Friday, June 27, 2014

Matanzas Means Slaughter

N29°42.994', W081°14.402'

The Spanish word "matanza" means killing or slaughter.  I knew upon arrival to this place that it's fearsome name was just for show.  It was meant to instill fear in the hearts of evil doers of old.  Today, it is merely a word.  All of the ugliness of it has been replaced with a completely different vibe.

Starting to get into the more rural areas with tall Pine and Oak trees mingling with the Palms

The Good Year Blimp is alive and well!

I'm sure the neighbors LOVE him!
A Raccoon! 

This is somebody's favorite spot...

I love that people of humble means can be right here on the water...

The tide line.  You know we're nearing an inlet!

Wildlife abounds!
Our trip from Daytona Beach was uneventful.  We left before 8 am to make a bridge opening, and we even had some favorable current of much of the way.  We hoped to arrive and get safely anchored before the afternoon Thunder Boomers set up... and we just made it.

It is said that this is a tricky anchorage to enter.  Normally that would be enough to have us searching for an alternate anchorage... but maybe we're gaining confidence, or maybe we just haven't been smacked soundly enough to have a healthy fear.  Whatever the case, we were happy that we weren't discouraged to the point of missing this anchorage...

We took our time in picking just the right spot.  We explored the depths all around, lucky that there were no other boats anchored here to contend with.  We finally picked our perfect spot in about 8-9 ft. at low tide, very near the old fort.

We would tour the fort tomorrow, but it had been a hot day and we were ready to swim.  There were mean looking jellyfish speeding by on the current, so even though the water was blue green and inviting, we chose not to swim off the transom and so, hopped into the dinghy to find a nice empty sandbar to swim on.

There were some people around when we arrived in the anchorage, but they all disappeared shortly after 5 pm.  I think I could like this "having the world to ourselves" after all.  I explored the shallow water of the sandbar.  The sands were shifty in spots and it felt strange beneath my feet.

Bruce got a little swim in.  It was funny to watch him try to swim upstream.  He could just barely swim faster than the current so he made slow if any headway.

The sandbar left exposed by the outgoing tide was neat looking.  As I walked along feeling these sands shift beneath my feet, it made me understand now, why we had just bounce off the sandbar when we had run aground yesterday on the way to Daytona.  They kind of shiver and give way as I shift my weight from one foot to the other.  Kind of cool...

Everyone has gone!  We have the place to ourselves!

We cooled off in the shallow waters as long as we dared before making a dash back to the boat - as usual - to batten down the hatches and prepare for the blow.  

This time it would be just a gentle rain with hardly enough wind to ruffle the water.  Those are the kind of storms we like...  The kind that barely brush us as they pass us by.

The menhaden ruffled the water's surface in a feeding frenzy!
We slept like babies in the silent anchorage.  Even with the swift reversing current, we've stopped being so worried about our anchor dragging.  Bruce still gets up in the night to check things out but I can sleep soundly.

We were all up early with thoughts of going fishing.  They're just thoughts however.  The action we saw here last night was gone.  I think they were menhaden flipping and flopping at the surface of the water.  But they sure had Bruce fired up.  They must all be sleeping this morning.

We would visit Fort Matanzas National Monument today.  There is a free tour that leaves from the opposite bank, so we dinghied over to catch the ferry to the official Fort landing.

We dinghied to the dock so that we could be ferried back to the Fort...
I felt a little bit proprietary as we had basically had the Fort to ourselves all evening.  Yet, we piled aboard the packed ferry, the first of the morning, with other tourists hoping to see this pile of rocks before the day grew too warm.

A little history lesson in the shade of the old Fort
Our Park Ranger, Jill, did a great job of making the days of fighting the enemy with cannon fire come alive for us.

One of the more fascinating aspects to me, being a lover of all things stone... is learning about the Coquina, of which this fort and a few others, are made.  It is a sediment of sand and shells that is quarried and cut into blocks, then allowed to harden.  It has been mined from Anastasia Island and used in Florida for over 400 years to build this fort and others in and around the St. Augustine area.

The characteristic that Coquina posses which makes it so useful in the building of Forts of this period, is it's porousness.  The builders of the era in which these forts were raised discovered that when a cannonball was fired at walls made of Coquina, instead of shattering, they would just absorb the impact.

It was likened to sticking a knife into a block of cheese.  When the enemy discovered that their cannon fire was useless against the fort, they eventually gave up and retreated, which is why Fort Matanzas was never taken by force.

I LOVE turrets!
Bruce is kind of into cannons...

Enlisted Men's quarters

Beds on one end, kitchen on the other
Jill told us all about how life in the fort must have been .  It was fortified with only a few soldiers and officers, who rotated through after several weeks of duty.  It would probably have been a somewhat boring duty, as they mostly drilled and did the things that were necessary to live and maintain a household.

Eventually we had to leave poor Jill alone so that she could answer the questions of some of the other visitors today...  But we were both impressed with her thorough knowledge of her subject.  She was able to answer every question we asked.  She is also proficient at firing these cannons.  I think Bruce was kind of crushing on her just a li'l bit...

The Burgundian Saltire
We were allowed to roam freely in and around the Fort for about half an hour.

We climbed through a very narrow hole to reach the rooftop.
It only made me feel a little nervous...

