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16 August 2010 @ 10:28 pm
Did this falling cat land on his feet?  

It is hard to believe it is less than one month since I decided my life in my condo had become unbearable.

I needed to do something about it, but when I took the leap to try to jump-start something better, it was a scary, risky thing, and I hope I've landed on my feet here.

I've also felt like I fell down a rabbit hole because it's been the most dramatic period I've ever undertaken.

Here are the galleries that show what I'm doing:

July 31st to August 3rd, 2010

August 4th to 16th, 2010

Here is a long summary of what has happened through today...


posted Monday, August 16th, 2010...

Chronology of events since July, 25th, 2010:

That was the Sunday I said goodbye to Kathy and Bill and Dad and Sue after a nice day at Kathy's.

The next day, Monday, July 26th, 2010:

I went into work early and told Chris and Linda and Ted I was going to leave probably on Wednesday to find a place to live on a boat and to check out the boat for sale on Craigslist in Deland, Florida.

I left work in mid-morning and began packing to go.

By just after noon, I realized I could leave immediately, so I did.

By the time Ghost and I reached Cincinnati, he was showing signs of serious heat stress, so I bought bags of ice in northern Kentucky which he lay against under the passenger seat. He did fine after that, so we got clear to between Knoxville and Asheville on the interstate before it was time to sleep in the car at a roadside rest there.


Tuesday, July 27th, 2010:

We took the interstate past Columbia and Savanna and Jacksonville, and by mid-afternoon, we pulled of onto 17 to go through Orange Park, Green Cove Springs, and Palatka.

The interstates were horribly ugly because of sign pollution from London Kentucky all the way to Brunswick, Georgia with just a few exceptions.

Route 17 from when we got on to just north of Palatka was very nice.

I took the road out of Palatka into Ocala National Forest and lingered some in the little crossroads community of Salt Springs at Routes 19 and 314 before I decided I wanted to get closer to Deland before finding a camping site in the national forest. I did not like Astor, so I kept driving, out of the forest to Barberville and then into Deland for the first time. I turned west onto 44 to head back to the forest. Just after I crossed the Saint Johns River drawbridge, I turned right onto Route 42, then picked a spot to set up the tent on River Forest Blvd. I did not like the traffic passing by from residents up the road so I vowed to find a better spot the next day.

I really liked the National Forest and the roads were all scenic. Deland had seemed to be nice when I quickly passed through also.


Wednesday, July 28th through Saturday, July 31st, 2010:

I did find a better tent site, exactly 6.7 miles from the center of Deland. It was on a sand road going north from 42, just before the second bend leading away from Deland. It was a very nice spot, just close enough to 42 to be safe but not see or hear much traffic. The only visitor was the Lake County sheriff the first morning.I forget exactly which day, but I hiked further down the sand road and found the "Saint Francis Trail" and hiked it partially. Ghost and I stayed here from the night of the 28th through the night of the 31st of July.

I forget the exact chronology, but also between the 28th and 31st, I found the 1991 Fiesta Fun Deck "parts boat" in the seller's yard on Murray just off Shell and just east of the Saint Johns River, I decided I wanted it, I paid for it and I registered it in Deland.

I began simultaneously looking for a home for it and buying the necessities for it, mainly at Bob's Discount Marine, an excellent boat store in west Deland. By Sunday, August 1st, I had purchased two 60-pound batteries, a 70-pound thrust remote-controlled bow-mount saltwater Minn-Kota motor, and an 18-pound mushroom anchor.

I also bought a small bare-bones GPS, and a portable Hummingbird depth finder with storage case and battery, both from Gander Mountain just north of Orlando. At Harbor Freight near Orlando I bought two of the 45-watt solar panel kits.

I spent time at the Deland public library when I neeeded to do internet research.

Before choosing Tedder's Fish Camp in DeLeon Springs, I investigated both marinas on 44, the ones on and near Lake Beresford, the ramp at the end of French Avenue at Blue Springs State Park, and the marinas or camps off Shell Road and at Highland Park.

