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14 November 2010 @ 03:06 pm
Fall colors  

A week ago today, Sunday, the winds from that cold front that came in a few days before finally died down at night. I learned so much during those days about handling such wind, but then I moved to a more cozy area where I was all last week and still am.

As you can see from the picture, it can now really look like Fall as I think of it, at least when the clouds are right. But most of the week has been cloudless again. The reds and oranges along the shores though still remind me.

I've learned from Bob, who rows out to chat every evening, that the manatees are here now in Spring Garden Run, down near the 72-degree spring water. It makes sense, because the water temperature is now in the mid and upper 60s in the main Saint Johns River, so the manatees come up here for warmth. I heard them surfacing for air one night, but have not seen one yet.

The coots that migrated here in huge numbers though have spent all week uprooting and eating all the water lilies around my boat, which is good because the locals say these lilies have overgrown this year.

Eventually I will learn more and talk more about all the birds, because I am in the middle of a huge wildlife refuge that is known for an abundance of species.

But the coots have been a joy to Ghost. He has become very smart about staying safe on the boat, so I let him wander onto the walkways and let him jump into the Porta-Bote and the little Coleman tender and peer under the doors, which I keep lifted a few inches for him. And I put the little table out near the edge so he can see all the coots all around as they dive under and come back up.

I continue to be extremely pleased with how comfortable the boat is becoming, especially since I added the latest touch this week -a Visqueen covering over the screen porch. With this easy to remove addition, it is now a "greenhouse porch".

It is amazing how well it works in the morning. -Right at sunrise, at 7 AM, it begins to warm up inside, so I open the shelter door where I've been all night and sit in the chair with the sun rays hitting my face. It will be about 48 outside, but within ten minutes, the porch is up to about 68, the same temperature as the shelter.

I'm so pleased with the comfort of the boat now that I've begun to invite visitors (new friends) to come aboard and sit and talk awhile when they are passing by in their boats.

Harlan Hubbard, who was my inspiration for starting my boat, wrote frequently about how having guests was one of the joys of his shantyboat on the Ohio River for him and his wife. (Go here for my discussions about Harlan Hubbard.)

Speaking of writers, this neighborhood had a famous one, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who moved here in the thirties and stayed for the rest of her life and wrote many books and stories about this part of Florida.

The setting for her 1938 book The Yearling was just a few miles from here across the forest tract.

The 1946 movie was even more famous, and it was filmed over there.

There is a lot of local pride about the success of the book and movie, but I think it is appropriate, because I though it was my favorite movie when I saw it in my forties.

I realized that it was probably the inspiration for later books and movies about adults and children dealing with animals and loss or death, like Candy Come Home and Old Yeller, both of which I loved as a child.

When I stopped at the ranger station while crossing the forest on one of my recent trips, I saw the Ocala National Forest map that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings scribbled on to mark where events in the story occurred.

I also learned about the Florida Trails Association and a book I want to get from them called Surviving in the Wilds of Florida. I will need to go to port and drive to their little office near Gainesville because I don't have a PO box for them to mail it to me. I checked online and none of the libraries near here have a copy.

One thing I'm already learning on my own is how to cut a canal into a waterway long choked with aquatic plants.

Yesterday, with the help of Shelley, who came by when I was starting, I cut about forty feet into the west end of the canal here that has been overgrown for perhaps forty years. I just sat in the front of my Porta-Bote and cut into the tangled plants with my camping saw.

It still appears distinctly in Google Earth but is completely impassable. It was created back when DeLeon Springs was an old-fashioned Coney Island-type amusement park as well as a nature park, and Bob and others tell me it was a wonderful place for canoes and rowboats as late as the 1960s. The current Coast Guard chart still shows it as three or four feet deep. I want to see if I can get in about 150 feet so I can use the little bay at that point as a haven. Last week an airboat went all the way through the canal. No wonder they are so noisy. You can see his path but it's hard to believe the hull could push over that stuff.

I have been tightening up my financial planning now that things are getting more secure and settled, and I am confident I can live completely off of savings and investments easily for the next six years. I am such a pessimist about the economy that I consider that the baseline situation, and if business improves at work in Ohio, I consider that as gravy, or like a bonus. I'm glad I took leave like this rather than having someone else there who really needs the money and can't live off savings get laid off.

The reason six years from now (early 2016) is important for my planning is because that's when I become eligible to collect Social Security. But when I plan beyond 2016, I still add a huge safety factor because of my pessimism. In this case I am pessimistic about getting the whole benefits that are now projected. For my planning, I assume I'll only get 1/2 or 2/3, and if I do get more than that it will be like gravy or a bonus.

I intend to exclude travel from my budget through next Spring at least, but not because I definitely can't afford it. Rather, I want to see how well I get through winter without depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). If I go to Ohio like for Christmas, this would upset the experiment. Perhaps a year from now I could try such a trip if the results from this winter are good.

As for this new week, I think I will tie up at Tedders, probably tomorrow, to begin the two final boat improvements I have devised. The first is the appearance and trim work that I described in the last post. The second is the strengthenings of what I have decided will be my windward sides in a severe storm. (I've learned that which walls face the wind is totally controllable by where the anchor ropes are attached.) 65 miles per hour is the gust I intend to survive without damage, and I've designed the strengthenings based on this.

Finally, here is the gallery of all of my latest pictures: pictures -November 8th-14th, 2010.