Sunday, December 30, 2012

Titusville Kayaking

Dylan's manatee buddies visit almost daily.
After a week of looking at all the wonderful wildlife that surrounded the boat we had a real hankering to explore. Our new smaller kayaks weren't appropriate to cross the ICW where the real beauty is, while the sea kayaks sitting in our basement in Maine would have been perfect. Darn! So we looked into A Day Away Kayak Tours which Mark here at Titusville Municipal Marina had recommended and knew right away it would be perfect.

Looking for sleeping manatees.
We met Ron who manages the tours and he suggested we try a motorized kayak tour. Well, being long time kayakers who enjoy paddling we were a bit skeptical. Wouldn't the sound of the motor destroy the peacefulness of gliding along the water? Weren't we just being wimps by not paddling ourselves? But we're always up for something new, so we met him in Sand Point Park adjacent to the marina early on a Sunday.

A small electric motor does the work.
Each kayak had a small electric motor that barely made a hum when it was on. You turned the motor on and off with a switch and steered using a a long handle that attached to a rudder. We also had paddles we could use to turn or backup - the motor only went forward. When we turned on the motors the kayaks glided through the water "at about the speed of a good paddler," according to Ron. It was terrific. We were able to keep our attention on the sights around us rather than focusing on paddling and didn't need to think about saving energy for the return trip.

Look, Ma, no paddling.
We moved along the shore ducking into the basins to watch for manatees sleeping and dolphins. Then went across the ICW to some islands where we got out and stretched our legs while observing the shorebirds. It was a perfect morning which ended way too soon.

Crossing the ICW.
It's a great way to get out and see the natural beauty that is here. It's easy to do even if you've never been in a kayak. And Ron is a terrific and knowledgeable tour guide. You just have to try this! The only thing missing were side cars for Dyna and Dylan. They promised they'd sit still... Yeah, right!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Titusville

In the two weeks we have been at the Titusville Municipal Marina we have come to appreciate what is truly special here. And it's not just the dog park. All day Christmas Eve the boat was surrounded by manatees snorting and diving and playing. Dylan spent hours hanging over the edge and quickly learned to recognize the bubbles followed by the circles in the water that meant a manatee was about to surface. I don't know which was more fun to watch, the manatees or Dylan. Just walking to the grocery store or dog park I pass dozens of wood storks a threatened species of bird, but apparently not in Titusville. There's something abundant here that is becoming increasingly difficult to find elsewhere - simple natural beauty.

We were fortunate to meet Ron who runs a variety of kayak tours in the area and he invited us to an annual Christmas morning tradition, birding in the Merritt Island National Refuge. At 8 am in the nearby Burger King parking lot, we met the group and headed over. Luckily there were many in the group who were serious birders or I would not have known how many different species I was seeing. It was spectacular!

Did you know that Titusville is the home of the largest birding festival on the east coast? We had the privilege of spending Christmas morning with several of the founders on Merritt Island.

Mid-morning we stopped and enjoyed the many goodies we had brought plus Mimosas. Then driving out of the refuge we spotted a large gator sunning himself. We are so thankful that this group of old friends included us and made us feel at home.

The afternoon was spent with the kids who unfortunately missed the birding adventure despite promising they'd be good - yeah right. Everyone cuddled for a nap and before we knew it, it was time to go to the dog park which was full of dogs even on Christmas.

The turkey is about to come out of the oven and we still have It's A Wonderful Life to watch on DVD. The kids love a movie night.

The whole crew wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Karen, Jeff, Dyna, and Dylan

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our New Favorite Dog Park

When it comes to dog parks there are no better experts than Dyna and Dylan. They have been to scores of dog parks up throughout the US and have played with thousands of dogs. The route taken by the aCappella crew often involves planned stops at some of their favorite ones. And we now have a new one in Titusville.

We've been at the Titusville Municipal Marina for over a week now and the kids quickly fell into the afternoon habit of heading off to the dog park and become quite restless if something delays us for even a few minutes.

So what makes this park so special? Well, the city of Titusville decided to turn a parcel of land right next to (and I mean it touches) the marina into a park. It's appropriately named Marina Park. It has a large playground, a ball field, and a big, beautiful multi-lane boat ramp. But the best part is they made a huge dog park. If you look at the satellite image here it is the large rectangular-ish area in the lower left.

