More of the ditch and then open-ocean
We spent a total of 8 days in Stuart Florida. This is plenty of time really, as we were not really very happy about the lack of local transportation. We were planning to head north with my mom on board and get her close to Orlando Florida to drop her off at the airport in about a week, and decided Cocoa Florida would work as a convenient drop off point.
We ventured down the river and back to the cross roads, of the St Lucie River and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Stuart is a long way up the river, and we took over an hour of meandering channel to get back to the ICW, where we turned north.
The ICW was well marked, and we followed the charted tracks. We meandering along the very narrow channels, surrounded by small islands, some with some very pretty white sand beaches. Dolphins fished on all sides, rolling lazily in the brown water. We hoped to have them stay and play, but showed no interest in Southern Star.
Our day to Vero Beach was planned 40 miles. I felt like I was driving on a highway, with so many turns. We looked on Active Captain for a place to drop our anchor and anchor out at Vero Beach. The guide suggested a suitable spot just south of the Vero Beach Bridge in 10-12 feet of water.
We approached slowly, steering out of the channel. I could see the waters close to the bridge north of us were shoaling (reading water here means it is really shallow, as the water is so dark). We took a slow turn to check our depth for swing room, and soon came up to 1.5 meters. Oopps- too shallow and not enough room for us to anchor safely. I turned back toward the ICW channel makers and within seconds we were aground.
I reversed my engine, expecting to slide easily off the bar, and no joy. Increasing the revs on the Lugger showed no sign of getting off the mud. I tried turned to port, nothing. The ole dry stack was belching out some black smoke as I continued the revs in reverse. I began nudging the bow thruster- left then right, left then right, causing the boat to rock a bit port to starboard. A couple of nudges with the thruster and we were off the bottom.
I worked my way very slowly and exactly in the same direction I had come before finding the bottom. Safely back in the ICW and in 2 ½ meters of water, we continued north, to scope out another “anchorage”. Confidence and enthusiasm for anchoring was pretty low on my part. I later learned that my Mom was pretty nervous as she was sitting in the cockpit when we found the bottom, watching mud boil up from the prop.
The next anchorage looked pretty small and dicey, and instead we called Vero Beach Marina, just around the corner and just north of the Vero Bridge to find that they had a T-head dock for us. We were very happy to get tied up and plugged into power and to run the AC to cool us off. The marina crew was very friendly and helpful, and welcomed us to Vero Beach.
The marina itself is city owned and a bit long in the tooth. Rustic would be the best description. But the power worked, and we learned there was a FREE bus to the supermarket and shops.
With some time to kill, Jenny and I took the bus, driven by a friendly NY expat, and narrated by a local resident Jennifer, who welcomed us and told us all about the sights as we passed them. She even picked up on Jenny’s accent as Australian. We went to Publix, and the grog shop for replenishments, and enjoyed the tour back through Vero and to the boat. Vero Beach is quite a pretty place, nice local shops, and white sand beaches. We were sorry not to be able to spend a few days here.
But next day we were off again for another 36 miles of ICW work. As we passed through the miles and miles of wildlife reserve, enjoying the widening channels and deeper waters, we spotted tons of birds, saw fish in large schools jumping. We even spotted a pink Flamingo in flight as it soared above us. Of course the dolphins continued to ignore us, but were plentiful.
That night we anchored off of Eau Gaillie, just north of Melbourne FL, in lots of water, and huge amount of swing room. A quiet night was enjoyed by all. We had only about 12 miles to go to make Cocoa Village Marina, so we slumbered in a bit. Had pancake breakfast, and then got underway at about 9:00.
It was an easy run to the marina, which was well marked and pretty straight forward entry, just north of the Cocoa Beach Bridge. We backed into our slip and were plugged in and all set. The marina is just across the street from the village, which is full of small shops, restaurants, and has great bus service to Merritt Island, and then the beach.
