Monday, June 20, 2011


From Green Cove Spring, Florida to Deltaville, Virginia--that is the challenge for contestants of the “The Greatest Race.” White Pepper was moored at Green Cove Springs and our car was still in a gas station parking lot in Deltaville. What to do? Air travel was too intrusive (“not my junk, you don't”). Besides the only cheap flights from Jacksonville were into Baltimore International. East coast types acknowledge that the trip from Baltimore to Washington by car is one of the worst experiences anyone can endure. Car rental from Florida was too expensive. Gas prices and inflation has emboldened car rental agencies to highway robbery. The bus was expensive and just too much. Jan and I settled on a hybrid solution of a courier to Jacksonville, a rail transit on Amtrak to Alexandria, VA, and then beg a ride from the kids to Deltaville. The price was the same as the airlines and much more convenient.

The Amtrak was a treat. It is like riding on a very large bus. The seats are huge and recline to almost horizontal. There is 110 AC on the wall so the computer can be used continuously if you have internet access which White Pepper does inside the USA. You can walk about and the bathrooms are large and clean. The fabled club car has regrettably been reduced to a snack bar. The best part was a relaxed attitude towards alcohol. Beer is sold in the club car and carry on liquor is allowed in moderation. Jan had packed a vial of rum and tonic, ice in a cooler, crackers and blue cheese. We had a positively delightful happy hour as the red dirt of southern George rolled past. Later she brought out tuna fish sandwiches for dinner. By lights out I was a happy camper and actually able to sleep off and on during the night.

We got on the train at 7 pm which was 2 hours late, but arrived on time at Alexandria, VA at 7 am a little tired but ready for the day. All in all the train ride was no worse than a mild overnight night passage offshore.

Indian River

Readers with good memories will remember earlier posts about the Indian River. It is a delightful body of water along Florida's East coat, but it is not a river. It is a sound that separates the Florida coast from its barrier islands. Texas readers will identify the Laguna Madre as a similar body of water. The Indian River is about 120 miles long by half to 8 miles wide by about 5 feet deep. It is protected and provides an easy transit along the central Florida coast.

White Pepper picked up the Indian River at the Fort Pierce Inlet and traveled 20 miles north to Vero Beach. There we rested and waited for mail for 13 days. With free bus service and excellent shopping Vero is hard to leave. The wind persisted briskly out of the NE for most of the time. This wind makes for excellent lounging about and beach going but is not suitable for traveling offshore to the north. Eventually we had to pack up and start north up the ICW along the Indian River route. We stayed at a favorite anchorage in the Banana River. Then we stopped at Cocoa which is across from Cocoa Beach. Cocoa has a delightful historic district and park. We regretted only spending one night at Cocoa ; however, the weather had finally turned favorable for an offshore passage.

To access the Atlantic Ocean White Pepper had to traverse the Saturn Barge Canal to Cape Canaveral. This canal is known to cruisers as the Cape Canaveral canal. The western end of the canal is just north of Cocoa. About 13 nautical miles long, it is simple to traverse. There are two basqule bridges and one lock. The lock is the key to the easy access to the Atlantic as it negates any currents. The Cape Canaveral inlet is one of only 5 reliable all weather inlets along the entire eastern Florida coast. Besides an interesting ride White Pepper was rewarded with sighting about a dozen manatees. In particular they seem to enjoy the lock. We sighted several playing in the wash as the lock opened and closed. A little research on the internet showed that the manatees are enjoying the protection of the Kennedy Space Center at the top of the Banana River. In their simple way the manatees have learned that they are safe here and come to breed. I pray that the death of the space program does not lead to the death of the manatees in the shadows in the empty gantries.

Offshore the wind was light from the east and southeast—favorable, but too light to fill the sails. We had to motor sail to the St. John River on an easy but boring overnight passage. The St. John River is one of the the other 5 reliable all weather inlets and the subject of another post.