Monday, August 30, 2010

Cocoa Beach - Land of Surf and Beach Bars

Well we are back to living for weekends like most people I guess - we work during the week (Doug in his office and me at the gym and on the boat - I actually had a two day legal project this past week for a former client and it was a total blast. Guess I forgot how much fun legal stuff can be - did I just say that??? who am I???) We enjoy our cocktail hour and some pretty amazing sunsets each night but let's be real - we love our weekends!! and we are sure making the most of them!!!
A Beautiful Sunset Over Harbortown Marina
We hit the Thunder on the Water Power Boat races at Cocoa Beach the other weekend - man what a blast. Of course we had to search for the perfect venue at which to watch the races - thinking (correctly as it turned out) that the Cocoa Beach Pier would be jamming and not in a good way, we drove further down the beach in search of more local color and great beach bars. Never fear - we sniffed out a couple awesome joints (yes Stephanie - these are real joints!!) The first and probably our favorite is the Sandbar Grill - I can see many, many, many afternoons spent here!!! How can a place be bad when it's slogan is "we don't run from hurricanes, we drink 'um!!!
We Haven't Tried to Weather the Category 5 Hurricane Yet
They serve category 1 through 5 hurricanes - the cat 5 is unbelievable!!!! We're talking white rum, spiced rum, coconut rum, triple sec, a dark rum floater and a shot of 151 down the straw for good measure (oh yeah - forgot to throw in a little fruit juice) - and no I have not had one yet, but can only imagine what one of those puppies would do to you. Actually we saw a couple "lovely ladies" who had had more than one from the looks of them - yikes - hurricanes are destructive!! Maybe we'll try and make them in the safety of our own boat - we do have all the fixings!!
The Back Patio at the Sandbar
The Front Door at the Sandbar

The Sandbar has a pool table with an old sofa in the front - reminiscent a little of a well used frat basement (boy do I miss my Dartmouth days sometimes) - with it's own bar. As you follow through there are lots of TVs for us sports hounds and then a bar and open patio out back leading to the ..... parking lot (which is right in front of the beach - so it's real close to being a beach bar!!) Doesn't seem to matter as this is clearly a locals joint and the place everyone comes for lunch and after a long hot day at the beach. It is filled with all those wonderful things that make a bar so kewl - very cold beer, sports on tvs, tan, ripped surfer dudes many sporting no shorts (sorry typo or freudian slip - I meant shirts), great fish tacos, cat 1-5 hurricanes, sand on the floor, live music and did I mention very cold beer?

For the boat races we wanted a little more elevation though so chose to head to the roof deck next door at Capt J's where we had a great vantage point to see all the kewl speed boats racing up and down the beach
Doug at Captain J's
- they all have such awesome, testosterone driven names!!! It looked like a parade route out there on the water with the thousands of anchored boats forming the sidelines of the race track - ya think there was some fun happening out there??

The beach was packed with people watching from the sand and the water - I don't know but from our vantage point it looked like the boats were coming awfully close to those idiots actually swimming in the water!!!

While the beach was jammin' there sure was some fun happening up on the deck where we were - it was packed with people who had seemingly been there quite some time (a couple "gentlemen" and I use that term loosely appeared to have been there since the day before!!!) We were all betting on how soon it would be before one of them fell over the railing....does that make us bad people? What a great day - lots of sun, fun company, great food, boating entertainment and did I mention cold beer?

This past weekend we spent Saturday hanging out and boogie boarding on Cocoa Beach (with of course some refreshments at the Sandbar in the late afternoon). Is there any better feeling than that sun kissed, salty, sandy I've been at the beach all day and am now drinking a cold beer listening to live music feeling??? Cocoa Beach is known as the surfing capital of FL (who makes this up?) and with Hurricane Danielle off the coast, the waves were immense!!! Unfortunately we were having so much fun that we failed to take pictures - our bad. Sounds like we will have a few more opportunities with Earl and Fiona coming along on Danielle's heels - what's the best kind of hurricane (besides the ones at the Sandbar?) - ones that don't hit you or do any damage but kick up the waves so the boogie boarding is huge!!! We missed you and your slick lizard 41 Bob - when you come down in the Fall we'll get out there since the waves are supposed to be great year-round down here - yippeee!!

