Monday, January 11, 2016

Moving and Improving

Many thanks to everyone who sent their well-wishes for Louise in the comments or directly. She's still hobbling around and still in some pain, but things are improving steadily, and we are continuing our journey southward.

Today I am typing under way in the Indian River, a few miles north of Cocoa, Florida. The channel is wide and straight here, with gentle gradients to the sides, and Otto-the-autopilot is holding course in calm conditions. For that matter, it's calm on the outside today, too, and we'd be out there right now if not for the worry that any swell at all will hamper Louise's ability to safely move around the boat; once outside, if the swell picks up, there's nothing we can do about it. We've opted to slog down the ICW until she has more confidence in the foot.

Vector at anchor in Daytona Beach, from the Oakridge Blvd Bridge.

Friday we stayed put in our cozy spot in Daytona Beach. Louise rested her foot on board while I went ashore in the tender, bicycle in hand, to hunt and gather. I was met at the dock by a greeting committee consisting of several skippers of the aforementioned fleet of long-term anchored live-aboards. They were mostly intrigued by my full-size folding bike, and were happy to offer some information about the local surroundings.

Another view, from the mainland side. It was a great spot.

It was quite the pedal to get over the bridge, but then an easy ride to Harbor Freight, who did not have the drill bit I needed but did have a few other items on super-sale, including a wireless remote winch control for $30. I picked this up as a spare for the one I put in a year or so ago as an experiment. The buttons on this eBay-special are wearing out; now I'm ready for when it fails completely. I also picked up a set of ratcheting combination wrenches for $20.

I hit the Ace Hardware next and they had something close enough to what I needed, a 5/8" masonry bit with a 3/8" shank. It was a bit weird cutting soft rubber with a masonry bit, but it did the job to enlarge the 1/2" hole in the new anchor roller to the 5/8" that I needed. I spent the whole afternoon modifying the new roller and swapping it for the old one, which had worn completely through into two pieces. The roller is working smoothly now.

Something's not right here...

That project kept us in the anchorage to well past any reasonable departure time, and we just stayed another night. The tide was not favorable for departure Saturday until early afternoon, and we were fogged in for most of the morning anyway, so I went back ashore just to walk around the barrier island a bit. I strolled down to the boardwalk and the historic bandshell at the beach; there are actually quite a few shops and restaurants within an easy walk, and we'll have to return some time when Louise can stroll ashore with me. It was a great stop, even with hearing the Daytona Speedway faintly in the distance.

View of the beach through the historic arch at the bandshell plaza.

By mid-day the fog lifted and the current reversed, so we decked the tender and got under way, with our sights set on a short day ending at New Smyrna Beach. We had a downhill run all the way to Ponce Inlet, where we passed TowBoat working on a very expensive 85' yacht that had run well aground on Disappearing Island. From the looks of it, he hit the shoal on semi-plane. I could not get a photo as we were too far away. On a nice weekend afternoon, the waterway was crowded, with the inevitable quantum of weekend-warrior stupidity or rudeness.

We had figured to anchor in New Smyrna Beach, with Louise tentatively thinking she might try to get into the tender to get off the boat for the first time in four days. With the first of two close anchorages being full, however, at the last minute she decided she could give a go at docking, considering these are easy, forgiving, and known docks for us. The southernmost of the two semi-circular fixed docks was devoid of boats and we pulled up.

This being Saturday, all the fishing piers and the bulkheads were packed with people enjoying the nice weather and fishing. That included one guy right smack in the middle of the boat dock. I informed him of our intent to tie up right there, but he was not going to budge. I thus had to be ever so careful with the bow thruster to avoid sucking in his fishing line, and we ended up coming alongside just a little further north, with our bow ten feet off the dock (map). D├ętente.

Vector at the New Smyrna Beach free dock.

Once Louise had a breast line on I was able to climb onto the dock and, between the two of us, get the boat fully secured. After relaxing in her comfy chair for a couple of hours, Louise decided she had just enough foot left to try to go out for a nearby dinner, and we hobbled over to Jason's Corner on Canal Street. We stumbled into the monthly Cruise Night on the street, which was packed with lookers, but we were seated right away.

We're always on alert when docking at these sorts of free urban parks, where there are sometimes persons of unknown character and intent lurking about after dark. And so it was that we both shot upstairs in a heartbeat when we were boarded after 11pm by bloody pirates -- Louise from a sound sleep, and me soaking wet from the shower.

