Any port in a storm

Tuesday morning brought a typical Florida sunrise.  Unfortunately Tuesday also promised evening rain and wind up and down the Florida coast, as corroborated by the New Smyrna dockmaster.

The key here was the warning at the bottom of the dockmaster’s white board.  Every weather source we use agreed that Wednesday and Thursday wouldn’t be pleasant.  We decided to add a day to our Palm Coast reservation and stay until Friday.  But first we had to get there.

Mostly this stretch of the ICW is green and easy, often without much shoreline development.  Which is nice.

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We even got a bunch of dolphins again.  And another cool lighthouse, this one at Ponce de Leon Inlet between the waterway and the Atlantic.

Although old Ponce basically discovered and named Florida he gets way less love around here than does that Flagler guy with the big house we visited in West Palm Beach, but an inlet and lighthouse are at least something.

We also passed the backside of Daytona Beach.

We almost could see the spring break debauchery from our flybridge.  Daytona may not be as sinful as, say, Tuscaloosa or Gainesville or Athens or Sodom, but it’s still no place for innocent women and children.  Or Misty Pearl.

A moment here to talk about bridges.  For planning purposes we use several sources of information, all of which generally agree when it comes to bridges.  Well in advance of reaching a bridge we need to know whether it’s fixed or opens, what clearance is charted at high tide, what VHF channel the bridgemaster monitors, and whether the bridge opens on a schedule or on request.  Often we can’t see the gauge—which tells boaters the exact clearance at that water level—until right up close.  Up close, however, is nowhere one wants to be if there’s current or wind or traffic or shoaling or rocks or anything else that makes it difficult to hold a tight position.

The point here is that the evils of Daytona Beach go well beyond just spring break shenanigans.

As we cruised up towards a confusing jumble of Daytona bridges, the various guides provided no real help.  The bascule bridge had a 24-foot clearance (which is too low for us) but was being replaced by something much taller.  The 65-foot replacement was supposed to be done by November but apparently wasn’t.  Nobody around to call for help.  And a nice cross-current driving us hard to port.  Crab-angling Misty Pearl is tough enough in open water; it really sucks when the only safe path is very straight and very narrow and an insurance claim or worse lurks on either side.

No worries.  It looks like the bascule bridge is gone, so we should be fine.  Let’s just head on through.  What the hell?  Worries after all.  That’s a stinking construction barge, it’s blocking half of the already small opening, and we’re going sideways.

Since we’re posting this blog entry it’s probably obvious we didn’t die.  Somehow we slid our 16-foot beam through what felt like a 17-foot slot while the dudes in construction vests stood on the barge smoking cigarettes and hoping for a good story to tell their friends at the bar.*

Other boats in the area weren’t as lucky.

We know it’s possible they sank in a storm or something, but our money’s on the construction barge.

Crisis dodged, but as the day progressed, so did the wind and the cold.  We layered up and stayed on the flybridge.

Everybody in these parts has a dock, which makes sense since they bought houses on the ICW.

56A85B68-F312-4F5A-98DD-3D3CF2A3CB8AEverybody also has a screen around a good chunk of their backyard.  It’s almost like they’re scared of a little mosquito, which—unlike the guys blocking the channel under the bridge—won’t kill you.  Unless the mosquito carries malaria or yellow fever.  And zika looks to be pretty uncomfortable as well.  Come to think of it, we’d probably put up a screen if we lived here.

We were going to ride out the storm at Palm Coast Marina with The Lower Place and Red Pearl.  But since we were coming a day early they said we’d be on the fuel dock Tuesday night and then have to move on Wednesday.  Don’t they get the same weather info as the boaters?  35-knot winds on Wednesday and Thursday.  We ain’t planning to move.

So instead we took a starboard turn after the last bridge, pulled in to The Marina at Hammock Beach, put out extra lines and fenders, and met Robin and Charlie and their Gold Looper friends at European Village.

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European Village isn’t really a European village, of course, it’s just a cluster of condos with some restaurants under them.  But we enjoyed the food and company nonetheless.

The rain pelted us all night and the winds came in as predicted, forcing us to do some cleaning and engine stuff.  To celebrate our success on those fronts we went over to the resort, although the wind basically required horizontal walking.  Lunch was good but absurdly the house-made chips came with no seasoning.  Seasoning was an upcharge.  Who ever heard of such?  The Cajun spice cost us ten quid plus a Johnny Rotten t-shirt, and even then wasn’t spectacular.

Gale-force winds and 13-foot waves off the coast, but we’re holding steady.

If all goes according to plan, the Vols will beat Purdue tomorrow and we’ll travel up to St. Augustine on Friday.

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* Maybe it would’ve been safer if Doug had waited until AFTER the bridge before starting to draft a lawsuit, but still.

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