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

During our second week we continued our culinary exploration to a couple of new places we had not yet been like Grabbers on the beach at Guana Cay, and Nancy's restaurant at Sandy Point where we watched a local fisherman shell his conchs;and returning to others we have enjoyed in the past such as On Da Beach (owners must have been from Chicago, home of Da Bears!) and Cracker P's

The second week of our stay in the Abacos was spent on the paradise of Parrot Cay, to which we have returned 3 times in the past 4 years. The location of this island is shared only in the strictest of confidence as we want to share what we have found to be the quintessential Bahamian experience but as there are only two cottages on this island we don’t want it to become so popular that we can’t get in. The pictures are of the beach area, the living room of our cottages showing the “walls” that open with a block and tackle pulley system, which for sailors such as ourselves is close to Nirvana, with beautiful sunsets from our patio.