Daytona Beach and an 18th Century Fort

Daytona Beach had not really sounded like our kind of place when we consulted the Lonely Planet Guide, but it was a convenient place to stop, so we anchored just off the channel in the waterway, away from the beach itself. It wasn’t really as I had imagined – very few high-rise buildings, and no evidence of the Daytona 500 2014, which had been cancelled the day before, because of heavy rain.

We’re gradually getting used to doing things at the American times of day – starting early, and eating early in the evenings in particular. I’ve noticed that if we arrive at a restaurant at 8 o’clock or later, we’ll usually have missed the busy time, and just occasionally the staff will be sending out subliminal messages that it will soon be their going-home time.
So it wasn’t too much of a hardship to be woken at 6.30am by the noisy cries of some passing rowers.

The rowers coming back at 7.30

The rowers coming back at 7.30

The other notable thing about Daytona was this bridge, decorated with manatees and dolphins in mosaic.

Bridge over the ICW at Daytona Beach

Bridge over the ICW at Daytona Beach

After Daytona, we passed a large lagoon, the Tomoka Basin, to our left.

Tomoka Basin

Tomoka Basin

There are several State Parks north of Daytona, and the whole area is beautiful and unspoiled. This is Washington Oaks, north of Palm Coast.

Washington Oaks State Park

Washington Oaks State Park

At Summer Haven, there is only a narrow strip of land separating the waterway from the ocean.

A glimpse of the Atlantic at Summer Haven

A glimpse of the Atlantic at Summer Haven

We had decided to anchor in Matanzas Inlet, so we could visit Fort Matanzas, a National Historic Monument. We had to make a sharp right turn from the waterway into the Matanzas River, which links with St Augustine. The fort was built in 1742 by the Spanish, to protect their settlement there.

Turning into the Matanzas River from the ICW

Turning into the Matanzas River from the ICW


Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas


The fort is on Rattlesnake Island, and you can only get there by taking the free ferry srvice provided by the State Parks Service. So we took the dinghy and parked on the little beach nearby.
Parking the dinghy, Fort Matanzas and Carina in the background

Parking the dinghy, Fort Matanzas and Carina in the background


The State Park also provided a ranger, in addition to the one who drove the boat, to inform the passengers about the history of the fort, which he did with an engaging mixture of slight boredom and enthusiasm, and a laconic humour.
Park Ranger declaiming the history of Fort Matanza

Park Ranger declaiming the history of Fort Matanzas


As Florida is flat, there are very few places where you can get anything approaching an aerial view, so it was quite rewarding to climb the steep steps, and then a narrow, almost vertical ladder, to get to the top of the tower.
Looking south towards the Atlantic from Fort Matanzas

Looking south towards the Atlantic from Fort Matanzas


Looking west

Looking west

There were plenty of egrets around.

Egret

Egret

Afterwards, we sat upstairs in Carina, enjoying a beer and watching the sun go down behind the old fort.

Sunset at Fort Matanzas

Sunset at Fort Matanzas

And Carina had another little surprise in store for us. In the middle of the night, we woke to a strange noise emanating from underneath the boat. Investigating mechanical problems does not fall within my scope of duties, so I stayed in bed while Ian got up to have a look. The diagnosis was that the tide was running so fast that the prop was being turned round, but apparently it was one of those situations where there is nothing you can do, so it’s best to do nothing.

A rocket launch and the vagaries of the weather

We had discovered from the Space Coast Launches website that a rocket was going to be launched from Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening, so Ian identified a suitable place to anchor from where we would be able to get a good view. A few other boats had the same idea, and after dinner we sat up at the front of the boat in almost total darkness, except for a few lights and a faint orange glow from the direction of the launch pad.
The appointed hour came and went, and we began to wonder if we’d missed it, or were looking in the wrong direction. We checked the website again, and found it had been postponed by 15 minutes, to 8.59pm. As we watched, a globe of fire suddenly rose slowly and silently towards the sky. It was some time before we heard any sound, and even then it was surprisingly muted. We saw a couple of small balls of fire fall away, and then, suddenly, it was gone.
Even though we were 4 miles away, the immediacy made it compelling.
This image is from floridatoday.com

