friends Kathy and Breandon, we took a “Hop on, Hop Off” tour, which is a great way to get a broader view of the city without having to encounter the nonsense other than peripherally. Plus, we learned a few things about the city and were able to see a great deal of the historic area of town  covered from the rain.

Scenes from historic St. Augustine

We also took the trolley across the Bridge of Lions to see the lighthouse, and the beach community of St. Augustine.  We were disappointed in what we saw.  It was filled with run down neighborhoods, lower end hotels and fast food restaurants.  Skip it.

We highly recommend wandering the streets, go in and out of the churches and shops, and enjoy the narrow streets and plazas in the old part of the city.  Oh, and watch out for pirates. Once again, Ami Wieners is right…they ARE everywhere!!

More meanderings in Old Town

The Lightner Museum and Flagler College dominate downtown St. Augustine. Unfortunately, as it was a holiday weekend, and the Flagler College tours were suspended, but you can still wander through the courtyard and lobby area of the main building. Flagler College occupies the buildings and grounds of Henry Flagler’s luxurious Ponce de Leon Hotel, built in 1888.  The small liberal arts college was founded in 1968. Students have their meals in the original 3 1/2 story, oval Dining Hall, which features 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows, and hand-painted murals on both the walls and the ceiling. This is the world’s largest, in-use collection of Tiffany Glass.  The hotel building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Take the time to explore this beautiful building, and look closely at all of the details. I was even amazed with the ladies room, right down to the doorknobs, the moldings and the fireplaces!

20181123_155226View of Flagler College from the Lightner Museums front garden.

Flagler College…Can you imagine going to college here?? Beautiful.

A walk into Flagler

Right across the street is another example of Flagler’s vision…The Lighter Museum.

20181123_15523720181123_15530420181123_15534320181123_15564320181123_15544020181123_155421

20181123_155507

The Lightner Museum

The museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, built in 1888 by Henry Flagler…yes, the same guy!   Today this beautiful building is home to a fine collection of fine and decorative 19th century art.  The hotel was at the height of its popularity during the 1890’s, known for its recreational facilities, having the worlds largest indoor swimming pool at the time, grand ballrooms, sulfur baths, a steam room, massage parlor, gymnasium, bowling alley, archery ranges, tennis courts and a bicycle academy!  Today, the pool is empty, but the lovely Cafe Alcazar serves lunch and dinner in the bottom of the pool.  We had a delicious lunch there!

20181124_11552420181124_11532820181124_115338Cafe Alcazar

20181124_115842Hotel Alcazar Pool around the turn of the century

As has been the norm (unfortunately), we had quite a bit of rain during our stay.  We made the best of it, and got a jump on putting our Christmas tree up! Oh, and the “Grinch That Stole Christmas” was on TV (note lit tree above the Grinch)!

Lots of clouds and rain

We were in St. Augustine for Thanksgiving weekend, which is their busiest weekend of the year, as it’s when they debut their annual Festival of Lights for Christmas, which is magnificent.  We skipped eating out, opting instead for dinners on board, and a roasted Thanksgiving Chicken. Hey…we have a little oven!!

20181122_182915-120181122_191222-1Thanksgiving chicken, and cupcakes from Nana Teresa’s

There was increasing activity in town as the weekend progressed, with the Festival of Lights getting under way.  All of the tour trolleys in town were decked out in lights, too, and blasting Christmas music.  The city looked beautiful, and everyone was getting into the holiday spirit!

We loved the St. Augustine City Marina.  The staff was great, the facilities are clean, the views are amazing and you can’t beat the location.  Just be mindful of the currents getting in and out, especially if it’s windy.

In and around the St. Augustine City Marina

We were amazed with the birds here.  They were everywhere, most especially in the morning!  And, birds in Florida are big, much larger than we see in New Jersey! Many of them are larger than our bicycles!

