Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 21. We got up and got underway from Vero Beach about 0800. Our planned stop for the night is to be about 38 miles north in Melbourne where we had stopped on our way down.

Our trip north was a day of motoring dead to windward, 15 to 20 knots of wind right in our face. We did make excellent time though so instead of stopping we continued on for another 15 miles to the town of Cocoa Beach. With the wind out of the north and expected to swing to the east we decided to anchor in the lee of a large fixed bridge. There were already 15 boats there but true to our recent promise to each other we squirmed through the anchorage and dropped the hook in 12 feet of water in front of everybody as the furthest boat to the north.

There was a boat ramp 200 yards away so it was an excellent place to take the dogs. As I was returning to the boat in the morning 2 other boats were just leaving the anchorage so it looks as if we’ll have company heading north.

They had about a 45 minute head start on us. When I got back to the boat Christy was ready to depart and we noted that the wind was now from the west southwest at about 10 knots so it looked as if the sails would be the choice for the day and hopefully the adverse current we were to face wouldn’t cost us too much distance on the day. By the time I had checked the fluids, hauled and stored the dinghy motor, hung the dinghy in its spot in the davits and started to raise the anchor the wind had backed around to the north northwest. Crap.

Getting underway we decided to raise the main and try some motor sailing in the moderate 7 to 12 knot headwinds, I figured we should do anything we could to over come the tide running against us. We could hear the 2 boats ahead of us conversing on the VHF and they were talking about boat speeds around 5.7 knots. Our speed was 5.9 and when we caught little puffs of wind we would jump to 6.3 every now and then. We had the main sheeted tight and ever so slowly gained ground on the boats ahead of us.

After 20 miles or so our wind died just as we caught up to the slower of the 2 boats while the other slipped away through a well timed bridge opening. After the boat, El Rio, and we passed through the Haulover Canal Bridge things quickly went to hell in a hand basket. We still had the full main up and now the breeze was starting to freshen from the northeast. We were moving almost a full knot quicker than they were so we soon passed and put some distance between us.

The winds quickly built to a steady 25 knots and we were fighting the tide and now a building head sea in the confines of a very narrow channel. The water on the left side of the channel was about a foot deep and the bottom was readily apparent. On the right side was 4 to 7 feet deep so we hugged that side of the channel as we clawed our way forward sometimes as slow as 4 knots. We were quickly leaving El Rio behind. So even though we were sailing so close to the wind I wasn’t about to take the sail down. It would have been a tremendous gamble to try and drop the sail as for us to do this we have to head straight up into the wind so the sail doesn’t hang up in the Lazy Jacks. Visibility had deteriorated to such a level that visual navigation was difficult as there was so much spray in the air. Picking out the channel markers was only doable with the binoculars. I don’t think the channel is 30 or 40 yards wide so turning just a few degrees to get up on the wind was out of the question unless absolutely necessary.

After 2 hours we were clear of the Mosquito Lagoon and behind some land which flattened the seas out. After another 30 minutes our course had put us right into the wind so we dropped the sail and motored into beautiful clear skies and fading wind. Better late than never. With an hour to go before our arrival we started to see the tidal flow change in our favor.

We had previewed 3 different anchorages where we thought we might like to spend the night. We passed on the first anchorage as the entrance is unmarked and looks a bit sketchy. The second has several shoals and had more than a few boats in the already overcrowded waters. I nixed the third spot without actually seeing it as it was unprotected from the northeast and the wind was supposed to blow 20 or better from that direction at night. So after seeing the second anchorage I turned the boat around and headed back a mile or so to our first possibility.

The charts and the chartplotter both showed a 7 foot deep narrow passage into an area of 14 feet of water. On paper this spot is protected from all sides with shoreline within 100 yards on 3 sides. When we approached the entrance channel it was easy to see that it simply wasn’t there. There was a visible underwater shoal across the charted entrance. To the north was a small island and off to the south there was some water that looked deeper although not according to the charts.

We were pretty much stuck with no good place to spend the night so we crept forward at about 2 and a half knots. I steered for the deepest looking water while Christy sat glued to the depth sounder as we hugged the shoreline. She called out the numbers and after about 200 yards with the chartplotter having a stroke we started to see a pocket of deeper water where the charts said it would be.

So here we sit nestled in among the mangroves. We can see the ICW from the boat but nobody else has tried to get into “our” spot. Last night the wind did howl but with the wall of 10 foot mangroves all around us we were snug in our calm little pond.

This spot is so nice that we decided not to leave today. We dinghied into town and found an eclectic little main street. The office supply place had the owner’s collection of vintage typewriters and adding machines displayed in the front window. It turned out to be a recurring theme as the appliance store had an icebox and a gas stove from the forties prominently on display. The town was more than a little sleepy, especially for a Saturday although we did find an excellent farmers market.

Our little pond is on a preferred route for the local fishermen in their 20 foot bass boats. They wiz by and disappear into the mangrove streams behind us. So I figured when in Rome…… Anyone who knows me knows that fishing and I are like oil and water. Never done it and don’t really care too. We brought along a pole and a rudimentary tackle box because it seemed like the thing to do. So anyway, I tie on a sinker and hook, load it up with roast beef and promptly catch a decent sized crab. Every offering after that my bait is stolen by the little crab bastards on the bottom. Okay, so I gotta get the bait up off the bottom and I’m switching to Canadian bacon.

I don’t have a bobber in the tackle box so I take one of those floating key chain things and transform it into a bobber. Now with just my hook and bobber I can’t get the drag set properly to allow me to cast. To tight and I fling it nowhere and too loose and it results in a giant bird nest of line. It may have something to do with the pole and reel being out on the radar arch in the rain, sun and salt for the last 6 months. I dunno, remember I’m no fisherman. Anyway, now I tie a small sinker to the “bobber” to give me some weight for flingin’. So I get a pretty decent cast out and let the tide take my offering further from the boat. I’m sitting reading my book when I realize that I can’t see the bobber anymore.

I pick up the rod and reel in a 15 inch Catfish. Might be enough for one of us and there’s no chance I’m getting another one so I set him free. I rebait the hook, fling it back out there, pick up the book and you know what happens next. Yup, another one, well I let the other one go so I kick this one loose as well. Hell, we’re not even sure you can eat these things anyway. Christy goes below and gets our fish identification book out. Turns out that they were both Topsailgaff Catfish, the book points out that their excellent eating. Crap. On the bright side though, turning them loose was the right thing to do as I’ve never caught a fish before let alone cleaned one. So below Christy goes and gets another book (the library is bigger than I thought) that explains the whole cleaning process. In the Catfish section, the Topsailgaff Catfish is used as an example because their such good eating. Good grief. Stupid fishing.

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