Kennedy Space Center

Today, I dropped Cindy off at the Orlando Airport and then continued on to Lakeland to begin my last string of shifts at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center Emergency Department. I will work 18 shifts over the next 17 days. You can say a prayer for me if you wish. Cindy will spend a couple of weeks with her family before rejoining me in Lakeland for a few days before our trip (by plane) to the Holy Land.

Yesterday, Cindy and I enjoyed a fun day out at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We lived in Central Florida for 14 1/2 years and never visited the KSC. We talked about it, but never went. Now that we were in Titusville, we had no excuse. So, we spent the day yesterday being awed by our country’s space program. We couldn’t help but feel emotional when confronted with the accomplishments of our fellow Americans – the dreams they dreamed, the obstacles they overcame, the risks they took, and the goals they achieved.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Upon arrival, we wandered through the Rocket Garden, consisting of various Atlas and Titan rockets and Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules. Many of these rockets had their origins as ICMBs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), designed to deliver nuclear bombs to Russia. When the space program arose in the 60’s, we were at the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union. In a fortuitous case of swords being beaten into plowshares, these rockets found their ultimate use in propelling humans into space.

The Rocket Garden (All are actual rockets, but one)

The Rocket Garden (All are actual rockets, but one)

In the command module

In the command module

The first of two big highlights on the trip to KSC was visiting the retired Space Shuttle Atlantis. Over its 33 missions, it covered 126,000,000 miles. We were stricken with the size of Atlantis. It was much bigger in person than we had imagined. After viewing Atlantis, Cindy and I rode the high-tech launch simulator which simulated a launch onboard a space shuttle.

Actual size of the External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters used for Shuttle Launches

Actual size of the External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters used for Shuttle Launches

The nose portion of Atlantis

The nose portion of Atlantis

The tail section of Atlantis

The tail section of Atlantis

The Admiral trying her hand at Space Shuttle piloting

The Admiral trying her hand at Space Shuttle piloting

The underside of Atlantis with all those thermal protective tiles

The underside of Atlantis with all those thermal protective tiles

The Astrovan, used to transport Astronauts.

The Astrovan, used to transport Astronauts.

We then took a bus tour (we paid a little extra for an upgraded tour), visiting various launch pads, the Shuttle Landing Facility, various NASA buildings, and the Mobile Launch Platform. We also, unexpectedly, saw on this tour bald eagles and their nests, alligators, wild turkeys and other wild-life. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge occupies most of the land owned by Kennedy Space Center. We visited the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, and the largest single-story building in the world. Now that the Space Shuttle program has been discontinued, this building and launchpads are being modified for use in the Space Launch System (SLS), the shuttle-derived replacement launch system. It is hoped that the SLS will be sending manned flights to Mars in a few years.

One of the many launchpads.  This rocket (visible on the pad in front of the building) is scheduled to launch tomorrow.

One of the many launchpads. This rocket (visible on the pad in front of the building) is scheduled to launch tomorrow.

The Mobile Launcher Platform on Crawler/Transporter (when loaded with the shuttle the whole assembly weighed 18 million pounds)

The Mobile Launcher Platform on Crawler/Transporter (when loaded with the shuttle the whole assembly weighed 18 million pounds)

A look at Launch Pad 39A, from which every Apollo mission in which there was a moonwalk and many shuttle missions launched.

A look at Launch Pad 39A, from which every Apollo mission in which there was a moonwalk and many shuttle missions launched.

A look at Launch Pad 39B, from which other Apollo and Shuttle missions were launched (including the Challenger Disaster Launch in 1986)

A look at Launch Pad 39B, from which other Apollo and Shuttle missions were launched (including the Challenger Disaster Launch in 1986)

The Massive VAB (the blue background for the stars on the painted-on flag is the size of a basketball court)

The Massive VAB (the blue background for the stars on the painted-on flag is the size of a basketball court)

The Launch Abort System for the new Orion rocket to be used in the SLS

The Launch Abort System for the new Orion rocket to be used in the SLS

The Shuttle Landing Site

The Shuttle Landing Site

Roadside Eagle's nest (home to 2 parents and 2 babies)

Roadside Eagle’s nest (home to 2 parents and 2 babies)

 Bald Eagle atop a pole near  the nest

Bald Eagle atop a pole near the nest

This little alligator enjoying the parade of tourists on the tour bus

This little alligator enjoying the parade of tourists on the tour bus

The second big highlight of the KSC trip was visiting the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The Saturn V was the rocket designed for use in the Apollo missions which sent man to the moon. After visiting a theater simulating the firing room for the Apollo 8 mission (which contains the actual desks/pods from the original firing room), we were awed by an actual Saturn V rocket… Massive! After lunch, we touched a moon rock (one of only two places in which this can be done; the other being the Smithsonian).