Rocket launch, 20th February 2014

Rocket launch, 20th February 2014

On Friday, the weather forecast was for thunderstorms later in the day, so we made an early start for Titusville, about 10 miles north of Cape Canaveral, and moored on one of the buoys at the City Marina. In the afternoon we took the dinghy for the half-mile trip to the marina.
Titusville had a rather depressed air about it and has apparently suffered economically since the termination of the Space Shuttle in 2012. It has a downtown, but as someone in the marina said to us, if we blinked we would miss it. However, we ventured to the Save-a-lot Grocery Store a few blocks from the marina, which, as might be expected, didn’t afford quite the same shopping experience as a visit to Publix or Wholefoods.
But the afternoon was brightened by the Sunrise Bakery, on the next block. From the outside it didn’t even look open, and inside was an unprepossessing collection of tables and chairs that reminded me of various student flats in the 1960s. But on sale was an array of artisan breads – I chose wild rice and sweet onion bread, and a bread and butter pudding to take back to the boat. The cakes and cookies looked appetising and free from any sinister ingredients, so we had hot tea and a cranberry scone before going back to the marina.
We were just in time. No sooner had we got back to Carina than the rain started, and all through the evening there were spectacular flashes of lightning, fortunately some distance away.

The next day we woke up to thick fog, and more thunderstorms forecast. There was no question of going anywhere, except possibly a quick trip to the marina if the fog cleared sufficiently.

Saturday morning at 9 o'clock

Saturday morning at 9 o’clock

Eventually at 10.30 we ventured out. Marinas vary in what they offer, and Titusville had very friendly staff and a free minibus service to the out-of-town stores a few miles away. So with another couple, John and Sue, who are also doing the Great Loop this year, we had yet another shopping trip, this time to a hardware store, always a source of fascination, and a Publix.
By the time we got back to the marina, the thunderstorms were well underway. We sat under the veranda by the dockside, sharing a bottle of Sam Adams and a packet of crisps, watching a manatee enjoying the downpour. After about an hour the rain stopped, Ian bailed about four inches of water out of the dinghy and we returned to Carina. The wind had got up though, and the water was so choppy that the waves crashed against the side and we got soaked anyway.

This morning the weather had cleared, though areas to the south of us were still fog-bound. and we set off for New Smyrna Beach, 30 miles to the north.

From the mooring at Titusville City Marina

From the mooring at Titusville City Marina


It’s odd how, after a few days on the boat, especially if we’ve been anchored or moored at a buoy, I can’t wait to walk about on dry land. But after a couple of days stuck in the same place, it’s a great feeling to be off, on the waterway again.
Indian River near Titusville

Indian River near Titusville


For the first ten miles we were still in the wide reach of Indian River, before passing through the short Haulover Canal, which leads to Mosquito Lagoon.
Entrance to the Haulover Canal

Entrance to the Haulover Canal


Island in Mosquito Lagoon

Island in Mosquito Lagoon

Our arrival at New Smyrna Beach wasn’t without drama. As Ian turned the boat to get into the dock, apparently without warning the wind caught Carina’s stern, and she swung alarmingly towards the other boats that were already tied up. There followed several minutes of frantic manoeuvreing, with the dockmaster pulling on various lines, and me fending off the adjacent boats, assisted by the owners of the next door boat, who turned out to be John and Sue whom we had met at Titusville and who had passed us along the way. Eventually all was safely sorted, with the only dent being to the Captain’s dignity.
‘Nice to run into you guys again,’ said John, with only the slightest hint of irony.

New Smyrna Beach Marina, with a manatee swimming in the dock

New Smyrna Beach Marina, with a manatee swimming in the dock

Sebastian Inlet

North of Wabasso, the waterway is very pretty, with numerous small islands as well as the longer barrier islands to the east.

