Wednesday, November 18, 2020

On the water

The only roving this Reluctant Rover has been doing is on the water. Since we sold our truck camper, we are now vagabonds without transport, and (at least for the moment) we are not planning to change that condition. However, we do go boating, as members of the JAX Boat Club. We try to boat/fish once or twice a week, weather and schedule permitting.

About a week ago, we went boating when the wind was blowing from the east. We have to boat in the San Pablo River before we get to the bay area where we fish the marshes. The water was choppy! It felt as though we were on a roller coaster, not my favorite theme-park ride. 

Jim said there is a saying that refers to fishing conditions: "East is least; west is best."  I guess the saying is true. We didn't even have a nibble that day.

The next time we went out, the wind was better, but the only thing we caught was a baby stingray. I caught it; Jim released it. Again, not a profitable time on the water, but at least it was pretty calm. That day, however, had a ha-ha moment: Jim was doing something with one of the lines when either the boat rolled a bit or he lost his balance. He quite gracefully rolled over the side of the boat for an unintended swim. The water was only about three feet deep. The hard part was getting back on the boat, since we were in a 16-footer that had no dive platform. Fortunately it was a warm day and the top half of him (clad in a fast-dry shirt) dried quickly. And even more fortunately, he did not have his phone in his pocket. His reading glasses floated out, but we were able to retrieve them.

Yesterday was a much better day--a beautiful autumn afternoon, with a calm wind that actually dissipated by the time we came in. On days like that, I don't mind taking a ride in a boat.

Jim caught two under-sized red fish yesterday.

We took more than a ride, however. We actually caught fish! Jim snagged two under-sized red fish (red drum). They have to be at least 18 inches to keep; these were about 13 inches. He also caught a 15 inch flounder, which I pan-fried for dinner. My only catch was a six-inch pin fish. Pin fish are often used as bait, although we have made meals on larger ones. We believe there is no such thing as a trash fish, only fish that are less tasty than others. Pin fish fall into that category. But six inches was just too small, so we let him go.

The flounder Jim caught was just enough for a tasty pan-fried dinner. 

The weather has been hit-or-miss for anglers. Those darn hurricanes that keep forming in the Atlantic have not directly threatened us, but they create nor' easters that churn up the water. Today, for instance, a small craft advisory kept all boats in harbor, with gusty winds of 30 mps blowing. When winds are predicted in the 15-20 mph range, boating is not fun and fishing is usually not good, either, even if no advisories are announced.

We have two boats reserved for next week when the weather is supposed to be good. Wish us luck. We plan to have roasted fish for Thanksgiving dinner, and dinner would taste better if it came off our tight lines. If we don't catch anything, though, the fish monger in Mayport will have some nice snapper or grouper for our Thursday dinner.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

Until later.


Your Reluctant Rover
Linda






Thursday, September 24, 2020

Good-bye, Lance! We will miss you!

 September 24, 2020—“They” say that the happiest two days of a boat-owner’s life are the day s/he bought the boat and the day s/he sold it. The same holds true for an RVer.

We sold the truck camper!

Good-bye, Lance 1172! We will miss you!

Actually, although we are happy we sold it, we will miss camping. I know, I know…for the longest time I truly was the Reluctant Rover. I kicked and screamed (not literally, of course) when we bought our first motorhome, that 38-foot 1998 Dutch Star. Of all the RVs we have owned, the Dutch Star by far was the best crafted. We had relatively few problems with it. We traded it in mainly because, with only one slide, we found it crowded with the cats. (Litter boxes take up a lot of room!)

This 1998 Dutch Star was our 'Baby.' 

Our next RV was supposedly an upgrade. It was a 40-foot 2005 Country Coach. With its three slides open, it was as big as a New York apartment. Gorgeous. However…it was nothing but trouble. I think Jim spend more time fixing it than he did enjoying it. It did not pain us to get rid of it. We were happy to do so.

The 2005 Country Coach was beautiful,
but it required a lot of maintenance. We did not regret selling it.


Our mistake, however, was buying our third RV—a 27-foot Thor Axis. The downsizing did not bother us; we had decided we were not going to make any more long, cross-country trips. But, we bought the wrong configuration: One slide in the back, which extended a queen-sized bed. The cabin/galley did not have a slide, and we had to put up a table every time we ate. (Other configurations had a slide in the cabin area, but had twin beds that could be converted to a king.) The only seating to watch TV was the couch, and it was not comfortable. Theoretically the driver’s and passenger’s seats were supposed to turn completely around, but the driver’s seat did not, and neither of them had a good view of the TV.

Thor was 27 feet long. Its configuration (not its size) caused us to dislike it.


Every time we went camping in Thor we both complained about how much we hated it. We were not unhappy to sell it.

