Post #49: MUDCAT CHARLIE’S; Day 352; April 18, 2015; On Board: April 5-April 11: ALONE!! April 11 – April 18: Dave Luciano, Jerry Solomon (“Sol”)
The march northward started on Saturday, March 28, the day after we crossed the Gulf Stream from the Bahamas. I still had the wonderful company of Jim Small and Chrissie Bell for the run to Stuart, but they flew back to real life the next day. By design, I was alone for the next week – I wanted to experience traveling and handling the boat single-handed, so the next crew was scheduled to arrive the following Saturday in Daytona. I was fortunate to have good weather, and the boat and I got along well. My solo week included stops in Fort Pierce, Melbourne, Titusville, and Daytona Beach. Here are some images:
The downtown Stuart waterfront includes a couple of restaurants, the marina, a boardwalk, and a stage for live performances, where this band was playing on Saturday afternoon. The historic downtown is adjacent to the waterfront, with many shops and boutiques. The Sunset Marina has live entertainment on the waterfront every night, and on Saturday night had a Beatles sound-alike band – it was packed and they were remarkably good!
The channel into Fort Pierce was well-marked, which I appreciated, being alone on board. The municipal marina has a fun restaurant/tiki bar on the waterfront and a pleasant downtown a short walk away.
You may recall from an earlier post that a magazine had run an article about the 10 best “dive bars” along the Florida coast. After missing number 9 (Alabama Jacks in Key Largo), I had to have a beer at the 10th – Archie’s Seabreeze in Fort Pierce after a half hour bike ride to get there..
In Fort Pierce, I finally met Mark & Allyn Callahan on Second Wind. Mark is a member of the Charles River Yacht Club where we keep the Joint Adventure – we had never met, but Mark & Allyn have been following the blog since the start of our trip – they did the Great Loop a few years ago and are in the process of bringing Second Wind from Florida to the Chesapeake for the summer. We’ve since seen each other at several ports and continue to stay in touch as we both work our way north.
Melbourne has a great beach, and I had a wonderful ocean swim in large, Atlantic Ocean waves. This sign caught my eye, though I passed it up in favor of some seafood.
Titusville was an unexpected treat in two ways. This picture illustrates the first – upon my arrival I was met by Ken from the vessel Carris, whom we had met several times at various stops along the way. He and others organized this “docktails” gathering for Happy Hour, with the crew of 5 boats doing the Great Loop, sharing stories and lots of laughs.
The second treat in Titusville was its ties to the space program, and the statues, plaques, and space museum in Titusville. This is a sculpture honoring the space shuttle program, and there are others honoring the Gemini program. Cape Canaveral is across the Indian River from Titusville, so the town is closely linked with NASA.
The Vehicle Assembly Building on Cape Canaveral, where rockets and space vehicles are built, as seen from the ICW at Titusville.
There are numerous beautiful sandbars and uninhabited islands along this section of the ICW, and many wonderful anchorages to spend the night.
Channel markers are a favorite nesting place for Osprey. Notice the mother Osprey in the nest. We often see chicks in the nest as we pass by.
Many beautiful homes along the ICW as well –
My last solo run was to Daytona Beach, where two of my roommates from college, which were my fraternity brothers and are still two of my best friends – Dave Luciano and Jerry Solomon (“Sol”) – joined me for the next week. I arrived Friday, and since they didn’t arrive until Saturday, I rode my bike to the beach Friday afternoon. No one will ever believe that this was a coincidence and that I didn’t plan it this way, but when I arrived at the beach I discovered that the NCAA National Collegiate Cheerleading Championship was underway. Of course, I couldn’t resist watching the competition and taking a few pictures…..
No explanation needed…
The acrobatics of these kids is truly amazing – they literally throw these girls 15 feet in the air then collectively catch them (hopefully)….
Afterwards, many of the teams went onto the beach to celebrate and do what they do…
Dave & Sol arrived Saturday, so we rode our bikes back to Daytona Beach:
The world-famous Daytona Beach, where cars are still allowed to drive and park on the beach.
Riding on the sand, enjoying the sights –
There is an amusement park overlooking a portion of the beach, and this is one of the “rides” – the small dot above the two towers is several people in a seat, which it flung from the ground into the air, after which it bounces up and down for awhile from the two bungee-like cords that hold it, while the seat rotates wildly, rolling over, upside down, back and fort several times. I would not survive.
