Well it’s been a long time since we updated you on our progress. This “chapter” covers our adventures from Cumberland Island, GA to Vero Beach, FL. (November 27 to December 18.)
We Reach the Sunshine State (Tues, Nov 27)
Sue got us off to a good start with a great breakfast (scrambled eggs with zucchini, onion, and tomato, and toasted bagel). The weather was overcast and threatening, so we decided to skip going ashore on Cumberland Island. Just as we were about to weigh anchor, two fisherman in a small boat came over to tell us that the owner of a nearby house had seen that we were from Massachusetts and wanted us to know we were welcome to tie up to his dock (he too was from Massachusetts). We still kept to our departure plan, but I must admit I wondered what adventures we missed by not going ashore.
The rest of the trip was uneventful (no nuclear submarines were in transit), and we even took time out crossing Cumberland Sound to try and align our autopilot compass with our regular magnetic compass. The electronic compass was off by 41 degrees. We had learned to “live with it” since the Chesapeake, but it had proved particularly annoying when using the radar in the St. Andrews sound fog. The procedure involved turning lazy circles in the water, but still no luck. We even called Raymarine tech but they couldn’t suggest anything but a new course computer (ouch!).
We crossed into Florida (hooray!), passed by the Amelia Island pulp mills (the odor was noticeable but not obnoxious), and picked up a mooring at the Fernandina Beach Marina just before noon. Some warm showers did their usual wonders, and soon we were off to explore the town. There were lots of shops to check out, plus O’Kane’s Irish Pub (lunch), a local Florida winery store (fruit wine tasting – Key Lime wine anyone?), and our last stop – the historic Palace Saloon (the oldest operating saloon in Florida). There we ran into the crew of Cassiopeia (Wayne and Isabelle) with whom we had shared a Thanksgiving anchorage in Kilkenny Creek, GA.
After all this “shopping”, it was back to Sogno for Chicken Piccata and an episode of “House.”
Dinky Do Goes Bump in the Night (Wed, Nov 28)
We had a noisy night on the mooring, with the mooring pennant eye slapping against the hull during another wind opposed to current situation. We awoke to find a small commercial fishing boat tied to the corner of “Dinky Do,” a small cabin cruiser at the next mooring over. Apparently the fishing boat broke away from its mooring and ended up lying against Dinky Do. Thank you to the owner who managed to secure it to his stern cleat, keeping it from marauding further through the mooring field (in particular Sogno!) By 7:30 am the fisherman came with Tow/Boat US to retrieve his errant vessel.
The rest of the morning we motored down the ICW (one draw bridge), and stoped at Palm Cove Marina, Jacksonville Beach by 1:00pm. We spent the afternoon on various projects (e.g., rearranging storage to accommodate the extra provisions we would need for the Bahamas). We then explored the local area, which was too far from the beach, and mostly shopping centers. We picked up some Chinese takeout and made it back to Sogno.
St. Augustine Lights Up the Holidays (Thur, Nov 29)
After some early showers, we made a graceful exit from our slip (no wind) and passed through the B.B. McCormick draw bridge (very friendly keeper). During the approach to St. Augustine, there was a bit of confusion between the inlet buoys and the ICW marks, but we sorted that out and tied up in the Municipal Marina at 2pm. The nearby Bridge of Lions draw was being completely repaired, and next to it was a temporary lift bridge that would be torn down at the end of the construction. Our slip was within 50 yards of some construction barges and tug boats, but we slid in nicely to our assigned slip.
St. Augustine is a popular stopping spot, and we ran into Werplayin (Deb and Paul) who we hadn’t seen since Annapolis. We stocked up on some more oil filters and the latest edition of Skipper Bob’s “Bahamas Bound” guide at the marina store, and then began wandering the downtown area, which was all decorated and lit up for Christmas. The plaza in front of the Lightner Museum was really spectacular. (We hope to visit the Museum someday.)
We of course couldn’t help but run into more boaters, when we paused for refreshments. Adam (a live aboard) was busy investing all his spare cash into rice, beans, and canned goods for a future trip. Gregg and Coreen, from Winnepeg, Canada (Gormet) were also heading for the Bahamas. We finished up at O.C. Whites for a nice dinner.
Planning and Flexibility are the Secret (Fri, Nov 30)
We wanted to stay another day in St. Augustine (Plan A), but the marina was expecting a large group of 45 boats that day, so we had to leave. After a thrilling exit (backing against the current toward the previously mentioned barged), we tried to find a suitable anchorage on both sides of the lift bridge (Plan B). No luck. So after calling a few other marinas we decided to press on down the ICW. Butler Beach basin (Plan C), despite an excellent Skipper Bob rating, was shallow with a lot of current, and Brian managed to touch bottom for a while. The cement plant canal (Plan D) didn’t seem all that inviting, so we finally settled on Palm Coast Marina (Plan E).
