East Coast of Florida

Vero Beach to Fernandina Beach




Vero Beach, Florida (July 18-26, 2009)

Vero Beach is a "no anchor" city... which means we had to pick up a $12/night mooring ball at the Vero Beach City Marina. A different kind of mooring, too.... Not exactly a ball, but a bucket.

Not a bad place to hang out, though.  The marina was very nice..air conditioned showers and TV room, and laundromat.  Another plus... a free bus transit system that stopped on the hour right in front of the marina. 

Vero Beach is so popular with cruisers that it is nicknamed "Velcro Beach".  So, we just made ourselves at home and stayed 8 days.  Took care of a little boat maintenance, LuLu got a car ride to PetSmart to get her next round of vaccinations, ate out a couple of times and got groceries and fuel. 

For 60 years, Vero Beach was the hallowed training grounds of Major League Baseball's Dodgers.  In 1948, the Brooklyn club moved its practice facilities here from Havana to be closer to its New York fan base.  Even when the Dodgers moved across the country to Los Angeles, the team spent its springs in Vero Beach.  However, in 2008, the Dodgers picked up and moved again, opening seasons in 2009 in Arizona to be closer to their fan base.

Notable residents of Vero Beach:  Prince, Gloria Estavan, Sandy Koufax, Jon Bon Jovi, Carl Hiassen, Ivan Lendl, Sylvester Stallone.  Vero Beach is home to more retired Fortune 500 CEO's than any other location in the world and has the fourth highest concentration of wealthy households in the country. Most of these residents live on the exclusive barrier island that is divided from the mainland by the Indian River.  We found it to be a very laid-back community with a large population of senior citizens.  Very few restaurants, no night life.  Fine with us.

Vero Beach is known as the "Gateway to the Tropics", as it straddles a climatic transition zone, offering a mix of vegetation found as far north as the Carolinas and as far south as the Caribbean.  The Indian River citrus community thrives here and produces 75% of Florida's grapefruit crop.  LA and I enjoyed bicycling every day all over Vero Beach, enjoying the beautiful old oak trees in the neighborhoods as well as the boardwalk along the beach.

This lush community also possesses a well-endowed arts scene.  We visited the Vero Beach Museum of Art which houses a permanent collection of over 850 pieces of contemporary art.  We visited the local exhibition "Art Quilts from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum".  These are not your grandmother's patchwork quilts... these are modern quilts from 1980 through the present, with contemporary pieces that were hand-dyed, machine pieced, and machine quilted.  Interesting, but I like the traditional, old hand-quilted quilts better.

From the wealthy... to the Crackers

As we left the Vero Beach area heading north, we finally began to see some homes of the "cracker" variety...  What's a Cracker?  Every day, about a thousand people move into Florida.  In a state populated with transplants, it's hard to find someone whose family has lived here for more than two generations.  The early pioneers in Florida were called "Crackers".  In some parts of Florida, being called a "cracker" is a source of pride.  In other parts, especially near the Georgia border, it's a racial slur meaning a bigoted redneck.  Florida is now experiencing a revitalization of its folk architecture, sometimes parodied as "Cracker Chic". Some Cracker houses had floorboards intentionally spaced with large cracks for easy no-dustpan sweeping.  I don't think the property below has hit the "revitalization" phase.

City of Melbourne, Florida USA

Melbourne, Titusville, New Smyrna Beach, Matanzas River (July 27-31, 2009)

We continued to make our way up the ICW, heading for St. Augustine... stopped for one night at Melbourne, two nights at Titusville, one night at New Smyrna Beach (just outside Daytona Beach), and one night in the Matanzas River.

Saturn 5 - Kennedy Space Center TicketsTitusville was the center of the "space race" universe and is situated near the Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral National Seashore.  As we traveled up the ICW, in the distance we could see the Vehicle Assembly Building  and the space shuttle launching pads.


 The Vehicle Assembly Building is clearly visible from the waterway.  When this building was completed in 1965, it was the largest building in the world.  Each stripe on its American flag logo used 6000 gallons of paint.  Although the assembly building is no longer the largest building, it still claims the largest doors.  The huge inverted T-shaped doors receive space shuttle components, which arrive by barge and mobile launcher platform for their final stacking and fueling.  Titusville's anchorages, municipal marina, and waterfront parks are prime locations for viewing space shuttle launchings. 

We were anxious to get to St. Augustine, so we departed Titusville after a two-night stay.  I never got off the boat... LA dinghied in for water.  After leaving Titusville, we transited the Haulover Canal.

For centuries, the isthmus at ICW statute mile 869 was the obvious place to cross from Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River.  Native Americans and early settlers came here to "haul over" their canoes and boats between the two large river basins.  At one point, logs were cut and laid across the land, allowing mule teams to haul the boats, laden with goods, over land.  The first canal was hand dug by the slaves of a local citrus grower and was only 3 feet deep.  By the 1920's the canal was widened again, then finally, in the 1950's the Army Corps came in and dynamited the canal to its present depth.

