2/7 – 21/16 Summary: Our stay at Ft. Pierce ended up being a combination of fellowship, sightseeing and labor. In the short time we were there, we met 17 people who were either Loopers, DeFever owners, or just friendly folks. We got invited to share a dinner at the local sports bar & grill to watch the Super Bowl, joined a group of Loopers for “docktails” (social hour on the deck of someone’s boat), and spent a couple of hours taking detailed notes from a Gold Looper (someone who has completed the loop). Sightseeing included the Navy SEAL Museum and a walk through the old part of town. The labor side was a bit more involved and included some things not even on the list (see below, if interested), and caused a couple of days’ delay.
After leaving Ft. Pierce, we headed north and spent the night on the hook just a couple hours short of Cocoa Village Marina in Cocoa, our next destination. It was a 30-dolphin day! The highlights at Cocoa were touring the Kennedy Space Center, Paula finding a really nice yarn shop, and spending time with the O’Malley’s getting more information on what to except on the loop (with their special emphasis on ice cream).
We had originally thought we would leave the boat in Jacksonville while we returned to Phoenix for about a month, but figured out St. Augustine seemed a better option. So following another night on the hook, we pulled into River’s Edge Marina in St. Augustine. While the next few days were again filled with fellowship, sightseeing and labor, fortunately the labor part was much less. BJ, a friend from NC, spent the night with us and we had the opportunity to tour St. Augustine together, the nation’s oldest permanently occupied city.
After 25 days on the boat, we secured the boat with a few extra dock lines and bumpers, left a couple of pelicans in charge of security, and hitched a ride to Jacksonville with some folks who owned a sailboat across the dock. We spent the night with Paula’s favorite aunt, Robbie, and got the last 2 seats on the flight home. We are already planning the next leg of the trip, which we hope will include seeing the wild ponies on Cumberland Island in Georgia.
All in all, we completed 39 items on the list this trip!!!
We still get questions on why we are doing the Great Loop, and we found a website that seems to sum it up. Check out Captain John’s explanation.
If you care to delve into the details, read on. They are really as much for us as anyone, but you are welcome to follow along on our adventure. Thanks for stopping by!
Details: Sunday after a walk to a Vineyard church downtown, we shared a lunch of scrumptious sweet potato-encrusted salmon on salad at Cobbs Landing Tiki Bar at the marina. We then caught a cab to the Navy SEAL (SEa, Air, Land) Museum. It was very well done, with the history of Naval Special Warfare from WWII to present day, their qualifications and training requirements (over a year of intense physical and psychological training), the lifeboat from which the SEALs freed Capt. Phillips from Somalia pirates in 2009, a scale model of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, helicopters and a complete SEAL obstacle course set up outside. Did you know over 90% of the SEAL’s missions are actually on land?
We finished the evening at the 2nd Street Bistro, having been invited by super-friendly Joy Merritt at check-in to join her and her husband and 2 other couples for the Super Bowl game, playing on 46 TV screens. So noisy, but nice to be with friendly people. Paula felt right at home when Laura Eschbaugh, who sat next to her, pulled out her knitting too. Instant friends.
The beginning of the week included tackling more things on the list. Tom caulked the aft deck to stop a couple of water leaks. We visited with the Eschbaughs on their sailboat to follow up on some things Laura had mentioned the previous night. We also visited with Judith Montgomery, owner of a 49’ DeFever, who had left a come-see-me boat card on our aft deck while we were out. She’s a Canadian, and says we must call when we get up to the Trent-Severn canal system in Canada, only 20 minutes from her home.
