Day 1. Thursday February 24th.
At last! After missing out on our spring cruise to the Bahamas for the last two years due to the pandemic, we are finally leaving for the islands!
Due to depths in the channel from our home dock to the AICW we had to be away by 7:45am to be at the lock to the channel for the 8am opening time.
Before we left our next door neighbors Cindy and Dan came to to Sonas to see us on our way with some gifts for us and Bella. And as we approached the lock our neighbors Angela and John appeared to wish us bon voyage! What awesome neighbors we have.
We were a bit concerned when we got to the lock to see the channel out to the AICW was extremely low, lower that we expected given that it was 2 hours before low tide. Added to this the inside lock gates were not fully shutting, leaking water in during the pump down operation, making the process longer. We finally got out and ploughed mud all the way – but we got out, with 0.5 feet under us all the way! As we headed south we got communication that the lock had an issue and it was 10:30 before the next boat got out.
We ran south and timed the Bridge of Lions in St Augustine nicely, with only a 5 minute wait until the 12:30 opening. On the way Bella again got frantic on the boat deck whenever dolphins came to play. We now have pads on the edge of the boat deck to make sure that she doesn’t lose her footing!
We made Palm Coast Marina by 3p.m. They had assigned us an angled T-head by the fuel dock and we had some struggles to get in given the south wind and the current running out of the marina basin. After getting tied up and walking Bella, we rewarded ourselves with an Indian meal at The Fifth Element up at the European village, just a fifteen minute walk from the marina.
We realized that we had left Bella’s pee pad behind so ordered one from Amazon to be delivered to Nettles Island in Stuart where we will be docked for Trawlerfest. She has never used one but we wanted one on board in case we get stuck on board for a period that is too long and detrimental for her.
Paul also realized that we left the charger for the drone behind so ordered that from amazon as well!
Day 2. Friday February 25th
The day started with a lovely walk along the Intracoastal Waterway trail for Bella and I. It’s a three mile loop, friendly for walkers, bike riders and dogs alike.
Today we were running to New Smyrna. However Paul had researched diesel prices and found that Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona had a comparatively excellent price on diesel. All of the other marinas between Jacksonville and West Palm had fuel at around $4,40-$4.50 a gallon. Halifax was $3.52 a gallon. 80-90 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else. To make sure Paul called them to confirm the price! So we planned to stop there on our way and fill up.
As we approached Main St Bridge in Daytona we saw the flashing lights of work vehicles on the span. We radioed and the bridge tender told us that he could not open. The board showed 18 feet, and there is an additional 4 feet in the middle of the span. Since we only require 21 feet with the antennae down we went through with a whopping foot to spare! The bridge tender warned us the Coranado Bridge in New Smyrna was also currently inoperable.
When we pulled into the Halifax Harbor fuel dock we were disappointed to find that the price board showed $4.42! Questioning this the dock hand told us that they were still charging $3:52 but that it would be going up within the hour, we were one of the last boats to get it at the reduced price. So we took advantage and put in 630 gallons! We hold 1000 gallons in three tanks and we already had 300 on board so we we were pretty near full. We will top up the tanks in West Palm before we cross. A five cents a gallon BoatUS membership discount was also applied, so we estimated that we had saved around $600 on this fill alone!
One thing we should discuss here is the use of our small forward tank, We have three fuel tanks. Two saddle tanks at 425 gallons each and a center forward tank of 150 gallons. Our fuel valve system allows us to draw from any one tank, any two tanks or all three! Some boaters with a small tank use that as a “day tank,” running the engines frm that only and filling from the other tanks. However we fill this forward tank and then lock it down. Should we get “bad” fuel while in the islands we can shut down the main tanks and use this fuel to get us somewhere to resolve the issue. With good management it would get us around 250 – 300 nautical miles, likely more.
As we got into New Smyrna the CG communicated that the Coronado Bridge was indeed inoperable and would be until 4pm at the earliest. Unless we could get under, this would hold us up for at least two hours. Luckily we also got under that with about two feet to spare and tied up at New Smyrna Marina. Sian suggested the fuel we added in Daytona helped get under the bridge!
We had a pleasant dinner at the marina’s very busy Outrigger Restaurant.
Day 3. Saturday February 26th.
Early this morning we heard some female voices when it was still dark, then two girls on SUPs passed us! It was only just 6am so they must have had a very early start to their day!
We also overheard a radio conversation between a sportsfisherman a couple of slips over and the Coronado bridge. They were told that the bridge was still inoperable with the next update at 10am. We wondered if they had a charter today as it was Saturday. Sounded like lost money for the captain and crew.
It was an easy run today through the rest on New Smyrna, through the long slow zone past all of the fish camps in New Smyrna Beach and into Mosquito Lagoon. A sailboat going north hailed us and asked if had heard the latest on the bridge opening. We shared what we had heard, then minutes later the Coast Guard came on to say that there was still an issue but that there would only be openings at 2pm and 4pm today, and at 10am and 2pm tomorrow, Sunday.
We slowly cruise through Haulover Canal, avoiding the manatees that make their home there, through Titusville and were tied up in our slip at Cocoa Village Marina by 2:30. An uneventful run, which is what we like!
As we checked in the marina advised us that here was a Mardi Gras event intown this weekend. Sian took Bella for her afternoon walk and retuned very frustrated. She had followed the usual walk through the downtown area to then find that they had erected barriers behind her for the ticketed Mardi Gras event. As she tried to return to the marina she found every avenue blocked. The “rent a cops” would not let her out. They even radioed the supervisor who told them not to open any of the barriers! She was getting very irate when a delivery truck approached and they had to open the barrier to let it in and she walked through. She never told me if she flipped them the bird or not!
