Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome To The Bahamas, Mon!

After spending a great month in Daytona, ending with the spectacular Turkey Run Car Show at the speedway (look for pictures soon), it was time to head to the Abacos. We had an uneventful trip across the Gulf Stream in a 7 seater plane (except for the fact that Dave once again sat in the co-pilot's seat), and a ferry ride across the clear water of the Sea of Abaco, to the boat storage yard.

As we neared the boatyard and saw the boats in the next picture, we got a little worried about what condition New Horizon was going to be in. The sailboat on the far left fell off its stands onto the little boat now on the ground, plus the mast and rigging on the fallen boat tangled with the black boat's mast and broke it.

New Horizon lucked out though. Considering she went through a hurricane, the old girl is not in too bad a shape. The sun is definitely taking its toll, and the paint is getting very chalky (whatever touches the boat turns white), the decks are really dirty and littered with pine needles and sand, and inside had a bit of mold, but minimal water intrusion. The flybridge wind deflectors that broke and flew off during the hurricane, were actually found by the crew at the boatyard and we now can use them as patterns for replacements. They also found our missing aft cabin window cover that went M.I.A. during the storm.

Shortly after our arrival we were met by Barry and Barb from BeachCruiser, who so graciously invited us to have dinner with them and several other cruisers that had just arrived. Barb had made a huge pot of hearty vegetable soup, knowing that we had all been working hard getting our boats back in shape and would need to eat (in our case we had no food on board too). What a fantastic and much appreciated gesture!

Once New Horizon was back in the water this morning, Dave had no problems getting the engines started. The generator was its stubborn self and took about half an hour of bleeding the system and a can of starting fluid to get running. The skiff runs like a charm, but Dave forgot to put the baitwell drain plug back in, and we almost sank the boat. So much for being overly prepared for rain! The Logic Riot dinghy's steering cable was so seized up that nothing would budge it, so Dave ended up cutting it off. Hopefully Marsh Harbour will still have the replacement one that we saw there last year.

Next on our list of necessities was filling up the fuel tanks. Last season we never had to buy fuel, so now it was time to "pay the piper" or in this case, pay the tank filler. 330 gallons @ $5.49 a gallon = a whopping $1811 diesel bill...OUCH! Well, at least we were offered a free water tank fill up too (normally 20 cents/gallon).

Dave is changing over our fuel filters now, so that we won't have to worry about our engines starving for fuel and stalling during the next phase of getting past the infamous Whale Cay Passage. We are conveniently anchored in White Sound of Green Turtle Cay, right on top of the mooring blocks we found last of the many perks of having a GPS with waypoints. We may be here for several days, depending on the weather, but there is a slight chance we may head to the other side of the Whale tomorrow. We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Isn't Always Better

Another example of the old and the new is Marineland, just south of St. Augustine. This attraction has been around since 1938 and I remember it well from when our family used to visit in the 1960's. Back then, besides the dolphin act, my favorite part was viewing all the fish and sharks through windows cut in the side of the huge tanks. Several years ago they offered a program where you could swim in a tank with the turtles and rays, and Dave and I couldn't resist.

Unfortunately all this has changed. The fish tanks had to be torn down after one of the hurricanes a couple of years ago, but new ones were built to accommodate the 13 dolphins still at the facility.
Now the Georgia Aquarium is the new owner and the only programs available are related to the care and feeding of the dolphins (swims with the dolphins, trainer for the day, etc.). For the general admission that we paid, we watched one of the feeding sessions from afar, but were brought up close to one of the tanks with two male dolphins in it for a few minutes.

There was no narration at all. Some educational signs have been placed around and there are volunteers to answer questions though.

As much as I always love seeing dolphins, the tanks they were in seemed so bare and sterile compared to what I'm used to seeing in the wild. Even the Dolphin Research Center, where I volunteered for several years in the Florida Keys, is so much better than this with their natural surroundings (and many educational programs). I would think that the dolphins would become bored in between feeding sessions at Marineland, compared to finding rocks, playing with fish and even seagrass at the much more interesting DRC.

We did however have a fun time walking around the grounds with Mom, reminiscing about past vacations.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Old and the New

Along with the beach itself, Daytona is known for its boardwalk and bandshell. Through the holidays, an ice skating rink has been set up so that you can skate while overlooking the ocean.

It must be a treat to cruise around on the ice in your shorts. They even sell socks since many people arrive in sandals.

These huge concrete blocks hold the tent down, while this machinery runs non-stop to keep the ice from melting.

Mom had a good laugh when Dave tried to convince her to take a lap around the rink.

The boardwalk itself as changed a lot since I was there as a kid. Many of the old buildings have been torn down. The wood has been replaced with bricks and concrete, with yearly racing history engraved right in the blocks.
A large motorcycle racing memorial has also been built, surrounded by individual sponsor's' plaques that were interesting to read.

We were glad to see that the old clock tower has been preserved despite the building of the high rise hotels. The letters DAYTONABEACH coincidentally replace the numbers on the clock.