Sound travels really well on a steel boat, and a bolt hitting the deck can sound like a cannonball to someone below. When we got upstairs we were relieve to find that our boarder was a great blue heron, and the bloody aspect, which we found the next day, was likely a fish he must have had in his mouth. I was amused to see him walking the side deck, with just his head above window level. He made just as much noise departing as he did when he arrived.

Absent the foot injury, we would have stayed another day there and strolled around town, but with that not in the cards, we opted to move along Sunday morning, before the fishermen arrived in force. We'd strolled most of Canal Street on our last visit, so we did not feel like we were missing anything. We dropped lines before 09:00, to catch the last of the flood into the Mosquito Lagoon.

This section of the ICW always feels monotonous, but at least now it is routine and I'm not clenching the whole way -- we know the depths and the shape of the channel bottom now. We had an uneventful cruise until the turn into the Haulover Canal just north of the Kennedy Space Center. The entire canal was lined with small boats fishing, and both banks were also chock-full of people fishing from shore.

The drawbridge tender was reluctant to open for us, and after some back and forth about the extra clearance center-span, we decided to drop the SSB antennas and give it a shot. Being solo on the upper deck, I mostly stopped the boat just before the span and ran back to the boat deck to look at the clearance. We had just inches to spare above the VHF antennas, but we made it. I had to hustle back to the helm and put it in gear to avoid heading towards the fenders (and lower steel).

With no particular time pressure, we decided to end our day in Titusville, in one of the many spots just off-channel in the river deep enough for us to anchor. After some brief discussion, we decided to drop the hook as close as we could get to an old favorite, El Leoncito Cuban and Mexican restaurant. Long-time readers may remember this from our space shuttle launch extravaganza nearly six years ago. It's where we had our first meal with now long-time good friends Chris and Cherie (of Technomadia), and James and Maria. Good food and good times.

For old times' sake -- selfie in front of El Leoncito.

The chart showed no way to get ashore, but I spotted a nice dock on Google Earth, at the Rotary Park just a block away. This is a public park, so I reasoned we should be able to use the docks, even though there is nary a boat there in any current or historic satellite image. I'm not sure why the docks are unused; we found no restrictive signs either on the docks or at the park ashore. The docks are in just 2.5' of water, which is plenty for our tender, and many other small boats.

We dropped the hook as close as we could get, per the chart, near marker 38 (map), 3/4 mile out. It turned out we had 7' of water for nearly half the tender ride in, so we could have gotten a bit closer. Louise was feeling pretty good about her foot; walking around the previous evening apparently helped a bit. It was a bit of a challenge getting in and out of the tender but she managed, and we had an excellent dinner and fun reminiscing. It was a bit choppy on the trip back, but we had a pleasant night aboard.

KSC in the distance.

A cold front hit last night and we awoke this morning to temperatures in the 40s; I opted to wait until late morning to go outside and deck the tender. I did enjoy waking to the view of the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance, and behind it the remnants of the last Rotating Support Structure for the shuttles to the south, and the gantry for the newer rockets to the north.

We got under way around 11 am after a lazy morning looking at route options. We decided to stay inside rather than head out at Port Canaveral, and set a destination for the day of Eau Gallie, about four hours south. As I wrap up typing, we are just a half hour away.

Update: We are now anchored for the night in the Indian River, just south of the Eau Gallie Causeway (map). I expect we'll not even get off the boat here. Tomorrow, we'll continue south on the ICW toward Vero Beach.


  1. I'll keep an eye open for you in Stuart -- we live in a townhouse in Rocky Point that looks out to the ICW and the inlet.

    The anchorage in Manatee Pocket near me looks fairly full, but there may be room to anchor. There are several fair to good restaurants with docks in Manatee Pocket -- Shrimpers, Pirate's Cove and Twisted Tuna among them. Easy walk to two great restaurants here -- King Neptune and Gettin' Crabby.

    Hope the ankle heals.

    1. Thanks for the comment. We deliberately avoided Manatee Pocket because it can get quite boisterous there on the weekends. And as you've no doubt already read, we spent just a single night on the St. Lucie and moved on, since the boat show aced us out of any of our preferred spots.

  2. Hi, this is Kevin from Take A Breath, we met in Portsmouth. were back in Fl at the house making upgrades to the boat off the list we generated on our trip. It's fun to see where you've been as we have anchored at some of the same spots. If you make it to the west coast of Fl, Fort Myers Beach, it would be nice to see you.

    1. Hi Kevin, just catching up now on comments. We're still undecided on our plans past the end of this month; if we come around the west coast we'll look you up. Keep an eye on the blog -- I'm notoriously absent-minded about such things...


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