Heading south down the east coast of Florida
20th - 28th February 2007
On our first day out from Green Cove Springs, we headed downstream to Jacksonville, where we knew the tide would turn against us, so we opted to tie up for a few hours and await the change of tide. The city of Jacksonville kindly provided a huge number of free-of-charge docks, handy for just this purpose. Approaching the docks could be perilous and it was essential that you approached in the right direction, using the current to slow your approach, otherwise you could well be whisked right past your intended dock. Additional stress was resulting from our brand new paint job, which we were anxious not to damage against the concrete dock. However, our approach was perfect and soon we were safely tied up for a spot of lunch.
Around 3 pm, as expected, the tide began to turn, meaning we could continue our journey down river. The wind had also piped up considerably, however the new wind direction was pinning us tightly onto the concrete dock, making it tricky to maneuver the boat safely away into the main river channel. Luckily our topsides paint escaped unscathed but one unlucky fender became trapped under the dock, pulling down the stanchion to which it was tied, leaving us with one newly painted stanchion now shaped like a banana. Oh well, there was a saying that if you bought a new car, you should scratch it yourself on the first day, so you wouldn't have to worry about it any more! Perhaps this was the equivalent.
We moved another eight miles down the river, to put us in a good position to enter the Intracoastal Waterway the next morning and dropped the hook at Blount Island amongst a rash of awkwardly spaced fishing buoys. It seemed to be an excellent fishing spot and we were suddenly startled to be approached at high speed by a flock of three ospreys squabbling over one fish. Ospreys are birds of prey common on the waterways, which are specialists in fishing, diving down to the surface of the water, claws extended and usually emerging carrying their catch fore-and-aft in their claws, shaking off any water which may have got onto their plumage, as they ascend in search of a place to enjoy their dinner. The sight of three ospreys battling over one fish was something we hadn't witnessed before and was particularly dramatic, especially when they decided to land on our new solar panels to finish their fight. The solar panels seemed to survive the assault.
Once the kafuffle was over, we were delighted to hear from our friends Chris and Vivian and arranged to meet up with them the next day in St. Augustine as they were on their way to Orlando. Early next morning we were under way again and by early afternoon were approaching the Bridge of Lions at St. Augustine. We planned to pass through the bridge and then dinghy ashore to pick up Chris and Vivian. At this point things began not to go to plan. We called up the bridge to check their next opening time and were told that the bridge wouldn't be opening until 6 pm as construction work was taking place beneath the bridge. Luckily there was another spot where we could anchor on the north side of the bridge, in order to spend the night.
|We launched the dinghy. Despite the fact that we'd tested out the dinghy and outboard before leaving Green Cove Springs, the outboard refused to start. With our friends on their way to St. Augustine especially to meet us, Phil set to work under intense stress to try and get the motor to start. Finally after the carburetor and plugs had been cleaned, the fuel filter changed and anything else we could think of had been fiddled with, we were successful. Chris and Vivian came ashore for drinks and then we adjourned to a nearby restaurant, O.C. White's, to meet up with friends of theirs for dinner. The excessive wait for our food at least gave us plenty of time to catch up on our latest news.||
Heading down the ICW
Sorry guys - don't swim in the channel next time!
If we wanted to pass through the Bridge of Lions the next morning we had no choice but to make an early start, as is often the way on the ICW. Often we are up before the birds as we found a couple of days later on heading south from Titusville past Cape Canaveral, where the Space Shuttle could be seen sitting on the launch pad. As we made our way to the NASA causeway bridge, we seemed to alarm the huge number of birds, mostly pelicans and cormorants, which seemed to have been settled on the surface of the water.
We'd still been experience a certain reluctance
by our inboard engine, Yanny, to start in the mornings, which had never been
a problem in the past unless the weather was extremely
cold. Each evening Phil had been working on the engine,
trying to get to the bottom of the problem and finally in Titusville when we
were anchored, he'd spotted that the split pin on the throttle cable had
somehow become jammed in the mechanism, meaning that you weren't actually
reaching the revs you would expect. The problem was rectified
and things improved dramatically.
Strong southerly winds were forecast for the next few days, so we decided to pull over in a favourite spot we'd visited previously, next to the library in Eau Gallie, near Melbourne in Florida. The major attraction of this anchorage besides the shelter offered from the southerly winds in the anchorage north of the bridge causeway was the availability of free wireless internet access from the nearby library, which could be picked up right on the boat.
The enforced stay in the area also gave us the chance to do a spot of maintenance. Phil managed to discover the corroded connection which was preventing our single sideband radio from working well and that was repaired. We also discovered that when we'd been showering, water had been escaping from the shower tray into the bilge, so we tackled the problem by resealing everything.
On one of our trips ashore to West Marine for
supplies for our repairs, we met Jim, a fellow sailor planning and extended
cruise in the near future. He kindly drove us around the area in
search of the hardware supplies we needed and then offered a trip to the
grocery store as well. Jim probably began to regret his decision
to help us out as we approached the dock where we'd left to dinghy to find
that somebody had stolen it. Jim and Phil set off along the
river in Jim's truck to see if they could spot the dinghy at all, meanwhile
Christine got on the phone to the Police.
We were lucky that the nearby construction workers had glanced at the dinghy as it headed off and although they had paid little attention, assuming that we had returned and picked up the dinghy, they gave an excellent description of the thieves and the direction in which they had headed.
New friend Jim, who came to our aid in our hour of need.
As soon as this description was passed on to the
Police they jumped into action and as luck would have it their boat-based
policeman had spotted two boys fitting the description, in a dinghy matching
the description of ours fishing not far away. Off he set
in his powerful boat and they were arrested and the dinghy was on its way
back to us. Their efficiency was amazing. As the
boys were hauled off in the waiting police car, we debated to ourselves who
was more stupid, the young boys for deciding to simply take our dinghy and
go fishing or ourselves for leaving the dinghy unlocked, a thing we never,
never do, except on this occasion. We were definitely out of our
cruising habits and very, very lucky to get our dinghy back.
Once the wind moved around, we continued our trek southwards and found ourselves racing along towards Fort Pierce on a comfortable beam reach. We wanted to refuel before crossing to the Bahamas and decided on Port Petroleum's dock in Fort Pierce, which usually offers a good deal. What wasn't offered was any help to tie up on the huge commercial dock or any answer on the VHF. Assuming that they were open we approached their dock and made an almost perfect landing. Of course we were still worried about our flawless paint and even more so when during re-fuelling the wind did a dramatic shift and naturally we found ourselves pinned on the dock again. This time things were really tricky, with the risk of damaging the dinghy on the high pilings on the dock and a very limited space in which to try to get the bow around against the wind. The paint got scratched, so now we could stop worrying about it!
We circled around for a while in search of an
anchorage we felt comfortable with and finally settled on the one we've used
before, taking great care to select a spot deep enough for us this time!
Next day we went out through the inlet at Fort Pierce into the Atlantic Ocean and unexpectedly found ourselves sailing in a pleasant beam wind, pretty rapidly towards Lake Worth. This was exceptional, the sea was pretty calm, the wind strong enough for us to move along quickly and we'd caught a fish. As lunchtime approached the wind strengthened and the sea became more choppy. Having lost our sealegs, making sandwiches became quite a challenge. We surfed into Lake Worth Inlet feeling pretty windswept and anchored in the lagoon a couple of miles north up the ICW.
Anju sailing on the East Coast - we thought the two were mutually exclusive!
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