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Posted By Robin & Jim

South Florida is where the really big yachts hang out, and boats like ours are dinghies compared to the behemoths. 

We stopped to visit good friends in Jupiter, and were able to tie up in an empty slip - between two 120' yachts.  Another DeFever came in with us and we were able to share the slip.  As we were bringing the two boats in a crew member from the next-door yacht said "Oh, what cute little boats!"  Really?  But I guess it's all about one's perspective.

cute little boat

We had a marvelous visit with our friends, and I got a lot of time for crafts - beading, knitting, and even needle felting.  We taught a few gals how to needle felt, and we made some little Christmas trees.  It doesn't even matter what we make - it's just about spending time together.

felting

It's always unreal cruising through south Florida - Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami with the vast forest of tall condo buildings and trendy houses and big yachts.  It's sort of like cruising through a fjord with steep sides and amazing sights, except it's all concrete and glitz.

ft. lauderdale

We passed through the heart of Ft. Lauderdale where the docks are packed with big yachts - Bahia Mar and Pier 66 Marinas seem to host some of the largest - each one is bigger than its neighbor.  The 1% seem to be doing just fine...

bahia mar

And what happens when your mega-yacht needs a tow?  TowBoat/US has this big bubba that resides halfway between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami for pushing those megas around.

towboat

It's very had to capture the pure spectacle that is south Florida in photos - yachts with huge doors in their sides that open to reveal 40 or 50' elegant launches and jet-skis and all manner of water toys.  Crew in matching uniforms perpetually polishing and buffing... it's all pretty unreal!

It was good to leave "civilization" (a dubious term!) behind us and get into Biscayne Bay, Card Sound, and the Keys (aka "South of Reality") - back to nature and the birds and fish and a less hectic pace.

Stiltsville is the beginning of the Keys kind of spirit - the remnants of some buildings built out on stilts out in Biscayne Bay in the 1920's and 30's for liquor, gambling, and fishing clubs.  Over time hurricanes took their toll on the buildings and the State clamped down on further development or reconstruction.  The few remaining buildings are now owned by the National Park Service and they remain a bit of colorful south Florida history.

stiltsville


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

This trip south has been about trying new places and doing some of the "I always wanted to..." things in familiar places.  We've stopped in St. Augustine a few times before, but it was always a quick visit.  This time we were determined to see the town properly, so we took a mooring ball for three nights.

I had never been to the Castillo de San Marcos - the oldest masonry fort in the US, so that was the first stop.  The Spanish started building the fort in 1672 and it's now a National Monument.  There are a few paid staff and a host of volunteers who dress up in period costumes and they fire some of the cannons throughout the day. 

cannon firing

Another thing on our list was to take a tour of the gorgeous Flagler College - which was originally Henry Flagler's premiere hotel.  Henry Flagler may be most famous for building the Florida East Coast Railway that linked the islands of the Florida Keys together, but Henry was actually a hotel man who realized that he needed to build railroads in order to bring people to his hotels.

The Ponce de Leon hotel was built in 1888 for the ultra wealthy, and a winter season there could cost about $250,000.  The buildings, architectural details, artwork, and Tiffany stained glass windows are amazing, and the College has maintained a lot of the details beautifully.

flagler college lion

flagler college

Across the street, Flagler built the Hotel Alcazar which catered to the wealthy (as opposed to the ultra-wealthy), and it boasted the world's largest indoor swimming pool.  It is now the Lightner Museum with a varied collection of Victorian things, but the old swimming pool is a cafe where you can have an elegant lunch.

lightner pool

Another thing on our wish list was to climb the 164' tall St. Augustine lighthouse.

lighthouse

The spiral striping is distinctive, and was originally done to make each lighthouse unique so mariners would know where they were along the coast.  St. Augustine was the first lighthouse in Florida, built in 1824.  Just imagine the Keepers carrying heavy buckets of lamp oil up all those stairs several times a day, even in the summer!

