Thursday, October 8, 2009

St. Augustine to Titusville, FL

Saturday, October 3 - Thursday, October 8, 2009
Ahh, St. Augustine...what a beautiful city! We've anchored right off the old fort, and are ready for a quiet night on the boat. We spend a few hours topside people-watching and enjoying the gorgeous full moon. By now, our friends in the Harvest Moon regatta (Galveston, TX to Port Aransas, TX) have made it through the storm and are sharing survivor stories over lots of rum drinks at the after-party. Have one for us, guys! Sunday we go into town for some provisioning and sightseeing. St. George street is a pedestrian-only area that runs parallel to the water and houses most of the tourist shops, restaurants, and bars. We wander from one end of the other, finding a new English Pub and ending up at our favorite wine & tapas place for dinner. We found The Tasting Room by accident on our northbound trip, and the menu, while changed, is just as good today as it was in June. We enjoy Moorish pork kebabs with Spanish olive and tomato soffrito, sauteed jumbo shrimp with grilled artichokes, chorizo, and peppers, and finish with grilled chicken and sausage paella. Yummy! We finish the evening at another St. Aug staple, the Rendezvous Restaurant (180 beers from around the world - 'nuff said!). After a couple of dessert beers (i.e. "trippels"), we make our way back to the city marina for the dinghy ride to the boat. All is well until Rene slips stepping onto the stern. Good news - he's fine; bad news - the phone isn't in such good shape. Thanks to all our friends on Facebook for their advise on phone repair, but that puppy isn't coming back to life. Oh,'s only the 3rd Razor we've lost due to water damage. :-)

We leave St. Augustine at 8:30am Monday morning for what we expect to be a 2-day, 52-mile trip to Daytona Beach. It's a good cruising day, with the current at our backs most of the day. We're able to average over 4 kts, and pass the ruins of Fort Matanzas & Marineland (now closed) on our way to our anchorage at ICW Mile 809. Stacy is a little wary of this anchorage; all we know is that it's up a small channel, past a Sea Ray plant, to a closed cement plant. Barges are known to pass up and down the creek, and friends LA & Susan warned us that they wouldn't use the anchorage again given a choice. It was way too shallow and narrow, with quite a bit of traffic. We get there around 3pm and slowly make our way into the channel. LA & Susan weren't kidding - there's barely enough room for our boat to turn around without hitting the shoals at the edges. And we're supposed to anchor out of the way of barge traffic? Are you kidding?? We idle up the creek for another 10 minutes, but Rene soon agrees that this anchorage isn't for us. One little problem...there isn't another anchorage nearby that's deep enough for us, and the nearest marina is 20 miles away in Daytona Beach. Stacy checks online: there's one marina at Mile 829 and another at Mile 831. We're chasing the sun as it is, and those two miles could make a difference between arriving in daylight vs. darkness. The marina is too far away to reach on the VHF radio, and we don't have a working cell. The marina closes at 5pm, and there's no way we'll get there in time. Now what? Skype! What a fantastic program. Stacy skypes Loggerhead Marina (formerly Caribbean Jack's) and they assign us a T-dock. We arrive at the dock at 7:00pm, and the sun sets at 7:04pm. Talk about timing! The marina is south of the Seabreeze bridge in Daytona, and has a pool and hot tub on site. After a quick dinner, we're off to a long hot soak. It's been a long day (52 miles in 10.5 hours), and we're thrilled to have a rest day in Daytona tomorrow.

First order of business on Tuesday: we're off to the Volusia Mall to the AT&T store for a new cell phone. After losing three wet phones in as many years, we're finally getting smart. They have a water-resistant phone that has a rubber back around the battery. Rene first saw it at our old marina, when one of the boat yard guys dropped his own phone into the water. Rene managed to retrieve it for him, and the phone came back on without a problem. They aren't cheap, but we highly recommend them if you live on the water! After the mall, we walk over to Stacy's alma mater, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The campus has really grown in the past few years, with new dorms, fitness center, auditorium, chapel, and classrooms. The main administration building, Spruance Hall, was destroyed by a tornado a few years ago; signs are posted advertising the upcoming groundbreaking of the new structure (maybe they're after alumni money!). Fortunately the cafeteria hasn't changed a bit, and we stop by for some much-needed air conditioning and a cold drink. Apparently we're getting used to the colder temps in north Florida and Georgia - Daytona is bloody hot! After drying off, we grab a taxi and head beachside to the Daytona Boardwalk. The boardwalk still has the usual kitsch-y shops - tattoos, souvenirs, gifts, pizza, a fun house, etc. There's also a new 3-level mall next to the Hilton with movies, Bubba Gump's, a Cold Stone Creamery, and lots of shops. A favorite college hangout and great German festhaus called "Bernkastels" is gone, replaced by more hotel rooms. Boo hoo! Thank god the Ocean Deck will always be there. That's our destination for happy hour and dinner, and we'll see if we have enough energy to stick around for the live music and dancing starting at 9:30. If you haven't been to the Deck, it's well worth a visit. It started out as a beachside bar - you can enter from the street or the sand - and a 2nd floor restaurant was added a few years ago. We stick with the downstairs area, and watch the volleyball players in the sand pit next to the bar. The Deck has Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale on tap...pitcher, please! A bunch of patrons are watching the last baseball game before playoffs, and things get pretty crazy as the game progresses. There's also a major downpour while we're there, but the lightning manages to stay well offshore. We have a great time - fantastic food, beer, and atmosphere - but don't quite make it long enough to hear the band. Oh, well - it isn't a reggae band tonight, so it's not as much of a loss. Back at the marina, we enjoy another soak in the hot tub...better enjoy it now, 'cause it may be awhile before we get this kind of luxury again!

