Sunday, June 5, 2011

St. Johns–3rd Trip (05/07-05/14/11) Art & Jerry's Big Adventure!

My friend, Art Bence, accompanies me to Sanford, FL to spend a week  aboard Alto and explore the St. Johns River and local business venues for a week.  Before we go anywhere, I have to pour sugar into the "liquids" bottle which attaches to our composting head.  The thing holds 3 gallons of pee and the sugar, weirdly, seems to ameliorate the smell.  I use a coffee filter as a funnel.  Art filmed the whole thing, but the file is too large to upload to this blog.  Damn, you missed some good stuff!  It's especially exciting when I carefully carry the bucket up to a marina's bathroom to dump it–don't want to spill that.

Alto is berthed in the Sanford Marina & Boat Works Marina–at southernmost end of the St. John's River's navigable waters.   See my previous posts for more information.  This is a wonderful place, tucked away in Sanford.  Yes, that town sadly due to the killing of Trayvon Martin.  We were there a year before that event, and I can only say it is a great town that worked hard to improve its appearance and relations with all its citizens.  Please visit if you can, it's a beautiful spot with nice folks everywhere.

Anyway, while I attend to the pee bottle, Art visits the pool at the Indian Mound Yacht Club (he was accorded temporary membership) at Sanford Marina & Boat Works, Alto's homeport on the St. Johns River.  We were there to do some laundry, as the machines are kept there:

Art took most of the pictures along our adventure.  Here's the sort of thing that interests him; the menu at the local diner we had breakfast at.  He's fascinating company, most of the time:

Luckily, I'm editing this blog so I can pick the better pictures from his repertoire.  Here's an excellent picture Art took of me at Alto's helm while we were underway.   I am in my favorite, stylish boating shirt concentrating deeply:

We're heading for Hontoon State Park to spend the night and then go down river (north) as far as we can.  Remember, the St. Johns flows north so we go down river by going in that direction.

We pass a beach where folks congregate on weekends.  There are not many beaches on the river, they are typically thin strips of sand along a deserted shoreline.  People group together to feel safer, as the alligators avoid all the noise and activity–usually.

Here we are on the dock at Hontoon.  $25 for any size boats per day/overnight, which includes electric and water, and nice bathrooms.  You can see the electric ferry (white square boat in the distance) in its island berth where we are.  It goes just a little ways across the river to the mainland where the parking lot for the park is located.  So visitors by car use it to get to the park.  You can see Alto's slight list to port, as though there is some extra weight on that side (?).

Art relaxing after the stress of a day of yachting.  BTW, I think this is why we list to port.

Another of Art's tasteful photographs.  The park has serious rules for appropriate behavior:

It was foggy the next morning:

Being courageous (and we have radar), we left anyway and the fog burned off soon thereafter.  A few hours latter we make it to Lake George, maybe a third of the way down the St. John's river from Sanford to Jacksonville.  In Jacksonville the river empties into the Atlantic ocean and boaters can continue up or down the intracoastal water way.  Lake George is second only to Lake Okeechobee in size in Florida. It's shallow but vast as you can see below.

Off Lake George is a small river leading to Silver Glen Springs, a fresh water source for the St. John's that pumps out crystal clear water into the lake.  We found it too shallow to enter, so we turned around when we could see the bottom in just a couple of feet of water.

We continued across Lake George.  At 10 knots it took over an hour to cross the lake which is about 12 miles long.  We were heading for the Georgetown Marina which had been described to us as a "funky" place to stay.  It's really a camp ground with RV's where folks store their fishing boats.  This kind of setup is called a "fish camp" on the St. Johns, and on may southern waterways, too.  We pulled right in to a slip and tied up.

Nice folks at the marina, and the price was $20 + tax with electric and water for any size boat which worked out to $25 for the night.  Art and I had rented the smallest car we could in Orlando for about $100 for a week.  Even with the cost of Southwest airline tickets, parking in Providence, gas to get there and back to Cape Cod (our home base), boat provisions (chocolate donuts and beer), diesel fuel for the boat, some of our meals out, etc. the week cost us $480 each.  Not bad for an entire week in Florida!  Of course that doesn't include the cost of the boat–oh well.

