Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Titusville - Last Post until January 8, 2015

All alone for two months
It has turned cold down here! The afternoon high was only 52 with a 15 kt north wind! To those of us used to warmer weather, that's cold. In the dark ages when I was up north, the 50's was time for rejoicing as a break from really cold weather! However, those times are so forgotten, we've gone soft. I was going to do so much outside on the boat today, not!

So we had the A/C going in reverse mode for heat and our 1500 watt header doing all it can with another 200 watt unit up front, so it was enough for comfort but taking Hoolie outside was a chore. I'll pick up the car on Wednesday and we'll pack it that night so we can leave first thing Thursday morning for our two day trip to Carrie's house in Pennsylvania.

So we'll see you again January 8 when I'll restart the blog, have a good Thanksgiving and Christmas - see you then.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Titusville - storms arrive

Not too pretty but this is all we saw today
We've been hearing all week about the incursion of Arctic air, a redo of the "Polar Vortex" of last year, at least that's the story. So we watched the front approach on weather radar, took Hoolie out before it arrived and buttoned down the hatches for the onslaught. As it turned out, there were severe thunderstorm warnings to the north of us, severe warning to the south of us but we never got them. We got plenty of rain but not the severe wind and hail. Still, there was not much to do but wait for it to come.

On Tuesday the high here is only predicted to be 57, very cold for this time of the year in Florida. We'll do our last day of boat work to get ready for the trip north and then pick up the car on Wednesday at 10:00 am. we saw on our video cams at home in Lagrangeville that we had snow on the ground, the first of the year, kinda of early I think, not looking forward to that! 

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for news on the repair status on my radar display. It's been a week since they've received the unit and when I finally got a call back today, they said it would be another two weeks at least before I got an estimate. That's not very good service, I expected better of Raymarine. The display is 10 years old and I may just get an entirely new unit instead of paying for a repair if it's too much.

It's time to start closing up the boat for a two month hiatus, lots of details to take care of, most important - do not turn off the refrigerator - like last time! ( by mistake) 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Titusville - Manatees make their appearance

And they find members of the opposite sex and raise families! Love knows no bounds. 
We are due for a huge change of weather. The cold front hitting the north is due to reach almost to Florida and stall, at least that's the forecast. The high on Monday is okay but when the front arrives that night the winds will pipe up to 30 kts and Tuesday's high may not reach 60!

So I prepared the boat with a washing and the local manatees loved that! For some reason they are attracted to fresh water. Some of the water was spilling over into the harbor and the manatees like to let it drip right into their mouths. They have got to be the ugliest animals I've ever seen. In addition to the photo above, here's a video of them by the boat.  There are about 20 in the marina, I'm told. Mostly they are underwater but come up for air every few minutes but then only their nose. You can easily miss that maneuver if you are not watchful. All of them have the remains of scars on their backs where they've tangled with powerboat propellers. They are only vegetarians and eat the grass in the marina.

We're battening down the hatches for the next few days for the coming storm. On Wednesday we'll pick up our car for the trip north and leave early Thursday morning to arrive at Carrie's in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. It looks like we'll run into snow along the way.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Titusville - Enchanted Forest Preserve

I'm just fascinated by the walks through the Florida forests
This area of Florida is just full of preserves, some large and some very small. The one we visited today was especially interesting. There are trails through the Florida wilderness as it was 100's of years ago which sends you back in time - imagining that you're back in the 1700's and out in the woods. Of course, the overhead planes kind of spoil the illusion but it's neat nevertheless.

The water is actually a hand-dug canal before it was abandoned when rock was encountered
Today they had a festive with representations from local conservation groups and so we had a guide for our hike who pointed out the turtle burrows for one thing. We never knew that turtles made holes into the ground for their homes. It's also home for rattlesnakes and all manner of small mammals. Strangely enough, there were no insects - no mosquitoes, no no-seeums, no flies, etc., even though we were deep in the woods. We saw the remains of a hand-dug canal. I can't imagine the work involved in digging it by hand, wow. It was eventually abandoned when they ran into rock. Here's a video of our walk through the forest trail.

In the main pavilion they had many educational exhibits that were hands-on for kids. We'll certainly take Sarah there when we return in January. Florida does these types of things very well - and there was no charge!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Titusville - We visit the Morse Museum

The colors were outstandingly vibrant in person
We had always been a fan of Tiffany windows, the stained glass window he was famous for so when Ann found that the Morse Museum  had the largest collection of Tiffany Art in the world, we just had to go. The museum is located in Winter Park, Florida, just north of Orlando. It's only about 40 miles west of Titusville but you fall into the black hole of Orlando traffic trying to get there, stop and go about 1/3 of the way!