The Intracoastal Waterway near Sebastian Inlet

The Intracoastal Waterway near Sebastian Inlet

We’ve seen a number of dolphins, but this is the first photo I’ve managed.
IMG_7965

But attractive though it was, I wanted to see the ocean on the other side of the islands. There was a possibility of mooring at Sebastian Inlet marina, from where we could have walked to the beach, but we had inconveniently used up all our wifi and the only way to get some more was to take a trip to the dreaded Walmart.
This in turn meant a marina from where we could at least get a taxi, so we carried on 10 miles north of the inlet to Melbourne and stayed at the marina there.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in Northumberland for nearly 30 years, or maybe all the holidays in Cornwall, but I still really wanted to see the proper sea, as opposed to the river inlet which we’ll be on for the next 200 miles.
You can’t really wander at will in the US, it seems, and probably you wouldn’t want to, given some of the wildlife. You have to see the wild places through the State Parks, and after a protracted discussion, it was agreed to suspend fiscal caution, stay another night in the marina, and hire a car for a day which would not only facilitate the shopping in the afternoon, but would allow us to drive 10 miles back down the island to Sebastian Inlet State Park

It was the right call. The ocean was awesome. We looked at the beach, and the birds, and Ian had a chat with some people who were fishing on the pier.

First view of the Atlantic at Sebastian inlet

First view of the Atlantic at Sebastian inlet

Pelican

Pelican


I think this is a Caspian Tern. He certainly didn’t mind having his photo taken.
Caspian tern

Caspian tern

This one’s for any Newcastle supporters who may be reading this.

Sheepshead Porgy

Sheepshead Porgy

We decided to walk along a 5km trail that would take us round the river shore and back across the island to the ocean shore. A nice Park Ranger advised us that we couldn’t possibly get lost, and insisted on giving us his insect repellent when we said we hadn’t got any.
He added a note of caution. ‘If you see an alligator on the path, don’t try to go past him. Just turn around and go a different way.’ You bet.
But apart from a few tantalising rustles and splashes, the wildlife were having a quiet day.

This is the river shore at the start of the walk.

The cove on the river shore, Sebastian Inlet

The cove on the river shore, Sebastian Inlet


Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus

The trail went along the top of a man-made dyke which had been put in to help prevent hurricane damage, but even so, the views were very limited because of the dense mangrove.

walking along the trail near the river shore

walking along the trail near the river shore

There was a very occasional break in the vegetation.

A brief glimpse of the river shore through the mangrove

A brief glimpse of the river shore through the mangrove


As we turned back away from the river, taller trees on the slightly higher ground formed a hammock.
Under the hammock

Under the hammock

We had another 2 km to walk back along the ocean shore. I think this is an agave, but I’m not sure. It seemed to be an escapee from the garden of one of the very few houses in the vicinity.

? Agave

? Agave

Back on the Atlantic shore

Back on the Atlantic shore


shells on the beach

shells on the beach


IMG_7990

Today we’ve travelled another 30 miles north and are moored close to Cape Canaveral, where a rocket is due to be launched in just under two hours’ time. There’s a fair bit of chop, so we are rocking and rolling a little, but we’re looking forward to seeing the action.

 

 

Moving North

The thing about anchoring out, apart from the solitude and of course the avoidance of the tricky business of negotiating one’s way around other boats in the marina, is that it is free of charge. This is a considerable advantage after a few nights at an expensive marina, eating out, going shopping and catching up with the laundry.
There’s always a price though, and in this case it is the anxiety that the anchor might work loose, and the boat drift away in the middle of the night, taking the sleeping occupants with it.

On Friday night when we were anchored at Hookers Cove, Wind Guru, the weather forecasting app, had not been entirely truthful with us. The winds that were supposed to moderate during the afternoon actually increased in strength, reaching a level that could almost be described as ‘blowing a hooley’. Ian dropped the second anchor, for reassurance. Tom and Tracy, Carina’s previous owners, had apparently not bothered with such minutiae as an anchor alarm, Tom preferring instead to rely on cries of ‘Holy shit, Tom!’ to alert him to imminent disaster.
But Ian prefers science, and we had not one anchor alarm, but two, one on the laptop and the other on my phone. They use the GPS signal, and sound off if the boat has moved more than a pre-set distance from the anchor.
We’re on a learning curve. The alarm went off, loudly and disconcertingly, twice in the middle of the night. The tolerance had been set too narrowly, and the boat had swung round out of the GPS range.
But the anchors held fast.

