Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Old Bahamas Bay Abaco's Bahamas

So much has happened since I last wrote, we woke up Christmas morning, watched an amazing sunrise, checked the wind and decided it would be a perfect sail along the Florida Coast to Ponce de Leon, and it was. That night we enjoyed a restful sleep at anchor, and that day we traveled the intracoastal waterway to Cocoa Beach. When we awoke the next morning, we checked the weather, then listened to our weather guru, the opportunity for a crossing to the Bahamas was imminent so we were off and we never looked back. The trick was for us to get as far south in Florida as possible so that we could sail safely to West End Bahamas before the following night fall. We headed to Fort Pearce, slipped out into the Atlantic, sailed the coast to St Lucie River Inlet Florida, at 01:00 am we changed course for West End Grand Bahamas. At 16:00 On the advice of Cloud Nine, we slipped into Old Bahama Bay resort cleared customs, enjoyed docking for a dollar a foot, met old and new friends, and had a fantastic New Years. 

Staying in the resort was cheaper because the facilities were not 100 percent in the wake of hurricane Matthew. Not having dockside electricity and hot water in the shower house was not a major inconvenience, water was free and abundant, usually a scarce commodity in the Bahamas, the docks perfect, the resort beautiful. 

The Cement Post Were The Footings, Used After the Last Hurricane.  The 10' to 12' Surge Moved The House 30' to 40' Feet

I had so many reservations about returning after the hurricane, thinking of going back to Mexico but as beau told me “No, no, no we need tourism, we need to rebuild, take pictures, visit, drink some rum.  

The Front Was Totally Ripped Off The Bakery 

So, though we enjoyed the comfort of the resort, it was sad to see the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Grand Bahama Island, and specifically the West End, was hit particularly hard as the storm passed directly over the region.  The local community suffered complete destruction and countless homes were lost due to the high winds and extensive flooding.  Thankfully, there were no deaths reported. An extensive clean-up is underway and the relief efforts are expected to take many months.

The Mind Does Many Things At Two Am When The Winds Blowing

The mind does many things at two am when the winds blowing and a stormy, unpredictable night blankets the boat. The night sounds keep creeping in, a hinge of a door not closed tight, keeps squeaking a reminder, the wind is humming through the lashing on a fuel can, a bottle of wine is tapping the side of another, the one I earlier forgot to put away properly, monotonous sounds that at home would drive you crazy, sounds here that can comfort or do the same. I can hear the winds howling through the rigging, a light tap as the wiring moves in the mast. The boat swings 350 degrees, 010 degrees and tugs on the anchor just enough to keep you aware that at the end of that chain the anchor is your savior. The boat is constantly moving. In the dark, It always seems more ominous to me, even though the winds are beating at the same steady 22 to 30 knots and gusting high 30’s that they were at four O clock this afternoon. I wish I could describe the sound, the feeling, how fascinated I am and at the same time so respectfully fearful. 

So what is there to do at two am when you can’t sleep, but listen to the wind, keep vigil and think, and  thinking that can be a dangerous thing. I listened to the news with terror the other morning as a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport. My heart would always be sad, I would always have lifted a little prayer, but this was worse, one of my dearest friends was vacationing in Florida and I wasn’t sure where she was. Was she on her way home?  Where was she was flying out of? It made me think of how big this world is and yet how small. Having limited communication in a world, where in most cases you can be connected 24/7 can be a difficult norm. In a blow, in the night, even more so. 