Manatees use the deep waters of the Haulover canal for shelter.  We spotted a manatee as we went through the canal, but couldn't get a photo (Photo Credit: Cary Wein, Key Largo...I have yet to get a photo of a manatee...but I keep trying!).  Since they must breathe fresh air, they generally float near the water surface.  As boats approach, they dive and create a large disturbance on the water's surface.  They call these "manatee footprints". 

St. Augustine, Florida (August 1-5, 2009)

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. Dating back to 1565, it is indeed old.  It was founded 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.   It is a charming city with a lot of touristy things to do... home tours, trolley rides, horse-drawn carriage rides, ghost tours.  Sort of like New Orleans.  Lots of visitors on the weekend.  If you don't let the tourist business get to you, the city has stunning architecture. We walked around town and saw historic buildings.  There is some history here with my family, too. 

    This is a photograph of Daddy, Mama, and my sister Kathy in front of the fort, Castillo de San Marcos, at St. Augustine in 1953.


We anchored on the north side of the Bridge of Lions right next to the fort.  Sounds like a good anchorage, huh?  Well, it is during the week, but on the weekends, the fort conducts HOURLY tours and fires off 3 LOUD cannon shots every hour on the hour from 10A-6P.  Made us a little "jumpy" as we felt like we were being fired upon.  A hour would give us just enough time to forget about it, then..... BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Castillo de San Marcos is a Spanish fort dating back to 1672.  The native coquina (shellstone) was quarried on nearby Anastasia Island. The fort was constructed to defend the ocean inlet that allowed entry into the bay of St. Augustine.  It was built after a pirate attack on the city in 1668.  Jamacian pirate Robert Searles and his crew of cutthroats seized St. Augustine in a surprise night assault and sacked the city, killing a quarter of the residents.  With its high, 12 ft thick stone walls and numerous cannons, the Castillo de San Marcos stood as an impregnable and permanent fortress for the future security of Spanish Florida.  Designed to hold 1500 people, its deep, fresh water well and latrine flushed by the ebb and flow of the inlet would allow refuge for an indefinite amount of time, as long as the food held out.

City Gate.  In 1739, a log and earthen gate guarded the north side of the city.  

Henry Flagler had a great impact on the St. Augustine area.  He decided to develop St. Augustine into a winter resort for the northern rich, often called "The Newport of the South".  He employed the so-called Spanish Renaissance Revival as the architectural style for his huge hotels.  This architecture featured clay-tile roofs, towers, rounded arches, and extensive red terracotta ornamentation.  In 1888, at the cost of $250,000, he opened the spectacular luxury resort, the Ponce de Leon Hotel. 


The construction of the Alcazar Hotel and Cordova Hotel were completed two years later.  Following the construction of his hotel complex, the city became a refuge for wealthy Americans from the north.  Many celebrities came south to stay at the Flagler hotels including John Jacob Astor, Warren G. Harding, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, and Will Rogers.  Altogether, five US presidents stayed at the Ponce de Leon Hotel after it was constructed.  The famed Ponce de Leon Hotel now houses the liberal arts college Flagler College.  The campus has spent more than $23 million restoring the Spanish Renaissance buildings, which include 79 Tiffany stained glass windows and an electrical and water system designed by Thomas Edison.  

Across the street is the Lightner Museum, the former Alcazar Hotel.

  Around the corner is the Casa Monica Hotel, the former Cordova Hotel.

The Villa Zorayda Museum is an architectural reproduction of "the Alhambra", Spain's most famous castle.   

Interesting beach at St. Augustine.  This was the first place in Florida where we have seen vehicles out on the beach.  Normally, Florida's beaches are so restrictive, but they allow vehicles to pull right up to the shore and people party right out of their trucks.  We swam in the Atlantic and it was refreshingly cold!

We visited the beach and took the opportunity to clean the bottom of the dinghy. 

The Bridge of Lions is a classic 1920s design, with clean lines and red-roofed bridge towers.  Stately marble lions, balancing their paws on spheres, normally guard each end of the bridge.  However, the bridge is currently undergoing a $45 million rehabilitation project to preserve the functionality and the life of the bridge, which had been declared "structurally deficient" by the Department of Transportation.  The famous lions are currently in storage and have been restored and are awaiting their return to their guard posts at the bridge. 

We bicycled over the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island, saw the famous St. Augustine Lighthouse, and ate at a small local family seafood restaurant, O'Steen's.  They had great fried shrimp, but did not serve cold beer!  We told them that, in New Orleans, it was against the law to serve seafood without beer.  Well, they had been in business 44 years and it didn't seem to hurt them any.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is believed to be located near the site of the first lighthouse in Florida.  In 1821, when Americans claimed this territory, they discovered an old tower, presumed to be an abandoned lighthouse built by the Spaniards.  Without thinking about erosion, a replacement lighthouse was built in 1824.  Within decades, storm-driven erosion destroyed the lighthouse.  The new (1874) lighthouse on Anastasia Island was located about a half mile away.  The 161 foot brick tower was painted barber-style in black-and-white spirals.  The light is no longer in operation, but is open to the public.

We departed St. Augustine on Friday, August 7 to make our way to Fernandina Beach, Florida.  We crossed the St. Johns River (Jacksonville is up the river 16 miles away).  The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida and is a very busy commercial inlet. 