Firing Room desks used in launch of Apollo 8

Firing Room desks used in launch of Apollo 8

The engine end of the Saturn V

The engine end of the Saturn V

Cindy in front of the 363-feet long Saturn V

Cindy in front of the 363-feet long Saturn V

The Apollo 14 command module, "Kitty Hawk"

The Apollo 14 command module, “Kitty Hawk”

Astronaut Alan Shepard's Spacesuit, feet covered with moondust from actual use on the moon

Astronaut Alan Shepard’s Spacesuit, feet covered with moondust from actual use on the moon

We ended our day at the KSC with one of the two IMAX movies which play throughout the day at the facility: Hubble 3D. We were both overcome by the vastness and beauty of the universe as seen through Hubble. Truly, we saw the handiwork of a Great Artist. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world… (Psalm 19).”

"Pillars of Creation" - NASA photo from Hubble Space Telescope

“Pillars of Creation” – NASA photo from Hubble Space Telescope

A Trip to the Seashore

On Friday, I drove down to Cocoa to the nearest Yanmar dealer to pick up some spare filters and V-belts (lesson learned). I also stopped by West Marine in Cocoa and a Lowes in Titusville for more supplies and tools. By the time I returned to Beatitude, our guest had arrived. Heather, the mother of our daughter-in-law, came to visit for a day or two. We are not only related by the marriage of our children, but she is a good friend. We hung out for a while before having dinner at a wonderful little restaurant in town, Koibler’s Cobblers.

Heather in the Cockpit

Heather in the Cockpit

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For breakfast the next morning, Heather brought a traditional Jamaican dish called escovietch, which consists of fried fish (in this case, snapper) which is marinated overnight at room temperature in a sauce of vinegar, chayote, onions, carrots and scotch bonnet peppers. After breakfast,we did a little laundry and then headed out to Playa Linda Beach, part of the Canaveral National Seashore. We paid our $5.00 to enter the National Park area and proceeded to parking area 9 (of 15, I understand), where we parked our car and walked across the boardwalk to the beach. (We later discovered that if I had continued further, we would’ve arrived at the nude beach. Good for us that I stopped when I did!) We did not expect it to be as crowded as it was, but we later realized that this was the first day of Spring Break for local schools. Despite the number of visitors, it was still quite pleasant. The day was sufficiently sunny and warm, while the breeze off the water was sufficiently cool and refreshing, to make for a perfect day. If only the water was a little warmer. I took my snorkeling equipment, but couldn’t bring myself to get in the 72-73° water. It was still a very nice outing. Children romped and played, adults soaked up the sun, and fishermen fished in the surf. Unlike the beaches in the Bahamas to which we’ve become accustomed, the sand was rather large-grained and brown, displaying an almost copper hue.

Escovietch

Escovietch

Entering the National Park

Entering the National Park

Playa Linda Beach

Playa Linda Beach

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The Ladies in the Sun

The Ladies in the Sun

Reading on the beach

Reading on the beach

At Water's Edge

At Water’s Edge

Copper-toned Sand

Copper-toned Sand

A nearby child flying her kite

A nearby child flying her kite

Two of the many pelicans flying by

Two of the many pelicans flying by

On Sunday, Cindy and I attended Park Avenue Baptist Church with our friends, Tim and Annie. It was so nice to be able to worship God with our cruising comrades. While unlike the liturgical worship to which we’ve become accustomed (and love), the service was still a wonderful time of worship. The pastor, in his sermon, issued a very important and relevant call to resist the spirit of consumerism which plagues America. While we’ve taken pretty radical measures in removing ourselves from that consumerist mindset, we, too – even living on a sailboat – have to guard against the relentlessness of the idea that more stuff brings happiness.

Beautiful stained-glass at Park Avenue Baptist Church

Beautiful stained-glass at Park Avenue Baptist Church

After church, we visited the famous local landmark/restaurant known as Dixie Crossroads. I had some of the best broiled shrimp for lunch (with plenty of dipping butter), while Cindy enjoyed the coconut shrimp. Upon returning to our home at the marina, we did a little cleaning. There were some rust stains on the deck that were mostly removed with some Barkeeper’s Friend and elbow grease. The rest of the afternoon we read and played and watched videos on the Holy Land. In the evening, we enjoyed a movie. The day after tomorrow, we must leave Beatitude for a while.

