Overnight trip and long days to Cocoa, FL

By aaron.axvig, 30 November, 2019
Louise on a buoy

Overall the overnight trip was not an enjoyable experience.  As the sunset of that day faded and I slowly motored on, I experienced a profound sadness and strong desire to not be there (some tears even!).  I was too tired from not sleeping well the previous night, which I'm sure amplified those emotions.

I had probably 15-20 naps of 15-20 minutes each through the night.  My alarm would go off, I would throw on insulated pants, a jacket, and a lifejacket, go upstairs, attach the tether, and then spend a minute or two examining the surroundings and the chartplotter display.  Then back below for another 20 minutes of rest.  At the 5.5 knot pace I would progress almost 2 miles between each of these appearances.  Louise stayed below the whole night.  There were basically no waves which was nice.

There were many inlets along the way that had buoys marking them and I intentionally planned my route to pass a mile or so out to sea from these buoys.  They were maybe every 10-15 miles so I could usually see one in front and one behind me.  Every few times that I checked on things I would be able to celebrate the small progress of passing another inlet.  For the bigger inlets that could possibly have ship traffic I would stay awake and watching while I crossed the channel.  There were five cargo ships that went in/out of the Savannah inlet while I was within 5 miles but that was during daylight so not too bad.  It was a little embarrassing that one of the cargo ship captains felt it necessary to ask me to wait to cross the channel until they passed.  I would have passed at least a mile ahead of them (I was getting very good data on the electronics) but in hindsight they made the right call there.  At the ship's 15 knot speed that would only be 4 minutes to get out of the way in case of trouble.

I reached the St. Mary's inlet at first light as planned and the trip ended successfully at about 7:30am as I dropped anchor near Cumberland Island.  Then I slept for 3 hours and took Louise for a walk on the island.  We went to the beach and she chased the ball for a while.  Then we walked south on the beach and went inland to the Dungeness ruins, and then back to Sea Dock and back to the boat.

The next day was Thanksgiving.  I had sort of planned to check out the "Cruisers Thanksgiving" in St. Mary's where the town hosts a big potluck for boaters but decided not to.  So I motored 60 miles to St. Augustine.  The weather was beautiful with the powerful Florida sun doing its best to try to sunburn me.  St. Augustine was pretty busy with boats so I had to look for fifteen minutes before deciding on a sort of crappy spot close to a couple boats and some docks.  But I was able to drop the anchor right where I planned to so it was good enough for the night.  30 minutes later a dinghy came by with our friends from SV Walkabout who we met in the Great Dismal Swamp.  They were on the second closest boat to where I anchored.  They have their boat name prominently lettered on their transom but I just hadn't remembered that I know them.  That evening I did laundry and picked up a couple great books at the book exchange: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (been wanting to read it for a while) and a collection of limericks (the sauciest little poems).

The next morning I went through the 8:30 bridge opening (in St. Augustine right next to the anchorage) with Walkabout.  Then a mile or two down the way I was starting to pull away from them at my normal cruising speed, but also eavesdropped on their conversation (a great VHF radio tradition) with another boat named Fruit Bat.  They were slowing down to hoist their dinghy up instead of towing it.  I decided I would hang back with them and really enjoyed traveling with them that day.  We anchored together Daytona Beach and I went over to meet Fruit Bat after taking Louise for a little walk.  Louise really liked when they invited her onto their boat so she could walk all over.

Today we left at 7:45am and made it 55 miles, almost to Cocoa.  We anchored about 20 minutes after sunset.  A little after dark Nate from Walkabout texted to say that there was some pretty good bioluminescence.  So I splashed a stick around in the water and yes, it was very cool!  The next obvious move was to take the dinghy out--also very cool!  The propeller shoots an illuminated plume about 6 feet back under water at low speeds, and luminescence streams off of the tubes.  At higher speeds the entire wake about 8 feet wide and 30+ feet back lights up brightly.  Back on the boat a school of minnows was darting around leaving little strokes of light.  I probably should go swimming in it but it is a little cold (water temp has gotten up into the mid-70s now though!) and better to do not alone.

Tomorrow Walkabout and Fruit Bat plan to leave at 6:30am as they have 60+ miles to go to make it to Fort Pierce.  I'm planning to go about 50 miles to Vero Beach but will probably leave with them since the wind tomorrow may be good for sailing and it could be fun to sail with a couple other boats.  Also a little exciting to sail in the ICW channel but should be fine.  In Vero Beach on Monday they have a weekly Seven Seas Cruising Association meetup that I have often thought would be fun so I will check that out.

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