This evening we went back into town and ignored the event and had a very casual dinner at Time Out Plus.
Day 4. Sunday February 27th.
We awoke this morning to germinating tomato plants in the AeroGarden! Once they are big enough we shall move them over to pots.
We were running from Cocoa to Vero Beach today. We started off in shorts and t-shirts on an AICW bereft of any breeze whatsoever. As we cruised through Sebastian the wind got up and the sun went in and we end up going into the Vero Beach marina in sweaters! Since it was a sunny Sunday there were plenty of boats running the AICW and using the sand bars.
One of the things we love about Vero Beach Marina is the dog park adjacent to the marina. In fact it was the very first dog park Bella ever went to. We took her over for a half hour’s romp with the other dogs.
This evening we went to Riverside Restaurant and had dinner at the bar as there was a one hour wait for a table.
The only issue today was that the salon AC unit would not trigger the cooling raw water pump so was turning off. If we turned on the pilot house AC unit the shared pump ran fine and we could also run the salon unit. However the salon unit is brand new as is the salon control pad. So we will be contacting the installer tomorrow, Monday, to hopefully work through a solution.
Day 5. Monday February 28th.
Today we were running from Vero Beach just 28 statute miles down the AICW to Nettles Island Marina on Hutchinson Island. Looking at the chart it looked a bit of a challenge to get in there as you go straight in from the ICW to the development and then follow the square counter-clockwise close to the houses. The charts show 6 feet MLW. However we found we had a minimum of 3.5 feet under the keel the whole way so had no issues.
We backed into slip S15 easily enough. The dockmaster Thomas is very competent and pleasant. The only thing I would say about the marina is that it is very open to the south with a long fetch, so not somewhere I would like to be is any south wind with strength.
We were staying on Hutchinson Island as there was a TrawlerFest at the Marriott nearby. Paul is signed up for the diesel engine troubleshooting class and Sian is attending the trouble free anchoring seminar. Then we are both signed up for Chris Parker’s marine weather seminar.
For the first time this trip we had dinner on board – but only because the restaurant at the marina is closed on Monday and Tuesday!!
Day 6. Tuesday March 1st.
The TrawlerFest seminars we had signed up for both started at 9am. So we started asking for an Uber at 7:50. No Ubers to be had after multiple times trying! We walked over to the small supermarket and asked them for the name of a cab company. “No idea, I’ve never even seen a cab in here,” the lady says! Oh oh! We are about seven miles from the hotel!
There was no other choice – we decided to go to the main road and stick a thumb out! The first time we have hitch-hiked in 40 years! We were thinking that we didn’t look like mass murderers so we may have some luck! We got to Ocean Blvd, faced south and Paul stuck out his thumb – and the very first car that came along pulled in! Our new delightful friend Debbie took us all the way and dropped us off at the Marriott front door. We were there in plenty of time.
We both found the seminars interesting, though Paul found the diesel troubleshooting seminar pretty long, running from 9am to past 5pm! He was ready for a stiff Jamesons when he got back to the boat.
Day 7. Wednesday March 2nd.
Oscar came this morning and replaced the bad trigger switch on the salon AC and we are up and running again!
Also our mechanic in Jacksonville finally got some engine parts that we needed and had not come in before we left. He is sending them overnight to our next stop in North West Palm. The idler pulley on the starboard engine needs replaced as does the serpentine belt. He is also contacting a mechanic in West Palm to see if they can come over and do the work.
We are now receiving the twice daily weather updates from Chris Parker and unfortunately it does not look like a Saturday east bound crossing is possible. It looks like the earliest is Tuesday, but more likely Wednesday the 9th. So we started calling around marinas to find dockage for the extra days. We finally got the extra four days we required at the Riviera Beach Marina.
Today’s seminar by Chris Parker on interpreting weather did not start until 1pm. However, given the trouble getting an Uber yesterday, we decided to start heading over to the Marriott at 11:20. This time we did get an Uber, and arrived in plenty of time.
Unfortunately the Chris Parker seminar did not meet our expectations. He spent some time up front telling us about his boating experience and then a lot of time on how he and other weather forecasters actually forecast – more on the technical aspects of forecasting. We were really looking for a boaters guide to not only being able to help ourselves with evaluating the weather, but also how to use the products that he sells. In other words how to use the end product of his forecasting. He was supposed to go through “20 things we didn’t know about forecasting,” and only got to 7 before his seminar time ran out.
We got back to Sonas where we s[pent some time investigating a water intrusion issue that we had. When ever the boat rocked to a swell or wake some water came in on the starboard side of the salon. Not a lot, but a small stream, then a drip which wet the couch on that side. We dropped the ceiling panels but did not find any wetness coming from the fresh water side of the boat.. So it was clearly coming in from the outside rather than any of the fresh water. But it happens while there is no rain. It was a bit of a conundrum.
Finally we looked at the channel that housed one of the deck drains from the boat deck. We decided to remove the channel and see if the hose running inside of it had been compromised. We removed the holding screws getting ready to cut off the sealant around the channel. There was a screw on the bottom of the channel and when we removed that water came out! So clearly there was a small pinhole leak in the hose that allowed water to sit in the channel and when the boat rolled for whatever reason the water was allowed to roll along the channel and into the salon.
We decided to put the retaining screws back in and leave the hose channel in place, but leave the “drain” screw off to allow the leaked water to drain, and we would deal with removing the channel and fixing the hose when we get back to home dock. Where it would be a much tidier job!
As a reward we walked off Nettles Island to Shuckers on the beach right by and had an excellent seafood meal – highly recommended, but boy did it get busy!
Week one now complete. Off further south tomorrow!
Some more photos.