River Wildlife

5 day, 4 night , 160 mile trip on our “project” boat….Wellcraft 255

I should have been posting everyday…but it was so good being on the water…the nights so nice….I just couldn’t get interested in messing with the computer…..so you’re getting it all in one installment.
The weather finally turned a little warmer at night. This week it’s supposed to be close to 50* each night, after tonight.
So..we packed the Wellcraft with supplies and bedding, stuff for the bird and dog, alcohol and butane for the stoves and headed for the launch ramp on Lake Monroe.
I snapped these Cormorants when we dropped the small anchor just N of Blue Springs so we could watch the Manatees leaving the Springs for feeding. Many swam by ..but just out of camera range. It’s hard to see anything in the St Johns River’s dark water.
It was calling for lows in the 40’s by morning, and we decided to spend the first night at Hontoon Island. That would give me time to get everything stowed and ready for living aboard for a few days.
Since we are “senior” residents of Florida….we get to stay there for half price. A very good deal. If you ever stop there….be sure to check out their museum and video. It’s a good place to take a breather after you’ve made the hike out to the Indian Shell Mounds.059xq
The temps did drop overnight but we were snug with the heater going.
We headed N  towards Welaka. Mid morning we spotted our first gator of the trip….and it was a big one.
Raisin enjoyed the spot I picked out for her.  I put her bed where I want her to sit and she usually stays there unless it gets too hot. The sun was at our backs and she wasn’t under-foot.
This was our fastest trip across Lake George.  Do you think we are using too much oil? Actually it’s just a controlled burn..but I thought it looked pretty neat behind us. We had a flock of gulls follow us across.
Take a short ride with us.
We spent our second night out at Carole & Ed’s slip. Another nice warm night with electric and a heater. Carole made a fantastic spaghetti supper. They offered us the spare room but I wanted to sleep aboard.
Morning brought a drizzly day…and a trip to Shrimp R Us for sausage gravy and biscuits. After breakfast we took them for a boat ride. When we got back, they tossed us our docklines and shoved us off with a warm farewell.
Ed and Carole sent us these pictures that they took

Thanks for the pictures!!! It's not often I get to be in any....I'm usually behind the camera. 

We headed S. A change of plans…we wouldn’t stop at Silver Glen this trip, but continue on to G3 (Lungun Island) and anchor there for the night. On our way N we had spotted “Sailbad The Sinner” anchored there and hoped to catch them for a visit, but they had hauled anchor and moved on…we had the spot to ourselves.