A cool cloud overhanging the beach –
Our next stop was St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the continental United States. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore the East coast of Florida, and is thought to have ventured as far as north as present day Saint Augustine in 1513 – he named the land “La Florida” because of all the beautiful flowers, and claimed it for Spain. Shortly after the founding of St. Augustine, the French built a fort and tried to establish a settlement at the mouth of the St. John’s River (near current day Jacksonville), but were driven out by the Spanish. In 1566, a local Native Chief burned St. Augustine, after which the settlement was moved to its present location. In 1586, St. Augustine was again burned, this time by Sir Francis Drake, driving the settlers into the wilderness. However, the British lacked settlers to establish a foothold, so they left the area and the Spanish retained control. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain via the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years War (also known as the French & Indian War), in exchange for turning over Havana to Spain. Rather than live under British rule, most of the Spanish fled St. Augustine for Cuba. However, in 1783, when Britain signed the peace treaty which ended the American Revolution and granted independence, Britain also signed a separate agreements with Spain in which Britain again ceded Florida back to Spain. During this second period of Spanish control, from 1784 to 1821, no new settlements were established and Spain exercised little control over the territory. Finally, in 1821, Spain peaceably transferred ownership of Florida and St. Augustine to the United States under the Adams-Onis Treaty, negotiated by John Quincy Adams. Florida later gained statehood in 1845.
St. Augustine today prominently displays its Spanish heritage through its many historic buildings from the two Spanish periods, its many museums, its shops with a Spanish bent, and its many Spanish restaurants.
We stayed for two days in St. Augustine, which was not enough time to see and experience all that the City has to offer. Here are some images:
Castillo de San Marcos is the Spanish fort in St. Augustine, which protected St. Augustine during the early Spanish periods.
This is the oldest surviving wooden schoolhouse in the US.
St. Georges Street is one of the main historic areas in the city, with scores of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and pubs in the many historic buildings.
A statue of Florida “discoverer” Ponce de Leon in the main square in St. Augustine.
The Ponce de Leon Hotel was the first of the luxury hotels built in St. Augustine by Henry Flagler in 1888, costing $2.5 million. He hired an inventer named Thomas Edison to bring electricity into the hotel.
Now the Lightner Museum, this was Flagler’s second hotel. In 1948, it was purchased by Otto Lightner and now houses his extensive collections and is open to the public.
Now the home of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Castle Warden was built by William Warden as his home, then purchased by Ripley’s in 1949.
Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was build by Henry Flagler in 1889 as a memorial to his daughter and granddaughter, both of whom died during childbirth. He wanted it to be complete by the first anniversary of their death, so he hired 1,000 men, half of worked during the day and the other half all night. It was completed in 361 days. Flagler, his first wife, his daughter, and his granddaughter are all entombed in the west wing of the church.
The inside of Flagler’s church.
This full-sized replica of a Spanish Galion was built in Spain in 2009 and was docked near us in the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. It regularly makes the voyage to Spain and back.
This massive steel cross was erected in 1965 marking the 400th anniversary of the first Catholic mass held in the New World on this spot. It weighs 70 tons and was constructed out of 200 steel panels.
Two famous lions mark the entrance to the iconic Bridge of Lions, which crosses the ICW at St. Augustine. From the look on its face, I think it just ate a tourist and got caught….
My cousin Steve Dempsey and his girlfriend Lisa live in St. Augustine and came to the boat to share a Happy Hour drink with us. We had a great time exchanging stories, and they both imparted their local knowledge regarding sights to see.
From St. Augustine, we went to Jacksonville Beach where we again rode our bikes to the beach. We reached a major milestone with Sol at Jacksonville Beach – he grew up in the Bronx accustomed to concrete and pools, and hates the four “S’s” – sand, salt, sun, and surf. But he’s a good sport, as this picture will attest:
Sol walking on the sand, in the salt & surf, and also in the sun! Dave is walking behind him, watching for sharks (another “s” that he doesn’t like…).
On our way the next day on the ICW, we came upon a stranded boater who had run the battery down on his battery-powered engine and flagged us down to help him get back home:
We tied a bow line and a stern line from his boat to the Joint Adventure and took him along for the ride –
Our next stop was Amelia Island, our last stop in Florida. It is the only piece of land in the entire US to have had eight different flags of domination: Spanish, French, Patriots, McGregor’s, Green Cross, British, Mexican, Confederate, and United States. Amelia Island was named by Money magazine as one of the 25 best places in the world to vacation, due to its beautiful beaches, natural environment, recreation, and historic sites. the Historic District in the town of Fernandina Beach is 50 blocks in area and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It rained in the afternoon when we arrived so we didn’t make it to the beach, but the historic town of Fernandina Beach is a real gem. Shops, historic buildings, and restored historic homes abound:
Reportedly the oldest bar in Florida is in Fernandina Beach –
A restored building in the historic downtown area
Everything changed when we entered the “low country” of Georgia. The ICW becomes a series of tidal estuaries, creeks, inlets, and “cuts” through the marshes, all stitched together to make a continuous, though ever-winding waterway through the marshlands. It is stunningly beautiful. It also requires focus to follow the winding, ever-changing channel with plenty of shallow spots to pick through. We elected to bypass the larger towns and marinas, but opted instead to explore “rural Georgia”. We found it at the Two Way Fish Camp & Marina. We decided to ignore some of the scarier reviews that Sol read in the guide books, such as: “a visit to the set for Deliverance”; “loaded with mosquitos, the Georgia state bird”. We found a mixed bag: the docks were adequate, and the other facilities marginal. However, some of the boats at the marina were downright comical – here’s an example:
Dave’s next wooden boat project….This boat is sitting in the water – and apparently has been sitting there for some time. There is a strong tidal current here, which switches direction every six hours. It brings debris with it – sticks, leaves, etc. – which builds up over time. This boat has been there so long that the debris has sprouted plants, which are now growing all around the boat, between the boat and the dock. There were actually a dozen or more others like it in the marina, but this one won the prize…The boat needs a bit of work as well –
Two Way Fish Marina – in rural Georgia – is a training center for federal law enforcement agents of various types thet are water-based. All of the inflatables and all of the center-consoles (unmarked) are federal training boats. Go figure….
