The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Friday, March 30, 2012

CJ and Evan on the St. Johns River

By mid-morning on Wednesday daughter Carla (CJ) and her fiancé Evan (Evan) were delivered from Orlando Airport to Once Around at Hontoon Landing.  They were in pretty good shape for having taken the red-eye from San Diego overnight to Atlanta, transferring to Orlando, then a 1-1/2 hour car ride.  After a quick nap, they were ready to start exploring the St. Johns River, starting with a huge alligator we could see on the bank opposite Once Around’s slip. 

Fred from Boreas joined the two kids and I to take the dinghy for a closer look.  Interestingly both Admirals, Carrie and Jullaine, opted to remain on the big boats…hmm.  Anyway, we did get pretty close before the gator started moving toward us…or at least that’s what it seemed, and we (I) did a quick U turn and got the heck out of there!
The brave alligator hunters leave Once Around...

...and sneak up on Mr. Gator... OK, you thought I was exaggerating!
Later that day we took both dinghies on about a two hour trip back to Blue Springs.  We took the “Dead River” route down to “Snake Creek” before returning to the St. Johns and the spring.  This route was longer, but picturesque and very, very backwoods.  We saw a little bit of everything; turtles, gators and of course, a zillion or so birds of all types.
Carla keeps a close eye out for gators...

...and turtles...

...and herons...

...and Loopers...oops...that's the Boreas crew

Two great kids

the only photo we took at Blue Springs
Thursday morning we left Hontoon and headed back north to the anchorage at Morrison Island where we stayed on the way down.  We dropped anchor at about one o’clock and took the dinghies up to a little restaurant called “Buck and Kat’s Café” a few hundred yards from where we were anchored.   We had some of the best burgers ever…did you ever notice when you’re really really hungry that kind of thing happens???   Anyway, the dessert menu looked so good we all took a doggy bag back to the boats with German chocolate cake and pecan pie for after dinner!
Evan and CJ did a little fishing (and alligator hunting?) from the dinghy around dusk, although the promised “fish fry for breakfast” had to be postponed until the day they actually catch something.  When they returned for dinner, we were still stuffed from lunch so we opted for a salad instead of the planned steaks, followed of course by the aforementioned desserts.   Evan and I suffered through some dumb “chick flick” movie, but the ladies were happy.
Friday we (along with Boreas) again retraced our steps to the town of Palatka and the Boathouse Marina.  It was a gorgeous day and the kids enjoyed the sun on the front deck as we cruised up the calm, smooth waters of the river.  We pulled into the dock around one o’clock and the ladies immediately departed towards town on what proved to be a fruitless search for a nail salon.  Never fear, they have already called ahead to our next port to make arrangements…
Crusing down the St. Johns

a morning nap

Carla got to pick the house of the day...

...and just like her mother, couldn't pick just one!
We are headed into Palatka in a few minutes for dinner at “Angels Diner”…I’ll let you know how that goes…

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jacksonville, and the St. Johns River

We left St. Augustine on Saturday and headed for Jacksonville.  I think the most beautiful view of St. Augustine is the view we had from the water, so I wanted to share that with you.
St. Augustine, FL

The Lions Head Bridge in St. Augustine

The Castillo de San Marcos
The ICW above St. Augustine gets pretty remote in places.  It is a welcome change after the high rises and huge homes and boats. 
The ICW with a hot air balloon
Check out the fish head poking through the roof!

The house of the day

We had a pleasant cruise up to Jacksonville, which is one of the largest cities in Florida by population and the largest by land area. 
Jacksonville, FL

