Saturday, June 25, 2016

20-Jun to 25-Jun: Palm Beach to St. Augustine

On Monday 20-Jun we tossed off the lines and finally boogied out of Palm Beach, taking the “inside” route up the ICW, heading north once again in the general direction of St. Augustine, with interim layovers planned at Fort Pierce, Cape Canaveral and Ponce de Leon.  We had to deal with quite a few bridges on this initial leg, but nonetheless still made reasonably good time, arriving at Fort Pierce City Marina by 1530 after a 0900 departure from Old Port Cove.

Along the AICW
Negotiating the ICW in this part of Florida entails a lot of “hand flying” – you can’t just punch the auto-heading or nav function on the autopilot and hope to keep it between the beacons for very long….so it isn’t as relaxing as running on the outside.  Still, we got some good fly bridge time, and the few inlets that we got a look at as we passed them made it obvious that the inside route was the right move – the winds were cranking out the ENE @ 20K+ and the Atlantic was boiling at 7 to 9 feet.  While the boat can punch into those head seas with no problem, it isn’t comfortable for its occupants.  Likewise, running any of those inlets (in either direction) would have been dicey at best.
Fort Pierce City Marina

The boat ran well the entire leg, with just one burp from the port side stabilizer fin (cleared up on its own).  Entry to the Fort Pierce City Marina was uneventful in spite of the winds and a frisky current.  The marina is very nice, and the adjacent downtown area looks very appealing….we’ll need to spend more time here at some point in the future, perhaps on the return trip.  The new floating concrete docks that were added are superb, and although there had been reports of the new GCFI system causing breaker trips, we had no issues, even at the dock’s relatively low 110/220V output.  And their Wi-Fi signal was excellent.

Merritt Island Anchorage
We departed Fort Pierce on Tuesday 21-Jun but not until around 1000.  Since our plan was to spend the next night at anchor, we weren’t in any rush.  The breeze was still fairly stiff out of the northeast at around 13K, but certainly better than yesterday.  Seas were forecast at 4 to 6 feet, but we stuck with our plan for going up the inside.  It was a pleasant day with highs in the low to mid 80’s and relatively low humidity (58%) for Florida, so we spend the entire day on the fly bridge.

With a following current much of the way we made good time running between 7 and 8 knots, and dropped the anchor around 1730 just east of the ICW a few miles south of Cape Canaveral near Merritt Island.  It was well protected from the easterly wind and we had a relaxing night hanging on the hook.  Apart from still finicky air handlers (that eventually start working) from what we can tell, nothing else on the boat broke today.  Hoorah.

Canaveral in the Distance
On Wednesday 22-Jun we picked up the hook shortly after 0930 and continued motoring north towards our next planned anchorage In the Ponce Inlet area.  The ICW has a lot of twists and turns in this general area, but not too many bridges, and we managed to keep it between the beacons.  The water quality, though, was turbid, especially so in Mosquito Lagoon – the winds were kicking up a lot of bottom silt and it looked more like chocolate milk than sea water.

Once we got to the Ponce Inlet area we were challenged to find a usable anchorage….all options were either already full-up or not nearly deep or wide enough for our comfort zone.  We ended up continuing north for another two hours into the Daytona area only to find the same situation.  It was nearing 2000 hours and sunset, and we weren’t crazy about the idea of continuing towards St. Augustine in the dark in such narrow and skinny waterways.  So we launched a “Hail Mary” phone call to the after-hours number for Halifax Harbor Marina – and sure enough, they answered, gave us a great slip on the end of a floating concrete t-dock, and we got tucked in for the night just as the sun set.

The next morning (Thu, 23-Jun) we continued the trek north to St. Augustine.  Winds were calm, the ICW was absolutely glass smooth, and we were wishing for an inlet to get us back outside in the big water where Ghost Rider belongs.  Alas, there is no such option in this area, so we stayed with the inside route plan.  We negotiated openings with a few bridges along the way with no significant delays, but we were bucking currents occasionally – I think we got passed by a manatee and a sea turtle at one point.  
View of Conch House
Marina from Our Fly Bridge

However, as we neared the St. Augustine vicinity the current reversed sharply, and we had over a couple of knots on the tail.  Even with that helping push we just missed the Bridge of Lions opening at 1630 by 5 minutes and had to wait nearly another hour for the next one.  A cigar and some Brad Paisley music helped pass the loitering time. Nonetheless, we arrived without incident at Conch House Marina in St. Augustine and were docked up around 1800 hours.  It was low tide with a decent remnant current, and it was a bit of a squeeze in a tight fairway, but we pulled it off without bouncing off of anything.

We finished the day with an enjoyable visit from Kathy Clark, who along with hubby Bradley Rosenberg are here aboard their Nordhavn 72, Shear Madness.  Although Bradley was back home in Naples taking care of some family business, it was still good to meet up with more of the Nordy community and learn from them.

Shear Madness, a Gorgeous Nordhavn 72, Also
Moored at Conch House Marina
Friday the 24th was a fairly lazy day, a combination of taking some down time – bits of administrative stuff, plus Chelle and Kathy played golf – and catching up on some routine scheduled boat maintenance.  That included topping off the fresh water tank, replacing a faulty gauge on the electrical panel, playing with the inverter and battery monitor settings (still a work in progress), resetting some of the A/C air handlers to factory specs (hoping that addresses some of our intermittent cooling issues), and a few other minor things.  Apart from the stock market panic over the Brexit silliness, all in all it was a good day.
Kathy & Chelle, with Shear Madness
in the Background

 On Saturday (25-Jun) we enjoyed hosting another visitor, this time John Stanton, who classifies himself as a “Nordhavn Dreamer”, and drove from Gainesville to St. Augustine for a look at a N47, but mostly to glean some experiences from former-dreamers-turned-owners.  We had a good 3-hour discussion on the pros, cons and some “gotchas” to watch for, and we hope it was helpful for him in his upcoming pursuit of his own Nordhavn 47.  Chelle and Kathy also got in another round of golf - they must really like that game, the heat index was 102F here today!  To complete our final full day in St. Augustine we then had the pleasure of Kathy’s company for dinner.  If you ever visit here, check out the Blackfly restaurant ( - acoustics are lacking, but the food is really good.
Tomorrow we plan to depart St. Augustine and make an overnight run up to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina to hang out there for a couple of days before continuing on to Edisto Island to meet up with some friends.  The enroute weather forecast is reasonably good, with only a fairly weak cold front and some scattered showers to deal with along the way.