The colors are induced with small amounts of impurities of certain metals. 
The museum is the largest collection of Louis Tiffany's art in the world. The museum was built in 1996 and it's a first rate presentation of his life's work. With an entrance fee of only $4, it's a bargain. Tiffany was noted for his stained glass windows but he also did sculptures, paintings and interiors. Seen in person, his windows are breathtaking, the photos do not do them justice. Our first exposure to stained glass was from church windows but they bear no resemblance to Tiffany's renditions. I've included a few photos but they are poor substitutes for the real thing.

We enjoyed them all
It turned colder with a high less than 70, that put yesterday's alligator back into the water, he was not sunning today! Did I mention there's a children's playground about 100 ft away?!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Titusville - Park Alligator

Hummm, beware of alligators?
Just another tourist warning?? We were walking by the local park today on a town sidewalk and saw the sign, "Swimming Prohibited, Beware of Alligators" and we thought, sure. The town is just covering their potential liability - but alligators in the middle of a town park, really... It was about 500 ft from a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and within 50 ft of the town sidewalk.

He moved quickly into the water when I approached (still far away!) for a better shot
So on the way back I happened to glance over towards the pond and saw a shape that I recognized, a real, live alligator sunning itself on the bank. He was not small! The two supports for the telephone pole are about 3 ft apart, you do the math per the photo. We're told they go into hibernation about this time of the year, coming out in the spring but this one obviously was still active. He slid into the pond as I walked by.

Do alligators ever capture birds?
Even with the alligator around, there was plenty of wildlife with turtles, birds of all kinds and jumping fish. In our marina there were manatees and dolphins all around. Somebody must be food but they were all out and about today.

Blueberries in Florida? Yes, it's a big crop here
Meanwhile, I was quite surprised to discover blueberry bushes in Florida?! I didn't think they grew much south of New Jersey. Obviously I'm wrong. In fact, it's a major crop in Florida. Now we'll have to look for them in stores.

We'll pick up another $10/day car rental from Enterprise on Friday and explore art museums in Orlando and a Food Truck War in Titusville (I guess it's the latest thing, I've seen the same thing up north).Al 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Titusville - Law of lost objects

Ann likes cloud pictures - she'll use them in her paintings
Another day of recuperation on my leg so didn't do too much physical activity. However, the longer connector arrived between the autopilot control head and the course computer. When I found the first connector I had bought was too short, I removed the cable cover and "put it in a safe place" for when I could get a longer connector. Well, I finally got one twice as long which was fine but when I went looking for the cover "put in a safe place" I couldn't find it! So two hours later I was ready to execute the one sure fire way of finding anything on a boat -  buy another one! After that it's no fun for the offending unit to stay hidden so it will decide to almost immediately show itself (if it waits too long it loses the impact of making you feel bad). I've used that technique many times in the past to find lost objects. The only problem is that by that time, I no longer need whatever it was that I lost. Well, at least I've accumulated lots of spares with that approach.

So as I approached the computer for ordering, I happened to feel along the back shelf and discovered the cover lying under several other objects I didn't need to find at the moment. Ha, it screwed up - I found it without buying another unit!

So now the cockpit is in order with proper harness covers and all is right with the world. Ann painted most of the day (while I looked for the cover) and the weather was pleasant with temps in the high 70's. We'll continue doing odd jobs around the boat and enjoying the warm weather, we have another week down here before coming north.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Titusville - recuperation

The marina is protected by a spit of land so it's pretty calm in here
It's been a day of recuperation for damage done yesterday due my moment's inattention to where I put my feet. So I mostly sat around today to aid in the healing process. The marina here is full of people that come and leave their boats for a return up north for the holidays. The marina staff does look after them and will adjust lines if they stretch too much. It's great peace of mind while we're 1200 miles away.

Everywhere there are palm trees, the marina area is nicely kept
The rains have stopped and the sun came out although it was a rather cool 72 today with a north wind. With the clear weather, at least Hoolie had a chance for a good run in the dog park with about a dozen other dogs - it was dog heaven. Meanwhile, we did laundry and that's about all we did. The manatees are all around us but they haven't showed themselves yet. We can see their wakes but no surfacing yet. At least we're free of alligators so far.

We have another week here before heading north, just relaxing.   

