This week, relaxation gives way to purpose. During the next four days, Cutter Loose will cover nearly 200 miles of Florida’s coastline. Our objective is to reach the Florida/Georgia border by the weekend.
On Monday morning, Cutter Loose is underway from Vero Beach City Marina at 8:30 AM. Our destination for today is Cocoa Village, 44 nautical miles to the north. The forecast calls for windy conditions this afternoon…remnants of a ‘noreaster exiting New England. But this morning, the wind is calm in the Indian River from Vero Beach to the Wabasso Bridge. True to the forecast, winds are northwest at 20 to 30 on the ICW at noon. We increase the throttle to punch through the three foot wind driven waves on the bow. With each wave, salt water sprays over the deck and dodger. By the time we arrive at Cocoa Village at 4:45 PM, the wind is still gusting over 20 knots. Cutter Loose is anchored south of Cocoa Bridge in the lee of two high rise condominium buildings.
The wind moderates on Tuesday as we motor north along the Space Coast. From Cocoa Village, we continue our passage along the Indian River past the Kennedy Space Center and Titusville. Upon transiting the Haulover Canal, Cutter Loose enters the ominous sounding Mosquito Lagoon and continues on to New Smyrna Beach and the Ponce De Leon Inlet to the Atlantic. From here, the ICW follows the Halifax River to Daytona Beach, where Cutter Loose is anchored south of Memorial Bridge for the night. Our distance traveled today is 57 nautical miles.
On Wednesday, we are underway from our anchorage in Daytona Beach in order to make the 7:30 AM opening of Memorial Bridge. Our destination today is St. Augustine, a distance of 45 nautical miles. Our course takes us north on the Halifax River past Marineland. The ICW meanders alongside white beaches and sand bars at Matanzas Inlet. Thankfully, we pass through this segment at high tide. By 3 PM, Cutter Loose is on a mooring in the harbor just south of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. The tall ship Bounty is docked at the St. Augustine City Marina. We dinghy ashore to sample the paella at the Spanish restaurant Columbia in the historic district.
Cutter Loose is underway on Thursday morning in time to make the 7:30 AM opening of the Bridge of Lions. Our course takes us east towards the St. Augustine Inlet. After a turn to the north, Cutter Loose enters the Tolomato River. This is a particularly serene section of the ICW as the river meanders through marshes as we head towards Pine Island. Once past Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach, ICW traffic increases considerably as we approach the St. Johns River near Jacksonville. The inflowing tide on the River thrusts Cutter Loose north into Sisters Creek at speeds of 8 knots. Further north, the ICW follows Sawpit Creek into Nassau Sound, an inlet to the Atlantic. We enter the South Amelia River alongside Amelia Island and into Fernandina Beach where Cutter Loose is on a mooring at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Our journey today covers 49 nautical miles.
Friday is a lay day in Fernandina, our final day in Florida for this winter cruise. The day is consumed with tasks including laundry, an engine oil change and fuel filter change, a visit to the local farmer’s market and a late afternoon viewing of The Hunger Games, an overrated movie in the now all-too-familiar survivor game genre.
During our stay, the French tall ships Etoile and Belle Poule are docked at Fernandina Harbor Marina. They are each 115 feet in length overall. The public is invited aboard for an open house. The crew has limited ability to speak the English language and we have even less familiarity with French. We learned that the Etoile and the Belle Poule sailed from the Azores to Puerto Rico, a passage of 24 days. After leaving Fernandina, these vessels will participate in tall ship events in Savannah, Charleston and New York.
Fernandina is the staging area for the next leg of our journey north. From here, we will enter the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Mary’s Inlet for an overnight sail to Port Royal Sound where we will rejoin the ICW near the town of Beaufort, SC.