Lionheart Cruise

Key West to St. Augustine

 

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We spent 7 great days in Key West, Florida, enjoying sunsets at
Mallory Square, margaritas at the Hog's Breath, Key Lime Pie,
touring around the town on foot and on the Conch Tour Train,
and relaxing after our tiring trip across the Gulf. It was also really
windy for a week, so our sojourn was not just a vacation but once
again a wait for weather. What I liked best about Key West,
besides just revelling in being back in the States, was the
architecture and the colorful nature of the town. While it is truly a
tourist destination, it has a lot of history, including the summer
White House of Harry Truman, the home of Ernest Hemmingway,
and the legacy of Henry Flagler (the man who built the railroad
down the east coast to the Florida Keys), and US Highway 1 ends
at Duval Street.

On the eighth day, April 15, we moved up the east coast of the
Keys to Marathon where we had the boat hauled out of the water
for bottom paint and a general inspection after the first 6 months
of cruising. This all took 5 days in the yard "on the hard".
Richard, Nick and I enjoyed the hospitality of Liz and Ritchie at
their home which is just steps away from the Gulf of Mexico on
Grassy Key. We enjoyed sunsets there too. This whole area was
hard hit by the hurricanes last year. The major damage was not
from the wind but from the surge that covered the entire key with
3 feet of water. This killed all salt intolerant vegetation as well as
ruining the ground floor of the building that have ground floors.
New buildings are required to have no living space on the ground
floor, however, much of Marathon was settled in the 1950's with
the advent of air conditioning, so there are many old trailer parks
and motels that took a lot of property damage. The whole city is
12 miles long and less than 1/2 mile wide, from the Atlantic to the
Gulf side. The road that goes through town is US 1, which is a
series of bridges and causeways that follows the old railroad
south through the Keys to Key West. Marathon, and many towns
in the keys reminded me of what Route 66 looked like when I was
a kid only with palm trees instead of cactus. Our stay with Liz and
Ritchie included playing bridge for the first time in 6 months,
playing Mexican Train (one of our favs), a haircut, a trip up the
highway to Homestead to resupply at Costco, and shopping for
some new summer clothes (it seems that we are in perpetual
summer on this trip).

On April 21 (marking 6 months to the day we left Long Beach on
our odyssey) we bid farewell to our wonderful crew member Liz
and her great guy Ritchie and headed north, still pretty much on
schedule to make it to NYC by early June. Thus we officially
started our trip around the Great Loop of America. We anticipate
finishing the Loop in November back in Marathon.

We spent that night anchored off of Key Largo. We anchored 2
nights in Biscayne Bay in Miami Beach at 25 deg. N and 080 deg.
W. When we entered the bay through the Government Cut that
takes you to the Port of Miami, we passed directly south of the
famed South Beach which was really rocking on a Sunday
afternoon. Where we anchored was like being anchored in
Newport Beach. There are about 10 residential islands with
beautiful homes and boat docks. The high rise skyline you see
on the intro to CSI Miami was all around us, as were 100's of
boats of all sizes going very fast. No speed rules in the channels
as best we could tell. After spending a day sightseeing on South
Beach, we headed north in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) which
will take us all the way to NYC.

We left our anchorage at 8:30 AM but had to wait until 9:00 for the
draw bridge to open. There are many bridges on the ICW, and
some of them are too low to allow Lionheart to pass under. These
are all drawbridges that open on demand or at certain times of the
hour or the day. We had to wait a few times. Also, the ICW in
Florida is evidently full of manatees. These are slow moving
creatures that cruise around under water. Much of the time the
speed of boat travel is restricted due to manatee conservation.
Also, people living along the ICW don't like big wakes that can
harm their docks and in some places slop into their yards. All in
all, travel north of Miami is like an endless Huntington Harbor or
Newport Harbor Duffy cruise. Cruising through Ft. Lauderdale
was like Newport Beach on steroids. I have never seen more
palatial waterfront homes, on huge pieces of land. It made Harbor
Island look like tract houses! Nor have I seen a larger
concentration of huge private yachts. In fact, I saw The Huntress
docked in Ft. Lauderdale, and she is ranked as #32 on America's
largest 100. She makes Lionheart look like a Duffy!