Monday, November 10, 2014

Titusville - storm day

Hurray, the rain left!
The body is lazy. After a length of exercises, the body learns just how high it has to lift a foot to clear the ground and no more. Unfortunately, that doesn't compensate for the occasional bump. Well, I encountered one today so the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I was wearing shorts due to the 60 degree weather (I had to work that in some way...) so my knee took the brunt of the fall with the resulting scraped skin, bumped head and blood galore. On well, these things happen so I walked back to the marina and then realized I was no long wearing my glasses! So back to the running path with blood running down my leg, looking for my glasses. They weren't obvious but I kept looking - and then I heard a "crunch" - sure enough, I just found my glasses! Not in good spirits, I walked back to the marina, grrr. 

To compliment my outlook after that, it started to rain, actually a downpour for the next six hours. On the radar map it looked like a min-northeaster to us people from the north. Rain, rain and more rain as Hoolie longed for shore. Eventually we made landfall around 5:00 when the rain let up. .

Goodbye storm, have fun up north
At the end we did get a nice double rainbow complimented by a sunset from the departing storm. I was able to bend my glasses into some sort of resemblance to working order so all was not lost. Perhaps Tuesday will be a better day.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Titusville - a good marina

Not many marinas have secure access to the docks, Titusville does
What makes a good marina for someone traveling down the ICW? Well, there are several requirements that are essential, one is good protection from weather. One of the reasons we duck into a marina at times is to avoid a cold front barreling down from the north. So in the fall you want something between you and open, northern waters. Secondly, you want good laundry facilities with enough washers and dryers so you don't have to fight over them with other cruisers. Thirdly, reasonable rates play a large roll, usually $1.00 to $1.50/ft at most. It helps if the staff is friendly and know what they're doing when they handle your lines while docking. Lastly, close access to shore necessities like groceries and marine supplies are important.

So how do you find out about all this stuff? Mostly by reading Active Captain reviews. In addition to the listing of facilities, you will also get a first hand impression from recent users of the marina, invaluable. By now we have our favorites and we are usually recognized by our boat name ("Oh, you were here last year!").

And, it's a short walk to the dog park! Hoolie thinks that very important!
At our present marina, Titusville Municipal Marina, all of the requirements are met. Good north protection, $1.44/ft daily dockage or a $10/ft monthly rate, groceries are nearby with free transportation, $1/load laundry and knowledgeable dockhands. We feel good about leaving our boat here until the first week in January.

It rained off and on all day today so we provisioned at Walmart and Publix, nothing special, just odds and ends. I sent my radar display unit off to Raymarine but they couldn't find it at their factory on Friday. Hopefully it's not lost! I'll call again on Monday. Strangely, it does get foggy down here occasionally. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Titusville - a trip to Leu Gardens

The Live Oaks are truly magnificent! They are twice as broad as they are high, great shade trees.
It's due to rain Sunday so we decided to make our outing to Orlando today. We are always pushovers for a garden and the Leu Gardens is nearby in Orlando. It's a 50 acre park with 12,000 plants maintained by seven horticulturists. It has well maintained, paved paths and a wide diversity of plants. It was well worth the trip. As usual, the traffic in Orlando would do justice to any major city up north, ugh.

Their butterfly garden actually had a butterfly!
We had always wanted to try a Brazilian restaurant and we found one in Orlando, Cafe Minerio, so we dined early since we had left Hoolie in the cockpit. They had a self-serve salad bar and hot items but they brought the four kinds of meats right to your table and carved them on the spot. You could have as much as you wanted. We left stuffed.

Stunning Bird of Paradise, we're in the tropics! 
We have our mail forwarded to my son in Connecticut for periodic mail drops along the way south. The post office does not charge for this service and it's a convenient way to get mail as long as you know where you'll be far enough in advance for a Priority Mail package to reach you. All marinas will accept mail for transients, no post office needed.

There's rain Sunday so we'll just do some minor provisioning at Walmart or Publix and turn the car in Monday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Titusville - we visit the Merritt Island Mall

Florida likes to keep the dunes natural with lots of grass and plants - to help stabilize them
We rented a weekend car again for $40 (to be returned Monday) and went off to see the Merritt Island Mall, it's he biggest mall in the area. It also had a Barnes and Noble, the primary reason for the trip since Ann longed for a hard to get art magazine. The mall had nothing special that you don't see up north but it's big for this area.

So after the mall we paid another visit to the ocean which looked rather worked up, we're glad we're safely tucked in at Titusville. Heading north, we stopped at another citrus store and bought more of the freshly squeezed orange juice. It bears no resemblance to what you buy in a store, not even the ones advertised as "Not from Concentrate". The juice tastes totally different, much better. It also has not been pasteurized, just squeezed from their own grove oranges.

