Sunday, November 26, 2017

Happy Holidays, and Road Trip!

We are in Jacksonville, Florida, currently at the free city docks at Metropolitan Park (map). Long-time readers may remember we stayed here a couple of years ago. On this visit, as on that one, the normally pay-per-hour power is on full-time, and we put a scooter on the ground to run errands. There's water here, too, and we filled the tank and did some laundry before a water main broke, leaving us dry.

Jacksonville at night, from our anchorage near the hospital.

After my last post we moved upriver at slack to a familiar anchorage, at the intersection of the St. Johns and the ICW (map). It was too late in the day to go further, but we needed a more secure and comfortable anchorage than where we stopped after coming in from offshore. In the yard across from us was the 371' yacht Le Grand Bleu, presumably having work done. I'm sorry I did not get a photo.

Sunset at sea on our overnight passage.

Saturday morning on the flood we weighed anchor and cruised upriver to downtown Jacksonville. There was room at what's left of the free city dock at Jacksonville Landing, but we knew it would be noisy right there in front of Fionn McCool's on a Saturday night, and we opted instead to continue through the railroad bridge and anchor in another familiar spot, near Baptist Hospital (map). We had anchored here two years ago as well, after finding an ear-splitting music festival at Metropolitan Park.

Carnival liner in port, seen in our wake.

The cruise upriver was pleasant and interesting. We passed a Carnival cruise ship in port; here in Jacksonville the cruise terminal is a long way from town. We also passed the Independence, of American Cruise Lines, docked at a repair yard with her sister ship, American Star. We had just seen the Independence a week ago in Charleston, so she just came out of service. I had to chat with the crews, as they were planning to jockey them around just after we passed.

American Star and Independence at the shipyard.

After we settled in to our anchorage we splashed the tender. It was a beautiful day so after lunch we headed ashore to the free dock at Riverside Park. The Saturday Arts Festival was in full swing and we enjoyed walking around. A handful of high-zoot food trucks made us regret having had lunch aboard. A youth orchestra was playing on the concrete stage under the I-95 bridge. We're glad this nice entertainment space mostly survived the Irma flooding.

Youth orchestra on stage at the Arts Fest.

Monday we had a visit from friends Steph and Martin, who were on their way from their new home in St. Pete to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving. We had a nice lunch with them in the upscale cafe in the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is closed Mondays, but the MOCA cafe is open. Once again there were some wonderful food trucks in the park across the street.

Musicians and dancers at the weekly festival.

Having conceded that we'd be having Thanksgiving dinner in Jacksonville someplace, after lunch we walked to the Hyatt hotel on the riverfront, which I remembered from my Christmas research two years ago as having a nice holiday meal service. We were somewhat surprised to find the entire first floor, which had contained the lobby, registration, the restaurant, and a nice cocktail lounge entirely walled off. Registration was being conducted at the coat check for the second floor ballrooms, and a makeshift restaurant and cocktail lounge had been created in one of the ballrooms.

Approaching Jacksonville from downriver. Main Street lift bridge directly ahead.

When Irma hit this part of Florida it created record flooding on the St. Johns river. The river raced through downtown Jacksonville, flooding anything along the riverfront to a depth of four feet. Much of the ground level of Jacksonville Landing was damaged, and the first floor of the Hyatt was destroyed. Most of the Landing docks were also destroyed or damaged; what's left is in bad shape, but there is room for a couple of cruising boats.

Typical damaged section of the concrete floating docks. Some were swept away altogether.

We happened to drop in to Ruth's Chris steakhouse one evening just to dine on their reasonable happy hour bar menu, an easy tender ride from our anchorage. While there, we learned they were doing a full turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and although it was sold out, we put our name on the waiting list. The very next day they called me back and we scored reservations for 4:45.

The luxury yacht Kismet has been moored on the riverfront since we arrived.

We were already here at the dock when Thanksgiving rolled around, and had figured we'd scooter across the river for dinner. But it was pouring rain all day, and we ended up doing Uber/Lyft instead. We had a very nice meal, and Ruth's Chris even made little leftover to-go boxes for everyone, so we have another turkey dinner last night.

