Friday, June 6, 2014

Space Coast stopover

We are docked at the Ocean Club marina at Port Canaveral, Florida (map).  We had an excellent cruise up from Stuart in the clear waters of the Atlantic, taking a bit more than 14 hours end to end, our longest cruise ever.  In order to arrive before sunset, we weighed anchor this morning before 5:30, and Louise snapped the photo of the New Roosevelt Bridge all lit up just before first light.

Yesterday when I awoke at 6:15 I heard a train going by, and while there has been no real schedule for the trains, I was hoping we'd be ahead of it this morning.  So I was a bit disappointed when I came up to the pilothouse at 5am and saw the bridge was down.  Fortunately, it was a short train, and the bridge was already going back up before we started to weigh anchor.  Once the anchor was aboard we hustled down to the Old Roosevelt bascule bridge and asked for an opening before we'd even rounded the corner; at that hour of the morning they got it right open and we did not even have to slow down.

We coincidentally left on high tide this morning, so once we were through the two drawbridges, we had the current behind us all the way to the ocean.  By the time we hit the inlet we were doing nearly eight knots, the fastest we've been all day.  Alas, I've been bucking a head current ever since, the counter-current from the gulf stream as it curls around below Cape Canaveral.  I had to crank it up to 1700 rpm most of the day just to make the inlet by 7:30, and then we came in on an ebbing tide and had to climb uphill to the marina, at the far west end of the port.

While we were passed by a ton of go-fast fishing boats in the inlet this morning, we saw very few other boats on the open ocean.  At one point mid-day, though, my proximity alarm went off, and I saw a large yacht gaining on us fast, doing 21 knots.  It turned out to be Diva, an 80' custom yacht we'd seen several times in Fort Lauderdale.  She went past us back and forth several times while we were anchored in the Middle River, looking like she was doing sea trials of recent tech work, and we presumed she lived on a dock behind one of the many mansions up the river.  When we tied up this evening, we found her here at the docks.  What took us all day today took her perhaps five hours.

With 14 hours to ourselves on the boat, we each had a nice nap, and three square meals in the pilot house.  I got some computer work done (including hammering out most of this blog post), and trained myself on more of the features of our radar set, upon which we will have to rely shortly for our first overnight run.  Louise spent a good part of the day in the saloon at her sewing machine, which tells you something about how calm it was out there.

Leaving Stuart was bittersweet.  Steph drove Louise around yesterday to stock up the larder and pick up a few other items, including some much-needed 15w-40 oil for our engines, and we had Martin and Steph over to Vector for a farewell dinner of pork tenderloin on the grill.  As I picked them up in the dinghy I was a bit disappointed to learn that the 25-horse Merc can't get the tender up on plane with three of us aboard.  Still, it's the right motor/dinghy combination for just the two of us (where it planes just fine and will do over 20 knots), which is 99% of the time.  When we end up cruising with them, if we want to get someplace fast, we'll go in their dinghy, which is bigger but lighter due to its aluminum hull, and sports a 50-horse outboard which should have no trouble planing with all four of us, dive gear included.

We had a fairly early evening, with our planned pre-dawn start plus their trek to the airport this morning for a visit north.  I wonder if they saw us out the airplane window on their flight from Palm Beach.  The highlight of the evening was not my cooking, but rather the friendly dolphin that came right up to the boat after dinner and circled around us for a bit before wandering off.  We are hoping that we'll see them somewhere between here and New York in August or September.  We hoisted the dinghy back on deck after I dropped them off.

Port Canaveral is a fairly large and busy port.  It is perhaps best known for the handful of cruise ships that call it home, including the Disney ships.  As we were coming north, Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas set sail and I watched her on AIS, then radar, then in my binoculars as we got progressively closer.  The closest we came was about six miles, and even at that distance, these ships look enormous.  It was good practice with the radar; as a side note, the massive radar reflectors on the buoys marking the ship channel make them look just as big as a cruise ship on the scope.

Tomorrow morning we will sleep in, in preparation for our first overnight, and we will shove off after lunch for the Jacksonville inlet.  That trip will take the best part of a full 24 hours, our first overnight run.  If the weather holds, we will be anchored in the St. Johns river by the same time Sunday.  I am looking forward to seeing the Kennedy Space Center from a different perspective, as we pass by it in the ocean.

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