Jim somehow got the idea about getting a truck camper. When we came across a combination package—the 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck plus a 2003 Lance truck camper, Model 1121. The combo was a deal we could not resist. Both were only used by the original owner, a local rabbi. We discovered the truck camper actually offered more room than Thor. Jim installed a new flat-screen TV and put in new plank flooring. After having spent so much time fixing our RV, it was a pleasure just to enjoy it.

This combo package was quite a deal: 2003 Lance 1121 camper
plus the 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 truck.
We really enjoyed the camper but it lacked a comfortable seating area.

However, after a few months we realized that the one thing the camper was missing was a comfortable area in which to sit and watch TV or read. So…

Last September we traded the 2003 in for a brand new 2019 1172 Lance, the largest model the company makes. It had everything the old one had, plus a couch with foot stools. We really enjoyed it. And now someone else will have that pleasure.

And this is Lance 1172. We will take it to its new owners next week.
We are keeping the truck, though. It will continue to serve us well.

Why did we decide to sell? Well, time is marching on, and we have found that we don’t have time to do everything we want to do. Right now, instead of traveling, we want to fish. It’s just a matter of priorities.

Jim doesn’t want to rule out getting another RV, possibly a small trailer, in the future. I don’t want to rush into buying anything. Right now, we will just enjoy life.

Will there be any more Reluctant Rover blogs? I don’t know.

Until maybe sometime in the future,

Your Reluctant Rover,

Linda

Monday, March 30, 2020

Anchors away!



March 26, 2020—It is no secret that I was not an enthusiastic RVer when Jim and I purchased our first motorhome in December 2010—hence, my blog’s name, The Reluctant RoVer. Over time, however (and really, not a lot of time), I came to look forward to our travels, despite all the melodrama some of our RVs have given us. (OK, our misadventures  really only occurred with in our first and especially our second motorhomes, not so much in last three.)

So, you might be wondering if I harbor any reservations about joining the Jacksonville Boat Club. The short answer is "no." For us, it seems to be a good deal. And as long as we use the membership regularly, it is money well spent. The only thing I don't like? (You might be surprised at my answer.) The water.
Here I am, Cap'n Linda, piloting the Nauticstar. 
Yep. The water. Actually I love to swim--in a pool. I am not too fond of swimming in open water. And I am especially uncomfortable as the water beneath me becomes deeper. What bothers me most, however, is traveling fast in a boat and crossing over wakes and waves. I am afraid we will tip over! Why don't boats have seat belts? (Duh, I understand why...but I would feel more secure if I were battened down.) Jim is good (and getting better) at managing those waves and wakes; so am I when I occasionally drive the boat. I am also more comfortable going slow, rather than fast. I suspect that the more I go out in the boats, my fears will decrease. Let's hope so. 

The boat club gives us access to five different fishing boats, ranging from a 16’ boat to two 23’ boats, and we can take them out six days a week. No mess; no fuss; no cleanup; no maintenance. All we have to do is bring our fishing gear, jump on board, and pay for the gas when we are done.  

The larger boats are big enough to take five or six guests. (They would not be comfortable if everyone were to fish, but for a boat ride, they would be fine.)

My favorite boat of the five is the Nauticstar XTS, a 23’ bay boat with a Yamaha 200 HP engine.  I like this boat because of its size and comfort. It easily absorbs the shock of plowing through wakes and waves. Additionally, it has a very shallow draft—only 18”—so we can get into the marshes easily to hunt predator fish.  It also has a power pole anchor for shallow-water anchoring, as well as a GPS trolling motor, which can hold the boat in place in deeper water.

Nauticstar XTS
23' Nauticstar XTS; 5 passengers. 
Jim and I both like the smallest of the boats, the Key West. Although it is only 16’, it has an economical 60 HP engine, as well as a GPS trolling motor. It is small, but we enjoy using it.

Key West
16' Key West; 3 passengers. (Obviously this is a stock photo. Those people are not younger versions of Jim and me.)
Our third favorite, I think, is the Tidewater, a 20’ boat with a 150 HP engine.  It also has a GPS trolling motor, but we have found this accessory a bit more cumbersome to use than the ones in the other boats.

Tidewater
20' Tidewater; 5 passengers. 

The 19’ Scout can hold more passengers (six), but it doesn’t have a GPS trolling motor. Nor does the 23’ Polar, which can accommodate seven passengers. Why is the absence of a trolling motor important? Well, that little electric motor can act as an anchor and hold the boat in place while you are fishing. You don’t have to throw an actual anchor overboard.
Polar
23' Polar; 7 maximum passengers

Scout
19' Scout; 6 maximum passengers
I don’t know if I will ever become a boating enthusiast--someone who would rather spend time on the water than anywhere else. Just as I would not go to the beach just to soak up the sun, I don’t get much pleasure out of just going for a drive in the boat. I am enjoying the freedom we have to go find fish, instead of waiting for them to come to us. (So far, we have been catching flounder...nice.)

