Bringing Windsong Home, Final leg: Merritt Island to St. Augustine

The final leg of The Journey was to take Windsong from Harbortown Marina in Merritt Island up to Oasis Boat Yard in St. Augustine for the haul out. I had convinced a few friends to crew for me and to entice them I arranged the final leg to be when one of the last shuttle launches was happening.
I wanted to have a good view of the shuttle launch, and I also wanted the final leg to be easy going so I got a head start by sailing up the ICW about 17 nm to Titusville Municipal Marina. Jenny and I did the sail on a Saturday after my month in Harbortown was done. The weather was great, with Southeast winds at 15 knots. The ride was relatively uneventful but definitely a fun day. It was my first time under full sail in the ICW, something different since steering between the markers under sail was a bit more difficult than steering offshore.
I kept Windsong in Titusville for a couple of weeks until May 14th when the shuttle was set to launch. We all met up on Friday morning before the launch to load up the boat and get ready for the weekend cruise. The crew was Jenny, Jeff (from the first leg) and our friend Brian who flew down from Connecticut. The traffic was getting crazy pretty for the shuttle launch, so we were glad to get an early start. The launch was at 2:20 p.m., but we were ready to go by noon.
We got some fuel from the marina and then decided to wait out the remaining time at anchor in the ICW. The marina is very spacious, but my slip was near the basin wall and I had 15-20knot winds pushing me forward into my slip. I knew when I backed out we would face some problems due to the wind and the lack of control going in reverse on my boat. Sure enough when we backed out, the boat wanted to turn sideways and slide back into the slip pilings. Thankfully my crew was strong enough to fend us off the posts, and I was able to maneuver well enough to avoid crashing into the wall. It was one of the more nerve wracking times I've pulled out of a dock thus far, but we made it safe to the fuel dock eventually. After fueling we left the marina to start our journey.
Windsong at the slip in Titusville:
I found a spot outside of the channel with a good view of the launch pads and dropped the hook for a few hours. After waiting patiently, we were eventually rewarded with a killer view of the launch. I had not seen a live launch this close since my early childhood and I was glad to see the final flight of Atlantis. About a minute after the launch the sound finally hit us with a massive roar that shook the entire boat.
After the launch we began the 27 nm run to New Smyrna Beach. After only an hour or so of motoring we arrived at the Hallover Canal bridge, a draw bridge which was said to be one of the quickest to open on call. Unfortunately due to the shuttle launch traffic, they weren't able to open for another hour and a half. While I didn't mind pacing around to waste time (there wasn't an adequate area to anchor in the narrow channel), we were already cutting the trip close to make New Smyrna before nightfall. I quickly did the math and figured that we would make it just in time with the delay.
So we paced up and down the ICW at about 2 knots for the remaining time until it was time for the bridge to open. Once we were finally through, the ICW switches from the Indian River to the Mosquito Lagoon. The first part of the lagoon was all park land protected from development in the Canaveral National Seashore so it was a natural beauty. This eventually led to the outskirts of New Smyrna Beach with many mobile home parks right on the water. The channel became very narrow with homes on the port and barrier islands to starboard. Tons of dolphins and fish were seen everywhere giving us a lot of things to look at.
The Hallover Canal:
We arrived at the New Smyrna Beach City Marina with about an hour of light to spare. Our slip was easily accessed so docking wasn't an issue at all. Shortly after tying up we all walked down the road to find some grub and then called it a night. Unfortunately sometime in the night Jenny started feeling ill and had a long night battling a stomach bug. The plan was to go off-shore the next day and sail from Ponce Inlet to St. Augustine. I worried about how her stomach would cope with the seas, and with the rest of my crew enjoying many beers all day I knew the sail might be in jeopardy with a sick crew.
We woke up and quickly set out of the marina and up the river to the inlet. I read on the web that Ponce Inlet was tricky and should only be attempted with local knowledge. I've seen enough large boats go out of the inlet while surfing to know it is possible, and they also say the same about St. Augustine inlet (of which I consider a pretty easy inlet). I studied the inlet as much as I could and felt prepared to make the run out of it. Although a little bumpy due to the swells raising near the inlet, the run out wasn't difficult.
Morning at the marina
Last draw bridge before inlet
NSB lighthouse
Once out of the channel we hoisted sails, turned North and began the 60 nm run to St. Augustine. Raising the sails became quite the rodeo ride with the short period swells lurching high near the inlet. Both Jeff and I almost fell out of the boat trying to raise the main, and Brian was struggling to steer and control our overturned cooler with beer and ice flying around the cockpit. Jenny was still feeling pretty ill from the night before and resting in the cabin, I felt bad for her as the motion was not fun at the start.