The downtown stadium...wake up Sacramento...
Passing through Jacksonville we headed south on the St. Johns River, stopping off a few miles from Jacksonville at Ortega Landing Marina for one night.  Our travelling partners from Boreas had arrived earlier that day  and Kismet, another Looper friend, was there as well.  The six of us ate dinner together at a French Bistro called Orsay and all gave it high marks.
The three of us left Sunday morning along with Brandy IV.  The first hurdle was passing through a railroad bridge that has been undergoing repairs, where only half the bridge was up.  Kismet took the photo as Once Around passed through the 25 foot wide opening.  It felt much tighter than it looks!
Puckered up!
Unscathed, we travelled together to the town of Palatka, FL (no, I didn’t make that up!) and stayed at a quaint little marina there called the Boathouse Marina.  It was John’s birthday (Brandy IV), and he and Rita treated us all to a barbequed steak dinner with all the trimmings.  We ate it at a wooden picnic table the local boaters had placed out on the end of the docks.  The steaks were great; the company was even better.  The locals gave us ideas on what to do (and not do) as we headed further south on the St. Johns River.  We hope to stop by there again on our way back so we can explore the town a bit.
Palatka, FL

Heading south up the St. Johns
Monday we were off again, planning on travelling about 40 more miles south.  We, along with Boreas, stopped on Lake George and anchored for a few hours and rode our dinghy into a spring called Silver Glen Spring.  We all took a swim and a turn with Fred’s mask to see the spring source in the crystal clear water.  No, there were no alligators around!
Fred pulls the dinghy the last 100 yards or so into the spring

My First Mate enjoyed snorkling in the spring!

After a nap, we decided to head for our original destination for the night which was an anchorage at Morrison Island.  Boreas and Brandy IV elected to stay the night on Lake George.  However, as Carrie and I anchored in a beautiful and quiet spot, we got a call from Boreas who were on their way to join us.  The wind on the lake was kicking up and they decided not to chance it.  Brandy IV remained there and said they would join us heading south the next morning.  The Admiral and I took a nice dinghy ride around the oxbow in the early evening, and returned to Once Around for a light dinner.  At our anchorage, we saw a couple of alligators and were entertained by at least a dozen species of birds.  We saw egrets, herons, vultures, osprey, coots, and I don’t know what all.  It was amazing.  The only place I think I’ve ever seen so many birds was in the Everglades.
View from Once Around at anchor at Morrison Island 

My First Mate is getting better with that darn camera!

What can you's a sailboat

Once Around at anchor at Morrison Island, photo by Julaine from Boreas

Ready to weigh anchors Tuesday morning
Tuesday morning we got a call from John on Brandy IV.  They were returning north as they were having problems with their fresh water pump and needed to get back to civilization to get parts or service.  We’ll probably catch up with them on our return.
We and Boreas ended up near the town of Deland, FL, at a small place called Hontoon Landing Resort and Marina.  I bottomed out pulling into the first slip I was assigned, luckily it was just mud.  The second slip was just enough deeper that we were able to stay, although we are sticking out of the slip about 15 feet.
We liked this...not only a pontoon boat but a seccond one to ferry the sports car!
We took another dinghy ride to yet another spring today (Blue Springs) and scouted out another route to take there tomorrow when our daughter Carla and her fiancé arrive.  They should be here by mid-morning.  The Admiral has a list of chores a mile long to get the boat ready for our guests, so I must sign off now and get to work!  But first, here is probably the most effective no swimming sign ever posted...
No kidding!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Boatyard "Check" List

      We did get back in the water Friday afternoon.  Saturday we ran about 55 miles north to the city of Jacksonville.    From here we are taking about a ten day side trip up the St. Johns River which runs south from Jacksonville and is navigable for about 140 miles. 
      Meanwhile, I thought you all might like to know what a week in the boatyard “to-do” list entails:
ü Engines serviced
ü Transmissions serviced
ü Leaky fuel priming pumps replaced
ü Generator serviced
ü Impellers replaced
ü All hoses, belts, etc. inspected
ü Bottom painted
ü All zincs replaced
ü 2 scuppers repaired, repainted
ü Hull and topside buffed and waxed
ü Propellers balanced
ü Line cutters replaced
ü Teak door refinished
ü Teak air vent repaired
ü Cabinet door repaired
ü Rub-rail section replaced
ü Salon air conditioner serviced
ü New canvas for dinghy console
ü Repair rain cover for fly bridge seating
And the boatyard bill, with a very large…
      Remember, Boating is Fun!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Oldest City in America

