We left Charleston around sunrise on a Monday morning. There were other boats on the same course as everyone had been penned in during a cold front the previous weekend. Vests, jeans, sweaters, and knit caps were the order of the day as we motorsailed out the channel. Strange how you can grow up in a place where 50 degrees feels warm and after a few years in a warm place, 50 degrees feels like -50.
The plan was to head outside and give the ICW through South Carolina and Georgia a miss. Figuring on a 4 knot cruising average we could arrive in St. Augustine, Florida two mornings later. We went too fast. It’s hard to go slow in the ocean. As the boat slows down she rolls around more making for an uncomfortable ride, so as the wind dies and the swell still exists we find ourselves relying on old “Vicky the Volvo” to keep Wanderer powered up and charging through the waves. The next morning as we were off the coast of Southern Georgia we realized we would end up reaching St. Augustine around 2am the following night. No bueno. St. Augustine’s inlet is constantly shifting with sandbars so it is not charted and one must rely on the visual aids to navigation that the Coast Guard moves as the inlet moves. As it had already been over 24 hours and Riley was still refusing to use his little green mat, we made way for the St. Mary’s inlet, which is the border between Florida and Georgia. An ulterior motive was that we could visit Cumberland Island again, one of our favorite stops in the previous months of cruising. Riley was thrilled to make landfall.
After a day of rest among wild horses on Cumberland Island we continued South down the ICW. We settled into old cruising routines: cooking underway, dinghy’ing Riley to shore before we make way and after we stop each day, motor on and motor off the dink, rising early and making coffee in the dark, checking Vicky’s vital signs to make sure she is up to another day, and watching the sunset from the cockpit.
While we were “running from the cold up in New England” it did take us a little longer than 17 hours to make it down the coast. Such is the leisurely, even when you are hurrying, pace of sailboats. After our trip North in August, the Florida ICW was like an old friend as we made our way past some familiar sites. We explored a few new anchorages like Fort Matanzas, which is a national monument and the site of an old Spanish built fort to guard the southern approaches to St. Augustine. We had a blistering run of 70 miles one day as we had favorable currents with us from Ft. Matanzas, past Daytona, and New Smyrna till we finally anchored for the night near the Kennedy Space Center.
Soon enough we arrived in Vero Beach. Picking up a mooring, it felt great to be back in a place we had enjoyed very much when we headed North. By chance, the mooring we picked up was right next to another couple of young cruisers, Dan & Allyson, on a Cape Dory 30, s/v Sara, who came over and introduced themselves and we had a nice chat and were able to reminisce about our time in the Bahamas, where they were ultimately heading.
From Vero it was out the inlet at Fort Pierce to head South to Miami. This was the second 30+ hour passage on this trip, and we knew it would be rough on Riley, but he was a trooper and held it the whole way. As we turned South out of the inlet we were actually able to sail at a good speed through the whole night, though we were right on the wind, pointing about as high as Wanderer could go. It was a bumpy ride at times and Riley had to stay below for most of the trip since his paws don’t grip well to the deck of our cockpit. He looks like a miserable drunk in such lumpy seas. We stayed in touch with the crew on s/v Sara who were a few hours ahead of us, giving each other position reports via text message, and talking about the conditions. As day broke the wind let up, and soon enough the sea as well, and Vicky was called into action again.
As we cruised past Miami we turned into the channel leading into Stiltsville; an entrance to Biscayne Bay. I was about to head below and Trisha was handing me the phone to get plugged in and charged. Something about our exchange was off and my arm hit her hand, the phone bounced once on the coaming, and then vanished into the sea with a faint “plop”. It was the kind of hand off that ends with the Quarterback fumbling, the defense recovering and taking it to the house. We looked at each other with half bemused half shocked expression as if to say “well, that just happened”. In over six months on the boat we’ve lost three things overboard: an allen wrench, a hat, and an iPhone 4S. We can only hope the phone landed in such a way as to give shelter to some small crab or nudibranch.
A few hours later we anchored off of Elliott Key in the clearest water we had been in since the Bahamas two months prior. In fact it was the only time we had gotten into the water at an anchorage since the Bahamas. Call us spoiled, but we just don’t like to go in water where we can’t see our toes anymore. The following afternoon we arrived back in Key Largo. As we sailed across Barnes Sound we raised our Conch Republic flag, blew our conch, and listened to Jimmy Buffett. Cheesy? Maybe. But we were thrilled to be back home.
There would be more pictures, but a lot were taken on the iPhone, some were posted over on our Facebook page during the journey. Hopefully that nudibranch enjoys looking at our iPhonography.