17 June 2010

Natural Florida

Since my mom and brother live in Florida year round, I get to see plenty of 'developed' Florida. But one of the best parts of this voyage has been the discovery of 'natural' Florida, which there is still quite a lot of. Practically every day I've sailed through long stretches of coast which seem pristine, and I've been using the "Skipper Bob" anchorage guide to find out-of-the-way gunk holes in the most natural settings possible.

A wild stretch of the St. Lucie River
photo jalmberg

Quite often the ICW winds its way, like a river, through mangroves or other types of forests. These are some of my favorite parts of the waterway since the river is usually fairly narrow and you are close to the scenery. There's lots of birds (wish I knew what they were!), lots of dolphins, the occasional crock, and manatees, of course.

Actually, I haven't seen a single manatee, although I have seen plenty of signs telling me not to run them over at high speeds. They are supposed to resemble large lumps of grey clay floating in the water. This hardly seems like a major tourist attraction, but It's fun to look for them.

A 'spoil' island
photo jalmberg

Great long stretches of the ICW are big open bays. You still need to stick to the dredged channels, but the channels are often wide and there's usually enough wind for a good sail.

These channels are often bounded by what are called 'spoil islands' on the charts. They are ranged in straight lines along the channel, so I assume that these are man made islands, built up from the sand and mud dredged during the construction of the ICW. There are full size trees on these islands and beaches that attract swarms of small boats full of swimmers, picknickers, and explorers on the weekends.

Here's another island that caught my eye.

'Treasure Island'
photo jalmberg

I called it 'Treasure Island', because it had a beach all the way around it, and looked like the perfect place to bury treasure.

Occasionally, even the ravages of civilization can be beautiful. The following picture was taken in the middle of a long stretch of undeveloped coast. Right in the midst of pristine beauty, bull dozers were clearing 5 or 10 acres, pushing trees down in rows, and burning them.

Bulldozers at work, 'improving' the land.
photo jalmberg

I'm not sure what they heck they are planning to build there, but there was a kind of savage beauty in what they were doing. If you like burning deserts.

Most of the towns along the ICW are forgettable, and frequently little more than a collection of fishing camps, but occasionally you pass a charming little town that gladdens the heart.

 Town on bay -- no idea where!
photo jalmberg

Makes me miss the beautiful villages on Long Island and along the New England coast. Can't wait to take Helena on a cruise to Block Island or Nantucket.

But I'm not always ruggedly sailing north along the coast...

 Me, shortly after dawn. Note tarp rigged for shade.
photo jalmberg

I actually stopped in Daytona to watch a World Cup match the other day. I found a delightfully cool Irish Pub on Beach Street, and 'wasted' an entire afternoon eating a Ruben (disgustingly delicioius!) and one or two Guiness Stouts. Uruguay defeated South Africa 3-0.

By the way, scheduling this voyage during the World Cup was a frightfully bad bit of planning on my part. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Luckily, I'm able to listen to games on my iPhone, and I will be stopping along the way to catch major games -- particularly Brazil games.

Beach Street in Daytona. The beer was good.
photo jalmberg

But the most dramatic scenery came in the form of thunder clouds, just this afternoon.  I'd been hoping to reach an anchorage near Fort Mantanzas, and visit the fort itself in Cabin Boy, but one of the thunderstorms that roam along the coast every day, roamed in my direction for a change. Usually, I manage to sail around them, but this one had my name on it.

Scary Thunder Clouds
phto jalmberg

I try to avoid spending the night in marinas, as much as possible, but there was no anchorage within reach, so I ducked into the Palm Coast Marina with about 10 minutes to tie up, rig fenders, and clear the deck before the storm hit.

I broke out a bit of rum and my current book, "Peter Duck", by Arthur Ransome (highly recommended for sailors of all ages.) There was sound and fury outside, but inside my snug little cabin, all was well.

So that is where I am at the moment: Palm Coast, FL. I'll try to remember to post my location more frequently (I promise, mom!)

>>> Next Episode: Beautiful St. Augustine

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  1. Enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Nice to see you back on the water; thanks for the posts.

  3. Nice blog, John. Beautyful photographs too. I follow you on GoogleEarth and thank you for mentioning the names of the cities. Take care of the coming hurricane season.

  4. If you have the time I highly recommend a detour up the St Johns River aways. Once you get past the developments it is pristine.

  5. Maybe I missed the reason (I don't think so) or maybe it's obvious to anyone who's familiar with the area, but why are you still sailing north up the intercoastal rather than out in the open water?

    Glad to see you've made so much progress! Don't neglect your twitter account! Pictures and comments are always fun!

  6. Great photos.
    Manatees are fine to watch and fun to see while snorkeling. You'll like them if you see any. They are not perhaps as dramatic as dolphins, but they are curious and very gentle. Nice role models too as they have no aggressive tendencies among themselves or to other species.

  7. Chris: mainly because the number of safe inlets is so small: Ft. Pierce, Cape Canaveral, St. Augustine, and Jacksonville. These inlets are so far apart, and the wind has been so fluky, that it would probably take 2-3 days to sail them. I just don't think its safe for me to sail 2-3 days offshore by myself. I have a hard time staying awake for more than 24 hours!

    On the ICW I can adapt to the weather. Usually I motor in the morning when there's no wind at all, then sail after lunch, when a nice east wind usually fills in, and in the late afternoon, I watch the daily thunderstorm build over the land, and try to find an anchorage before it runs me over, usually between 5 and 6 pm. Like clockwork!

  8. Peter Duck by A. Ransome is a great read - hunkered down in a storm, or any time. Coot Club - or Great Northern might be great while looking at nature. - I thoroughly enjoy your blog. - GM


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