Continuing our recent theme of holiday decorations, this exhibit was quintessential Florida holiday décor. Who else could have a holiday exhibit featuring an alligator, frog, possum and Snoopy in a canoe?
The most spectacular holiday lights we've seen belong to this sprawling mansion. While the backyard enjoys magnificent ocean views. The front yard was decorated to the delight of all the locals. Every tree was lit. It was truly amazing.
The holiday season in Florida always seems a bit strange. Something about Christmas trees in the windows and palm trees outside the windows just does not quite make sense, But you must give Floridians credit. They love to decorate and always enjoy a good parade.
At the marina is Tropical Breeze. We would be the boat without the giant Santa Claus hanging from the rigging.
The parade in this case was a golf cart parade. Most of the carts, dogs and owners all decked out in holiday finest.
Sometimes you manage to hit the tides on the waterway just right. As we left the dock and cruised south the tides pulled us along nicely. For most of our several day journey we were traveling over 7 knots with the peak of 8.3 knots. That made quick work of our travels. We even logged a 66 statute mile day which is pretty remarkable for the shortened fall days. We soon found ourselves in Daytona Beach traversing the bridges. One of them was limited to opening just one span which always seems a little scary but there was plenty of room.
Further down the ICW we found a boat hard aground with not much hope of righting itself anytime soon. While this is unfortunate for the boat owner, it leaves clear indication of where the shoal spots are just outside the channel.
The Captain has many responsibilities on board the Breezer and on Farmer's Market Day he has the roll of carrying all my provisioning purchases. The St. Augustine Farmer's Market was excellent. Vendors offered farm fresh eggs, fresh produce, local seafood, citrus, baked goods and more. I stocked up on lots of good stuff - and some healthy stuff too.
Back at the local supermarket, I thought I had been transported back to my childhood when I found Franken Berry cereal on the store shelf. Wow! I haven't seen that in too many years to count.
It is the holiday season. In St. Augustine that means it is time to light the annual Christmas tree and the city. We joined our friends Ed and Lynn and thousands of other spectators for the festivities. A crowd filled the park and city streets to enjoy music in the pavilion before the mayor turned on the array of lights. What fun!
For Thanksgiving Lynn cooked up a feast. Turkey and all the trimmings loaded the dining table. There was so much food that 2 days after Thanksgiving the four of us got together again for a second Thanksgiving. Thanks Lynn for two great feasts!
All I can say is the Captain and I better get out of St. Augustine quick or we are going to be in need of new pants with a bigger waist size.
We are back again for another fun-filled season on Tropical Breeze. In the boatyard we had all our general maintenance to complete including washing, buffing and waxing the boat. We hate this task, but when you see your reflection in the hulls after all the tough work it is well worth it.
We got all the work done just in time as the Nor' Easter that hit the northeast during the Thanksgiving holiday started in Florida first dropping buckets of wet weather here before continuing its trek north. It was a wet and messy launch day with the puddles in the boatyard looking like ponds but we are launched and ready to roll.
Every weather forecast we checked - and we checked a lot - indicated it would be the perfect crossing. Winds from the east at 10-15 or a steady 15 knots. It would be great. Enough to keep us moving at a steady 7-8 knots (absent gulf stream current) while not being too much.
There was just one problem. The forecasts - all of them - were wrong.
We left Great Sale Cay just before 1am. The wind was as promised and we clipped along at a pleasant pace until sunrise. Then the wind faded and we spent the day motorsailing trying to make progress back towards the US. It was well past darkness had fallen again before the wind once again filled and we had reached the full effect of the Gulf Stream. So for a good portion of the evening we clipped along at a pleasant 8.5 - 10.5 knots making up for some of the precious slow speed of the day.
Yet again before daybreak the wind would quit and our speed would slow. Being absent wind and surrounded by water you can't help but start to feel some cabin ocean fever set in. Just before sunset a small bird found us and after circling the boat for over 30 minutes decided we were his best bet for rest and shelter for the evening. He found a perch on top of the hardtop for the evening. We put out some water and crackers for him, but he wasn't interested in the hospitality. Come morning, he settled himself out onto the bow before taking off for another day of travel.
