Titusville at Night

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. 

Morning Ride leaving Fort Matanzas 

We passed these hearty Jeepsters camping in the rain.

Myself, I prefered to tent in the dunes at the beach

The weather just hung over us all day. It did not help that we were motoring South, straight into the thick of it. 

Rainy Day

The wind was on our beam and listing the boat to port. You can see the flags are flying out straight. 

Flags are a flying

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?

Dilapidated Boat House

We still had a long way to go if we were going to make Titusville, FL and the sun had just set. 

Sun has retired for the night

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.  

Distant Lights of Titusville, FL

Today’s leg of our journey looked something like this finger drawn route.

W02L023 – St. Augustine, FL => Titusville, FL

Fort Matanzas

We had a peaceful night on anchor in the Amelia River. We awoke early before the sunrise.

6:50AM Anchored on the Amelia River

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?

Derelict Sailboat on stands on small island

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.

Home Along the ICW

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).  

Boys tied to bridge

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. 

Bridge Expansion

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.

I guess they want boats to know the name of this pier?

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. 

White Pelicans crowded together

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.

MV Yellow Bird – Cape Cod @Bridge of the Lions St Augustine FL

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. 

Our Sunset @Fort Matanzas did not disappoint 

Our leg today looked something like this…

W02L022 – Ferdandina Beach FL – Fort Matanzas FL

Fernandina Beach Florida

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.

Underway in the dark 6:14AM

By 6:30AM the sky was starting to lighten up on the ICW.

Looking East where the sun will rise

I decided to walk out on the bow while underway and snap a picture and a quick video before sunrise.

Not quite Sunrise

Once the sun rose you could see it burning the face of the daymarks as we passed. 

It’s high tide and the rivers are swollen around here. Daymark almost underwater. 

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. 

Thankfully, MV Simple Life will be in Florida by the end of the day

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.

Heat Hog

We were making incredible time as we approached Cumberland Island in Georgia.

SOG (Speed Over Ground) = 10.4 knots

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. 

Opposing currents meeting causing white chop

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.

Strong Current on the nose. 10.4 => 3.9 knots

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. 

Sea Shepherd’s – MV John Paul Dejoria

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. 

Sun is setting in the Amelia River as I finish this post

Today’s leg looked something like this finger drawn route. 

W02L021 – Darien, GA to Fernandina Beach, FL

Cumberland Sound Anchorage

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.

30 mph Wind Gusts at NE FL Regional Airport
25 MPH Winds with 30 MPH Gusts as we passed NE Florida Regional Airport

 

Even with the strong winds a pair of US Custom agent boats zoomed by, unaffected.

Our route would look something like this:

Route 4 - Robinson Creek - Cumberland Sound
Our Route from an anchorage in St Augustine to Cumberland Island Anchorage

We would avoid many shoals:

South Sapelo River
Shoal near South Sapelo River.

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.

St Johns River Battleship
Navy Ship in Dry Dock

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..

Trawler 3 Wind Generators
A trawler with 3 Wind Generators on the Flydeck

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.

Savannah River Tree
Lone Tree standing proud on the banks of the Savannah River

As you approach Cumberland Island there is a heavy Navy presence in the area. We passed these two big Navy ships in port.

Cumberland Island Navy
Navy Ships near Cumberland Island

We read the writeup on the Cumberland Island Anchorage.

Cumberland Sound
AC Cumberland Sound Anchorage writeup

We chose this anchorage because it offered a lee in the face of strong winds.

Cumberland Sound Anchorage
Our Anchor spot in Cumberland Sound

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.

Anchor Alarm
Anchor Alarm App plays warning sounds if you drag outside of the red circle

 

 

Robinson Creek Anchorage

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.

Robinson Creek
Robinson Creek Anchorage

Our route would look something like this.

Route 3 Oak Hill - Robinson Creek
Route from Oak Hill to Robinson Creek

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 😉

Sunken Sailboat Daytona
Sunken Sailboat near Daytona Beach

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.

