Swing Set

Sep 24, 201204:48 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Crystal River

The restaurant "right next door" to the River Haven Marina turned out to be Fiddlers, and it was further away than we thought, but a nice fella who noticed Rosie washing the boat in her bikini earlier happened to be waiting for us in his golf cart as we made our way off of the boat dock to head for Fiddlers on foot.

Don is a local charter boat captain, and he was celebrating happy hour in fine fashion with a huge tumbler of whiskey on the rocks. I saw him pour one, and I can attest to his intentions. Don invited us to climb into the cart, and he took us to the liquor store next to Fiddlers, where we replenished our dwindling supply of beer, drove back to the marina and then back to Fiddlers, where he dropped us off and gave us his business card, which was two beer can coozies with his information on it. He said that if we needed anything while in Steinhatchie, we should give him a call. Judging by the weaving he was doing in the golf cart, I was hoping we weren't going to need an ambulance.

Don didn't want to let us go, well, Rosie anyway, but we bade him farewell and went into Fiddlers and got the last two seats at a crowed bar. We perused the menu and found tourist trap prices, so we each had an appetizer and a couple of beers before we walked back to the boat and rustled up some food for ourselves.

The next morning at daybreak, we got up and topped off our water tank. As we pulled out, there were plenty of fishermen already heading out, too. I had checked the wind and wave forecast, and by all indications, we were in store for a pleasant cruise down to Crystal River.

The route I charted took us right to the northern channel into Cedar Key, just in case the ride was rougher than we expected. Plus, the route was also the shortest around the most outer islands of Cedar Key, in the event that we wanted to keep going.

The ride was so pleasant we slipped right on past Cedar Key and kept going, although we had some skinny water to negotiate through, as little as five feet in some places. The more we use our Navionics App on the iPad, the more faith I have in it. I feel like it's more accurate than the Garmin unit we also use.

Once we got past Cedar Key, the water cleared up tremendously and I stopped the boat two times to take a dip. We had to skirt a long channel leading to a local nuclear power plant to reach the channel into Crystal River, but we got there with no mishaps after a nine-hour trip, staying at our normal 8 miles per hour or so.

The channel leading into our intended anchorage in Kings Bay is a circuitous one, with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour in the marked channel, and two areas with an idle-only limit as this is manatee waters.

This is a view of Pete's Pier from our anchorage in Kings Bay. We got the hook down and made a quick dinner of hot dogs and pork and beans...a fitting dinner for kings, or just hungry travelers. Pete's Pier is where we'll fill up our water tank while we are here. We don't plan on asking Pete, and we don't want you to tell him either.


Once we got the boat cleaned up on Saturday morning, using the clear freshwater from the river, we loaded up the dinghy and went exploring. We had a line on some local hangouts, and we retraced our path back to near the entrance to the river, where a shell beach attracted local boaters. We chatted with some guys in a little center console, and they showed us their catch of scallops and demonstrated how to clean one should I decided to go hunt them before the season ends on Tuesday. I figured the season for the scallops didn't mean much to me, as I didn't intend on having a fishing license anyway. We have to wait another week or so before the six month requirement for residency takes affect.

We left the shell beach and headed to another hangout, and we anchored the dinghy in some clear shallow water near one of the popular manatee viewing areas. There were lots of other boats anchored there, too, and as soon as we got situated, Holly made the acquaintance of another dog in a neighboring boat. The dog's owners walked over, and we visited with them until we were almost out of beer.

We continued our search for local hangouts and headed for Three Sisters Springs, where there were a few boats anchored around the entrance to one of the sources for the Crystal River. The water was cold and clear coming from the springs, which was welcome on a hot day. You have to wade in past the entrance to actually go view down into the springs, and it's best to do with snorkel equipment, something we'll do later this week, as we plan on staying here for at least a week.

We took Holly back to the boat and got ourselves presentable to visit one of the popular watering holes, Crackers. We tied the dinghy up and got a high-top table in the tiki hut, which was full of patrons. No one was at the bar, so we decided to enjoy the view from the deck and just people watch. The menu was a little more suited to our wallet than Fiddlers was, but we weren't in the mood for a heavy dinner. We had a big platter of chicken wings and another basket of flounder fingers. The flounder was delicious, and the wings were prepared just the way we like them. We're going to visit Crackers again before we leave.

This picture was taken at sunrise this morning. We are sharing Kings Bay with several other vessels, none of them presently occupied. We could call some of them derelict vessels, and we wouldn't be wrong. The sailboat in the picture is one of them, there are lots of birds using this boat as their roost, and subsequently, their toilet.

What attracts us to this town is the protection of the anchorage and the fact that there are several local boater hangouts if we get antsy for human interaction. There is also a Big Lots for groceries if we need them and also a laundromat that we can reach after a short walk once we park the dinghy. We know the grocery store and laundromat are not too far away, judging from the Mapquest directions, but this morning we are going in search of them in person. We're also going to bring along our laundry bag, so we can get a couple of loads done while we are at it.

We also know that we won't be spending the rest of our lives in freshwater, but since we are here we'll make the most of it. The locals say the water quality has diminished somewhat over the years, but when the tide is going out, the water is plenty clear to us and is very inviting to dive into. One thing missing is a coastal breeze to spin our wind generators. We've only run our diesel generator for 15 hours in over three weeks, so our wind generators are doing what we expected them to do, but we'll trade a few hours of diesel generator use for the clear freshwater of our present anchorage. For a few days anyway, until we decide to head for our next stop, which we think will be Tarpon Springs, unless we hear of another inviting place in the mean time.

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