Yesterday we spent exploring the town of Cocoa which is off the ICW - very cute little town with lots of shops including Whatnots General Store,
Whatnots General Store
a beautiful playhouse,
The Village Playhouse in Cocoa
and a great waterfront park with an amphitheater, wading pool and everything.
The Amphitheater
In fact the first weekend in October is TropStock in the Village - a whole weekend of TropRock musicians including our own friends from Key West, Scott Kirby and Dave Edmisten - also playing are Peter and Jim Mayer and Nadira Shakoor from Buffetts Coral Reefer Band and a whole bunch of other cool folks. We already have our three day pass, have scoped out the venue which is awesome and have been told by Dave that we will have a blast - are you kidding me, of course we all will!!! So if anyone loves good music, that would be a great weekend to visit!!!

As cute as Cocoa is, it lacks one of the things that we consider essential to a great town - cool bars. There was The Dog and Bone British Pub (do you think the door was a dead giveaway? it looks like Austin Powers' car for pete's sake) which we made a beeline for and attempted to go in for a warm pint of British beer but we only made it about 3 feet inside the door before the accumulated smoke from the 3 people at the bar (at least we think there were only 3 although it was hard to see through the purple haze) drove us out in in search of oxygen. Now as most of you who know me can attest to, there's rarely a bar I can't be comfortable in no matter how much a dive - but I gotta tell you this was so bad my eyes were watering and my throat closed up within seconds of walking in the door. No beer (and I don't say this lightly) is worth that!!!
The Dog and Bone
Being the only real bar we found in town, it was time for us to move on - so of course we headed back over to Cocoa Beach and our favorite dives!!!

Before hitting our local favorite watering holes though we just had to walk through Ron Jon Surf Shop which is by far the largest and kewlest surf store I have ever been in - it's open 24 hours a la LL Bean and is just knarly dude! It's brightly colored (some might call it gaudy)
The Entrance to Ron Jon
with huge surfer sculptures and an old woody (get your mind out of the gutter and think surfing) outside
The Woody
- on the inside it is a veritable fun house of surf gear, clothes and more flip flops than I've ever seen in one place!!! Despite the fact I could have done some serious damage there, we walked out with only a surfboard shaped rug for our galley - we'll be back. I'm also thinking seriously of taking some surfing lessons - might as well take advantage of our location here and learn something new and kewl!!!

Next week we'll have lots to talk about and lots of pictures (some of which I may not be able to post I'm sure - hopefully!!) since we are heading up to St Augustine by land yacht to meet up with Stephanie and Bob from September Song. Yup - the four of us together again with nothing but decadence on our minds - we'll let you know if the city is still standing when we leave!!! Word to the wise - next weekend would not be a good weekend to visit St A's, there may be a run on beer and Captain Morgan!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our New Home - Merritt Island!

With the passing of our 24 year old boat kitty and best friend, Boots, I haven't really been in the sarcastic, funny mood I am usually in when writing a blog but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy or that we didn't love the three days of cruising to get from Aventura to Merrittt Island or that our "new life and new hood" aren't great!! They are - I just haven't been in the mood - it's been a really tough time for us and the boat has been a pretty sad place of late. But at Doug's urging and after a really fun weekend of hanging at the Cocoa Pier and over at Universal Studios and Island of Adventure acting like little kids, I finally have some of that fun spirit back (although I know we will miss Bootsie more than we can ever say for a very long time!) and am going to give the blog a shot. Bear with me and I'll get back to my old self with time....

It felt unbelievably great to throw off the dock lines in Aventura - not that we hadn't liked the marina, but Gypsies and its crew were going cruising again after a long time as dock bitches!!! and we were headed to someplace we believe to be really fun!!! We left the marina and headed up the ICW through a couple bridges (oh yeah - forgot that part of the ICW!!) to the Port Everglades inlet which on a Saturday was rockin'!- we wanted to head offshore to make some serious miles.
We had been fantasizing about catching mahi on the run north but that dream bubble was burst for Doug and I at the same time as we went to load our scooters on the transom - oops no room to fish and even if we could finagle it, we didn't want blood and guts on the bikes (because after all - of course we'd catch lots of fish!!) Oh well - it turned out rougher than had been forecast so to make the Bootser more comfortable, we decided to head back in at Lake Worth even though we were flying at 11-12 knots (I love the Gulf Stream). Bootser was such a trooper and dealt with the seas once she got her sea legs - aided by lots of love and treats!!
Boots Relaxes During Gypsies' Cruise
Fort Lauderdale from Offshore
Coming in through the Lake Worth inlet and passing around Peanut Island we saw part of what we love about FL - boaters hanging out on little sand bars having fun and partying!! (there aren't many sandbars in Maine where you can hang out in the water without freezing your whatevers off!)
After a great dinner at Carmines at Soverel Marina in Palm Beach Gardens we had an early night since we wanted to be on the water bright and early. I've really missed being up and on the water for sunrise - there is something so peaceful and beautiful about that time of day but somehow we never quite got to see sunrise when we were in KW - wonder why?
Sunrise Over the ICW
Saturdays on the ICW are always interesting - lots of boaters fishing and playing, PWCs flying all over the place, kayakers and divers (believe it or not!)
Kayakers That Went Diving
and the fairly new phenomenon of paddleboarding (my favorite was the guy with the huge cooler on the front of his board!! and at least it wasn't topless pbding as in Key West - I kid you not! ouch...)
As always the wildlife was awesome especially once we got north of Palm Beach,
the houses were spectacular (altho some of them simply make you cringe - proof enough that money doesn't guarantee taste)
and boats lined the waterway (very few of which aren't compensating phallic symbols!)
One of the Non-phallic Boats
We wound up at the municipal marina in Vero Beach and chose a quiet night on the boat to avoid getting caught in the huge thunderstorms!