Then we met Lorenzo and Lois Johnson, Gold Loopers, aboard Lil’ David just 2 boats away on our dock – wonderful folks from NC. Lorenzo right away asked if we needed to go anywhere and we took him up on a trip for some groceries. Then, for 2 hours from 9:30 until 11:30 PM, he went over the loop route using his favorite chart source from Ft. Pierce all the way to Norfolk, pointing out hazards, great marinas, anchorages, etc. Paula took 3 pages of notes!!! And then, when Tom mentioned an electrical problem, Lorenzo, a retired nuclear engineer and very knowledgeable on boat electrical systems, said (at 11:30 PM!), “Well, let’s go look at it.” Way past our bedtime, we said, “How about tomorrow morning?”
Lorenzo took Tom to a great marine store in the morning, about 20 minutes away, and then helped Tom all afternoon move the inverter out of the engine room where the heat was above its operating tolerances and causing an overheating problem. What a job! 7 hours later the inverter was humming away in it’s new locker. Lorenzo is a genius and so giving of his time. While the inverter was being moved, Paula did travel and sightseeing planning for our next leg. That evening we took Lorenzo and Lois to dinner as a tiny thank you.
The next morning, we had engines running and all preparations ready to leave when Tom discovered the inverter wasn’t working. Lorenzo to the rescue again! Turned out it wasn’t really the inverter this time, but a 2nd problem. The inverter was “overloaded” because one of the alternators was overcharging. Into the car again with Lorenzo to the alternator repair shop. By late afternoon, we had a rebuilt alternator reinstalled, with an additional backup alternator purchased.
We ended Wednesday with “docktails” on Kermit and Katherine’s (Gold Loopers) boat, along with 4 other couples, Paula having met Kermit (a man, not the frog) in the laundry room.
Paula’s reflection: though Tom knew a little about the boating community from his brother who lived on a sailboat for 20 years, the camaraderie and selflessness of the boating community is astounding Paula. Everyone is so friendly. Other DeFever owners leave their cards on our boat to introduce themselves and invite us for a visit. Other Loopers want to talk and share their experiences and reminisce and tell us how much we’re going to enjoy this. And owners with expertise where we lack give of their time and wisdom.
After all Lorenzo did for us, we found out he also teaches with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. When we get to their home in Holden Beach, NC, Lorenzo is going to teach Paula how to dock so she can drive the boat while Tom (the stronger) works the lines.
Finally, on Thursday, 5 days after arriving at Ft. Pierce (when we thought we’d stay 2 nights), we were off. It was a beautiful sunny day. We motored from 9-4 until north of Melbourne, seeing a total of 30 dolphins along the way, our biggest number yet! After we anchored for the night, Tom caulked around the edge of the aft deck, hopefully stopping a couple of persistent leaks.
Friday dawned a sunny 75° day (very nice after the 10-20° colder and windy weather we’d been having) and we motored 2 hours into Cocoa Village Marina. It was another “challenging” docking, this time due to wind and an engine quitting. But quick-thinking dockhand Matt saved the day and we got in safely with no contact. It’s said, “If you don’t hurt anyone or have to write a check, all is good.” So I guess we had a “good” docking experience – but that would be stretching it! (That’s kind of like saying a “good” landing is any one you can walk away from and a “great” landing is one you can use the airplane again too.)
Old town Cocoa was just blocks away and we had a wonderful sushi lunch. Paula was amazed to find a small but great yarn shop and Tom a very large hardware store built in the late 1800’s. Tom finished caulking the aft deck (praise God for no rain before this job was completed) and put solid inner tubes in the bike tires so there would be no more wondering when a flat would occur. Paula got 2 more coats of varnish on the aft handrail.
Surprisingly, we found out this was Jim & Ann O’Malley’s home marina when Ann came over to invite us to the marina chili potluck that night. Jim had given us intake engine cooling water strainers about 2 years ago when Tom posted a need on the DeFever forum, then we gave them our windshield when we removed it, again through the forum. As soon as our jobs were finished, we joined the other marina guests for a nice dinner.