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.

New Smyrna N Causeway Bridge_7968
New Smyrna North Causeway Bridge on the ICW

 

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.

 

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.

Trawler Aground_8030
Large trawler aground just South of St Augustine, FL

We passed the magnificent schooner Freedom

Freedom

The night ended with a warm orange-pink sunset.

Robinson Creek_Sunset
Sunset at anchor in Robinson Creek

Mosquito Lagoon Anchorage

Up early, we weighed anchor at Bluefish Point anchorage and headed North.

Our route would take us something like this..

Route 2 Bluefish - Oak Hill

As we were transiting Haulover Canal I had to laugh as I was flashed by a bird.

Haulover Canal Flasher Bird

We decided on an anchorage called Mosquito Lagoon (I know, not a inviting name).

Mosquito Lagoon

This lagoon is near Oak Hill, FL and has many fish camps where local fishermen have camps along the shore.

Oak Hill Camp.JPG

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.

Oak Hill reentry_7934

No sooner had the rocket passed overhead and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and a present moon.

Bluefish Point Anchorage

After getting a late morning start leaving Vero Beach, we decided on a short route that ended in an AC anchorage called “Bluefish Point”.

Bluefish Point 2

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.

Bluefish Point

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:

Route 1 Vero - Bluefish

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.

Sebastian 1

Vero Beach Heading North

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.

Anchorage Marriott

Our crew was was looking a little banged up. Kelly with a broken toe (again)

Kelly Toe

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.

FMB

Coming into Fort Meyers Beach you see the same white sand found at Marco Island. Just amazing beaches. We entered using the Northern entrance channel.

It’s all a no wake zone so about 5 knots of headway for us. We ducked under the 65’ Matanzas Pass Bridge and grabbed a mooring ball from Mantanzas Harbor Mooring Field. It’s a town mooring field but administered by Mantanzas Inn. Running a mooring field requires not just the divers to inspect the mooring anchors, chains, balls and pennant lines…

…but also someone to answer the phone, VHF, fill out the paper work and collect the money as well as enforce the rules. Sometimes you have boats that run gas-powered gensets on deck late into the night. When in the Key West mooring field a boat finally shut off their loud generator around 10PM and another boat yelled “THANK YOU” across the mooring field. I spontaneously laughed aloud but the boater with the generator had some sharp words back. Funny but not.

matanzas-bayside-inn-marina

Upon arrival I couple, Dave & Megan & Athena (the dog) passed by in a dinghy and offered to thread my lines though the mooring ball which just like Boot Key Harbor or Key West cannot easily be pulled up to reach MV Simple Life’s foredeck. D & M announced they were on their way to a cruiser’s raft-up and extended an invite to us. I was glad they did and I had a blast meeting the FMB cruisers within minutes of arrival. They were full great stories and laughs.

Raft Up

Yes, that is a Macaw parrot on Doug’s shoulder. see top-left corner.

The next morning we had to go into the Mooring field office and register using our boat registration paperwork. This is something that you don’t have to do when getting on a ball up North. Up North a the mooring field or launch boat pulls alongside your boat and they ask the name of the boat and collect the money. In Florida most the moorings we rented required not just the registration of the big boat but also the dinghy as well as insurance paperwork. I now carry digital copies of all on my iPhone.

We wasted no time in finding lunch at Matanzas Inn Restaurant.

Kelly Chair 1

Also spent some time in the upstairs at night listening to the local singers perform.

I also spent a little time at Bonita Bills.

I would  have posted the video instead but the karaoke singing would have made your ears bleed.

Bonita Bills 1

While there I took a dinghy ride around San Carlos Island.

Approaching Hurricane Bridge you’ll pass a few cruisers who look like they have been anchored there for a bit.

Then duck under the Hurricane Pass Bridge and into Hurricane Bay.

