Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Happy Holidays

We are under way southbound in the ICW after a few days of downtime in the Melbourne and Indian Harbour Beach area. We are headed for Vero Beach, where we have plans to meet up with some friends, after which we'll just stay put for the holiday. It's a bleak, gray day with a bit of chop, and we have the waterway mostly to ourselves.

Following an ultra-large container ship down the St. Johns. The photo makes it look smaller than it is.

We left the Marsh Island anchorage last Monday morning at first light, catching the very last of the ebb down to the ICW and then having the flood behind us as we turned south. An ultra-large container ship was passing the Blount Island Channel just as we were pulling out, and we had to hang back and follow it downriver.

Sunrise through a streaky window as we turn onto the ICW.

The early start and the flood tide for the first half of the tip had us arriving in Vilano Beach early in the day. We easily could have continued through St. Augustine and to the nice anchorage at Fort Matanzas, but we wanted to make a stop at the very convenient Publix and enjoy pizza at the restaurant next door, so we just made it an early day and dropped the hook in our usual spot north of the bridge (map).

We splashed the tender a little before dinner to do our grocery shopping and landed on the inside of the free city dock, tying up just in front of a giant pontoon passenger boat that had just arrived. We chatted with Captain Jimmy Hill, who explained that it was a new water shuttle service between Vilano and downtown St Augustine. The inside of the dock is technically now reserved for them, leaving only the outside face dock for pleasure craft. Signs to that effect were erected, but were blown away in Nicole.

This is the St. Augustine Water Shuttle. $15 each way, but you get tour narration as well.

We were tucked out of the way and he had no problem with us, but allowed that he's had a challenge with tenders from the numerous live-aboard boats that are now anchored immediately across the channel south of the bridge. We had noticed this large group of anchored boats as we arrived earlier in the day, many of which are anchored in the cable area. All of this is new since our last visit earlier this year.

Also changed since our last visit is the demise of the Airstream business park, which was down to just two trailers last time and now is an empty lot. And the pizza place next door to Publix has rebranded itself from Puccini's Pizzeria to Surfside Kitchen. We opted to stick with the pizza from the newly expanded menu, with a couple of drafts. The art-deco style building that has been under construction seemingly forever is nearly complete and will be a Hyatt Place hotel.

Daytona was where we started to see storm-damaged boats. Many ashore, like this one near the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and many sunk.

Tuesday morning we weighed anchor to catch the first opening at the Bridge of Lions after its morning rush hour lockdown. After making the turn at the inlet we had a fair tide most of the day. We found the shoaling at the Matanzas inlet to have migrated further into the channel and were happy to pick our way through with a bit of tidal help. We've done this enough times that we know where to find the depth, and I was able to update a clear path on a web site used by thousand of boaters to navigate the ICW. Several boaters have reported running aground here just in the last couple of weeks.

The early start meant we made it all the way to Daytona, arriving a day ahead of our reservation at the Halifax River Yacht Club. We picked our way through a shallow unmarked channel into a new-to-us anchorage across the river from the club and dropped the hook (map). We immediately tendered in to the yacht club docks and walked to dinner at Little Italy right on Beach Street. The food was decent but the servers were unclear on the menu, not knowing whether the special was lamb or veal, and serving an IPA after telling us it was not an IPA.

Beach Street festively decorated for the holidays.

Wednesday morning we weighed anchor and moved just a half mile across the river to the club, tying up before 10:30 in a familiar spot (map). That gave us plenty of time to do errands before our evening plans. Louise did all the laundry as per our usual marina routine, and I ascended to the boat deck to remove the battery from the tender. The battery hit end-of-life a couple of weeks ago, and I'd been having to start the tender the old-fashioned way, with the pull cord, for several days.

This whimsical fire truck decoration was outside the fire station. It was animated with the wheels going around

I loaded the battery into the e-bike, along with two dead Sodastream cylinders, and headed off to Walmart a few miles away. I traded the whizzy but dead AGM battery for a more conventional "maintenance free" flooded battery they had in stock, and also loaded up on a full list of provisions. Sadly they did not offer the cylinder exchange at this store so I returned to Vector with the same empty ones with which I left.

I was still working on getting the new battery into the tender when our friends Stacey and Dave arrived, having driven down from Astor, on the St. Johns River, where they are staying on their boat, Stinkpot. We had arranged to meet up here as it was our closest approach to Astor and the shortest drive for them. We caught up over cocktails aboard before wandering over to the club for dinner. It was a lovely evening.

Removing the old battery. This fuse block was stuck to the flat top of the battery with foam tape; replacement has vent caps and the fuse block could not sit flat on top like this.

I was ready to just relax after our friends left, but rain forecast over night had me scrambling back up to the boat deck to make progress on the battery. I at least needed to get things buttoned up to the point of covering the battery box, but I had to wait until the rain stopped Thursday to finish up. The new battery was different enough from the old one that my fuse block no longer fit in the box, and I had to fabricate some standoffs for the cover to finish the project.

With the errands done and the e-bike back aboard we were ready to shove off on Thursday when our welcome wore out. But NOAA issued a tornado watch for our area, and the weather was going to be too lousy to want to run the tender, so we called the dockmaster and extended another night. Only our first night was free, but the rate here is very reasonable. We walked to dinner at Thai restaurant Zen Bistro, which was quite good, carrying our umbrellas.

Lots of grounded boats looked just like this one in Bethune Park. Lifted by the surge and then set down in a bad spot when the waters receded. We've now passed at least a hundred destroyed boats.