Although we have the boat club membership, we still have our modest 14’ Port-a-Boat with its little 5 HP engine. Our intention right now is to use this little boat on area lakes or more inland rivers, where we cannot use a JAX Boat Club vessel. (The club’s boats are allowed to go all the way up to Cumberland Island in Georgia to the north and as far south as St. Augustine.) But freshwater fishing in in the future. Right now, we are just enjoying our boat club membership and learning how to fish the Intracoastal.


Until next time,
Your Reluctant RoVer (Merry Mariner?)


Linda





Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Merry Mariner?


February 12, 2020—Ah, what could be better than feeling the wind in your face, watching pelicans dive for their supper, dipping a fishing line in hopes to catch your own dinner, and watching dolphins dive “up close and personal?” Not much.


Jim and I decided that life is much too short not to enjoy it to the fullest. This week we joined a boat club, and now we can feel that wind, watch those birds, dip our lines, and seek out dolphins just about any time we want—from the bow of a boat on local waters.


 We have toyed with the idea of purchasing a boat (more than the 14’ Port-a-Bote that we own) for some time. But, like an RV, boats require a lot of tender loving care. TLC translates into a lot of expenses. It is said that the two happiest days for boat owners are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell their boat. That is because in addition to the purchase price of a boat, there are costs to maintain in, fix it, store it, and equip it. Plus, you have to figure in the time it takes to launch, take it out of the water, and clean it.


A membership into a boat club eliminates all of the negatives of boat ownership. It’s like joining a country club: There is one-time “initiation fee,” then monthly dues. Not inexpensive, but not too bad, either. We make a reservation for the boat we want, drive down to the marina (only about three miles from our house), and climb aboard. A club employee meets us, helps load our gear, and when we return, greets us at the fuel station and unloads the boat into a waiting cart. Our only additional cost is gas.
View from the boat to the marina

Out on the San Pablo River

In a creek off the San Pablo River. Gorgeous day.


Our particular membership is for weekday use, for any boat 25’ and under, including both fishing and pleasure boats. And if we have guests who would prefer to tube rather than fish? The club provides the recreational equipment. Nice.

We took out a 16’ fishing boat this afternoon. Before we could do that, however, we each had to complete an online boat safety training program. (We probably didn’t have to do this, since we already had certification from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for a different boat safety program, but we decided a safety refresher of our knowledge couldn’t hurt.) 

Then, yesterday, we went out with Captain Randy, another club employee, who trained us in navigation, as well as how to drive and dock the boat. (I docked it perfectly three times:]) Incidentally, it was during that training that a large pod of dolphins decided to accompany our boat. So exciting! We've often seen dolphins cavorting in the waters of the St. Johns River, but they were never so close to us as they were when we were in the boat. 

I hope that having a boat will allow us to go where the fish are, instead of waiting for them to swim by our lines at the end of a pier. (Today, when we found some fish according to the fish-finder, but they weren’t hungry. We had a great time, anyway, since our goal was mainly to get comfortable with navigating a boat.)

What all of this means is that the Reluctant RoVer may have to get a new moniker. How does the Merry Mariner sound?

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer Merry Mariner,


Linda

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Windy


December 17, 2019—Not even the sunny, warm skies of south Florida are immune to cold fronts. One is moving in today, and with it has come a lot of wind and slightly dropping temperatures. Tomorrow the high will only be around 71, as compared to about 80ish today and yesterday.

Early this afternoon, we did some exploring and found the Venice fishing pier, as well as Caspersen Beach in south Venice. The wind, however, was problematic. The normally calm gulf created crashing waves that were not conducive to fishing. At Caspersen Beach, we thought we saw people looking for sand fleas (a crustacean) for beach fishing, but we discovered was they were looking for shark teeth! Apparently that beach is known for the teeth.
Our campsite at Oscar Scherer State Park near Venice, Fla.

It was much too windy to fish on the pier (maybe tomorrow), so we high-tailed it back to the creek at Blackburn Point where we fished yesterday. We had few real bites. I finally caught a toadfish, which we threw back. (Toadfish can be toxic if not cleaned properly, but we have eaten it before. It’s all in knowing how to clean the little beastie to make it safe to eat.) Because the fish swallowed the hook and we could not disengage it, we had to cut the hook off. Hopefully the little guy survived.

As the clouds continued to come in and the temperature dropped a bit, we called it quits for the afternoon.

