Our route down from Titusville to Vero Beach looked like this.
We booked a slip in VB’s Suntex Marina for a week. The plan was to install the watermaker and fans for the Bahamas. The install was taking me longer than expected so when we went to add a second week, we learned that a two-week stay cost the same as a month. When the month ended and I was making probably my 6th Uber ride to Lowe’s to buy more needed plumbing & wiring parts, we added another two weeks, oh wait … make that another month! That’s why we like to call it “Velcro Beach”!
During our time in Vero Beach we enjoyed visiting friends and making new ones.
The watermaker is a nice addition if you plan on spending lots of time in the Bahamas where water can cost upwards of $0.50 / gallon. More than the cost is the convenience of being able to fill our 440 gallon water tanks while on anchor. Now how do we install a diesel maker onboard?
Other Purchases & Install Projects
Satellite communication device to text while out of cell rage as well as track our location
We awoke to the sound of rain hitting the topsides of the boat. We weighed anchor in the rain and it poured for the next few hours.
We passed these hearty Jeepsters camping in the rain.
The weather just hung over us all day. It did not help that we were motoring South, straight into the thick of it.
The wind was on our beam and listing the boat to port. You can see the flags are flying out straight.
We passed two sunken sailboats and an aground catamaran.
This guy wins the award for the largest boat house on the ICW today and also the most dilapidated boat house. I wonder how it’s even still standing after some of the storms?
We still had a long way to go if we were going to make Titusville, FL and the sun had just set.
We kept on into the night while Kelly cooked an amazing steak tip dinner while underway. We may be pulling 10-12 hour days at the helm but we are eating well. Soon we picked a spot to anchor which was tucked in a corner between land and a railroad bridge. A bit shallow but well protected for a good night sleep. It’s very dark with only a thin waxing crescent moon but you could see the distant lights of Titusville.
Today’s leg of our journey looked something like this finger drawn route.
We had a peaceful night on anchor in the Amelia River. We awoke early before the sunrise.
Somehow we did not get moving till 8AM. We have a thing about trying to cover as many miles as we can each day and that means you need to use all the daylight there is on the ICW. Not so much this morning. The good news was that we were leaving on a high tide so little worry of running into a shoal with the added 5′ of tide.
Two tugs raced past us and I was reminded that you can tell when a full displacement boat is running at near ‘Hull Speed‘ by simply looking at the bow wake length vs the boat length. You can see the smaller tug’s bow wake dips and then crests almost at the stern of the tug. They were running hard and burning fuel. They must be in a hurry to get to the next job cuz running fast = diesel = $ = expenses for them.
Where the ICW crosses the St. Johns River in Jacksonville we always see large ships either underway or being repaired in the boatyards dotting the shore.
Last year we passed this sailboat on a small island and it still looks out of place. How’d it get up on the island? I can only assume a barge with a crane placed it there to keep it out of the way of navigation but why leave it there?
We passed this other sailboat that was using their dingy to reset their anchor. Their sailboat was too close to the ICW channel.
There are some beautiful homes along the banks and this was just one of them.
As we approached this bridge in Isle of Palms, FL we noticed 3 16YOish boys tied their boat to the bridge and were fishing beneath the support. This is a NO-NO in the boating world. It’s a federal law that you cannot tie a boat to any navigational buoy or bridge’s fender system (the boards that protect the bridge supports from boats as they pass through the center span).
As a boater you must treat bridges with special attention. When you pass under a bridge you must do so at no wake speed (about 6.4 knots for MV Simple Life). For the boats hanging out under bridges (usually fishing) you must not block the marked channel through the center span. You must also be careful as boats passing through the fender boards may not see you if you are hidden by the boards or bridge supports. Also after 9/11/2001 Homeland Security legally restricted areas under certain bridges and it’s a felony if you break that law. Individual states may have laws about simply being near any bridge in their state.
Florida Statute 327.44 refers to interference with navigation and states that anchoring underneath a bridge or adjacent to heavily traveled channels constitutes interference if unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances. There’s a lot of gray area here and not everyone has the same understanding of “unreasonable interference,” but you likely won’t get in trouble for anchoring under a bridge if you are well out of the way.
FWC (Fish & Wildlife Conservation) officers may stop you if you attempt to anchor under the bridge. It should be noted that the area around a bridge is more likely to have un underwater cable that either brings power to a lift or swing bridge or simply crosses over to the island. You don’t want to hook your anchor on these power cables.
Aside from all the bridge rules of boating, I was more interested in the expansion joint on this bridge.
We pass many engineering structures like bridges and this pier. I’m sure the first piers were only for boats to dock but soon “pleasure piers” emerged that were simply for people to stroll out onto or fish off.
We find it interesting that “birds of a feather flock together”. It’s like all these white pelicans said … “Hey, why don’t we all me on the banks of the ICW over where Jimmy found that big pile or old crab shells tomorrow?”. They clearly enjoy each other’s company.