The $60 per month that L. H. Deason (Lee Henry) agreed to rent the outer slip for was the main enticement, but not the only reason I chose Tedder's Fish Camp. His son Jack also is a nice person, and the camp is attractively located although run-down.


Sunday, August 1st, 2010:

Everything had fallen into place, so Pete, the seller of the boat, delivered it to the water at Tedder's on this morning. I had already paid to rent the slip for the month of August.

Before mid-afternoon, I had already stripped it to a bare plywood deck.

A severe storm was approaching my tent a few miles away, so I went and got it and clamped the corners of it to the back of the boat. It has been there ever since.


Monday, August 2nd through Friday, August 6th, 2010:

On Tuesday, August 3rd, I took the boat on its maiden voyage and took several pictures at DeLeon Springs State Park less than a half mile around the bend from Tedder's.

The rest of that week was 15-hour days spent endlessly tweaking things, getting an eye exam to replace my badly-scratched glasses, ordering a weather station from Ace Hardware, and simply adapting to this radical change.

I have met many nice people in addition to L. H. and Jack Deason, including Bob, who takes his rowboat out from Tedder's every evening and who is building a paddlewheeler boat which he intends to launch soon. I've also met, TJ, who lived in a boat on these waters for about twelve years, Mark, who lives in one of the houses between Tedders and the state park, and who runs the canoe, kayak, and pedal boat concession there. And on the Spring Garden Lake in the second house the other way lives, Robert Reed, who knows this area and these waters very well. I am also getting along well with all the many people who launch boats and fish here, and with all the park visitors who go by in the canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats, and in the pontoon tour boat. There are about ten nice suburban-style houses surrounding Tedder's. Besides L. H., and Mark, and Robert Reed, who I mentioned, I've met Mark's cousin who lives in one of them, and Robin, a lady who lives in another.
Her friends Lois and Dianne, originally from New Jersey, watched the sunset from the dock with her one night.

There is an adult alligator who appears at the camp every night, and who has come within 20 feet of my tent barge, but who has not appeared to be a threat. LH feeds at least three baby gators in the morning. They are about 16 inches long.

The only other thing scary or annoying so far at Tedder's has been the airboats, which are almost half of the boats that use the ramp. Some of the operators are jerks -who don't idle out to Spring Garden Run before gunning their excruciatingly noisy engines.

I see otters both in the water and on shore. One morning a family of four large adults strolled past onto the ramp at Tedder's and disappeared into the water.

DeLeon Springs State Park is only 0.35 miles by water from Tedder's, just around a bend. There is a boat shelter which used to be part of the park that is less than halfway there. The weather has been extremely hard because every day has been the same since I got to Florida -highs between 90 and 100, heat indexes between 105 and 120, winds that last from about 11 AM until about 4 PM, reaching as high as 16 miles per hour with gusts reaching as high as 22, and at least one rain storm most days. If I put the rain cover on the tent, it is unbearably hot inside except during the actual rain. So, I spent a lot of time in the boat shelter. There is also good 3G coverage for my laptop in there, unlike at the park and Tedder's which are dead spots. Out in the refuges 3G comes in great. One night I anchored just below the flowing spring, and the 72-degree water made it cooler inside the tent.

The DeLeon Spring, or "Fountain of Youth" is a wonderful swimming pool, and I can use it and the rest of the park for free if I come in by water.

At the Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant ang gift shop there I bought a nice guidebook I've been reading about the Saint John's River. Tedder's is several miles up the tributary fed by the spring called Spring Garden Run, with Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and two large lakes between Tedder's and the main river, and Lake George State Forest bordering on the north. Just south of Tedder's is a dead-end lake called Spring Garden Lake, which is the only place I took my boat the first week because of the weather challenges.

