Technically, it is the water not the road, but I like wailing out Willie Nelson when slogging up the waterway rather than, say Christopher Cross and ‘Sailing.’
Over three days
Start: Fort Pierce Municipal Marina
End: Titusville Mooring field via Vero Beach anchorage and Cocoa Beach Anchorage
Total Distance: 70.0 nm
Average Speed: 5.5 kts.
After a week (and a day if we are being precise) we are leaving Ft. Pierce. It has been absolutely fantastic to be here and get reintroduced back to the United States. But we are all getting tired of people walking by our boat, we are busting our monthly budget by staying in the marina, and the air conditioner is moving from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have on all the time!’ so we got to go!
After three months(ish) of being in the wide open ocean and sailing between islands in the Bahamas, we are now in the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway. A very long ditch that heads north. We are at mile marker 965.9 which is our countdown to Norfolk, VA. Just under a thousand miles through five states (Florida, Georgian, North/South Carolina and Virginia). Then it is another 130 miles to Herring bay and we are done. If we averaged 30 miles a day, we could be back where we started in just over a month. But we will probably not average that…there are a couple of stops we want tomato along the way. But it is weird to be seemingly very close to the end!
Plan was to be out on the water at 0800(ish). Slack tide is right about then, wind looks good, and we get to sleep in. It is amazing what happens after a week of not moving, and worse, being in a marina, where you don’t need to use anything1. We all have a little rust. First off, we almost forgot to disconnect our power cord from shore. We haven’t used one in so long, it wasn’t on our radar. Think about the gas station and leaving with the fuel line still connected to your gas tank. Same deal, except without all the gas spilling, but you get the idea. Then went to start the motors and the port side engine refused to start. Lots of whining from the starter, but the motor seemed to want to stay a couple more days. And the starboard motor got in on the fun when I went to shift the engine into forward and it didn’t go. I flashed back to three days earlier when I told Jan “remind me to get a cotter pin from West Marine” because I needed one to connect the shifter cable to the motor. Whoops! Quick drop under the hood and we are going again.
We get off the dock, turn and head out into the ICW. And get our first lift bridge in four months. I call the bridge to ask for a lift and the reply was “Sorry, Captain. Won’t be able to open it until this afternoon.” Then a beat. And the bridge tender came back on the air laughing and saying “just kidding…will get it right up for you.” Nice to know that these dudes have a sense of humor. And maybe he will pay for the load of laundry we have to do now because I dumped a load in my pants.
Normally this would be a day that we would choose not to be on the water. Wind is 12-15 knots from the north (the way we are going). But our plan is to go only 12 miles north to Vero Beach, find an anchorage and see if we can link AJ up with the kids from S/V Schole who arrived from the Bahamas two days earlier. Wind is annoying, but we aren’t in the ocean, so no big waves; the ride is comfortable. And cool. The temperature yesterday was in the 90s. Today it is in the high 60s. Not that any of us are complaining…we are still in shorts and T-shirts while I understand there is snow up in the northland.
The ICW is as we remember. Opens wide for awhile, then skinny. The clear blue water we grew used to is now placed with brown water. And most definitely not clear. The channel is 12 feet deep and on either side is a mixed bag. Sometimes six feet, sometimes two. The whole thing is lined with red and green markers through which you pass. The chart plotter shows the general route, but we always follow the markers–they are correct. We get passed by boats who, for the most part, don’t wake us. There are a LOT of boats in the anchorages on the side of the ICW, there are also boats that appear to have been abandoned and some grounded. AJ does school work, Jan and I trade off driving duties and we make our way through rain north.
Within three hours the skies clear and we arrive at Vero Beach. The municipal marina is in a river just to the east of the ICW and we pass through the marina (waving at S/V Schole as we pass them) and and then, immediately north of the morning field, turn left into a small river and drop the anchor. If it weren’t for the four derelict boats already anchored around the spot, it would be gorgeous place. In a small river surrounded by mangroves and protected from the wind.
Our new (to us) rocna anchor sets hard in the mud, though we can’t see it through the hazy water and no one is willing to dive on the thing to make sure it is set. We drop the dinghy, take Lucky to a dog park, AJ to shore to join a pack of kids and we relax on the boat. Dinner, movie. Good to be moving once again.
“We should keep going, this day is too good to stop early. We never know what tomorrow will bring.”
Jan Donnelly 4/12/18
Our second day on the ICW is much like the first, without all the drama when we leave. Everything starts right up, we pull up the anchor, on which there is an enormous mud ball which needs to be cleaned off, and head directly down the river to the ICW. It is before 8am, there is a nice breeze from the east and we throw out the genoa which gives us another knot of speed. We are humming merrily up the ICW at sometimes 6-7 knots. It is a gorgeous day. Our original thought was to go to Melbourne and anchor, but we flew up there in four hours and we had half a day left. That is when Jan pronounced her words of wisdom and we set our sights on Cocoa Beach. Where we arrived late afternoon. We dropped our anchor and it didn’t set. Crap. So we reset, dropped again and boom. We were in.
Our anchorage was on the northeast side of a causeway. Winds were supposed to come out of the SE that evening and we wanted to get a little protection from the land. Cocoa beach, historic side, was on the opposite side of the river; commercial side (i.e. ‘where the home depot and Publix market are located) on our side. We went to shore to walk around a bit with the dog looking for the home of Jeannie and Major (presumably now retired) Nelson. From ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ Which is the sum total of our knowledge of the area. No luck–turns out they shot the show in California. It was, you know, fictional.
Which led us to day three of our journey north. To Titusville, FL. Not a throbbing metropolis, by any stretch of the imagination. We stopped here early on Friday and picked up a mooring ball outside their municipal marina. Couple of reasons. Next stop we had planned was another 40 miles away, which would have made for a REALLY long day; why kill ourselves. Second is that there is a launch scheduled for Saturday evening and we can see it from the mooring field. And lastly there are thunderstorms scheduled for Sunday. So why not make a weekend out of it. Which is where we sit. AJ seeing how many gigabytes there are in ‘unlimited data plan,’ Jan reading about the Virgin Islands and planning a future trip, Lucky rolled on his back in the sun.
1My theory is marinas make us lazy. Or at least make me lazy. Something happens when we pull up to the dock and plug into shore power. We keep our lights on, even if no one is in the room. We run the fridge and freezer full power all night. We watch TV. We run the AC. And projects? We start some of them, but don’t finish. Usually because we are missing a piece and decide that we will go find it, instead of finding what we have on the boat and getting it done. Like the cotter pin for the outboard clutch. Don’t get me wrong–we all like marinas. But they cost money and they take us off our game.