We didn’t do too badly during the landing, but it took as 40 minutes to sort out all 6 docklines we used to secure us in the slip. After a light lunch, we finally got the right guy at Raymarine on the phone, and within 5 minutes our autopilot compass alignment problem was solved. (If we had bothered to look in Sogno’s log book entry of 17 August 2005, we could have “refreshed our recollection” weeks earlier and saved ourselves a lot of grief.)
Thanks to the marina Wi-Fi, we got some quality time on the Internet, as well as some reading up on the Bahamas. Sue put together a “comfort food” menu for dinner (aka tuna helper) and on that note, we wrapped up another “flexible” day on the ICW.
Seven Seas Marina (Sat-Mon, Dec 1-3)
Our next destination was Daytona Beach, but after a few attempts at anchoring (too shallow, or not enough room), we decided to try out the Seven Seas Marina at nearby Port Orange. At $0.80 a foot dockage, it was too good to pass up, and it turned out to be a great choice. There was a very narrow channel into the marina, but we were met by at least 4 persons who helped secure us to the side of the fuel pier in short order. The showers/restrooms were “basic” but the friendly owners and Pat’s Riverfront Café on the premises made it a special stop for us.
The first night we managed the usual dining out, with appetizers at DJ’s Deck and dinner at another place under the nearby bridge. After you ordered/paid for your meal, you could sit anywhere, and they still managed to find you. We took home half of our mahi-mahi and tuna dinners for a future meal. For good measure we ordered a Key Lime cannoli to go with the “Master and Commander” DVD that night on Sogno.
Pat’s Riverfront was a great old fashioned breakfast and lunch place: good food, service and prices. We managed to hit breakfast there 3 times in a row and really loved the omelets, pancakes, bacon and hash browns.
We also decided that this do-it-yourself yard was the place for us to have Sogno hauled. We knew our zincs needed changing and we wanted to see what the bottom was like. (Sacrificial zinc fittings are attached to the propeller shaft and hull and are designed to corrode instead of other metal parts below the water line – ours are usually used up in the course of a normal 6 month season back home). They hauled Sogno at the end of the day (Sunday) and left her hanging in the travel lift slings. We managed to change the zincs, clean up the propeller and knot meter paddle wheel, and wipe off only a light coating of slime on the hull. The bottom paint was definitely working well and still looked in decent shape for the rest of the trip. We must have certainly been a sight – water and blue slime all over us. All of our clothing went into the marina washer while we took showers. The Captain suggested dinner out so we went out for pizza and then spent the night rocking gently onboard Sogno – hanging in the sling. It was weird. The next morning they dropped us back in the water. The entire operation cost us under $100 and they didn’t charge us for any dockage that night!
Monday was spent as follows: going to Radio Shack for a new power cord for our backup computer hard drive and a head set for internet telephoning (Skype); washing down Sogno’s deck and cockpit; walking along Daytona Beach (cars have a 10 mph speed limit); provisioning; getting some quarters for the hungry laundry machines; and testing Skype on the internet. (See how we keep busy between meals!)
On the Hook in Titusville (Tues, Dec 4)
After one last breakfast at Pat’s, we were helped out of our dock and got back on the ICW. This stretch, had a number of shallow spots and we managed to dodge most of them except near “R2” mark near Ponce de Leone Inlet. We hit a shoal at around 5knots and Sue was sent tumbling on to the edge of the cockpit seat. Nothing serious other than the standard boat bruise, but it could have been worse. We managed to back off and proceed (more cautiously) through some more shallow sections, passing “Jubilee” (family of 5) which we hadn’t seen since Deltaville, VA.
We were now in manatee country, and there were many speed controlled areas. (Manatees are gentle marine mammals that feed on grass, and can be easily run over by power boats.) We think we saw our first one in Haulover Canal, but in general we didn’t see very manatees at all.
We finally got back in the anchoring game, and dropped the hook off Titusville in the Indian River. We managed to have a civilized cocktail hour, watch the news, grill a steak and watch TV (House, Boston Legal) with key lime cheese for dessert. Now that was a great anchorage!
Happy Hour Grazing in Melbourne (Wed, Dec 5)
Many boaters were opting to stay around Titusville for the shuttle launch scheduled the next day, but we decided to press on for Melbourne. (The launch was ultimately delayed a few days and then scrubbed.) We arrived at the Melbourne Harbor marina, fueled up, and then docked with our usual display of dock line tossing and piling lassoes to hold us in place. By now we were noticing that sailboats are given very easy docks to tie up if at all possible!