Our next stop was another one-night stand at the Marina at Hammock Beach in Palm Coast, Florida.  After a cruise of about 44 miles, the crews of Boreas, Moonstruck and Once Around caught the shuttle van from the marina to the resort to check it out.  It is a beautiful place to vacation, and I think we were all a little sorry we had only planned to stay one night.  It would be a nice place to spend a few days…or weeks.  Saturday, my First Mate cooked up a great corned beef and cabbage meal for St. Patrick’s Day, and the six of us enjoyed the home cooked traditional meal that evening aboard Once Around.
Sunday we were all anxious to get moving and get up to St. Augustine, our next stop, some 26 miles north.  We entered Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor and all of us re-fueled and settled in our slips there.  It is a well run marina, and we planned to stay a few days and enjoy the many sites of the “oldest continually inhabited city in America” as my Looper friend Glen from Last Dance informed me.  St. Augustine is Last Dance’s home port and Glen and Jill gave us a number of suggestions for things to see.
The Inter Coastal Waterway in northeast Florida is often remote and picturesque
Our first order of business on Monday was to get Once Around over to the Camachee Yacht Yard, the boatyard section of this marina.  Since we were planning to be here a few days anyway, we decided to have the boat hauled and the hull waxed, along with getting the engines serviced and a few minor other items taken care of. 
The haul out...a too familiar site...happened on Tuesday

moving in to block the boat up for a day or two
We did get a lot of opportunity to explore the City of St. Augustine and enjoy a few meals in some of the many excellent restaurants there with the Moonstruck and Boreas crews.  Moonstruck left and headed back south towards home on Wednesday.  Judy is getting a new kitchen (she doesn't cook, so I don't see the point...)so they needed to be home by April 1.  We really enjoyed cruising with them again and were sorry to see them go.  Boreas headed north on Thursday.  We hope to catch up with them in a day or two.
Yesterday (Thursday) we took a trolly tour of old town with John and Rita from Brandy IV and walked St. George Street, the touristy shop section.  One of the highlights of the day was the tour of Flagger College, a small liberal arts college that inhabits what was once the Ponce de Leon Hotel, a very exclusive resort hotel built in 1887 and home to (among other things) the largest collection of Tiffany in the world.  The student’s cafeteria is in what was once the main dining and ballroom and is surrounded by Tiffany glass windows, beautiful artwork on the ceilings and woodwork throughout.
A beautiful tree lined St. Augustine street

St. George Street...the tourist section

Entrance of the old Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagger College

A view of part of the exterior...

..and interior.

One of the dozens of Tiffany windows in the dining room...

...and the Tiffany chandaliers were everywhere...

...even Tiffany turtles in the fountain...just kidding...wanted to see if you were paying attention!
Meanwhile, back at the boatyard…Boats are always full of surprises, and this was no exception.  The first thing that became apparent was that the bottom needed painting (not really a big surprise, we had thought it might).  So almost immediately after it came out of the water, we knew our planned three night stay would be a four.  One thing led to another, and tonight will be our fifth (and maybe not our last) night in St. Augustine.  Not that it hasn’t been fun, but we need to get moving.  Keith and his crew at the Camachee Yacht Yard have given us extraordinary service, responding quickly to everything that has come up.  We have been “on the hard” for three nights so the Admiral and I have literally been living in their boatyard.  James, their carpenter, along with Billy, the diesel mechanic, have been awesome, and Del and Vern (the self proclaimed “A Team”) have been thorough on all the exterior work.  More about the repairs made at the boat yard in my next post.
Billy in the engine room..

...while James does the woodwork

Del, one half of the A Team...

...and Vern, the other half.

The Admiral climbs to her boatyard condo...

...what the heck though, it has a harbor view!

We are scheduled to be dropped back in the water in a few hours (if the last of the parts arrive as scheduled), and will be on our way this afternoon or Saturday morning if all goes well.  Our plan is to head get to Jacksonville and then cruise down the St. Johns River on a week and a half side trip off the Loop.  If everything goes as planned, our daughter Carla and her fiance Evan will be joining us the middle of next week for five or six days.  I'm not sure who is more excited, Carla and Evan or the Admiral and me!