Friday, December 5, 2014

Downhill, both ways

We are anchored in the Banana River, just outside the entrance to the Canaveral Lock, near Port Canaveral, Florida (map).  We are staged here for a possible outside run tomorrow to Fort Pierce Inlet.  Sadly, we were not here this morning for the rocket launch -- the view would have been spectacular.  As I type, the Enchantment of the Seas is getting underway, and I assume Disney Dream will do so shortly as well.

Approaching Port Canaveral across the Banana River.  Our anchorage is to the right, near the bridge.

We had a great run yesterday, with a fair tide nearly the whole day.  Not only did we make our full allotment of miles for the day (I had scoped out three early stopping points, just in case), but we also got fantastic fuel mileage while doing so.  We left Matanzas Inlet just before 8am, on the end of a rising tide, which pushed us all the way to the "hump" where the tidal current changes direction, between Matanzas and Ponce de Leon inlets.  We then rode the falling tide all the way through Daytona and just past Ponce Inlet.

We ended up pushing against the last of the outgoing tide from Ponce to New Smyrna Beach, which aced us out of trying to go beyond plan another 14 miles to the Mosquito Lagoon, as it would then be past sunset.  Still, that was just the last few miles, more than making up for Tuesday's run from the St. Johns to Vilano Beach, where, just like that old joke about walking to school, it was uphill both ways.

One of the more colorful characters along this stretch of the ICW.

The last time we hit New Smyrna Beach, the town's free docks were so busy with people fishing (even though there is also a nearby fishing pier) or other boats already tied up, that we had to pass them by and anchor instead just south of the bridge.  This time, we were so early (before 3pm) on a weekday that there was only a single other boat (there is room for perhaps three) and no one fishing from the boat docks, so we decided to grab a spot (map).

The docks are tricky here, because they are curved.  Since both the dock and the side of the boat are convex, we had to tie up with just two fenders up against two pilings, with both the bow and stern between six and ten feet from the dock.  It looked a bit strange, but worked fine, and it was an easy step to the dock from our aft boarding door.  Of course, we had an audience, comprising a half dozen of New Smyrna's senior community.  Once docked they were very helpful in directing us to the restaurant and shopping district.

We took the dock opportunity to offload the trash, and then walked through the very touristy Canal Street downtown district.  We were both in the mood for pub food, and we ended up eating at a brand new joint in town, the Half Wall Beer Company.  Service was attentive, the food was quite good, and they have a huge selection of draft beers.  We arrived at happy hour, so these latter items were a buck off.

Yesterday's rocket launch was scrubbed, after several delays including an errant boat entering the security zone.  It was rescheduled for 7:05 this morning, and we went up to the flybridge to see if we had a view.  There were perhaps a dozen locals standing on the high-rise auto bridge just south of us for the same reason.  I was not hopeful, as there was heavy cloud cover to the south/southeast. The launch happened right on schedule, and while we missed the more spectacular part, within a minute or so the Delta-IV Heavy rocket was high enough to clearly see the primary ascent motors burning bright.  We watched until the glow disappeared into more clouds in the distance, then we got underway.

Getting an early start today again gave us a fair tide out of New Smyrna and well into the Mosquito Lagoon, which becomes non-tidal just a few miles south. Ironically, today's cruise took us past two sides of the enormous NASA complex as we crossed through the Haulover Canal and around past Titusville.  We passed dozens of anchorages that would have made great viewing; we were just five hours too late.  Still, I'm glad it went today rather than yesterday, when we would not have seen it at all.

Yesterday evening before we turned in, the ocean forecasts for this part of the Florida coast were improving, with decent period information (often the wave period does not show up on the forecast until one or two days out).  Louise checked again en route today, and we determined that it was looking favorable for an outside run tomorrow from Port Canaveral to Fort Pierce.  Thus we turned off the ICW a good ten miles before our planned stop, and headed east on the Canaveral Barge Canal.

We ended up at the Christa McAuliffe bascule bridge right in between two scheduled openings.  Not relishing station-keeping in the narrow canal for a good 15 minutes, I went up to the flybridge and played jungle-gym on the soft top supports to lower the four antennas that protrude above the top of the mast. We had previously lowered the two, taller, SSB antennas for an earlier bridge, but they are easily lowered from the flybridge deck level.  We cleared the bridge with perhaps a foot to spare.

From here it is still a good three miles to the inlet, a transit of a half hour by itself, but we must also first transit the Canaveral Lock and then pass through another bascule bridge.  The lock begins its day at 0600, but there is no way to know whether east or west bound traffic will lock through first.  The lock, incidentally, is what keeps the tide out of the Banana and Indian rivers and the Mosquito Lagoon.

Fortunately, we will be lifted up to a high tide in the morning and should have some help out the inlet.  It's a nine or ten hour run to Fort Pierce, so we should arrive with just enough daylight to get anchored.  That said, if the forecast deteriorates overnight, we will instead go back through the barge canal and continue down the ICW, albeit three hours behind tomorrow's intended start.

We have some business to transact in Fort Pierce, so I'm guessing we will not be leaving until sometime Sunday afternoon.  However, the run from there to Palm Beach is possible in a single day, and is easy in a bit more than that, so I have optimistically moved my eye appointment up to Tuesday morning, from the same time a week hence.  We'll be anchoring a stone's throw from the clinic.

If that all works out, then we should be able to reconnect with our friends Martin and Steph aboard Blossom early in the week.  They've been anchored for a week or so but will be at a marina north of there on Tuesday, and I'm told the marina will shuttle them to West Palm Beach, where we can meet them for dinner.  Then they'll be heading to Del Ray Beach for a couple of days, while we will likely leapfrog them to Fort Lauderdale.

It's been a whirlwind trip, but we are very happy to be back in Florida and warmer climes.  The weather's been so nice the last couple of days that we've traveled with the windows open, and we had our first beer on the aft deck in many months last night.  I'm looking forward to a pleasant ocean cruise tomorrow.

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