Georgetown Marina has both diesel and gas, with good prices on both.  There are only 3 places to get diesel fuel south of Jacksonville, the other two are in Astor (which we passed on the way here) and at our marina in Sanford at the extreme southern end of the St. Johns navigable waters.  Most of the slips at Georgetown Marina are covered with lifts to keep the small fishing boats out of the water when not in use:

A fish cleaning station is essential in a fish camp.  Folks from the campground and marina sit around outdoor easy chairs under a canopy and don't do much.  The decor is all about the river:

Here's the center of everything for miles around.  A tiny store, the bathrooms and gas pump.  The bathroom was a little small but useable.

  This ("Smell Good Spray") was sitting on the toilet tank, it sort of says it all:

We left the marina and Art took this movie back out on Lake George which was hazy and the water placid and warm as bathwater.  I know because I went into the water at the marina to see if anything had caught on our prop, skeg or bottom since we noticed a drop in speed on the way in.  No problems.  I didn't linger in the water (alligators and such) but it was warm.  Here's a movie and, I'm ashamed to say, we are making fun of the marina–which was, after all, a fish camp.  For $25 a day and the friendly folks I'd go back for another visit, but it was "funky" and Art did wear his sandals in the shower...

This was bizarre.  We passed a floating Tiki Hut under power towing a canoe.  This guy apparently lives in this thing when he's on the river.  Very cool.

On the river its traditional to stop and eat at elegant waterfront establishments.  We picked this one in Astor since the famous Blackwater Inn was closed.  Not so elegant, but it had (boat) parking.

At times we are allowed to speed up, as we're often in Manatee zones traveling at idle speed.  Here's Alto moving at "ludicrous speed" (cf. the movie Space Balls for details) throwing out enormous wake behind her!

We're back in our marina in Sanford watching the sun go down over the aft-end of our neighbor's house boat.  The weather for the whole week was hot but perfect.

We have a beer at Gator's, which is an outdoor bar at our marina right on the river, as you can see.

Hanging around the bar was this guy:

We're out for dinner!  Art craves German food, something to do with his French, Slovakian or whatever ancestry...  But, then maybe its the German beer he craves.  He discusses this at length and obtains samples before selecting a true German draft from the taps displayed below.  I drink only water, of course.

Of course, he's captivated again by another menu.  I like the Veggie Platter that features pickles.  Then there's the Eggalamickle, too!

Here we are!

That's a real big beer stein the bartender thought appropriate to stick in the picture (above) he took of us.  Is that what's called a "selfie."  Here's another of us "suffering" in Sanford.  Ok, I didn't always drink water.

After enjoying the once-per-week evening in Sanford where they close of the main street and vendors give away food samples, we wander down to the town docks off the River Walk.  Sanford invested a fortune re-inventing itself along the waterfront and fixing up the old section of town, and its all pretty neat.  We wind up at Wolfy's at the entrance to the North boat basin at their huge marina, note the blue roof.  Just behind it is a motel and to the right you can see the roof of Efe's Turkish restaurant where we also ate and is truly a cool place.  That's all Lake Monroe in the background.

Here's a spot where you can park your boat and walk up to Wolfy's bar; they said we could even spend the night for free right there.

Wolfy's is comprised of easy going people at what is considered a Key West style bar.  I drank water and ate celery, of course to maintain my health.  Sanford is famous for celery, in fact our Marina is off Celery Avenue.  Art drank lots of beer and ate stuff like this (see below), it was gross to watch.

The view from Wolfys is stunning, right on Lake Monroe.

We went back to Wolfy's later that evening as Art did not want to miss kareoke nite.  They were pretty good singers, I must say!  He took movies but they are too big to load on this server.  He sang, but again I can't upload the movie of his many performances.  Drove me to drink more water and eat more celery.

On another night I approach Efe's turkish restaurant with trepidation:

The food, like everything in Sanford, was great as always.  Art drank Turkish beer, and I had more water.  Sitting at the bar, this was our view looking out over the tables on the screened porch.

On the way home Art found this cogent commentary on our work:

We visited another amazing bar in Sanford built like an olde English pub on the way home to Alto.  There was a "woman of the night" there who, according to Art who was listening, was told by the bar tender not to bother with us old tourists!  We were insulted.  So we went home to bed.

The next day we packed up Alto in preparation for her transport from Sanford, FL to Cape Cod to spend the summer.  She get's trailered back and forth with the seasons. I hope to have more adventures in Cape Cod waters to share with you soon!

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