Last week we spent a delightful three days camped at Jetty Park watching the cruise ships sail by in Port Canaveral. Nearby we investigated the Port Canaveral lock and saw that you could take a boat tour that came through the lock and sailed into the harbor amidst the cruise ships. It looked like fun and on a hot, winter day we boarded the Blue Dolphin on Merritt Island and took the trip. Geography is a bit tricky here. You feel like you are on the ocean, even when you're not. Our sail began on the Banana River, which is not a river at all, but actually part of the intercostal waterway, and inland waterway especially beloved by small boats. Here the Banana River is very shallow and it is easy for even small craft to bottom out on a rough day. We saw two that had run aground and been deserted by their owners. On the Intercoastal Waterway you can sail 3,000 miles from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then follow the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. Since the Banana River combines fresh water from land with the ocean, it is brackish and many animals also prefer it to the open ocean.
The Port Canaveral lock enables boats to transfer from the river to the sea. We have watched it from above and sailed through it today and still do not totally understand why it was built. During the extremes of high and low tide the discrepancy between the waters of the river and ocean is more drastic, but there was no water being pumped in and out during the transition as you would expect in a more typical lock. Large flocks of pelicans lurked near the opening and closing lock doors waiting for fish confused by the swirling waters to fall into their mouths.
It was especially interesting to see the NCL Epic docked here since it has been a lead story in the news the last few days. It lost engine power and sought refuge in San Juan, Puerto Rico where tug boats labored to bring it in on a windy day. The ship ended up crashing into the dock, damaging it and the hull. The Epic arrived back here in its home port about twelve hours late with an angry contingent of passengers who had not been able to go anywhere. They were lucky to arrive safely, but disappointed that their cruise did not resemble the trip they thought they had booked. Many missed their flights home and all the local hotels were booked up to the max. NCL tried to make the best of it with partial refunds and offers of 50% discounts on a future cruise, but some passengers were not mollified.
We loved seeing the Oasis of the Seas from below. We have sailed on it and her three sisters and as a class they are the largest cruise ships afloat. It was easy to see the Central Park area from the back with balconies overlooking the trees and grass. When the Disney ship sailed by, our captain played the Mickey Mouse theme song and we sang along and waved. As we passed Jetty Park we waved at the campers who waved at us just as we had done a week ago. Lots of waving going on!
We don't go out to eat a lot, but when the cruise ended at 5:30, it was time to head to a local seafood restaurant. The last few times we have eaten out, the waiting time to get a table have risen exponentially. Now that it is February and cold snow birds have come here in droves, we can really feel the difference in the crowds. You know you are a local, when you start wishing that they would all go home again.