Thats our beautiful Dos Libras lying peacefully at anchor below the Fort.

The Fort was built on the banks of the Matanzas river to fortify St. Augustine's "back door" against intruders.  As I said before, the Fort was never taken by force, only by treaty or other means did it change hands as the years went by and this land became a part of the United States.

We enjoyed this first taste of the history of the land.  We would continue to connect pieces as we travel up the coast and learn more about how these different areas relied upon one another...

One of the many shell beaches lining the river
We were having such an enjoyable time here in this beautiful anchorage, we decided to stay another day and check out the beaches along the Matanzas.  This is a very quiet and serene anchorage on weekdays... but we found ourselves sharing it on the weekend...  Luckily we were anchored on the "Slow - minimum wake" line so the small boat traffic was no problem at all, and once again, they all disappeared after about 5pm.

The sand was VERY fluffy and my feet sank down three inches...

Looking for fish in the channel along the shoreline.

Any day is a good day when you have a rainbow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Laz-e Daze On The ICW

It's very easy to get lulled by the rhythm of the ICW.  Tide comes in... tide goes out.  Sun rises... Sun sets.  Rains come... oh well, you get the picture...

We get up in the morning and we decide.  Do we stay here, or do we move on?  Are there things we want to do ashore here?  Or would we rather save this place for the next time we pass through?

We decided to pass on Titusville and the Kennedy Space center and move on further North.

Jezabelle is getting used to the lifestyle.  She no longer hides when we get underway.

We've fallen into a pattern of great weather in the mornings and early afternoons... then thunder boomers in the late afternoon/evenings.  This means that if we want to travel far, we need to get a move on early.  There isn't much to do to get the boat ready to go.  We just turn on the instruments, shoo the cats out of our bedroom and pull the anchor.

Gone are the wall to wall buildings of South Florida.  This stretch of the ICW has us feeling like we're "somewhere else".  It's more quiet, less crowded and we're beginning to see more signs of wildlife.  We've seen manatee swirls as we glide by these remote islets.  The dolphin are beginning to show themselves again.

Birds are more abundant.  Osprey calls are common.  Pelicans dive and come up with food every time.

Haulover canal
We've left the land of a thousand bridges.  South Florida has so many, we've lost count.  Moving north though, while there are still bridges, most of them are fixed and tall enough for us to pass easily beneath.  Now and then we have to hail a bridge tender, but they seem less stressed out and more friendly.

Checking the crab traps!
Life along the waterway is more slow... less ostentatious.  It's a sleepy kind of life where people move at a more leisurely pace.

You could have your OWN lighthouse!
As we glide through the open marshes and the back yards, I imagine what it would be like to have grown up here.  Florida seems like such a wonderful place to be a kid.  Islets for miles, fishing galore.  What an awesome place to be from...

A Boat-A-Bago?
We keep our eyes open for the quirky things.  You just never know what you'll find today on the ICW...
A pretty little boat

Ready for anything!

Storm has passed.
Our destination today?  Daytona Beach.  All I know about Daytona is that they have some kind of car races there...  We wound our way along the remote parts of the ICW hoping to avoid the thunderstorms that seem to be coming early today.  As we made the turn to Port to go around the Ponce DeLeon Inlet, we got hit hard.  We could barely see for a short time, but luckily there wasn't much traffic and there were no big winds involved.

It's very easy to get lulled into inattention along the way.  The currents can quickly carry you out of the channel if you aren't paying strict attention.  This happened to me while we were passing Cocoa, when I suddenly wondered why there were crab pots in the channel... We were NOT in the channel.  But there was plenty of depth there so no harm no foul...

Bruce was not so lucky however... You can see from our track what happened...  We were going along enjoying the wild banks and marshes out in the middle of nowhere... When he suddenly said "is that two red markers up ahead on our right?".  I quickly consulted the chart and yes, we were out of the channel big time!

We were in good depths (for the moment) as there was a charted tongue alongside the channel, but that soon ended.  We came to an abrupt shuddering stop.

Luckily the current was against us and it did a marvelous job of aiding our escape.  The shifting shoals here felt funny as we tried a second escape back to the channel, then finally went back the way we had come for our getaway.  Bruce felt badly about it, but hey... it happens.  If you ain't been aground, you ain't been around.

It wasn't long before we arrived at Daytona Beach. The rains had stopped but were threatening a repeat.  We once again changed our plan and settled for a closer anchorage just off the ICW.

N29°10.760', W080°59.740'

We set our anchor and settled in to enjoy the afternoon.  The current was rushing beneath our boat, but we've become more relaxed about anchoring in strong current.  There was plenty of swing room here and even if we dragged anchor, we could go quite far without going aground.

We enjoyed a nice sunset and dinner, then an early night.  We wanted to be up and on our way at first light to make a bridge opening before the rush hour began.

Some bridges have rush hour times where there are no openings.  If we missed this one, we would have to wait until 9:30 for an opening.  We were out by 7:30 and on our way and ready to do it all over again.

We hadn't realized until we continued on our way in the morning... that Daytona was such a large town.  We passed through the banks of the city and put it on our list of places to stop and spend more time on our way back South in the Fall.  You just can't see everything!

We moved on wondering again... what will THIS day bring?