Monday, June 8, 2009

Back in the Ditch

We spent our last afternoon in Fort Pierce watching the "weighing in" process of the local fishing tournament - now for those of you that know me, this may seem unbelievable. In fact before we started fishing over in the Bahamas, just the thought of this would have been akin to watching glue dry for me - but I've got to tell you, we had a blast!!
Stephanie, Bob and Doug at the fish tournament
Each of the entered boats comes in to the dock and brings in their biggest fish which is hoisted up by the tail and weighed in front of a crowd of cheering spectators (most with adult beverages in hand - what do you think I would do this completely sober??) The tournament got off to a slow start as the first boat in had a mahi weighing only 3.8 pounds - I think they took his diaper off right before the weighing in ceremony (seriously though it was caught by a junior angler who was very excited about his catch so we clapped appropriately to encourage the young tyke)! Things started to heat up as the afternoon went on and more and more boats were pulling in - all boats had to be in the harbor before 4:30 to count for the tournament. One boat pulled in and had a 20 something pound mahi which was the biggest at the time - but we all knew we were in for a treat when the angler told us that was just the baby!!! Sure enough out of a fishing cooler bag the same boat hauled a 46.6 pound bull dolphin that was the largest fish I've seen outside of an aquarium (well maybe not, but he sure was huge!!!) The crowd went wild - us included - that mahi could have filled our freezer!!
46.6 pound bull mahi

The tournament was for mahi, kingfish and grouper - most of the fish were mahi but there were a few kingfish and grouper among the early contestants. Then one of the boats came in with a big kingfish (actually king mackeral) - talk about another big fish! But one of the highlights of the afternoon was when a lady angler came in with another huge kingfish - she could barely hold it up - it won second place in the kingfish category but first in the lady anglers category by a ton - you go girl!!!
You go girl!!

Of course just as the last flurry of boats was coming in, Mother Nature had to play the party pooper as the skies just opened up. Nothing much to do except hit the tiki bars (there are two at Fort Pierce - did I say I love this marina and little town??) We hit the first one but so did most everyone else since it was closer - yeah like we might have gotten a beer in about 1/2 hour if we were lucky given the poor bartender's deer in the headlights look. So we made a dash for it and made it to the midway tent where we tried to hunker down for another break in the rain - just picture 60 people huddled under one little tent trying to stay dry (wasn't working!) and then a large, obnoxious guy joins the crowd puffing away on a fat, smelly stogey. Yup - we left shortly thereafter - I think it was just after someone had nicely asked him to put his cigar out and he responded with "Make my day...." - welcome back to the States!!

So despite the rain, we made a dive for the other tiki bar where we happily sat in our wet clothes ( I had been standing on the side of the tent where the rain was coming from so I truly looked like the saggy diaper that leaked baby or that I needed to invest in depends - can you say soaked!) drinking cold adult beverages and eating wonderful appetizers!!! Sometimes you really just have to take what life hands you and make the most of it! We munched on conch fritters, calamari and coconut shrimp - what a great dinner!!! We opted for an early night (and hot showers to get rid of the chill) since we planned on getting an early start the next morning! But not before Bob had to show us what a conch really looked like (he and Stephanie are making a horn and had bought a big live conch in Nassau which you have to freeze and then pull the conch out) - that is one ugly looking crustacean - glad I'm not back in the Bahamas (not really!!!) or I'd have to seriously think about eating all that conch!!!
Bob considers eating the conch...

Yesterday morning the weather was looking "iffy" - they were calling for lots of thunderstorms in the afternoon so we opted to ride on the inside making a quick anchorage a viable option. Yes - we are back in the Ditch (also called the ICW or the Intracoastal Waterway) - home of the always brown ugly water! God I miss the Bahamas - last night I even had to go back and look at a bunch of our pictures - oh to be back in that crystal clear turquoise water!!! The south/central Florida ICW on a Sunday is also home to every yahoo who owns a boat or waverunner - can honestly say I didn't miss that either!! For once the weathermen got the forecast right - around 2:00 the clouds and the rain started rolling in along with the thunder and lightning. First we tried to outrun it by heading north (yeah right - as if we could outrun a bug let alone a 12 mile wide storm...)
Running into the storm
So then when that wasn't looking too good, and we actually found ourselves in the very center of a particularly loud and bright thunderstorm (think lightning crashing on all sides of the boat), we turned tail and headed south to try and get out of the worst of it!! Thunderstorms are just no fun when you're on the water....the boat kitties were OK until a double thunder boomer nearly broke their eardrums (OK maybe it wasn't quite that bad!) but they definitely needed some love from mom before they would go back to sleep. We finally dropped anchor in the lee of one of the bridges to pick up some protection and there rode out the rest of the storm - by about 8:00 pm it was completely calm and still - I guess you could call it the calm "after" the storm - we'll take it!!!

Not only are we back in the land of brown water but we are also back in the land of bugs - we didn't see many at all (and none until the last couple days we were over hiking in the Berry Islands) in the Bahamas which was great. The other day as we were sitting topsides in Fort Pierce we were descended on by these little black and red bugs that all seemed to be attached butt to butt with another bug - OK kinky! I told Doug I felt like we were in a pay by the hour bug motel - turns out they are love bugs (no you just can't make this up!!) and are everywhere down here - even out on the water. So our flybridge now resembles the love bug cemetery - but at least over here water is free so we'll be able to clean off the boat!!! Gotta look on the bright side of things! And on the bright side, the ICW is also where lots of dolphin will come and play right along side your boat - we had a bunch of them welcoming us back to the States as they jumped, and dove and rolled onto their backs in our wake!!!

Today we got an early start and are cruising up the ICW again - more thunderstorms predicted for this afternoon although they aren't supposed to be as bad as yesterday. We are currently passing Cape Canaveral and are trying to get as far north as we can - there's just not that much we want to stop and see on the east coast of FL until we get up to St. Augustine which we are hoping to make by tomorrow afternoon. There we will stay a couple days and enjoy a wonderful little town that we didn't have nearly enough time to explore on the way down!! Part of the fun of this trip back up to the Chesapeake is that we know there are places we want to go back to and spend more time and we are still traveling with September Song who has spent more time along the ICW than us so we can compare favorites spots!!! They have a home in Georgia (although they live on the boat) so we are looking forward to seeing Georgia (which we spent almost no time in on the way down) through their eyes!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our Eau Gallie Bridge location

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