Sunday, April 19, 2020

Back in the ocean

We are underway northbound in the Atlantic Ocean, our sights set on the St. Johns River and a familiar anchorage a few miles in. We left from St. Augustine inlet this morning, and while the trip between today's two anchorages is actually shorter, and fairly painless, on the ICW, we've learned the city pumpout is inoperative in Jacksonville, and so we decided to discharge outside the 3nm limit instead.

After my last post, we arrived to New Smyrna Beach just ahead of the downpour, and dropped the hook in a familiar spot just south of the bridge (map). Normally when in NSB we tie up to the free city docks just north of the bridge, but with no reason to go ashore, that made little sense, and we've heard sporadic "no overnight" reports. (When we passed the docks in the morning, we saw that current rules allow ten hours.)

We got the anchor set just in the nick of time. A sailboat that had been a few miles behind us since before the Mosquito Lagoon arrived just in time to get completely drenched while setting their anchor. It was a rinse-the-boat kind of storm, but let up enough for me to grill some steaks on the aft deck.

The stop in NSB meant we'd have a short day to Daytona, or a very long day to Fort Matanzas. We arrived in Daytona early in the day, just as another rain storm moved in. The anchorage we've used in the past, at the north end of town, is essentially unusable now, overrun with permanently anchored boats. We looked instead at the anchorage south of the whizzy new arched Memorial Bridge, which we've avoided in the past due to a shoal just east of the ICW that we thought precluded entry.

Long-time blog reader Mister Ed snapped this photo of us as we passed under the 520 bridge south of Titusville.

As we passed the anchorage we had a chat with another trawler anchored there, Selah Way, whom we remembered from earlier along the Great Loop. They shared their depth observations on the one narrow spot, right next to the bridge, where we could make an entry to the anchorage. They also snapped a couple of photos of Vector as we passed (thanks!).

It was very early for stopping, and pouring rain. The only draw for going ashore in Daytona would have been to get in a little walk, and so we opted to press on and hope we could find a spot to drop the hook well before Matanzas. And we did; a wide spot with 9' of depth off the ICW channel on the Halifax River, adjacent to the town of Ormond Beach (map). We could still see downtown Daytona and all its bridges astern of us. We had a quiet dinner and evening aboard.

The extra few miles Thursday allowed us to make it all the way to our preferred anchorage in Vilano Beach (map) on Friday, passing Fort Matanzas and St. Augustine. We had to putt-putt into St. Augustine, with current behind us, to time the opening of the historic Bridge of Lions. The anchorage at Fort Matanzas is actually more pleasant, but, as you may recall, we still have not made it to a grocery store.

Vilano Beach has a public dock, attached to the fishing pier, that is just a short 1/3 mile walk to a nice Publix. There is also a nice Italian restaurant we like, 180Vilano, that is open for carry-out right now, although, oddly, the pizzeria next door to the Publix is closed. We splashed the tender shortly after getting settled in.

Vector steaming through Daytona Beach. Photo: Selah Way crew.

The forecast for Saturday was rain on and off all day, and with the weather pleasant on Friday evening, we opted to go ashore for a take-out pizza and salad from the Italian place, which we ate on a nearby park bench. First, though, we went ashore for groceries, while it was still nominally work hours and we hoped the store would be quieter.

That involved running something of a gauntlet of people on the fishing pier, few of whom seemed to be at all concerned about social distancing. We were able to maintain good distance by zig-zagging our way down the pier, which is the remains of the bridge approach for the old Vilano Beach drawbridge, fairly wide.

In keeping with guidance to designate a single shopper, Louise masked up and went into Publix solo, while I waited on a nearby bench with the backpacks. We managed to get it all into two packs and made our way back to the pier. Vilano Beach is a town frozen in time; the road to the pier, formerly the main highway but now bypassed by the high bridge, is lined with 50's-era motor courts that are now mostly residences. They are dwarfed by a new three-story hotel under construction in the middle of the block.

By the time we arrived in Vilano Beach, the weather forecast was showing a good outside window for today. Knowing that getting a pumpout would be challenging and/or expensive, we decided to just make it a two-night stop so we could make the outside run today. We figured to return ashore yesterday morning for a nice walk.

