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The next morning, we started out from Palm Beach about 7:00 a.m. for a longer trek through some of the Treasure Coast, Jupiter, Hobe Sound, St. Lucie Inlet, and finally to Jensen Beach where we anchored.  There are many areas on the ICW where you cannot stop for the night to anchor because the water is not sufficiently deep outside the channel.  Sometimes you nudge the bottom, even if you stay in the channel, especially with our six-foot keel.

Approaching Jensen Bridge

The weather was particularly gray and rainy, unusual for this time of year, according to the locals.  Hurricanes brought a lot of clouds and rain in addition to the typical Florida afternoon showers.  Sometimes the showers started early afternoon and went  into the night.  On other occasions, the storm was all-encompassing.  We were progressing nicely, headed for our anchorage near Dragon Point.   As we sighted the 65' bridge, it disappeared in rain and fog called a white-out.  The white-out moved toward us, then enveloped us.  We could see nothing, no bridge, no land, no trees.  We had passed another boat and didn't know exactly where he was. The storm raged so fiercely that we didn't know where we were!  Rain pelted down and soaked us.  We finally dropped anchor to keep from being blown too close to land.  The boat secure, Bob went below and made a hot cup of coffee.  Finally, the fog began to dissipate and the bridge slowly came into a hazy focus.  Although it was late afternoon, the sky was steel gray and it appeared to be much later.  Drenched to the skin, we changed clothes, pulled the anchor up, and headed toward the bridge.  Once under the bridge, we located the huge pale green dragon guarding the Banana River where it flows into the Indian River. It reminded me of Dragon Park in Nashville.  A peaceful anchorage, dolphins circled the boat that night.

Entering and leaving Dragon Point

The next morning, we again left early and passed Cocoa, Titusville, NASA, Merritt Island, Merritt Island Refuge, and Mosquito Lagoon.   We had rather dreaded Mosquito Lagoon because of the name but it turned out to be a delightful area with many birds, dolphin swimming beside the boat, and mangroves and other vegetation along the way.  We slowly made our way back to civilization and into New Smyrna BeachMy brother Jimmy used to have a condo here and I visited several times.  It was a pleasant trip down memory lane, but quite different arriving by water.  I located a hotel/restaurant where I had dined on several  occasions.  It had a few slips and was conveniently situated on the ICW.   We pulled into the slip in pouring rain.  Bob did a masterful job at the helm.  Turns out that the woman who owns the hotel formerly owned the resort where we stayed in Marathon.  Small world....

The next day, Bob was going to change the oil in the engine, but the starter solenoid wouldn't disengage, a result of  the starter engaging while the engine was running a few weeks earlier.  He found a guy in Daytona who could rebuild the starter, so we rented a car and took the part to exchange it for a rebuilt one.  While we had wheels, we shopped for other parts as well.  Upon returning to the boat, Bob used a Dremmel tool to grind the burrs off of each of the hundreds of little gear teeth on the engine starter ring gear, replaced the part, and the engine started beautifully.  He then ran the engine long enough to warm the oil and drained it with a drill motor oil pump.  Now with clean oil, a new starter motor, and smooth gears, the engine started right up. 

We left the New Smyrna Beach hotel slip under an overcast sky, motoring along, rather complacent with our new-found experience navigating the ICW and smoothly running engine.  Quickly, the scenery changed from waterfront homes and condos to tropical foliage and mangroves.  The smooth passage also changed just beyond the north fork of the river going out to the ocean inlet.  We were going full-steam ahead into the ICW in the middle of the marked channel when the boat suddenly shuddered to a complete stop, the engine and all systems continuing to run full steam.  An alarm went off and kept sounding, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.  By process of elimination, we finally figured out the automatic pilot was still trying to drive the boat despite the fact that the boat was at a standstill.  Bob put on his mask and fins to dive and assess the problem.  We had run aground, all the way up to the rudder.  Bob swam around the boat to find enough water to back into.  It took a while, but thanks to the 85 hp engine, Bob powered us off the sand bar and into navigable water.  We were off again. 

We traveled through miles and miles of marsh, expanses of grasses in shades of forest green to chartreuse.   The channel cut through shallow water and was laid out like a super highway with posts, topped on the right by green squares and on the left by red triangles, each with a number.  The water was brownish and stained the bow of the boat as it cut through the choppy waves. After a while in the ICW, all boats sport an ICW mustache on the bow.  The guidebook explained that tannin from vegetation cause the color.  Explorers of olden times liked this water because the tannin helped preserve it when stored in casts, thus lasting longer than clear water.

We arrived in
St. Augustine about 5:00 p.m. and anchored in front of town in an anchorage with other boats.  The wind shifted, and after dark, we heard a horn blow.  The man in the boat near us said we were too close to him, that if our anchor slipped, we would hit him.  After some consideration, Bob agreed to move.  It was pitch dark on the water.  The wind was blowing and the current strong.  We had to raise the anchor and motor to another spot to drop the anchor and 200 feet of chain.  We did it without a hitch.   

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