Once under the bridge you are in Hurricane Bay and I stopped to snap a few photos of a derelict house boat aground.

The No Wake Zone ends and it was time to open the dinghy up and capture some sunset photos from Hurricane Bay.

While we were here in FMB a close family friend, Capt Mike Spinney came down on his boat and offered to give me a tour of FMB.

Mike and his friend Dave took me for a high-speed run all around FMB.

Mike Dave 1

What fun to go from our normal 6kts to 35kts!

Capt Spin was quick to see that the dolphins were trailing us and mentioned that if you boost your wake a bit you can get them to do some jumps. As if right on cue..

We took a trip down to Lovers Key where there is a great white sand beach that all the boaters pull up right onto the beach and enjoy the day.

Then it was on to the Lani Kai Beach Resort a hot spot for Spring Breakers here in FMB.

Marty Mike 3

Back at the boat I said goodbye to Mike and Dave and they gave us a wave as they departed through the mooring field.

Mike Dave 3

Next stop, Captiva Island and the Okeechobee Waterway.

Marco Island

Marco Island is wonderful. The trip here from the Everglades was a 10 hour slow trip through a hazy Gulf of Mexico.

Looking out the cockpit windows at times it seemed that the horizon simply faded into the pale green water.

 

At one point in the journey we noticed something floating on the water and thought we should investigate. From a distance I could not tell what it was..

Box Far Away
Something floating from afar

As we got closer it appeared to be a floating box of sorts. Maybe it was some kind of hatch cover off a boat?

Box Close
Piece of a boat?

As we entered the Marco Island entrance channel you could see the large buildings with the white sandy beaches. I believe hurricane Irma hit Marco island pretty hard but read that they were able to recover quickly and reopen their beaches for tourists.

There was a moment from that I could not figure out what the bright white lining the shore was. I’m not used to seeing beaches so white?

As we made our way in Capri Pass we passed people having fun on tubes as well as the Key West Express. For folks on the West coast of Florida Marco Island would seem a great jumping off point to get to Key West.

Soon we found a great anchor spot just outside the channel North West of Green Daymark #15. The current was strong but the holding great.

IMG_2162
Our Anchor spot in Marco Island. Follow the orange route line to the outlined boat with heading line projected off bow.

Anchoring here puts you right in front of the “World Famous Snook Inn”. It  was time to drop the dink and go for some drinks.

Bar
At the Snook Inn bar

Looking out from the Snook Inn you could see MV Simple Life on anchor.

Snook Inn View 1
You can see MV Simple Life from our table at the Snook Inn in Marco Island.

You can also watch the many boats who sail on by. They have a custom of doing a close sail by the front windows of the Snook Inn and blowing their horn followed by waving at the folks in the restaurant. It was fun to watch the boats go by.

 

On our way back  we tried to get a selfie of us in the dink in front of our boat. We could not stop spinning in the current and the shade from our camera just seemed like an eclipse shadow that we could not shake.

 

While we were on anchor in Cudjoe Key a stray line became fouled in our propeller. MV Simple Life has a “pot cutter” on our propeller shaft and it did the job of cutting the line. However, we now had a slight vibration in the running gear at higher RPMs. I decided I should dive on the propeller and attempt to untangle any line from the propeller. While my heart may be on the water, I’m not very comfortable being “in the water”. Diving on a boat propeller while on anchor with current and sharp instruments in your hand turned out to be more difficult than expected. However after several attempts and even cutting my head after being banged into the hull, I managed to cut the offending line free.

Propeller Line
I don’t like diving to untangle lines from our prop. Time for a beer!

The spot we picked to anchor is in a “no wake” zone and passing traffic was super polite about passing us super slow.

After seeing the local sheriff pull over this pair of wave runners I get the feeling the sheriff enforces this no-wake zone.

Sherrif
The Sheriff enforces the no-wake zone here

The calm anchorage made for some beautiful sunsets.

Sunset
Every night was a beautiful sunset