Passing Castillo de San Marcos under an ominous sky.

In the morning we eavesdropped on the daily "cruiser's net" on the VHF. I learned there about a Facebook group for St. Augustine cruisers, and we also learned that St. Johns County was re-opening the beaches for recreation, so long as people kept moving (no sunbathing or sitting around), until noon each day.

I used my new-found Facebook group to try to give away the kayak and the bi-fold doors we've been carrying around, and which we had hoped to give away in George Town, where we never made it. I had a taker for the kayak even before we left for our morning walk, and we arranged to meet on the dock around lunch time.

We went ashore for our walk, again running the gauntlet on the fishing pier. On a Saturday morning, the pier was very busy, and we had to zig and zag more aggressively, as well as power-walk past a few folks. Once off the pier we had the street to ourselves.... until we reached the beach.

In stark contrast to the previous evening, the on-street parking was full from the beach out to past the Publix. We did not go onto the beach -- too risky -- but we came fairly close to the adjacent complex of rest rooms and sand showers, all busier than we think is wise. We turned off down a side street to make a big loop through the residential area at the tip of the island, and were again all alone.

This wide-angle shot of the pier belies how crowded it was. I count two dozen in this photo, and there were a dozen more behind me.

I returned ashore at the appointed time with the kayak rolled up in the bottom of the dinghy. I set it on the dock and backed away; I enjoyed meeting, from a safe distance, Jimmy and his daughter, who came across from St. Augustine by car to get it. I never did get rid of the bi-fold doors, however.

After they left, I disembarked the tender to go back to Publix for a few more items. I needed another box of wine (too bulky to bring back Friday), and to see if they had restocked the isopropanol or zinc lozenges (they had not). I returned to the tender with just the box of wine.

We're still fine tuning our decon procedures here for grocery runs. On Friday we had the packs with us, and we have a pocket in there designated for the used face masks. I did not bring a pack Saturday, and just carried the wine back in my hand, but I had not thought ahead about the mask. I decided to just leave it on until I got home.

That actually proved handy back at the fishing pier, which by this time was chock-a-block with people. Some "fishing" appeared to be little more than an excuse for getting together, and perhaps some folks had come down from the now-closed beach. Two fishermen had even taken up spots on the narrow (4' wide) ramp leading to the dock; I could tell from their demeanor they were not going to move if I asked, so when I was safely past I told them they were in a bad spot.

Perhaps in keeping with the town's vintage feel, someone is trying to make an office park out of Airstreams. Only two on the whole parcel, so far.

I headed back to Vector still wearing the mask, and, as luck would have it, I was met en route by an open center console fishing boat carrying one of our regular blog readers (hi!). It was too noisy on the water to carry on a real conversation at a safe distance, and, of course, the mask made it that much more difficult. In hindsight, I could have moved it aside, since my hands were already contaminated. Anyway, I never even got the gentleman's name (but please feel free to leave a comment). Anyway, it was nice to (sort of) meet you.

I spent part of yesterday researching the St. Augustine inlet, including pulling down the latest Corps of Engineers depth surveys. Somehow in seven years of cruising this coast, this is one usable inlet we've never done. It's notorious for shoaling and having buoys off-station, and I wanted to have my ducks lined up before attempting it.

We left on an ebb tide this morning, mostly in order to have favorable conditions at the other end. We had more than two knots behind us as we whizzed out the inlet, which would have been very bad in either rough seas or with unknown shoaling conditions. But I had a good survey and good local information, and we saw nothing less than 18' on our way out. It's flat calm out here today, with a 2' swell on very long period.

The plotter says we can discharge our waste in an hour, and we'll be at the anchorage before 4pm. We could ride this flood all the way to downtown, but with water availability downtown in question right now, we're hoping to drop by Jim King park in the morning to see if water might be available there instead. I will be glad when I finally have the parts in hand to get the watermaker working again.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to meet you too, sort of ! My name is Mike Hayes and recognized your boat while we were fishing the area. I have followed your adventure’s for awhile and I just had to say hello. Be safe:) and the fish we caught were awesome last night.


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