I was thinking if we weren’t so connected, so global, so transient,  I wouldn’t know Sue from small town New Liskeard Northern Ontario. Right now I would know Mrs. Brown up island, dat way, with da three mangy kids. You know the one by the settlement, her oldest Billy likes to laugh and laugh, silly boy, ya know but just being near him makes you want to laugh right along and that husband hers, the lazy no good he likes the rum, it’s a miracle they got any thing to eat ya know tisk, tisk, tisk. But I don’t know Mrs Brown, I just hope to.  I know Sue, my friend 2312 Kms, just a crows flight away and am thankful for a 01:30 text durning a Northerly blow to tell me all is well and  she’s sending hugs. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What Can I Say About St Augustine Florida Other Than It Is The Most Touristy Of Touristy Stops, But They Do Touristy Insanely Well

On the 21 December the weather was chilly, there no way we were making it far enough south for a crossing to the Bahamas, so we decided to spend Christmas exploring St Augustine. We have had brief visits before, a night in the mooring field, meeting friends at A1A1 micro brewery, exploring the sailors exchange or west marine, but this time we decided to be tourists. 
St Augustine has a festival of lights that runs from Nov 19 to Jan 3, they hang over three million lights, so if all you wanted to do was sit on a balcony at the pub or stroll and enjoy the lights its pretty spectacular.  They have an abundance of trolly trains shuttling the hoards of tourist around, all singing different off key Christmas songs, it cant help but make you smile and cant help but get you into the Christmas spirit. 

There is just so much to see and do I just wanted to tell you about three stops we made

Because of the generosity of boater friends we got hooked onto the pirate series Black Sail a fictional pirate adventure about the Golden Age of pirates and the survival of New Providence. Island -- a debauched paradise teeming with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers. So I cover my head at the violence and leaning in closer every time Long John Silver hits the screen, I am hooked. So hitting up the St Augustine Pirate & Treasure museum was a must. It was exceptionally well done and though there was nothing linking the Bahamas reading about Calico Jack, Anne Bonnie, Long,  John Silver was a hoot. 

Secondly, we visited the Government House Museum Dugout Canoe exhibit. #1 it was free, every sailors dream, but it was also interesting. In 2000 there was a drought causing Newnans Lake near Gainesville Florida to drop. A science teacher was out with his class when they came upon 101 prehistoric canoes which had been hidden for centuries.  Before the drought ended and the rising lake waters covered the canoes again it was revealed that the canoes aged from 500 to 5000 years old. Happily, there was also a Canadian link to the Haida people and their  seaman ship connection and famous big red cedar canoes. 

Lastly we explored Flagler College or the Ponce de Leon Hotel built in 1885 by Henry M Flagler a millionaire developer. It is said that his first wife was sick and on the advice of doctors they should winter south, so the Flagler’s did, but sadly his wife passed. Henry was hooked on the area and became a key figure in the development of the Florida east coast.   

Interesting fact: When electricity was first installed at the Ponce de Leon by Thomas Edison Henry’s buddy, Flagler had to hire staff to turn the lights on and off because  the guest were afraid to touch the switches.

As a closing note we enjoyed our time in St Augustine very much, the mooring balls were solid, the marina facilities were clean, and theres a great Wednesday night gathering at Anna O Malley's but, we pulled anchor early on Christmas morning, no water stagnates under this captains keel

Told Ya, It Was Touristy

Thursday, December 29, 2016

I’m not going to bore you with the whole story but interest you with the juicy bits

We woke this morning before the sun came up to geese honking and herons squawking, I was pretty excited. We are anchored on Broward Creek just west of the ICW, about four miles north of Sisters Creek. I love it here, this beautiful salt marsh area is so full of life. When the six foot tide recedes it leaves large stinky areas of exposed muck with more water life that I cant begin to imagine and greenery that becomes a complete breakfast table for the pelicans, terns, cranes, herons, egrets, cormorants, and ducks that inhabit the area. Coffee in hand we watch the sun come up. 

Our mission for today was to visit the Kingsley plantation, located on Fort George Island a quick dingy ride from our anchorage. We weren’t disappointed, both Marc and I thought it was one of the most interesting tours we have ever taken. We used the GPS guided system that talked you in the historic voices of those that lived there, through the 15 points of interest. Word of warning though, you needed patience it was long and detailed.  

