March 19-20, 2012... Journey North

St. Augustine beckoned, so we waited for the right weather for the 30-hour ocean voyage from Ft. Pierce, got an early start, and shook out the new sails. The morning hours were terrific; the sails behaved beautifully, the winds were just right, and we were making quick work of our itinerary. Until about noon. Then, no wind. We waited all day and through the night with no luck. So we motorsailed and got to St. Augustine Inlet about noon the second day. This is not an obvious straight shot in off the ocean, and without the help of a fisherman heading out, and the crew of a working dredge, we would not have made it. The last test of our sleep-deprived characters was to get through a bridge and hook up to a mooring at the city marina. Took several tries, but we did it and are now drowsily soaking up our new surroundings in downtown.

Highlight of the trip? TURTLES!! Gigantic turtles swimming about 10-15 miles away from shore south of Cape Canaveral. We haven't identified them, but by their size, we are thinking leatherbacks. They have started nesting on Florida beaches, so we figure these were a couple of Moms heading in to lay their eggs.

St. Augustine: +29° 53' 10.74", -81° 18' 20.46"

March 8-19, 2012... Ft. Pierce, FL

We left Stuart on a blustery day for the short trip up the ICW to Ft. Pierce and anchored where we had 3 years ago on our way south. Seemed that the anchorage had filled In a bit, the depths not being what they used to be, but good enough for Anhinga. The other difference was that there was only one other boat -- a huge change from our earlier experience. It turned out to be a spectacular place to anchor -- lots of fish under the boat (we think bumper), dolphins swimming around most days, pelicans by the dozens, herons, etc. And of course our manatee visitor (see 13 Mar blog post.)

We took full advantage of the city marina for its dinghy dock and proximity to town. Our favorite days were Saturdays for the farmers market, where we shopped for fresh produce and bread, and danced to the bands playing. Last Saturday 'The Critters' of 1960s fame played. Guess musicians retire to Florida too.

Lucky for us, John III was in country and we were able to meet him for dinner. We also Facetimed Alejandra together -- ain't technology grand? We held the table at the restaurant for 4 hours, so we got to know our waiter a bit and see his snook fishing pictures. Fishing is big here on the Treasure Coast.

We kayaked several times and on our last day in town, went on a 4-hour marathon around the causeway, into the Ft. Pierce inlet, and up into the mangroves. We didn't judge the depth there too well and went aground (we only draw 6"!!) and John had to tow us to deep water. Then we found the channel that goes to the party beach. At least 50 boats tied up and with the music, kids playing, and people tanning, it seemed like we found what people do on Sunday afternoons. We'll take it!

Ft. Pierce: +27° 27' 24.90", -80° 18' 11.58"

March 13, 2012... Day of the Anhinga

It started off like any day on the hook. It was beautiful and sunny in Ft. Pierce, with light winds and seas and we wanted to get out and explore the coastline near our anchorage. It is a mix of development and mangrove and looked promising. And, since we've been having dolphins around the boat all week, we thought we might be able to see some from sea level. So we splashed the kayak and set off.

The first thing we noticed was the osprey on top of our mast. That was very unusual and we thought we were lucky to have him. Lots of birds everywhere - so many anhingas, some drying their wings and looking regal. Seemed like we were in the heart of anhinga country.

The numbers of anhinga were soon outstripped by the number of pelicans - dive bombing for fish all around us, making a racket with their splashing. One greedy bird practically choked itself with a fish that was way too big for him. We watched it try to get that fish down -- it took several tries. There were also great blue and little blue herons on shore, some egrets in the mangroves, turkey vultures circling, even a family of ducks -- all very serene as we lazed around in Jennings Cove, a small shallow cove in the mangroves.

And then it happened. We had just picked up our paddles to start back to Anhinga when out of nowhere there was a gigantic bang against the kayak, the front raised up, muddy water splashing over the sides, and frantic underwater motion towards the other shore. Patti was screaming and John laughing -- but we were both drenched with very muddy water from head to toe and mouths filled with grit. Ugh. Scared (at least Patti admits to this...) we paddled home, trying to figure out what happened to us. John thinks we went over some rays submerged in the mud that got flustered when they sensed us above them; their movement was just so fast, it had to be something large that has instant propulsion, and can hide in 1-2 feet of water. Patti just hoped that whatever it was, it (or they?) wasn't following us back to the boat.

OK. Back on Anhinga. Running the engine to heat up some water for needed showers. John had just gone below when Patti sees it -- a manatee swimming up to check us out! Had to be at least 12 feet long, a mottled brown color, with some unfortunate scars running down its back - looked like previous hits from boat props. It stayed and investigated long enough for us to run for the camera. We felt so lucky... then wondered if this was our creature from the black lagoon and had followed us back to the boat... That's our wildlife life... The Day of the Anhinga!

March 1-7, 2012... Stuart, FL

Drove through some beautiful country on our way up the ICW from Hobe Sound. Maybe the best things were the dolphins and the baby ibises. Got to the crossroads at the St. Lucie Inlet and headed west up the St. Lucie River to Stuart. Our destination - a mooring at the Sunset Bay Marina. Wow, it seemed to take forever, but finally we got there, tied up, registered, and head into Stuart's old town for some exploring. Didn't take long - it was very close by and tiny. A cutesy little place. Sunday was especially fun. We went to the Riverwalk for the free concert and found out it was Stoney and his friends - a blues band! They were good, so we danced. Love that!

One can get used to being here - some cruisers make this their winter home and the marina makes it easy. They have everything you need; even a twice weekly free shuttle bus to supermarkets, big box stores, hardware and boat stores, and the propane man (who we visited for our 6-month tank filling.). And the mooring field is nice - most mornings we had dolphins swimming through. And gorgeous sunsets in the evenings.

The weather had us socked in with high winds, so we took advantage of the marina courtesy bicycles and rode across the whole area, crossing the bridges to Hutchinson Island (the waves were HUGE out on the ocean) and back to Jensen Beach. Another cute town. Lunch at Crawdaddies provided us with an opportunity to pose with the human-sized crawfish. Then back across the Roosevelt Bridge to hot showers for achy muscles at the marina, and back to Anhinga.

Stuart: +27° 11' 45.42", -80° 15' 44.88"

February 27 - March 1, 2012... Hobe Sound, FL

Off we went, up the ICW from Palm Beach.  With no real destination in mind, we motored north, taking in our surroundings.  Seven (?) bridges later (its so easy to lose count) the water turned light blue and we were passing Jupiter Inlet.  What a treat to see that water.  Puttering further north, we decided to drop the hook in Hobe Sound, with the nature preserve to our west and beautiful waterfront homes to the east on Jupiter Island.  What we thought would be an overnight stop turned into a three-day exploration.  The birds were everywhere -- pelicans, ospreys, herons, egrets, seagulls, cormorants, anhingas, and fish crows.  And manatees!  Of course we splashed the kayak to get closer to it all, paddling along the mangrove shores.  The quiet at night, after being in the urban canyons of West Palm Beach, was wonderful.  Hard to believe we only moved 15 miles away!  Great stop.  Next... Stuart.

Hobe Sound:  +27° 1' 27.60", -80° 6' 15.00"