20181124_19451820181124_195752A beautiful moon for our last night

We left St. Augustine at 10:30 am on the 25th, with cloudy weather and winds out of the north at 10 knots.  Not so pretty, but we trudged on to Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach  for a quick overnight before heading to Cocoa Village, then on to Vero Beach. So long,  St. Augustine, thanks for a wonderful, yet very wet, few days!

Heading south from St. Augustine

Unfortunately, as we were pulling into the slip in Daytona at Halifax Marina at 4 pm, after a 54 mile journey, the port transmission didn’t go into gear while docking.  Not good.  We were very grateful for the helpful hands and advice of several boaters neighboring us, who gave us names of local mechanics to contact.  Ultimately, we were not able to resolve the problem in Daytona, as it was a weekend, so we forged on to Cocoa Village Marina in Cocoa Beach. We’re forever thankful to Aquamaps and Active Captain for keeping us posted on the various hazards ahead.  Check out the sunken sailboat nearly in the boat channel to this bridge!

We pushed to arrive before 5 pm, as the marina shuts down, and the sunset reflecting off the condos and the lights on the buildings make visibility for docking difficult.  We were told emphatically by the staff that they would not dock after 5 pm.  After staying there, we get it.

Cocoa Village Marina at dusk

We didn’t leave Halifax until 10:30 am, as we needed fuel before getting under way.  Cocoa Village is a 67 mile run, so we pushed it, and made it into our slip by 4:30 pm. We were thrilled to make it, and were greeted by the remarkably friendly and helpful dock master Ken London.  Unfortunately, as we were (literally) maneuvering into our slip, the port engine again stopped functioning.  This is the same problem we’ve had (with instant recovery) in Greenport, NY, Daytona, FL, and now, Cocoa Village. Ken was great, and we quickly had the name of a local Cummins engine mechanic to get on board and help us out.  Unfortunately, due to shipping pick up deadlines, we were a bit delayed, and the part (a solenoid) that was to be delivered to us before the weekend didn’t make it.  We were lucky to have great folks on our side, and we got the part on Monday the 3rd, and were able to depart for Vero Beach on the 4th!  Just a few days late! It’s amazing how such a tiny part can have such an impact on the major functioning on the boat.  

20181203_200548

Yes, that tiny little solenoid at bottom right was the culprit!

In the meantime, we enjoyed Cocoa Village!  Great holiday lights were being strung, an art show on the weekend (even if it was just so, so), beautiful sunrises and sunsets, giant birds, dolphins, manatees (on his back in these pics) and gorgeous sunsets, not to mention a lovely, clean marina to hang out in, a beautiful Captains Lounge, friendly boaters and great staff.

Holiday Lights in Cocoa Village

birdCocoa Village Marina…Manatees and big birds!

20181130_063844

The village itself is filled with adorable shops, art galleries, many featuring local artists, and good restaurants.  We enjoyed a couple of casual meals at  Murdock’s Southern Bistro and Pub Americana (great burgers), and heard tell of several other great spots we didn’t have time to check out. Next time!

There are numerous art galleries throughout town featuring local artists.  There are murals on buildings, fun signs and painted benches throughout the village.

Artsy Cocoa Village

The staff at Cocoa Village Marina is remarkable, as are the facilities.  The town of Cocoa Village is small, but great for provisioning and just having fun! There is a Publix and CVS within a short bike ride, and it’s easy and quiet.  We were pooped from our long day, so we wandered into town and grabbed a pizza at Ryan’s Pizza and Pub.  Convenient, reasonable, but just average bar food.

There are lot’s of great spots to check out in town, and we found out about them from speaking with both the staff and boaters at the marina.  Murdock’s Southern Bistro was founded by a group of 3 local school teachers who wanted to change the course of their lives, and now operate this very casual southern pub in what was once Murdock’s Grocery Store, built in the 1940’s.  In designing their space, they incorporated architectural details form historic buildings around town, including doors from the old Brevard Hotel and a back porch made from the bleachers of the old Cocoa High School. And, take a look at their amusing menu. I love the children’s menu section called “tiny humans”! They have live music, an efficient and friendly staff, and yummy food…onion soup grilled cheese (yes, the onions from onion soup on a grilled cheese sandwich!) and pulled pork sandwich.  

