Monday, April 20, 2009

After once last long look at the Atlantic we headed home to Michigan via golf with friend Marilyn Wolcott in Johnson City, TN and Bazbeau pizza with the Parrins and a short stay with the Savianos in Indy. Our first look at home waters occurred in New Buffalo, MI as we stopped for a burger at our favorite place for that fare, Redamak's. The view of Lake Michigan was a welcome sight after our travels and we again appreciated what a beautiful area of the world we live in. Along the way we had varying tastes to the drinking/bathing water and none was so sweet as that from our well Up North. The marshlands of the south all gave a slight smell and taste of sulfur, while a few place in South Carolina and Georgia were almost undrinkable due to an earthy onion taste and smell. As Dorothy said "There's no place like home".

Monday, April 13, 2009

An ending to Remember with new beginnings

As we wind down our odyssey we returned to Southport NC in the same weather we left it - 30 degrees. But within a day it was back into the high 60s and we ended our journey as it began, with project days of work on the Balia, painting the trailer and cleaning and waxing the boat. As always we enjoyed a terrific stay with creative Gary and Ann with one highlight being evening cocktail hour on one of the public docks where we set up another version of camp and came up with ideas for a new restaurant. Even though we were out of town for the Masters, we did a new version of the annual Mini-Masters at the Oak Island golf club with Ann and Gary slicing balls around alligators and turtles amidst the blooming Azaleas. Today we head back to Michigan with stops again in Tennessee and Indianapolis.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Dream Come True

On our return to North Carolina from Florida we stopped in Augusta and were able to secure at some fairly great expense two tickets to the Monday practice round of the Masters Golf Tournament. The beauty of Augusta National did not disappoint and we were amazed at the elevation changes to which television cannot do justice. While not many players were out due to the wind and cold we luckily were able to hook up with Chicago Golf acquaintance Ben Crenshaw for a few minutes. While we have put on a Mini-Masters Golf Party every year for the past 15 years or so, it has always been a dream to get to actually see this historic course. Cross that one off the Bucket List!!

Up a not so lazy river

After traveling the St. John's downriver we then journeyed upriver to the Acosta River Marina just short of Welaka, with the most scenic portion being the smaller creek along Murphy Island. There were several sightings of alligator, turtle, osprey nests on navigational markers and herons along the way. We anchored for lunch and each day reorganized our little cabin from nightime sleeping to breakfast and other daytime uses.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Up the St. Johns river to Palatka

Our search for a marina to not only launch, but dock the Balia and store the trailer somewhere up the St. Johns River from Jacksonville, laborously brought us to historic Palatka and the Boathouse Marina where we instantly encountered the owner of a beautiful Trawler who was traveling the Great Loop from , can you believe it, Traverse City; named John Mater.
We motorsailed one day downriver 29 miles to Cove Springs past the local nuclear power plant to tie up at the Crab Shack restaurant, a local treasure and fine example of true southern hospitality and Po Boys with a quarter mile long dock that I am sure is packed in the summer but which we had pretty much to ourselves for a quiet night aboard. Then a terrific sail back to Palatka to weather out some storms, taking advantage of the weather by going to the PGA Golf Hall of Fame and a lunch rendezvous with Jay's U of Chicago Executive Program buddy Jack Frestel and wife Diane who were driving that same day from their home in Sarasota to Nags Head North Carolina where Jack is opening another Dirty Dicks Crab House restaurant.

A few final tourings

At the end of the Talbot/Amelia Island segment of our journey we revisited Fort Clinch from the land side, and toured Kingsley Plantation where Cindy picked up a book on catching and preparing shrimp; after which we again relaxed with Hinsdale grade school friend Jim Stocker and his wife Annette.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Intracoastal to St. Mary's River

Once the weather improved to a more reasonably 10 – 15 mph winds we set sail for Georgia, and enjoyed an overnight on the Balia at St. Mary’s after navigating several miles of the Intracoastal Waterway. The highlight of this small sleepy southern town just across Cumberland Sound from Fernandina/Amelia Island , Florida was our dinner at Marianne’s Sterling Southern CafĂ© with shrimp and grits in a completely different Cajun style of spicy cream sauce. The navigational highlight was upon our return down the St. Mary’s when we encountered a Trident nuclear submarine with full naval and Coast Guard escort going out the channel to the Atlantic, and a passby of historic Fort Clinch. Truly awe inspiring! The last day Balia was in water at Amelia we ventured south on the IC 8 miles to Nassau sound and back with a lunch anchorage. During our travels Rab and Charles have developed different uses for a watchcap as both sleeping bag and rastahat

St. Augustine

St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, much like Key West has gotten tourist organized with trolley trips, and mock setups at the Fountain of Youth (nonetheless a beautiful park), and tourist oriented shops down very quaint streets. We continued to be amazed by the contributions of Mr. Flagler to Florida, and the most interesting fact of that day was that discoverer Ponce de Leon was a short 4’10” whereas the local Indians were between 6 and 7ft. The lighthouse is certainly one of the best preserved and most beautiful that we have seen, and the view from atop the 235 steps was spectacular for Jay. Our rice and beans Cajun dinner at Harry’s was flavorful and the ambiance just what we expected and desired after a long day of walking

