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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We're heading out tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. or so from Beaufort, SC on our way to West Palm. Based on the weather, we might want to duck in before some stuff hits us Thursday evening (nothing outrageous, just some higher winds and lumpy seas), and we'll be close to Canaveral at about 3:00 Thursday, assuming all goes as planned, and we all know what that means.

We'll review the Waterway Guide, but I'm looking for personal experiences on the portion of the ICW from Canaveral on south. That is, can we make it without too much of a pain? Boat draws 5'6".

From my review, it looks like there's no place to duck in south of Canaveral that's reachable in 4 hours or so -- assuming a traveling speed of 6.5 knots -- which is why I'm thinking Canaveral, as it's the inlet most south that we can reach before the weather is predicted to catch us. If I'm wrong about that, please don't be shy, as I'd like to make the most ground on the outside as possible before ducking in.

I'll be curious to see for how much of this offshore trip we'll have cell/BB/Internet access. If we can maintain it and if the conditions are right, maybe I'll post updates. Regardless, I'll post something on the trip after it's over.

Thanks all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone. Truly, you all have been a great help.

Here's our current plan, subject to doing one final weather check in the a.m.:

1. Leaving Beaufort at first light tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 14.

2. Planning to run in the light weather as fast as we can with the hopes of getting to Canaveral on Thursday evening before the weather gets to us (optimistic I know, but that's what we're hoping for).

3. From there, we'll spend the night at the marina just inside the cut at Canaveral, and then take Friday and run down the ICW as far as we get on Friday (which looks to be the most challenging weather day). Figuring we should be able to get to Fort Pierce on the inside.

4. Saturday morning, go to West Palm, either inside or out. Either way we should get there before dark on Saturday.

5. If we can't make it to Canaveral for whatever reason, we will bail at Ponce Inlet. Ponce is 215 miles from Beaufort, so we ought to be able to make that before dark on Thursday. If we go to Ponce, we'll stay at Lighthouse Boat Yard & Marina, and then start running down the ditch early Friday morning and go from there.

Thanks again, and we'll let you all know how and what we're doing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Update

We're about 16 miles from Ponce Inlet, and we're going in there. We just won't make Canaveral before dark and weather. From there, it's looking like a long motor down the ICW for the next two days, as tomorrow and Saturday are predicting 6 to 9 foot seas.

I need a no BS answer, so to speak, can we safely run from Ponce to Titusville, with the last 10 to 15 miles in the dark? If not, I think we're left stopping at either New Smyrna Beach, which will make it difficult for us to make it to West Palm by Saturday night.

Thanks all.

DG
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Update 2

Everyone, thanks so much for the advice. As Cam mentioned, we stopped in New Smyrna for the night, and got underway again at about 7:30 today. It's cold!!!! Heading for Cocoa Beach or maybe Melbourne, depending on timing. No night time travel for us on this trip. Tomorrow to Vero Beach, where I meet my ride to the airport and then fly home to NY Saturday night while the skipper continues on to his ultimate destination (which should make all of us snowbound sailors quite jealous -- Bahamas, Carib, and then a transatlantic to Spain and the Med).

I'll post a little thing about the trip once I'm home, as it looks like I'll be scrambling a bit between now and then, though I'll try to check back in tonight once we're settled.

Seriously, thanks to everyone for all the advice and help (especially Cam, who is a fount of information and very generous with it; someone needs to talk that boy out of driving around and get him back on the cruising circuit!).
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Free tonight?

I'm stuck in Vero for a few weeks. My wife had to go home for surgery. I dont know what your hurry is to get to west palm but one solution might be to stay in vero and rent a car. It's only an hour and a bit. My wife flew out of West Palm. Good safe moorings here.
Rick, we're in Melbourne at a marina. We are going to the Charthouse for dinner, and then back to the bar at the marina for drinks (we're told it's a fun place on Friday nights; not sure what to expect). Considering that you are without your wife (I hope she's OK), and the two of us are without our wives, we could have the inaugural meeting of the Sailnet Temporary Bachelors Club. I know Vero is not walking or dinghying distance to Melbourne, but I'm not sure if you have a car available to you. If you're interested, email me ([email protected]), and we can work out details.

Everyone else, thanks again, and I'll bore you all with the details once I get back to NY and have a few minutes. Nothing particularly exciting, so don't wait up . . .
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 · (Edited)
Recap

I'm finally home to sunny New York, where it's a balmy 31 degrees. And based on our trip, it actually feels kinda warm because I'm not dealing with a 20 to 25 knot north wind bringing the real-feel temp to somewhere in the teens.

