July 1, 2014

Magical Waterway

"There are many reasons to go cruising, but they can be summed up in one word: adventure. The thought of casting off those dock lines with a fully provisioned boat and reasonably blank calendar is intoxicating indeed."
From the Waterway Guide.

Ahhhhh.... Once again Glory Days is back in the rhythm enjoying the beauty and comfort of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). It is truly a magical place… from Norfolk to Miami, the Waterway stretches over a thousand miles (1065) through an endless maize of waters offering a scenic wonderland and magical experience for cruisers. 

During the last 300+ miles from West Palm to St. Augustine, I have found so much to be thankful for such as relatively protected sailing waters and an abundance of wildlife in and along the waterway.  And as I consider a September voyage north to the Cheasapeak Bay, I realize I have only covered barely a third of what this great Waterway has to offer. 

Suddenly, I found myself working my way north from West Palm Beach to my home port of Fernandina Beach, the northernmost Florida port on the east coast.  With the Bahamas now behind me, I relished the thought of taking my time along this route for there is so much to see, hear, touch, smell, and touch along the way.  It's like trying to describe the sky to a blind man... words just can't do it. 

When I was a teacher, one of my favorite assignments was take my whole class outdoors on a gorgeous day and say to them, "Kids, lay on your back, look into the sky and tell me what you see..."  Some got it, while others were scratching their heads in mild confusion. 

That's sort of how I feel about the ICW.... Breathless, all encompassing… infinite.

According to my Waterway Guide, those who are eager to cruise the whole east coast of Florida, via the ICW, can do so in a week or two, while others who want to poke around in the Waterway's scores of harbors and gunkholes can spend a month without seeing everything.  It all depends on your pace and your schedule, if you have one....

 It also depends on how often you might be distracted by a pod of dawn dolphins, or an approaching thunderstorm, or the chills down your spine as an osprey soars above your mast while gripping a live fish in his talons.  There are many reasons to stop and to just absorb the magic of the Waterway.  It's best to not be in a hurry, my friend. 

 Glory Days enjoyed a two night stay in Riviera Beach Municipal Marina.  Finally, she gets a fresh water scrub- down and some tender loving care before the next leg north.  I know it looks like the Squatleys just moved into the neighborhood, but the shade tarp was a welcome reprieve from the heat… And the deck cans of fuel and water were handy in the Bahamas, but I I won't need them much longer now that I am back in the Land of Plenty, where water and fuel is more readily available.
I've always heard of the famous Route 66… 
This is my preferred version of Route 66.

 An egret ignored me goodbye when I casted off the dock lines.

I find it interesting all the various types of vessels you meet along the Waterway… everybody seems to be going somewhere… There's all shapes and sizes of craft… The Daytona area was particularly crowded with power boats on the Sunday that I left… zoom zoom zoom… all around me.



And Coatimundies (Don't ask.)

I'm sure there must be a story behind this old military boat that is now a campsite for some soul drying their laundry on a Sunday afternoon… 

If under power, I typically make about a speed of about 5 knots… which means I get passed a lot.  Thankfully, there is a very wide section called the Indian River, and if the wind is coming from the East like it was most of this week, it can make for some fine sailing in protected waters… I was able to maintain 6 knots on a comfortable beam reach for a couple days mostly under the comfort of the auto pilot … sweet.

Going at such a slow pace always invites the topic of boater etiquette when being passed by another vessel.  If someone is passing a slower vessel, the polite thing to do is for him or her to call you on the VHF and request to pass. It's not really a request, because they are going to pass your regardless, but it's the thought that counts.

In such a case, it's never a problem for me to lower my speed so they can pass.  Hand waves are exchanged and all is well.  Sometimes tho, they just come out of nowhere and ZOOM right by you with no regard for their wake… so you gotta always watch forward and after for the creeper upper from nowhere… God Bless 'em, they can't help it. (Don't get me started on power boaters… I've been holding back on that.)
Much of the marker and sign repair is done by volunteers… Nice gig for a Monday morning.

Crabbing is big business along the ICW… which means you gotta watch out constantly for their crab pots that are hopefully marked with a styrofoam ball… a tangled crab pot wrapped around your propeller is not a good thing for me or them.  I wonder how many crabs they have to harvest each day to make it profitable...

My itinerary north went something like this… as best I can recall from my log notes… i'm not a very good logger.

June 1,2014 Sunday… depart to Vero Beach… 12 hour day, 65 miles…. Vero is a nice place to hang… there's a sweet little anchorage in a very protected area called Belfast creek… I've anchored there twice now… coming and going… the next day, I grabbed a mooring ball for $14/day… 

The old tide chart on the iPhone is valuable most everywhere… finding real paper tide charts is not easy anymore…. it's good to know if you are entering a pass or inlet whether you're going in gently or getting banged.

June 3 … Depart Vero Beach… 32 mile day to Melbourne… Nice anchorage near the bridge… pizza and beach and back to crash early

June 4… Depart Melbourne at 12:30 pm… (what a schedule…) and travel 18 miles to Cocoa Beach… arrive at 4:15… odometer logs me at 1225 miles on this whole journey now

In Cocoa Beach, I met this artist who makes these incredible fish art pieces by using the base of a huge palm frond (leaf) as the medium… I was impressed.

