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USA Summer 2006

Cape Canaveral Cocoa Village Fireworks and Shuttle Launch

Haul Out

Cumberland Island Brunswick Marina

Crossing the Bahama Banks and the Gulf Stream
20 to 22 June 2006


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On Tuesday 20 June we set out for Cape Canaveral, 48 hours on the high seas from Nassau. 40 miles across the Tongue of the Ocean, (7,000 ft deep), onto the banks through the narrow NW Channel between reefs and into 25 ft of water.

Anchored on the banks early evening for fresh gujons of bluefish in tartare sauce, (caught 30 minutes earlier) followed by beef stroganoff. Then across the banks, (70 miles) over Tuesday night, emerging early morning Wednesday into the Atlantic again through a narrow gap between Hen & Chicken Rock and Great Isaac Rock, marked by Great Isaac lighthouse, (NOT WORKING!). As we came through the gap, we caught three cero mackerels within 3 minutes, 2 on our two lines at the same time. More fresh gujons in tartare sauce.
A very smooth ride so far in light winds, sailing NW into the Atlantic with 150 miles to go waiting for the Gulf stream to find us. Find us it did. Winds gusting up to 24 knots, seas building to 6ft and we are on a roller coaster ride at close to 10 knots for many hours into the night.

At one point it became too much to handle so we decided to take in our foresail, the genoa. The furler stuck! Geoff had to go up to the bow, strapped on, with waves breaking over him to unwind, then rewind the furling line before we could take in the genoa. Meanwhile the enormous genoa is flapping wildly overhead. Are we adrenalin junkies or what?
Out of the Gulf stream at daybreak on Thursday and into milder seas and wind.

Cape Canaveral, Florida

22 June 2006


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Arrived in Port Canaveral 11am Thursday 22 June..
Came into the marked entrance channel for Port Canaveral with all sorts of activity around as a US Navy submarine was out there somewhere waiting to follow us in. Coastguard boats, pilot boats and tugs all haring out past us to meet him.  Up the channel past the cruise ship terminal with an interesting arrival into Scorpion Marina. Still no brakes. We survived.

Left Scorpions Marina on Friday 23rd June to go through the Canaveral Barge Canal, leading to the ICW. This canal runs west from Port Canaveral, through the 401 Highway drawbridge, then immediately through a large commercial lock.

We pulled out of the marina in the afternoon and just made the last bridge opening before the rush hour closure at 3.30pm. Timing has to be just right with these bridges. They donít want you going through until it is fully open and they donít want you hanging back and unnecessarily delay road traffic. We can usually time it pretty well by juggling gear into reverse when required. But we still cannot risk reverse, so it adds a little more adrenalin into the moment. This bridge was easy, with plenty of space.

However the lock was around 500 yards beyond the bridge with an easterly wind blowing us slowly towards it, while we waited for eastbound traffic to come through.

It all worked out and we had drifted just to the point of decision when the gates opened to allow the eastbound traffic out and us in. But, then we had to accelerate to get into the lock and then stop inside. The wind was still pushing us through. In the end we had no choice but to risk reverse at idle. Even then, we had to stop the boat by using lines on cleats and we came up against the heavy wooden pilings on the lock side a little more firmly than hoped.

Once through the lock, the barge canal crosses the north-south Banana River, and continues through Merritt Island to the north-south Indian River, which is also the ICW. We turned north off the canal into the very wide Banana River and anchored clear of some small islands half a mile north of the canal.

From here we could see the cruise ships that come and go with great regularity, plying their punters from Florida to some castaway island in the Bahamas, on to Nassau to hit the gift shops and back to Florida.

Port Canaveral, Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale and Miami are the main cruise ship ports.

When the Disney cruise ships were preparing for departure, (Disney Magic and Disney Wonder), we could hear the passengers being welcomed on board and being wound up into hype with music and banter, very reminiscent of Club Med.

Although we have avoided major squalls since Farmerís Cay, there are still some very heavy clouds and every day we have seen some rain.