The locals sit and talk while the dogs interact, nice dog park
Ann took Hoolie over for his afternoon get together with the local dogs and he had a great time running all over the place. There's a local group of people that meet daily around 3:30 or so and Ann likes to be part of that. On Saturday we're headed to explore Orlando and a Brazilian restaurant, the kind that slice meat off a skewer, should be interesting.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Titusville - New battery and moonrise

Nice to see flowers in full bloom this time of the year
The marine store here is not Westmarine but it does have a few of the critical items needed by cruisers. They routinely accept mail for transients, a big help in going down the ICW. The small selection they have is like a subset that includes the most needed items. I was surprised to find that they carried Interstate Batteries. For those not familiar with marine batteries, Interstate is the gold standard of batteries in my experience. One thing to check on when buying batteries of any type is how much they weigh. What you want are the heaviest batteries you can find for the given output desired. The more lead in the battery, the better for long term life. You will find that Interstate Batteries are the heaviest around for a given rating. They also came out on top in Practical Sailor tests. So since they carried Interstate, I replaced the genset starter battery which was showing signs of aging (not an Interstate).

The rising full moon was stunning
On Friday we'll rent a car once again for the weekend at the $10/day rate and explore the area. Enterprise will come and pick you up and take you back when you return the car on Monday, great service. Ann needs to see a Barnes and Noble for art magazines and then she'll get a mall fix next door at the Merritt Island shopping center.

Once again another perfect day. This is the best stretch of weather we've ever encountered on a trip south. Just perfect, calm and warm days. We plan on enjoying them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Titusville - Massive docks

Moon rising over Titusville
We are enjoying the calms days and moderate weather. As part of the monthly package of $10/ft, the marina also offers free pumpouts. They come to your slip in a pumpout boat, no need to untie and find the fuel dock. Now such things may seem mundane to many people but not to cruisers. Add that to the $1/load washers and $0.50/load dryers and you get the picture of a marina that wants your business. Nice to be wanted.

On the north side, a nice area
The docks here have 14 inch diameter pilings, the most massive I've seen at any marina. They are anchored by 20 inch square concrete columns at the end of each pier. You can feel very secure with such a setup. This year they put in gates at the end of B dock (other docks to be added later) with a card pass required to access the docks. It's a welcomed addition for security. In general we've found that municipal marinas are not as responsive to customer needs as privately owned marinas but Titusville (and also Key West) is the exception.

One thing you need to know on a boat while at an extended stay at a marina is the level of fullness of your holding tanks. This is a complicated matter. We finally settled on a SeeLevel II monitor which includes a printed circuit board strip that adheres to the holding tank. The problem is that it can be fooled by deposits (!) on the inside of the tank opposite the sensor strip. So there's nothing to do other than scraping the inside of the tank at that location, ugh!! On this blog I promised to mention all the duties of the captain on a cruise down the ICW, well that's one of them!

After that bit of unpleasantness, the rest of the day for cool and enjoyable. More boat projects are due tomorrow  but on the weekend we'll rent another car at $10/day and explore Orlando. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Titusville - No car so boat work

These are known as "Wood Storks", kind of strange looking with the bald heads
With no excuses left, we had to do boat work today. Ann worked inside while I did the outside jobs. I don't remember having to wash the outside of our house but when your home is a boat, outside washing is a must - occasionally. For compensation, the weather was in the 70's so it wasn't too bad.

Hoolie's looking longingly to the smaller dogs just over the fence in front of him, he wants to play
For afternoon entertainment, we took Hoolie over to the dog park for a run. He got so winded that he collapsed in the kiddie pool they keep there for the dogs. That was not what we intended since now we had a wet dog! So it was a trip back to the boat and a hosing down to get rid of the sand and dirt he picked up. Oh well, at least he had a good run.