Wednesday, we leave at 10:30am and soon discover this is "bad bridge karma" day. Our first bridge off the dock is the Main Street Bridge, only a half-mile downriver from the marina. Before we even toss our lines, we try to reach the bridge tender for an opening schedule. We can't raise anyone on the radio, and the phone number goes to a fax machine. A third call to the phone number finally reaches the bridge tender, and we're told that only one span is working. The west (starboard) span is under repair and won't open, so we go through the left span with a close eye on our horizontal clearance. Another half-mile downriver is a 65' high fixed bridge, only it has less than 63' of clearance 2 hours before high tide. What the...??? After our last experience dinging the VHF antenna against the underside of the bridge, we're not going through anything with less than 63' of clearance. We decide to wait until we have more water, but soon realize that it's going to be a LONG wait. We sit for 2 hours with almost no change in the water height, and eventually talk to the bridge tender from the Main Street Bridge again. She tells us there used to be signs indicating an additional 3' of clearance at the centerline; the city took the signs down a few years ago for liability reasons. TowBoatUS confirmed that there should be at least 2' of clearance, although you'd have to maneuver exactly through the center, being careful of the lights hanging down from the center of the bridge. Oh boy...maybe we'll wait for low water after all. After another hour, it's 2pm and we really need to get moving. The tide board still only shows 62.5' of clearance, but we're going to crawl through and hope that the bridge tender and TowBoat are correct. We edge towards the bridge at a fraction of a knot, and hold our breath as our mast approaches the side of the bridge. We're aiming for slightly right of the hanging light, since there's a chain that goes from the bridge to the left of the light. A few seconds later, our wind instrument makes it under the bridge, followed by the VHF antenna and finally the wind vane. Nothing touches, and Rene veers to the left to avoid hitting the opposite light and chain. Stomachs clenched and hearts pounding, we finally reach the opposite side of the bridge. We're through! We've lost 3 hours sitting at the first bridge, but the current is with us and we make it through 4 more bridges (2 fixed and 2 bascule) to our anchorage in New Smyrna, 15 miles downriver. There aren't any recommended anchorages between New Smyrna and Mosquito Lagoon (which would be another 15 miles downstream), so we're calling it a day. We were supposed to have a 30-mile day today followed by a 15-mile day to Titusville on Thursday, so we'll just reverse the order of those two. On the plus side, there aren't any fixed bridges between here and Titusville. Hopefully we won't get stuck again!

We leave our anchorage south of marker 43 at 8:15am Thursday. (FYI...some cruising guides say this anchorage has become too shallow, but we don't have any problems. As long as you stay away from the 2' charted shoal, there's plenty of 8' depths.) We seem to be outrunning the tidal change, and find ourselves in a perpetual state of slack tide. We aren't getting the push we hoped for, but aren't fighting the current, either. It's pretty quiet on the water, and Rene takes a few minutes to scrape the barnacles off the side of the dinghy that he can reach from the stern. We still can't believe it - he cleaned the dinghy a month ago, and its bottom is already covered with barnacles. It's the most god-awful smell! Hopefully he can get to the other side at our next stopover. Another boat project for Titusville...

We don't have much wind, but it's an interesting trip all the same. Our favorite spot is the Haulover Canal, where we see three manatees in less than 5 minutes - one of which is swimming alongside our boat! Our only "uh-oh" moment of the day comes two miles north of our Titusville anchorage: the BoatUS website has a post from another cruiser who was delayed for 3 hours last week because the NASA railroad bridge was closed for repairs. As we approach the railroad bridge, sure enough, it's closed. Stacy tries to hail the work crew on the radio, and another bridge tender comes on to say there's no way to reach the crew, and we'll have to anchor until the crew opens the bridge again (typically between 3pm-5pm). It's just after 2:30pm, so this could be anywhere from a 30-minute to a 2-hour wait. At least we can see our anchorage from here! As we begin our turn to drop the anchor, the work crew foreman waves to us and the bridge begins to open. Hooray!! Apparently our bridge karma is improving! We get to our anchorage soon afterwards and find a good spot in 6' of water near the channel to the Titusville harbor. We hear the municipal marina is friendly to cruisers and should be able to land our dinghy there this weekend. Saturday we're off to Orlando to visit Epcot Center with friends Sue & Ted, and Monday we'll go to Kennedy Space Center. Time to play tourist!

Before we sign off, we have to send big hugs to our friend Ron who became a daddy earlier this week. Little Sandra Birkhoff came into the world on Monday, October 5th, and we hear the whole family is doing great. We're hoping to visit Houston next Spring, and can't wait to meet the newest Birkhoff!

Pictures for this (and the previous) Blog chapter:

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