Monday, May 27, 2013

Between One Life and The Next

                                                 Green Valley Lake, California

  The Skipper and I left Espiritu in Green Cove Springs, Florida and flew west to SoCal.


       We've spent the last few days gratefully hugging on friends and family and getting plugged back in at our cabin in Green Valley Lake. We've also been worrying about Espiritu, and hoping that all is well with her. She deserves a good long rest. She's earned it.

       There's a spiritual tradition of a "threshold space," which is a place or time that is a beginning, or an end, or the threshold between the two.

     These were also called "thin times" by the ancient Celts, because in their tradition the veil between this world and the next were thinnest at this time, and therefore more visible, more accessible.

      On these days, one was invited to become aware of "deep time" -- past, present and future gathered together in one sacred moment. It is during these times, when the future is not clear and we're maybe even a bit lost, that greater truths and realities can be revealed.

    Chris and I don't know what our long terms plans will be. We don't know if we will sail Espiritu again (we might!), or if we'll sell her (she is listed, so we may) or if we'll need to get jobs, etc.

    All we know for sure is that we're between there and here.

    Sailors know about the phenomenon of "land sickness." It's a literal dizziness and disorientation we experience when we finally plant our feet on solid ground after a long period at sea.

   We're land-sick. We're so happy to be here, yet we miss the sea, and our sailing family, and the hundreds of new friends we've made in the past year and a half sailing.

We don't know for sure what's next. But for now, we're here in a beautiful little mountain hamlet
 called Green Valley Lake.

What a wonderful place to be during this "thin time." We will keep our eyes open. The path will become clear.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

'Deliverance' in the Deep South

  We first heard about the Green Cove Springs Marina months ago in Belize.  It's rather famous for it's basic amenities/haul out delivered at an extremely affordable price. Plus, it's just up the river from Jacksonville, where you can fly practically anywhere.

  We've also heard that it is extremely "backwater." That since it's so close to the Georgia border, it's really the Deep. Say-outh (with two syllables).   Well, since I've never been to the deep south, and I've got an adventurous spirit, we thought: Count us in!

           Our plan would be to stay at the dock for a week or two preparing Espiritu
                             for storage, then haul her out and fly home to SoCal.

     We left downtown Jacksonville at first light and began motoring inland along the St. John's River.

      The famous "big blue bridge" in Jacksonville is too low for sailboats like us to pass beneath her. Here's the BEFORE photo. Then, the hydraulic lifts went to work, and within 10 minutes:

             Voila! We passed through her sheltering arms.  Next stop, Green Cove Springs!

              The Green Cove Springs facility was built during WW II, for the purpose of
             storing Destroyer Escort Ships. The docks are the originals from the 1940's.

     This is our dock at the marina.  At 7 bucks a night, how can we complain? Using this rickety
    ladder, we kinda feel like we're climbing into our secret fort when we enter and exit Espiritu.

    If you look closely, you can see that the bottoms of the two pilings in the background have completely disappeared over the years. Fortunately, we are attached to several other pilings on either side, which still hold up the concrete dock.

    After getting checked in and lashing Espiritu to the dock (for the last time?) we fell into bed for an exhausted sleep. Upon awakening the next morning, I peeked out of the v-berth and saw this:

          An armada of dragonflies were lined up in formation along our port lifeline. Yikes.
                            I quietly lifted the hatch a bit higher for a closer look:

                                                     Okee dokee.     :-/

            And on the starboard side, they were lined up as well, just like a fleet of tiny helicopters.

                          ....and further back, outside one of the starboard hatches...

      Needless to say, we've never seen anything like this.  We decided the best way to handle it was to quietly shut the hatches and tiptoe into the main salon for a nice quiet breakfast. Sure enough, when we emerged from the cabin an hour later, they were gone.   Yowza. Is this normal for the south?

                                          Bug in the marina office. Note, this is a large broom.

      After folding and stashing the sails and the dinghy, we had some time to hop on our bikes and explore the teeny-tiny town of Green Cove Springs, about 2 miles away from the marina.

                                                               Nice Johnson. (mailbox)

                           The town dates back to pre-Civil War times. Above, the original
                                  cobblestone street tries to break through the concrete.

      We had lunch at the sweet little Cousin's Cafe.  The reading material provided there was "Garden and Gun" magazine. Yes, this is a real magazine. Yes, this is the deep. (say it with me) Say-outh. :-)

          There's a Walmart just up the highway. Signs like the one above are all too prevalent.
                      Support your local businesses, people! It's the American way!

                At the Winn-Dixie, we found another thing that has changed in the U.S.
                     since we've been gone: sodas are tinier now. What's up with that?

            I was tempted to buy some BUBBA burgers, in the name of full immersion and all,
         but I found something even better: I bought some frozen Alligator which I would
                      fry up later after I found the Paula Deen recipe online (natch).

