Florida USA, West Palm Beach to Green Cove Springs

20th April - 13th May 2009

We hadn't been in the US long, before we got our first reminder of wonderful American hospitality.    Jenny, from Al Shaheen, had made a friend from the Palm Beach area on a recent airplane trip.    Her new friend, John, invited the crew of Al Shaheen to his family home for dinner, their cruising friends from Anju were also welcomed.     We were all collected by John in his pick-up and after the half hour drive to his home, treated to a delicious feast of shrimp and steak.    We were there until late in the evening listening to Johns adventures from his career as a medical evacuation flight medic.   Poor John then chauffeured us all back to our boats, despite his early start the next day.     It was a wonderful evening.

Phil, John and Jenny from Al Shaheen and John at his home

On our way north, we made a brief stop at Peck Lake, enjoying a long walk on the beautiful beach.   From there we headed to Vero Beach Municipal Marina, where we picked up a mooring for three nights.    This gave Al Shaheen time to catch up and then overtake us.     

The town of Vero Beach provided a free bus service, stopping conveniently right at the marina, giving us the chance to pick up some provisions.    Saturday evening, we enjoyed the marina's traditional pot luck happy hour.   We took a Sunday morning stroll to the seafront, encountering two interesting happenings on our way home.    First, we spotted an orchid show and strolled around the amazing array of weird but beautiful plants.   Down by the riverfront we came across a very unusual spectacle in the USA; a cricket match was being played in the park by the local Indian population.

Next stop was Cocoa, then Titusville, where we ran into two OCC boats, "Rasi" and "Ten Years After", both holed up in the Municipal Marina.    As we returned to our anchored boat, we were told off by local law enforcement, apparently for almost exceeding the speed limit, enforced to protect the local Manatee population.   This was most curious as we were struggling to make headway at idle speed with our outboard propeller held together only with superglue!  Of course, the dinghy does produce far more wake at idle speed than when we're up on the plane, perhaps that was the problem, but it was all a little confusing!

This wasn't to be our only run-in with the men in uniform.   We were merrily chugging up the Intracoastal Waterway near Ponce de Leon Inlet, enjoying our lunch.   Before we knew what happened we were boarded by the "Potty Police".   We were to enjoy an official visit by the toilet inspectors, who wanted to check that we were in compliance with the official holding tank regulations, which prohibit any kind of overboard discharge.


A huge uniformed officer squeezed into our tiny heads compartment with Christine, to deposit the testing dye in the bowl.     "You'll have to pump it a lot, to make sure the dye goes right through the system", Christine was told.    Nodding in agreement, she grabbed the handle with gusto but turned around and the officer was gone.   Assuming he would return when he'd ensured his colleagues were in optimum bog outlet inspection position, she waited, assuming the pumping would have to be officially witnessed.    Seconds later the Officer returned to tell us all was in order, we'd passed the test.    We didn't point out that as we hadn't yet begun pumping, all the dye was still in the toilet bowl, merrily glowing in the dark.   No-one thought to lift the lid.     Of course, had the pumping actually taken place, we would have passed the test anyway.  The "Potty Police" left at the whirlwind speed at which they had boarded.    The crew were greatly relieved, mostly that the officers hadn't stomped on their sandwiches, which were lying in the cockpit. 

After a stop at Daytona, our next problem was the St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions, a historic landmark, undergoing renovation.    It was reported that the temporary bridge and the navigation channel through it would be closed until after 5 pm all week, whilst work was taking place.    We made our plan, we would anchor south of the bridge, wait until evening and relocated to an anchorage on the north, once the bridge was working again.   As it happened our plan was unnecessary, we arrived at 3 pm on Friday afternoon and the work was finished early, the Bridge operating normally.    

The next was another long day of motoring, during which we were delighted to find that one of the trickier bridges, McCormick Bridge, where the strong current had make awaiting an opening fraught with peril, had been replaced with a high-rise bridge.    By lunchtime we were in the St. John's River heading for Jacksonville and by nightfall, anchored back at our base at Green Cove Springs Marina. 

During our absence, there had been turmoil at the Marina, when the quarter mile long concrete docks, to which around 90 boats, including many live-aboard boaters, were tied, had been condemned by the local authorities as unsafe.    Only two days notice had been given that the dock needed to be emptied and it seemed that the residents had scattered in many directions, upriver, downriver, into the yard and some out onto the high seas.    Mooring buoys had been installed between the docks to accommodate some boats.    Anju wasn't particularly affected as we normally anchored out in the deeper water of the main river until ready to haul out into the yard.    We made our preparations afloat and were allowed to tie up in the haul-out area to transfer a mountain of equipment between Anju and Harvey, our RV.    Moving house by wheelbarrow was exhausting but easier than by dinghy!

Harvey and Anju check each other out!

Dale and Spence (New Moon), John and Ann (Sundowner), Troels and Wiwi (Drot) and Christine grazing on salad.

We were able to haul out earlier than planned.   We spent a scorching afternoon in the storage yard, covering Anju with sunshade and clearing the decks.   Everything was ready and we had a couple of days before our flight to the UK.    This was great as it gave us chance to enjoy a trip to our favourite restaurant "Sweet Tomato" with our friends from the marina.

John and Ann of Sundowner had relocated their boat upriver to a marina in the town of Palatka and we took a day trip there to visit with them.     They took us to the amazing Maritime Museum at Welaka.    This was a large warehouse of boats built by Richard Speas.   

Using a method based on small blocks of wood, each winter he would build one boat.    Any wood scraps weren't wasted either, he would use those to build amazing wooden vases, including the world's largest wooden vase.   His work was beautiful and his family had done an amazing job creating the museum, to allow the public to enjoy his creations.

Welaka Maritime Museum with Ann and John

We spotted some of Florida's local wildlife during our last couple of days there.    Walking with ease up a vertical wall, we spied a vivid green coloured gecko.    Lazily swimming around our marina, we encountered a large alligator!

"It's enough to drive a gecko up the wall!"

Anyone fancy a dip?

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