Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Home-town meetup

We are once again under way, on our return trip back downriver to Jacksonville. While it's only been three days since I last posted here, I have time on my hands sitting at the helm in easy water. Also, I surprised myself with how many photos I took in Green Cove Springs, so they warrant a post.

These tracks go nowhere now, but the old depot and a nearby caboose comprise the Clay County Historical Museum.

We had a nice dinner on board and a quiet evening Sunday after getting settled in at the anchorage. In the course of the afternoon, we also made arrangements for a Monday afternoon meetup with good friends Cherie and Chris, who would drive up from Sanford. The anchorage was incredibly quiet, especially as compared to the relative bustle of Jacksonville, where we were never far enough from a bridge and the associated traffic noise.

Monday morning we splashed the tender, and we headed ashore at lunch time, arriving at the city courtesy dock just as Chris and Cherie were pulling into the parking lot, in their unmistakable Winnebago Travato, Coopernicus. It was somewhat painful to only be able to wave from a distance, instead of our customary big-hugs-all-around greeting.

Socially distanced meetup, our first since this started. Photo: Chris Dunphy

We all strolled the two blocks over to La Casita Mexcian restaurant, where we found the dining room open and fairly busy, with few masks. If you read the article I linked in my last post, you'll understand why none of us was interested in dining in; we selected one partner from each couple to go inside and pick up food. We strolled back to the park and found a nice, shady picnic table available. I must say I was surprised how busy the park was at lunch time, and many tables were in use.

This spring-fed pool was empty at lunchtime Monday, and full yesterday. The spring flows 3,000gpm.

We had to unmask to eat, of course, and we positioned ourselves with one couple at each end of the ~8' table, with partners seated across from each other. That gave us almost six feet between couples, which, outdoors, felt safe enough, and yet was close enough to carry on a conversation at a comfortable volume. It all worked out quite well and we enjoyed catching up with each other; it's been only eight months since we saw them in St. Louis, but that now seems like another lifetime.

It was very generous of them to make a four-hour road trip just to spend time with us. We enjoyed catching up, and sharing a meal, and we even got to take a peek inside Coopernicus. In the Covid era, where air (or train) travel seems positively dangerous, their chosen mode of land transport is a perfect solution.

The actual spring, visibly only 28' deep, but actually far deeper. It has a distinct sulfur smell.

After bidding them a fond farewell, I dropped Louise back at the boat, loaded up the e-bike and about seven gallons of used motor oil, and headed off to the courtesy docks at the Governors Creek boat ramp, about a mile and a half from our anchorage. I schlepped the oil over to an auto parts store just a few doors from the ramp for disposal, then rode the e-bike up to our mail service another mile and change away.

More museum, with the back of the 1890 courthouse behind it.

After picking up my Unobtainium stainless J-tubes for the watermaker and just one other mail item, I made a provisioning stop at the Winn-Dixie next door. I was able to replenish the all-important Box Wine Reserve, which had just been completely depleted, and pick up a few fresh produce items. Once again I saw very little social distancing and few masks, although, to be fair, most of the store employees wore them.

We opted to spend one more night in town, so that we could get a fresh pizza from the joint a couple of blocks from the city dock. So yesterday, after knocking out a couple of projects that included getting our long-silent Bells of the Watch clock chiming again, I headed back ashore with the e-bike. This time, I landed the tender at the Elks Lodge, which has its own shallow-water dock.

1896 jailhouse. With escapee hanging from the window ledge.

I've been a member of this Elks lodge for some five years, since we officially "moved" our domicile to Green Cove Springs from Madison, South Dakota. Yet despite spending a couple of weeks here some years ago, I'd somehow never made it inside the lodge. I knew the lodge would be closed in the morning, but I figured that, as a member, I could tie up for a while at the dock.

Best I could do inside. The cells and their drop-down steel bunks were too back-lit for a shot.

It was a short bike ride back into town, where I discovered the spring-fed swimming pool -- which just the day before had been closed, empty, and undergoing maintenance -- full and back in operation. The pool looks very inviting, but with the year-round spring temperature being just 78°, too brisk for me except perhaps on a very hot day. I spoke with the attendant; they are limiting entry to ten persons at a time and thus scheduling reservations in two-hour blocks. On opening day I could have walked right in.

Another thing I had managed to miss on our previous visits was the old historic district, a short ride up Walnut Street, past where we officially "live" at an address that no longer physically exists. Here I found the historic jail, the second oldest in Florida, complete with a dummy making his escape, as well as the historic courthouse and a small railroad exhibit. It was a pleasant discovery, and I had the whole compound to myself.

Sunset from our anchorage. Someone is living on the small sailboat with its mast unstepped.

I made a brief stop at the Dollar Tree for some essentials and the mini-mart for some more beer before returning to the Elks. Even though the lodge was still closed, on my way to the dock I ran into one of the officers, who was bringing supplies to the bar for tomorrow's "Burger Night," who questioned my presence. Satisfied I was a member, he also let me into the lodge to pick up my new membership card, as this is the time of year they are issued.

Louise and I returned ashore together, landing at the town dock, for dinner. We walked the three blocks to D'Fontana and got a pizza and a salad, which we ate at a different picnic table in Spring Park, overlooking the pool. The park is well used, but it was not as busy as it had been at lunch time the previous day. The pizza was just so-so -- a bit short on sauce.

This squirrel waited on the next table, looking for all the world like he was going to ask for a slice.

We decked the tender after returning to Vector, in preparation for weighing anchor this morning to come downriver with the ebb. We have no real schedule or agenda for the next week, but my Amazon order has arrived at the locker, and I have only a couple of days in which to pick it up. We'll be anchored someplace tonight, and will likely move around town a couple more times before continuing north when the weather is cooperative.

Update: We are safely anchored in our preferred spot upriver of the railroad bridge (map). Uncharacteristically, we are not alone. There is a pilothouse motor yacht with a Looper burgee anchored a couple hundred feet away; he was here when we arrived. Our guess is that they were headed downriver and the railroad bridge closure caught them by surprise; it's amazing how few skippers read the LNMs.


  1. Just finished reading the Bromage article. Thanks for sharing. It very much falls in line with the thinking in this household, where we (as well as our "kids" who live on their own, being middle aged adults and all) all wear masks when out shopping. Along with keeping well away from everyone. As an "old guy" I do tend to randomly sneeze, or cough along with any of those other "old man" afflictions. Carry on!


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