Friday, March 26, 2010

Bender's Cruising Chronicles February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010
Beaufort – Jacksonville – Palm Coast – New Smyrna – Merritt Island – Vero Beach

This is the month for hearts and flowers, the Super Bowl, President’s Day, Winter Olympics, American Heart Month, Black History Month, Ground Hog Day, National Grouch Day, Mardi Gras parties, but most importantly, the birthday of my first-born son, Chad.

Chadwick Paul Breaux, Jr.

We bade adieu to Beaufort, SC, on 1 February. Very, very cold but we are thankful for their City Marina as our “port in a storm”.
Along boardwalk in Beaufort with Kindred Spirit III in background

North of Jacksonville as we entered the St. John’s River, we crossed the wake of 2 southbound cruisers, Bill and Barbara and Allan, friends of ours. What a coincidence. Daily we’re reminded of how small is this world.

Ortega Landing Marina was to be our home for a few days and what a delightful facility!!! Joann and Bob, Bruce, and Amy and Kris, do an incredible job there. Their friendliness and helpfulness was definitely off the scale! We walked/ran/cycled through downtown Jacksonville, Avondale, Riverside, across the river to Ortega and this little fellow we encountered along our way. Publix and West Marine were only a few blocks away and for what more could a boater wish? When in that area, if you’re a bibliophile, you must go to Chamblin’s Book Mine. The store sells new, used, precious first editions, limited, out of print books and is so big you could get lost in there. Their inventory is over one million books. You could easily fit 10 “regular” bookstores into this one. Everything, for the most part, is extremely organized. You get an insane amount of specificity of a subject such as ‘bird feeders’. Peruse walking/running section and that’s an entire bookstore unto itself. The enormous history section is divided into categories by country and historical period. While in Ortega we had a few cold and freezing days that absolutely flew as I lost myself and all sense of time in this icon.

We were really looking forward to spending time with sailors John and Cozette in New Smyrna but our visit was pre-empted by the birth of their second granddaughter. We were tucked away in their Yacht Club and their home was a stone's throw from our slip but babies just don't ask for input on when's a good time to enter this world. We're very happy for the new grandparents, appreciate their SYC hospitality, and look forward to seeing them as we head north.

            New Smyrna Beach Sunrise

Merritt Islanders, Bobbi and Mike, also Grand Banks owners, met us at their Eau Gallie Yacht Club and helped us secure our boat, THEN left us a vehicle to use during our visit. This couple ranks way up there on our list because they're the ones who got us involved in the MTOA organization last year. We met them a year ago--total strangers -- and when we said "good bye" 8 days later, we felt as if we were leaving long-time friends. They bend over backwards to make us feel welcome and think of things that we need before we ever realize the need. Their truck was a boon to our provisioning for our trip in April to the Bahamas. Not only was the bed filled but also the floor and back seat and. This would've been an ordeal to've accomplished what we did in any other way. As if all this wasn't an excellent display of Southern hospitality and MTOA-er’s, Bobbi prepared dinner the both nights we were there. We love them but also their “lap dog”, Duffy.

Our cruise southward to Vero Beach was lovely! A beautiful day to be on the water!!! Lagniappes were several extraordinary dolphin shows. As often as we see them, they never become commonplace.
Last year while in Vero we were introduced to Blue Grass Tuesday night so we enjoyed it again this year with Mike and Bobbie who drove down; Geoff and Pepper, another Grand Banks owner couple who winter here; and Bill and I. We had dinner followed by the bluegrass concert. This is a group of 9 and quite a few of them are retired professional musicians. What a treat!!!
Another astounding facet to our cruising life-style came about from a superficial contact I made to with a fellow MTOA member, Wayne, who, fortuitously, has his boat docked behind his house which is shouting distance from our mooring. He invited us, absolutely total strangers, to his home and gave us a tour of his classic and impeccable Kady Krogen Whaleback. He and Carol have made numerous trips to the Bahamas and he so enthusiastically dispensed a gold mine of erudition! The passion in his voice served to rev our own enthusiasm for our virgin cruise to the Abacos. This is a perfect portrait of what the cruising community is all about.
The weekly Saturday Green Market on the beach always has live music. Don’t know what this guy’s playing but it sounded great. Looks like part of a palm tree!!! Can’t believe we’ve been here a week already. Vero is also known as “Velcro” because it’s so hard to leave! We’re looking forward to Vero’s annual antique car show, the Ships and Shoreline exhibit at the art museum…and whatever else we can find to relish.

This is it, Guys, for the month of February. Stay warm…and especially to our friends who are even a smidge north of us because it’s still teeth-chattering cold here!

Bill and Laura Bender
M/V Kindred Spirit III
Moored in Vero Beach, FL

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