November 11, 2009 by Bethany
We’ve been hunkered down here in New Smyrna Beach, FL waiting out the storm. Thankfully Chris and Guy, our hosts here, offered to let us stay during the storm it sure beats getting another hotel. We have been here for the past three nights and are planning on leaving tomorrow since the winds will be switching to north (remember we are headed south!).
The last time I updated, it was right after my birthday, and also right after a pretty hard time due to Park Rangers and grumpy fisherman. This post will be quite a bit more cheerful since we had such a great time getting from Jacksonville Beach to here.
We left Jacksonville Beach early in the morning and headed towards Vilano Beach, near St. Augustine. It was around 30 miles of paddling, which is a long way for us, but the wind AND the current was with us almost the entire way. It was a good thing too since it was a Harvest Moon with huge tides and also high winds. We made it to Vilano Beach, Camachee Island Marina, who kept our boats, in record time with huge huge smiles. We were so happy to get there. One reason was because we had been looking forward to see Dolly and Smith again, who we met in Atlantic Beach, NC, and they immediatly offered to let us stay with them when we got to FL. Secondly because we recieved a voicemail while on the water, from Joan at Marineland, who said,”We are happy to provide an opportunity for you and your wife to swim with the dolphins at Marineland!” O man. We were so stinkin excited it was hard to kayak to the marina.
Smith and Dolly took us back to thier condo and then out to dinner at “the Club” in thier condo community. We had an excellent meal and played trivia with some VERY competitive people. We lost, but thats ok. I think it meant a lot more to the other players.
The following day we woke up to a scrumptious breakfast and went to MARINELAND! I dont know how to really explain to you what a huge deal this was to me. I was a total “dolphin girl” growing up, dreaming to be a marine biologist, the whole thing. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to swim with them. Marineland, made my dream come true! Smith and Dolly drove us to the facility, and we got a tour of the pools before our actual experience with the dolphins began. At 1:30pm, the Immersion, which is what our experience was called, began. We got an educational time first, telling us about the part of the dolphin, what they do at marineland to care for them and learn about them, how to put on wetsuits (which we are of course well experienced in) and then… it was time. Cat, our Dolphin Trainer led us over to meet our first dolphin, a little baby. AMAZING! We got to play games, pet her, feed her, even participate in her training. We even got photos of us giving her a kiss. It was adorable. Next we put on goggles and got to swim in the deep water with the dolphins. Our next dolphin was the mom of our first dolphin and her name was Roxy. It was breathtaking to be in the water with this big sea creatures and feel secure and get to enjoy them. Roxy danced with us, did huge jumps into the air, posed for a photo with us and escorted us back to the edge of the pool. It was something I will never ever forget. My face was sore from smiling the entire time. I highly reccomend it to pretty much everyone. It was well worth the cost advertised, perhaps even more than that. THANK YOU SO MUCH MARINELAND.
After we left marineland, i was on a high i cannot describe. im sure you can imagine it though. Smith and Dolly had big things planned for the evening too. We went to the Conch House and later to Caps on the Water. We ate like KINGS. Dan and I were actually full, which rarely happens on this trip. Can you imagine Dan saying he was full? If you know him, im sure you cant. We got to meet some of thier friends, including the Penny’s, who gave us a humbling donation for our trip. It is an understatement to say that it was a good day. It was an unforgetable day.
The next day we woke up to another fantastic homemade breakfast and then headed over to tour St. Augustine. What a cool place! Dolly got us tickets to the tour train and we rode it all the way around and listened to the whole story of the place. We visited the Fountain of Youth and drank of the water. We will see if it works. We also kissed under the “Love Tree” which is an Oak Tree wrapped around a Palm Tree. It’s said that if you kiss someone under the tree, you’ll be in love forever. We will let you know if that works too. 🙂 We walked all around the old part of town, and even played some mini-golf. It was a really fun day. Smith and Dolly called and told us to meet them at the Casa Monica hotel for dinner. We were completely unprepared for how nice the dinner would be. It was absoutly beautiful. There we sat in Crocs and board shorts, enjoying the finest food and fanicies that St. Augustine had to offer. It was overwhelming and really one of the finest dining experiences that I have ever experienced. It was a wonderful time and we are so blessed to have been able to enjoy it.
We left Vilano Beach/St Sugustine the following morning, crossing paths with Tom, the Habitat Rower again! He was just getting to St. Augustine. That was fun. We paddled all day and arrived at Palm Coast Marina late in the day. We were very tired. Thankfully we had a place to put our boats and we were meeting Wanda, the Aunt of Lance, who we stayed with in Charleston. Wanda took great care of us. She cooked us a homecooked meal and we had really good conversation about forgiveness actually. It was really interesting and it really got me thinking. Im really glad we got time to talk.
Wanda got us back to the marina early the next morning, but not before she cooked us a yummy breakfast. We were able to get paddling quickly. It was a good thing too, since for some reason, it was a hard day. Perhaps it was becasue it was hot outside or perhaps we were tired, but it was simply a challenge to make it to our campsite. It wasnt even that far to go but the gusty winds made for a hard day. When we finally made it to the spoil island we were camping on, we were exhausted. There was another person camping there too, and thank goodness they weet re willing to let us stay there too. It was a big island after all. Dan was able to look ahead and plan for the following day and we realized that the tides for the next day were ALL WRONG for us. We had 22 miles to go, to get to the inlet, and low tide was at 6:45am. That meant that there was no way for us to get to the inlet before the tide switched and was coming against us. We had a long way to go the following day, and we were concerned. We came to the decision and chose to get some quick sleep and get up at 1:00 am to paddle through the night and perhaps avoid the tides and the strong predicted winds. It was a bold move but i am SO glad we decided that. We were on the water by 2:00am, with glow sticks and strobe lights on the boats. It was actually very fun until the sun came up. Paddling through Daytona Beach at night was so cool. There are a lot of bridges and it kept us entertained all the way until 6:00am. Once the sun came up, our energy went down. The wind also picked up in a big way and we just had to keep going… we didnt really have any other choice. Thank goodness we were headed here, to Guy and Chris’s house. We got here almost 12 hours after we left in the morning darkness. They have been fantastic hosts and taken very good care of us these past few days. Dan has been able to plan the rest of Florida and we can almost TASTE Key West now.