01-30-10 Melbourne, FL and Cousin Ben

Betsy speaks: No blog yesterday, as there wasn't much to say! I rode my bike nearly 4 miles to the Best Buy store looking for a new camera. After much research and consideration, I ended up purchasing the identical camera to the one that was lost a week or so ago. Best Buy is my favorite store, and since this was the first time I'd been in one in many, many months I had a great time just wandering around. I'm sure the people at the camera counter thought I was going to shop lift a camera because I spent so much time there!

Directly across the street was a huge shopping mall with 5 huge anchor stores. Needless to say I spent several hours there as well. I figured since I had pedaled four miles I was going to do some shopping. Of course, I can't buy much because I'm on a bike! AND we have only limited space on the boat. So shopping means mostly just looking. I did buy four Auntie Anne's pretzels to take back to the boat for our next meal.

The bike ride was very enjoyable since there were sidewalks the entire way. Neither of us like riding our bikes in the street, especially one that has a lot of traffic. I've really learned to appreciate the value of bike paths and sidewalks.

Today, Saturday, we were treated to a visit from my cousin Ben Newlin who lives in Orlando. We plan to spend more time with Ben and his wife Rose while we are in Titusville, when we plan to rent a car and drive to Orlando. But Ben, being a retired Coast Guardsman, wanted to see the boat that we've survived on for the past eight months so he drove an hour and a half today to spend some time with us on board. It had been years since I'd seen him so it was great to get caught up.

After retiring from the Coast Guard, Ben spent ten years working with the Disney Corporation. He and four others were responsible for starting Disney's cruise line from the ground floor. Ben travelled to Italy several times, where the Disney ships were built, and brought them back to the US. It was interesting to hear him talk of getting a cruise ship up and running from day one, and dealing with all aspects of the operation from food prep to entertainment to crew.

We took advantage of Ben's visit and got him to take us to the grocery store for some provisioning. Rick was out of Pepsis, and they are hard to carry on the bikes! So we stocked up while we had Ben here with his car.

Right now the plan is for us to drive to Orlando after the shuttle launch next week and spend a couple of days with Ben and Rose and probably take him up on his offer to go to one of the theme parks for free. We've never been to Animal Kingdom, so that's probably where we'll go.

Right now we're planning to spend at least two more nights here in Melbourne before heading to Titusville. Looks like there will be a lot of rain next week, but that shouldn't hold us up. We're just glad we're not in the snow storms that are hitting the east coast not too far north of us! The weather here this week has been delightfully sunny and warm.

01-28-10 Melbourne, FL – Mel Fisher Museum

[Rick] Today we left Ft Pierce FL and headed for Melbourne, FL. Most everyone has heard of Indian River Grapefruit and citrus. This stretch of the ICW is actually the Indian River. It is fairly wide, very shallow out of the channel, and has many small islands along the way. Along the way, we found a marina that wants our cash and crap, but not us.

We decided to stop in the town of Sebastian Fl and go to the Mel Fisher Museum. On the way to the museum, we passed a most unusual driftwood fence. It was very different and allowed one to look out over the waterway.

You may not recognize the name Mel Fisher, but you probably wish you could have been him in 1985. Mel, his wife, and a team of underwater treasure hunters found the wreck of the Atocha, a Spanish Galleon that perished in a storm in 1622 off the coast of Florida and near the town of Sebastian. The treasure that they found was unbelievable and very valuable. The find included tons of Spanish coins, 900 Silver bars that weighed 80 pounds each, gold ingots, and jewelry made of the finest gold and silver. Probably as important, they found a piece of maritime history and how the ship was made, its supplies, and a lot about the living condition of the hands. Mel and his team also found the sister ship of the Atocha, the Santa Margarita, and an English ship, the Henrietta Marie. Needless to say, these discoveries made Mel and his backers very rich people. They continue to bring items to the surface and continue to excavate the scene for more historical items. There is a film in the museum detailing the expedition and aftermath.

An interesting legal note about the find. Prior to Mel finding the Atocha, the state of Florida was assessing a tax of 25% on sunken treasure found off Florida, even though it was found out of territorial waters. Mel, a student of the Constitution, decided this tax was not right and fought this tax. He won at every level. The state of Florida continued to appeal, spent over 3 million dollars, and eventually lost in the Supreme Court of the United States. Here is the paperwork.