The big thing we had to get done here in Jacksonville was to get the new scooter properly licensed and registered in Florida. So last week I rode down to the Clay County Tax Assessor's office in Orange Park, paperwork in hand, to get it done. With an out-of-state purchase, they actually want to see the bike and verify the VIN.

Vector anchored off the Baptist Health center.

I was at the counter for nearly an hour, owing mostly to the fact that I wanted to get some credit for fees already paid on the scooter that was stolen. That made for an out-of-normal-process transaction for the clerk, and she struggled to get it all through the byzantine computer system. Ultimately my fees went from $220 down to about $120. Sadly, VECTOR 1 is gone forever now, and I had to settle for VECTOR 3 as the new license plate. which will come in the mail. I have a regular motorcycle plate in the interim.

The very next day I rode right past the tax collector and another ten miles further to Green Cove Springs, where we "live," to pick up the mail from our mail service. I knew there was a fire extinguisher in the bundle (a result of the massive Kidde recall) so it was a lot cheaper and more convenient to pick it up in person.

Our "home," St. Brendan's Isle mail service.

In between holiday meals, on-scooter errands (including provisioning the boat), and spending a little time in town, I've been getting some projects done. The cheap eBay-sourced wireless remote control I installed on the windlass a few years ago was getting intermittent, most likely due to the very cheap buttons wearing out, and I replaced the whole control unit with a different inexpensive model from Harbor Freight.

I also re-strung the port pilothouse blind, whose cord failed spectacularly during the passage. We had these same blinds on the bus for nine years with nary a problem, but on the boat the little stainless steel pins that the cords pass over tend to rust over time (yes, stainless can rust) in the salt air, and the rough rusty patches take their toll on the cords. This is the fourth one I've had to re-string; I'm getting pretty good at it.

Vector at the dock at Metropolitan Park.

With the new scooter on the ground I was also able to install ground-effect lights and auxiliary turn indicators in the otherwise empty light sockets on the fairing (US regulations have the manufacturer abandoning the fairing sockets for stalk-mounted units on the handlebars). I had done both of these projects on Chip and was happy with the increase in visibility.

Yesterday a pair of sailboats showed up here at the dock, and one of them was none other than the unlucky soul who lost his anchor in Charleston. I had interacted with them a bit on Facebook; we enjoyed meeting them in person. They also lost twenty feet of chain. Their pulpit now sports a shiny new Rocna which they had to pick up at West Marine. The anchor they lost was a Bruce, like ours, no longer made and now Unobtainium.

Our old friend American Constellation, anchored off Green Cove Springs.

We've been scratching our heads a bit about where to go from here, now that our errands here are done. We need to end up in Fort Lauderdale within a month or so, where our new stabilizer fins will be waiting for us and where we know someone who can get our watermaker back up to snuff, long overdue. And we may or may not make a detour across the lake to the west coast first.

Somewhere in all of the discussions I mentioned that I would like to maybe get in a visit to Disney while we're here in Florida, and because Steph said she might be interested, I ended up spending a full day doing the research. Complicating things is the fact that the cat is so old now that we prefer not to kennel her, so we wanted to bring her with us.

Downtown, from the Ortega River drawbridge. I had to wait for the span on my way back from Green Cove Springs.

I surprised even myself when, after hours of juggling pet policies and the exorbitant $50/day pet fee at any of the very few Disney resorts that even allow them, I discovered that the absolute best way to take a pet to Disney and still stay on-property is the way we've always done it: at the campground. And a Cruise America motor home, plus campsite fees, turns out to be far less than any of the pet-friendly resort hotels. On the east coast, our pickup options were Jacksonville, Delray Beach, and Miami.

And so it is that we are just going to extend our stay here in Jacksonville for a week, rent an RV, drive to Orlando, spend a few days with the mouse, and drive back. It's perfect timing, because the spectacular holiday lights and decorations at Disney should mostly already be in place. We pick up the rig tomorrow, and return it on Saturday.

Tied up at a busy dock for the Riverside festival. Vector and downtown in the background.

In a few minutes we will drop lines here and head for a private marina. We're already past the stay limit at the free city dock, and there is no one here to watch over things. We found a reasonable slip in the area for a week, and when we return we'll shove off and anchor in the river someplace until the outside weather is good for heading south.

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