Lunch at Dixie Crossroads

Lunch at Dixie Crossroads

A pair of shrimps (labeled as such with express permission of the shrimp on the left) :)

A pair of shrimps (labeled as such with express permission of the shrimp on the left) 🙂

Hanging out in Titusville

The 28-hour overnight passage took it out of us. It took us all of Sunday, and also Monday, to recover. I thought I could stay up without taking a nap on the day of our arrival, but, alas, I could not keep my eyes open by early afternoon. I succumbed to sleep for a couple of hours. Before sleeping, I placed the mandatory call to Customs and Border Protection to notify them of my arrival from the Bahamas. He took all my information and notified me I had 24 hours to show up in person (with Cindy) at the CBP office at Port Canaveral to finalize clearing in to the country. On Sunday evening, our good friends, Tim and Annie, took us to Shiloh’s Restaurant, where we all had steak to celebrate our reunion and our return from four months in the Bahamas. It was so nice!

Osprey on the light post next to Beatitude.  Thankful he's not on our mast.

Osprey on the light post next to Beatitude. Thankful he’s not on our mast.

On Monday morning, Tim was kind enough to drive us to the Hertz rental car agency to pick up our car that we reserved for the next four weeks. After a very speedy check-in, we drove off in our brand new Toyota Camry, destination: Port Canaveral. Thirty minutes later, we had arrived at the CBP office which was located in the midst of all the cruise ship terminals. The officer at the window asked for our documents and asked for us to wait for a moment. Three or four minutes later, he returned to the window and said, “Thank you very much!” Now, that was easy! And, also, seemed pointless. I’m not sure exactly what this accomplished or why it was necessary, but at least it was relatively painless.

At the U.S CBP office to finish clearing into the U.S.

At the U.S CBP office to finish clearing into the U.S.

From there, we went to Sam’s Club in Cocoa, where we experienced a little culture shock. After our time in the Bahamas, we were overwhelmed with the massive amount of food (and other things) for such reasonable prices. We bought 36-packs of Diet Pepsi for what we paid for a 6-pack (when we could find it, which wasn’t often) in the Bahamas. After picking up a few things, we had lunch, and then bought a few groceries at Publix, before returning to the boat.

Tim and Annie stopping by Beatitude to say, "Hi."

Tim and Annie stopping by Beatitude to say, “Hi.”

I spent the afternoon working on blogs. Cindy did some interior cleaning, and we did some laundry. In the evening, we invited Tim and Annie over for some burgers on the grill. We enjoyed good conversation, watched the premier of Dancing with the Stars, and went to bed. Boy, did I sleep well the first two nights back in the States. We were exhausted.

Enjoying Excellent Wifi in the Salon

Enjoying Excellent Wifi in the Salon

On Tuesday morning, we finally felt back to normal. Since then, we’ve settled into being back in the States. Our time in the Bahamas consists now in a collection of wonderful memories. We’ll hopefully visit those beautiful islands again next winter on our way further south to the Caribbean. Our last few days in Titusville, has consisted in trying out some of the area restaurants (Valentino’s has the best pizza), doing some boat work (Tim and I spent several hours one day trying to figure out how and where to install our wifi booster/extender; Cindy and I spent several hours giving Beatitude a good bath), shopping, and relaxing. We also saw a movie in a movie theater for the first time in months. Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella was wonderful. I also spent several hours yesterday doing taxes and other financial tasks. The bottom line on my taxes was not pleasant. I owe, a lot. That means less money to fix up the boat and more money for Uncle Sam. Oh, well!

Bath time!

Bath time!

The Admiral swabbing the decks.

The Admiral swabbing the decks.

Taking down the screens and enclosure to the cockpit area.

Taking down the screens and enclosure to the cockpit area.

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We were visited by three manatees while cleaning the boat.  They apparently are attracted to the water splashing onto the surface of the water.  (This girl also apparently was doing a little bottom cleaning given the blue on her face. Or, maybe it's just Manatee Make-up.

We were visited by three manatees while cleaning the boat. They apparently are attracted to the water splashing onto the surface of the water. (This girl also apparently was doing a little bottom cleaning given the blue on her face. Or, maybe it’s just Manatee Make-up.

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Cindy with our Manatee Guests

Cindy with our Manatee Guests

We only have a few more days here in Titusville before we have to leave Beatitude for 4 1/2 weeks for work and a trip out of the country. More on that later.

Clean Cockpit

Clean Cockpit

Clean Front Deck

Clean Front Deck

Sunrise over Titusville Municipal Marina

Sunrise over Titusville Municipal Marina