The gift shop at the museum sells the normal hats and t-shirts. But it also sells part of the treasure, including Spanish Pieces of Eight. They have pieces from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. One small, 3 by 4 inches, filigree piece is $375,000.00.

Mel died in 1995, but his children and grandchildren carry on his tradition. They are treasure hunters and actively involved in the family business.

We arrived late at the Melbourne Harbor Marina. We plan to be here 3-4 days and then make our way north. We are within striking distance of Sneads Ferry. Sneads Ferry is approximately mile 245, so we are about 700 miles from home.

Here are some photos from the Mel Fisher Museum...

2 candleholders shown before and after cleaning

A silver bar, weighs 80 lbs

A fine necklace

01-27-10 Fort Pierce, FL and Manatee Museum

Betsy Speaks: We spent the day in Fort Pierce, having arrived yesterday afternoon. On our way yesterday we saw the DirectTV Blimp, probably heading to Miami for the Superbowl…earlier in the week while near Boca we had seen the Goodyear Blimp overhead.

This morning we walked to the Manatee Learning Center right next to the marina. They had just let a group of school kids in so we were told we would need to come back later if we wanted to watch the movie about manatees. The admission fee is only $1.00, and as usual, you get what you pay for! There really wasn’t much there…a few aquariums with small fish, starfish, a seahorse, etc. The displays were definitely geared toward small children.

The center is right next to a canal that used to handle discharge from a power plant. Manatees tend to congregate near power plants during cold weather because the water is warmer there. Unfortunately for the learning center, this power plant has been moved, so the huge mammals are no longer here in the large numbers they used to have. But it seems some of the manatees still come here looking for where the warmer water used to be, and we did see a couple today. They only come up for a few seconds at a time, so it is very hard to get a good picture of them, but here are our best attempts.

We left the manatee center for a few hours, then went back this afternoon to see the movie, which was made in 1983 and was so outdated it was pathetic! As I said before, we got our dollars worth and no more! But upon leaving the center and walking along the canal right next to it we did see another manatee, or maybe the same one we had seen before still just hanging around.

We walked next door to where the Chamber of Commerce/Tourist Information Center is, but were dismayed to find it is closed…apparently for good. I had wanted to ask about public transportation to the beach or to a shopping center…we’re trying to replace the lost camera. Through the window we could see racks of brochures that might have been helpful but we couldn’t get to them! Other people had actually left notes on the door expressing their disappointment that this facility was closed during the high tourist season.

As we walked away, I was able to flag down a city employee in a car that indicated he was with public works. He called someone to inquire about public transportation, saying that hard economic times had caused the closure of the tourist info center. He did say they had had so many complaints that they were trying very hard to come up with funds to reopen it. I never was able to find transportation to the beach or to shopping, so we just hung around this beautiful marina and enjoyed the beautiful day.

I’m disappointed that we’ve been on the east coast of Florida for over a week and we haven’t seen the beach yet! We did get a brief glimpse of the ocean when our nephew drove us to dinner in Boca Raton, but we’ve not had the opportunity to walk the beaches of Florida that I hear are beautiful! It is unfortunate that all the marinas we’ve seen so far have been on the west side of the waterway, with no visible transient dockage on the east side so that we could walk or bike to the beach.

Fort Pierce has so much potential with its beautiful waterfront parks, the manatee center, a library right next to the marina, and many nearby restaurants. But how nice it would be to have a trolley or bus to the beach or shopping. Even though we are right downtown, my quick ride through town on the bike when we first got here showed very little in the way of shopping opportunities…just lots of lawyers and banks!

So tomorrow we will move on to Melbourne, probably our final stop before going to Titusville for the shuttle launch on February 7.

By the way, we had changed the format of the pictures in the blog for a few days, and that prevented you from clicking on the picture and enlarging it. Several of our regular readers commented that they liked being able to enlarge the pictures, so we have gone back to the original format. We want our readers to be able to blow us up if they wish!!