Brian’s cousin Joann, who lives in Melbourne, was still not answering our voice messages, so we set off to see how competitive the Melbourne Happy Hour scene was. First stop: Meg’s Restaurant and Irish Bar where we met John, a NJ snowbird and retired Wall St. guy, who kept telling us what a great thing we were doing. The Caribbean Jerk Chicken Wings we were eating were also a great thing. Next Stop: Main St. Bar where we met Frank (with broken foot) a former sail boat and trawler owner. He was a nice guy, but in a run of bad luck. Besides the foot, he was a real estate agent and the local real estate market was also broke. He filled us in on all the waterfront development disasters, which explained why all the high rises we had been seeing along the ICW lately seemed very dark. Last stop: Ichabod’s back at the marina where we had a most excellent Chicken Quesadilla.
We Arrive in “Velcro Beach” (Thur, Dec 6)
Our next stop was Vero Beach, widely referred to as “Velcro Beach.” The City Marina was so cruiser friendly, that once you got there, you found yourself stuck there for many more days than you had planned. When we arrived at 2:30 we were assigned to a mooring, but told to prepare our boat to raft with up to two other boats. This was a unique arrangement, but a great way to get a lot of boats into a well protected anchorage as well as an easy way to meet more cruisers. The daily mooring rental ($11) was also another incentive to stay. By coincidence, we were moored right in front of the Vero Beach Power Squadron club house.
During registration, we met Stan, an experienced ICW/Bahamas cruiser from Salem. He stood out from the crowd when I saw his Jubilee YC (Beverly, MA) tee-shirt. Stan and Judy (Rhumb Runner) were a great source of information, local transport, and just fun folks to have over for a sundowner.
Later, we walked over to the Riverside Café, which was quarter mile from where we were moored, and discovered this became a very popular place from 4 to 7 each day, when half price beers kicked in!
Stuck in Vero -- and Loving It (Fri, Dec 7- Tues, Dec 18)
We were going to stay 4 or 5 days, but ….
Why do cruisers get “stuck” in Vero? It has a free shuttle bus system to get you around town (donations welcome). All the usual chains are there (Home Depot, Lowes, Wal Mart, Target), along with super markets, banks, post office, library and of course the mandatory West Marine store (very small which saved lots of $$). A nearby beach, parks, restaurants are added bonuses, but the thing that really makes Vero special is the close community of transient cruisers and snowbirds wintering over. They help you in so many ways to get your bearings and help you with your ICW, Bahamas, and Florida Keys questions. There’s even a local “alumni society” of boaters who have come down to Vero to live permanently. They’re called CLODS (Cruisers Living On Dirt) and they organize a Wednesday cruiser’s breakfast, and other social events. One night the marina was treated to Christmas carolers who came by one evening in lit up kayaks to get us all in the spirit of the season. In short, Vero Beach and its marina is just the perfect place to catch your breath, send and receive your mail (Sue did the Christmas cards), focus on the next part of your trip or simply enjoy each other’s company.
Within two days of arriving, we rafted up with Flutter Bye (Steven, Genvieve) and Delphinus (Fred, Diane). Steven and Genvieve were from Montreal, and although language was sometimes a problem, we were able to help Genvieve out when Steven was called back to snowy Montreal for one week of work. Fred and Diane (veteran Bahamas cruisers) in turn helped us out in provisioning and what were the best weather sources for the Bahamas that we could tune into on our single side band (short wave) receiver. They also brought us a bag of fresh oranges and grapefruit –thanks Fred and Diane.
Vero also turns out to be a place to see old “friends” we had met along the ICW (Jubilee, San-I-Tee, Cassiopeia, Werplayin) plus many new friends who helped us with ideas and encouragement:
Tom and Susan (Gypsy Soul - which is a Gozzard 36)
Andrew and Carolyn (Pendragon, previously home ported in Boston)
Neal and Stephanie (Rhapsody, home ported in Portsmouth, NH)
Ernie and Carolyn (Hispaniola, also from Portsmouth)
A few days after we arrived, we finally connected with Brian’s cousin Joann and her husband Jack. We had a great dinner at a restaurant right on the beach (thanks Joann and Jack!) plus a chance to catch up on family news.
In the repair/improvement department, after thinking it over all the way down the ICW, I finally decided to buy a 44 lb. Claw anchor to backup our other two anchors. We also improved our Wi-Fi reception when we finally got the antenna/receiver we ordered back in North Carolina. (Thanks Dan for sending it, and thanks Sebastian for recommending it). I re-spliced our nylon anchor rode to the 90 feet of chain on our main anchor and made up two eye splices for our 150 towing line so it could be used as a backup anchor rode if necessary. We also got some spare propane fume detectors, when one of the two on board began to act up with false alarms.
At last the moment had come, when we finally had to admit that all the “must do” items were done and we really had packed our boat with enough food and drink. It was to time to go.
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Brian and Sue
Buds at Sea