Okay, I don’t even know where to begin or how to get this whole damn story in so I’ll just jump right in. Please do your best to follow along. We have all been holed up in Titusville replacing some injector lines and waiting out a major front that blew through here over the last three days. Thirty plus knots of wind for days on end and it was maddening. We are, however, thankful that we were on a dock and not out on an anchor or mooring. That said, yesterday morning we woke up and the wind had dropped to 15-20 from the East. Now on most days that would make me rethink going anywhere but hell, 20 knots now is like a walk in the park compared to the bullshit we’ve had to deal with on this trip. Anyway, we tossed off the half-dozen dock lines and hit it hard. Favorable wind and we pulled sail immediately. That is always good for a nice boost in the speed-over-ground department. Nine hours later we covered 65 miles and found ourselves at the sweet little anchorage by the Wabasso Bridge near Vero Beach. It’s a cool spot right off the dock of the Environmental Learning Center so it’s easy to take Jet ashore. And therein lies… the rub.
We dropped anchor around 5pm and immediately launched the dinghy…that’s our usual drill. I take Jet ashore and Mel finishes up her work for the day and then keeps an eye on the chartplotter to make sure we’re not dragging. Usually I’m hurried so I don’t grab my phone, ID or shoes for that matter. You see where this is going? Anyway, we land on the dock and walk to a little gate directly across the street from the Environmental Learning Center. It’s a nice place with a couple of small poles across the driveway with a pad lock and a sign that reads “CLOSED”. I notice the beautifully manicured grounds that looked like a lovely spot to walk Jet as daylight slowly waned and promptly stepped over the knee-high impediment to exploration and walked in. As I rounded the corner, Jet froze. His ears popped up and his gaze fixed. I was a second behind and then I saw it… crouched at the edge of the palm fronds and low in the brush was a freaking cougar! NO, not Courtney Cox… a real cougar. Eyes fixed on us and in the pounce position. HOLY SHIT… ran through my mind. Jet didn’t move a muscle and neither did I. Actually… neither did the damn cougar. It was a life-sized painted exhibit in the park!!! The freaking thing was so real it scared the crap out of me! But it did not scare the crap out of Jet. He would not poop. He just kept sniffing and was totally distracted. So we turned around and I thought better of walking farther into the park at dusk and headed back to the road across from where we were anchored.
Barefoot and donning my favorite black terrorist sweatshirt and black baseball cap, I walked Jet up this deserted road hoping he’d quit being distracted and get on with his “business”. I quickly lost patience after a good twenty minutes and did an about-face towards the dock and our dinghy. Not to be the case. As I about-faced, a cop car approaches and stops with a sheriff van immediately behind him. I think nothing of it because I’m a law abiding citizen and honestly, preoccupied with thoughts of a cold beer and a warm meal. But no, they pull over in the middle of the street and open the doors and get out. The sheriff says, “You the guy who just jumped the fence at the Environmental Learning Center?!” I… with an amazing look of complete and utter stupidity say, “Jump the fence? What fence? Oooooohhh, you mean the knee-high pole that keeps cars from driving through? Yeah, I guess technically speaking, I’m the guy who “jumped the fence.” Just then, a sheriff chopper… YES people an F’ing police helicopter circles over head of the cop car and the police van. All for a shoeless man who “JUMPED THE FENCE” of the Environmental Learning Center. Now… I have no ID. No cell phone and again… no shoes. The officer proceeds to read me the riot act, takes my name, address, phone number, social security number and goes to his car. The other dick-head, I mean officer, proceeds to “small-talk” me as if I’m an idiot. Which by now I’m beginning to believe I am. The first officer gets out of the car and says, “I’m gonna need finger prints. I can’t find anything on you in Tennessee.” To which I reply, “Of course you can’t FIND anything on me because there is NOTHING to find.” No go. He pulls out a digital device and I have to place my index finger and my middle finger (which I promptly displayed to him saying, “this one?”). Ten more minutes with Barney Fife numero dose… and officer one comes back with, “You’re cool. What’s your phone number again?” I gave him my old fax number from Filmhouse. Sorry, Ron. He says, “What are you doing here?” “Um, officer… I am traveling on my sailboat we are anchored just over there. Do you think the chopper is a bit much?” “Oh” he says, “They just buzz the scene whenever there’s a call.” Reeeeeaaallly. Tax dollars at work.
Now… I’m going to bump up my usual cynicism here and say this. When we travel, we use an incredible resource know as Active Captain. This site has the whole Intracoastal Waterway as a Google Earth format and you can see anchorages, bridges, docks, marinas… you name it. It’s how we found this little gem by the Environmental Learning Center aka: The Authority Nazi Dock. Travelers can get on and post immediate reviews, warnings, notations or hazards and all sorts of positives and negatives regarding all the stops along the way. It is a priceless resource and FREE! We use it all the time. I tell you this because, on the way down, we stopped at a popular anchorage in the middle of a well-known military base (we won’t say the name so as not to draw attention to it). The notes read something like, “Great anchorage. Tons of space. 10 foot depths and well protected from all directions. But it’s an active military base so don’t even THINK of taking your pets ashore.” Well, there is no other place to take him ashore and since he has refused to go on the boat, I did. I got in my dinghy with it’s loud and smoky outboard engine and Jet and landed that thing right on the sandy beach where they do their landing exercises. He peed on and sniffed every rock and shrub on the entire landing area while Melody chaffed my ass on the VHF to “Hurry up!!!” Not once… did anyone ever ask me a question. Not once did a single MP approach me and say, “Sir, this is a heavily guarded Military Base in the United States of America! You sir are OUT. OF. BOUNDS. Now drop and give me twenty!” Not once.
But “JUMP THE FENCE” of the Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach? You get a cop, the Sheriff and choppers. And THAT my friends is what is wrong with our great country. Common sense has crawled up a horse’s ass and died.