Soon we were waiting for Saint Augustine’s ‘Bridge of Lions‘ to open (every 30 minute openings). In line in front of us was a boat called ‘Yellow Bird” from Cape Cod.
We attempted to get a mooring ball in Saint Augustines FL but alas the City Marina only had balls for boats with drafts under 3′. I hear it’s a fun town but our plan is to continue on tonight and find a quiet place to anchor. As the sun was setting we settled on anchoring just off Fort Matanzas. Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet.
I awoke at 4AM before any of the crew. Neither Happy or Brody came out from under the covers to join me. We are in Georgia and it’s only 40 degrees when I awoke.
Heck, the temps were going to fall deeper before the 7:13AM sunrise.
By 6:30AM the sky was starting to lighten up on the ICW.
I decided to walk out on the bow while underway and snap a picture and a quick video before sunrise.
Once the sun rose you could see it burning the face of the daymarks as we passed.
When you are at the helm for hours the internet is your entertainment. I was watching Mike-the-Drunken-Donkey from Mike’s Weather Page broadcasting FB Live video stream. I tuned in as Mike taught about weather and what to expect from the winter storm making its way across the US.
We were amazed at how flat calm the ICW was as we pushed along at 7 knots.
At the helm I’m wearing my work pajamas because it’s still a bit chilly even with the diesel heat on. Happy just figured out that there is HEAT coming out of that little black round duct below the AC panel door. She parked herself right under my feet to steal all the heat.
We were making incredible time as we approached Cumberland Island in Georgia.
10.4 knots because we were enjoying a strong current on our stern.
Then as we looked out, we could see a current line on the surface of the water.
We feared as soon as we crossed this line that our 10.4 knot speed would begin to erode. We could never have guessed just how much.
Knowing we would face this current from our trip around Cumberland Island we attempted to ride close to shore looking for an eddy current (reverse direction). But alas it was no use. We had a long slow ride around the island.
Then it happened. We crossed over the state line into Florida’s Amelia Island A.K.A. Fernandina Beach. As we passed we saw a ship that looked like a member of the Sea Shepherd fleet. We snapped a photo on the way by and low & behold, it was a Sea Shepherd ship.
Kelly & I have always been fans of ocean conservation and the crew of Sea Shepherd work hard to keep our oceans and their inhabitants safe.
We are currently anchored in the Amelia River just over the GA-FL state line.
Today’s leg looked something like this finger drawn route.
As we weighed anchor in Robinson’s Creek you could feel the power of the wind. The airport wind speed last showed a 30 MPH gust.
Even with the strong winds a pair of US Custom agent boats zoomed by, unaffected.
Our route would look something like this:
We would avoid many shoals:
We would cross over the St. John River in Jacksonville, FL and see sights such as this Navy ship in dry dock. What a narrow beam and sharp bow these attack vessels have.
I had always wondered what a trawler would look like with a wind generator mounted on the fly deck and I just have to say I can’t imagine ever doing this..
The free overnight dock in Jacksonville had a spot open but we were determined to use what we had left of the light and cover more ground. Our plan was to cross over the Savannah River and into GA.
Once in the Savannah River we saw that many of the river banks had been built up possibly for storm surge.
As you approach Cumberland Island there is a heavy Navy presence in the area. We passed these two big Navy ships in port.
We read the writeup on the Cumberland Island Anchorage.
We chose this anchorage because it offered a lee in the face of strong winds.
The anchorage was quite busy and the only spot we found was one tucked between two other anchored boats. I had to anchor in an area that had oyster shells and mud. Not a strong seabed for anchoring. The anchored dragged a bit as we set it at 700 RPM. I backed off a little on the throttle and this would have to do for the night. I was tired and needed sleep.
I set the anchor alarm app on my phone and drifted off to sleep.
Making our way North our next anchorage, a little creek called Robinson Creek. This spot lies just North of Comanche Cove Marina in St. Augustine, FL. We stopped at Camanchee Cove for a few days on the way down.
Our route would look something like this.
On our way there we passed through Daytona Beach and the airport had lots of planes flying overhead.
There were other hazards to watch for like this sunken sailboat. Just look for the mast 😉
As we traveled I trawled a fishing line from outside the pilothouse door. I heard the drag on my reel start zzz-zing and reeled in a what I would later identify as a “Ladyfish”. I quick fish app check and this is an unregulated species with poor edibility.
Fish Id app
in New Smyrna Beach we had to pass under a few low bridges.Our 22’ air draft it made for a tight squeeze. Luckily the bridge is a bit taller in the middle than what is reflected by the height board.
As we approached a bend in the ICW we saw two boats blocking our path to the North. One looks like they have thrown out an anchor to stop from getting pushed further ashore or a possible kedging off attempt. The other was in the process of being pulled off by TowBoatUS. We contacted the Towboat Captain on VHF and treaded water for about 20 minutes until the first boat was pulled clear and we could continue. The trick needed to pass was to hug the reds as close as 10′ abeam. Seems odd that the deeper water would be on the inside of the bend but was where you needed to be. This is location is right near Fort Matanzas South of St. Augustine, FL
The song playing in the pilothouse is “Devil’s Dance Floor” by Flogging Molly. A great Celtic band out of LA.