The next day we had our first glimpse of the Atlantic. We left the St Lucie River, and took a sharp left turn to head north up Indian River and begin the journey up the Atlantic Intra-coastal Waterway.

The start of the Atlantic ICW, looking north up Indian River

The start of the Atlantic ICW, looking north up Indian River

A little later, we passed a large fleet of 420 dinghies racing in the sound. The conditions were perfect, and Ian not a little envious, I think.

420s racing in Indian River

420s racing in Indian River


Indian River is a broad sound between the mainland and a string of long islands a few miles to the east, with a wider, more open feel than the Gulf Coast. We moored at Fort Pierce, FL in the city marina, and enjoyed the live music and good food at Cobbs Landing, next to the marina.
Downtown Ft Pierce,FL

Downtown Ft Pierce,FL

One of the reasons for stopping at a marina is to replenish the food stocks, but this is sometimes more easily said than done. Ian can sometimes be reluctant to recognise the correlation between going to the supermarket and having anything to eat, regarding all forms of shopping, with the exception of buying bits for cars and boats, as a female indulgence that at best has to be tolerated, and at worst borne with a grudging ill-humour.
So Sunday morning didn’t go well. The nearest Publix was 3 miles away, and taxis are tricky in the US. Everyone has a car, so demand for taxis is limited. It follows that supply is also limited, and although we got a taxi to take us to the supermarket, we had to wait over an hour for it to take us back to the marina.

But undaunted, in the afternoon we visited Heathcote Botanical Gardens, this time using the other Fort Pierce taxi firm, a one-man band who was apologetic about our morning experience, and who explained the economics of running a taxi business to us.
The garden was a delight, and so was the volunteer staff member who enthusiastically welcomed us, and explained the garden’s history and layout. It had originally been a nursery, and in 1985 the City of Ft Pierce had bought the house and land, to be developed and maintained by volunteers as a community resource. It has a large bonsai collection and there is a series of garden ‘rooms’, and a children’s garden and community vegetable garden.

The main lawn

The main lawn


Bonsai Ficus, 25 years old

Bonsai Ficus, 25 years old


The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden


The Palm and Cycad walk

The Palm and Cycad walk


Heathcote House

Heathcote House


Tree Philodendron

Tree Philodendron


Triple-crowned sable palm

Triple-crowned sable palm

As we left Fort Pierce this morning, a manatee surfaced about two feet from the boat and popped his head out and looked round, but I didn’t have the camera with me, and perhaps it would have spoiled the moment anyway.

Leaving Fort Pierce City Marina

Leaving Fort Pierce City Marina


We travelled 25 miles north, passing lots of lovely small islands, and we’re now peacefully anchored off Wabasso.
Sparkling water and opalescent skies near Vero Beach,FL

Sparkling water and opalescent skies near Vero Beach,FL


Carina anchored at Wabasso

Carina anchored at Wabasso

Be My Valentine

View from Carina  at dusk - Indian Street Bridge

View from Carina at dusk – Indian Street Bridge


In spite of the slightly romantic, moonlit setting, dinner on Carina on the Eve of St Valentine was not one of my better efforts. I think I’ve gone off brown rice, and I really must remember that when you use yoghurt as the basis of a sauce, given half the chance it will irreversibly curdle, ruining the aesthetics, if not the flavour, of your creation. But then I never was very good at Cooking With Gas.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the weather in Florida in the winter is at least as capricious as in England.
We had to stay in the marina yesterday, because to venture out would have been foolhardy, in the gale force winds.
This morning I awoke shivering, and not just because I’d had nightmares about intruders on the boat and swimming with manatees. It was 7C. That’s about 45F, for my American family. There was condensation running down Carina’s windows, and outside, mist was gently rising from the water.
Early morning mist at Indiantown Marina

Early morning mist at Indiantown Marina


We continued our journey along the Okeechobee Waterway, travelling east along the St Lucie Canal towards Stuart.
The trees were different – the pines lending some height to the panorama.
near Indiantown

near Indiantown

Ian is usually meticulous about planning the day’s route, but for some reason it had escaped him that just before arriving at the St Lucie River, there would be a double bascule bridge that had only 9′ headroom, and this would need to be opened before Carina could pass through. This necessitated a hurried call to the bridgemaster on the VHF radio.

Roosevelt Bridge opened for Carina to pass through

Roosevelt Bridge opened for Carina to pass through

Our plan had been to anchor at a place called Manatee Pocket, which sounded pleasant and picturesque.

Manatee Pocket

Manatee Pocket


But when we got there, it seemed rather crowded with boats, so we went back and anchored in the quieter Hookers Cove.
The sun setting at Hookers Cove

The sun setting at Hookers Cove


And a few minutes later, the moon rose.
Moon rising

Moon rising

Some like it hot…..

….but you can have too much of a good thing, and the for the last two days the temperature has been up to 30C and a following wind has meant it’s been quite uncomfortable up on the flybridge. Fortunately the nights have been cooler, as the airconditioner on Carina’s pretty noisy. When we bought Carina, Tom and Tracy were plugging the benefits of the ice-making machine, something which it would never have occurred to us to think of buying for ourselves. We’re just beginning to appreciate it.

We left Ft Myers two days ago, heading east up the Caloosahatchee River to LaBelle. We’re not in uncharted waters – perish the thought – but it feels like unknown territory, since nothing between Fort Myers on the west coast, and Port St Lucie on the east, features in that bible for travellers, the Lonely Planet Guide.

Clouds reflected in the water just east of Fort Myers

Clouds reflected in the water just east of Fort Myers

The landscape began to change, but there was still plenty of birdlife around.

Great egrets near Fort Myers

Great egrets near Fort Myers

Some interesting engineering too. This is a bascule bridge.

Cape Coral railway bridge

Cape Coral railway bridge

The vegetation still quite tropical here.
IMG_7882

We saw some orange groves too.

Orange groves near LaBelle

Orange groves near LaBelle

Yesterday we covered LaBelle to Clewiston. The scenery and vegetation became more open grassland and we occasionally saw cows at the water’s edge. Presumably the alligators hold no fears for them.

Countryside east of LaBelle

Countryside east of LaBelle

There were locks to contend with, something we are used to on the canals, but these were rather different, being a great deal larger, and manned. There was some anxiety that we wouldn’t know the local code of practice, and also that there might be a lot of surging when the lock filled, but we acquitted ourselves quite well.

Leaving Ortona Lock

Leaving Ortona Lock


We saw a working boat leaving the next lock.
Working boat leaving Moore Haven Lock

Working boat leaving Moore Haven Lock

Last night we stayed at Roland Martin Marina, Clewiston. After a few nights moored out, well away from other boats, it was a pleasure to eat at the restaurant there – good food, busy with people and funky music too.

Enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio at Roland Martin's

Enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio at Roland Martin’s

This morning, my usual routine of lying in bed for some time with a cup of tea, checking my emails and Facebooking on my phone had to be sacrificed in the interests of crossing Lake Okeechobee before the wind got too strong. We had, of course, read all about the lake and the vagaries of the weather in Terry Darlington‘s book Narrow Dog to Indian River, which was the inspiration for this trip, and it had assumed totemic significance. It’s an enormous lake – 35 miles across – so crossing it is rather different from meandering up the river. or hugging the coastline between the Keys. How to strike a balance between safety but not wimping out? The forecast was not that good for today – winds of up to 15 knots, moderately choppy, and deteriorating later in the afternoon.But the forecast for the following two days was worse. While time isn’t an issue, we don’t want it to become one, and we have to be in Jacksonville by March 7th, give or take a day or two. So we really didn’t want to hang about in Clewiston, and I had to get out of bed at 7.15 to be away by 8.
It was a beautiful morning, and almost straight away after leaving the marina we found ourselves in the wide expanse of the lake.

