Our last days in Titusville were full. Between final preparations for getting underway, and enjoying ourselves with dock mates, we were busy and time flew by. The manatees were thick in the marina basin, soaking up rays on sunny days, and slurping up the fresh water on rainy ones. We got used to the sounds of their exhale and inhale when they came up for air, and could tell by their cuddling that mating season was soon approaching. An occasional dolphin could be spotted in the marina basin, and one evening we saw a school of squid.
Gary installed the bilge alarm (while wearing a Holter heart monitor), and during the process we realized we already had one. The piercing alarm of the old one sounded and was a dead give-away. Jim invented a rain water capturing device, which Gary engineered and Jim installed. This will be helpful if we are anchored out for several days and our water tanks run low. He also added a Culligan filter system which we now use even when we fill the water tanks at a marina. We purchased a Brita water pitcher to filter the water once again. The difficulty in purchasing bottled drinking water and lugging it to the boat prompted those purchases. We also got a portable ice maker which we can only use when on shore power or when we run the generator, but in the end it should be a money saver.
Seventy-eight year old Dam Jim hurt his back trying to force a hatch on his sailboat, and ended up being taken to Parrish Medical Center by ambulance. Despite a compression fracture, and severe pain, this interesting old codger got back on board with a little help from his friends and a rented wheelchair. In a couple of days it was evident that he couldn’t stay aboard. Between the pain and nausea, and little relief from the same ortho docs that I saw last May, he ended up staying in a motel. I hope he has gotten some relief, and our thoughts are with him.
Gary had some health issues that same week. He has a growth on his neck, (which is rapidly getting bigger) and was having irregular and rapid heart beats, so was doctoring for those two separate issues. The folks on E-dock have become like family to each other, and we feel honored to have been embraced into their inner circle. If we needed a ride, the use of a vehicle, or help in any way, someone was immediately ready to lend a hand.
One day Jim and I walked to a nearby barber shop, and I got the 2nd worst haircut of my life. (My sister Barb gave me the worst when I was 13 while visiting our grandparents in Des Moines).
We celebrated Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday with fried fish, cheddar biscuits, veggies and dip, wine and Rum, stories and music, jokes and laughter with others on E-dock.
The Cruiser’s Caravan took us to the Kennedy Space Center one day. The route takes you through part of the Wildlife Refuge, where we spotted several alligators. Our favorite part was the Atlantis Exhibit, where we spent 3 hours touring. It was incredible to see the shuttle up close, and learn so much about it. Inside we went on the Shuttle Launch simulator. You feel and hear in the same time sequence what it was like to be on-board a shuttle during the launch process. They claim it is the most realistic simulator anywhere.
Last May I was disappointed that we didn’t get to go to the KSC, but back then the shuttle Atlantis was not there.
So our delay turned out to be a plus. Another highlight was the 3-D IMAX movie on the Hubble telescope, where among many things we saw pictures of the birth of galaxies, and you felt you could reach out and touch the stars. The use of the word ‘awesome’ is so over-used in our time, but this was truly an awe-inspiring experience.
One sunny day we drove the dinghy out of the marina, through the mooring field, to Cracker Jack’s, a restaurant and tiki bar under the causeway bridge on a pier that juts out into the ICW. We enjoyed people watching, then took a ride through the entire marina, looking at all the boats and where they hail from. More and more Great Loopers were coming in daily, heading north, and we talked to a few couples and swapped stories with them. It is likely that we’ll meet up again before this adventure is done.
On the 7th of March we stocked up on groceries and did all of our laundry. That evening we enjoyed happy hour on E-dock, and helped Jim and Diane B celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.
Finally, the morning of our departure arrived. It was a chilly Saturday with a brisk wind, but we felt very ready. After a quick breakfast and a warm mug of Jim B’s spiked coffee, waiting our turn for the pump-out boat, and filling our water tanks, it was time. Our friends hugged us goodbye and helped us untie and shove off.
We had a difficult time getting out of the marina basin because of the wind, but after turning around in an empty slip we were able to putt out in forward. It was a little embarrassing with so many people watching and waving from the docks!
Our plan was to drive 34 miles to New Smyrna Beach and anchor out just south of Chicken Island in Sheephead Cut. But after cruising only 26 miles, the engine started running poorly, accelerating and slowing down sporadically on its own. Finally it quit altogether. Jim quickly dropped the anchor, then removed the back engine cover. We had water in the fuel AGAIN! He was able to remove the water, change another filter which was full of black sludge, and get the boat running again. Less than 1/2 mile up the ICW the engine quit again. This time we needed Boat U.S. to give us a tow into the New Smyrna Beach City Marina.
We pulled in about an hour before sunset, and got acclimated to the idea of being stranded. Jim spent much of the evening laying on the floor with his head down by the engine, straining fuel and removing water. Sunday we took a walk through town down historic Canal Street and to the park bordering the waterway. Most of the shops were closed, but we found a coffee and ice cream shop and each had a single scoop cone.
Monday we walked to Napa Auto Parts and a nearby marine store for filters, o-rings for the fuel tank caps, and rags. We walked to the Dolphin View restaurant and had fish sandwiches. From our slip we watch the fishermen return with their catch, clean the fish, and feed the pelicans the scraps.
Tuesday we took a dinghy ride through the mangrove lined channels, then out around Chicken Island in the ICW. Jim was able to get the main engine running smoothly, but could not get the generator going. So, we put it on a new battery charger that we recently purchased, and got that running too.
We’ve had a few visitors while here in New Smyrna Beach. Jim’s cousin Louis and wife Marilyn, and their grade-school friend Nancy and husband Roger came on Wednesday. After a rainy morning, they came and took us to the beach where you can drive your vehicles on the hard packed sand. Large jellyfish lined the beach, waiting for the rising tide to take them back out to sea. We walked to a nearby tiki bar on the beach for a drink. Then they took us to Publix to get a few more groceries. After unloading, Louis treated us to dinner at Barracuda’s on the beach-front.
Yesterday we had a visit from Minnesota friend Don King. He trailered his Harley down for bike week, and is staying in Ormond Beach. In a couple of days he will head to Ft Myers Beach where he is expecting his daughter and parents to join him. We got the laundry done again, and Jim cleaned the sea grass from the strainer for the cooling system.
Today a diver came and inspected our hull, and replaced much-needed zincs to our bow thruster and rudder. Even though we got the boat running, we have hired a well-respected diesel mechanic to re-plumb the fuel lines and filters for the main engine. He is expected at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, and we are hopeful that we will be ready to head out again on Sunday. He could not come earlier because he was delivering a boat to the Bahamas. After eight nights here, I am once again anxious to get underway. The marina is small, with few amenities, but they have THE best showers we’ve encountered on the loop so far.
I’ll leave you with a quote from C.S. Lewis which I find fitting in our current situation. “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
We’ll just keep on trying, and through the trials and tribulations we keep making baby steps, and learning along the way.