MUDCAT CHARLIE’S – in rural Georgia parlance, a “mudcat” is a bottom fish that lives in the mud – I thought it was limited a catfish, but I’ve been assured that it refers to any of many types of fish that thrive in the swamps and bayous of the low country, living in the mud. Surprisingly, Two Way Fish Camp has a restaurant on site – it’s named, fittingly, “MUDCAT CHARLIE’S. Not surprisingly, the food was fresh and excellent. So I titled this entry MUDCAT CHARLIE’s because it epitomizes the rural Georgia environment of this part of the Atlantic ICW
This is the remnants of my dinner at MUDCAT CHARLIE’s – three grilled catfish, served whole and cooked perfectly.
We opted the next day to continue our exploration of rural Georgia, turning up the Kilkenny River to Kilkenny Plantation and Marina – talk about a diamond in the rough! The marina is old and rustic, but truly authentic. There are live shrimp bait wells right on the docks, which are replenished daily. The facilities are tired but adequate. The marina is small, with room for only 4 or 5 boats. The current is fierce. The marina sits on the edge of the Kilkenny River overlooking miles of salt water estuaries and marshes, about a mile and a half off the ICW.
The original 662 acre Kilkenny Plantation was established around 1778, prior to the Revolutionary War. Cotton was raised on the plantation, and the plantation home which still exists was built around 1845. There were several slaves quarters on the plantation – those have been demolished, but other old outbuildings remain. During the Civil War, a Union gunboat shelled the property, and shattered beams from the shelling are still visible in the house. Henry Ford purchased and restored the property, including the former slave quarters. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, though the main plantation house is vacant and in need of some repair, as are some of the outbuildings on the site.
In addition to the plantation and the bayou scenery, there is an excellent local restaurant adjacent to the marina that serves fresh, local fish, superbly prepared.
Here are some images:
The marina dock – tides run up to 9 feet. The superstructure holds an overhead crane used to pick fishing boats off their trailers and lower them into the water- and raise them back up upon return.
A fishing boat being lowered into the water from the crane –
A shrimp boat at the Kilkenny dock.
The Joint Adventure at the single dock at Kilkenny Marina
The marina building, with a deck overlooking the bayou. Not exactly a resort, but it has its own charm –
None 0f these small aquatic animals were around when we arrived in the afternoon, but by the following morning there were millions of these critters in the waters of the bayou. We were told that they are wood worms which appear for a day or two once a year, then disappear – apparently, we hit the lottery. By the afternoon, they were all gone.
The view of the bayous and the salt water marsh from the marina docks –
The 1845 main house on the Kilkenny Plantation
An outbuilding on the plantation – notice the enormous Live Oak in the foreground.
The plantation grounds surrounding the marina are adorned by scores of enormous Live Oaks, estimated to be 250 – 300 years old. Try as I might, pictures just cannot capture the majesty and magnificence of these enormous trees, shrouded in hanging Spanish moss.
Look at these trees –
A bald eagle reins over the bayou –
All this scenery just plain tuckered Dave out….
A unique Looper – this is our first encounter with Bob, who started in Minneapolis and is doing the Loop solo in a 26 foot houseboat on a shoestring budget – yes, a houseboat. He has a small chart plotter but no paper charts on board, and two dogs to keep him company. YIKES!
We had a crew change – sadly, Dave & Sol left after a fantastic week of laughs and reminiscences. We even made contact with Don Goddard, our close friend and fraternity brother with whom we had lost contact for 25 years. Happily, Jake & Elissa Mycofsky came aboard. From left to right: Jim K, Sol (Jerry Solomon), Dave Luciano, Jake Mycofsky, Elissa Mycofsky
Tomorrow we continue to head north, as we hear that the earth is thawing and the weather is warming. More to come.