Sunday, March 18, 2012


Life at the Marina at Ortega Landing is nice. A few blocks walk to Publix for fresh meat, fruit, anything you might crave. Restaurants nearby. The field where the dogs play with their buddies. There's even a pool and hot tub and a beautiful clubhouse. You're surrounded by fellow boaters who are always ready to get together for cocktails, a walk to dinner, or just to chat or help out. We even have a car!! We'll talk about that in a future entry. To say we have been spoiled would not be an understatement.

We've pretty much been at the dock for 4 months, longer than we have ever stayed in one place before. It has become extremely familiar and comfortable. So we've been wondering, when does it stop being cruising and become a floating condo?

We knew it was time to get away. We needed to do a sea trial of the new equipment and do some calibrations. We'd never explored the St. Johns River. Mostly we wanted to feel like we were cruising again. The big question, would the crew remember what to do?

Friday we finally threw off the lines and headed up the St Johns River. It was a beautiful morning. There was light fog as we headed out the Ortega River. Just enough to let us really test the new radar. Dyna quickly found her bed in its new spot by the starboard door as our new helm chair no longer left room for it under the table.

Dylan still managed to squeeze in between the helm chair and the helm, his safe spot.

The first night we anchored near Six Mile Creek because everyone, and we mean everyone, told us we had to go the the Outback Crab Shack. There's a shoaling spot that prevented us from taking the boat all the way up and staying on their free docks. So we launched the dinghy and had a wonderful 2 mile ride up the creek.

The best part, the kids got to go. Jeff had called and asked - well, begged, really - if we could bring them and sit outside as it was too hot to leave them onboard. "I promise, they'll be really, really good dogs." Really?

The food was good, the atmosphere was unique, there was plenty of leftovers for the next day, and the kids behaved pretty well. All along the docks are signs warning against feeding the alligators. Maybe it's just for the tourists but we kept the kids close just in case.

The next night we went beyond Palatka were the river becomes quite narrow and remote and anchored behind Murphy Island, a spot recommended by some local cruisers and with great AC reviews. It was a creek really but quite deep. There was lush vegetation and we were told we'd see alligators.

We barely had our chairs out on the cockpit before Jeff spotted one sunning on a log. He stayed there for hours but we didn't see any others. We searched on the iPhone to find interesting alligators facts. Did you know they can go for 2-3 years without eating? Don't know if it's really true but it's a cool tidbit. We also found that alligators eat by "lurking." They just hang out somewhere until food happens by and then they grab it. Guess you can do that when you can wait 2 years for supper. Jeff suggested we let Dylan take a swim...

The night was so calm it felt like we were still tied to the dock. We awoke surround by light mist coming up off the water. In Maine we would have called it sea smoke. Don't know if there's such a thing as "river smoke." We imagined there were alligators hiding on the mist as we began our return trip.

Tonight we're anchored in Doctors Lake and tomorrow we pull back to the dock. All systems worked well and the crew passed with flying colors. I guess it's like riding a bike.


Dave Gibson said...

How do you guys handle walking the dogs with alligators around? It's alligator season here in Georgia too, and we'll be leaving in a couple of weeks to head north and we'll be anchoring out for the first time on this trip. I don't want potty breaks for the dogs to be lunch breaks for the alligators!

MV Red Head said...

Both dogs will do all "business" on the boat. We didn't take them off at Murphy Creek especially after actually seeing alligators.

But at one point when Dylan (aka the devil) was acting up, I suggested to Karen that we entice him to go swimming off the back of the boat... ;-)