We left Titusville in perfect weather. Since the wind was still from the south preventing a good sail along the coast, we continued down the ICW. This section of the ICW is separated from the Atlantic by locks and has no tide. It was unusually shallow because of the ongoing drought. Our depth alarm sounded at regular intervals, but by carefully aiming for center channel, we did not go around. As the day progressed, the winds on our nose became higher and higher. We called several marinas in Melbourne and Coco and all but one said that they were too shallow for our draft. Melbourne Harbor Marina said there would be no problem since they had dredged and had hosted an 8 foot draft boat. We worried about turning beam to the 30 knot wind in case we were to touch bottom and might be swept out of the channel.
As we turned down the entrance to their harbor, we immediately went aground in the center of their channel. We carefully backed off and plowed around through the shallowest parts of the mud and fought our way into our assigned slip where we were hard aground. The Harbormaster said that the water was low because of a "wind tide" resulting from the high winds.
Melbourne is a small town with a 60's neighborhood feel. A hint of it's atmosphere is the fact that Melbourne High's most famous alum was Jim Morrison. The locals are a mix of surfer dudes, sixties holdouts, and more recently, real estate agents. It is one of the last places along the Florida ICW to be discovered and developed. It has a number of good coffee shops, restaurants and a terrific used bookstore. One evening, there was a street fair starring Tres Bonos, a U2 coverband. Our Tuscan restaurant featured the Italian favorite song stylings of Tony . The end of the block was dominated by a drum circle of 21 players playing ferociously. It was a musical night! We had an enjoyable visit with Rana's Columbia College classmate Paul Ruddock.
Next, we went to Vero Beach and found our way through the tricky channel next to the bridge. Our assigned mooring ball had two boats already tied to it. We ended up sharing another mooring ball with SSCA Commodore Peter Smith and his wife, who were extremely gracious. In the morning, our starter and house batteries were all flat. We could not start the engine until the windcharger brought up the battery levels. As before, we checked the battery water levels (fine), alternator (fine), and any source of battery drain (none found). So, it was obvious that we needed expert diagnostic and repair before we went off to anchor in the Bahamas. We would also have to stay in marinas and use shore power until the repairs could be made. Bummer.
Most of the markers for the channel to Nettles Island had disappeared and had not been replaced. Every approach we made found the shallow bottom. Repeated radio and telephone calls to the marina went unanswered. After an hour of attempts, we found the channel and the marina. This is one laid back place!
The stretch of ICW to our marinas at North Palm Beach, Del Ray and Ft. Lauderdale have the heaviest concentration of bridges anywhere along the waterway. The bridge opening schedule listed in the various cruising guides had all been changed, but the bridge operators were most helpful and courtious. There was also many examples of remaining hurricane damage, as well asmany beautiful homes on the water.
We arrived at the Los Olas Marina in Ft. Lauderdale at midday. This completed a full circle for us, since we purchased Raven here six years ago. We were anxious to visit our favorite places which we had not seen since that time. Pussers Restaurant on the beach was first on the list for it's world famous painkillers. We got there to find that it had been sold and was now operating as TK's. The smaller menu still contained some good fish dishes, but the painkillers were not the same. However, after a few, that seemed not to matter quite as much. We also found that our favorite bookstore on Los Olas was gone and the Hyde Park Market was being torn down for condo development. Ft. Lauderdale seems to be in constant state of change as is most of Florida. That is not necessarily a bad thing, just different.