Fun dinner at Murdoch’s

We left Cocoa Village Marina at 7:30 am on December 4th. While it was warm (68 degrees), it was overcast with low winds (5 – 10 knots) out of the north.  The ever incredible Ken London called us on the radio as we left port to wish us well. We thought at one point the skies would open, but we only saw a stormy skies in the distance.  And, as usual, we saw numerous abandoned boats, and were chased by the dolphins!

Bye-bye Cocoa, Vero Beach here we come

We arrived at Suntex Marina in Vero Beach at 12:40 pm.  We were only 4 days late..not too bad!  This is a beautiful marina in the Grand Harbor gated golf community.  It’s new and beautifully built and landscaped.  The marina facilities are incredible:  An beautiful pool, clean, new bath and laundry facilities, and a great captains lounge. The location is great, with a new Publix, CVS and Walgreen’s close by, and with a car, the shopping/provisioning options are limitless! While the dock hands are great, the office staff is sadly devoid of any personality.

Suntex Marina at Grand Harbor, Vero Beach

Grand Harbor, Vero Beach

Our “plan” was to keep the boat in Vero Beach through December, while we went to Vermont to visit our sons, Justin and Bryan for Christmas.  Before we left on the 13th, we had a lot of errands to run and Christmas shopping to do, and we had a date for more boat training with Captain Chris Caldwell on December 6th.  We got a lot done, and Nancy was excited (and super nervous!) to get some training on docking the boat. Unfortunately, when we started the engines, Chris was very concerned with the “whining” of our transmission.  So….both before we left and during our visit to Vermont, Rob was on the phone with various mechanics and boat yards, trying to coordinate getting Misty fixed and back in the water as soon as possible, as we had plans to meet our boys in Key West on February 2nd! As all of this unraveled, Captain Chris and his lovely wife, Captain Alyse, made us welcome in their home town, and had us over for a good old fashioned weenie roast and S’Mores for dessert. And they greeted us in Santa hats, and shared one with me.  A perfect evening!

20181210_210149

Rob, Nancy, Chris and Alyse

We loved the Vero Beach area.  The marina was great, the beach is close and beautiful, there are limitless opportunities for shopping and provisioning, and there are some fun things to do.  So before we left for Vermont, and while we waited in limbo for answers about Misty, we enjoyed the area.

Beautiful Vero Beach

To cheer ourselves up, and get in the holiday spirit, we decked out Misty with colorful Christmas lights.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Ho, ho, ho…

We also enjoyed a visit to the McKee Botanical Garden in town.  It’s small, yet lovely, and they were getting ready for Christmas and a J. Seward Johnson show in the gardens too!

McKee Botanical Garden

Next up?  On December 13 we flew up to Vermont to spend 2 weeks with the boys and our pooch Madison.  It was grey, it was cold, but it was Christmas, we were together and we had a wonderful, white Christmas in beautiful Vermont!  The Christmas shenanigans began early, with our fun tree decorating (the boys got the tree, but left it undecorated awaiting our arrival), we took a quick day trip up to Montreal to see her decked out for Christmas, did some final Christmas shopping, cookie making and getting ready for all of our favorite holiday meals:  Christmas Eve is French onion soup and Caesar salad, Christmas Day is Rob’s family sauerbraten recipe with dumplings and red cabbage and apple ginger upside down cake (all delicious, by the way!).  Throw in a few stops at our favorite restaurants in town (The Kitchen Table and Leunigs), and all is good on the food front! And, on Christmas Eve, it snowed!🎄❄️☃️🎁

Ellie and Madison channeling Santa

Tree decorating fun…then exhausted animals! Maddie and Arthur snuggling and snoozing!