It's fully fenced, has a large (over 25 lbs) and a small (under 25 lbs) section - we're not sure what you do if your dog weighs exactly 25 lbs - doggy pickup stations, water hookups complete with a wading pool and drink bowls, benches for the dogs' people, and the best part, lots of dogs. All of this is just a short walk that even our grand dame, Dyna, can make every day.

Are they having fun? Well, see for yourself.

And more dog park fun!

If you are fortunate enough to have four-legged crew onboard you just have to check out the new Titusville dog park. And if you and your crew are nearby you just have to stop in to play with Dyna and Dylan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Kid Time

We really enjoyed the Melbourne SSCA Gam. Our final day ended with a beautiful sunset which just put the whipped cream on the sundae. It is the most interesting and diverse group of boaters we have ever encountered. Some have circumnavigated the world (a few more than once), some regularly visit remote and exotic places, some love to simply cruise the coastlines, and some are still dreaming about the day they will be able to throw off the lines. But what we all have in common is a love of the cruising lifestyle and a desire to share our knowledge and experience. Everyone has something to offer.

While we were off meeting and greeting and learning and partying, the kids where spending way too much time waiting for us on the boat. The abuse was so intense that I even caught Dylan trying to hail the ASPCA on the radio. So we promised them that as soon as the last event was over it would be kid time. Before we put the dinghy back up they got a dinghy ride. Dyna was in heaven.

Monday morning we pulled anchor and headed to Titusville Municipal Marina to try out their new dog park. Both kids give it 5 stars. This marina is dog central. We can't leave the boat without meeting another dog and of course now that we're tied to the dock Dyna and Dylan can meet and greet across the bow. We plan to be here for a spell so the kids are pleased to settle in, soak up the attention, and stretch their legs ashore. We're just happy they let us join them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bad Rap

A common occurrence when fellow cruisers find out that our homeport is in Maine is some comment like, "I hear it's so beautiful up there but I'm afraid to go because..." followed by one or more of the same complaints.

Complaint: The bottom is rock, not sand or mud, so if I run aground...

This is true but I point out that the depths are ridiculously deep, the rocks are all charted as they've been there for about a million years, and they never shoal. If you're running aground in Maine, you're doing something seriously wrong. Here in Florida running aground is simply part of the experience.

Complaint: There are too many lobster buoys.

There are alot of them but these same folks never seem to complained when sitting down to their lobster roll lunch or full fledged lobster pound feast. In reality, actually grabbing a buoy is harder to do than you think - we've done talks on just this topic. Besides, Maine is a place that needs to be savored, so slow down and enjoy.

Complaint: It's always foggy.

Well, that's actually not true and much can be avoided by picking the right time to come. Hint, September is the absolutely best time to visit Maine. But knowing how to use your radar is really an important skill so think of it as practice. Fog is actually quite beautiful. And even if you don't think so, it typically burns off within a couple of hours.

For the record, the picture above is not of a lovely anchorage in Maine. This has been the view for the past two mornings in the anchorage here in Melbourne, FL where we are attending the SSCA Gam. So you see that practice you get with your radar up in Maine can really come in handy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joining the Parade

We've been moving every day since we left Hinckley Yacht Services in Savannah to ensure we will make the SSCA Gam in Melbourne. Today we finally caught up with the ICW parade, the stream of boats that move south along the ICW this time of year. The weather has turned warm and we are pleased to be back in shorts. Life is certainly good.

We've been visiting several of our ActiveCaptain Sponsors which means the kids get to have almost daily time ashore and meet new friends - the two and four-legged kind. Palm Coast Marina was full of canine crew keeping both Dyna and Dylan on the watch. At Loggerhead Daytona Jeff found a nearby by dog park and father and son went off for a much needed romp. The girls stayed home and we did girl things. They returned tired and happy, with no pictures but lots of mud.

While underway Dylan has taken on the position of Chief Wildlife Observer. He spends the whole day on the bow scampering from port to starboard looking for birds, other boaters, and of course his favorite, dolphins. He is a busy boy only taking a brief break to schmooze while we have lunch. By nightfall he crashes in utter exhaustion.

We're at anchor tonight. Tomorrow we head to Cocoa Village Marina and then on to Melbourne where we'll finally stay put for a bit. If you're coming to the Gam make sure to say hello.