Our intention this morning was to take it easy. Instead of getting up at 5:30 or 5:45, we planned on getting up closer to 7 or 7:30, eating breakfast before we left and getting underway around 8:30. Our destination was to be Daytona Beach, some 51 nm to the south. If we made about 10 kts, we’d get into Daytona Beach in the early afternoon. This sounded like a much more civilized day to us after three days of 5:30 am alarms and 10-hour days.
Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. Despite our best intentions to sleep to about 7 or 7:30, we were up at 6:30. At that point, Jim suggested we just get going so we could get into Daytona Beach that much earlier. So we skipped breakfast in the salon, got the instruments on and left the dock at about 7:20.
One of the reasons for a later departure than 7:20, other than an easier day, was the current, which can get strong in and around St. Augustine. Low tide at Camachee Cove was not until about 8:40. Had we left at our original time, we would have had very little current. Leaving at 7:20, however, meant that we would have about a knot of current once we got out in the main channel and that it would push us toward the Usina Bridge, immediately south of the entrance to Camachee Cove Marina.
I watched a sport fisher leave the marina about 20 minutes before we were going to leave. It had no problem within the marina or the entrance channel. But as soon as it entered the main channel it went sideways toward the bridge for a fair distance before the captain got it turned around to face the bridge. When we left, I took it easy out of the slip and into the marina channel. But before we entered the main channel I increased our speed some and started angling against the current. It took a few seconds for the bow to turn up into the current, but once it did we were able to cut across without any problem and turn toward the bridge with plenty of room.
The next problem was the dredge that was parked under the main span, taking up half of the space boats would normally have to pass. It looked exceedingly narrow to me, especially with more than a knot of current with us and the need to go very slowly under the bridge while passing the dredge. Jim hailed the dredge operator, who basically said, “No problem. Bring ‘er on through.” We didn’t think so. We opted instead to go through the adjacent span. Plenty of height, no dredge taking up space and so lots of room to maneuver.
Then came the confusing and shoal-filled area known as the St. Augustine harbor. Because this area is subject to strong currents, storms and winds, the channels are always shifting along with the markers that tell boaters where to go. In addition, several channels converge in the center of the harbor, so there are numerous marks, some of which mark the ICW route and many of which don’t. The bottom line was that we couldn’t necessarily rely on the routes we had taken on previous trips through this area since they could be wrong. We picked our way through the mess and found that our previous routes were still accurate as we approached the Bridge of Lions, passing Castillo de San Marcos and historic St. Augustine. We arrived at the bridge at low tide and had plenty of height to pass through without having to wait for a bridge opening.
For the next two hours, we had an uneventful cruise down the ICW. We were going against the current and so couldn’t make as much progress as we would have liked, but we were averaging about 8.3 kts. Good enough. There were the usual low spots that required careful attention. But Active Captain posts provide excellent guidance for getting through these areas with keels and nerves intact; that is, until we reached a known trouble spot, the dreaded Green 81A to Red 82 stretch.
We reached this spot about 2 hours after we departed, a little before low tide. The ICW here curves to the west and then winds back to the south in a narrow channel that runs within feet of the shore. We heeded the Active Captain advice on how to get through, but even with that advice hit one spot with only 6.3 feet of water. We draw 5 feet. Not a lot of room to get through! Most of the bottom bounced around between 7 and 8 feet, and it was difficult to determine exactly where the deep water was (if it existed) even with Active Captain.
We went very slowly. I called out depths as Jim picked our way through. We made it and soon found ourselves in deeper water. What a relief!
The morning winds were calm and the skies were partly cloudy. With the worst of the shoaling areas behind us, Jim started to think about our easy day. Maybe we should not stop at Daytona Beach. Maybe we should press on to New Smyrna Beach, about 33 nm further to the south. If we did, we would pass the Ponce de Leon inlet, another major shoaling area, on a rising tide. We wouldn’t get in until about 4pm, but we figured that was a small price to pay for an easy transit through the inlet and a shorter day on Thursday. So we called the New Smyrna Beach Marina to see if they had room. They did. We went.
Around noonish we picked up some current and were able to make about 9.5 kts. That allowed us to get through the Daytona Beach area fairly quickly. It was also a perfect speed for dolphins. A pair came racing over and were soon doing acrobatic flips behind the boat. Quite a sight!
We reached the Ponce de Leon inlet around 2:15 and were at the New Smyrna Beach Marina shortly after 3pm. Better than we had expected.
The marina is right on the ICW, so very convenient for getting in and out. We had about a knot of current with us and the marina had assigned us to a slip. However, unlike Wrightsville Beach, we had a no fuss, no muss docking experience. To get in, we did not need to turn across the current, we just had to angle the bow to port and straighten out because the slip was the second one in from the ICW and there were no slips across from it. Jim got us lined up with the current on our stern and then eased us back in. Easy!
We did our boat chores and checked in and then had a little bit of time to attend to other matters, like paying bills and dealing with house issues, like figuring out the window treatments in our family room (very important), getting the mold inspector’s post-mold remediation report, getting the restoration of Jim’s office underway, arranging for the delivery of our furniture from storage, etc., etc.
We decided on an early dinner at the marina restaurant, mainly because during Happy Hour they were offering all their appetizers for 50% off and all their specialty drinks for 50% off. We figured we could make a meal out of appetizers. And we did. It wasn’t the healthiest meal, but it did the trick. We ordered a jumbo crab cake, a huge plate of nachos with pulled pork (the American Heart Association would not approve) and a stack of fried green tomatoes with goat cheese (another dish that the AHA wouldn’t like). But, hey, there were tomatoes in there, so it was like healthy. All three were pretty good, especially for the price!
It was also a very balmy evening, so eating outside was quite pleasant. This was due to the unseasonably warm weather that we had today and every day since we left Charleston. Yesterday, New Smyrna Beach broke the record high temperature with 90 degrees. On November 4! And it has been very humid every day. We do not usually run the A/C when we’re cruising. But yesterday it was so steamy in the pilot house, even with all the doors and portholes open, that we couldn’t take it. We turned on the generator, turned on the A/C and were much happier. The rest of the week is not supposed to be quite as steamy, but the high temperatures are still supposed to hit 88 degrees. I know it’s Florida, but I wouldn’t mind an 80 degree day with lower humidity. We’ll see if it shows up by the end of this week.