                            Me reading yet another sign stating this is manatee territory.
                                Still haven't seen one. Are they sure they're not extinct?


We went to the matinee at the towns small 2 screen movie house.
 (this red door is the emergency exit at the back of the theater).

We saw Iron Man 3.  My review: "3" is one too many. The original Iron Man was a classic, entertaining for all audiences.  I only recommend "3" for the die hard action hero fan. 

One strange thing about the movie is the fact that it takes place during Christmas, and literally every scene has a Christmas reference, a tree, lights or even a Christmas song. In May.

It's obvious that the film was originally meant for a holiday release, but for some reason (the film needed more editing, the studio decided the summer line-up was weak, etc.) the release was changed to summer.  Humorously (and rather strangely) the director insists that this is not the case. He merely says: "I just really like Christmas."   Doh! Cough...hack...whatever. Anyway, the whole Christmas in May thing was an unnecessary distraction. 

We poked around town a bit more.

Yes, there are "springs" in Green Cove Springs. I took this photo looking directly into the center of the spring. In the gin-clear water, you can see 25 feet down to the bottom (The white in the upper right is the clouds reflecting off of the surface). 

They built a town swimming pool which uses the healing spring water. Very cool!

The spring then flows to the main river. But look out! Like the sign says, 
 I guess snakes like the healing powers of the spring as well.

An afternoon storm was brewing, so we raced the 
2 miles home on the bikes to beat the rain and thunder.

After getting back to the cozy, dry boat, we peeked out of the hatch to check on the storm. 
It began to have a more ominous appearance.

This gigantic anvil cloud was slowly and ominously spinning and grumbling. Wow.

The air was completely still, and heavy laden with humidity. The only sound was intermittent thunder and the constant grumbling of the storm, as if he were deciding whether or not to spare us his wrath. Several tornadoes tried to form, but each one dissipated.

We thought about running to the marina building, but there's no basement, and it's pretty rickety.

Soon she was on top of us.  After facing countless tropical storms either at anchor or 
at sea, we were so grateful to be lashed to the dock!

To distract myself, I figured now was as good a time as any to fry up the gator! The result: you know how they call venison "gamey"? Well, I'd all the taste of gator "swampy." Kinda equal parts chicken and fish. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, the storm passed over us and all was well. We found out the next day that at the same time as our afternoon storm, devastating tornadoes were rampaging Oklahoma and Kansas, a few hundred miles to the west of us. May and June are the worst months for tornadoes.

Beautiful sunrise after the storm.

The next morning we jumped on our bikes again to do some more exploring.

Turns out Green Cove Springs is a nature preserve. 

The town is carved out of lush woodland. 

The interstate was carved out of the woodland, too. The height of the telephone 
poles gives you an idea of the size of the trees.

Wildflowers abound...

An armadillo was here

Life is slow here

Someone had an oyster party last night

Dock and swamp

We actually found a cool independent coffee shop in Green Cove Springs. 
And yes -- you CAN get the New York Times here. 

Any coffee house that has an old safe for a table and 
a picture of Mr. T sipping espresso is alright in my book!

So see? There are pockets of beauty and sophistication everywhere you go. 

You just have to open your eyes and LOOK.   

So, we've "delivered" Espiritu to her new home. Our flight leaves tomorrow. Espiritu will be hauled out and left to rest and reflect on her grand adventure. What does the future hold? We don't know. 

The path will become clear...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Last Two Nights at Sea...?

                           Captain Chris watches the sun go down on our last night at sea

         Well, with mixed emotions we waved goodbye to Miami Beach and headed off for our last major ocean voyage -- the two night trip up the Florida coast to Jacksonville.

                                             Fortunately the weather was mild during the trip. Passing Cape Canaveral was a bit surreal. We were far enough offshore that we could barely see the NASA megastructures which line the coast. We  couldn't help but think of the countless liftoffs we have seen on TV since childhood -- and the tragedies as well.

      The massive NASA infrastructure is barely visible from far out at sea as we pass Cape Canaveral

                              Since we had light winds most of the trip, we were dogged
                                             by swarms of insects,  even miles out to sea.

       Do you know what this creepy looking thing is? I know. Neither do we. But there were dozens and dozens of them swarming our boat during the trip. This guy was nice enough to pose for me as he rested for a spell on our blue canvas.

  Many of them seemed to think they were on The Loveboat, as there was much sexual activity going on. Some particularly randy couples did the deed in flight as they zipped around the cockpit -- a bit show-offy if you ask me.

                                We saw sailfish at the surface and one even leapt out of the water

                                                          "The Birds"

               The squalls and lightning storms stayed off to the east over the Bahamas

This is me as the sun rose on our last day on the ocean

On the morning of day three, the mouth of the St. John's River came into view. Jacksonville is actually several miles upriver. We turned on in.

We shared the river with cargo ships, coming and going from the port of Jacksonville

Unfortunately, the river didn't look too healthy. The brownish-red hue of the water gave us the sensation that we were motoring through some bubbly A & W root beer. 

