Looking for Manatees

From St Augustine, FL, we decided to jump back on the ICW because hurricane ETA was predicted to make landfall and the weather on the Atlantic looked nasty. For this section of the ICW, we contacted experienced cruising friends and watched the tracks of other boats while docked at the marina and decided Orenda could also handle the shallow water.  Scott used well-known Bob423 downloaded tracks and Aqua Map overlaid with Corp of Engineers recent ICW surveys.  Jay with Yacht Tech was also heading south ahead of us on N62 Zarpe to West Palm Beach and provided input as well (thanks Jay!), so we felt pretty confident, as long as we were cautious. We headed to Daytona Beach, planning to anchor a couple of nights.  When we arrived at the anchorage, the wind was blowing and the water had white caps and was very shallow.  Scott was anxious about the unfamiliar shallow water with all the wind.  So we contacted the nearby Daytona Municipal Marina and they had one transient slip available! We took it and tied up.  It seems curious we always get the last slip, or so we are told (an on-going joke between Scott and I), but we were glad to be safe in the wind and predicted storm regardless! We added extra lines and fenders to the boat and hunkered down. The night was comfortable, although we both had one ear open for problems. 

We had an awesome time in Daytona Beach. Walked the boardwalk, shopped for Daytona Beach BikeWeek Tee-shirts, enjoyed a micro brew or two at McK’s Brewery.  

AND Scott experienced a “NASCAR ride-along” with professional driver, Jim Clash on the Daytona International Speedway!  He drove over 150 miles per hour! 6 laps and they were done in less than 6 minutes! Exhilarating! Super fun!!

Our last night in Daytona, November 11 was the SpaceX Dragon shuttle launch.  We watched the news coverage on TV, then stepped out to the cockpit and saw the shuttle!

We continued on the ICW to Titusville. To describe the ICW, it is an immense body of water 6 or 8 miles wide at times with the navigable waterway or channel running through it.  We navigate from buoy marking to buoy marking.  Scott compared it to our trip through the Wrangell Narrows which is a 33-mile channel. The Wrangell Narrows is referred to as Christmas Tree lane because of all the red and green navigational lights, 46 in all.  Well, the ICW is that density of channel markers but for many, many miles!

So why am I looking for Manatees? So far the entire ICW from St. Augustine is posted as a ‘slow’ zone to protect the manatees, West Indian Manatees. We have seen turtles, white herons, seagulls, blue herons, brown pelicans, white pelicans, alligators, bottlenose dolphins, osprey, cormorants, ducks, but for me no manatees. Scott said he saw a few but I remain skeptical!  You would think I could spot them, they can be 10 feet long, weighting 800-1200 pounds. Impossible to miss, right? Described as elusive, and I guess they are!

We are accompanied by many boats all heading south on the ICW. Radio communication between the boats passing and those being passed is polite and friendly. “Orenda, requesting pass on your starboard.” Scott responds that he will slow down to allow a “slow pass.” Meanwhile, we only cruise slow because we are in the MANATEE ZONE! Not the Daytona Speedway!!

Our arrival in Titusville Municipal Marina was windy. Our dock hands were a great help, but Scott has the docking down pretty well now.  The wing stations we have on Orenda are amazing for docking and boat handling. Scott spent the majority of the week preparing for our boat maintenance activities at Yacht Tech in North Palm Beach next month. I enjoyed one of my favorite pastimes, walking and listening to audio books. Warm weather and lots of wild life.

We visited the American Space Museum, well kind of, from the outside! and the Space View Park Monuments honoring the space program with monuments, mission plaques and bronze hand-prints of six of the original seven astronauts. Titusville is a town on the ‘Space Coast’ a region of Florida around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

On November 23rd we were up early to cruise to Melbourne Harbor Marina where we had a slip reserved for a week. Upon arrival in the channel, we radioed the Harbor Master. The channel is reportedly dredged to 8 feet, our draft is a little less than 7 feet. The Harbor Master suggested we hug the red buoys entering the marina. At one point our depth read 0.0 feet! Yikes! We did not touch bottom but we sure get anxious with these shallow depths.

We had fun in Melbourne. Lots of shops selling “Vintage” clothing, art galleries, and antiques. We window shopped! We visited the Hell n Blazes Brewery a couple of times which had a pleasant outdoor seating area.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Melbourne. Simple meal but a heartfelt and fulfilling day connecting with friends and family!

We got underway early on November 29th to take advantage of the one foot tide! He he.

We arrived in Fort Pierce, FL at the Dockside Marina around noon. The Dockside Marina is on the Indian River or Fort Pierce Inlet with tidal currents averaging 3 to 4 knots. Docking proves difficult for most boats unless they are able to dock at slack. Cammie and Joe Ward at the Marina were a great help to us in the current, which we managed to time perfectly at 3 knots! The docks are stationary, built at a fixed height which is about four feet above Orenda’s cockpit. Exiting and re boarding the boat is a small climbing challenge!

We plan to be in Fort Pierce, FL for most of the month. We have a haul-out scheduled at the Seminole Yard mid month. Unfortunately with Covid-19 we will not be traveling home to our kids for the holiday. So, Merry, merry Christmas from the crew of Orenda!

Postscript – I did see a manatee munching greens near the dock!

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