February 14, 2015

After spending three nights at Eau Gallie, Cindy and I are ready to shove off for Vero Beach, our next stop along the ICW. We had originally planned to only spend two nights at Eau Gallie but I realized on Thursday that my CAC (Common Access Card) would expire on Sunday. A CAC card, for the uninitiated, is an electronic card that gives me, as a Government contractor, access to my computer and to Government facilities. Without an active CAC card, my Government laptop turns into a brick and I would not be able to support the Missile Defense Agency folks back in Huntsville.

I spent Thursday afternoon getting the required signatures on the required forms (thank God this can all be done electronically) and getting the needed information loaded into the CAC system. However, getting the card renewed required physically getting the card updated which in turn required me to get to a CAC office. Fortunately, a search of the CAC website showed that there was an office just ten miles from us at Patrick Air Force Base.

Problem was, I couldn’t just take a taxi because everyone in the car needs to have a CAC to get on the base. I started searching rental car websites for cars in Melbourne but I kept coming up empty until I finally got to Hertz. They had three cars left and told me the problem was the Daytona 500. The preliminaries were already in full swing and folks were streaming in from all over the country, grabbing up rental cars wherever they could find them.

I snagged one of their available cars and drove up to Patrick AFB. My still-active CAC got me through the front gate without a hitch and after some searching and asking folks for directions (the office was not where the website said it was) I found the proper building. By the grace of God, everything was in order and fifteen minutes later I walked out with a new CAC. Unfortunately, in 90 days I’ll have to renew it again.

We head down the Indian River, birthplace of the grapefruits and oranges sold at roadside stands and high school fundraisers throughout the US. The river is wide at this point along the ICW and the brisk wind blowing down out of the north makes the water choppy, confusing Otto, our boat’s autopilot and requiring us to steer by hand. Missy insists on sitting in Cindy’s lap, no matter how inconvenient this makes steering the boat.

Missy Lap

Drivin’ Miss Missy

The waterway is dotted with small islands covered in scrub brush and trees, a few sporting inviting sand beaches. For some reason, I find myself thinking that if our grandkids were with us, they’d want to stop and explore these little havens, looking for pirate treasure. We do plan on having them on the boat when we and their mom can swing it. I think about how much fun it would be if we buried a chest for them to find on one of these tiny islands. I did this for my nephews at my old house one Christmas when they were young and it was a real hoot.

However much the chill wind may be messing with Otto, it helps speed us along as we make around 6.5 knots (well, that’s fast for us). It also helps keep the weekend boaters at home where it’s warm, making this Saturday much more pleasant for us. It’s sunny and we are warm inside the cockpit’s eisenglass enclosure.

We see dozens of black cormorants bobbing about on the water’s surface. These ubiquitous long beaked Florida birds like to float in front of our boat, waiting until the last second to move out of the way as if they’re expecting for us to steer around them. All around us squat pelicans execute suicidal headlong dives into the water. These birds glide gracefully through the air, at times seeming to almost hover in the air as they control themselves just with small movements of their wingtips. But once they spot a fish near the water’s surface, they tuck their long wings in close to their bodies and careen headfirst into the water, slamming into it with such force that we think they surely must have broken their necks. But they always bob back up to the surface, slinging their heads back to swallow their latest catch in a single gulp.

On the last ten miles of today’s journey the ICW jigs over to the western shore of the Indian River, winding its way between a series of long narrow islands. These are significantly larger than the treasure islands of this morning and are heavily developed. Stately homes line the water’s edge, many with channels leading to private marinas. One of these channels inexplicably has a stop sign rising out of the water at its entrance. We blow right through it.

Stop Sign

Stop Sign in The Water

As we reach the north end of Vero Beach, we veer into the channel at the Loggerhead Marina. We tie up at the dock with help from several fellow boaters, the configuration of this slip being rather tricky. We get checked in, get the lay of the land and then while Cindy checks up on the status of our business I wander over to Publix for a few provisions, most notably some lobster tails for our Valentine’s dinner. The review on the ActiveCaptain site said that the Publix is located right outside the marina gate. What it neglected to say was it was about a mile walk from the pier to the gate, this Loggerhead marina being located inside a ritzy housing development. But it’s a beautiful sunny day and the walk along the edge of the golf course does me good after having been on the boat for hours.

I return to the boat laden with as many provisions as I can carry, including the aforementioned lobster tails. These I clean, brush with an olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette and then cook on the boat’s propane grill for about 15 minutes (the key to cooking any kind of seafood is not to overcook it). I melt butter and add fresh minced garlic, sauté this for a couple of minutes and then drizzle it over the tails. This I pair with rice cooked in butter and chicken stock (I cook rice with a 4-to-1 ratio of stock to rice rather than the usual 2-to-1, it gives the rice a softer, stickier consistency which we both love) and a romaine and feta cheese salad dressed with the remaining lemon vinaigrette. To drink I chill up a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

Valentines Dinner

Valentine’s Day Dinner

At risk of tooting my own horn, I really nailed that lobster…tender, sweet and juicy!! As much as we like exploring new places to eat, I still enjoy cooking on the boat best. It always sets me in a good mood to cook our dinner at the end of the day. Way cheaper than eating out, too.

After dinner we settle in to watching “Bosche”, a new Amazon original series about a police detective who doesn’t go by the book (well, ok, it’s not original in that sense). It stars the guy who played the part of The Man in Black in the ABC series “Lost”. So far, its holding our attention and it certainly beat watching that “50 Shades” movie.

Total Distance Traveled: 263 miles