From Cocoa we spent two full days motoring up the ICW. Skipper Steve tried to sail of course – and we gained some speed with our genoa out, motorsailing on Saturday. On Sunday he felt a breeze (our wind instrument is still malfunctioning) and decided to raise the main sail. But the wind was light and variable, the channel about 40 feet wide, winding, with 0.5 m depth on either side, and to make matters worse it was Sunday so there were plenty of pleasure-boaters rushing about. It was a losing proposition, though the Cap hated to admit it. so he played with the preventer and sail trim all day! Still, we enjoyed ‘sightseeing’ again along the way, checking out homes, the Kennedy Space Center (NASA) at Cape Canaveral, water birds and people – PSA’s (as my Dad used to call them – ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternooners’).
I was especially thrilled to pass a couple of spoil islands, just before entering Mosquito Lagoon, which were full of nests and different species of birds happily co-mingled, including (most excitingly for me) white pelicans, great egrets and roseate spoonbills which look a bit like a very pink flamingo from a distance.
We also enjoyed transiting the Haul-Over Canal (once a First Nations portage route) between the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon.It was a pretty canal, lined with people enjoyed the sunny weekend afternoon walking, picnicking, kayaking or fishing, ending in a bascule bridge, which we transited with the two boats we had been following for 2 days, Windigo and Leeward. They both peeled off later in the afternoon in Smyrna, but we continued, heading for the Rockhouse Creek Anchorage in the troublesome Ponce De Leon Inlet.
A word about our favourite resource here, Active Captain. This is an interactive cruising guide, a huge database of information entered by other cruisers and built up over time, with ratings and details (including navigational pointers) of marinas, anchorages, services, bridges etc. The best part is that is is integrated with google earth, and also with navigational software, such as Garmin’s Bluecharts, which we have on the iPad. So as we go along, we can check out anchorages and marinas that we might stop at as well as potential issues – such as silting in the Ponce De Leon inlet, which in this case we did.
Several recent reports from cruisers talked about hitting hard in mid-channel on the ICW, and provided details of the exact location between numbered navigational aides, recommending hugging the red beacons around the ICW/Ponce Inlet junction. We read the recommendations carefully. It was about 4 pm, about 2 hours before low tide. We called Tow Boat US for advice too, and they said we should be fine since it was mid-tide. We slowed down anyway and took it carefully. And yes, we hit bottom briefly – just mud so no problem getting through, but we bounced a little on our 5’8″ full keel and sounded the depth alarm (set at 7 feet now that we are back in the US – we had to set it at 6 feet in the Bahamas as there are many shallow areas).
Anyway, we made it though, and continued a little further to our chosen anchorage, dismayed when we turned to corner to see no other sailboats there, which made us question whether it was also silted up. However, we decided to go slowly and check the depths, and in fact we were fine, anchored a little way in and relaxed for the evening. In the distance we could see the tops of sailboats entering the inlet. There were plenty of recreational boats out near the beach ahead in the inlet, but they all cleared out by sunset, and we enjoyed our barbecue with only dolphins and wading birds as well as two other anchored boats (another sailboat came in after us).
Day 278: March 16;
Distance travelled on this leg: 49 NM;
Current Position: 29° 73.13 N; 80°55.84 W;
Left Cocoa anchorage at 0800;
Anchored at Rockhouse Creek at 1615;
Wind W <5 kn; calm, sunny and clear, 11°C in morning – 27°C by afternoon.
The next day we hauled anchor early after a little dawn fog cleared, and moved on again, pushing a little sand around with our keel as we left the anchorage at low tide and rejoined the ICW. We had another unimpeded view of the impressive Ponce Inlet Lighthouse – the second tallest in the USA (after the Cape Hatteras Light). We motor-sailed all day, through Daytona, with its 5 bridges (two of them on-request bascule bridges).
We called ahead to find out if we could get into the Marineland Marina, another highly recommended stop – according to people we met at old Port Cove as well as many Active Captain reviews. However, we also knew it was shallow and impossible to get into at times. We spoke to Chris, the manager, who was very helpful and said that since we would be arriving at high tide, we would be fine entering the channel into the marina, and he would put us on a floating dock with the most depth in the marina.
We arrived at 3:00 om, and Chris, Eric and Matt were all there to help us get tied up. We saw less than 6 feet on entre, a little worrisome as it was high tide, and in fact found ourselves sitting in the mud at the docks later that evening at low, low tide! But the guys here are very friendly and helpful. Eric’s wife offered to drive me to the nearest Publix to get a few groceries. The showers are great and the laundry is free – so if wifi. We are surrounded by protected marshland and a short walk from a very nice beach, across the road from Marineland’s Dolphin Experience itself. In fact, two dolphins came by our boat in the evening, right in the marina! So we plan to stay a few days, fix the dinghy and the wind instrument, do laundry and catch up on correspondence. If we do our chores well we plan to treat ourselves to a kayak ecotour (half price with the marina stay) and use the two free tickets to visit Marineland.
A big bonus for us is that our friends from Toronto, Mary and Wayne, who spend winters in nearby St. Augustine, popped by for aptly-named happy hour on our first day at Marineland. It was great catching up and we look forward to seeing them again soon – up the ‘road’ in St. Augustine.
(For best viewing click on the first picture, then press ‘slideshow’ at the bottom. now point your cursor to the bottom middle of the screen and press pause (ll) so that you can scroll though at your own rate once the pictures are fully loaded, using the arrows < >) at each side (middle) – the captions should show under each picture.)
Day 279: March 17;
Distance travelled on this leg: 45 NM;
Current Position: 29° 40.15 N; 81°12.90 W;
Left Rockhouse Creek anchorage at 0805;
Docked at Marineland Marina at 1515;
Wind W <5 kn; calm, hazy 12° – 20°C.
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