We saw large ships leaving the inlet

Large ships in dry dock

 A Coast Guard vessel and two new ships under construction

Quite enough commercial traffic... we were glad to transit across the river safely.

After crossing the St. Johns River, we traveled up Sister's Creek and saw more commercial traffic, two tugboats.  

We gave them plenty of room to pass by.

We anchored overnight at the entrance of the Ft.George River under the watchful eye of nuclear power plant cooling towers.

We got up the next morning and traveled through the marshland to reach Fernandina Beach.

Fernandina Beach, Florida (August 7-25, 2009)

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Fernandina Beach is a captivating little town.  Located on Amelia Island, the quaint downtown has charm to spare.  Its' tree-lined streets and benches invite you to slow down and take a trip in the past.  Fifty of the city blocks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the town has more than 450 historic buildings.  Most of the buildings are from the Victorian period, from about 1840 to 1900.  Two of the architectural styles in the Victorian period, the Queen Anne and Italianate, have some of their most beautiful examples in Fernandina's historic district.  The town is full of small shops, art galleries, and restaurants.  Shown below are some of the local scenes in Fernandina Beach.



Brett's Waterway Cafe on the Harbor         Depot of Florida's first cross-state railroad (1899)         "Polly the Trolley"

                                 Nassau County Courthouse (1891)                                                       US Post Office (1912)


                                            St. Peter's Episcopal Church (1884)      Fernandina Beach Saturday morning Farmer's Market

                         The Palace Saloon, Florida's Oldest Saloon (1878)        Local Business... Cigars and Guitars


              Downtown Side Street                                            The Chandlery (1876)                           City Mart Ice Cream Shoppe (1884)

Just 30 miles from Jacksonville, Amelia Island's main attraction is the great outdoors.  Fishing, boating, beach combing, kayaking are among the favorite past times here.  Thirteen miles of pristine beaches surround the island. 

 Amelia Island is also a private getaway for weddings and honeymoons.  There are historic bed and breakfasts, and also the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel or the Amelia Island Plantation.

                                     Hoyt House, Bed and Breakfast (1905)                                Local Private Cottage

In the early 1800's, Fernandina was a border town and her harbor was crowded with ships from all over the world, dropping off their goods at the closest port outside US import regulations.  Fernandina also attracted the darker side of commerce.  Maritime hijackers hid in the marshes around Amelia Island, seizing cargo before the ships reached port.  The area was in a constant state of anarchy.  In the end, eight flags have flown over this town...French Huguenots, Spain, England, the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America, and finally, the United States of America. Fernandina is the only municipality in the United States that has flown under eight flags.

Fernandina is considered the birthplace of the shrimping industry.  In 1913, local fishermen began modern shrimping when they replaced rowboats and cast nets with power-driven seines and trawls. 

Today shrimping is a capital-intensive business costing close to $1 million in capital and operating expenses.  Each shrimp boat trawls the waters around Fernandina dawn to dusk, dragging their nets along the bottom and hoping to catch 250-500 pounds of shrimp a day.  Amelia Island is a shrimping powerhouse.  About 80% of Florida's Atlantic White Shrimp are harvested in the waters around Amelia Island, with two million pounds of shrimp delivered to Fernandina's docks annually.  We have had our share of shrimp while in Fernandina.... fried shrimp, shrimp and grits, boiled shrimp, grilled shrimp... yum!

Burbank Trawl Makers, located in Fernandina Beach, is still one of the world's biggest producers of hand-sewn shrimp nets. The Burbank family has been manufacturing shrimp and fish trawls by hand for 89 years. William Hunter Burbank Sr. was a commercial fisherman and net maker since the early 1900s. His son William Hunter Burbank Jr. came into the net making business in the late 1940s after he served on the USS Tennessee during World War II. He had four sons, William Hunter Burbank III, Thomas, David and John. William (Billy), owner of Burbank Sport Nets, along with Tommy, Johnny and a host of other employees also produce sport nets and are the leading producer for baseball backstop netting for over 75% of Major League baseball teams, major colleges and customers all over the world. 

Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch is located at the northern tip of Amelia Island.  One of the most complete brick forts in the country, the fort was originally built during the War of 1812 to prevent British invasions.  The old fort, held by American soldiers led by General Clinch, was eventually replaced with the current brick structure in 1861.  Today the fort is part of a 1086 acre park encompassing most of northern Amelia Island.  We rode our bicycles from the marina out to the fort, an 11 mile round trip bike ride.

Hey, and what about those bicycles???  The bicycles we have on the boat are folding bicycles, made by Dahon, $550.  They are special "marinized" bicycles that are rust resistant. Weighing only 24 pounds, the bicycle has 7 gears, folds in 15 seconds flat and has a convenient carrying case that is used to transport the bike from the boat to shore.  Best for biking on roadways, they have very limited use on dirt trails and sand.  But they are great get-around bikes in town.  When we are traveling in the ICW, we tie the bicycles down to the lifelines.  When we are in the ocean, the bikes are stored down below.  Cool, huh?


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