So, I arrived at the boat, a 2008 Beneteau 43, in Beaufort on Tuesday night around 6:00. We stowed the boat for a short time and then went on up to the marina restaurant for dinner and a few beers. It was cold. The temps were in the 30's that night when we went to sleep. When we awoke, they were in the 20's, and the docks had frozen over. I could have used skates. We peeled the shore power cord and dock lines off the dock (they were frozen there).

We thawed the lines, pulled away from the slip, and started south down the river towards Hilton Head and the Atlantic at 7:00 a.m. The tide was against us, so it was slow going. And cold. The boat has a dodger and bimini, but no enclosure or any significant protection from the elements for anything coming over the stern or from either side. So heading south-southeast down the river meant we had to bear the brunt of the strong northwest winds. Did I mention it was cold? It was, in case you were wondering. I spent the entire trip, save for the last hour or two, in longjohns, wool socks, jeans, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, full foul weather gear, hat, and ski gloves. And I felt like I underdressed. I wish I had something for my ears and something better for the back of my neck, like a scarf.

Anyway, we hit the inlet at about 10:30, and turned towards Florida. We had decent winds to start, but being a delivery and all, we motor sailed to keep the speed up. Once we got out of the bad current, the boat picked up her skirt and took off. We were making a pretty consistent 7.5 knots. As the day wore on, the winds died, but we were able to create enough apparent wind to keep the sails full. Our speed fell off a little bit, but we still were able to maintain about 7 knots, give or take, until the sun went down.

Though we saw no boats, we did see plenty of dolphin. They must have been bored with no other boats around, cause they frolicked and stayed with us for a long time. And then after they left for a short while, they came back for an encore.

As darkness approached, the wind picked up, and so did our speed. We averaged about 8+ knots for the overnight portion. We definitely had a little help from a counter-current coming off the Gulf-Stream. I wouldn't go so far as to call it an eddy, but it was helpful. The impeller on the speedo was fouled, so we were not able to calculate the amount or the specifics of the current. All we had was SOG, but the skipper advised that he doesn't get to 8+ knots as a matter of course, so I'm pretty sure we had current help. The seas started to build too, so things got a little sporty. Nothing at all approaching dangerous, or even uncomfortable, but we surfed plenty. The boat handled the conditions extremely well, and she was very well mannered. I didn't get a chance take her up wind, so I didn't get to see how she does in those types of ocean conditions. But in terms of off the wind, she handled following and quartering seas very very nicely. I estimate that we had 5 to 6 footers, with the occasional larger one, with a period of about 5 to 8 seconds.

The boat has AIS, so we were able to track ships, but she's not equipped with radar, so we definitely needed to stay alert for nav lights and such. This time of year we didn't see any boat traffic other than large commercial ships, but that didn't obviate the need to keep a good watch.

We did 4 hour watches. I had the 8 to midnight, and 4 to 8 shifts. We figured that the guy with the dog watch would have only one. My first watch was unbelievably beautiful. The night was remarkably clear, and the number of stars visible was more than I had ever seen. Then around 10:00 or so, a harvest moon started to rise, which itself was quite pretty. When it first started to appear, I wasn't sure what was going on. It came from the east, so there was no land creating a loom obviously, but the entire horizon started to glow. Before the moon breached the horizon I was beginning to wonder whether there was an invasion force on the way!

Then I got to see the sun rise on my second watch. Sunrises surely are not as dramatic as sunsets, but they are quite beautiful in their own right, and for some reason uplifting. I let the skipper sleep past 8:00 and I just enjoyed the ride, with music filling the cockpit from the ipod and coffee filling my gullet.

Considering that the weather was continuing to deteriorate, and the forecast was calling for more and more, we decided that we would head in to an inlet and go the ICW route for a day to see what happened. As I posted previously, we were shooting for Canaveral, but we were not going to make that before dark on Thursday, and the weather was looking like it might get nasty before we would reach Canaveral too. Considering how the boat was handling and that the weather wasn't all that bad, it was very VERY tempting just to keep on going. But we decided to be more cautious considering that we didn't know for sure what the weather would do, it was extremely cold, and neither of us were familiar with the inlets. We didn't want to have a situation where we would need to round a cape, deal with an unfamiliar inlet, fight bad weather, shorthanded, all in the dark.

So, Ponce Inlet it was. The cruising guide writes this inlet up as being difficult, not to be attempted in heavy weather, not to go in without local knowledge, heave to outside the harbor and wait for a local to follow in, etc. We were expecting it to be quite tricky, but it was nothing like that. The wind and seas were out of the north, so the breakwater made the water smooth as silk. There was plenty of water, and the channel was very well marked. I really am not sure what all the fuss was about. I could see the entrance being somewhat nasty in a strong easterly, but it was pretty straightforward.