Anchored to a cloud
Lying STBD Side
Fort Matanzas Anchorage Near the Shoal
Every captain knows when you traverse the ICW, the shallow channel depths mean that you could run aground if you drift out of the channel. For this reason oncoming boats must stay “Right of Center”. This fellow captain seemed oblivious to that rule judging by the wave he gave after forcing us out of the channel. We were riding the right edge of the channel and had no choice but to either hold our ground and use sound signals (1 short blast for a 1-whistle pass – port to port) or simply move over. If you don’t know to stay right of center you wont know your sound signals either 😉
As we approached St. Augustine we saw a large trawler aground.
Up early, we weighed anchor at Bluefish Point anchorage and headed North.
Our route would take us something like this..
As we were transiting Haulover Canal I had to laugh as I was flashed by a bird.
We decided on an anchorage called Mosquito Lagoon (I know, not a inviting name).
This lagoon is near Oak Hill, FL and has many fish camps where local fishermen have camps along the shore.
While listening to the VHF the USCG was warning about restricted areas around Cape Canaveral to the South of us. There was a SpaceX launch or their Titan 9 rocket and we wanted to be on anchor with a view for when it started.
Seeing a rocket fly over your head is both impressive and a bit unnerving.
Shortly after the launch we saw what may have been a re-entry from the reusable parts of the rocket? Something SpaceX pioneered.
No sooner had the rocket passed overhead and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and a present moon.
After getting a late morning start leaving Vero Beach, we decided on a short route that ended in an AC anchorage called “Bluefish Point”.
We use a app called Charts&Tides on both our iPhones and iPad that has integration with ActiveCaptain.com. AC is a website where boaters enter their favorite local anchorages, marinas, local knowledge (where the closest Westmarine.com store is) and hazards they are aware of or hit may have hit in their travels. This information is loaded into a small text database and iPad navigation apps can use your AC login to download for offline integration into the charting and plotting app.
The pic below is an example of the kind of AC information that can be pulled up by clicking on a AC green square icon in the app.
If you click on reviews you’ll find notes from AC Captains like ourselves about how best to approach, depths, currents, seabed type, onshore restaurants, etc.
Our route looked something like this:
It was a short run but along the way we were passed by several boats and this is one example of the type of VHF communications you can expect.
When passing a boat on the ICW: The overtaking boat should hail the stand-on vessel by name or description. MV Simple Life transmits our name on AIS as well as large letters on our stern. As the stand on vessel you should lower your speed to idle or the slowest speed that you can still maintain control at. The stand-on vessel should maintain a straight course and the overtaking vessel should reduce speed till their wake will not rock the boat being passed excessively. If the boat being overtaken does not slow down then the passing boat has no option but to increase speed and wake the boat as they pass. Large boats on the ICW can really rock you if they refuse to slow down. As a captain your learn that you are responsible for your own wake and any damage or injury that it causes to the boats you pass.
As we passed Sebastian, FL just North of Vero Beach and saw many great restaurants with live music and while tempted to drop anchor and go for some beer & live music, we pushed on. We need to cover as much ground in the next few days that we can.
We passed an interesting small island that looks like it would be fun to setup a beach chair and few hours relaxing on.
After coming out of the Okeechobee Waterway we anchored just off Hutchinson’s Island. This anchorage is just inside the St. Lucie Inlet and while it’s not an official anchorage, it worked for us.
Our crew was was looking a little banged up. Kelly with a broken toe (again)
Chief Martin Brody with a sore paw after ripping a claw off one of his toes.
Thankfully the captain survived to patch the crew back up.
As departed Hutchinson’s Island and made our way North towards Vero Beach I did some quick math on our speed and expected time of arrival. We had told the Suntex Marina in Vero Beach that we would be there before 5PM. With the late start that meant that we were going to have to burn a little fuel and step up our speed from a leisurely 6 kts to something North of 8 kts.
Having dolphins on your bow is something that happens daily in Southern Florida.
Soon we were docked in Vero Beach and it was time to go out to dinner with Lori & Jim @ the Bonefish grille. The food was great and we always have a blast hanging with Lori & Jim.
Back at the marina I found another North Pacific 43. This couple is from Canada and they have some interesting modifications to their NP43. For one they added backup mirrors to the outside of the life rails (I wonder if you can actually use these backing in from the pilothouse?).
I also found a fellow boater from Duxbury, MA here in the Marina.
While we were in the marina the weather turned stormy. Sitting in the pilothouse you could see the wind blowing hard over the water’s surface.
From our aft cockpit you could stay dry as the rain poured down.
We even got some hail hitting the boat and landing in the cockpit.
We had lots of fun in Vero Beach but alas we must keep making our way North to get home and see more family and friends. As we headed out onto the ICW we past many beautiful homes that reminded us how nice Vero Beach is to visit.