Partly due to the amount of undisciplined weekend small boat traffic and also to chill out, we stayed at the anchorage and watched the world and the cruise ships go by for a couple of days.

This area is also popular with manatees, and some areas of the Banana River are off limits to all propeller driven boats. We hoped to see some but the water is a kind of dark camouflage green, so anything more that 3Ē below the surface is invisible. We did see dolphins and we were constantly amused by pelicans diving for fish all around us.

On Sunday 25th, we weighed anchor and turned south back to the barge canal, and followed this west towards the Indian River. One more drawbridge to navigate, (State Road 3). This one was not on request, we discovered, but on a half hourly schedule, so we had to hang around east of the bridge for 15 minutes. 10 minutes after passing through the bridge, we emerged into the Indian River, again very wide, but with the deeper ICW channel marked along the centre heading north-south.

We turned south through a fixed 65í multi-lane highway bridge to Cocoa Village, about 3 miles south and anchored there overnight. We watched the Sunday afternoon boat traffic. There was ICW traffic heading up and down the central channel, jet-skis playing chicken with each other and other boats, jet-skis towing wake-boarders, macho guys showing off their over-powered runabouts to bikini clad girls, with no knowledge of the rules of the road or danger to other traffic. And then there were the inevitable undeterred small sailing boats racing to and fro across the river through this mÍlťe.

Cocoa Village


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Cocoa Village is a quaint little place full of cafťs and antique shops. There is a wooden waterside walk with small jetties for dinghy mooring close to the riverside parks. Probably the largest building in Cocoa Village is Travis's Hardware Store. Founded in 1885 and now encompassing a number of buildings joined together. This place is a real labyrinth and an Aladdin's Cave to those seeking any kind of hardware. The people in Travis's went out of their way to make us welcome and even offered to drive our empty propane tanks to the filling station on two occasions at no cost.

The shallows on both sides of the Indian River are the only places where we have seen manatees in the wild. The river is a deep greeny brown colour, so the view of the manatee is usually the snout or tail fin above water. Occasionally one can be seen just resting on the surface.

We have regularly sat on the boat and watched manatees, dolphins, pelicans and ospreys while anchored at Cocoa.

Having been away from the news for a while we were surprised to find that there would be a space shuttle launch on 1st July, the first for over a year. Realising that our first anchorage in the Banana River was within sight of the launch pads, we decided to return there and bag our spot before the weekend.

Early morning on Saturday 1st, there were maybe 4 or 5 boats anchored in the Banana River. By midday, there must have been 500. Everything from 2 man dinghies to large cruisers, but mostly medium sized sports boats. It was party time all around us. All the roads were blocked by traffic any access from a road to the Banana River was covered in big RV's and tents. However, by 3.35pm, the launch had been postponed due to cloud cover, and within an hour, 450 boats had disappeared. We stayed put hoping that the launch would go ahead the following day.

There were far fewer boats on the Sunday, probably because the weather forecast was worse than Saturday, so few believed the launch would go ahead. Again it was cancelled.

As Monday's weather forecast was also not good, NASA then delayed the launch to the Tuesday, which just happened to be 4th July, American Independence Day. This is the first time there has been a major launch on 4th July. We had already planned to be back in Cocoa for the 4th July as there was to be some shore activity in the park, followed by an orchestra, followed by fireworks. We did not think it wise to try to motor from the Banana River between the shuttle launch and the evenings activities as the waterway would be crowded. So once the crowds had dispersed from Banana River, we returned to Cocoa.

There is a major road bridge just north of our anchorage which runs east-west. Cocoa Village is at the western end of the bridge on the west side of the Indian River. The other side of the bridge is Merritt Island. The road continues on across Merritt Island, then over the Banana River and on to Cocoa Beach.

Within the first three miles of Merritt Island is a West Marine marine store, a Home Depot (the US version of B&Q), a Publix supermarket and a major mall with restaurants and cinemas. So we have made the most of our location and finished many pending jobs while waiting for our propeller.

