4 April 2019 West Palm Beach to Vero Beach, Florida
The alarm went off at 06:30 and we upped anchor just as the sun rose over the horizon. We motored out of the anchorage to find a huge cruise ship approaching the entrance, so we thought it prudent to get out of the narrow shipping channel and circle around for a few minutes.
The tidal current was coming in at 2 knots and, despite there being no wind against tide effect, the sea was very lumpy as we motored away from the land. We continued motoring at 45° to the shore to get out of a ½ knot counter current that was running along the coast.
We made the mistake of listening to the local coast guard weather forecast, which errs on the side of mega-safety – “Small craft advisory … 6-8 foot seas … high chance of thunderstorms coming from the Atlantic … possibility of waterspout formation in local waters … Yikes! We spent the whole trip warily watching every cloud approaching from the east.
In fact, it turned out to be a lovely day-sail with a 15 knot east wind putting us on a beam reach. We passed underneath a ½ mile wide cloud lane, which gave us 20 knots of wind, but despite slowly following us north, it didn’t develop into thunderstorms.
We arrived at the Fort Pierce Inlet at the wrong state of tide and had to endure a 3 knot tidal current against us. The 15 knot east wind and 4-6 foot swell were directly against the current, so the entrance was a boiling cauldron with 6 foot, very steep, breaking waves. Our speed over the ground was reduced to 3 knots and the waves veered us around, heeling us over 40 degrees at times. It was an unpleasant 10 minutes, but very entertaining for the tourists watching from the breakwater.
After we’d clawed our way to the ICW, we anchored in a very tight anchorage and I scooted up the mast, removed the VHF antenna and we were back underway within ten minutes. We had two remorseless hours of motoring along the narrow ICW channel, following the marker posts. After passing under two 65 metre high bridges (thankfully without hitting them), we arrived at Vero Beach Marina .
Also known as “Velcro” Beach, this is a popular cruiser destination where it’s easy to stay for a few weeks. The municipal marina is in a channel just off the ICW and they’ve installed lots of very strong moorings. The place is so popular that it’s normal for boats to raft with two or even three boats to a mooring.
We were assigned to moor with a classic-looking, 50 year old, 36 foot yacht called “White Seal”. There was nobody on-board, but we managed to dock without causing any damage. Charlie & his daughter, Mary appeared 30 minutes later, so we invited them over for a beer.
5 April 2019 Vero Beach, Florida
Vero Beach is very cruiser friendly and even lays on a free bus to take cruisers into town. We caught the 0945 bus, which took us along the beach front road and then across the ICW into town, dropping us off at the Publix supermarket mall. We didn’t need anything in particular, so we just wandered around for an hour, bought a baguette and caught the bus back to the boat.
After lunch, Glenys took a big bag of laundry ashore to use the marina’s washing machines. At the same time, she had her hair cut by a fellow cruiser, who is a retired hairdresser. It’s the first haircut that she has had since we left the UK in October and it was a good one.
A huge thunderstorm came over the area and stayed until well after dark, so we abandoned our plan of going out for a meal and lurked down below, watching Game of Thrones.
6 April 2019 Vero Beach to Cocoa, Florida
We dropped the mooring at 07:00 and motored out into the ICW. It was beautiful and calm for the first hour and very pleasant motoring along especially because the first part was fairly narrow with the shore close to us. There are lots of Ospreys nesting on the marker posts, so I entertained myself taking photographs.
Later on, the waterway gradually became wider and more boring with nothing to see apart from a line of marker posts and lots of water. We soon started a one-hour watch system with one of us on duty for an hour while the person could relax. As the day wore on the ICW became busy with loads of small power boats buzzing around enjoying the sunny weekend.
There were no lifting bridges on the 45 mile route, so we made good time arriving in the anchorage at Cocoa at 14:30. We dropped the anchor at 28°21.11N 080°43.12W in 3 metres depth. The anchorage is about ¼ mile from one shore and ¾ mile from the other shore, so there’s not much protection, but the weather forecast is for fairly light winds.
At 17:00, we braved the 2 foot wind waves and went ashore for dinner. The only place to leave the dinghy is by a boat ramp, tying alongside a concrete wall, which was taking the full brunt of the wind waves, so we were a bit reluctant to leave the dinghy there and sure enough when we arrived back, the abrasive wall had worn through two thickness of our dinghy cover.
We went for a stroll around the cute “old” town of Cocoa, which has lots of bars and restaurants. After a beer in an “American” bar, we walked to a Mexican Restaurant. I’ve been looking forward to having an “American” Mexican meal, so I ordered a deluxe combo plate – Taco, Chilli Rellano, Tamale, Enchilada, Refried Beans and Mexican rice all smothered with melted cheese. It was a huge meal, but I managed to stuff it down – Glenys had a Taco Salad that was equally huge.
We waddled back to the boat and watched a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones.
7 April 2019 Cocoa to Titusville, Florida
After a leisurely breakfast, we decided that there was no point in staying at Cocoa, so we upped anchor and motored 15 miles past the Cape Canaveral Space Centre to Titusville . We anchored to the north of the mooring field at 28°37.77N 080°48.38W in 2.8 metres depth – we’re getting very blasé about shallow water.
We spent most of the day doing research about the ICW north of here. We still plan to continue up the waterway to Fernandino Beach, but there are some sections that are shoaling due to sand and mud movements near some of the inlets and we’re going to have to be careful. The weather is so unsettled at the moment that there are only very small weather windows, so we’re thinking that we might also need to use the ICW between Fernandino Beach and Beaufort in North Carolina.
Unfortunately the section from Fernandino Beach to Cape Fear has some very shallow sections with depths less than 4 feet in places. This will make it a challenge for our 6’8” draft. Even if we use the tides, we’ll probably be restricted to about 4 hours travel each day. That’s only 20-25 miles per day and with 500 miles to go to Beaufort, it would take 20 days – if we can sail outside then it would only take 4 days.
After much research, it appears that we might be able to make it through the section from Cape Fear to Beaufort, which is about 100 miles, but that looks very fraught in many places, so we’re hoping that we’ll have the weather to sail that section outside as well.
In the evening, I was getting annoyed by a kind of high frequency rattling. I checked all the halyards and the bimini side panels, but couldn’t pin down where the noise was coming from. Glenys noticed that the noise seemed to be coming from below rather on deck, so I opened one of the bilge hatches to have a listen. Sure enough the noise was very loud beneath the floorboards and we eventually decided that it was Barnacles or Shrimp on the hull making the noise – thankfully they went quiet after dark.
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