Entering Lake Okeechobee at Clewiston

Entering Lake Okeechobee at Clewiston


Early morning fishermen on Lake Okeechobee

Early morning fishermen on Lake Okeechobee


It took us just under four hours to cross the lake, and for the last hour there was appreciable swell. We carried on along the St Lucie Canal for 10 miles to Indiantown. Here’s another one for the engineers.
Railroad lift bridge near Indiantown

Railroad lift bridge near Indiantown

We made the right decision. At four o’clock the rain started, with thunder and lightning too. Tomorrow gale force winds are expected, so it looks as though I might get a lie-in tomorrow, and Carina might get some deep cleaning.

Seeing the sights at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates

Thomas A. Edison's house on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myers,FL

Thomas A. Edison’s house on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myers,FL

The Edison-Ford Winter Estates may sound a bit dry, but it is a gem.

Thomas Edison came to Florida in the 1880s with his second wife Mina and bought the property, Seminole Lodge, as a winter home and spent the next 20 years developing the house and garden. He became friendly with Henry Ford through their shared interest in many enterprises, and in 1916 Ford bought the next-door house, The Mangoes.

We had an audio tour which covered the two houses, the Botanical and Ornamental Gardens, the Ford Automobile exhibit, the museum and Edison’s laboratory, all for $20 each.

Both the houses were charming in their simplicity and good taste, and Edison’s in particular reflected his various inventions.

The library, Edison house

The library, Edison house


The sitting room, Edison house

The sitting room, Edison house


The master bedroom, Edison house

The master bedroom, Edison house


The Mangoes, Henry Ford's house

The Mangoes, Henry Ford’s house


Clara Ford's dining room with her Wedgwood dinner service

Clara Ford’s dining room with her Wedgwood dinner service

Mina Edison developed the ornamental gardens, while Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were interested in botanical research and in particular, with Harvey Firestone, in finding a plant which would thrive in the Florida climate and from which latex could be harvested.

Mina Edison's Moonlight Garden

Mina Edison’s Moonlight Garden


Tropical plants making striking contrasts of form and texture

Tropical plants making striking contrasts of form and texture


Palmyra Palms

Palmyra Palms


The Mysore Banyan tree

The Mysore Banyan tree


Bauhinia

Bauhinia

The Automobile exhibition included the Tin Lizzie, the Model T Ford.

Model T Ford

Model T Ford


It’s quite frightening to think that it could actually go at 45mph.

Edison and Ford both had very little formal schooling and their achievements, dedication and enterprise were all brought out in the exhibition. But so too were their interest and enjoyment of family life.
They were both sociable, and Henry Ford loved dancing, to the extent that he formed his own dance band and employed his own dance teacher to learn and revive old dances. In the 1920s, he said: “The younger people do not know old-fashioned dancing, and the older people – those who really need it – have grown rusty. They thought they were too old, but one never gets too old to dance!”. Indeed.

There was an interesting view of the energy crisis, as seen 100 years ago. In 1913, Scientific American said that ‘the question of the possible exhaustion of the world’s oil supply deserves the gravest consideration. There is every indication we are now face to face with this possibility.’
And in 1931, Edison presciently told Ford and Firestone : “I’ll put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle this.”
He was 83 years old, and still working every day in his laboratory.

A precursor to the juke box

A precursor to the juke box

We decided we had enough time, after visiting the Edison-Ford estates, to go to Lee County Manatee Park . Manatees are aquatic mammals, about the size of a large sheep, and are an endangered species. They are most closely related to elephants, and are a must-see for visitors to Florida.
Owing to human inputting error, our first two efforts at driving there, courtesy of the Tom-Tom and then Google maps on my iPhone, were not successful, and it was only after driving about 12 miles round in circles that we established the right address for the park.
A certain irritability crept into the conversation.
‘The bl**dy manatees had better be sitting up doing tricks after this.’
But only one of them deigned to expose six inches of his back.