Wednesday, December 17, 2008

St Augustine to Vero Beach via Montreal

I am warm again! After our overnight crossing from Beaufort SC, Pat and I were greeted by glorious sunshine and more importantly the real heat that comes with it. It was such a huge treat to be able to wander around the historic town of St. Augustine in shorts and a t-shirt. In fact it was the first time since we left Canada that Pat and I have been able to do so. I guess Florida is living up to its tag line of being the sunshine state. Many of the locals are still complaining about the cold, but for Pat and me anything above 55 degrees is warm and once we cross the line into the 60’s we are positively into tropical territory.

Maybe it was the heat and maybe it was because we have been town hopping on the boat but St. Augustine was one of those towns that we hated to leave. Our overnight stop turned into two, and then we added a third day just for good measure. The time that we gained by going offshore from Beaufort, was reinvested into a more quality experience in St. Augustine. It is very charming and obviously set up for a booming tourist trade, but unlike other communities that derive a good part of their livelihood from tourists, the town was not the least bit tacky. It may sound a little odd, but we were actually motivated to visit tourist attractions because they were not very touristy. And so it came to pass that we found ourselves in the Alligator Farm, the farmers market and the St. George Street pedestrian mall.

One of the other benefits of warmer weather is that we have been able to stay on the hook for several days at a time. In the real cold weather, the Espar heater draws down the batteries more than my little 80 amp alternator can replenish without running the engine an inordinately long time. When we were preparing Threepenny Opera for our cruise, I made the conscious decision to wait until we got to Florida to install solar panels but in hindsight I should have done it sooner. If I were preparing another boat for this voyage, I would definitely have my solar installed prior to departure because the lack of supplemental charging has forced us to spend more nights in marinas than I had originally planned. The savings that I would have gained by buying my solar in Florida has been more that used up on extra nights in marinas. Again hindsight is proved to be 20/20.

Threepenny Opera is actually a very good cruising boat and we proved it by leaving St. Augustine, and then staying off the grid until we reached Melbourne on our third day out. We had good anchorages in Daytona Beach and another great anchorage at my namesake Addison Point. The beauty of the last anchorage was that we were within 5 miles of the Vehicular Assembly Building, where the space shuttle is prepared for flight. It was also line of sight to the two gargantuan launch pads, so if we can figure out a way to do it, maybe we might come back up this way for the February shuttle launch. I can’t think of anything cooler than to sit on my own deck sipping on a good cabernet and watching history unfold.

It was somewhat ironic that once we reached Melbourne in, we left the boat to fly back to Canada for the annual cookie baking session with the family. While it might sound a little strange to fly several thousand miles to bake cookies nothing could be farther from the truth. One of the things that Pat and I have come to realize is that changing our lifestyle is not the same thing as changing our life. We are merely living it in a different venue and perhaps at a different pace. The importance of getting together and spending quality time together cannot be underestimated when we are out cruising and since we had not seen any family for several months, Pat and I approached the trip home with the same excitement as we did for the 4 day power weekend get aways that we used to take when we were both wage slaves. The good thing about flying home for a family get together while we are out cruising is that we did not have to fly back and go to the office on Monday morning!

As excited as we were about going home for a few days, it was still a huge shock to the system when we walked out of the airport terminal in Montreal into -13 degree temperatures. I was walking around in shorts and sandals only 5 hours earlier and now I found myself being congratulated by the local Hertz representative for being fortunate enough to get the last car that was not too frozen to rent. What the Hertz guy did not tell us was that the deadline for mandatory snow tire installation was the date I was returning the car, and since the car they had for me was to be retired from service on that date, snow tires were not installed. It did not take us long to discover that all season radials do not work very well after a week of snow, freezing rain and more snow. For once I was thankful for heavy Montreal traffic because at least I wasn’t going very fast.

Originally the ginger snap cookies and Swedish Spritz Shortbread were baked by Pat’s mom. She had passed the recipe on to Pat’s sister Ann but during the transition the hand written recipe that Pat’s mom used was torn and a couple of key ingredients were missing. It has taken us several years of reverse engineering and experimentation, plus dozens of bottles of wine and other spirits to try and discover both the missing ingredients and their correct proportions. Over the years we have produced concoctions that could rival titanium for hardness and concrete for density, but this year we finally got it right. If it weren’t for the persistence of Ann and nieces Stephanie and Karine to figure out the right formula, Pat and I would stll be buying our Swedish cookies at Ikea. Maybe it was part of Nanna Oscarson’s master plan to tear the recipe and force us to get together to figure out the mystery. In the end the cold and slippery roads only seemed to make the weekend that much better.

Pat and I are back in Florida, and it feels great. I actually put on a bathing suit for the first time and got down to the business of washing off 5 months of cruising grime from the deck of Threepenny Opera. It was not a pretty sight, and no I am not referring to me in the bathing suit. She has had a first washing to remove the big stuff, so when we get to Marathon, we will be able to get down to the business of making her shine again. Today we are rafted three abreast on a mooring ball in Vero Beach. As luck would have it our ball mates are Ken and Heidi from Rising Tide and Ron and Dawn from Dawn Treader. By this time next week we should be approaching our first stage destination of Marathon Florida. I can hear the Jimmy Buffet tunes already!!

Have a great week, I know we will.


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