Our last post ended saying goodbye to Eric’s parents in St. Augustine. One of the not-so-obvious perks of staying on a mooring here is the benefit of using their shower facilities. I can’t knock our boat showers, cause not all cruisers have a generator to make warm water or a place to shower on board like we do. That being said, taking a shower on land…is heavenly. Seriously. Boat showers are more like taking a shower in your smallest closet with your kitchen sink’s sprayer. When you get to take a shower on land in a sizeable stall with amazing water pressure and consistent warm temps…ahhhh. Magical.
After saying goodbye to my parents, we sail down to the Ponce De Leon inlet near Daytona. We have to motor the entire way so the ‘sail’ is uneventful.
The Ponce inlet has a huge, 175’ foot lighthouse that has been restored as a museum. Although the girls and I visit the museum, they do not seem interested in the history of the lighthouse keeper. They want to go up in the lighthouse. It is an awesome spiral staircase that climbs all the way to the top. The entire thing is hollow and the stairs are made of metal grating so you can see all the way to the bottom while you climb. Tali doesn’t find this comfortable. Once we make it to the top, we are treated with a spectacular view, the kind of thing that really makes you wish your camera phone doesn’t have a hazy lens.
While at the Ponce inlet, the dolphins are incredible. They are playing all the time. I actually watch two of them perform some kind of communication where one slaps its tail on the water then the other does the same a few hundred feet away. This goes on for several minutes. I’ve never seen such behavior.
We spend a good long day playing at the beach. People can still drive on the beach here! Also it seems like everyone wandering around has a dog with them. Of course the girls point this out to us. They miss having a pet, and seeing everyone else with one makes them feel like they are missing out. This puts a damper on the mood, but only for a short while. We find out later that this beach is actually a dog beach. Of course it is. Go figure.
We leave the Ponce inlet for Cape Canaveral. Cape Canaveral is interesting because the only place to anchor is on the ICW which means that we have to go though a canal, under an opening bridge, and through a lock to get there. We’ve never been through a lock, so this is going to be a new experience. Again we have to motorsail down the coast, but just as we approach the inlet, the wind picks up to about 20 knots. Perfect, except we are done for the day. The canal to get to the bridge and lock is fairly narrow so we have to get nice and cozy with a freighter that is coming out. It’s rather remarkable what we can become comfortable with this after some experience.
The lock is however something new. The wind is coming on broadside which is not ideal. I think that the lock operator is screwing with us. I call and ask which side we should put the fenders on and that this is our first time through a lock. He tells me to put them on whichever side we want. When I ask if the fenders should be vertical or horizontal he again says, whatever I’d like. Not particularly helpful. Then going in the lock there is no doubt, he only opens one of the lock doors. The lock is maybe 60 feet wide, the door is a couple feet thick, and with just one door open the entry way is only about 27 feet. Our boat is 24 feet wide. It is a nerve wracking squeeze. I put Kelly on the starboard bow and Tali on port so they can tell me how close I’m getting.
We’re able to make it into the lock without hitting anything, but that is only half the challenge. I have to maneuver the boat up wind to the the side of the lock and tie her down. It takes me like 10 minutes as I seesaw my way to the lock wall. I’m fairly sure no one there is impressed. (I know I can’t do any better, but we all get a chuckle when all of the boats around us move to give us more room.) Eventually I’m able to get the stern close enough for Kelly to get a line on a cleat then I use it as a pivot to get the bow line on.
Getting out of the lock is no issue as the operator now finds no problem opening both doors. Once out, we take an immediate left turn and put down anchor. We are spent.
One reason we decide to stop here is, of course, the Kennedy Space Center. To our dismay, Tali has decided that she isn’t a fan of learning about most of the sciences, but she absolutely loves space science. We use this opportunity to foster her interest; however, due to budget constraints, only Tali and Eric go to the space center. Cloe and I stay on the boat and have a ‘girly day’ painting nails, watching movies, and baking cupcakes which makes our lil’ girl just as happy. Eric and Tali leave bright and early to make the most of their day. They stay there until closing which means they don’t get back to the boat until well after dark. I’m not a fan.
The problem is that I don’t love being in the dingy after dark and I still don’t have faith in my dingy driving skills quite yet, but if I want the crew back on the boat, we’ve gotta do what needs to be done and go get them. Cloe does a great job with the spotlight. I may or may not have had a little trouble starting the dingy and forgotten to push off the big boat and skidded down the starboard side, but you know what…we made it to shore, picked them up, and delivered them back. I’ll call that a success. They can’t contain their excitement. They have such an amazing time that they don’t stop for lunch until 3. Tali says that she feels it’s on par with Disney!
Unfortunately we get caught by a cold front, so we hunker down for a bit. While here we meet a few other cruiser boats who anchor by us, S/V Country Dancer and S/V All In, a fellow Leopard. All good people. Both have boat dogs who the girls enjoy loving on. The girls are invited aboard Country Dancer for Christmas craft time and we have a ball. The next night we host our first cruiser dinner and enjoy every minute of it. They share lots of cruising and finishing advice and we soak it up. We’re all headed south so we know we’ll be running into them again.