We've been in touch with Gordon Johnson and Eta who are also coming down the ICW behind us. They are now in Fernandina and will probably join us for a visit in Titusville early next week. They draw about a foot more depth than we do so they went outside from Charleston to Fernandina, missing all the excellent experiences with the shallows along the way. It's calm now and relaxing on the dock, looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Titusville - Grand circle route through Merritt Island

He sat on the piling just behind Fleetwing, never stirred when I took the picture
My radar display started acting up (typical boat problem...) where 1/4 of the display showed horizontal lines instead of the radar return showing boats, coast, etc. It has to be some driver chip for the screen display but there's nothing I can replace, it has to be sent back to Raymarine. Calling them I was told to send it in for an estimate to their repair shop in Nashua, NH. So off I went to the post office (no FedEx or UPS nearby) to use Priority Mail (flat rate, no weight charge as long as it's under 70 lbs) but the largest box they offered in Priority Mail was 1/2 inch too small! That put me into a box I had to pay for (you don't pay for the Priority Mail box) and I also had to buy bubble wrap (the kind you throw away when at home), strapping tape and labels. So because of the 1/2 inch, I had to shell out about $30 more dollars at least.

A vulture at Merritt Island, likewise bold, they are use to people
So now the radar display is on its way to Nashua for Raymarine repair. I'm due to get an estimate first before repair commences so I'll be waiting with baited breath for that call. It ought to be inexpensive to replace one chip but then it's boat electronics and you can usually multiply by 10x if not 100x over a reasonable charge.

Many flowers around
For the rest of the day we thought we'd explore north of Titusville and visit the Haulover Canal bridge. It's a narrow spit of land connecting Merritt Island with the mainland which was later dug out for the canal. It now has a bridge that raises for boat traffic. It's a hot spot for manatees and much wildlife. But then we have about 20 manatees in the Titusville marina so we can get better photos locally.

Home again (the boat), I left Ann and Hoolie off and headed back to Enterprise to return the car. It's due to turn warmer the rest of the week with temps into the low 80's, nice. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Titusville Municipal Marina - Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

A walk through a hammock at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge
The winds finally dipped under 20 kts today and the temps were in the 60's so we opt'ed to explore the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. We've been there before but with the seasons and the flyway there's always something new to see. The refuge itself was something of an afterthought from the Kennedy Space Center. They didn't need all the acreage so they turned over part of it for a refuge.

It's situated on a major flyway for migrating birds so there's always something going on. They've installed wooden walkways at several places for a better view of the plants and wildlife without disturbing the brush and there are several drive through areas with pullovers for seeing the latest fauna in town.

The ocean side of Merritt Island had been disturbed greatly by the 30 kt winds
Black Point was not open so we took a less traveled road and found that it was even further out in the boonies than Black Point. We were promised that the road had just been "scraped" (leveled by road equipment) so we set out with confidence. The road was fine at first but then it deteriorated into a one lane road (barely!) with grass in the middle out in the middle of nowhere. We could only do 5 mph due to the numerous pot holes we had to avoid but still was moving along until we met an oncoming car! There was no room to pass. We both rotated our mirrors against our cars and I backed up to a spot that marginally offered just a little more room. The oncoming car then slowly passed with no room to spare. I wouldn't recommend this route to anyone.

We say three alligators in the refuge, we didn't get out of the car
We finally made it out and headed south to pick up the latest crop of Florida grapefruit. We were not disappointed. There is simply nothing like fresh grapefruit, there's nothing to compare to up north. The high Monday is supposed to break 70 for the first time in the last two days, we're looking forward to that! I'll turn in my $10/day car on Monday and do boat work the rest of the week. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Titusville - House stuff and high winds

The marina at Titusville is very pleasant. Well taken care of with attentive staff
A cold front descended on us today with winds of 20 to 30 kts and temps only in the 60's. It predicted to be even colder Sunday but at least with full sun so the cockpit will be toasty. We had planned on going to Merritt Island to see the wildlife but with high winds we decided to wait for a better day.

Meanwhile we did house things like getting our flu shots, laundry and provisioning. Hoolie even got a chance to run in the dog park, one speed - flat out all the time. In a marina the first question from any cruiser is, "Where's the nearest Walmart?" If you want to pay more for the exact same items, you're free to go elsewhere. We called all around for flu shots, especially for the increased potency version recommended for those over 65 (more potency to better stimulate an immune system that's not what it used to be). Well, the only place that had them was Walmart. CVS was out of stock as were many others.

Titusville Marina is also where we saw a 9 ft alligator lazily swimming along behind our boat one year
We only rent cars on weekends. Enterprise has a $10/day rental special for weekends that costs (with taxes and add-on) $40 with a pick up on Friday and a return on Monday. Normally you would pay that for a single day during the week. The winds are supposed to die down to only 10 to 20 kts on Sunday and we plan on visiting the Merritt Island Wildlife Reserve that day.

So we're settling into our Titusville routine to enjoy the warm weather that's due to return later in the week, into the 80's again. We will be here until November 20th when we head for Carrie's home in Pennsylvania.