As daylight became mid-day the silence of the sea was disrupted by a group of dolphins who, like us, were looking for something to do and decided swimming with the 'Breezer' would be a fun way to spend some time. They swam along with us for 15-20 minutes before growing bored and seeking alternative forms of entertainment.
Like them, the Captain and I were getting antsy. There was still little to no wind and the engines as well as a bit of tide propelled us but not to the speed we'd like. With nothing else to do we turned on the tunes and began singing and dancing our way across the miles. When that just wasn't enough, I got a bit creative with nail polish and did not only my toes but decorated the Captain's as well.
As you can imagine, we were happy to make landfall. After months in the Bahamas coming back to the conveniences of the US is always a treat. At least for a little while, then we will be ready to escape back to the Bahamas once again.
There is a reason the beach at Treasure Cay is considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world. The fine granules of sand are like a soothing powder as they sift between your toes. The waters are warm and crystal clear. The view, spectacular.
After a long walk on the beach, we stopped at the beach bar for our favorite - frozen mango daiquiris - and then lounged in beach chairs underneath a palm umbrella sipping drinks and enjoying the view.
At Sandy Cay we enjoyed snorkeling around the amazing coral heads. Some of the trunks of the coral were as large as trees. The highlight of the day was the spotted ray we found swimming along the sea floor.
There is one thing that should never happen on a boat and that is a sailor should never run out of rum. Well, aboard the 'Breezer' we had our first ever rum shortage. Not only did we run out of dark rum, but we were within 4 fingers of running out of mango rum as well. As you can imagine we were pretty happy to pull into Marsh Harbor to remedy the situation.
Okay. We were ready. Each time we've crossed to the Abacos the fish have not been very nice to us. We've lost lures. We've broken line. And, only once have we caught a fish. But this time we were ready. I had my brand new - still a virgin - fishing rod and we both had our reels restrung with 100+ lb braided line. If we broke a line this year, we probably really weren't able to handle what was on the other end anyway.
So off we went, leaving Royal Island just after 6 am and out into open waters. The wind filled in nicely and we were clipping along at 7.5+ knots. A bit too fast for trolling, but hey, you can't catch anything if you don't try.
About mid-morning I caught my first fish. Unfortunately it was a barracuda so we threw it back. Nonetheless, my new fishing pole was no longer a virgin - not putting dinner on the table either though. not yet a moneymaker putting dinner on the table either though.
As time passed, we found ourselves constantly reeling in the lines to remove the seaweed that was picked up by the lures. By afternoon we were getting pretty weary of this task and were just about to call it quits when things changed. Dave's fishing reel (why wasn't it mine?! =( ) suddenly made a short whir. It was brief and we thought we'd picked up more seaweed. As the Captain reeled in his line we couldn't help but notice a dark dorsal fin and a sizable wake following the lure. About 10 foot off the stern Dave paused his reeling and the fish took hold of the lure and started hightailing it in the other direction. So to recap, we are headed 7.5+ knots in a northerly direction and the fish starts running full speed in a southerly direction. And let me tell you, there was no stopping this fish he just kept going and Dave kept tightening up the drag and the fish still powered thru and took more line out. We reached a point where the reel was getting warm from the tension on the drag. Holy cow!
So with Dave in full fishing mode, I let out the jib and pointed the Breezer into irons trying to stall us. Meanwhile Dave fought the fish. We have no idea how much time passed. The fish would pause and Dave would take the opportunity to reel in line. Then the fish would fight and Dave would lose some ground. On and on it went. Boats that had fallen far behind us and out of sight of the horizon began to reappear and still Dave fought the fish.
Finally we got it close enough to the boat and could identify it as a marlin. Holy crap a marlin!! About 5-6 foot long, a big beautiful blue tail. It reenergized us for the continued fight. As Dave brought the fish to the stern I grabbed the camera and began snapping pictures. He managed to grab onto the marlin's bill and release the line and lure but before I could get into position for a picture with Dave holding onto the marlin's bill the fish slipped out of Dave's hands and back to the sea.