01-26-10 Ft Pierce Marina – Ft Pierce, Fl

[Rick] Just a short note to tell everyone that we have very little “bloggable” material today. We went from North Palm Beach to Ft Pierce a distance of 48 miles. Half of the journey was retracing the route from Stuart FL to North Palm Beach and the other half was no wake. We took no pictures. So, tomorrow, we will have “all of the news that is fit to print” about Ft Pierce.

01-25-10 North Palm Beach Marina and Peanut Island

[Rick] After 3 days in Lighthouse point, a suburb of Boca Raton and seeing our nephew and friends, we decided to head north and return to North Palm Beach Marina in North Palm Beach. It was a pleasant ride, with several NO WAKE zones so we just took our time. About ¾ of the way, just as we approached the Flagler Memorial Bridge in Palm Beach, the rain came in torrents. We circled around and did not go under the bridge until the wind died down. The rain did not last long as it was associated with a fast-moving cold front.

Then we approached Peanut Island. This island is a public park that has been created to preserve a stand of Mangroves and to offer a camping place for anyone that wants to go there. They removed the invasive Australian Pines and have replanted the whole island as a botanical park. There is a floating day dock and a set of stationary docks for boaters. The campground allows you to stay for up to three nights. There are several restroom facilities with showers. One of the more interesting features is a dock and lagoon for snorkeling.

On the north end of the island is an old Coast Guard station, an underground bunker from the cold war and a replica of the HMS Bounty. These are available for touring on Thursdays thru Sunday, so were closed to us today. The brick paved path encircles the whole island and makes for a great walking trail though the lush plantings.

We arrived at the marina about 1600, reclaiming the same slip that we had before.

01-24-10 Lighthouse Point – The Pink Church

[Rick] Well, today is Sunday and that means finding a church to attend. Yesterday, while riding her bike in town, Betsy saw The First Presbyterian Church or “The Pink Church” as it is known. This is as close to a mega-church as we have attended. They have a Casual, Contemporary, and a Traditional service and the church holds about 1500 people. The pulpit is in the shape of the bow of a boat.

Over the past 8 months, we have attended about every ceremony or special occasion that is performed in a church. We have baptized babies, admitted new members, installed elders, taken communion, lit 4 Advent candles, and had homecoming. Today, at The Pink Church, was “Scottish Heritage Day”. This is special for Betsy and me as we attended St Andrews Presbyterian College which has a terrific Scottish heritage including an award winning Scottish pipe and drum corps.

The service today had a bagpiper, a presentation of the Scottish Clan Flags, and a special poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Tartan and plaid was in abundance throughout the church.

The minister, Rev. Jack Noble, has been at this church for 15 years and was animated.

In the afternoon, we received a call from Joe Giuliano of Ft Lauderdale. He is the owner of a Glacier Bay Cat and called to let us know that if we need any assistance, shopping, etc, he was available. He has been reading our blog since the beginning and read that we were in the area. Since we had just gone to the store and stocked up, we declined his offer, but we certainly appreciate the thought and offer. Thanks, Joe.

We have decided not to go further south. We have seen all the huge yachts and houses we need, so tomorrow, we begin to head north and our rendezvous with shuttle launch in Titusville, FL on Feb 7.

01-23-10 Lighthouse Point and Visitors

[Rick] Today was a very special day for us. In addition to the Goodyear Blimp hovering over us for most of the day, we had 3 visitors. We thoroughly enjoyed each one of them and hope they had a good time visiting our boat and getting the 2 minute tour.

The Blimp

Our first guest was David Bremer. David and his wife own a Glacier Bay 22 foot boat that they use for fishing and diving around the Boca Raton area. I had placed a note on the Glacier Bay Owners Forum at the beginning of the trip telling these owners about the trip and inviting them to follow along with the blog. David has been following along with us from the beginning. Early on he e-mailed me to say that if we get to this area, he would be happy to assist us and even has a dock to tie to. He came over this morning and after a tour of the boat, we talked about aspects of the trip and answered his questions. He gave us some insight into the local boating, inlets, etc. He and his wife are not old enough for retirement so a loop trip is some time away. But, they have something to look forward to doing one of these days. We regret that we did not get a photo of David for the blog.

