We left Brunswick late in the evening (around 10:30) so we could arrive in Jacksonville in daylight, and more specifically, there was a highway lift bridge in downtown Jacksonville that only opened every few hours, and we wanted to make the noon hour opening. (oh I almost forgot, earlier that day I just had to take a pic of these pelicans near our dock). The winds were perfect, 12 – 14 knots on our starboard beam for much of the night and we actually made much better time that we had planned. We arrived at the entrance to the St. Johns River at seven a.m. which was perfect for riding the flood tide in. It was about 25 miles to our marina, with five fixed bridges and three lift bridges, and there was lots of commercial traffic. The lowest of the fixed bridges was 75 feet, so there were no worries there. Due to our excellent time during the night, we slowed down for some of the way so as not to arrive at the noon lift too early. The trip was fairly uneventful, but coming in on high tide was also important as the marina and its approach were very shallow (six to seven feet and we draw six!).
We stayed in Jacksonville for a week (just a few more days than planned) due to constant east winds which would have been the pits for us offshore (due to the waves from across the ocean). But it was a very nice marina (Ortega Landing), a good pick by Mark! Free laundry, great club house and a pool with hot tub!! It was in a nice residential area too, with restaurants and groceries in walking distance, and of course we also met some nice boaters. Mark was really happy because there was also a used bookstore in walking distance that apparently has over a million used books (Chamblin Bookmine if you want to check!)
Downtown Jacksonville was not exciting at all, but we did manage to go see the latest Star Wars movie at a really neat cinema not too far from the marina. They had long narrow tables (more like a shelf) behind each seat so you could actually have a meal on a plate at your seat. After you ordered at the counter outside the theatre they would bring it in to you. We both decided it was a good movie but long!
When we left Jacksonville (Saturday mid-morning) of course we had the same eight bridges to go through. First up was a very small and narrow lift bridge to get us out of the Ortega River and into the St. Johns River (it was only nine feet clearance when closed!) and it was manned and opened on request. It was about four miles to the the railway lift bridge, which was just before the highway lift, but it did not publish a schedule for closings so we had to leave enough time so that a passing train did not prevent us from making the noon lift at the highway bridge. There were six other sail boats that were waiting for the highway bridge at the same time. It was our guess that they all went to the ICW as we didn’t see them again once we hit the ocean. We even caught a glimpse of this cruise ship on our way out. This time we had the tide falling, so between that and the river current we managed to average about nine knots most of the way out.
Weather was good at first – 12-16 kts NW but unfortunately the winds (and of course the waves) kept building, once again more than forecasted (surprise, surprise …). At one point they were gusting to 24 kts and given that they were mostly northerly, it was very cold at night! We were again very thankful for our cockpit enclosure. We had to get about 14 miles off Cape Canaveral due to the shallows and then turn due west to come into the port. That westward leg put the wind nearly back on our nose, so that was a bit rough too. Anyway with a combination of sailing, motor sailing and motoring in the end we finally made it to Cape Canaveral around 1:00 in the afternoon on Sunday. It was quite windy but thankfully people were there to catch our lines and we docked without incident.
The next day a 57′ aluminum sailboat came in beside us with a young family (Matt and Molly and three kids 7 – 14 or so) and the winds were still quite high. Even with a bow thruster they had to take a second run at it and Mark and another boater helped the dock staff get them into the slip. Mark was impressed at how the having an aluminum hull sure reduced the headache of docking. There was no hull deflection or creaking as the wind pushed the boat right against the corner of the dock. They had been out for two days enroute from Charleston to Bahamas and the previous night was quite rough for them so this was an unplanned stop. We had a nice chat in passing, but next day they pushed on so we never got to know them. They’re on a open sabbatical, so hope they have fun!
We decided we would rather take it easy by staying in Florida, but all the marinas from here down to Key West are completely full up, or ridiculously expensive (as in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area). We met a powerboater who came in a couple of days later who said the only way he could get a slip was to fly down (to Palm Beach) and prepay for one even without his boat being there because no marina was taking bookings by phone. He also confirmed that he found that Key West was full too. Since the weather here in Canaveral appears to be pretty good, and the marina has a nice pool, club house and facilities, we’ve decided to stay here for a couple of months. The hurricane damage here in Florida and in the Caribbean has really contributed to the overcrowding in Florida, and we have a hunch it will be similar in the Bahamas. Staying here will give us a chance to see the Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach and other local attractions, so we’re pretty happy being here.
One thing Mark wanted to point out was that the bigger marinas we have been at have really wide concrete floating docks with big concrete pilings to secure them. It sure makes for a nice solid surface with no creaking at night in the wind!
We probably won’t be writing while we are here, or at least not til we are ready to leave in the spring so please feel free to email, call, or come visit!
Til we write again…