Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cannon in front of them volley'd and thunder'd

We are anchored in the lower reaches of the Matanzas River (map), just downstream of the Intracoastal Waterway and perhaps a mile and a half from the river's mouth at the non-navigable Matanzas Inlet.  The historic Fort Matanzas, which guarded this "back door" to St. Augustine for the Spaniards, is less than a thousand feet from us on the ebb (photo above, from our aft deck).

When we arrived this morning, we were alone, but there are now four sailboats anchored downriver of us, closer to the fort.  I'm happy to be further away -- what we did not know, before arriving, is that the National Park Service periodically fires one of the four cannon emplaced there (we assume with a charge but no projectile), once per ferry trip.  The cats, who intensely dislike such sounds, are a bit shell-shocked, but seem to be acclimating.  It was better on the flood, when we were another 300' further away.

We are just 16 nautical miles from where I last posted, near Vilano Beach.  In fact, we went nowhere at all yesterday, even though we had been prepared to weigh anchor before 8am.  After a very rough night, we awoke to heavy seas and fierce winds right there in the river, and we opted to stay put rather than wrestle the boat around in challenging conditions.  We had plenty of food, water, and fuel, and a fast Internet connection, so why rush?

It's probably best that we had planned on the early start, because it meant we loaded the tender back on deck when we returned from an excellent dinner Thursday evening at 180 Vilano Grill.  The storm that blew through in the middle of the night would surely have tossed it about and likely sent it crashing into Vector more than once.  We were awakened several times by new motions and noises, including a clunking sound that we ultimately attributed to the stabilizer fins moving up and down and hitting their stops in all the commotion.

Neither of us is particularly sensitive to this kind of motion and we both generally slept pretty well -- I learned to sleep on moving trains at a young age.  But when the boat is moving so much, every time you wake up for any reason, such as to use the bathroom, is cause to trundle upstairs to check the chartplotter and look out the window.

Through all of this the anchor never budged, and the unusual sounds were mostly due to 20 knots of wind in opposition to four knots of current.  The current pushes the boat all the way to the downstream end of the chain, and the wind turns it sideways to the current.  The constant horsing makes the now-taught snubber rub the shackles, and the waves slap at the hull, all of which transmits through the whole boat.

When we finally did come upstairs for coffee, I had to pour it by holding both cup and pot in the air, another trick I learned riding the rails.  We spent the morning glued in our chairs, and were relieved when the current finally reversed and came more or less in line with the wind, which was so strong that we even brought the cushions down from the flybridge overnight.

All's well that ends well, and by dinner time things had calmed down considerably.  In fact, we could easily have left the anchorage any time after noon or so, but by then we had missed the window for a favorable tide both here and at the two skinny spots north of here.  This morning we had good conditions and we weighed anchor at 8am as planned, for the 8:30 opening of the Bridge of Lions.

Aside from the one spot where the depth sounder read just over nine feet, we had a very pleasant, if short, cruise.  (That nine foot spot would have grounded us at low tide, when it would have been just five feet.)  I enjoyed passing through the city on the water, and the Matanzas River has some lovely sections.

Other than the report of the cannon (and no disrespect meant to Lord Tennyson or those who perished at Balaclava), this has been a great spot.  I've enjoyed looking at the ~275-year-old structure from the boat, and if the weather was better we'd drop the tender and visit the park.  There is also a well-reviewed restaurant next to the A1A bridge over the inlet, but we'd have either a wet beach landing or a scramble up some rip-rap to access it.

As cold as it has been here lately (and, yes, I know much of the rest of the country is a good deal colder and likely does not want to hear me whine), we've been able to get away with just a few hours of generator run time each day.  However, it will drop well below freezing Monday and Tuesday nights, and will not be much above it during the day, and so today we spent some time looking at the route ahead with an eye to landing in a marina for those two nights.  That will also give us a chance to do laundry and reprovision.

So at this writing the plan is to weigh anchor early tomorrow and press on down the ICW to Daytona Beach or maybe Ponce Inlet, where we will again anchor, and then to the Municipal Marina in Titusville for Monday night.  If the schedule and weather holds, we might have front-row seats for the SpaceX Falcon-9 launch now scheduled from the cape for Monday evening.

Rather than pay for two nights there, we plan to run another 20 miles south on Tuesday to Cocoa, where we have a certificate for one free night at the marina, which we had won at the MTOA Rendezvous back in Baltimore.  Between the night in Titusville and the night in Cocoa, that should get us through the worst of the cold snap and also provide access to plenty of shoreside services.


  1. When we're in one spot for a while we usually leave the dinghy side tied to the swim grid but, as you pointed out, it bangs and bumps four feet from our heads all night long. I've taken to hooking up one of the davit falls as a spring to keep it away from the swim platform. Works a charm and leaves the dinghy easily accessible.

    1. We don't have that sort of davit, but that's a great strategy for those who do. I ended up adding cleats to the swim step so we could side-tie the dinghy there, but that really only works in calm conditions, else the steel swim step beats the dinghy up pretty badly as it rises and falls. Best bet for us if we really need to keep it calm is to hoist it back out of the water, or else side-tie it to the side of the boat. BTW, some municipalities here in FL are citing folks for lack of an anchor light on their dinghy if it is secured to the big boat only with a painter. We have one of those tacky LED garden lights on the tender just in case.

  2. Had to chuckle when you said about pouring your coffee while both hands are "floating". I grew up riding the rails too, Pop was a RR cop for PRR and we had a free pass to visit the grandparents in Altoona, PA. That's where we're all from. At about the age of 10, I knew how to pull the bench seat out into the aisle way, rotate it and then push it back in again so my Mom, 2 sisters and myself could face each other. Needless to say, after a lot of families seeing me do this came and asked me to do it for them. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Stay sharp,
    Jim & Beryl
    Punxsutawney, PA

    1. Ahh, Altoona, home of the famous Horseshoe Curve. Been past there many times on the ex-PRR trackage. Thanks for sharing your comment.


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