Saturday, we lowered the scooter and rode (first time) the 17 miles to the Kennedy Space Center. Though there was lots of time spent standing in lines at first, we got to tour the grounds on the bus, stopping at the Apollo/Saturn V Center where there was one of the 15 Saturn V rockets (3 never flew), walk through the rocket garden (right – with rockets from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs), ride the simulated shuttle launch, and saw the Hubble 3D IMAX movie. You couldn’t come close to seeing everything in just a 1-day visit.
5 minutes after arriving back to the marina, we were off to supper with Jim and Ann. Then Paula took another 3 pages of notes about their Great Loop experience. It is all so helpful. We fell into bed about 10:30, worn out from the packed few days. We had planned to only spend 2 nights a Cocoa, but needed a rest, so stayed for a more relaxing Sunday (though it did include mundane jobs like laundry and grocery shopping).
At 8:30 Monday morning, we left Cocoa Village Marina and set our course north, and almost immediately were joined by dolphins in our bow wave. It was another day of exactly 30 dolphins! At one point we were surrounded; we had dolphins riding both side waves and the bow. We made fantastic time (saw 8.5 mph at one point with 1500 rpm) with a push from the current and made it all the way to just south of Daytona in an overnight anchorage.
Left Daytona Beach Anchorage at 8:30 pressing north toward St. Augustine, again making good time and anchored at 3:30 at Terrapin Crossing, about 2 miles south of our St. Augustine marina, leaving time for Paula to apply 3 more coats of varnish on the aft handrail while Tom cleaned the dinghy carburetor. A test in the morning revealed the dinghy now ran, but still not at high speed. More work needed.
About 10:00, we pulled into River’s Edge Marina (pictured very top) on the San Sebastian River, taking their only slip available (out of 100) and got all set up for our month’s stay. Lunch at Hurricane Patty’s at the end of our dock was convenient. Another coat of varnish and some more work on the dinghy completed the day.
On Thursday, 2/18, BJ, (Paula’s ex-roommate from NC) on the way to visit her sister wintering in FL, joined us for breakfast onboard. Then we were all off to tour St. Augustine, riding the Old Town Trolley, complete with historical monologue about the nation’s oldest permanently occupied city, founded by the Spanish in 1565. Henry Flagler, partner with JD Rockefeller in Standard Oil, built 2 hotels and founded the FL East Coast Railroad, establishing St. Augustine as a winter resort for the wealthy northern elite. Hotel Ponce de Leon later became Flagler College (pictured right), with Tiffany windows in its cafeteria. It was the first major structure in the US to be constructed of poured concrete (cement, sand, and crushed coquina shell). He also built several churches, including the ornate Memorial Presbyterian Church, which he built for his daughter who died during childbirth (pictured left), with its brilliant stained-glass windows designed by German artist, Herman Schladermundt, a student of Tiffany. These 92 windows contain the Apostle’s Creed, and have more intense color and are brighter than any we’ve ever seen. Stunning…and definitely a highlight of all the St. Augustine attractions for us! Flagler had a huge influence on the town due to his powerful wealth (also with a hand in creating the first Negro League baseball teams and a hospital). We had a delicious lunch in town at a Spanish restaurant, Columbia, which was a bit higher class than our norm. We finished the evening relaxing on the flybridge and playing cards after supper, then BJ became our first overnight guest.
After breakfast, BJ was off and it was back to varnishing before a bike trip to town again to finish our sightseeing. We toured the Castillo de San Marcos National Park (a fort on the Matanzas Bay) built from 1672-1695 and covered our ears during the live cannon firing. Then we walked the pedestrian street with lots of tourist shops (including another delicious Kilwin’s chocolate and ice cream store, oh no), biked a bit more, and returned back to the boat. There were lots more tourist attractions (including Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Whetstone Chocolate Factory Tour, a wax museum), but it seemed everything was ≥$15 and not worth it to us.
On Saturday morning, we caught a ride to Jacksonville with gracious dockmates going that way, connecting there with Paula’s aunt for the nice visit before returning to Phoenix.