The next morning was so gorgeous it's tough to even describe - up before dawn and pulling away from the dock as the sun tried to peak out between the clouds, we caught our breath at the beauty and serenity of floating along the calm waters with the dolphins all that broke into our peaceful little world.
Sunrise Outside of Vero Beach
How we've missed cruising and our dolphin friends!!! It's mornings like this that make us realize how lucky and privileged we have been to be able to live this cruising life we love so much. When at dock sometimes it's easy to forget how wonderful a life it is - we won't forget again and won't let so much time go by between cruises!!! Passing Johns and Barker Islands we saw the most amazing homes and unlike those in Palm Beach, these had acres and acres of land and waterfront rather than being so close you could reach out your bathroom window to your neighbors for some grey poupon!! Much more to our taste - the houses not the mustard!!
Home on Johns Island
Home on Johns Island

But just when we were reveling in the cruising life, the clouds started to roll in along with a very noticeable shift in the wind - ruh, roh....... You guessed it, just as I was approaching one of the bridges spanning the Indian River the skies opened up, the wind kicked up to over 40 knots, the waves kicked up to shoot water sailing over our bow and the visibility dropped to zero - I couldn't even see the fenders on the bridge - UGH!!! Why am I always driving when the weather gods decide to screw with us?? Doug of course took over just in time for the winds to drop, the rains to stop and the sun to shine - luckily just as we were heading into the Canaveral Barge Canal on approach to our new marina (ok he got a little rain but nothing like that amazing 20 min span I had!) The wildlife along the canal is spectacular - can't wait to drop the dink and go for a photo shoot!!
Heron in the Canaveral Barge Canal

So Gypsies is safely and securely tied up at her new docks which aren't the gorgeous new concrete docks of Aventura, but we're pretty comfortable with the trade-offs. We have a protected spot with older wooden docks and a much smaller and older pool, in return for a great restaurant/bar on premises with happy hour everyday and all day on Sunday (and a bartender who tries out new shots on us when we went in for dinner Sunday evening), wicked friendly people and a location surrounded by cool stuff to do and see!!! Compared to our sterile (but protected) spot in Aventura, I'd say we're pretty psyched!!

While we spent our first week here in Merritt Island largely tied to the boat to share Bootser's last days, we finally went out to play this past weekend. We have joined an amazing health club (which I know doesn't sound like much fun, but believe me it is - great lap pool, lots of machines and free weights, walking track, racquetball courts and lots of classes - it's very cool!!) Finally time to get back into shape after 5 mos in Key Weird!! And of course all work and no play is no fun, so Saturday we spent the afternoon over on the beach at the Cocoa Beach Pier!!
Yippee - we finally found some great joints!!! Oh Shucks
Beers at Oh Shucks
and the Boardwalk Cafe both drew us in with their cheap beer, live music, views of the beach and cool pub food!!
The View of the Beach from Oh Shucks
We searched in vain all over Aventura for this type of place - the cost of a beer in Aventura at one of the stuffy mall restaurants bought us a whole pitcher in CB!!! Very Kewl!!! We even sat by some die hard Patriots fans there on a cruise - a friendly argument arose with some Dolphin fans but as another couple ambled by and became part of the convo (they were from south of Boston) the good guys won the day!! I love this kind of friendly banter over cool beers!!
Our Pats Fans are to Doug's Left
This weekend are the offshore speed boat races with live bands - sounds like fun!!