Cocoa Beach has a nice little downtown area with lots of eateries right on the water… There's probably not a more famous highway in Florida than A1A… It runs along the entire east coast through every single beach town and bridge along the way… also the title of Jimmy Buffet's first album, A1A.

June 5, 2014
Depart Cocoa Beach… no wind… a 20 mile day …  arrived at Titusville at 12 noon...

This sweet lady smiled at me as I passed her gazebo somewhere unknown along the Waterway … hello, goodbye… here for now, now gone… have a nice day, whoever you are… I'll never see you again… It all happened in a blip.

June 6…Arrived at Titusville.

Just a few miles from Titusville, Fla is a real treasure I stumbled upon.  I met a friend who had a car and offered to take me into the Black Point Wildlife Reserve for a few hours… it turned out to be a wonderful experience in birding and getting away from the boat for a while… Here's some of the photos taken in the wildlife preserve.

I sure love birding.  I just wish I knew the names of all them.., I'm pretty good at it, but there's far more to learn.  Florida has a plethora of bird variety… me like.

The Red Wing Black bird.  These guys were plentiful here.

A gator is a natural when it comes to lurking… he's just waiting for the perfect moment.

Then I spotted this gorgeous bobcat crossing the road… meow.

We spotted him from the car… and the amazing thing is that is that he did not run away instantly… for about 30 seconds he posed before slipping away into the bush… I was in awe… a wild cat… he looked hungry… or was it a she? I'll never know.

Tidal marshes form these lake-like bodies of water that are rich is wildlife… gators, herons, egrets, white pelicans, and spoonbills were in their niche here.

It's quite moments like this that continue to make it all worthwhile… but was there ever really a question about that?

As I continued north, I soon came upon a section of the ICW called The Haulover.  This areas is a narrow canal that connects the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon… Lots of folks were fishing here.  Before entering the canal, I couldn't help but notice a small island that was the most abundant rookery of birdlife that I had ever seen in my live… I had to see more, so I dropped anchor on the edge of the channel, narrow as it was.   Suddenly, a few minutes turned into an hour of paddling quietly in the dinghy…. what a a nice rest from a long day along the waterway.

I'm sure this couple was into some sort of mating ritual… the guy on the right kept prancing all around her with his  head feathers all cackled up and spikey-horny like.  She danced and evading him gracefully while he kept up the mayhem for his quest for her love… I never saw them mate… it's all in the courting process I suppose.  
He was quite the suitor… 
They never really took a break from what I could tell… Foreplay certainly has it's place and should never be abbreviated. 

The view from the Titusville bridge is a peaceful way to end a good day of wildlife-ing….

June 6… Arrived at New Smyrna Beach…  
an easy day… and time for a rest.

 and yet another sweet sunset...

New Smyrna Beach is a nice spot to spend some time too… their beach is as wide and firm as you will ever find… Again, I splurged for a marina! I'm feeling quite rich these days… 
and I guess I am inside.
This is another rookery of pelicans that have decided to occupy a small island right in the middle of the harbor at New Smyrna Beach.  Interesting to view, but quite pungent if you are downwind of these guys… lots of nitrogenous urea  going on here.

Thank you God for another one...

Six months ago, I would have never passed under a bridge while under sail…  but it's nothing and just seems natural, as long as it's a reasonable blow and all is in control… suddenly, hard things seem easy… Technically, it is not legal to sail through a draw bridge, but this was not a draw bridge, just a 65' clearance bridge… I only need 47' to clear… check out the video below.

June 9, 2014,
Then there's the story of the tangled manatee.  

The VHF alarm sounded, indicating a severe weather watch approaching… I dropped the sails as a huge black cloud was growling in the north ..

I anchored in a very narrow channel (called Cement Plant) to hunker down as this heavy storm was approaching from the NW.  In a narrow anchorage such as this, it's a good idea to put out a second anchor from the stern so that the boat remains in the center of the canal and does not get blown into the shore in a wind shift…. so far no problem.

After setting the 2nd anchor, I noticed that the anchor line (rode) was bouncing around kinda weird-like… When I tugged on the anchor rode, I was surprised to find this huge mama manatee all tangled up in the rope!  

"yikes!", I whispered,  not wanting to harm this beautiful gentle creature from the lost lagoon… but the more she struggled to set herself free, the more tangled she became… I could see the rope wrapped around her pectoral fin and then again around her head… "oh my," I re-whispered

Finally, after giving her more and more slack, she set herself free and I kissed the sky…. what a thing to see.
But after that, she wouldn't leave!  For the next full hour she bumped my dinghy and licked the side of my boat… I like to think she was just sending her love and thanking me for saving her life… actually, she saved mine tho she never knew it.

We'll that's about it folks for this post… I left early the next morning of June 10 and had an absolutely gorgeous and peaceful trip of 25 miles to the historic town of ST. AUGUSTINE! 

So that's where we will leave off for now… I've now covered about 1400 miles on this trip since starting on Jan. 1, 2014… just getting started!Please STAY TUNED for the next post (#73!)… titled ST. AUGUSTINE… DO OR DIE!


Yes,  I'm crazy…. about life!


I had to fly back to Atlanta for a couple weeks during this ICW passage north… While there, I wrote this little song to honor my dear Aunt Frankie who recently passed into the wild blue yonder… wow, what a spirit she was… i hope you like.


Frances P. Carter
June 4, 1943 - May 30, 2014
A Spirit In The Sky

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