Silver River Cruise

Our pontoon boat has been prisoner to the marine shop for much of the summer. Letting it sit for six years was not kind to the engine, wiring and electric components. Lucky for us, we know how to roll with the punches a used boat can throw, so we have just been patient, while all the problems were sorted out and dealt with. We finally were able to take her home from the intensive care unit and get out and enjoy our new-to-us toy.
 One of our first cruises was a trip to the headwaters of the Silver River. Silver Springs is one mile from our home, and the boat basin, where we put in, is three and a half miles to the west of us. As it passes us, the river gets as close as 1/4mile from our home going upstream to the springs. Yes, this is as close as you can get to having this wonderful natural resource in our backyard. The seven mile area is all state owned property, so no houses or development is on the river, and once one leaves the boat basin, it is like going back to prehistoric times all the way to the Park (World Famous Silver Springs) at the spring head.
Over the next few days I will post some slide shows and vids of the trip. To get you started, here is one of the wild rhesus monkeys that make this river home.
Mostly, they stay in the river area. But once in a great while, they foray over to our neighborhood. Lots of wildlife abounds on the river, including birds, gators and turtles. But the monkeys are my favorite, making a sighting like this a special treat. 

Flirting with the dark side

I'm sure by now all our readers are wondering if we fell of the edge of the blog. As it happens, the foot surgery, while ultimately successful, had it's share of problems in the form of a bone infection. No, we never made it to the Bahamas. By the time I could be sure it was totally cleared up, getting to the islands would have been akin of paying full price to see the last 15 minutes of (insert your pick for all-time best movie EVER).

So we stayed in Fl. had fun locally, saw many friends and worked on some house projects. We also started thinking about how much we were missing on the water. We are surrounded by rivers and of course the Gulf of Mexico and all it's small Keys and shoreline is within an hour of us. "We need a small boat." I told Al. It only makes sense to have something we can explore the shallow areas and wilderness that can only be reached via water. Besides, I have a boat blog. No-one wants to start reading about how my gardening is coming along, or what color I painted the spare room. We need to be on the water for multiple reasons.

We settled on a pontoon boat. Comfy, large enough for a few friends, able to host a porta-potty (critical at our age as I don't see myself shlepping onto swampy wild shores to squat among the gators and skeeters.) Something we can trailer and putt-putt around Fl. on while maintaining a level of comfort.

I have a queer knack of deciding to get a boat, then stumbling across someone wanting to give away the same type of boat. My luck holds. All we had to do was remove the boat, hanging in straps, under a covered boathouse, over a dried-up lake. Of course the lake bottom was still soft and mushy. Of course the SUV had to remain up on the original shore, nearly sixty feet from where the boat lay. Of course half the boat had to be dismantled to get clearance under the boathouse. But six hours after we started, we were staring at a new to us boat in our backyard.

Then the cleanup began. Did you know that bats find an unused outboard compartment to be an excellent bat-house? Al found four inches of bat guano in the bottom of the cowling. Everything was in good shape, but stained to the color of creosoted fence posts. Out came the boat wash. The boat laughed at it. so the arsenal of outdoor bleach, acid wash, and comet cleanser took it on and won.

Al tore apart the 40hp outboard, and found three frozen carburetors. We should pick them up any day now. He didn't have the carb cleaner and tools to rebuild them himself, but has been working on the wiring, and cleaning the fuel tank, replacing the kinked fuel line, and everything else that needs to be checked out before launch.

So here she is. All 20 feet of her, cleaned and getting ready to take us (and you, via the blog) along on our summer of fun on the water.

I'm naming her "Summer Journey".

Go-fasts, whomper-wakes, and idiots.

We have taken a slip at Adventure Yacht Marina, in South Daytona Beach, Fl. The great offload will begin in a few days. We have sorted, made both the easy and hard decisions of what to take home and what to keep for the Bahamas. Boxes and bags are stacked higher than Everest in the salon, and now that we are just waiting for our ride, I have a moment to reflect on our last day on the ICW.
We were seeing a lot more boat traffic since reaching the Sunshine State, more cruisers and more local traffic as folks take advantage of the mild days here.
We were coming towards what for us was a memorable opening bridge: the Crescent Beach Bridge. It was here where we met our nemesis, the STORM, last trip north in little Journey. Al took the camera and headed to the foredeck to take pictures of the marker where we put the boat aground, to keep from crashing into the bridge and of course of the bridge itself.
Suddenly, we were assaulted by a go-fast boat. Go-fast boats are not the little fishing skiffs that speed along past us. They don't bother us, as their wakes are inconsequential. These are full size cruiser or cuddy cabin boats that rock us side to side if they don't slow when they pass. And a lot of them don't. They are so fast thet they usually are passing by the time one even knows they are coming. And one passed us, rocking us and making it difficult to keep the boat in the channel with the current I was bucking.
Fortunately, Al was holding on to the furled Genoa, so I didn't have to go back and fish him out of the drink.
He took this picture right after the go-fast passed, as you can see, the guy is already in the next county.
Go-fast boats must not be confused with the Whomper-wake boats. These boats are anomalies in the boat design world. For whatever reason, whomper-wake boats throw a enormous wake whether they are going fast or slow. These poor boat owners are doomed to throwing sailboats side-to-side even when they give a slow courteous pass. You cannot escape the wake from a Whomper-waker. 
I got on the radio to call the bridge tender, and it turned out that he was the same tender that had been so nice and concerned for us after the STORM. We were able to chat a bit about that fateful day and its outcome.
He told me to maintain my current speed so I could pass under the bridge as he opened it and have minimal distruption to the car traffic. I held my speed and was still bucking a real strong current.
When you go under a bridge, you have to stay inside the part that opens, and there are wooden bumpers that form a sort of fencing all along both sides of the channel. These funnel a strong current into the small area and make steering quite difficult to hold a true course at times. I have seen many a photo taken of sailboats that, because of their slower speed and lack of fine maneuverability, have slipped sideways and taken out masts and other vital parts of their boats because of current behavior. Running under a bridge in heavy current or cross-current is a two-hand job and it helps to hold your mouth right also.
Just as I neared the fencing at the approach, two idiots in a 14-16 foot aluminum boat, came towards the opening from behind the fencing to the left. They started to row across the opening. WTF??? A man and woman without so much as a brain between the two of them, was actually going to play "beat the train" with my boat! The bridge had been opened, they knew this because of the loud horn that the bridge tender sounds to warn car and boat traffic to that event. They knew I was barreling towards them at top speed, because I could see the fear in the whites of their eyes. Yet they calmly kept coming. And I could not abort at this point and slowing could have resulted in a loss of control and a real possibility of a contact with the bridge.
I told Al, who was back in the cockpit by then, that this had to be the stupidest stunt I have ever seen on the water, and that they better get a move on, because I was committed to the opening and they had cut in front of me in an area where I had restricted maneuverability. Granted, the comments were a little more raw than that, but for an agonizing few minutes, I think they must have thought of what it might be like to die.
I told Al I just wish I wasn't the one at the helm, because I had to pass under the bridge and give that all my attention, when all I really wanted to do was lean out of the cockpit and ream them a new one with my comments. (comments, in this instance, is a mild version of what actually would have come out of my mouth.)
I just wish we had pictures of this monument to utter stupidity as I can rest assured that I will live a long time before anyone tops their move.

Casting Bubba's

Now we've seen some weird stuff over the years on the water. Heck, we've even done some weird stuff. But this was leading the pack so far for this trip south. There we were, in south Georgia, in the middle of NOWHERE, nothing around for miles and miles. I kept seeing this bunch of dots off on the distance. First I thought they might be stumps, but as we got closer, it became obvious that it was a rather large gathering of Bubba's.
They were generally two to a boat, and not anchored, just bobbing around. Every now and again two boats would bump, and one arm would reach out and push off. No engines could be heard, I was getting a mite nervous as we approached. There were a lot of them, they were right in our path, what were they doing there?
I had been using the binocs to get a better glimpse of the non-action ahead. I could see no fishing rods being used. But then I didn't see any rifles or shotguns either, so that was a good sign. Every now and again, it looked like one would stand up for a minute. Were they watching us as we approached? The Dueling Banjo's theme thrummed in my head.
Finally we got close enough to start threading our way through them. And saw what the Bubba's were up to. Cast-netting! Each Bubba had a cast net between his legs. In turn, one would stand and cast, retrieve, and sit. Then the other boat occupant would stand and take his turn. I'll bet there was over 600 years of cast-netting skill and knowledge in that grouping, and I was sorry that I didn't have the opportunity to stop and learn what I could from them. Funny how I had cast those Bubba's differently from a distance.

Home on the Ranges

Today we went through 12 ranges on our way south down the Intercoastal Waterway. I spoke a bit about ranges on Journey's facebook page, but for our non-sailor friends, a picture is worth a bunch of nonsensical words, so....
 Now, in this first picture you see what looks like a orange sign, with a white stripe running right down the middle, top to bottom. In the second photo, you notice there are actually two signs, and they are not directly over one another because Journey has already begun her turn, and left the range.
The trick is to line the sign posts up so that when you are seeing them like the first pisture or risk running aground. There may be lots of open water around, but it's all shallow outside of the range. Now how do you do this, when some of these ranges are over a mile long and the signs are that far away when you start? Simple: look at the lower photo again. The bottom sign is off to the right. Move the boat to the right until the signs line up again. (you would never want to get this far off of the proper alignment in a real range, you'd be aground.) Al and I are partying on Miss Ruby tonight here in our anchorage, along with Partner Ship, so I will leave you with this navigational "lesson of the day". We are just above Jekyll Creek in Ga. for the night.