The eastern coast of Florida has been quite the joyful discovery for us. Each town has had its own charms, and we continue to be amazed at how much we’ve enjoyed our travels in the 6th state of our sailbatical. An added bonus has been the absence of hours spent calculating tidal changes and shoaling “trouble spots” along the ICW that monopolized many blog posts in the Carolinas and Georgia. Along the central east coast of Florida we haven’t needed to sweat that stuff. And that’s been quite a relief!
Instead, we’ve focused our attention on the quaint towns and beautiful scenery as we continue south. After leaving the Space Coast, we entered the Treasure Coast, apparently receiving its name from the 1715 Treasure Fleet. On July 31, 1715, a hurricane off the coast of present-day Vero Beach claimed the lives of 1,000 sailors and 11 of 12 ships of the Spanish Treasure Fleet. Silver coins and other treasures washed up on nearby beaches while pirates and others have literally, or imaginatively, searched for the sunken ships. Remember the 1977 movie The Deep? Or Fool’s Gold in 2008? We haven’t discovered of those treasures yet. But we have found other gems along the Treasure Coast.
Cocoa Beach had been on our “must visit” list for quite awhile, especially after our brief car visit on Day 91. We phoned ahead to make a reservation for a few nights in the Cocoa Village Marina.
Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had sights on this cute village. Due to a fishing tournament followed by a 15-boat club event, we were only able to secure one night, on Day 126. But hey, we took the one-night slip, with plans to revisit Cocoa on our return journey. We were delighted to learn that our brief visit would overlap with friends Cathy and Mark on Avalon! Another opportunity to play Euchre, and hear about their Treasure Coast adventures.
We were also able to reconnect with Christina and Bob on Dreamtime, a Gozzard 37 (see blog post Days 47-48, December 2015). They have been enjoying Cocoa Village as their winter happy place, the way we enjoyed NSB. And we have to admit: the marina here is top notch, with an amazing boater’s lounge, bathrooms/showers, laundry, and proximity to town. We’ll be back!
Next stop was Eau Gallie, within the city limits of Melbourne. Due to weather, we opted to stay at a marina rather than anchoring out. Hoping to conserve some cruising funds, we made reservations at the economical Eau Gallie Yacht Basin Marina. It was a bit more rustic than we anticipated, though its proximity to town was awesome and the liveaboards we met were friendly. Eau Gallie is considered the arts district of Melbourne, and wow, was it! Beautiful buildings, an active art community, a vibrant music scene, and good food.
We especially enjoyed the restaurant Squid Lips with its tropical feel, complete with a sand beach and Adirondack chairs. We had hoped to watch a rocket launch from there, but Cape Canaveral scrubbed the launch—two nights in a row! Bummer!
Perhaps the best discovery in Eau Gallie was its public library, right on the water, next to Squid Lips. What a great place to write and get some work done! Yes, we still have a small bit of consulting work, and Dudley had agreed to help a customer with a webinar since we were stationary. So I arrived when the library opened, secured a small study room with an amazing view, did a bit of work myself, and then yielded the room to Dudley for his mid-day webinar. The wifi was strong, and the library was quiet, so perfect conditions for facilitating a broadcasted learning session. We can’t always be assured of those qualities at a marina, and coffee shops are never quiet, so the library was simply perfect.
On Day 131, we sailed to Vero Beach. Actually, we did sail for about 15 glorious minutes because the Indian River has depths that supported a sail, and the wind was coming from a good direction. But the rest of the time we motored, as we have for 99.99% of our journey down the ICW.
Our non-sailor friends find it surprising that our sailbatical has not really been a sailing opportunity for us. But the ICW is affectionately called “the ditch” for a reason. While parts of the ICW meander down natural rivers that are deep and wonderful, much of the ICW is dredged to maintain a controlling depth of 12’ at mean low water. Supposedly. But in many places, the “ditch” isn’t that deep, due to funding issues, shifting sands, and a myriad of factors. And the ditch isn’t that wide. Take a look at these screen shots from our Garmin Bluecharts with ActiveCaptain overlays.
You’ll see what appears to be a wide expanse of blue water, but our boat has to stay within the narrow ditch due to shallow waters on either side. Belle Bateau’s draft is 5.5 feet and the blue water around the white “ditch” is not even 5 feet in many places along the ICW. The ditch is sometimes just wide enough for two boats to pass. And that ditch doesn’t usually support sailing, with all the tacking, aka zig zagging, that sailboats often do. Alas.
So we arrived in Vero Beach and anchored for two nights (#1) rather than taking a mooring ball in the crowded harbor (#4). They put more than one boat on moorings there, and we weren’t feeling that social. We also chose to take the dinghy to a public park (#2, on the mainland–not the island) and walk ½ mile to the grocery store (#3) rather than take the dinghy to shore (at #4) then catch a bus to get groceries. But it’s quite nice that in Vero Beach sailors have that bus option!
The Publix grocery store was located in a mega shopping area so we had lunch at Panera Bread, and I averted my eyes from the Chico’s store. There’s simply no more room on the boat for anything but consumables! We didn’t venture to the beach this time (#5), since we had visited by car in January.
On Day 133, we left for Fort Pierce, a short distance away. We secured a slip in the city marina for a few days, and immediately walked the town. There was a good vibe, with tiki bars, a waterside public park, a decent coffee shop, and a weekday farmers market. We even saw our first manatees (sadly, no photo, except for the manatee sculpture).
We’ll rest here for a few days, look at the weather, and decide if we’ll head further south, or cross the Gulf Stream, or decide to head north. Whatever the decision, we have certainly discovered a few gems along the Treasure Coast of Florida. Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud!