As we shared our cruising plans during the years and months prior to our departure, it was not uncommon to face the question “Aren’t you afraid of pirates? We were a bit surprised by this, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been considering how frequently modern day piracy is reported in the headlines. We have no plans to visit piracy hot spots, and we expect our travels in the U.S. and even the Bahamas to be no riskier than a trip back home in the Strait of Georgia.
What we have found along the south-east coast of the U.S. is a long history of piracy going back to the early conflicts between England, France and Spain as they jockeyed for power in this part of the new world. Although largely illegal and officially disdained by the powers that be, much was tolerated of these ‘privateers’ if it was seen to further the political interests of one side or the other (hmm, perhaps that sounds a bit familiar). Read more
We had especially been looking forward to our visit to St. Augustine, Fl.
Founded by the Spanish in 1565, it is the oldest settlement in North America, and retains a distinct old-world European flavour. Some of its attractions include the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort built by the Spanish as a stronghold for their North American empire in the late 1500’s, and the former Ponce de Leon and Alcazar hotels, built by Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler in the late 1800’s. There are also cobbled streets with many heritage buildings dating from as early as 1703, when the town was burned to the ground by the British after an unsuccessful siege of the Castillo. Read more
In addition to a wide variety of birds, there is much to see in the way of sea life along the ICW. Fish seem to be jumping everywhere – no wonder the birds are here – but some very interesting mammals can be seen as well. We’d spotted dolphins regularly since leaving Stuart, but much to our disappointment not a manatee could be found…….until we reached Titusville. In the marina they were everywhere, and not afraid to get up close and personal. They reminded us a bit of elephants, to which we understand they are related.
Titusville is in the heart of Florida’s ‘Space Coast’, only about ten miles from the Kennedy Space Centre. The Vehicle Assembly Building – used to assemble for launch the Saturn moon rockets and then the Space Shuttle – dominates the horizon for miles around. We rented a car and paid a visit for a day. Although the NASA operations here are now much reduced, it remains a fascinating place, with a real sense of ‘history in our time’. Read more
We departed Stuart April 16 for Vero Beach, about 45 miles north on the ICW. Navigation conditions here are quite different from what we are used to in the Pacific Northwest. The broad rivers have narrow, often winding channels, shallow waters – only 5 to 10 feet under the keel is typical – and shifting sandbars. Our first day was exciting and generally confidence inspiring as we gradually made our way to our destination, but we had our challenges and learned some lessons too:
– pay attention to the channel at all times and speeds, or you’ll find yourself bumping along a sandbar, as we did. Apparently this is not uncommon, however the first time it is certainly disconcerting. Fortunately we were at ‘slow cruise’ when this happened and we were able to power off the sandy bottom with relative ease.
– the Admiral (Ria) is not strong enough to secure the ring for the mooring buoy when our vessel is being buffeted by 20 knot winds, no matter how hard we try. If it hadn’t been for the assistance of a nearby Good Samaritan in his dinghy, we would have had to stay at the Vero Beach Marina dock. Without going into the technicalities, we learned from this a better way to secure our boat using the ‘bridle’, which is a necessity for anchoring a twin hulled vessel. Read more
After four days of final boat projects and errands to provision (both Walmart and West Marine are considerably more profitable because of us) Ria and I finally had time on Sunday to go for an orientation cruise on the St. Lucie River. It was another warm (80+), mostly clear, and very breezy (20+knots) day, but good conditions to test our boat handling skills and the boat’s performance. This was very satisfactory – a comfortable 7 knots at ‘trawler cruise’ and 14 knots at ‘fast cruise’, both of which should provide mileage of 4 miles to the imperial gallon or better (roughly four times better than our previous boat – yippee!).
But enough of that boring technical stuff that’s only of interest to other power boaters and gearheads, lets get to the pictures. Here is a sample from our stay in Stuart (a pleasant and mostly laid back community that has been very helpful and friendly to us) and the surrounding area. Read more