Rufus Returns! Okefenokee fans will recognize Rufus, that swamp-wise mascot of so many previous expeditions to southern Georgia. Yes, Virginia, they have alligators on Cumberland Island. (For non-fans, we have a more conventional alternative title shot. Or for diehard Rufus fans, try this one.)

December 1, 2006 - St. Augustine
We spent the last night of November anchored with a half dozen other boats at Pine Island, about fifteen miles north of St. Augustine on the ICW, surrounded by an endless expanse of golden marsh. We'd gotten a bit of a late start from Fernandino Beach because I wanted to do some shopping, then made slow progress due to the proximity of the bottom to our keel as we motored south. "Plenty of water!" I had been told, and there was--if you think six or seven feet is plenty. We were, of course, at low tide, so things could only improve. Seeing a catamaran run aground ahead of me was not a good sign, but eventually we reached deeper water. We had talked about stopping at Pablo Creek, not far south of the St. Johns River, but that seemed like too short of a day. Instead, we had too long of a day, with the sun almost beating the anchor down.

Shortly after the sun rose again I could hear the sounds of anchor chains rattling and diesels chugging; by the time I was doing the same around 8:00 AM, everyone else was long gone. The tide rushing south towards St. Augustine gave us a friendly current, so we were anchored just off the fort (Castillo de San Marcos) before 10:00 AM. There is a parade plus a reenactment of the British occupation tomorrow, so we will stick around for a while. Use of the dinghy dock at the municipal marina is $10/day, $50/week, or $150/month, but I think we'll be content with just a day or two (or three or four). I counted about thirty cruising boats here in the anchorage north of the bridge, so we are far from alone.

We were playing a round of miniature golf adjacent to the dinghy dock when we heard a chorus of voices calling, "Laura! It's Laura!" We were happy to see the three girls from the catamaran Spoony, last seen in St. Marys, come running over. Later we encountered Brett, Megan, Finn, and Teague from Grace and soon everyone was off together for ice cream.

Castillo Salty Paws Crew Laura and Friends Night Scene

Photos: (1) The Castillo de San Marcos dates back to 1672. (2) We were greeted on the street by Jim and Bentley from Salty Paws. (3) Laura and friends. (4) Night sweeps through the streets of St. Augustine.

December 2, 2006 - St. Augustine
The day started with an expensive lesson for me as Seaductress tangled with another boat behind us as the wind pushed the boats around at anchor. Windfall, a beautiful (and rare) center cockpit Hinckley, had been anchored there first, so it was our fault, but fortunately there was no damage to their vessel. Their steel bowsprit skidded down one of our solar panels, shattering the protective glass. I'm hoping that we might be able to get a new piece of glass made so that the panel won't be a complete loss. In the meantime, we moved across the river to anchor behind Kairos, far from any other boats but right on the edge of the channel. The irony of the situation is that back in June when we had anchored in just about the same spot, Ron from Drifter had been worried we might swing into him when the tide changed. I can't say I wasn't warned, and it reminds me that a mistake is still a mistake even when you get away it.

With about thirty boats in the north anchorage and over fifty crowded into the south, several folks have had similar problems. What looks like plenty of room between boats is risky here because of the way the wind interacts with the current. The current always controls the direction that the boat points, while the wind still pushes the boat downwind. The exciting times occur when the wind opposes the current but grows fickle, or when the current is weak before changing direction. Boats will suddenly and randomly begin to move about, pointing every which way. One boat may be forward on its anchor while another is pulled back, and they end up on top of one another. Of course, the deeper the water, the more scope everyone will have out, and the worse the problem.

In the afternoon we walked around town a bit more and then played another game of miniature golf. I played the best game of my life with holes in one on the first and second hole, but lost to Laura in the end. I think perhaps having your Mom for a scorekeeper helps. With all the excitement on the boat, we'd missed the big parade that morning, but did get to see the many folks from the British Encampment, which recalls the British occupation of St. Augustine in the 1700's. Later, we were lucky enough to meet Chuck and Allie from Kairos and Jack from Dionysus to take part in the "Grand Illumination of the British Night Watch Parade." We held candles and joined a crowd of people marching behind the Redcoats with their fife and drum corps, making a strangling procession around the square and down St. George Street.

Flagler College Lobby Redcoat Dance Christmas Dogs and Cruising Girls

Photos: (1) Built in 1887, the lobby of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) was worth a visit. (2) Sure enough, the redcoats were in town! (3) I'd never seen dogs wearing shoes before. These pups and their owners were out on St. George Street to greet admirers (including the girls from Spoony and Seaductress) for hours on end.

December 4, 2006 - Daytona Beach
We're anchored just downstream of the Memorial Bridge in Daytona Beach, fifty miles further south down the ICW than we were at 7:30 this morning. Coming north last summer, we bypassed all of east Florida offshore, so all this is new territory to us. Aside from taking four attempts to anchor this evening (good thing we weren't religiously following the "beer method," in which you pause to drink a beer before setting your anchor to give it time to settle), the only unusual event was leaving Annie behind on the dock at St. Augustine marina after we stopped to pump out our holding tank. There was a swift current, and after untying the stern line the boat moved off while Annie was still on the dock untying the bow line. We had to reattach the stern so I could motor forward on it to retrieve our missing crew member.

