Tag Archives: ICW

Florida Winter Welcome 2013


As we head back north into the strong current

Our return to Florida was punctuated by a train horn that Janet heard, and I mistook for the whine of truck tires on the hi-rise bridge we were approaching. Then as we were five boat lengths from the Kingsley Creek swing bridge (which means we were in plain sight) it began to close in front of us. No whistle, no lights, no nothing — been that way for years. This is an “always open” bridge — unless a train is approaching, something that has never happened to us here even counting 1980!

Really ClosedWe whipped into a tight turn in the narrow water way and waited for the train to cross. It was short. Maybe a dozen graffiti-garnished cars. After it had passed, we heard what sounded like a duck kazoo brazzing from the direction of the bridge house, and the bridge began to open. We waved to the bridge attendant (who had driven out in a pickup to operate the bridge). He looked like he was anticipating a different kind of wave.

The run down to the St. John’s was uneventful and impassible in a couple of spots had we not had high tide. Just before we entered Nassau Sound, the wind was gusting 30 kts, then it dropped suddenly, and we saw little more the 15 for the rest of the day. Of course the Sister’s Creek Bridge Tender continues to be one of the three nicest one’s we’ve encountered on the ICW, and his timing is impeccable! The St. John’s was as near slack water as we’ve ever seen it, but it was still an ebb that pushed one toward the rock jetties on the south side.

FloridaWelcome1Then we got our real Florida Welcome shortly before arriving at Jacksonville Beach. A right jolly old elf was he — even if he was full of air..

Tight Fit

Tight Fit

Section of a drydock crabbing 30 degrees (to pic right) to line up. Bumping throttles and rudders he wiggled through without touching. We could have gone through ahead of him but thought he was moving faster than he was. Worth the delay for the demonstration of skill.


A Theory of Relativity

Yesterday, we encountered three opening bridges between 0800 and 1300 on a summer Saturday morning in vacation at the beach territory. All three opened like sesame. There was no waiting, no circling, no wondering when the gates would go down. Only once did another boat complicate matters* with erratic behavior ahead of us (the operator never looked behind him…for him we didn’t exist).

After the nearly 30 bridges we encountered in two days between Fort Pierce and Fort Lauderdale, with refusals to answer, strong currents (often pushing us toward the bridge), half hour circling sessions, erratic and chemically impaired (?) boaters, and entirely shore focused opening rules, we understand a new aspect of the theory of relativity. [And we also plan to head for the Abacos from Lake Worth next time.]

Funny we used to complain about these three bridges.

*This doesn’t count the speed boat that passed us between the bulkheads (horizontal clearance 110 feet) of a high rise bridge at 30 miles an hour while the operator was on his cell phone. This was the same area where a Cigarette passed us (in 2009) at 55 mph, so closely as to splash our hull with water  by cutting sharply in front of us.

Wet Coyote

The Lower Waccamaw River is a long green gallery fronting black water in the springtime. It’s full of life. No lions or tigers, but there are bears. A deep-voiced bull frog said goodbye to us this morning from our Bull Creek anchorage as sun ripples marched across the wall of spring green to our southwest. Dragonflies arrived to feast on lingering insects attracted by our lower anchor light.

Turtles (Yellow Belly Sliders and Softshells) sunned themselves everywhere they could find a platform. Eagles preened and fished and preened and fished. They are no longer a rare sight, but they still elicit a “wow.” Osprey chicks waited for breakfast (well away from the eagles). Herons and egrets also kept their distance as they glided through early shadows. Cardinals swooped from one wall of green to another just missing splash landings at the bottom of each swoop. Wood peckers pecked wood.

And today, a coyote swam across ahead of us and made his way into the suburbs just beyond the river’s departure from the ICW.  What we saw was an infinitesimal part of what was going on around us.

The faster boats missed it all.

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Indigo Coastal Shanty

It’s been a while since we have eaten somewhere worthy of a review.* But then we got to Brunswick…

Indigo Coastal Shanty looks the part (except it isn’t indigo**).  It’s not necessarily a place one would go without a recommendation (as we had). But then again there’s some detailing to the external decor, and a full parking lot in a part of town where the economy has the sidewalks rolled up most of the time… The paint job and the parking lot say peek inside at least.

Bam! You peek inside and five things hit you. Clean, Bright, Energetic, Aromatic, and Welcoming. Our reservation message had gotten garbled. No problem. We were instantly offered large glasses of cold water and they hustled to find us a place.