Around 5 p.m., we decided to try fishing the fresh-water lake, using lures. It took Jim about 10 minutes to tie on a lure. (His fingers didn’t want to cooperate tying the tiny knots.) Finally, he took the pole and cast out into the still water. A few minutes later, as I was reeling in my own lure, he stood next to me. Why wasn’t he fishing? On his first cast, he caught a tree; the tree won.

Our “fish dinner” tonight consisted of delicious homemade spaghetti sauce, noodles, green beans, and salad. It was excellent.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, December 16, 2019

On the 'left coast'


December 16, 2019—Last week I was in Palatine, Ill., enjoying the company of my daughter, son-in-law, and their teenaged children, and suffering whenever I went outside: When I left, it was around 20 degrees, and there had been snow flurries in the morning. I returned to Jacksonville to somewhat chilly weather (60s, but raw). After a few days at home, we loaded the camper and we are now in south Florida, on Florida's west coast, also known as the "left coast." 

The sun is warm; the sky is clear--sorry friends who are in the Midwest and are shoveling out of a heavy snow storm! 

We are camping at Oscar Scherer State Park, located in Osprey, which is next door to Venice, Fla. This state park is like an oasis in the suburbs. You can actually see a subdivision abutting it as you drive down the roadway! It is a nice park, although it does not have the fishing we thought it would. There is a creek that runs down its length, and there is also a closed-system fresh-water lake, which theoretically has fish. (We haven’t tried fishing in these two bodies of water yet.) The park offers a myriad of activities, from guided hikes to folk-music concerts.
The news today said that the Midwest was in the middle of a snow storm. The white in this picture is now snow; it is sand on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Venice, Fla. Highs were in the 80s, with low humidity and cloudless skies. 

Although the park doesn’t seem to have a lot of fishing onsite, it is located near the gulf and the intracoastal.

Before taking our poles out of the truck, we drove around to explore possible fishing sites. One of those was a jetty. Several anglers were trying their luck, but we didn’t see anyone catch anything except a hardhead catfish. Next to the jetties were some nice beaches. And yes, the sun was warm (around 80 degrees). I don’t know how warm the water was, but a lot of snow-birds were trying to get rid of their winter whites.

We stopped at a local bait shop and learned about a few places to drop our lines. We tried one spot, on a creek that goes out to the gulf. I caught a slightly undersized mangrove snapper; Jim only caught a tiny little pin fish. It didn’t matter; we had fun.

Tonight the park is offering another folk concert around a campfire. We intend to take it in.

We’ll be here until Friday morning, when we will go back home and prepare for a visit from my Chicago family.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Our catch of the day


November 6, 2019—Fishing is fun, even if you don’t catch anything. That’s a good thing, because on this trip, we fed a lot of fish, but we couldn’t lure any onto our hooks. We hooked two or three tiny fingerlings, but the big ones were evasive. Our freezer is empty.

We aren’t going home entirely empty-handed, however. We “caught” some delicious chocolate at the candy factory in Daytona Beach, which is less than 10 miles from our campground. The fudges and the chocolate-covered bacon are not as nutritious as fish, but we will savor their taste nonetheless. Everyone deserves some a good chocolate treat every once in a while.
Our catch of the day was chocolate, purchased from Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory in Daytona Beach. Chew praline, rocky road, and chocolate caramel fudge, plus chocolate-covered bacon. Who needs fish when you can catch chocolate?

On another subject…

We continue to “shake down” our new truck camper. Like any new vehicle, we have found several things that need to be corrected. What has proved disappointing, however, is the dealer prep from Ocean Grove RV, where we purchased our truck camper. Just like when you buy a car, we had to pay a dealer-prep charge for the camper. We found that essentially nothing had been checked; we did not even get all the manuals for all appliances, such as the TV/radio/dvd sets. The TV and radio/dvd are supposed to be connected via HTMI, and share the six built-in speakers in the camper.

When we made our maiden voyage two weeks ago, we discovered that the sound on the TV was not loud enough. With the air conditioner on, we could barely hear the news. Because we had no instructions, I downloaded the manual for the Jensen devices. We followed directions, but still no good sound and no TV sound out of the speakers. I emailed the company; they suggested calling when we were in the camper.

Jim called today. After talking with the technician, he discovered that an HDMI cord had not been plugged into the radio/dvd appliance. This should have been done at the factory. Since it wasn’t, it should have been discovered and corrected during the dealer prep. It is fixed now, thanks to my husband, not Lance or Ocean Grove.

Despite small annoyances, we are enjoying our experience immensely in our new truck camper.

Tomorrow we return home. Our next camping trip, which will be to a state park on the west coast of Florida, is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Until then,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda