Barge on In

Saturday March 9, 2013

Our second day of traveling put us right in front of a barge when we left our anchorage, and also much closer than we thought to our first lift bridge. Even though we were a good half mile in front of the barge, the bridge tender ask that we wait off to the side until the barge had passed under the bridge, and then we could follow him. Obliging, we stepped in line behind the barge, ready for it to take off at 10-15 knots as soon as it was clear, since that’s what they always seem to do. Not the case on this one. We had already only been traveling at 2000 rpms and had to back it down to 1800 behind this guy. It was a good thing the currents had picked up and we were still traveling at close to six knots, or else we would have been pulling our hair out getting stuck at such slow speeds first thing in the morning.

 We tailed the barge for the good part of five hours, always waiting for an opportunity to pass but one never came. In the area we were traveling through, although the waterway itself was quite wide, the channel was very narrow with 2-4 foot depths on each side. Trying to pass him in most areas meant a very good chance of running around. So we accepted our 5.5-6 knots and kept our eyes out for an opportunity. Finally one presented itself after we had gone under yet another lift bridge and the channel widened out in a straightaway. Calling them on the VHF, we gave our intentions to pass them on their port side, and while they gave their permission for this, did not sound too happy that they’d have to temporarily slow down while we passed. Making it past them in just under two minutes and wary for a moment that we might have to play chicken with a northbound sailboat heading our direction, we slid in front of the barge keeping our speed on full. It wasn’t until we had gotten just in front of them that I realized our Waterway Guide showed yet another lift bridge just two miles ahead of us, and we were worried that once again we’d be pushed to the side while they passed through first. Luckily, upon closer inspection, I read that this was a lift bridge for a railway and was only down if there was a train coming. We still had eight miles to put the barge behind us and hope he didn’t catch up.

Eventually leaving him in our dust, we took a look at Florida’s Space Coast surrounding us. We were still a ways in from the ocean and couldn’t make out any sights there, but what we did see off in the distance was the Kennedy Space Center. Barely making forms from the haze, we could see the launch pad and control tower. It would have been a fun place to stop and visit, but we had a schedule to keep and needed to get south ASAP. Keeping our engine running high until we had crossed under the last lift bridge for the day, we scoured Skipper Bob’s and our Waterway Guide for a suitable anchorage that night in Coco. We ended up getting there quite early, around 3:30, and if we didn’t have errands to run around town we could have made it another 15-20 miles south. But after a stripped bolt and a leaking packing box, a stop at Home Depot was needed to replenish some supplies. At least we had made it three days this time without visiting one instead of the normal two.

Today there wasn’t much happening on the water.  There were areas it turned from a murky brown to a brilliant blue green, and it made me smile thinking we were that much closer to the Bahamas.  With a little wind off our port side, we were able to unfurl the headsail and do a good bit of motor-sailing through the day.  The intended anchorage for the night was Fort Pierce, and I wanted nothing more than a little extra speed to get us there early and give us a little time to relax.  You could definitely tell it was a weekend since there were power boats galore out, speeding past and throwing up huge wakes that we had to turn into to keep from viciously rolling from side to side.  There were a few nice ones though too, that would slow their boat just before they got to us to allow their wake to fall off.  Looking back at it, I think the worst offenders for throwing off the big wakes were Sabre power boat owners.  Not only would they fly by at 30 knots, but it’s almost like they wanted to play a game of chicken and see how close they could get without hitting us.  Damn Sabre owners.  Someone needs to lock them up.

A really crappy shot of the Kennedy Space Center.

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