 OK, so I’m not going to bore you with the whole story but interest you with the juicy bits:

In 1814 Zephaniah Kingsley, his wife and three children bought this plantation, accessible only by boat, to produce prized sea island cotton.
Zephaniah Kingsley’s wife Anna was a slave from Senegal West Africa that he had purchased in 1806 in Havana Cuba at the age of 13. Zephaniah freed Anna in 1811 were she was able to have her own plantation and slaves also becoming her husbands business partner.   
Under Spanish control Florida had fairly radical liberal ideas for the era, there were three levels of society; whites, freed Blacks, and slaves. Slaves worked under the task system, a task was a specific amount of work expected daily, such as house work, carpentry or in the fields and when their task was completed the remainder of their day was theirs to tend to their own families needs such as gardening or making money through their skills, enabling them to buy their freedom. 
Now they don’t say that Zephaniah never beat a slave, but it is implied that he and Anna believed in reaping the benefits of hope rather than the whip, after all Anna, a black woman was a slave master. Oh and another juicy tidbit Zephaniah was a palligamist, Anna was the first of four sister wives.  

Added benefits of the stop Peacocks wandering the plantation and my heart just about  stopped from excitement when we spotted  an armadillo

And as if our day hadn’t been perfect enough, we were eating dinner in the cock pit when three dolphins swam beside the boat. I think of dolphins as special good luck, and this trip seems to be filled with lots of luck

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Other than Marc and I being completely thrilled that we are off the dock, in the warmth, sailing south for the winter, I was thinking, what could I possibly have to blog about? Then we arrived in Jacksonville Landing, again…

Though Jacksonville Landing is only 24-25 miles north of Green Coves Springs, it is a really nice way to start our trip south, often when we talk to other cruisers and ask if they stop, they say they bypass Jacksonville Landing. For the life of me, I don’t know why. It is an awesome over night stop to start your journey.  When we were here on the 28 Dec 2014 we tied to the wall just south of the landing, enjoyed the view, people watched, ran the Jacksonville bridge, enjoyed a free concert, drank a cold margarita. This year though, Hurricane Mathew has damaged the docks making over nighting directly at the festival type landing a no go. Thankfully the public docking north of the Fuller Warren Bridge was empty. Jacksonville Landing has a lovely walkway that runs along the river, so we walked from the bridge to the landing to enjoy the tall, beautiful 50+ foot Christmas tree that dominates the square and responds to the tempo of the Christmas music being played. Other than the spiritual significance of Christmas, I don’t feel very Christmasy down here without family, snow, and constant carols in stores. But this one night, filled with music, people dancing, little girls playing, is as close as I can get to home. 

Morning Fuller Warren Bridge

The walk back to the boat was a different walk, than the walk to the landing. The shiny buildings were dark and the homeless were huddled on benches and tucked under bushes as out of sight as much as possible. Guiltily,I felt nervous, but I shouldn’t have, they were just looking for a warm place to sleep. We had an uneventful night, other than a gentleman standing on the dock, grading our boat, who shared with his female friend much to my captains ire, that size matters.  When we woke the next morning the fog was thick and ominous, but as it cleared that same walk way was filled with hundreds of runners and walkers and just south of us under the bridge was a fantastic market with potters, fresh veggies, baking and crafts. The market didn’t open until ten, but we poked around for an hour before it opened and came away with fresh tomatoes, grapefruit and cinnamon buns.


Thinking of Susie, meet the gentle potter
He uses natural elements such as leaves and incorporates  them into his work

Same stop, same time of year, one mile difference in docking made two completely different experiences.  

Fun Jacksonville fact:  In the early 1900’s Jacksonville boasted mild temperatures, low cost labour, and easy rail access to become the “ Winter Film Capital of the World” with more than 30 studios. In the 1920’s, local politicians forced the studios to go elsewhere, and Hollywood was born.    

#guidovanhelten Amazing Silo Street Art Jacksonville Shipyard