Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Daytona Beach FL to Savannah GA

Daytona Beach
 The word 'Daytona' conjures up visions of hot rods on the beach and babes in bikinis. The babes are still there but the hot rods are gone, relocated to the Speedway several miles inland. You can still pay a small fee to drive down one small stretch of endless sand, but the exhilaration has fizzled out.
....and Then

  St. Augustine
     The morning dawned and we were off to a more enchanting port of call, St. Augustine, Florida. First settled by Spain in 1565, it has the distinction of being the oldest permanent European settlement in America. A majestic fort, Fort Castillo de San Marcos, guards the city. You can almost feel the conquistadors strolling the battlements. This is a walking city, with narrow winding lanes and cafes spewing music and entertainment galore. From the harbour we savoured the view of the Spanish Renaissance architecture, including the grand Flagler Hotel, built by railway baron Henry Flagler. We new we were nearing the heart of the old south when we spied the dashing Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara peering out from a local pub. Rhett's smirk seemed to say…. "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

Flagler Mansion

Miss Scarlett
 Our time here passed quickly, but we reluctantly passed on to Georgia and the Old South. Our journey took us through Fernandina, Jekyl Island and St.Simons Island.  Jekyl Island and St. Simons proved to be very interesting stops. Both were former plantations owned by French and British Entrepreneurs fleeing war in Europe. We learned of the sad story of The Wanderer, the last slave ship to arrive in America in the mid 1800's, years after slavery had supposedly been abolished. 480 souls left Africa but only 403 survived the horrid conditions crossing the Atlantic to arrive at Jekyl Island 42 days later. The ancestors of these immigrants populate the island to this day, thankfully, under much happier circumstances.
Savannah, Georgia 
After going aground in the ever-shifting shallows on route to Fernandina, we decided to leave the I.C.W. (Intra-Coastal Waterway), and go through the St. Simon cut out to sea on an overnighter to Savannah. A kindly fellow in a small power boat offered to pull us off the sand to our great relief. It took a few attempts but eventually we pulled free and waited several hours for the tide to rise before pushing onward. It was a rough ride outside with winds on the nose and choppy seas. We arrived at last in the Savannah River and tied up with the vista of old town Savannah before our eyes! The history here in the Deep South is astounding, and sometimes bleak. From privateers to slave traders, Civil War heroes to freedom fighters, they have all made their mark here at one time or another. The city parks are lined with statues and monuments commemorating many of the people who shaped this diverse country. Strolling through the cobblestone streets and gazing up at the brownstone and red brick buildings on the strand, time seems to stand still.
Today, the old riverboat paddle steamers unload their cargo of tourists with cameras  and brochures in hand, and the shops bustle with the sale of t-shirts and gelatos. Everyone appears content to let the ghosts of the past rest in peace. As Forest Gump would say,( part of  the movie was set in Savannah)……."Life is like a box of chocolates,
you never know what you're gonna get".

Civil War Memorial

The Stars and Bars

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Florida and the Keys


Alice, Douglas and Bonnie, SV Tranquila
 Anchored in the harbour on Abacos Island we noticed a big Cat flying the Bluewater burgie from its' shrouds. It was Alice and Douglas aboard SV Tranquila from Kelowna BC. and their adorable teddy bear dog, Bonnie. As fortune would have it, they were fellow members of the Bluewater Cruising Association and we were traveling the same way so planned our joint departure to Great Sale Cay and then on to Florida the next morning. We rode the Gulf Stream overnight easily for a morning arrival into Port Canaveral, Florida. Back in the land of abundance we rented a car and drove to Orlando to visit friends of Daragh's, Doug, Marlene and grandson Dylan. Also with Donal at his Fiddlers Green Irish Pub.Eight lane freeways, mega-stores and fast food outlets as far as the eye can see. It's great to be back in the Rat Race!  Florida is almost completely flat and laced with pleasant, winding waterways and lakes. A sailors paradise! Many of the 'Snowbirds' from up north live in beautifully landscaped communities with all the modern conveniences. This was a bit of a reverse culture shock after traveling in Central America. 
Donal & Alan at Fiddlers Green Pub

Key Largo of Humphrey Bogart Fame
     We have now entered the Intra-coastal Waterway, also known as 'The Ditch', heading for Titusville. This large waterway runs from Maine all the way to the Gulf Coast of Florida, over 3,000 miles in length. Along the 1,000 mile Atlantic section there are over 100 bridges, some of which, (the Bascules and Swings), must be hailed to open for sailboats to pass through. One passes a myriad of scenic sights including old plantations and manor houses, bleak swamps and bayous, jungles, historic towns and modern skyscrapers. The Waterway it seems is a veritable minefield of shoals, shallows and obstacles with constantly shifting sands, so we creep along with eyes peeled for imminent dangers. One must watch out for the lounging bulk of large Manatees, sea lion-like creatures that bathe in the warm waters of the channel. 

Manatee drinking fresh water drops
      In Titusville we tied up in the marina, rented a car and drove 350 miles south to Key West. The last 100 miles is a vast span of bridges joining the islands, one of which is 7 miles long!  An incredible feat. Only in America! Key West, which must have been an idyllic spot at onetime, is now home to the inevitable cruise ships, and tarted up for the tourists. However, it still exudes that "Jimmy Buffet' small town charm with funky bars, crisp white colonial cottages with picket fences, and a very hip arts community. 
Cigar Factory Folkart

       We will spend a couple of days at Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, absorbing the fascinating story of the American and Russian astronauts and the Space Program, and then blast off ourselves into the blue. Next stop Daytona Beach, and life in the fast lane!

Lounging at Key West
Kennedy Space Center
One small step for mankind
at Cape Canaveral