Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Great Manatee Hunt

I will have to add pictures later, as my net connection is slow this morning, I am kind of getting used to this now, even though it is an absolute pain in the posterior.

Alright, we weren't really hunting manatees, but on Sunday morning after a late breakfast with Sven and family, we all (including Spook) piled into both dinghies and went off in search of manatees. My dinghy was basicly a barge - I had the kids, Julia and Carlos, aboard my dinghy, along with Spook, and of course myself - and Sven towed us behind his dinghy, which had himself, Gabi and his dad Claus aboard. We went up the main channel in search of manatees, and about a half mile from the boat yard, we found them. They were swimming up stream, and we started to follow the swirls in the water that their tails make as they swim along. It is hard to get a picture of a manatee from above, the water is tea colored from the swamps upsteam, and the manatees always seem to be just out of camera range, down a few feet and hard to distinguish. It is too bad the camera can't see what the human eye can, because it was amazing to watch them swim along, big groups of them together, all mozying along just below the surface.

After a few miles of cruising and being tourists we turned around and came back, and then we stopped as Gabi saw a plane sky writing. We never did see what it wrote - the letters were blurring and the words were moving away from us in the high winds aloft, but it was cool to see that, not something you see everyday.

We passed lots and lots of very high dollar yachts, one of them was tied up in a yard with the red, white and blue government no trespassing signs on it, seems it was in the custody of the US Marshall Service, probably a drug bust thing or something of the sort. As we got back to where Arden was anchored we finally saw a manatee out of the water, it was grazing on algae on the pilings and the containment booms in the area I had anchored in. Very neat to watch, they have a face alot like a hound, and very short front legs that it was using to hold the boom still while it ate.

The rest of the day was spent on land, I walked up to a boat supply place, the sail maker's, the grocery - you name it I walked there, Sven was amazed at just how far I had walked in the 2 hours I was gone. When I returned we sat out in Sven's cockpit and had pina coladas made from the rum I had stashed on Arden, and coconut juice from coconuts the kids had pulled from the canal. Elias from the mega yacht sail boat next door was there and we talked for hours and hours. Sometime around 8 or 9 I rowed back to Arden, no sense waking up the neighbors with my loud little outboard.

Monday was a maintenance day on Arden - I changed the engine oil and filters, the fuel filters, and cleaned out the engine sump and the bilge. I was in the middle of all this, the engine was draining, when I took Spook out for her walk. After she had run around a bit in the drizzle a cop in a pickup truck pulled up across from where we were. He signaled me over, and told me that I couldn't anchor where I was, the water rights to the basin I was in belonged to the property that was for sale, and that thanks to a barge company that used the basin for a few years illegally, they have to be pretty strict on people mooring there. It you Google Earth the last set of sunrise sunset pictures, you can see a set of barges in the basin where I am now. Needless to say, I had to find a new place to anchor, but before I left the area I really need to get diesel.

I went ashore to find Sven and catch a ride to get fuel, but he was off running errands himself, so I ended up watching the work crew on Elias' boat mount the huge awning for the cockpit, and then ended up helping them get it aligned and set into place. It was a bit warped for some reason, and we spent a good hour or so measuring and pulling angles on it trying to determine what exactly had tweaked the structure and how to fix it. Elias had to go and arrange to have the boat towed to another yard to have the mast stepped (it has to be towed because the boat is 105 feet long, and the engine installation is not complete) the mast, at the other yard, is 145 feet tall, and once it is on, the boat can't use the ICW, or really go anywhere other than marinas that have direct open water access. Really limits where you can cruise. I can't comprehend how high up that must be, and how massive it must look from the deck.

While Elias was getting the tow arranged for Tuesday, Sven grabbed me up and we went to a German restaurant down the road, he wanted to show me what real German food was like, and my God that food is rich. I had Jaeger Schnitzel, I think a fried pork loin smothered in a brown gravy with mushrooms and served with a type of noodle and red cabbage. The pork and noodles were good, I was not a fan of how the cabbage was prepared. We did a few things for his boat while we were out, and when we got back, Claus told us the police had been by to make sure I was going to leave today.

Sven and I dinghied over to Arden to make sure the boat was ok, and then we were off in search of a berth somewhere close in one of the canals. Needless to say I was bit stressed, I had to find a place closeby, as the bridges have times in the evenings that they don't open, so there was no way for me to get back to the ICW by nightfall. We saw a few empty berths up the canal behind where I was moored, but we discovered from talking to a guy on his dock that there is a new city ordinance that says that property owners can't lease out dock space anymore, the only boats that are allowed to tie up are ones that are owned by the homeowner or tenant, and their guests. We were about to leave, somewhat defeated, when a guy waved us over, and suggested that I tie up at a house next to his that was in foreclosure. He called all the neighbors to make sure no one would complain, and Sven and I went back to get Arden. I hauled up the anchors and motored over, and tied up to my new berth. All the neighbors came out, asked if I need help docking, needed power or water, and they all commented on what a nice looking boat Arden is. It was really nice having such a great reception, and I was quite relieved to have a safe place to go, and not have to worry about making the trip down the river in the dark.

After I was tied up and secured I headed back over to the boat yard, Elias wanted to take us all out for Thai food in thanks for helping him out with his cockpit awning, and so we all piled into his car and drove over to the restaurant. I am sure my stomach will be in revolt, German and Thai food all in the same day, not sure what the response will be to that. After dinner we went over to a dive shop for Sven, this place was open to 10pm, and then we went over to Bass Pro Shop, where Sven and Claus were just amazed at all the sporting goods and hunting and fishing stuff they have there. I suppose we take that kind of thing for granted here in the states, and there are not really places like that anywhere overseas.

To wrap up the night I had to row back, once again not wanting to disturb the neighborhood with my loud little outboard, and when I finally got to Arden I was about beat.

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