Our second visitor was Bonnie. She is the ex-wife of my brother Carl and we have not seen her in many, many years. She also got the 2 minute tour and we chatted for about 2 hours. She lives here in Boca Raton. It was wonderful to see her after these many years and we had a great time catching up and just being friends.

Bonnie and Betsy

Our third visitor was Ryan, the son of Bonnie and Carl. We have not seen him in several years. Ryan is a biology major at Florida Atlantic University and is trying to decide between being a Pharmacist or a Physician’s Assistant. He seems to be a wonderful young man, level headed, and a sense of what he wants to in the future. Using Ryan’s truck, we accompanied him to a local restaurant that he recommended. The food was delicious and the company even better. We both hope that it is not years before we see him again as we really enjoyed our time with him.

Rick and Ryan

01-22-10 Boca Raton

Betsy speaks…We left North Palm Beach this morning heading to just south of Boca Raton. It was another beautiful day, sunny and hot. The scenery was much like what we had seen yesterday: mega-yachts

and mega-mansions. The size of these houses is just unimaginable!

And they’re still building them, as evidenced by these two under construction side by side.

At least the owner of this house has good taste in boats…that’s a Glacier Bay docked in front, same make and length as ours, but without the cabin.
But if you can’t afford a mega mansion or yacht, why not just put a pup tent on top of your boat and anchor out? Seems to work for this guy!
Or buy an old sailboat to live on, and just dock near the rich guys!
We also see many, many highrise condos, some elegant, especially those in the West Palm Beach area, and some more modest that appear to be older and probably more affordable.
We pass through many Manatee Zones, and are really trying to follow the rules to the letter. But OOPS! We missed one sign. There are several different kinds of zones…some are idle speed no wake, some are slow speed minimum wake, some are manatee zones east or west of Intracoastal Waterway channel but OK to do 25 mph in the channel, so you really have to pay attention to the signs. We were in the town of Lantana, between two bridges in what looked to be pretty open water. There were no other boats around, and the shore was fairly distant on both sides of the channel. I was at the wheel. We both heard a siren, Rick looked behind us and yelled for me to stop, there was a blue light coming on us fast! Sure enough, we were doing about 19MPH in a slow speed Manatee Zone. The officer was very nice and seeing that we were from North Carolina and obviously not familiar with the area he just gave us a warning. We were sincerely apologetic. Now we’ll just have to be even more careful until we’re out of Florida!

Up until today we’d only seen two manatees: the one that we saw rescued up in Port St. Joe, and one other one that took a quick dive off to the side of the channel. After our discussion with the officer that stopped us we moved slowly forward toward the next bridge, which is where this particular zone ended. We wondered aloud how the manatees knew where the zones were…how do they know not to go under that bridge?! Just about then, not two minutes after the officer drove off and not 200 feet from the bridge where the zone ended a large manatee came up and immediately dove down right smack in front of the boat! So I’m glad we didn’t hit him, and we continue to wonder how they know to stay inside those zone signs!

One interesting thing we passed today was a 39 foot Silverton being towed by Towboat US. This Silverton is the exact model that we’ve fallen in love with and hope to buy one once we get home to do the loop next time. Later in the day, we saw the Towboat US boat pull into the marina where we are, so Rick talked to him about why the boat was being towed (overheated engine). Not enough to scare me off of the boat I’ve fallen in love with!
Today we passed through the towns of Lake Worth, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, and Boca Raton. This weekend we will visit with Rick’s nephew Ryan who lives in Boca Raton. Ryan is a college student, studying to be a pharmacist.

We’ve decided to make this our southernmost stop. We had thought we might go to Fort Lauderdale, but after talking to some of the locals we learn that the scenery from here to there is much more of the same: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. And since it’s not our money we’ve decided we’ve seen enough of it, so we’ve contacted a couple of friends in Fort Lauderdale and told them if they want to see us they’ll have to come here…probably less than 20 miles. The marinas get more and more expensive as you go south.
I don’t think you want to try to outrun the Customs/Immigraton guys here…their 900 horsepower would be able to catch most boats! We saw them cruising out of the marina this afternoon.

Personal note to my buddy Bill: at your suggestion, we’ve changed our reservations for the space shuttle launch to the Titusville Municipal Marina! Thanks!