Seeing the sights
The Chocolate Factory.
Angell’s and Phelps is a working chocolate factory in downtown Daytona. We had discovered it last year on our way through Daytona Beach. It caused us to put Daytona on our must-stop list for this year. The chocolate covered cherries are wonderful.
Armed with chocolate, fresh fruit and vegetables, we were ready to move on south to position ourselves in the best spot for the launch. We would be a little early, but we were well stocked for the wait.
One of the tedious things about traveling the waterway is the shallow depths that can quickly become too shallow, causing you stop suddenly with the low water alarm sounding in your ears. However, this year, we’ve actually managed to find the bottom more times than we had in years past.
We left Daytona Beach early Sunday morning (Dec. 2nd) for the long trip to Titusville. Unfortunately, this would take us through the Ponce Inlet at low tide. Inlets are notorious for shoaling and therefore the risk of going aground is high. We were not alone either. Seven other sailboats were traveling with us as we made our way south. As we approached the inlet, we listened to two boats ahead of us in the inlet that had gone aground. Reports of 4.5 feet of water were coming back to us from shallower draft boats that had already passed the inlet. We dropped to the back of the pack of sailboats and started working our way through. Just as we came to the shallow spot at the entrance, another sailboat came up from behind and started passing Marianna. Just what you need. Everything seemed to be going OK until we heard Marianna radio that they were stuck. We were not in a position where we could turn around, so we slowed down further and watched to see if they could free themselves.
Shortly, we saw them rounding the bend, as we continued to report on the water depths we were finding. Since Ponce Inlet has a northern and southern entrance to the ICW, we wouldn’t be able to relax until we passed the southern entrance without incident, which we did. We thought we were would be OK from here on out, since we had no warnings about low water in last year’s log for the rest of the route. However, our last transit was apparently at high tide, because a few miles further down the waterway, our depth sounder once again went off and Dave realized that this time we had gone aground. (There is actually another route that bypasses the waterway at this spot that others prefer since it provides deeper water.) We quickly got off, but it was a long day, watching the depth gauge. So, it was with some relief that we arrived in Titusville’s large anchorage and set the anchor for the night (after the 2nd try).
After anchoring for almost a week within sight of the space shuttle Atlantis’ launch pad, we were disappointed to learn within hours of the scheduled launch time that it was being postponed due to a fuel sensor problem. There was still some hope that it would launch a day late, but we needed to start moving south again. So, we decided to make a short trip to Cocoa Beach and anchor there, where we could see the launch if it took place. By the next morning, we learned that there had been yet another day delay. Since the launch was becoming increasingly uncertain, we decided to move on to Vero Beach, where we had reservations on the 7th. We would still be able to see the launch, just not as close.
(As an aside, the local reporting on the launch reported that it would have to take place by Dec. 13th or be delayed until January. Why? Because the 17 day mission could not span year-end. Y2K revisited. The engineers were not confident that the computer systems would handle the year change. Can you believe it? )
Our long stay at Addison Point gave us some time to take care of a few housekeeping chores. Cathy took the time to do a more thorough cleaning of Orion’s interior, trying to stay ahead of the mildew that can form in the increasing humidity. Dave finally installed a cover plate on the hole for the anchor chain locker, which Skip had manufactured back in Newburyport. That makes it virtually watertight now. Dave also discovered that putting Vaseline on the o-ring in the raw water strainer would solve a problem with the air getting into the strainer.
We were looking forward to arriving at Vero Beach, not just because it is a convenient place to re-provision, but also because we expected to reunite with some of our traveling companions from last year. Bonnie Lass had been in Vero for a few weeks already and Slow Dancin’ was expected to arrive not long after us.
However, we first had to raft up with our mooring ball neighbors, who, unlike last year, were not there to help. With a daymark positioned right at the point where we wanted to turn to make our approach, we were having some difficulty, when our neighbors appeared to help with the lines. Whew!
We invited Graham and Val over for dinner the next night on Orion along with Pat and Fred. Since they had both had ties to New Hampshire, they had a lot to talk about and it was a great evening.
