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...


  1. Hi Chris and Liz,
    I have a 30' Catalina in San Diego harbor. I do mostly day sailing around the S. Cal area. I have read your entire blog and have enjoyed it very much. At the beginning you were talking about going to the S. Pacific. You changed your minds in Panama and headed east. Now you are talking about putting the boat up for a while, (at least it isn't for sale). I am hoping it is for the summer (hurricane season) and you will be back sailing in October or November.
    Brad W
    SV Ka Makai Oli Oli (Perfect Wind)

    1. Hey Brad --

      Thanks for the nice note, and the kind comments on the blog.

      Yes, we were originally going to go to the south Pacific, but we changed our minds early on (in Mexico) because even 3 nights at sea was more than enough for us.

      We don't know what our long term plans are. Espiritu IS listed, and we'll see if we get any nibbles. Meanwhile we're enjoying being back in SoCal, and we may go back and sail the Bahamas or the Eastern Seaboard.

      Thanks again! Liz

      P.S. We had a Catalina 30 for years. It's the Volkswagen of sailboats! Happy Sailing this summer. :-)