We spent the last few days covering as much of the ICW as possible – in search of warm. Done with the fog and drizzle and cold of northern Florida and ready for some time in the sun. St. Augustine to Daytona Beach – 53 miles; Daytona Beach to an anchoring spot just outside the channel about 12 miles south of the NASA Causeway Bridge at Cape Canaveral – 66 miles; and from there to Vero Beach – 54 miles. We travel about 6 mph, so from sun-up to sun-down, which is about ten hours now, we can expect to max out at 60 miles. It’s hard to travel the ICW after dark and hard to anchor in the dark.
The 66 mile day put us at our anchoring point just as the sun set:
Each day, we were up at sunrise:
Goldwin taking up the anchor:
Bridges are either on request – we call them on a particular radio frequency and request an opening – or they are on a schedule – such as every 20 minutes or half hour. Many do not open during morning and evening commuting times.
We were lucky and the bridges opened just as we approached – we never even had to slow down. Perfect.
The trip is generally hours of following the day marks. Here’s a green square – take it on your port/left side downbound. Red triangles are on our starboard/right side.
But these hours are typically interspersed with moments of panic and magic. Here is panic: Matanzas Inlet just south of St. Augustine. Inlets are tricky because the ocean really surges in and out of these little breaks in the barrier islands – lots of current. Sand on the bottom is moved around so much that the US Army Corps of Engineers has a difficult time keeping the channel markers in deep water. So instead of the green squares on poles, the marks are green cans floating on the water. And they are not usually marked on the chart because they are moved so often. Two things you have to know about Motu Iti to understand what happened. First, Motu Iti needs 5 feet of water to float. Second, when she is motoring and picks up speed, she squats down in the water – literally, the back end digs in and the cockpit (due to the self-bailing feature), fills with water – usually just to the top of the teak grating.
So, as we approach the first green can at Matanzas Inlet, I see I am somehow much closer to it than I planned. This is not going well. Then suddenly, I am almost hitting it and then the cockpit fills with water and the depth sounder alarm goes off and I see 5.7 feet. The current has taken hold of the boat and slammed us out of the channel. I finally get control and regain the channel, but with heart pounding. We did not want to end up on a sandbar with that much current pushing us up on the beach. Whew!
This is what can happen; glad it’s not us.
Then, at the bottom of Indian River, we picked up radio traffic complaining about a dredge in the middle of the channel and only 5 feet of water to get around it. There was a lot of name calling and swearing and finally the Coast Guard got involved.
Turned out to be nothing – we passed slowly right next to it and always had 10 feet of water.
Magic? Bald Eagles in Mosquito Lagoon; dolphins swimming with the boat and surfacing right next to where we’re steering; pelicans diving for food; osprey carrying their catch back to their nests.
And, finally finding WARM. At a mooring in the Vero Beach Municipal Marina.
Then inflating the dinghy and dinghing to the dinghy dock. [Beats a commute into DC.]
For a hot shower (at last). And finding a beach bar – Waldo’s – for a fruity rum drink.