The evening ended early as we made our way back to Orion to stow the dinghy and prepare for a pre-dawn departure for Lake Worth, our final destination before the holidays.
On to Riviera Beach – outside or in?
We had been looking for an opportunity to travel outside to avoid the shallow water in the ICW, so we charted a route from Vero Beach that would take us out the Fort Pierce inlet and back in at Lake Worth. As we turned to head out the inlet, we called to a sailboat that had just come in, asking for the conditions. Their report was sobering. They had been underway from Cape Canaveral to Lake Worth but had been forced in by the wind and waves, which unlike the forecast, were coming from the south, not the east. We turned around and headed down the ICW, revising our destination to an anchorage at Hobe Sound, about 15 nautical miles and 6 opening bridges north of Lake Worth. There was plenty of room and the anchorage was quiet for our overnight stay.
The last 15 miles were some of the worst we had traveled. It appears the bridge operators at the first 3 bridges we passed had had a bad morning and decided to take it out on us. We weren’t close enough, they had to wait for the traffic to clear, they had to wait for the pedestrians to clear, etc. Annoying as it was at the first bridge, at least we had the current against us, making it easier to stay in one place for so long. Not so at the 2nd bridge. The current was strongly pushing us toward the bridge, but still it wouldn’t open. The sides finally began to rise, but too slowly and we were too close. We tried backing against the current, but the stern was getting caught and swung sideways toward the bridge. We waited as long as we could and finally moved toward the opening while the bridge was still rising. After we cleared, we heard the bridge operator tell boats for later openings to “watch out for the current”. Thanks a lot.
We arrived mid-morning at the Riviera Beach marina. The wind was 15 to 20kts out of the east and the current was running. Getting into our slip would be tricky. We docked the boats at the fuel dock and the floating dock at the outside of the marina. Then we positioned Pat on the dock at the slip and Dave, Cathy and Fred boarded the boats to take them back to the slip. Marianna was the first to go in. The current was not allowing Fred to get steerage in reverse in order to back into the slip. After a 2nd attempt, Dave managed to snag a piling with a line, and with help from the dock we pulled Marianna in. Cathy had similar troubles on Orion but managed to get steerage by pulling into another fairway and backing all the way down to the slip. It was still a bit ugly, but we made it in. It was only noon and it had already been a long day.
Getting ready for holidays
We had 4 days before we would head north for the holidays. We spent the time preparing Orion for the long stay in the slip, doing some Christmas shopping, and getting to know our neighbors on the dock. We met Terry and Margaret on Bonnie, who were from England, having bought their boat here in the US and were planning to sail it back in the Spring. We had helped them into the slip and they had returned the favor. Once we had access to a car, Dave managed to find a Grundig SSB receiver for them, allowing them to get Chris Parker’s weather forecasts as they traveled, when internet wasn’t available.
We also had a visit from our financial planner, Sandeep Sharma, who was planning to be in West Palm Beach to visit with his clients there. He visited us on our boat, which was a real treat.
As Sandeep was leaving the boat at low tide, we realized we had to do something to make it easier to get on and off the boat. The finger piers were easily 5 feet higher than the boat at low tide, making it almost impossible to get on and off. We finally got the marina to put in a ladder which made it incredibly easier to access the boat.
As we made our final preparations to leave, Cathy emptied the refrigerator, so we could turn off everything before leaving. (If the AC power feed fails at any time, the boat doesn’t get reconnected without someone pressing a switch on the main panel. Running the fridge for 2 weeks could completely drain the batteries, which would be bad.) Dave also adjusted the lines to center Orion in the slip. He locked down anything that might look attractive to thieves, which included locking the propane locker. However, the locks had frozen, so he had to lubricate them with WD 40 before the lock would turn.
We spent our last morning enjoying the brunch buffet at the Tiki Restaurant on the waterfront at Riviera Beach. It was as good as we remembered. So, we left Orion at the slip for a couple of weeks as we head north to see family for the holidays.