There is actually a bit of a town called Deleon Springs surrounding Tedder's also, but instead of a downtown it just has several businesses strung along US 17 about a mile from Tedder's. My favorites are the Ace hardware store, the laundromat, the tiny Mexican restaurant, and the Mexican ice cream and juice bar. There is also a nice soccer field-picnic-baseball diamond park about 1/3 mile from Tedder's, and a nice post office about 2/3 mile away.

It is nine miles from my boat slip at Tedder's to the center of DeLand, a town of about 27,000, which I really like, especially the wonderful downtown, the shady Stetson University campus, and the Volusia County mass transit system which serves Deland and the towns on the coast about 25 miles east (Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, and New Smyrna Beach). All of the places I have needed to go to outfit my boat (WalMart, Lowe's, and Tractor Supply) are on this side of DeLand. A nice shopping center with two drug stores, a Winn-Dixie grocery, and a Dollar General and several other nice businesses is less than five miles from Tedder's.

I also managed to get and record the wattages for each of the ten motor speeds. The lowest three are below the wattage of the panels, so when the sun is bright, I use no battery energy at all in them.


Saturday, August 7th, 2010:

I took a break finally from the boat work to drive by car to the nearest ocean beach, Ormond Beach. The 27-mile drive was very pleasant, and I really liked the beach and also the town. Then I drove the five miles south to Daytona Beach, lined the whole way with high-rise hotels. Daytona looks interesting, and the speedway I passed on the way back to DeLand is absolutely huge.


Sunday, August 8th to Saturday, August 14th, 2010:

I managed to find a nice tiny harbor tucked into the cypresses about 0.8 miles from Tedder's on the north side of Spring Garden Run. But the trip made me want to improve the safety of the boat, so I stayed in or near Tedder's all week. The new additions were battery boxes, a marine toilet, a small fan, several new electric outlets and extensions, a small "buffer" battery, a bucket and tub and soap and detergent to hoist up river water for bathing and washing my clothes, a radio which picks up NPR from Orlando, and many, many more smaller tweaks. I also got my weather station with anemometer and wind vane, and picked up my new glasses.

Ed visited about 10:30 Wednesday morning, and we had a fun day in downtown Deland, and swam in the spring.

Also this week, L.H. offered to sell me a green plastic 11-foot Coleman mini bass boat with a nice 37-pound trolling motor for a fantastic price. By the end of the week, I made the purchase.


Sunday, August 15th and Monday, August 16th, 2010:

I arrived back in the little harbor I mentioned I found last week at about lunchtime today, Monday August 16th, and I'm typing this Monday night from there. I did five important things that made me confident enough to venture out here for a few days: First, I added a 10-inch wide retractable gangway on the left side of the boat, and moved the tent a bit forward so there is room to walk behind it. Then I added handrails to the left and back of the boat. Thirdly, I improved the anchor so it will be suitable for these waters. Next I attached a hook to the end of the long extension pole Ed found for me at the hardware store in Deland last week when we were there to get my weather station. Finally, I drove the little Coleman boat I just bought from L. H. between the pontoons in the back and hoisted it to the bottom of the deck so it is about two inches above the water. It is now my tender craft, with it's own motor and battery and anchor!

I extended a gangplank onto the land here at the mini harbor and Ghost FINALLY got to be in a cool peaceful place for the first time when I put him among the ferns in the shady swamp forest on his leash just a few feet off the plank. The tent barge is backed in so the solar panels will get sun but the tent won't. And we got a drenching rain but it was easy to quickly add and remove the rain cover now that I have the walkways and railings.

My attention can now focus on my flight back to Ohio between this coming Friday and next Monday. I will go from Orlando to Port Columbus and back and will use a rental car. I will visit o'Neil on Friday, have a picnic in Columbus Saturday, and attend my condo meeting Sunday. I have bought my plane tickets and arranged my parking for the Geo at the Orlando airport but have not yet found a kitty sitter for Ghost.