For us, the views from the top were worth the effort of the climb, and we could even see ADVENTURES in the harbor - the little black speck of a boat to the left in this photo.

st. augustine view

We had a grand time exploring the town and its long history, and it's fun to learn new things.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Some of you may know that we're moving (with ADVENTURES) out to the Pacific Northwest in the spring so we can cruise the San Juans and Alaska for a few years.  So this trip down the east coast is the last one for a very long time, and that makes it somewhat bittersweet.  We've been savoring familiar places and stopping at some new spots that we always said "next time...".  We're calling this "Southbound: The Farewell Tour".

pelicans

The first time we see pelicans when we're southbound is right where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay, but the white pelicans don't appear until southern Georgia and northern Florida.

We stopped in Brunswick, GA for fuel at the commercial dock (they have the best price and fresh fuel), and were surrounded by shrimp boats.  It's a real shame that I don't like seafood!

shrimper

It was heartbreaking to pass by Cumberland Island - which has become one of our favorite places, but we've spent so much time there that we wanted to try a new spot - Fernandina Beach, right across the Florida border.  It should come as no surprise that the town's mascot is the shrimp...

fernandina mascot

It's a sweet little town with cute shops, nice cafes and restaurants, and Victorian homes on streets with canopies of live oaks and Spanish moss.  There are also paper mills on either side of the town, but it's easy to forget they're there.  The weekend we visited they had a fishing tournament, an international Petanque tournament (similar to bocce), and a real old-fashioned All American Veterans Day parade.  The parade was fabulous - with bands and fire trucks, girl scouts and boy scouts, monster trucks, a motorized sofa (you can't make this stuff up!) and the Shriners with their crazy cars.

veterans shriner cars

People lined the streets and we all cheered and clapped for the veterans of all ages that paraded by, and everyone had tears in their eyes at the veteran's memorials.  We can never thank these people enough for their service and their sacrifice.

The town also holds a Farmer's Market every Saturday, so we stocked up on beautiful veggies, local honey, and some fresh baked foccacia.

farmers market

We had a lovely little pause in Fernandina Beach and now we understand why it's such a cruiser-friendly spot.  Next stop - playing tourist in St. Augustine!

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We've been so busy either heading south or visiting places and friends that the blog has fallen behind.  In reality we're much farther south, but we saw and did so many things along the way that it's worth sharing.

After the weather finally settled post Hurricane Sandy, we continued south into South Carolina.  The Myrtle Beach area on the ICW isn't my favorite - it's long and straight and the only scenery comes from the many golf courses along the way.  One course is pretty cool though - it has a sky car that transports the golfers and their clubs from the parking lot, across the ICW to the course on the other side.

sky cars

About 20 miles below Myrtle Beach is the mysterious Waccamaw River - a densely wooded river with cypress trees and spanish moss.  It's just gorgeous in the fall and we anchored in one of the side creeks for an afternoon so I could kayak.  I just love the Waccamaw and all the wildlife, plus the spooky feeling of the cypress trees in the water.

waccamaw cypress

I paddled my kayak up some smaller side creeks, and then into an even smaller creek deep in the woods.  Flocks of wood ducks kept getting startled and they exploded into the air to fly off to a spot farther away.  The trees were so thick I could never see them well enough to photograph them.  Besides the wood ducks, I saw turtles sunning themselves on logs - plopping into the water as soon as I came into view, and I saw the tail of a big fish - I'm not sure what kind.  It looked like he was hunting and his tail was sticking up out of the water, waving gently.  I always see interesting things in the Waccamaw, and even just the reflection of the trees on the still water is neat.

waccamaw reflection

The fall leaves were lovely, and these water lilies added a nice splash of bright color...

waccamaw flower

The Waccamaw is a favorite spot and I'm glad we took the time to explore it a bit more, but the weather was still pretty chilly and we needed to keep heading south.  We even ran the generator some days so we could turn on the heat while we were underway.

As we travel we usually see a lot of birds, and it's exciting to see bald eagles nearly every day.  Ten years ago sightings were much more unusual, so it's great to see the birds making such a comeback.

eagle