March 20, 2013

Day 157 - March 19, 2013: Florida in perspective

After a long day of snowstorm-related airport delays, we are safely back from Michigan. Great Laker is just as we left her, and today we will move up the ICW to an anchorage at Fort George Island. It is good to be back on the waterways cruising again!

Since we arrived at Jacksonville at 2:30 AM, we slept in longer than usual. I woke first and gave Anne an early birthday present by biking to Publix for food and supplies. Then I washed the bird droppings, dirt and mildew off the boat, filled the water tank, and emptied the holding tank. After lunch, we departed and backtracked from the Ortega Landing Marina, past Jacksonville Landing, and down the St John's River, and turned up the Atlantic ICW. 

It was a short cruise up to an anchorage at Fort George Island, the location of the Timucuan Preserve and the Kingsley Plantation. The tidal currents here are large and the winds were high, so it was important to get a good hold with the anchor. We barbecued salmon for Anne's birthday dinner and went to bed early for a well deserved rest. 

Fort George Island
Florida in Perspective:

Having spent 40 years working in California, I had previously made only a few visits to Florida. These were mostly on business, or to board a cruise ship or two, or to go to Disney World. So, I had a very sketchy and thin understanding of what to expect here. Now that we have covered the coastline from Pensacola in the Panhandle, down to the Keys, and back up to Jacksonville, I have been reflecting and gathering my impressions.

Florida has large cities like Tampa/St Petersburg, Miami/Ft Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, which are in many ways like other large cities in the U.S. But, Florida is primarily known as a vacation and retirement state and reflects this with a couple of distinct features.

One feature is the many high-rise condominium buildings that dot the shores that run along the Gulf, Keys and ocean. The condominiums stand out from miles away and allow many to live on a relatively small parcel of land. People that love the beaches and water are attracted to living or vacationing in these areas.

Another feature is the many large and often gated communities, most frequently found just inland from the coastline. Developers have carved these out of mangroves, swampy land, or barren areas, and they may contain golf courses, club houses, entertainment areas, interior lakes, or channels allowing boats to be docked at each individual house. These attract golfers or boaters, or people who enjoy being together with others of similar interests, and still provide close access to the beaches.

Finally, I noticed the proliferation of restaurants of all kinds, as many people here, especially the retired, seem to prefer eating out. We saw quite a few right on the water, where we could dock the boat and eat, and many marinas have them as part of the facility. Our friends also took us to their favorites which were all excellent. Most need a reservation, and start filling up early in the evening.

So, Florida has good winter weather, and a great variety of living areas, especially geared to the retired. I can see why so many come here.

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