Moonlight Adventure

The story of our travels on board Moonlight, our Vancouver 36.


Friday 16th March 2012

Posted by yachtmoonlight on May 20, 2012 at 6:10 AM

We enjoyed a quiet weekend on the boat, John trying to get his rating back up on his Nintendo chess game (after I had trashed it by losing five games in row, very very badly) and I baked some muffins to use up a large bunch of over-ripe bananas.
On Sunday we had a walk around the fort, sitting on the wall to watch boats coming up and down the waterway and fishing boats motoring back, followed by awave of hungry seabirds.
St Augustine is a lovely town, but we were both keen to get going, just as soon as I had finished the dental treatment I needed.

(The fort in St Augustine)

John had a long four mile round trip to get the gas bottle filled up on Monday morning (the return trip being harder with a heavy full gas bottle!), while I walked across the bridge to the dentist to have the permanent filling completed. A nice easy, quick visit. Or so I thought. It turned out that there was still some nerve tissue in my tooth which needed to come out, so I ended up going through the whole root canal trauma (and a bucket full of anaesthetic) all over again and wobbled out of the dentist an hour later a quivering wreck.
I had planned to catch the bus to the supermarket after my appointment, bus as I was a little on the distressed, dazed and traumatised side, John met me on the bridge and came with me on the bus (after Tom from Juno kindly offered to drop the gas bottle back to Moonlight for him).
Back in the marina lounge, we bumped into Regina and Jonathan and after also seeing Dean on the dock, we realised that after feeling stuck in St Augustine over the past few weeks, we were actually quite sad to be leaving as we had made some good friends there.

After the dentist had (almost) convinced me that the toothache I woke up with on Tuesday morning was normal, we went alongside to fill up with fuel and then finally headed north up the Intracoastal Waterway.
The banks of the river were swampy in parts, with reeds and trees on small islands and although we didn’t see many birds, we got our wildlife fix when we spotted some small rays in the water by the boat.
We anchored in a river off the main waterway just a few miles north of St Augustine and sat on the foredeck watching herons and terns fishing on the riverbank.
As dusk approached, we heard a strange quiet tapping noise coming and going, which as the evening drew in became louder and more constant. Utterly baffled,we took it in turns to go up on deck, checking the lines, boom and rigging while the other stayed down below to shout when the tapping stopped, but whatever we tightened, loosened or lashed up, the tapping kept on going.
Whilst up on deck for the third time, I noticed a boat had anchored behind us in the river and there was a chap on deck looking around at his rigging with the same baffled expression we were sporting. It was then that we realised that the noise was actually coming from the water. A quick Google check later and we learned that it is a common phenomenon in the Waterway caused by ‘SnappingShrimps’!

We decided to stay in the anchorage on Wednesday, partly as it was such a beautiful, peaceful spot, but also because my tooth was still hurting and I didn’t want to be too far from a dentist!
After a nice relaxing day doing college work (me) and reading (John), we sat in the cockpit in the evening enjoying our sundowners and spotted a large bird in a tree on the small uninhabited island by the river. We grabbed the binoculars and were thrilled to find that it was a bald eagle. After a short time watching it sitting in the tree, the eagle took off, flew directly over the top of the boat and grabbed a small bird from a flock foraging on the riverbank before returning with it to its perch. The flock of birds shrieked as the eagle flew off with its dinner and when they were still shrieking a couple of minutes after the eagle (and their friend) had disappeared, my heart was breaking for them!

(The eagle as it flew over Moonlight)

With my tooth finally starting to feel better, we left the anchorage at 8am yesterday morning and headed north, past the island where we had spotted the eagle the night before and where we spotted a huge nest with two bald eagles a little further up the island.
As we travelled up the waterway we started spotting more and more birds including ospreys, pelicans, herons, a kingfisher, a red-shouldered hawk and so many bald eagles we lost count!

(An osprey nest)

The scenery around us changed from wilderness, to houses with boats on docks at the ends of their gardens and back to wilderness again, but the birds wereabundant all the way, even in the built-up areas.

(Bald eagles were plentiful, even in the built-up areas)

The river got wider as we travelled north and at one very scary moment, we spotted a large container ship heading towards us. The river was wide, but not that wide! Thankfully the container ship turned off to a port off the waterway and we didn’t have to worry about passing it in the channel!
As we passed the port, we saw some naval ships in a dry dock with a security boat keeping passing traffic away and three military helicopters were flying around nearby, which made a change from eagles.
When we passed one of the channel markers, we spotted an osprey nest in the middle and two little balls of fluff stared out at us as we passed by. I didn’t have my camera in the cockpit and by the time I had dashed down below to grab it, the tide was pushing us quickly past and it would have taken a long time to fight against it to get back, so I took a quick snap and we marked it on the chart to check out on the way back.

(The baby ospreys!)

The wildlife was abundant and as well as the birds, we also spotted more small rays tumbling past the boat in our wake.
After a lovely day on waterway, we turned off into a side river to anchor and enjoyed another peaceful night iin the wilderness that I never knew existed in Florida!

We had planned to leave early to ensure we left at high tide as the entrance to the river where we were anchored was very shallow, but we forgot to set an alarm and slept in. Ooops.
John woke up at 7.20am (20 minutes after we had planned to leave!) and noticed that the water level was lower than we would like, and so after a mad dash to get the anchor up we set off again and held our breaths as we passed over the shallow bar to get back into the waterway channel.
It was a beautiful misty morning, without a breath of wind or a ripple on the water and not another boat, house of human being in sight. The mist sat low over the land, with trees poking through it and the land reflected in the water like a mirror. It was truly magical.

(Mist over the waterway islands)

(Trees reflecting in the still water)

We pootled north at a gentle pace and the mist gradually turned into fog which got thicker and thicker until we couldn’t see the shore or any of the channel markers. It became impossible to carry on and so we anchored just out of the channel and waited for the fog to lift.
After 45 minutes we were back on our way when the fog had lifted enough for us to see the channel markers clearly. And we could see them very clearly, so we have no excuse whatsoever for drifting out of the channel and running aground about 30 minutes later.
Back down with the anchor and we had no choice but to wait for the tide to lift us off. So wait we did, for two hours, during which several large powerboats flew past us at huge speed, which wasn’t polite or helpful (or entirely surprising) and two sailboats passed who both offered to help, but there really wasn’t anything to do but wait.
The tide eventually lifted us off and we were back on our way and we both kept a much closer eye on the channel and the charts as we motored through some very narrow parts of the channel, which were scarily shallow in places! After alovely morning, we had a hot and stressful afternoon and we were both relieved to get to Cumberland Sound and into slightly deeper waters.
Our destination was Cumberland Island, which we had heard so much about and were really looking forward to seeing. We crossed the sound and as we headed off the waterway and up to the anchorage off Cumberland Island we heard a navy boat putting out a message on the VHF radio saying they had ‘an asset’ coming down the waterway and all boats should keep clear. We grabbed the binoculars to see what it could be and found that the ‘asset’ was a submarine, which was heading down the waterway and out to sea!
We dropped the anchor near the shore off Cumberland Island and a chap heading back to his boat from the island stopped by to tell us where to go ashore and his children told us they had found ten sharks teeth on the dirt tracks on the island, which we had heard are common finds as the tracks are made from dredged material rich in fossils.
We couldn’t wait to go ashore the next morning to explore the island.


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