Thick fog and smoke covered the area when we awoke. We could hear the fishing boats going by but couldn’t see anything. We waited a few hours. It started to thin out a bit so we headed out.  We had the GPS from our car ( it had our back track on it) and a Hummingbird 161 GPS Chart plotter. With them we were able to stay in the middle of the river and I watched from the side for any fishing boats that might be anchored….and there were plenty of them.  After a couple hours of travel the fog lifted and it turned out to be a beautiful day.
A side trip behind Drigger Island  G41, to see if the Sand Hill Cranes were nesting there. When you enter….be sure to use the N entrance…the S entrance has a very shallow bar at the entrance. We have made it with the Albin but the river is low now so we didn’t even try it.
None yet…so we headed towards Blue Springs….our plan was to anchor near by and watch the Manatees….we anchored for awhile but it was early afternoon and the sun was hot…too nice to just sit around so we hauled the anchor and headed to G109.
Blue Springs was busy. There are many Manatees in there this time of year and the tour boat had just gotten back. This is another “must stop” when on the river…you can beach and walk in…very inexpensive…and a nice hike on the boardwalk takes you by all the Manatees. If you can’t beach…there is a “jug handle” off the river just a short ways N and you can anchor and dingy back to the beach.
There were a lot of boats on the water today.
Jim had been real good about keeping it at slow cruising speed so I could watch for gators…but he had to get on it once in awhile. Before we knew it we were at G109 Butcher’s Bend. As soon as we started behind the island I spotted a very large gator.
As we cruised by….it raised it’s head and acted a bit aggressive.
Another one was sitting on the opposite shore..
A short ways from this one….another good sized one. This is where we normally take the dog ashore…nice little beach…we don’t have the dingy with us…but doubt we’d be using it with this many big ones in the area.
This small one, 6’-7’ was sitting on a fallen palm tree. The big round thing is the root ball.
We recognized this one when he swam by. We watched a gator fight a few years ago and this was one of them. He has an unusual coloring. I’m not sure if it is battle scars or not. We nicknamed him “Cammie” because he looks like he’s wearing camouflage.
All totaled….there were 8 gators…most  were fairly large.
We had a beautiful full moon. Raisin and I spent a couple of hours in the cockpit just enjoying the night and watching for gators. “Cammie” cruised by …..no bathing off the swim platform tonight.
Beautiful day!!  Coffee in the cockpit watching the wildlife. A couple of gators are cruising near the S entrance. That is the area we watched the gator fight a  couple of years ago.  I’d like to come back out next week with the Albin and sit here for a few days. Maybe I can get some good videos.
The sun was warm so we dropped the bimini into travel position. Jim got us underway. He cleans windows….he’s a keeper.013cs
Naturally…Jim wanted to “test” it again at a high rate of speed. The GPS showed 29.8. We were traveling right into the sun…so the video isn’t the best…but come along for our final ride.
The Wellcraft is very easy to launch and retrieve. Raisin and Babe are waiting to taken to the truck.
Even though we had a great time and were more comfortable than we expected…we will be selling the Wellcraft and keeping the Albin. The speed was fun….but we hardly ever used it. The Albin suits our traveling needs.
Jim definitely prefers this engine room….lots more space……and it sounds soooo good.
The galley has a Kenyon alcohol/ electric stove. A small fridge, but it needs work. We used a cooler and put a jug of ice in the fridge to keep the sodas cold.
Plenty of room for two in the V berth. Even Jim, at 6’ was comfortable. We put memory foam down..then sheets and a blanket.  Jim made the beds each morning by just rolling them up. They made good back rests and at night you just roll them out.
This table also fits in the cockpit.
There is a full enclosure with side curtains….we didn’t use it because there is a zipper that needs fixing. That is about the only thing you can guarantee on an old boat…..there is always something that needs fixing.


During our last trip on the boat..on the St Johns River, FL, we had to tie up to the city dock in Palatka, Fl to make engine repairs. Our alternator had quit and Jim was going to replace it with a new one.

We didn’t realize the shrimp were running and how busy the dock would be at night with folks trying to catch as many as they could. It was a lot of fun.

Everyone was using cast nets and their catch was dumped on the dock…shrimp went into a pail and small fish tossed back into the water.

The next morning the Herons flew in. 003cs

The were all over the dock looking for fish or shrimp that may have been missed.005cs

They were so beautiful against the sunrise.010cs

There were several squabbles over the choicest pieces found..008cs

Even though they chased each other off…they kept coming back…..007cs

Our engine problem turned out to have a good side ….we spent the evening with a nice bunch of “Shrimpers” and watched the start of a Bass Tournament this morning ..and then the Herons flew in. There is always good in most everything….if you just look for it.  Of course, I wasn’t the one leaning over a hot engine trying to figure out what was wrong….so Jim may not completely agree with me.


We spent 2 weeks on the St Johns River aboard our “little” trawler…Slow Motion. And that is just what we do…cruise in slow motion…normally around 5-6 mph. At this speed ..you wouldn’t think we’d miss many gators…but ..surprisingly we do. So you can imagine how many the rest of the boaters see while cruising at 20 mph or faster.

We took a side trip down Dunn’s Creek. It’s a very narrow..twisting and turning creek, with hairpin corners. The water on these turns is much deeper than the rest of the creek. In one spot it is 50ft….now…that is deep when you realize most of the lakes are 10-12 ft deep…and shallower. Lake George and Lake Monroe have marked channels because they are so shallow.

Jim spotted this cute little gator so we looked for it on our way back up the river.


I was so intent on getting pictures of it…..watch as we move on by. There are 4 turtles sunning with him.


