We went back and forth until nearly the day of departure. We had been in Vero for two months – our longest stay in one place since we began cruising – and inertia had most definitely set in. Vero was easy. Getting groceries was easy, laundry, showers, and trash was easy. We had some nice walking routes. A little voice inside my head said we hadn’t caught Covid-19 while we were there, so why press our luck? Maybe we should just stay.. But that pesky hurricane season was coming and there wasn’t anywhere to sail. So we ultimately decided to toss off the mooring line and head north towards the Chesapeake.
Although we had hoped to hop outside from Ft. Pierce, we quickly realized that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate so the inside it would be. Really looking at the calendar for the first time in weeks, we saw that that Memorial Day weekend would kick off at the end of the week. Uh-oh. The Florida ICW is chaotic on a normal weekend, let alone a 3 day weekend shortly after Florida lifted its Covid restrictions, We had less than zero interest in traveling on the water for any part of that. Looks like we were going to be putting the hammer down.
Severe thunderstorms in the forecast resulted in a Wednesday departure. Saturday in Florida was going to be inevitable, but we could be anchored at Cumberland Island by Saturday evening. We were going to have to tolerate one day of holiday weekend boat traffic.
Dropping the the mooring line at sunrise and pointing the bow north, we joked about whether we still remembered how to go anywhere on a boat. I saw a stingray jump into the air, dolphins, and we spotted what we thought was our first flamingo flying overhead but a bit of internet research indicated it was more likely a roseate spoonbill. It was a great way to kick off this leg of the trip.
Our plan was to anchor in Titusville but we needed to make water, so we decided to stop for the day just north of Cocoa. Unfortunately after dropping the anchor and looking at the water we thought better of it, and we were too lazy to raise the anchor and move to Titusville anyway. Time to reevaluate the next day’s travel plans!
Up before the sun again on Thursday, we raised the anchor and continued to travel north. It was pretty warm and we were plagued by swarms of love bugs until we were north of Titusville, but conditions were perfect for briefly anchoring in Indian Lagoon and having some lunch while we made water. Then we were off again.
The plan was to stop in Daytona for the night, but severe thunderstorm warnings later in the afternoon popped up in the forecast for our area. NOAA was calling for 60+ mph winds and hail. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, we cut the day short and anchored in Callalisa Creek by New Smyrna where we had anchored on our first trip south. We did get some strong thunderstorms that evening with 35 knot gusts on the beam (the current had us beam to the wind), but our trusty Rocna anchor didn’t budge and fortunately the most severe storms went just north and south of us. Thunderstorms stress us out, so it was a long evening.
Friday’s stretch goal was to make it to Pine Island, north of St. Augustine. This would give us a short hop to Jacksonville on Saturday beyond which the holiday boat traffic would be a lot lighter. At 70 nautical miles, we were going to need some help from the current to make it.
Luck was on our side. I don’t think we will ever again have better timing for the current on that stretch of water. We were flying north, motor sailing all of the way, and although we were eying some dark clouds for the last few hours which turned out to miss us, we anchored at Pine Island a good hour before sunset.
One more day of raising the anchor at sunrise and we were off. What Mother Nature gave us in the form of a favorable current on Friday, she most definitely took away on Saturday. This time we had the current against us for at least 90% of the day. We motorsailed along, slowly eking out the miles.
Boat traffic was absolutely insane north of the St. John’s River. We debated whether everyone was actually going somewhere or just cruising when Jeff noticed that the jet skis had coolers on the back. They had to be heading to a specific place.
Finally we saw it – everyone was making a right hand turn to Fort George. It was like a boat highway at rush hour. Clearly there was going to be no social distancing there! As we continued to putter slowly north, the traffic dropped dramatically and my mood improved equally dramatically. All was good again.
Finally Cumberland Island was in view, along with the sights and sounds of a large thunderstorm. Deciding once again not to push our luck, we changed our plans to anchor at the north end of Cumberland and dropped the hook on the south end instead. We quickly snugged the boat up and watched as the thunderstorm passed north of us, giving us a bit of rain instead.
Phew! We had done it. We had finished our least favorite stretch of the ICW with our nerves mainly intact and we had made it to Georgia. We covered 210 nautical miles on the ICW over four days, saw countless dolphins, several flying roseate spoonbills, and 3 jumping rays, experienced one moderate thunderstorm, and two thunderstorms just missed us. All in all it was an excellent start to cruising again.