Fireworks and a Shuttle Launch

4 July 2006


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We made the right decision to stay put at Cocoa. The Indian River is so wide and the land in Florida so flat, that although we could not see the actual shuttle launch platform, we knew we would see it very soon after take off beyond the bridge.

All morning on 4th we watched boats haring up the waterway to be closer to the launch pad and we knew they would all be returning immediately after launch. The launch was set for 2.36pm and we sat on deck listening to the countdown process.

Within 2 seconds of launch we were able to see the shuttle. Although 14 miles away, it was very impressive. THE biggest firework of 4th July. Unfortunately, within 30 seconds it disappeared behind the only cloud we could see, so we missed the separation of the rocket boosters. The launch was followed by horns from cars and trucks, horns on boats and people cheering.

Then came the afternoon. We visited the waterside park to see what festivities were under way, but soon had to run back to the boat before a major squall came through. (This is the squally season in Florida with rain and thunder almost every day). So we stayed on the boat and listened to the activities and later the orchestra.

As the day passed, our anchorage of 10 boats grew to well over 200. And boy, where they close! We watched in both dismay and amusement at some of the anchoring techniques, (or lack of!). We had people anchoring in front of us between our anchor and our boat. Those we managed to chase off. There were boats drifting as their anchors were too small to hold in the mud bottom and there was no room to lay down any scope.

And once again, it was party time. Patriotism was everywhere. Stars and Stripes top hats, Stars and Stripes Bikinis. It was great to watch. The Cocoa Village fireworks were scheduled for 9.15, but as soon as it was dark there were displays going off all up and down the river. We could even see enormous displays out on the Atlantic coast at Cocoa Beach.

Cocoa Village did themselves proud. They put on a tremendous display and we had front row seats sitting on our deck chairs on deck with gin & tonics in hand. Fireworks continued into the night but soon after the Cocoa Village display ended, boats began leaving. Now that was really a nerve-wracking experience. Many gallons of beer had no doubt been consumed and there were some very scary moments.

Canaveral haul out

15 July 2006

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The repaired propeller was finally delivered and we arranged for haul out, propeller re-fit and insurance survey on 15th July. Moved back to the Banana River overnight on 14th, then through the Canaveral Barge Canal early on 15th.

All was completed within 2 hours sitting in the slings and a successful survey report, so we decided to continue on to Brunswick the same day.

Cumberland Island

16 July 2006


Brunswick is approximately 190 nautical miles North Atlantic sailing from Port Canaveral. We set off at around 11am set for one night at sea. However, the weather turned nasty with high winds and local squalls, so late on the 16th we turned in to the St. Mary's River Inlet and found shelter in the anchorage behind Cumberland Island for the night.

Continued on to Brunswick Landing Marina, now our second home, on 17th July. Decided to stay inland on the ICW, rather than heading off out to sea again from Cumberland Island for the last leg.

The route took us through some very scenic shallow channels between the marshes off the Georgia mainland and Jekyll Island, one of Brunswick's Golden Isles.

Then out of the marshlands and into the wide Brunswick River. Under the very impressive bridge, then in to East River, past the shrimp boats and into the Marina.

Brunswick Marina

17 July 2006



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This time, we managed to arrive in Brunswick Landing Marina without incident.

Moved the boat into storage on Dock 6 with only 4 days available for preparing the boat for the summer hurricane season before driving to Toronto.

Stopped en route during the drive to meet up with Bobbie & Gordon Blowers, (great friends we met in Brunswick earlier in the year) near Richmond, Virginia.

One overnight stop in northern Virginia, then on to Toronto. The usual Niagara border shuffle, changing the US rented car for a Canadian rented car.

Four days in Toronto, then, thanks to Geoff's son Simon who worked for Abu Dhabi based  airline Etihad at that, two really nice business class seats Toronto, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, London. This may be seen as the long way round, but the extra comfort was well worth the journey.



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