Sunday, December 19, 2010

Florida wetlands

The Nature Coast of Florida continues to surprise me with its diversity and beauty. Being from the West Coast I tend to associate natural beauty with mountains and forests. In Florida I have not seen anything that approaches a hill and the forests I have seen, seem to be planted.

This last week I met some locals and they took me for a ride on a pontoon boat out into the wetlands. Huge amount of birds and even though the temperature has been abnormally low I did sight a manatee and an alligator.

View across the water to the power plant where I am currently employed.
 View from my room to Kings Bay
 The Crystal River at the archeology site
 The midden, exposed after the midden was opened for fill.
 Viewing platform above the midden.
 Downriver view of Crystal River
 Out to the wetlands!
We also went to an archeological site of the local aboriginal inhabitants. The local population had disappeared long before the Spanish arrived in the New World. They left behind middens and burial mounds.Last time I even heard the word midden was when in Australia. The State of Florida was donated the site decades ago shortly after it was discovered the midden was being dug up and used for fill! The multi acre site is now preserved and gives insight to the trading and travels of the original inhabitants.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Looking for Manatee

Today is the start of my night shift life so had the morning and afternoon to myself. I decided to drive the 7 miles to Homosassas Springs and find a manatee. There is a state park at the springs so figured a good place to start. As the weather is getting cold and water temperature is falling the manatees have to find water at least 68 degrees fahrenheit to rest in or they die of exposure. Last year in Florida it was the coldest winter on record and 600 manatees died of the cold. The springs here are 72 degrees so the park opens its gates to the gulf and the manatees congregate around the springs then go back out into the gulf to feed.

Here is a manatee. The West Indian version does not have the split tail like its cousin the Dugong.
After you pay $10 dollars there is a 20 minute boat ride to the sanctuary.

Great Blue Herons were along the shores during the ride.
Bunch of manatees getting warm
Alligators enjoying the sun.
This young male was hit by a car and had wing damage so he walks rather than flies.

The park is dedicated to Florida wildlife and most of the animals and raptors have been involved in vehicle accidents and are rehabilitated here.Originally the park was a wild animal park but when the state took it over 20 years ago they removed the lions and tigers and bears. The only original inhabitant is a hippo named Lou. Plan was to get rid of Lou the the people in the area protested and eventually the governor of Florida declared Lou a Florida native and he was allowed to stay. Lou is 50 years old.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Change of Plans

I arrived back in St Thomas ans was settling in for a comfortable time until my next adventure when I received a call from a past employer. They made an offer I could not refuse........So I am in Crystal River, Florida. Working at CR3. A nuclear plant on the Nature Coast of West Florida.

 I am living in Crystal River and am quite pleased with the environment. Took a walk around the bay today and as I was taking a picture a manatee surfaced at my feet. Sorry, I was too slow to get its picture but will try my best on my day off. I will be working 13 hours/ day six days a week on the night shift.
 The bay from the motel dock
 Tree with the Spanish Moss in the front yard by the swimming pool that is filled by the tide
 Another view of the swimming pool

The streets near the motel. All the trees are covered with the moss

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St Thomas

Le Chat Beaute is on a mooring at Water Island. An island in the Harbor of Charlotte Amalie. I had heard from Team Sandpiper that when Earl came ashore a lot of boats on St John took the hit and broke free from moorings. I counted eight from my mooring on Water Island. That did not include the ones that sunk. Five boats actually sunk in about 50 ft of water.A couple more were in bays I could not see from the boat. Only two of the boats had people on them when they were washed ashore, the rest were left to fend for themselves.

 Catamaran on the rocks
 man exercising horse at Red Hook
 On the Beach
 South side St John
The standard strategy during tropical storms is to move the boats to the mangroves on Culebra or go on to Vieques near Puerto Rico. I talked with a cruiser who went to Vieques and he had 50+ winds but only six inch seas so the mangrove strategy paid off. Another cruiser in Culebra did not even remove their bimini.Culebra is 18 miles from Water Island.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sadie Sea

Met Tom and Amy of the ex Team Sandpiper fame for a couple of beverages and Tom mentioned he needed crew for the next days Reef Bay Hike with the National Park Service. The ranger does a hike from the highest point on the island down to Reef Bay on the southern side of the island.

A taxi to the top of the hill cost $6 then the group walks down the trail while the ranger points out plants, animals and discusses the old sugar plantation ruins.It is a great hike through the tropical forest.  It takes about 2.5-3 hours depending on age of the group. When the hikers get to the water the Sadie Sea is there to pick them up  and transport back to Cruz Bay. The trip back is $15. One heck of a good deal to have a guided hike with a boat ride around half the island for $21. Best deal in the islands other than a liter of rum for $7. My job was to handle lines and help people in the boat from the dinghy.

 The Sadie Sea
 Reef Bay before the hikers showed.
Capt Tom transporting the hikers to the Sadie. There were 27 hikers so it took a number of trips


Woke up the other and while I was having my morning latte waiting for the sun this Gunboat moored behind me. This is a 62 Gunboat. A South African composite speed machine. Would have one of these machines if I win the lottery!

St Thomas , Again

Dave left for the snowy parts two weeks ago. I went back to the States for a funeral and am now back on St Thomas. Beautiful sunset as I arrived and gave a nice feeling as the weather was horrible back in the NW. Picked up a few groceries then headed off to St John. The pace on St John is quite a bit slower than activity of St Thomas. I like to hang on one of the National Park moorings and take in the sites.

 Saw this beauty on the way to St. John. Actually saw it unloaded off a ship then they roared by on the way to the BVI.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fort Fredricksen, English Harbor

In the last post I mentioned English Harbor and its Dockyard as an English outpost in the Caribbean. Well, this outpost needed to be defended so a fort was built at the mouth of the harbor. There were also other forts on the hills above the harbor but they have been over grown by the vegetation and erosion has damaged the coral and sandstone blocks.

Fort Fredricksen has been maintained by the Antiguans and is a good example of fortifications from the period. Dave and I hiked to the fort then hiked the two miles over the headlands to the beach on Falmouth Harbor.

Nice view of fort from the trail

 Powder magazine
 Notice how erosion of wind and sea has affected the foundation
 32 pounder on its mobile carriage. If surprised they would use as is. If given advance notice the barrel would be moved to wooden carriage as the wooden carriage handles the stress of the action better.
 The Guardhouse
 The gun embrasures
 On the trail across the island sailors have been replaced by goats as the lookouts.

A view of Le Chat Beaute and the fort at the entrance of the Harbor

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The sail from Dominica was a fast and very comfortable sail. Flat waters and 15-20 knots. Average for the trip was 8.2 knots. YES! As we approached English Harbor we made the decision to anchor there as it  was a great hurricane hole for the English Navy during Nelson's time.With Tomas coming we expected 25-30 knots in the area. As a matter of fact the landing is called Nelson's Dockyard in his honor. It is the most complete and restored naval fortification in the Caribbean.

 Nice view of English Harbor from Shirley Heights. Falmouth Harbor is in the background.
 Officers quarters that are restored. As it is the off season most buildings in the area are shuttered.
 Le Chat Beaute is in the foreground.
 The gunnery quarters.
 The Dockyard
 Fort Fredrickson which guards the entrance to the harbor.
 A nice old boat
 Administrative dockyard offices that have been turned into a restaurant.