I left Firecracker at Lang’s Marina on the St Marys River so I could go back to Mystic for Ginnie’s retirement party and baby sitting for the most incredible grand daughter in the whole world. I also went home so that we could return together.
Having so many provisions and boat stuff, and our cat Oliver (AKA Velcro because he is so attached to me) to bring back, we decided to drive down to St Marys. We arrived a few days before Thanksgiving to find the boat covered in bird poop. Our dock neighbor had called to warn us, so we brought down a small power washer and in no time the the boat was like new. Thanksgiving in St Marys is a 12 year old tradition where cruisers gather, the turkey and hams are cooked by the local families and the appetizers, side dishes and deserts are brought by the cruisers. Ginnie brought a pile of her mom’s Greek twist cookies and they were a hit, with none left for us to take back to the boat.
Sunset at the St Marys River
We left the St Marys River and went out the inlet for a wonderful sail outside in the ocean to St Augustine where we entered the inlet in the late afternoon and picked up a mooring at the Municipal Marina. While in St Augustine we had the boat hauled out at Oasis Boat Yard in the San Sebastian River for some rudder repairs.
King of Lions Bridge in St Augustine
We left St Augustine to travel along the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). Sailing the ICW is not exactly sailing. You follow a narrow channel with limited water in many sections. It is like driving the boat down a street. The homes along the banks are often spectacular and others times the scenes of marsh grass and mangroves are remote and beautiful .Our first stop was in New Smyrna, FL where we saw our first holiday boat parade, not planned but very cool. Cocoa, FL was our next stop, a nice town with an incredible hardware store, Travis Hardware has seven buildings, some with as many as three floors, hmmm, this could be a good place for me to spend a whole day. Some time you’ll have to ask Ginnie about our daring ways to get fresh water here.
From Cocoa we continued on the ICW to Melborne, FL where we attended our first SSCA, Seven Seas Cruising Association, Gam. A gam is a gathering of cruisers. We attended informative sessions related to cruising. The sessions were great and seeing friends we have met along the way was even better.
Vero was our next port where we picked up a mooring for the night. We were rafter with to other boats, one was Pandora, Bob & Brenda’s Saga 43 and the other was owned by a couple from New York. We walked over to Vero Beach, a beautiful and impressive town with upscale stores.
Sunset at the Vero Bridge
Continuing down the ICW towards Ft Lauderdale we anchored in Ft Pierce and Lake Worth. At the Lake Worth inlet we again left the ICW and sailed in the ocean to Ft Lauderdale.
Oliver at sea, OK so far.
Going back up the ICW a little bit we grabbed a mooring at Las Olas Marina. Once secure on the mooring, our neighbor asked if we were there for the Christmas boat parade that night. Boat parade, we had no clue! This was unforgettable, over 100 boats, lasting 2 1/2 hours . It was truly spectacular.
One of over 100 boats in the Christmas parade.
From Las Olas we went west up the New River to Cooley’s Landing where we left Firecracker to go home for Christmas. The New River was very narrow with fast currents. Fellow cruisers told us about this river but you have to see it yourself to believe it. Mega yachts up to 125′ moving up and down the river with little room for other boats. Ginnie saw her first manatee just feet off our transom. Taking Oliver home with us wasn’t a great idea since we were flying back to the boat so we boarded him at what turned out to be a spa for pampered pets. He was washed, fluff dried and perfumed. The smell drove us crazy for two weeks when we got him back to the boat.
Firecracker in her slip in the New River.
Fabulous Christmas spent at home with family, Sarah, Devon and REESE especially!! A little snow to remind us we were back north.
We were grateful to have good friends to water the plants in Mystic. Thank you Barry for watering the plants and thanks Bob for the ride to the airport. Our slip neighbors at Cooley’s landing were so gracious about watching the boat while we were away. They live aboard their catamaran with there two year old son and three month old daughter.
Once again we were treated to an unexpected surprise. The New Years celebration was being held on the New River just below our slip. The fireworks at midnight were great, and yes we stayed awake. On New Year’s day colleagues of Ginnie’s visited us at the boat and joined us for lunch on the New River.
On January 3rd we left for Bimini, the color of the water in the Gulf Stream was an incredible blue, a color we had never seen before. As we approached the shallow waters near Bimini the colors of the water at different depths change. We navigated into Bimini trying to stay in the deeper, bluer water. Channel markers here are few and far between.
Ginnie at the helm crossing the Gulf Stream.
Arriving at the Blue Water Marina we were surprised to see friends that we met in Ft Lauderdale and St Augustine. After helping us get Firecracker tied into our slip, our adventure in Bimini began. We seem to have an uncanny knack of being in places with boat parades and celebrations, Bimini was no exception. On January 4th there was a Junkanoo (parade) in Alice Town that was fun.
Junkanoo in Alice Town, Bimini.
Sailing between islands here is entirely dependent on the weather, after we arrived the winds started blowing from the east at 15 to 20 knots with higher gusts. These winds kept us here waiting for a better weather window to depart for Nassau and the Exuma Islands. So we decided to do a little exploring. There is a house here in Bimini that was built by Ashley Saunders. He constructed entirely by himself using only shells, flotsam and jetsam from local beaches and donated pieces of tile. Ashley collects conch shells, heats them for days in fires that turn the shells into dust then mixes this dust with beach sand and pure rain water to make his own concrete. Amazing. This man is an incredible artist. His 20 years of effort and creativity have built Dolphin House.
Ashley and one of his many shrines.
Ginnie, Ashley and me on the roof of Dolphin House.
Sister Jan, Bimini’s lunch lady serves lunch daily from the back of her station wagon. Around noon she arrives at the straw market, just down the road from our marina, and offers baked, fried and BBQ chicken, mac & cheese, rice and peas, potato salad, ribs, cracked conch and salad. Pick what you want. She fills your plate and we share this for lunch, which costs only $7. We have to be careful, much more of her delicious food and we may not fit down the companionway on the boat.
Firecracker at the dock in Bimini.
We were fortunate to see a spotted manta ray jump out of the water about 4 feet, and a variety of fish swimming under the docks. We met some fun cruisers at Browns Marina nearby and spent many evenings with them sharing potlucks and a few drinks. Each day we stopped by the tourism center where we were able to access free internet. Everyone is addicted to using the internet. Everyone is addicted to using the internet so we connected with other cruisers each day.
We purchased a Bahamian phone and sim card as well as an air card to connect to the internet in remote areas. Ginnie and I also visited the local high school and we were given a very gracious tour. Students in each classroom stood and greeted us as we entered!
Weather permitting, Sunday January 13, we will be able to sail across the banks and begin the next leg of our journey. This stay in Bimini may end up being one of the highlights of our trip however.