We ended up staying a week; the weather was not very nice. A highlight for all of us was a satellite rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Our stern was pointed due north in the slip, and we watched the launch from our boat deck. The visuals were not as spectacular as the sounds. A blast of white, the rockets boosters, soon disappeared behind the cloud cover, to be seen intermittentant as it broke through the clouds. But the sound, the sonic boom was louder than thunder directly overhead. The rumble vibrated the boat, and could be felt in your bones. After we thought it was all over, we spotted a blip of light, as the first stage of the rocket fell away and flamed into the atmosphere. But then the prolonged and second sonic boom followed minutes after the rockets were seen. The rumbles were even more bombastic.
Even, my mom, who does not really seem to get very excited about stuff, was amazed. She kept taking about the goose bumps she had from the experience. It was a fitting final show for mom, as we dropped her off at Orlando the next day. It was really nice to see her and for her to see our new lifestyle, and to join us in part of the adventure. I think she really did enjoy it and hope she will come back to see us again, somewhere along the way.
Jenny and I enjoyed the rental car for the rest of the afternoon, did some more shopping in Orlando, and drove around through Cocoa Beach. We dropped it off after the weekend. And we stayed in the marina for another week, due to the bad weather. Every afternoon massive thunder heads developed and the skies opened, accompanied with 30 knots or more of wind.
Finally the weather improved and we headed off early in the morning on Saturday 10 June. We stayed in the ICW, toward Cape Canaveral, and took the lock through to the Cape Canaveral inlet.
The canal and the passage was really a highlight for me. We again, saw lots of dolphin along the way. We spotted several manatee, and of course all of the birds. We were one of only two boats in the lock, and tied up towards the front of the lock, then watched the water slowly flow through the opening lock gates; Very cool.
The channel to the ocean was nice and wide, the inlet very easy to make, and the seas were nice and flat. The winds had calmed and were light and variable. Seas were 3-4 feet, with a long period, on the beam after we turned north.
This was to be our longest passage, 200 miles, and we expected about 30 hours to make Fernandina Beach. This was also our second night crossing. We had purchased some red plastic film to cover the nav computer and the second monitor, and it turned out to be ideal solution to keep our night vision.
We made the passage without incident; both of us enjoying the solitude of being on watch at night. Jenny took the early morning watch 12-4 am, while I caught some sleep. I was up to relieve her and to watch the sunrise. And the dolphins joined us, several time, and this time they stayed and played with us. See the video I took and posted with this article.
We made the St. Mary’s inlet a few hours sooner than we projected, the Gulf Stream helping our average speed, and made our way to Fernandina Beach, and took a mooring ball off the township. The marina was still closed to transient boats due to damage from hurricane Mathew last year.
We enjoyed Fernandina. It is a quaint little village, full of restored buildings, art studios, and nice restaurants. We feasted on BBQ, and shrimp. We learned that the reason the inlet was so nice and wide and deep, was due to the US Navy trident missile submarine base, located just off of Cumberland Island.
After a couple of nice nights, we left Florida waters, and made our way to Georgia, our first stop, Brunswick Landing Marina, only 40 miles away. Free beer every day and free wine on Mon/Wed/Fri at the club house. The management here is very cruiser friendly, and the prices are geared toward long term (1 month or more) stays. The marina is considered a hurricane hole, which is nice as two TD are now forming in the Caribbean and the Gulf.
We fueled up here as well, taking on 990 gallons of diesel from our 6 months cruising. The prices here are the best on the East Coast at $2.09 per gallon.
We enjoyed meeting and spending two evenings with Jerry and Dee off Nordhavn 68, Grace of Tides. We went to a local art gallery and theater the other night with them, watched four women present the Savannah Sipping Club. It was an excellent way to see some local colour.
And now we will spend some time working on projects and riding bikes into Brunswick.
My sister, Martyne and her husband, Jeff are scheduled to join us mid-July. So not sure where we will be, but will likely be in Savannah or Hilton Head.
See the video of our passage:
photos of the passage
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