A major feature of the ICW is that it has a channel that is
supposed to be dredged to at least 10 feet deep. The width of
the channel varies. The way one manages to stay in enough
water is by staying inside the ICW markers. Even with the
wonderful computer navigation tool that puts the chart on the
computer screen and shows your boat on that chart as you move
along, the Captain and crew have to remain vigilant to stay in the
channel and, therefore, in deep enough water to float your boat!
We failed to do this late in the day and went aground in the
Boynton inlet. The markers were very confusing and there was a
big incoming tide, and we hit the bottom and it looked like we were
stuck. NOT GOOD! Fortunately the Captain was able to power
up those 2 big caterpillar engines and get us off and back into the
floating position right away. We have since seen others in the not
so lucky position of being high and dry. This remains a concern
for all of the ICW, however, the Cat Unit and I much prefer the
smooth cruising after months of rough road in the Pacific and
Caribbean. That night we anchored by a bridge in Lantana. On
the 26th we made it without incident to Ft. Pierce. On the 27th the
large homes started giving way to more moderate homes and less
inhabited shores. We cruised by Cape Canaveral and saw the
NASA building and launch stands from a distance. We anchored
off of Titusville in a big wind. A brush fire started on shore just as
we were starting dinner and we saw it on CNN news within the
hour. It was a big one that closed down Highway 1 because of
smoke and flames. It was out when we got up in the morning and
moved north to Daytona Beach.

At Daytona Beach we went to a marina for 2 nights. The Captain
needed to clean the raw water strainers that had sucked up a lot
of sand, gravel and mud when we went aground. Also, Lionheart
had developed a fuel leak that had to be addressed. The old
boat maintenance thing again! The Captain was able to fix the
leak for a cost of $70....$30 for the part and $40 for the cab ride.
Now in Mexico the cab ride would have been $5 but you would
never find the part! He also had to take apart and clean the raw
water strainers on both engines. This is the third time he has had
to work on the engine cooling system. However, the last time was
in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, with
the boat bouncing around in 10 foot waves, the engine room was
110 degrees, when he had to rebuild the water pump on the
starboard engine....and he did it in 29 minutes! That was a
special experience, especially for the Captain. Thank God he's
tough as well as agile for a guy his age. You see, cruising is not
for sissies!

From Daytona Beach we headed north to St. Augustine. This is
the oldest European settled City in the US. This is where Ponce
de Leon came ashore and found the Fountain of Youth which is
still there and can be seen from the city tour train. It is also home
to many beautiful buildings built by Henry Flagler around the turn
of the Century. While building the Keys railroad he fell in love with
St. Augustine. He moved there and built a mansion for himself,
several churches and a hotel that is now Flagler College. These
buildings have Tiffany windows, fabulous wood and tile work, gold
leaf ceilings, etc. Mr. Flagler, as you may know, was John D.
Rockefeller's partner in Standard Oil. Fortunately, he spent a lot
of his fortune developing Florida and much of it (but not the
railroad) remains today to be enjoyed by the residents and
tourists in Florida. We also hooked up with our friends on Beso
again and started north from St. Augustine on May 1. By this
point the scenery along the ICW has turned into beautiful sand
dunes and marshes that are alive with water birds. We crossed
into Georgia late in the afternoon and anchored for the night just
off of Jekyll Island. This is a resort and outdoor camping vacation
area.

As we have traveled north, it has mercifully gotten much cooler. I
guess it is unseasonably cool but we love it! We have slept
without the AC on for the past 2 nights! This is a first since
leaving San Diego. We had to root around and find our sweat
shirts and pants. While I know this is only temporary, it is a nice
break from the heat and humidity of the past 6 months. We are
enjoying the scenery and smooth ride and looking forward to
arriving in Savannah sometime tomorrow.

We have also enjoyed being able to use our cell phones to catch
up with family and friends and have now got a Verizon broadband
card in the computer so we can be online almost any place and
any time. So, feel free to e-mail us and say hello and let us know
what you are doing in this spring of 2006.