Sunday we spent over at Universal Studios and Island of Adventure theme parks - we're only about 50 minutes away!!
What a fun day - of course we had to revisit the Harry Potter exhibit
Horwarts Castle
but then we spent time at Universal on the Jaws ride which sports a Maine Lobster Co-op
The Maine Co-op
and Norm's boat repair (Norm!!!),
Norm's Boat Repair
the 4-D Shrek movie, the Krustyland Simpsons virtual roller coaster
and Doug's favorite (of course after Harry), the Men In Black Alien Attack!
The Control Room at the Men in Black Ride
Lunch and some frosty beverages at the Margaritaville Cafe
The Margaritaville Cafe and the Hemishere Dancer
and an afternoon walking through the lost continent
The Lost Continent
and on the water rides at Islands of Adventure (and a second ride on the Forbidden Journey) was just what the doctor ordered!! Finally a late afternoon Landshark at the Lone Palm Airport where our clothes had a chance to dry out after the Popeye and Bluto Bilge Rat ride (at least a little!) sent us on our way happy but exhausted!!

We were a little bummed we couldn't be up in Solomon Island with our Chesapeake friends for the Scott Kirby concert which we have been at the past couple years (hope you guys had a ball Kathy, Tim and Lisa, JR, Rick, and Dave, Diane and Tom!) but hopefully we will see you guys soon - maybe in KW for MOTM in Nov!! Another option is TropStock in the Village on October 1-3 which is right in Cocoa, FL all of 2 minutes from us - God is good!! Not only is Scott playing but Peter and Jim Mayer, Nadira, and lots of other troprock musicians!! How kewl is that - in our own backyard!!! I think we've finally found our "place" in FL - come visit us and we'll share our southern paradise!

We miss you Bootsie - Gypsies is not the same without you!!! RIP and hope you're having fun with Puss and Momma!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Farewell Boots

The past couple weeks have been pretty tough ones on Gypsies as we watched our 23 year old best friend and the best cruising boat kitty ever, Boots (aka Bootsie, the Bootser, muffin doodlebug, etc - we told her that all her silly nicknames meant we loved her so very much!) go downhill. Knowing that the end was near didn't make last night any easier for us, though, as we finally lost our furry little friend and the lord and master of the boat (anyone who has ever lived with a cat, and notice I didn't say owned because you don't own a cat - they own you, knows that cats are the master of the house and you are there to do their bidding - as it should be!) after almost 24 amazing years of love, friendship, laughs and lots of treats and kisses (going both ways). Today is a very sad and quiet day on Gypsies as we try through our tears to remember all the great memories we have of not only Boots, but her sister Puss who we lost right after Christmas this past year, and their Momma, who we lost several years ago.

I remember like it was yesterday when I first saw Boots and Puss after they were born - and Bootsie, not even able to stand yet, leaned over and kissed my nose with her scratchy little tongue. It was love at first sight - she had me from hello! Believe it or not, that was shortly after I had graduated from college (yes I know I'm dating myself - could it really have been so long ago?) - Boots has been a huge part of my life for more than half my life and virtually all my adult (and I use that word loosely) life!!! She has made us laugh so often with her antics and has given us so much unconditional love that we feel a gaping hole in our hearts as we think of life without her. Despite the fact she made me sneeze as she slept on my head each night (yes I was allergic), we wouldn't have traded an instant of our time with such a special animal. I have never seen anyone or anything more empathetic - if you were down or sick, Boots always sensed it and would sit with you giving kisses and love until you felt better. All she asked in return was a few shrimp, some tuna, a little fresh deli ham or turkey, and maybe some fresh mahi now and again - and of course to be treated as the Queen she was!! Of course she was spoiled but then she spoiled us too with all her love and after all, if you can't spoil your animals, why have them? What a special and loving girl she was!!!

Boots spent several days of her last week cruising with us as she had for the prior two years as we moved the boat to our new home up in the Canaveral Barge Canal at Harbortown Marina on Merritt Island - she quickly got her sea legs back and made the most of the trip. But the past couple days she spent doing what she loved the most - she was in our laps and in our arms being fed tuna and treats and getting lots of kisses from Mom and Dad. I truly think she knew what was up and wanted as much time with us as possible. Unfortunately we didn't have any fresh mahi for her as we cruised on the ICW most of the time for her comfort rather than heading offshore to fish. Tuna was one of her favorites although nothing topped fresh mahi for Boots - when we cruised in the Bahamas, nothing made her happier than to see a nice big mahi swinging onto the back of the boat - she literally would stand at the back door knowing fresh fish treats were in store for her.

Happy fishing in heaven Bootser - hope the mahi are running for you! We loved you so much and will miss you - Gypsies will never be the same without you!! Say hi to Puss and Momma for us!