If we averaged 5 knots it would take us 12 hours, anything less would be cutting it close to a nighttime entrance - something I wanted to avoid once again. The winds were very light out of the Southeast and we were only making 3.5 knots sailing. In order to assure our arrival on time, I figured we would motorsail until the winds picked up as expected in the afternoon. I started the engine and we began to make speed averaging 7 knots. Eventually we figured out how to steer with the waves more to our stern quarter rather than beam on, and the motion became easier to cope with.
Soon after we were motoring I went downstairs to get some breakfast., and while gathering food I noticed smoke coming out of the engine room. I opened the room and what I thought was smoke or steam was rising out in a cloud. I yelled for Jeff to cut the engine and I started to search for the source of the smoke. I soon realized that it was exhaust, not a fire thank goodness. The entire engine room was covered in water with exhaust smoke billowing out. I went to the cockpit to let the room clear of exhaust and for the engine to cool some. We were barely sailing at 3 knots, and I feared if something was serious we were definitely in for a long day if the winds never picked up.
Dejected and worried, I knew I had to try to figure out what was wrong and fix it if I could. So after a breather I went below and had a look. I diagnosed the issue to be a loose hose clamp on a section of the large exhaust piping. After tightening the clamp, we cranked the engine and it was evident the issue was resolved. We were motoring comfortably once again at 7 knots and making great time. With the engine and schedule back to normal, my spirits returned and I was finally able to enjoy the morning.
The rest of the crew, however, weren't feeling the same. Jenny spent the majority of the day sleeping away her sickness either in the cockpit or in the cabin while Jeff and Brian both sent their breakfast back to the sea after getting motion sickness shortly after the engine was fixed. Over the next few hours all three of them caught up on rest, and luckily Jeff and Brian both came around and were feeling better. I steered for a couple of hours and then Brian took the wheel and stayed there for the majority of the day.
It was exciting sailing up this part of the coast, since I was very familiar with every patch of beach and was able to identify where we were based on landmarks I knew. The majority of the day was spent finding these landmarks and just chilling in the cockpit. Once we passed Matanzas Inlet, I celebrated with a beer (and sacrificed one to Poseidon for thanks) and began to feel the sense of accomplishment that we were close to the end.
Matanzas Inlet
My family's old condo in Crescent Beach:
Nice boat
Jeff had found information about a spring off of Crescent Beach that we were aiming to pass and check out: click hereto learn about it. The coordinates on the website did not match the charted location of the spring, so we followed the chart. Unfortunately we didn't see it, but we did see two huge sea turtles we wouldn't have otherwise.
The winds finally picked up in the afternoon, and shortly before reaching the spring we cut the engine to sail the final 2-3 hours of the trip. Motor-sailing all day ensured we were going to make landfall in daytime, so the final hours of sailing were extremely enjoyable with no worries whatsoever. We arrived at the channel entrance around 5:30 and navigated our way inside. Once in protected waters, we lowered all sails and found a good spot to anchor right in front of the fort in downtown St. Augustine.
Ecstatic of our accomplishment, finally home after this long journey, we took some shots of good rum and jumped into the water for a rinse. The remainder of the night was spent drinking and celebrating the end of the journey. The view of St. Augustine at night is beautiful, and was better than any TV show I could have been staring at back at home. If I could have changed anything it would be to have had Jenny feeling better to join in the celebration. Unfortunately her stomach was still giving her problems and she had to rest the evening out.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
Bouy marking the entrance to St. Augustine inlet
Breakers on both sides of the channel
Pirate ship tour
Sunset at anchor
We raised the hook and crossed under the historic Bridge of Lions at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. We only had to go about 2 nm to Oasis Boat Yard, where I was scheduled to be hauled out the following morning. We motored to the yard and tied up to the dock shortly thereafter, and my parents met up with us to deliver my car. We didn't linger long, loaded the car and were off back to Titusville to drop everyone off and retrieve their cars. I came back to the boat after dropping them off to give Windsong an oil change before her long sit on land.
Heading through the Bridge of Lions.
Note: the shoe is our friend Shoe. We stole it from a buddy many years ago and sent him ransom pictures of Shoe in random places. It eventually started travelling with us so we could take pictures of it all over the place, even international. Think of it like the roaming gnome. Shoe now resides on Windsong and will travel with us.
Yours truly. Haggard from a long weekend.
Brian and Shoe
On Monday morning, after a long days rest, I went back to the boat yard with my Dad to watch them haul out Windsong and get a first view of the bottom. It was extremely wet that morning, and I was all dressed to go to work after the haul. Bad decision on my part, since they expected me to drive the boat into the lift. So we got drenched, but seeing her get hauled out was a joyous occasion for me. Though we couldn't get much of a good view of the bottom as they were still pressure washing it before we had to leave, it didn't look too bad! Not many barnacles had begun to grow with only a couple of months in salt water, but a lot of slime had to be blasted off.We left after one side was almost done being washed as I needed to go to work.