The big event yesterday (other than doing some laundry) was a birthday party on board Spoony for Lily, one of the three girls on that fine vessel that Laura absolutely loves to visit. When it comes to nautical playgrounds, there may be nothing better than a Fountaine Pijot catamaran. The girls bounced on the trampoline up front, swung across on halyards, and spun around on swings hanging from the bimini arch in the cockpit.

Swinging over the Trampoline Spinning in the Cockpit Birthday!

Photos: (1) Hannah swings across the trampoline! (2) Hannah spins in the cockpit! (3) Hannah and her sisters (plus Laura) at Lily's birthday party! (No, they're not in a fancy restaurant. That's just the huge table inside Spoony.)

Last night, winding down after the party, Okefenokee Rufus and I sat around drinking beer for a while. The result was this Alternative Rufus Title Shot. However, my lawyers now advise that I should completely deny any involvement with this project.

December 5, 2006 - Titusville
We motored another fifty miles down a generally pleasant ICW today to anchor just before the bridge at Titusville. Through the binoculars, we can see the space shuttle on its launch pad several miles away; at night the spotlights hitting the shuttle shoot up into the clouds like there's a county fair going on. Tomorrow we'll dinghy into town to resupply with milk and bread, then try to find the best viewing point that will be tolerable in the northwest winds forecast for Thursday night's launch.

And now it's time to play everyone's favorite game: Where Were You One Year Ago! Well, Bob, according to the cruising log, exactly one year ago the crew of Seaductress were battling their way back up Pensacola Bay in a minor gale after failing to get under an Intracoastal bridge. "Oh," I wrote, "we had some learning to do today." Good to know that even after all those miles under our keel, some things haven't changed. We still have learning to do, every day.

If you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it lately, check out Cows with Guns. Thanks to Bentley from Salty Paws for showing us this link.

December 7, 2006 - Titusville
After a fine day yesterday (watching manatees at Titusville Marina, playing with the boys from Grace at a most excellent playground, eating at Burger King), we are anchored just south of the Titusville bridge next to Dionysus, waiting to see if the sky remains clear enough for the shuttle to launch at 9:30 tonight. We moved through the bridge yesterday and could probably get closer to the launch if we moved further south, but Titusville is such a nice place that we want to stay close. The probability of a launch tonight is somewhere around fifty percent and indeed it seems to be clouding up as the day goes on.

Laura has been keeping a journal, so with her permission we'll quote from it here: "Today I saw some dolphins and manatees. I played on a playground. Then I found a feather. I got an ice cream sandwich."

Watching manatees Rodger at top of mast Manatees

Photos: (1) Annie, Jack from Dionysus, and Laura look at the manatees right below them at Titusville Marina. (2) Some people will go to any extreme to get a better view of the space shuttle (actually, I was changing a light bulb). (3) There were five manatees just a few feet off the dock at the marina, resting quietly in three feet of water.

Today's helpful hint on photographing shuttle launches comes from "If you've decided to use your digital camera to shoot a movie instead of still images, don't turn your camera to a vertical orientation because that mistake will make the launch look like it's going sideways instead of toward space."

December 8, 2006 - Titusville
The night was cloudy and windy. We listened to Fox News on the satellite radio, tuned into local TV. NASA kept us in suspense until the last minute, then scrubbed the launch because of weather. Earlier in the day, we'd been hanging around the playground and I'd gone over to watch a young man named Rob attempt a launch of a different sort, flying a skateboard over a picnic table. His goal was to fly off a ramp, flip the skateboard underneath him while he soared over the table, then land on the board and keep rolling. Not quite as high-tech as NASA, but amazing nonetheless.

Laura writes: "There was going to be a space launch yesterday. But it was too cloudy and it is way too windy today."

skateboard jump post skateboard jump

Photos: (1) Rob makes an attempt. (2) The attempt fails. He kept trying, and was eventually successful. Go, Rob!

CRASH! Seaductress was just hit by a barge! Boy, that was interesting. We were down below at around 10:25 PM when we heard the unmistakable sound of our hull impacting another object. Had we dragged anchor? Was the boat on the rocks? I sprang into the cockpit and saw that we were still in position, not dragging. Then off the stern I spotted a low hulk moving slowly away. With the spotlight we saw what looked like a small unmanned work barge, thirty feet or so long, drifting downwind. Probably by no coincidence, I had seen a barge like that one tied off to the Titusville bridge just upwind of us yesterday. Apparently we were lucky; we seem to have suffered only a glancing blow since I can't even find the point of impact. We reported the accident to the Coast Guard and will have to wait for daylight for a complete damage assessment.

The wind was blowing over twenty knots all day long and at least one boat had dragged in the anchorage to the north. I had been upset because no one in the north anchorage was doing anything to stop the boat from going into the bridge; the wind and waves were pretty fierce at that time but it was daylight and I would hope that if my boat ever drags someone will try to save it. Fortunately, I'm told the boat, a catamaran, hit the causeway near a dock and the people there were able to secure it.