But then we get a bit farther down stream…..the angle of the picture has changed….you can still see one of the turtles….but look at the logs behind him. 2 gators….to the L of them is the tail of a much larger alligator. As you can see….the tail is larger than any of the others ….and on another log behind it….is a smaller gator.  There are at least 4 other alligators in this photo…we never saw any of them until I downloaded this to the computer. 022cs

We still can’t believe we missed the big one. Jim was busy getting in as close as he could without getting into limbs etc under the water…and I was zoomed in on this cute little smiling one.

Manatee “twin” update

When I took this photo of a female Manatee and her “twins”…. 033cs

we were thrilled….thinking we had found something rarely seen, so I sent the photos on to Georgia Zern
Manatee Protection Program Manager
Marine Mammal Stranding Team Manager
Estuarine Restoration Program Manager
Volusia County Environmental Management

They were put into their data base. Luckily I had 3 photos…which is a requirement.

She forwarded them to Ranger Hartley of Blue Springs. This is his response to her….she, in turn, forwarded it to me: 

“The mother is H. Granger; her calf is to her left.  The calf on the right is
Kee (female).  I can make out the R brand on Kee's shoulders.  Kee was
adopted by Della at Lowery Park Zoo while Della was recovering from a boat
strike.  Della, Pal (her calf while in captivity) and Kee were released this
summer at Palatka.  Della and Pal came in on 29 Nov.  So did H. Granger and
calf.  Kee was first seen with Park and calf on 2 Dec. Kee left Park and went
over to nurse on Cheryl (with calf), Cheryl was in on 18 Nov.  Since arrival
Kee has nursed on several different mothers.”   032cs

Note the “prop” scars and look for them on the next Manatee you see….perhaps it will be H Granger….it will be like seeing an old friend.

Common Moorhen

These little wadding birds are very prettily colored and fun to watch. They look like they have yellow lipstick.




I guess I was getting a bit close..they are slowly sneaking back into the vegetation where I can’t see them anymore.


Here they are swimming with American Coots.

Common Moorhen & American Coots

Manatees of the St Johns River, FL

In late November we had the pleasure of spending a few weeks on the St Johns River. There are many sections where you have to cruise at slow or idle speed because the Manatees are traveling to the warmer (72 deg) waters of the springs. One of the very popular is Blue Springs. They might be as many as 100 Manatees in there on a cold day. So at some point they will be traveling S on the river.

We stopped to photograph a fairly large alligator…and Jim called to me that he saw a Manatee. So we shut down the boats engine and drifted. Sure enough a female Manatee surfaced.


We were surprised to see a very small one with her….and even more surprised to see two.


We thought we had found a female with twins. The little one surfaced together.


and then they dove under the boat (we were glad the motor was off) and continued an S towards Blue Springs.

If you are on the river..watch for these wide flat swirls. It wont be long before you’ll spot a nose or a back. Just sit quiet and wait.


The area between Hontoon Island and Blue Springs is especially busy as the Manatees leave the springs to feed and then return. Be very vigilant and travel very slow. If you look at many Manatees you will start to notice all the prop marks on them.

Luckily this one didn’t have any major scars.


But this Manatee..seen at Salt River Run Springs  a few weeks earlier wasn’t so lucky.


If you really want a thrill…rent a canoe from the Springs. The Manatees are very friendly and curious and will even come over to investigate you. In this photo we are in our inflatable dingy.


Take your time on the river to slow down and give these big beautiful slow moving animals a chance to enjoy you…enjoying them.

Barred Owl

On our last trip up the St Johns River, we stopped at Hontoon Island and docked for the night. They have a nice museum and a video you should definitely watch if you are in the area. They have campsites and cabins for rent.

We took a short walk up the trail …039cs towards the Indian Shell Mounds and spotted this Barred Owl.


It was quite content to sit there for a few pictures..


I had my small poodle with me…she’s about the size of a small rabbit. Perhaps that was the attraction and kept it in the area. I can’t tell if it’s licking it’s chops or not.


I was surprised at how large the Barred Owl is, and that it has brown eyes where most other owls eyes are yellow.