Friday, December 16, 2016

12/14-12/16 Now on the hard

We left Palatka early on the  14th so that we would have plenty of time to get settled before dark up the Ortega River in Jacksonville.
The sunrise was spectacular.
There was a rain storm coming from the west.  The sunrise created a rainbow in the storm clouds. 
After about 3 hours, the Hydrophilic developed a shimmy at about 1800 RPMs.  We could run at fewer RPMs and run slower.  John called around and checked on Active Captain and Huckins Marine was highly recommended.  When we arrived a technician came on board and checked the engine while we were running.  Nothing definitive was found and it was getting late.  The Huckins folks let us stay at a slip right by the lift and gave us 50 amp power for the night. 

The next morning, the boat was put on a lift and inspected.
The propeller had some dings in it.  So they will be sending the propeller to be balanced. 

So we had a lot to do.  I took an Uber to the airport and rented a car.   We took a few things with us from the boat.   We got a hotel room until next Tuesday when we leave for Houston and DC.  Before the shimmy, I had made a 2 p.m. appointment to get my hair done.  I couldn't miss that.  So we drove to the hair salon, John dropped me off and went to check in at the hotel.  After my hair was done, John picked me up.  Neither of us had eaten since breakfast.  We had been up early two days in a row and worried about the boat.  We were both starving and went to dinner and hit the hay for an early good night.

Today, we went back to the boat to get it prepped for us to be gone for Christmas.
We had dirty laundry.  So we took that to a laundromat.  It was good to do several loads at once.  So the boat is in good hands.  We will spend the weekend here in Jacksonville.  On Tuesday, we head first to Houston for Christmas until Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, we go to DC.  When we get back, the boat will be in the water and ready for us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

12/12 and 12/13 Back Down the St. John

12/12 We headed back down the St. John to Astor.  The views were just stunning. 
The Spanish moss covers the trees like angel hair.
We continued to see manatees and birds.  There was even a concrete manatee along the river. 
We stopped at the Blackwater Inn again in Astor.  The almost full moon added to the Christmas decorations across the water.

12/13 We awoke to some fog which wasn't very bad until we got to Lake George.  At Lake George the visibility was about 40 feet.  Radar works very well.  We have used Alan Lloyd's Navigation Notes.  He has waypoints across the lake and the waypoints really helped.  Eventually, the sun burned off the fog and it was a beautiful day.  I didn't get a good picture but I saw another bald eagle.

We stopped in Palatka.  We met future 2017 loopers, Jim and Kia Passwater.  They have just moved aboard their boat. They came by to purchase some of our books and charts.  It was so nice to give them our boat card to start their collection.

Tonight, is the last full supermoon of year.  It was spectacular over the Palatka Bridge.

Tomorrow, we will cruise back to the Ortega River.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

12/10 and 12/11 Eagles, Manatees, Black Vultures, Oh my

When we left Astor, we didn't know the best part of the St. John's River was ahead of us.  It is just beautiful.
As the river narrowed, it became even more scenic.  There were birds everywhere.
 I was so excited when I saw not one, not two, but three bald eagles.  I might have been able to get better pictures, but I got so excited looking at them through my binoculars, I missed them.

We arrived at Hontoon Island State Park.  It is very remote here. 
I obeyed the alligator warning signs but took a hike to the Indian Shell Mounds.  This area is very interesting and in the 50's and 70's Native American Totems were found.  The hike was under the coastal hammock of trees.
Towards the end, I passed a large swamp.
I also ran across this Coast and Geodetic Marker.
  Huge black vultures fill the skies here.  They flock to the trees to roost for the night.
We didn't do it intentionally, but we arrived in time for the boat parade.  There were about 25 boats in the parade.  We are not even sure where they all came from.  We turned on our Christmas lights, listened to Christmas music and had some wine as they boats went passed.

I liked this floating rubber ducky with a Santa hat.

12/11 Sunday-a day for manatees.
The dinghy was dropped in the water.  We took the dinghy about 3 miles up the river to Blue Springs State Park.  Blue Spring keeps the water near the spring at about 74 degrees.  Manatees flock to the area in the winter.  As we cruised there, we saw many manatees and birds along the way.  At the State Park, they have built a walkway along the spring where one can view the manatees.  There are hundreds of them there.  Mother manatees and their young huddled together. 

Some were quite large.
How many manatees can you count in this picture?
   Look carefully to see two large turtles on that log.

Back at Hontoon State Park, there was a deli across the water.  We took the dinghy there for lunch.  Back on our dock, this bird was waiting for us.
I am so glad we made this side trip on the St. John.

Tomorrow, we will head back down river toward Jacksonville.  We will take a few days to enjoy the scenery some more.

Friday, December 9, 2016

12/9 to Astor, FL

We continued up the St. John's River.  But today was cold by Florida standards.  It was in the 40's overnight and low 50's most of the day.  The fly bridge is so nice, but it was chilly, so we put on our little space heater.  It warmed up nicely.  We have been amazed at the number of crab pots to dodge and it is so much easier to see them from the fly bridge.  I liked this river front home.
  Most of the day we were surrounded by the Ocala National Forest. 

The St. John's has a 12 mile lake in it, Lake George.  At the southern end, we were surprised to see that the channel was marked by fenders.  The owner of the Blackwater Inn showed me pictures of the Post Office and water tower that used to be just to the right of it.

After the lake, the St. John's narrows.  The water flowers encroached at the edges of the river and on the marker.

We stopped for the night in Astor at the Blackwater Inn that has several docks.  The Inn has this mural in the parking lot.

Tomorrow, we head up to Hontoon to the Hontoon State Park for a couple of days.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

12/7 Ortega River Marina Repairs and 12/8 Palatka

The Ortega River Marina is just wonderful.  Here are pictures John took of the sunrise on the morning of 12/7. 

John also got this picture of a heron with its reflection in the water.
I saw a large stand of irises.  Here is one. 
The marina has wonderful amenities and you can walk to Publix and restaurants.  We did a provisioning run to Publix in the morning.

We had a problem with our plumbing though.  We had been given the name of John Bragg of Royal Flush Marine and RV Sanitation.  He did a great job in very little time.  He has quite a sense of humor.  I particularly enjoyed his trailer. 
In the afternoon, the clear skies and bright sun made for another great picture. 
For dinner, we went to Tom and Betty's Diner.  They had great wings.  It was trivia night and we played along.  We wished our granddaughter Madeline was with us.  One of the questions was on Harry Potter and one was on Greek mythology.  Both are topics she knows well.  As it turns out, the Great Loop was a category on Jeopardy and some of my friends were PMing me about it. 

In the morning we left the Ortega River to go further up the St. John's River.  The Jacksonville Skyline filled the view to the north.
As we headed up the river, we passed the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.  It takes up a large portion of the river front.
Look at all the planes lined up.
The river is very wide.  The air was cool but because we were heading south into the sun, the fly bridge warmed up quickly.  The river had many crab pots to dodge.  It was almost like the Albemarle.

Palatka has city docks and we tied up there for the night in front of the town clock tower.
There is no electricity or water but you can't beat the free price.  The sunset was so pretty.
 We walked to dinner and kept an eye out as we walked because we saw several of these signs.
Tomorrow, it is supposed to turn cold with the highs only in the 50's.  We will head further up the river.  I have been told that the manatees are going up river too to get to the warm springs.  I hope to see them there.

Lat 29 degrees 38.76 North
Long 81 degrees 37.67 West