Walking along the beach and boardwalk sure was a great way to bring back fond memories of days past.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Best wishes from these very thankful bloggers!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fins To The Left

And fins to the right...'dol-fins' that is!

With another rented kayak we did an exploration near the Port Orange bridge on the Halifax River. Right underneath the bridge we came across several dolphins feeding and frolicking. They seemed to be playing with the fish and were tossing them in the air (probably to stun them).

This one seemed to be pretending to be a shark, skimming along the surface of the water.

My dolphin 'fix' was complete so we continued on our way. The tide was low, but we maneuvered around the shallow oyster bars and circumnavigated the aptly named Seabird Island. The island itself is now a mobile home park and small marina.

However, the outlying barrier islands had tons of pelicans roosting in the mangroves. It doesn't seem possible, but I think there were more birds here than down in New Symrna Beach.

What a great afternoon on the water!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Water Sightings

We took a different kind of kayak trip down in New Symrna Beach. We rented a double kayak for a couple of hours and paddled our way around a few different marinas. It doesn't matter where we are, we always have to look at boats. Today was no different, and we came across this classic trawler as the highlight of the trip.

Of course we also saw lots of different types of birds, including pelicans roosting on this island...more than we have ever seen in one place.

It was great to watch their antics and made us realize how much we miss seeing them in the Bahamas (for some reason there are very few). However, the smell downwind of the island was enough to gag us, and that day all the boats were downwind too! Whew...I certainly wouldn't want to be living aboard.

Other birds we saw were this Little Blue Heron,

A Snowy Egret,

And a Louisiana Heron (aka Tricolored Heron).

Turkey Vultures, ospreys, and cormorants were in abundance also.

We were a bit disappointed not to see any dolphins on this trip. It's always fun to have them surface next to us in the kayak (even if I do almost fall out when they startle me!). We did however see many dolphins in Ponce Inlet the next day, while walking out on the fishing jetty. It was a busy place with fishermen catching fish from the jetty, dolphins frolicking and feeding in the inlet, and surfers catching waves on the ocean side. Just another typical day at the beach.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Surf's Up

Or not!

Dave went with nephew Matthew and his friend Ryan(with camera) to watch a surfing competition held off Flagler Beach.

The wind and waves had been high until this past weekend, but then became calm when this popular event took place.

Kewl surfer vehicles.

The waves may not have been large, but it was still a gorgeous day at the beach. Both the spectators and surfers seemed to have a great time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gone In A Flash

And a HUGE splash! We went kayaking on Cracker Creek this week and saw the largest alligator we have ever seen (and we have seen many gators in all our travels)! Unfortunately I didn't have time to take a picture, since it all happened so quickly. We were paddling our way back up the creek, wondering where the spot was that we had heard a huge splash and saw waves on the water as we passed by. Apparently we found it, because I looked over at the sandy bank just in time to see this gigantic alligator scurrying back into the water, making another splash and a tsunami wave that rocked our double kayak. I screamed, hung on to the paddle with one hand and my heart that was beating out of my chest, with the other hand. My next thought was, "Damn, I should have grabbed the camera which was right in my lap!" Dave's comment was, "You know, he's right below us." What a nice husband to put me at ease. Ha!

The rest of the trip was very pleasant with very few people around. Cracker Creek is just south of Daytona and is a tidal creek, although there isn't much current in the area that we were in. It was extremely calm in the cyprus backwaters and bayous.

We saw lots of birds and turtles, and even a 'friendly' snake (back on land at the rental launch area).

Most of the turtles would plunge off the logs as we approached.

Great Blue Heron

Little Green Heron (Green Backed Heron)

Our two hours of paddling went by amazingly fast, and now we are looking for more places to rent kayaks to explore the area.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Day At The Fair

This weekend Dave and I went to the Volusia County Fair with my brother Rick. It was a perfect day to wander the fairgrounds looking at all the displays, animals, wild rides, and of course the tractors.

We even hung around for the tractor parade, hoping that we would be invited to drive some of the older ones that sat lonely and unmanned. We weren't part of the chosen few though. I think it's because we didn't have our cowboy boots on!

A fair isn't complete without the wide variety of foods, and this one beat out all others. Just looking at what was offered made our cholesterol count go up several points. The concessionaires deep fried just about everything imaginable including BUTTER! We certainly bypassed that, but couldn't resist trying the famous fried Kool-aid. It was more like funnel-cake batter with Kool-aid in it, and was really quite tasty.

Rick had to pose by the gigantic bottle of chocolate syrup that is probably the only size bottle that could satisfy his son Matthew's chocolate milk craving.

After having our fill of fair delicacies, we explored some of the other shows and displays. Dave tried his hand (literally!) at milking a cow, but the poor plastic cow was 'fresh out', but mooed at him.

He also tried panning for gold but alas, he didn't get to trade any in for his beloved candy. You all know how hard he must have tried to find some though!

One of the best shows was the Frisbee dog exhibition and these rescued dogs were truly amazing. Of course the trainers were too. What a workout for them and play time for the dogs.

There was only one disadvantage of going to the fair. Now all three of us want more tractors!