From there we went to the New Smyrna City Marina. They were very nice and the facilities were great too. After cleaning up, inflating the dink and testing the ouboard (owner's first time with both, as they were recently purchased), we cleaned up and headed in to town. There's not much there, but with help from Cam, we got a recommendation to try McKenna's on South Dixie. So we walked. And walked. And walked. That was a hike, but it was good to get the exercise. And though it still was cold (in Florida for goodness sake!), it wasn't nearly as bad ashore as it was at sea of course. The restaurant was fine. Your prototypical sports bar. Not 4 star food, but it did the trick for what we needed -- hot food and cold beer.

We left at first light the next day and headed south on the ICW. The water was a little thin, but we never got below 8 feet. The skipper was a bit nervous because the Waterway Guide puts the fear of death in you about shoaling, but we never touched the bottom. I had never been in the ICW, so I was excited for the whole thing, just to see the sights. For the first part of the day it was cool. We saw dolphin, pelicans, cranes, and some interesting boats (some floating, some aground and some sunk).

We ended the day glad we were inside, but we weren't so sure when we started out. Obviously we didn't KNOW what the conditions were like on the outside, but it was a mill pond in the ICW when we started, with very light winds. We were beginning to wonder if the forecasts had blown it again and if we had made a big mistake coming in at Ponce and losing all that time. But as the day wore on, it became apparent that the weather predictions were not wrong, just early. By midday we had very strong winds out of the north/northeast. We had cleaned the impeller the night before, so we had a sense of true wind, which had hit 31 in one of the gusts, and it was consistently around 25. Considering what we saw before we came in, and considering that there now was some east in the wind, I suspect the seas would have mounted and it would have started to get a bit more challenging out there. Considering that there were just two of us (and it was cold), I'm glad we went inside.

Back to the ICW, the channel got narrow in a couple of places, but we managed to stay inside and we had plenty of water. But then we got to Melbourne, our planned stop for the night. The entrance to the harbor got very shallow, and at one point we saw only 5 feet on the depth sounder, which should have meant we were aground (drawing 5'6"), but we didn't. Obviously the sounder was off, or we got a false reading, or something. We made it through and tied up to the marina with no drama. We had a great meal at the Chart House (right next to the marina), and then had a few nightcaps at the marina bar (Ichabod's).

We were off again the next morning at first light, and again saw very shallow water at the entrance to the harbor, but we made it out OK. Then it was pretty much a straight line down to Ft. Pierce, our planned stop and my place of departure. We originally had hoped to make it to West Palm, but having to spend so much time on the inside, plane schedules, family at home, etc., meant that we were going to come up a little short.

Something I should note that might be useful to others. The Navionics charts used on the Raymarine E series plotters were remarkably accurate for the ICW. To the foot. Even when we zoomed in beyond the range for which the charts were made, we were spot on. I had posted about traveling parts of the ICW at night. We decided not to do so because we both were unfamiliar with the run, and it was cold. Next time, however, with the Navionics charts I would do it, at least for this stretch. Just a tidbit for others that might be in a similar situation.

It wasn't until just before the north bridge in Ft. Pierce that the temperature started to rise. Finally, I was able to discard my foul weather gear and longjohns. I still had on jeans and a sweatshirt, but that's a far cry from the arctic apparel I had sported for the better part of the trip!

We got the boat tied up at the Fort Pierce City Marina, where the staff was very helpful and courteous. That's a great little harbor. The water is that Florida green, there are a number of bars and restaurants right there on the water, and you're right in the center of town while being dockside. I'm sure many already know this quite well, but I didn't. Ft. Pierce definitely will be a stop for us when we take some time to head down the ICW on our boat.

By now, the skipper's wife surely has arrived, and they are on their way to West Palm on the outside where they will have some solar panels installed. And then they wait for a window to cross the stream and head over to the Bahamas. Then to the Caribbean. And then, they are heading across the pond to Spain (where the owner was raised), and then to the Med for some deep water cruising. They actually are using their trip to raise money for a charity that builds wells in Africa (www.sailforwater.com). I can't tell you how jealous I am.

So that's that. We didn't have anything happen worthy of a Cruising World article, but it was good fun and good experience heading down from SC to Florida in mid January. Oh, and one other thing -- it was really cold!
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
If you had come into Vero (aka Velcro Beach) you'd still be here Daniel, nobody ever leaves this place, it's like a black hole just sucks you in, nothing like free bus service, free water, good laundry, big liquor store and a West marine to keep all these world circumnavigators right here on a mooring. :) For those that don't live on a liquid diet there's a Publix nearby too.
Well, I'm flying down to visit my parents in West Palm Beach in late February, so if you're still "stuck" there, let me know and maybe I'll drive up with one of those doohickies you use to free aggressive velcro. ;)
 
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