Arrival Talbot Island

Our camping adventures continued in probably the most scenic campsite we have ever enjoyed at the Little Talbot Island State Park. During the first few days we endured the noise of a couple of self indulged springbreakers, but have had at least six nights of the peace and quiet that camping outdoors can be all about and have gotten close to naming each of the raccoons that visit each night. Noseeums have remained relatively unseen, and the bike and hiking trails are excellent. The intrepid little Balia experienced its first, and shall we now commit last, teetering fork lift launch at the Amelia Yacht Basin, a terrific marina on the IC, and stayed at the dock while a Nor’easter went through with 30 mph winds. However, we made the best of it by playing golf at the Fernandina Beach GC , shopping in Fernandina, and exploring the area, and getting together for dinner with a grade school friend of Cindy’s , Jim Stocker and his wife Annette who live in Amelia Island Plantation just minutes from our campsite. While at the dock Balia was visited by local cat Port, as well as a manatee

Monday, March 16, 2009

What's bugging Cindy

Can you say Ceratopogonidae and Vibrio vulnificus? Well that pretty much sums up Cindy’s focus for the St. Joe Peninsula experience, with Mr. Untouchable and KnowItAll just fine!!! The latter is a bacteria present in raw oysters found in Apalachicola Bay and of course little miss culinary experience affectionado had to have them several times and even now still claims that they were one of the most fresh and tasteful oysters on the half shell ever enjoyed, and are right up there with the quality of the Pacific Northwest. So our first night in Port of St. Joe was spent at the historic and renovated Port Inn, with very conveniently located indoor plumbing. The following morning was spent at the nearby health clinic where the brochure on this difficulty explains that for those at risk ( and it actually lists “ people with cancer or any medical treatment that weakens the body’s immune system” , infection can lead to death within two days, and that aggressive antibiotic treatment is the most effective therapy”. I definitely don’t remember that being mentioned at the end of my radiation treatment!!!
Our campsite at the State Park was idyllic with some amusing signs about alligators and swimming (leading one to wonder just what would a lifeguard do), and even though only 5 of the 17 varieties of snakes in the park are poisonous we encountered only one small gopher snake (at least that’s what California born Jay says it was – he’s also told me about the cone of protection against lightning on a sailboat). We decided due to the shortened visit that we would not put the little Balia in the water, instead kayaked the bayou and enjoyed a bike ride followed by a parching walk through the wilderness area of the park.
Now that the warmth of spring has arrived with temperatures in the 70s Cindy also incurred the wrath of the Ceratopogonidae, aka “no seeums (truly a misnomer as you actually can when they are of this giant size), sand fleas, etc.” which really do itch and hurt quite a bit more than mosquito bites and as later learned on the internet – “two people may receive an equal number of bites, and one will not be affected while the other will turn into a walking pincushion” so I guess that will be my new nickname. The gentleman from Grand Rapids in the campsite next to us had, I kid you not, one bit for every square inch of space on his arms and legs; while mine are limited to a few areas of such density like forearms and back of legs, with a few neck appearances
Our most favorite restaurant was the Docksides at the marina in St. Joe, and we found the only truly Peninsula local dive the “Coneheads” rather curious not only in name; because when we went there our first night in the mood for the publicized pizza and were told “it wasn’t in yet”, or perhaps the phrase was “we don’t have it yet” which made us wonder if there was something like an actual season for pizza much like oysters.
And to wax poetic for just a moment longer, camping truly does bring all of the negative human nature habits in combination with technology, about which many of us complain, so much more to the forefront of the conscious. We have been treated by springbreakers playing the game “Catchphrase”, which has an increasingly rapid beeping component as a timer to indicate the end of one team’s competitive turn, being instead played with one person just giving clues to the rest of the group without any competition, thus making the noise merely irrelevantly irritating; parents engaged in power struggles with their children so that while they have carefully chosen which battles to wage, have left the rest of us within hearing distance to endure the ones they want to ignore (I even heard the quintessential camping experience of som-mores being withheld for potential punishment if the child didn’t sleep in the bed the way the parent had intended), and then there is the issue of self absorbtion. So many people seem completely unaware of their impact on those around them, such as the young man who pulled out a guitar at 10:15pm to serenade his tentmate with her request of “ do you know Kumbaya” just 15 ft away from our tent where the geriatrics were trying to actually sleep.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our stay in Destin is winding down but we have enjoyed several sails on the Choctawhatchee Bay , one with our Rotary friends from Traverse City, Chris and Ron Zimmer. At the dock we have been amazed at the wildlife that seems so tamed by the presence of humans, with numerous pelicans standing by for ship cleanup duty and elegant grey herons appearing out of the mist much like the teridactyls in Jurassic Park. And the sand on the beach is so fine and white due to the lack of shells which when crushed by the pounding of waves add color. Ron and Chris also helped us celebrate Jay's 67th birthday at AJs on Destin harbor.

After an overnight in the hometown of John Travolta, Ocala, Florida we arrive at Appalachicola for one night on our way to Destin. Quaint town with a wonderful visit to the Tin Shed store which has so many nautical items, Cindy had to restrain Jay and confiscate his credit cards. In Destin we have enjoyed our campsite at Henderson Beach State Park tremendously but fog has been a friendly invasive companion every day until noon.

Upon returning to the states and leaving the land of conch fritters, unfortunately our misadventures continued as we discovered our truck had been broken into while it was parked at the Holiday Inn at the West Palm Airport and much of our camping and biking gear and tools were stolen. The common comment by many in the area including the West Palm police was “welcome to southern Florida where if it isn’t bolted down it is fair game”. Our sincere apologies were extended to Robin Williams who was the undeserving recipient of the continuing negative Ruzak Karma, as we attempted to relieve our grief by purchasing tickets to a concert which was one day later cancelled due to his heart condition. It is a good thing that neither Jay or I are superstitious or we would likely not be able to move forward, but forward we went. We enjoyed a brief revisit with Hinsdale friend Mandalee, who entertained a fellow Debutante frm 1969 Betsy Riggs; and revisited the Beachcomber hotel where Cindy's family vacationed for many spring breaks in the 1960s