Friday was slated to have two rocket launches in the afternoon, and we dropped lines after coffee for the eight hour cruise down to the primo viewing spot off the ICW in Titusville, where we dropped the hook (map) a half hour before scheduled liftoff, in view of the pad. By this time the first launch had been pushed back an hour, and the second scrubbed to Saturday.

Lots of dolpins in the Indian River, and occasionally they will play briefly in our bow wave. If you look closely there are five in this photo.

Launches never get earlier, and with the launch now squarely in the dinner hour, I opted to grill up a steak a little early so we could be done eating before the launch, in case it got even later. We had a great view of the twilight launch, at least for about 40 seconds until the rocket disappeared into low clouds. Still an impressive sight.

SpaceX SES 03b mPower mission blasts off from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral.

It would have been great to just remain another day for the next launch, but we wanted to stop at the Eau Gallie Yacht Club, and the dock was unavailable Sunday on account of a lighted boat parade. They are closed Monday, and Tuesday would have been too late, owing to a need to pump out our holding tanks. Thus we made our reservation for Saturday, and weighed anchor in the morning for the fairly short cruise. We still got to see part of the launch, as the rocket cleared the tree line and again disappeared into the clouds.

Nicely decorated Eau Gallie Yacht Club, which is really in Indian Harbour Beach, from our slip.

We arrived early enough to the dock (map) that I was able to run down to the shopping center on the e-bike for some provisions. We had a nice dinner in the club dining room, after which we got to see quite a number of lighted boats departing yet a different lighted boat parade, of which there are, apparently, three in a row here in the Banana River.

Some boats leaving the lighted boat parade Saturday night.

As if having dinner in the fancy dining room was not enough (in hindsight the casual and less expensive poolside grill would have been a better choice), we ended up going right back Sunday morning for the sumptuous and very reasonably priced brunch buffet. We knew it would be raining at dinner time and opted to make this our main meal of the day.

Before brunch we used the pumpout, which required priming the pump with city water pressure. I hope they have a good backflow preventer. We also ended up walking back to Publix to pick up an item I had left behind at the store. After brunch we shoved off in 20kt of wind and had a very short cruise around the causeway island to drop the hook in the lee of the Eau Gallie Causeway (map), where we had a comfortable, if rainy evening. By nightfall three more boats arrived seeking the same lee, including a nice 50'-ish Selene.

More dolphins on our next leg. These two were playful.

Normally an anchorage like this is a one-night-stand for us, just a way station as we continue along the ICW. But we found ourselves with several days to kill before we were due in Vero Beach, where the only availability our good friends Alyse and Chris had was this Friday. There are not a lot of stops between here and Vero, where anchorage is scarce and the dock is spendy. So we opted to linger here for at least another day.

I spent the day finalizing holiday plans, ordering thermostats for the main engine at a later stop, and lining up someone to make us a new anchor snubber. The one we have now is badly chafed and ready to part at any moment. I was able to find someone in Vero to do the work, but she needed me to bring her the materials, and no one in Vero had any 3/4" line. At dinner time we splashed the tender, landed at the causeway boat ramp, and walked to PizzaVola, next door to the same Publix we visited the day before.

Badly chafed snubber after removal. This is where it rubs against the chain at anchor.

I was all set to weigh anchor yesterday morning and move along, perhaps just a short distance to downtown Melbourne, or maybe a bit farther to Sebastian. In what can only be described as serendipity, while I was scrolling the map to look for possible landings and dining options, I noticed that there was a discount marine supply right across the river from us that had not come up in any of my actual marine supply searches, for reasons known only to Google. It turned out that they had the line I needed and were just a half mile from a boat ramp where I could land the tender.

With another rainy evening forecast, Louise opted to ride with me for a walk, and we left for the ramp just before lunch time. We bought enough line for two snubbers and some cleaning chemicals and headed back to the tender at the very nice Ballard Park. We again opted to make lunch our big meal for the day, and while there is a waterfront dock-and-dine joint right there in Eau Gallie Harbor, we ended up going back across the river to the yacht club. A giant draft beer with lunch sealed our fate, and we just stayed another night south of the causeway. The wind shifted to the south and it was a bit less comfortable than it had been.

New snubber demonstrating my abysmal marlinspike skills.

We had reserved the marina in Vero starting Friday, but this system moving in that is going to freeze the entire country will bring with it high winds that will last all day. The slips at Vero Beach are narrow and poorly fendered, so we moved our arrival up to tomorrow so we can dock in calmer conditions. This morning we weighed anchor to get most of the way there today.

Update: We are anchored in the Indian River in between a couple of islands (map), one of the few usable anchorages for us between Melbourne and Vero. We're just four miles from our berth for the holiday, and in the morning we'll make a lazy start and head over. As soon as we had the hook set we dropped the tender so I could go out and change out the snubber, and not a moment too soon. It took me ten minutes or so, and after we had the anchor properly snubbed I made a quick excursion to sound out a shorter entrance to the anchorage, where I found depths of eight feet all the way in.

Installing the new snubber on the bow shackle, halfway through mousing the clevis.

This will be my last update until after the holiday. Whatever and however you celebrate, we wish all our friends, family, and readers a very happy holiday season. I will try to post at least once more before the new year, and I have no clue where we will be to ring that in.


  1. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Long time reader. Vern in Boise Idaho

  2. Thanks for posting the video clip of the Falcon 9 launch. We had stayed at the Manatee Hammock Campground in September in hopes of seeing one but it was scrubbed. Nice video to see what it would have looked like.


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