December 9, 2006 - Titusville
Amazingly, there is only a small scrape on our starboard side, looking more like we docked again without fenders instead of being hit by a runaway barge. So far as we know this morning, the barge is still on the loose...the Coast Guard is still listing it in their notices to mariners and I even heard about it on Cruizeheimers (the daily SSB radio net) this morning. I'm glad we're not more famous. Update: the barge was found aground on the shore a mile downwind of us. Fish and Wildlife came out to give us an accident report form and while they were here did a head-discharge test (to make sure our y-valve was locked and we weren't pumping overboard). Ah, well, back to the playground.

Both Laura and Annie said that the shuttle launch tonight was one of the highlights of their cruise. I'm still trying to decide whether they were making a pun or not.

Laura, watching the launch: "It's almost like a comet, heading up into the sky!"

barge shuttle launch

Photos: (1) Fortunately, the barge had an oak timber hung over the bow, which is apparently what struck us a glancing blow. (2) The shuttle launch was spectacular, but it didn't seem quite right to me because we couldn't hear the countdown. [Extra! Secret! For a slightly enhanced version of this picture, click on it.]

December 10, 2006 - Titusville
This morning we came back through the bridge to the marina and refueled (around 16 gallons), then took a slip so we could do our laundry without the saltwater rinse the dinghy ride so often produces. I changed the oil in the engine and transmission as well as one of the fuel filters. Then Laura and I went to the playground for a couple of hours while Mom tidied up the boat.

playground scene Photo: The playground at Titusville is a haven for extreme sport enthusiasts. Here a charter member of Generation W (the forerunners of Generation X) displays excellent style while sliding down a psuedo tree trunk.

December 12, 2006 - Cocoa
Although it happened more than forty years ago, I can still see the white sand in front of our feet as we walked, following the tire tracks of a Jeep. My sister and mother and I were retracing our steps to the spot at Cocoa Beach where we had watched a rocket launch, perhaps one of the Gemini missions. We were looking for lost car keys, but I don't recall whether we ever found them...I just see the soft sand in front of my feet as we walked, eyes bent for any glimpse of silver. Since my father worked for NASA, we came to Cocoa Beach every so often to watch a launch, including Apollo 11 on its way to the moon in 1969. That was the time my father rented us a surfboard, the first and last time I ever stood up and surfed a wave. What a glorious time to be part of NASA, or just to be a kid on a beach in Florida!

I hadn't been back to Cocoa since those glory days, but the town (we're actually in Cocoa proper, at few miles west of Cocoa Beach) is a great stop for cruisers. A large waterfront park includes two playgrounds and a fountain for kids to play in, with restaurants, shops, and the best hardware store on the East Coast nearby. S.F. Travis Hardware has five buildings full of things that cruisers just might need, including a huge selection of nuts and bolts. I was finally able to get a replacement for the bolt that broke months ago on our shaft coupling. Grace is anchored nearby, and we enjoyed some time on the playground with the boys.

Laura writes: "Today I played on a playground. Yesterday I went to a toy store where I found a stuffed cat."

Mural Heron (real) ICW at Cocoa bridge Cocoa Kid's Fountain

Photos: (1) Laura admires a heron in a beautiful mural in Cocoa Village. (2) Laura meets a real heron on the fishing bridge in Cocoa. This fellow was very interested in some people who were catching fish nearby, but seemed puzzled when they kept throwing their catch back. (3) A cruising boat comes through the Cocoa bridge. (4) The fountain here is a smaller version of the one in Chattanooga. Every waterfront (at least those south of 30N) should have a fountain for kids to play in.

December 13, 2006 - Vero Beach
Seven and a half hours of motoring took us fifty miles further south to Vero Beach, where we got a mooring at the city marina. Boats raft up two, three or even four to a mooring here, and we were lucky enough to share one with Grace. Laura had a great time over there playing with the boys and even had dinner there tonight. Meanwhile, we were delighted to have Bob and Sally of Endaxi come over for a visit. We hadn't seen them since George Town, Bahamas. Unfortunately they are leaving tomorrow for Ft. Lauderdale, but we hope to see them again before they head for the Exumas.

Vero Beach looks like a very pleasant and popular place for cruisers, with good facilities and free bus service. We have not met him yet, but there is reportedly a young, gung-ho officer (DNR or fish and wildlife) who has become known as the Dinghy Nazi. Bob and Sally gave me a whistle so I wouldn't get arrested for not having a sound-producing device on board the dinghy.

Coconut Harvest Crew

Photo: Having Bob and Sally from Endaxi aboard really brought back the memories. Here, in a blast from the past, is the award-winning (I won't say what award was won) team from the Coconut Harvest competition during last year's George Town Cruisers Regatta: Sally, Bob, Annie, and the indomitable Doug from Misty Blue.

Next Two Weeks | Previous Two Weeks | Start of Log

Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.