First of All –
- First time using my trip line rig to anchor the dinghy out in the water, away from shore
- First insect sightings: zebra butterflies and rhinoceros beetles
- Cedar Key
- Faber pencils
- Donax whisk
- Miles Cruised today: Layover day
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 1,933
- Hours Underway: NA
- Fuel: NA
- Morning House Battery Reading: 12.58
- Wind Speed: 5-10; Wind Direction: E and then W
- Daily High Temperature: 86
- Water Temperature: 81
We’re in no hurry this morning, for a change. With settled weather forecast for the next 4 or 5 days at least, there is no urgency to move. We’ll spend one of our hard earned layover days at Cedar Key. It’s actually quite breezy this morning, with the east wind kicking enough of a chop from across the bay that our boat is getting a good rocking. As it swings into the wind and chop it momentarily settles out, but then her swing continues, putting us abeam of the chop, and then the rocking begins. Our friends on Cat Daddy are headed for Tarpon Springs today. They get an early start and we have the anchorage to ourselves. This situation doesn’t last long, however. A pontoon boat is heading across from Cedar Key, and it’s filled with excited kids, all wearing orange life jackets and clearly eager to go ashore here on Atsena Otie Key. We later learn that they are the 4th grade class from Chiefland Elementary school. This is the first time Chiefland has brought a class of students here on a field trip. The pontoon boat lands on the beach, disgorges its cargo of 4th graders and accompanying teachers, and departs. The kids are armed with buckets and fish nets. They wade the shallows, deploying their nets and enthusiastically examining their catch. By the time we’re ready to go ashore they’ve all disappeared, following the nearby trail inland. We walk the beach to the start of the trail, and walk into the island forest. We don’t go far before we hear the kids quickly walking back toward the beach. We meet up with them and hear scary stories about vicious mosquitoes. We’re not deterred though. We’ve brought along a special repellant potion I bought on impulse at a grocery checkout counter. It’s supposed to repel mosquitoes, biting flies, no see ums and chiggars. I shake it up vigorously and drench all exposed skin with the stuff. It’s got citronella and other non deeet ingredients in it. It smells nice, but doesn’t work worth a darn on mosquitoes. Oh well, maybe it works on no see ums. If all else fails, we can still poison ourselves with deet. Along the trail we pass a large shrub which is in bloom, and it has attracted 6 or 8 beautiful black and yellow butterflies. They have graceful, narrow wings. We’ve seen them in the Florida Keys before, and I think they’re called zebra butterflies. The trail ends at a historic cemetery, where residents of the small village which once stood on this now uninhabited island said farewell to their departed loved ones. At the entrance a sign identifies 40 or 50 names of people buried there. Most of the burials date from the 1870’s to the 1890’s, when a community on the island thrived. A cedar mill was located here. That, along with fishing, provided the basis for life here. The mill has long ago gone to ruin. Besides the cemetery, the only signs of settlement which we see from the trail are the remains of a windmill, a large concrete cistern, and some brick foundation structures where the mill once stood. On another branch of the trail we walk over to a dock, which is gated off at its head. A sign interestingly points out that this dock is reserved strictly for the birds. The birds have gotten the message. Cormorants occupy the tops of most pilings. Here and there ospreys stake out their spots. Closer in we find pelicans, terns, and shorebirds. It’s an amazing menagerie. Back at the beach we chat briefly with the teachers, who vigilantly monitor their students, now out playing in the warm water. We leave the beach to them and dinghy across the bay for town. We’re in search of a good lunch, and we find it in a small cafe. I order a tasty meat filled sandwich called a Cuban. The bread is smashed flat and lightly fried. Different, and very good. Sandy has a salad, so she’ll have an appetite for dinner. After lunch we explore the historic streets of Cedar Key, and cap off our walk with a visit to the town museum. It’s a great small museum, with an interesting mix of artifacts, story boards, and historic photographs. The docent loves to talk with visitors, and she enthusiastically describes what is on display. Cedar Key has an interesting prehistory, as well as a remarkable set of more recent stories to tell. Cedar Key was the western terminus for the first cross state railroad in Florida, completed just prior to the Civil War. It was the scene of military activity during the war. The place boomed for 20 or 30 years after the war ended, with logging of the local cedar stands being the principal activity. Most of the cedar logged here was turned into pencils by the Faber Company. After the cedar stands got logged out, a new industry was started by a dentist named Dr. Andrews, who began producing whisk brooms from the fiber found in the Sabal Palm. He processed the bases of the palm fronds, and turned them into various sizes of whisk brooms, which he called Donax Whisk Brooms. The operation closed in 1952, and at that time Dr. Dan’s wife had all the whisk broom making equipment, along with all the remaining processed fiber stock, placed in storage. Dr. Dan’s son is now 87 years old, and he is still making whisks, on a small scale, with the remaining stock of fiber. The whisks he makes are sold at the museum, and he donates all proceeds to the museum.
It’s now time to head back to the boat, following stops at the grocery and an ice cream shop. The wind has now disappeared, and the bay is glassy smooth as far as I can see. I hear some heavy breathing close by, and watch a pair of dolphins cruise within 10 feet of the boat. I can see them surface way out on the bay. Soon it will be time to fire up the barbque and put a nice slab of king mackeral on the barbque. I’ll use my friend Karl’s special recipe, and I expect it will turn out great. I’ll report on the results tomorrow. After dinner we plan on rowing ashore, where we’ll sit on the beach and hope for a repeat of last night’s green flash at sunset.