These trees along the riverfront appeared to be ripped out by the roots. They could be leftovers from Hurricanes Dora and Floyd which came through here in recent years.

This image shows a giant wave hitting a Jacksonville Pier during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. 
'Holy Crap' is all I can say. 

Anyway, if there was alot of hurricane damage, they've certainly rebuilt to beat the band. Take a look at   these 3 story megamansions along the coastline. There were hundreds and hundreds of them along the river! Who knew? There's serious money down here.

Uh oh. Are those what I think they are off in the distance?

Holy crap! It's Three Mile Island?!?!?!?!?  I thought that was in Pennsylvania, or New York?!?!?!?

OK, OK, I know. It's not Three Mile Island. And I know that there are nuclear reactors like this in other parts of the country and the world. But this is the first time we had seen these with our own eyes.

Now first off, can we all just acknowledge the fact that these things are a horrifying sight? They are hundreds of feet tall. I mean, imagine aliens landing here from another planet. They would take one look at these things, assume that they are some sort of freaking cauldron of hell and run for their lives. 

I know we have nuclear reactors in California. We even have one in Orange County.

The designers of the Orange County nuclear reactor had the PR wisdom to shape the reactors like a spectacular rack. Just the sight of them either brings a twitter of laughter, or other emotions. The point is, their very appearance distracts from the apocalyptic damaging power they contain.

But these here in Jacksonville? I mean, look at those megamansions down on the waterfront. How much Southern Comfort do they have to drink during lazy evenings on the porch swing to "forget" that they're in the shadow of these horses of the apocalypse? It's just crazy to me. What a sight! 

We were pleasantly surprised to find that that Jacksonville Municipal Marina offers 3 nights free (excluding electricity).  Since we've got plenty of power through our solar panels, we were home free! As the photo shows, we were nearly on our own during our days there.

Happily, the marina is right next to the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL stadium! It's also the Gator Bowl for college football. Note in the photo that the marina is a manatee zone. Once again I hopefully continued my manatee watch, but I was left wanting...

Jacksonville lights up real purty at night (I'm in the South now). At the end of our Jacksonville stay, they would lift this blue bridge just for us as we passed under her on the way up river to Green Cove Springs.

As always, we broke out the bikes and decided to see the sights

Jacksonville is named for Andrew Jackson -- not Stonewall or Michael or Jesse or any other Jackson you can think of. Andrew Jackson was the first Governor of Florida before becoming President.

View from the top

I was excited to shop at my first Winn Dixie grocery store. As everyone knows, this is THE supermarket of the South.

I'm pretty sure it was a Winn-Dixie parking lot where Kathy Bates smashed up 
those girls' Volkswagen  in the Southern classic "Fried Green Tomatoes." 

I discovered in the Winn Dixie that in the short year and half that we've been gone, candy bars have actually grown larger (as if that were possible).  Shocking. 

Another thing that's new in the USA since we've been gone: genetically 
engineered flowers in shockingly bright colors. Cool...I guess.  

OK, now, this is just sad. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a terrible season last year. They only won 2 games. The close-out table at the Winn-Dixie was loaded down with Jaguars gear marked way, way, way down -- 75% off. YIKES. Jags, we'll be pulling for you this year!  

OK, serious question. What, exactly, does one do at a "Scottish Rite Masonic Center?" Seriously? "Shrouded in mystery" does not begin to cover it. We're picturing hoods, candles and Lord knows what else. Anyway, whatever they do there, I have a sinking feeling that the nice young man in the lower right of this photo would not be welcome... :-/

This sign in the window of a drinking establishment proudly announces "Smoking allowed." 
Well. We're not in California anymore, clearly... 

We had to laugh at this teeny-tiny train crossing warning bar for the sidewalk only, 
complete with flashing lights, etc. Your tax dollars hard at work! LOL...

Lovely waterfront home

Stylish graffiti

After a long day exploring Jacksonville on bike, we returned to the marina and hoped to crash early. Our plans were foiled when we found that the "Funk-Fest" was starting, right on the water. A couple of thousand funk fans had arrived and would be gettin' funky -- and gettin' loud -- all night long, right next to the marina.  Sigh.  Looks like sleep would have to wait.

I decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You can't SEE the music in this blog, so you'll have to trust me. It was loud. This is me giving in to the music and dancing at Funk Fest. To the left is my bike. If it could talk it would say: "I don't know that white girl. I'm not with her. I don't know who she is." LOL...   :-) 

The stadium parking lot was filled with Funk-Fest revelers tailgating. 

I love it when people dare to break stereotypes. These black Harley riders were a big hit at the Funk Fest -- and with me!

Well, that's about it for now. We're currently up river in Green Cove Springs preparing Espiritu for her "nap" on the hard in drydock.  More on that later.

We'll see y'all later!    XO Liz and Chris