June 24, 2015
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog on our travels along Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway. Unlike our trip south, we’ve been spending most of our time on the return trip traveling up the waterway instead of spending several days at each stop. Much as we like to explore our stops and get to know the locals, we are anxious to get up to Thunderbolt Marine in Savannah, GA to haul Just One Dance out of the water, perform maintenance on her and get some important upgrades done so we can go to the Bahamas after this year’s hurricane season. Plus we need to be north of 30 degrees latitude before July to keep our insurance company happy.
Unfortunately, this leaves little time for me to sit down and blog about our travel since we usually arrive at our destinations late in the afternoon and then head out early again the next morning. So this post will condense several days of our travels so I can catch up more quickly to where our travels currently stand.
We push away from the dock at Stuart early on Monday morning, May 18th after fueling up at the Sailfish Marina dock. I’m a bit confused, since I overestimated the amount of diesel each engine will need by about 3 gallons, which is a lot percentage-wise, given that each tank holds only 27 gallons. I look at the Yanmar diesel engine fuel consumption curve and conclude that the extra efficiency must be due to all of the slow rolling we did the previous several days to keep from arriving at timed drawbridges too early. The engines’ fuel consumption rate drop considerably at low rpms and we spent significantly more time puttering along at slow rpms than cranking the engines up to 3500 rpm (our normal cruising speed is about 2800 rpm) trying to make our bridge openings.
We pick our way gingerly out of Manatee Pocket since the water is still low, but find the traffic at The Crossroads considerably less departing on Monday morning than when we arrived on Saturday afternoon. We swing back up north and make our way back up the ICW. Our goal for tonight is Eau Gallie, a town where we really enjoyed our stop at the quirky Eau Gallie Yacht Basin on our way down.
This time though we are anchoring out (since, as I mentioned, it’s free) and just keep the Yacht Basin as a backup in case the anchorage doesn’t work out. ActiveCaptain, the cruising crowd-sourcing site, has put us on to a really nice anchorage off of the local veterans’ park just south of the Eau Gallie fixed bridge on the east side of the waterway, though the entrance is a bit tight. The site describes the anchorage as a “wine goblet”,with the entrance as the narrow stem opening up into the bowl of the anchorage. We arrive early in the afternoon and line ourselves up on the shore landmarks noted on ActiveCaptain (the flags, the power cable warning signs, the gazebos) and though the bottom comes up quickly, we make it into the “goblet” safely and drop anchor in about 10 feet of water.
I put on my mask, snorkel and fins again to check our anchor set, but the water is so murky I can barely see a foot in front of my face. I decide we just have to trust it (we did back down on the anchor at 2000 rpm without it dragging). Still, the anchorage is beautiful, peaceful and teeming with dolphins. We see them in two’s and three’s all around us. As I swim around to the back of the boat, Cindy yells out that a dolphin is heading over to check me out. I look around but see no trace to him. Apparently he still prefers to keep his distance. After I rinse off on our fantail shower, we sit out and watch the sun set over the water and listen to the sounds of people playing in the park.
Early the next morning we weigh anchor, the chain coming up covered in mud and small shells. I fire up our anchor washing station and it performs flawlessly, blasting the muck off of the chain with seawater, thereby preventing it from collecting in our anchor locker. Cindy reverses our path into the anchorage, still stored in our GPS chart plotter from the previous evening, to assure we don’t run aground as we leave.
We push on northward, leaving development behind as the shoreline reverts more and more to mangroves, loblolly and egrets. What development we see is smaller and quainter than what we saw in southern Florida and we see far more houses that we could imagine ourselves living in than we saw in Lauderdale or Miami. Our anchorage for the night is off of a wide open beach just north of Dragon Point on the southernmost tip of Merritt Island. No wine glass stem entrance tonight, our approach is wide open and we push in toward shore and drop anchor in 10 feet of water. The anchor sets easily and we settle in again for the night.
The anchorage is fairly exposed but with no storms in the area we feel safe. A steady breeze pulls our anchor chain and bridle taut. Since Cindy has to run payroll for our gym we fire up the generator to provide a/c power for her almost drained laptop. The generator runs smoothly and we both take advantage of the power to charge up all of our electronics. I cook dinner while Cindy does payroll. After eating we lay out on the front deck enjoying a drink while the sun sets. This is what I love best about sailing.
The next morning we weigh anchor again and head back out into the channel. As we cruise northward we hear Coast Guard reports on the VHF that sounds like they are about a NASA launch happening later in the morning. A quick check of our favorite real-time launch news site (spaceflightnow.com) reveals that NASA is indeed launching an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral at 11:05 this morning. Since we are currently heading toward the launch complex at the north end of Merritt Island we know we’ll have a good view of the launch. I stream the news site’s feed on my iPhone to keep up on the countdown and just after 11:05 we see the rocket rising majestically above a bright orange flame just to our northeast.
We arrive at Titusville, our destination for the day, in the early afternoon and anchor on the west side of the ICW almost directly opposite NASA’s launch complex near the Vehicle Assembly Building. We both note that if we had been here a few hours earlier, we would have had an even better view of the launch. The area is again teeming with dolphins and we settle in to watching them broach and play around our boat.
We are also keeping an eye upon the weather since our iPad weather app has warned us that there was a strong likelihood of storms passing over Titusville this evening. Sure enough, we see dark cloud forming just to the south of us, blowing to the east. This is fortunate since that is the one direction in which this exposed anchorage affords us some cover. However, the threatening clouds stay to the south and pass us by, so Cindy and I go up front to enjoy an afternoon cocktail and watch the dolphins frolic. We’re enjoying the ambiance and mention how lucky we were that the storms were to the south of us when I glance back and see this:
Holy crap!! We run back to the cockpit and start slamming and dogging down our hatches and zipping up our cockpit enclosure. As we do so, we can feel the initial blasts of cold wind that precede an approaching storm front. Just as we finish closing up, the wind picks up in earnest and swings us 180 degrees around on our anchor. We can feel the anchor let go of the bottom and then reset as JOD snatches up short on the chain and bridle. White caps kick up on top of the anchorage’s surface as the wind blasts us from the west. Lightning bolts crackle from cloud to ground all around us. This is really the greatest danger in a storm, given that our 60 foot mast is the tallest object around. We grab the keys and stick them in the ignition in case our anchor starts dragging and we have to fire the engines up quickly.
We grab up our cell phones, iPods and handheld VHF radios and put them in the microwave where they will theoretically be protected in the event of a lightning strike on our boat. Cindy takes our handheld anemometer and steps outside the enclosure to measure the wind speed (interestingly enough the storm, vicious as it is, does not have much rain associated with it). The winds clock in at 35 knots steady with gusts up to 45 knots. We can feel the boat shimmy as the gusts pull our ground tackle taut.
For 45 minutes the winds buffet us as we watch our anchor alarm app to check if our anchor is dragging (yep,there’s an app for that). The lightning and thunder drive Missy nuts and she barks incessantly, even when I hold her in my lap and try to calm her. Then, as quickly as it blew up, the storm quiets down again. The winds drop and the clouds on our western horizon open up to reveal a beautiful, peaceful sunset. The air temperature, which had been hot and stifling all day long, has dropped considerably and there is almost a chill in the air. Soon all evidence of the storm is gone and we go back to enjoying our peaceful evening at anchor.
As harrowing as the storm was, it provided us with a good test of our Rocna anchoring system and I must say we were both very happy with the way it performed. It handled the veering of the wind without a problem, quickly resetting itself after the wind snatched us around. Once reset itself in the bottom, it never let go. We’ll sleep much better now knowing that we have a set of ground tackle we can depend on.