Indoor seating is around 32-36 —  school chairs and Formica tables. A tile floor and construction block walls reverberate everything. If noise is a problem for you, bring ear plugs, you won’t want to miss the food. Outdoors is undoubtedly quieter, but it was too warm for that yesterday.

The wait staff  was friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. The wine list was short and our selection excellent. It was a Canyon Oaks Chard served at the right temperature and generously poured. This is a basic table wine. It’s variable from year to year, and this vintage was good. The bouquet is fragrant and delicate — notes of pear and lemon complemented by citrus and a touch of nuttiness on the palate. It had a creamy texture amplified by being at the right temperature. It was a perfect accompaniment for our meal.

The appetizers looked appetizing, but when we saw “sides” included fried okra, we decided to split an order for our starter.  What a start. Obviously cut and breaded on site, it was hot (and served in a heat retaining soup cup), devoid of lingering cooking fat, savory and garnished with parsley. Frankly one could easily make a meal of side dishes here and be happy. This was A+ okra.

We’d eaten lightly since breakfast, and we’d walked from the boat (15 minutes in 90° heat). We were hungry.

Janet chose the “special” Pork Chop with Picadillo, Slaw, and Black Beans and Brown Rice. I chose the Fisherman’s Bowl — upgrading it from tilapia to atlantic salmon.

The Pork chops had been dry rubbed with a Cuban melange of spices (referred to as “Latin” on the menu board) not including vinegar. They were tender, properly done, and generously portioned. They were also buried under an attractive pile of Picadillo ingredients, though not a sauce per se. This meant each bite was a differing riff on picadillo component flavors, rather than a repetitive sampling of sauce. Bueno! The “Slaw” was was also an attractive pile of several types of cabbage shredded coarsely and graced with enough dressing to be taste-filled but not sloppy. The black beans and brown rice also were well flavored with a distinctively Cuban blend. For my eye I would have preferred yellow rice. The flavor wouldn’t have been much different, and it would have brightened the plate and signaled Caribbean. A+

My Fisherman’s Bowl was a wine saute of salmon and locally harvested shrimp with a tomato and fennel broth that had been slightly thickened with couscous and garnished with feta. How was the broth? I asked for an additional piece of Ciabatta to wipe the large serving bowl clean. This was perhaps the best seafood stew I have had. The salmon was cooked medium. The shrimp were sweet and cooked to perfection. The tomatoes didn’t overwhelm. There were enough for color and flavor and enough was enough. The fennel was sitting right on that peak between over and under-cooked. If I had prepared this (and I will give it a shot), I would have used Israeli couscous for the larger pearls and a more authoritarian feta — but then I like feta more than most people. This was one of those dishes it was just enjoyable to sit there and savor the aroma for a while. Another A+

We finished off with Mango Sorbet graced with candied pineapple (and just a grace, thank you). Like the wine, it was perfect with our entree choices, and we still had to walk back to the boat.

Indigo Coastal Shanty is a place to alter travel plans for — The people, the food, the ambiance embrace you and make you feel welcome.

*We did eat at Cafe Margaux in Cocoa again, but the review would have been a recap, the outstanding quality of the experience is unchanged.

Photograph by James Bitler

**Although the Asian variety was considered by some to be finer, planters in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida cultivated the New World variety extensively, perhaps due to similar climate. I. suffruticosa still grows wild on the north end of Georgia’s Ossabaw Island at North End Plantation, the site of a colonial-era indigo plantation.

By 1755 the Carolina colony alone was exporting around 200,000 pounds of indigo annually; Georgia was just beginning to export indigo, with 4,500 pounds exported that year. Georgia’s indigo exportation reached its peak in 1770, with more than 22,000 pounds.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, however, England withdrew the bounty on indigo. This, combined with competition from indigo plantations in Central America and Spanish Florida that could harvest five to six crops a year, compared with Georgia and Carolina’s two or three crops annually, caused colonial American indigo production to collapse.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia

Blog Fog

Until WordPress sorts out why the editor simply stopped working, we are limited to smartphone posts.

We are headed for Lake Boca Raton (rat’s mouth). 20 opening bridges, 17 of which are time restricted, sit between us and Fort Lauderdale–too many at our speed and with current against us.

We may wait out a front’s passage at LBR. Once in we get to Ft “L,” it looks like Wednesday may be a good day to head for West End.