A rocket launch and the vagaries of the weather

We had discovered from the Space Coast Launches website that a rocket was going to be launched from Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening, so Ian identified a suitable place to anchor from where we would be able to get a good view. A few other boats had the same idea, and after dinner we sat up at the front of the boat in almost total darkness, except for a few lights and a faint orange glow from the direction of the launch pad.
The appointed hour came and went, and we began to wonder if we’d missed it, or were looking in the wrong direction. We checked the website again, and found it had been postponed by 15 minutes, to 8.59pm. As we watched, a globe of fire suddenly rose slowly and silently towards the sky. It was some time before we heard any sound, and even then it was surprisingly muted. We saw a couple of small balls of fire fall away, and then, suddenly, it was gone.
Even though we were 4 miles away, the immediacy made it compelling.
This image is from floridatoday.com

Rocket launch, 20th February 2014

Rocket launch, 20th February 2014

On Friday, the weather forecast was for thunderstorms later in the day, so we made an early start for Titusville, about 10 miles north of Cape Canaveral, and moored on one of the buoys at the City Marina. In the afternoon we took the dinghy for the half-mile trip to the marina.
Titusville had a rather depressed air about it and has apparently suffered economically since the termination of the Space Shuttle in 2012. It has a downtown, but as someone in the marina said to us, if we blinked we would miss it. However, we ventured to the Save-a-lot Grocery Store a few blocks from the marina, which, as might be expected, didn’t afford quite the same shopping experience as a visit to Publix or Wholefoods.
But the afternoon was brightened by the Sunrise Bakery, on the next block. From the outside it didn’t even look open, and inside was an unprepossessing collection of tables and chairs that reminded me of various student flats in the 1960s. But on sale was an array of artisan breads – I chose wild rice and sweet onion bread, and a bread and butter pudding to take back to the boat. The cakes and cookies looked appetising and free from any sinister ingredients, so we had hot tea and a cranberry scone before going back to the marina.
We were just in time. No sooner had we got back to Carina than the rain started, and all through the evening there were spectacular flashes of lightning, fortunately some distance away.

The next day we woke up to thick fog, and more thunderstorms forecast. There was no question of going anywhere, except possibly a quick trip to the marina if the fog cleared sufficiently.

Saturday morning at 9 o'clock

Saturday morning at 9 o’clock

Eventually at 10.30 we ventured out. Marinas vary in what they offer, and Titusville had very friendly staff and a free minibus service to the out-of-town stores a few miles away. So with another couple, John and Sue, who are also doing the Great Loop this year, we had yet another shopping trip, this time to a hardware store, always a source of fascination, and a Publix.
By the time we got back to the marina, the thunderstorms were well underway. We sat under the veranda by the dockside, sharing a bottle of Sam Adams and a packet of crisps, watching a manatee enjoying the downpour. After about an hour the rain stopped, Ian bailed about four inches of water out of the dinghy and we returned to Carina. The wind had got up though, and the water was so choppy that the waves crashed against the side and we got soaked anyway.

This morning the weather had cleared, though areas to the south of us were still fog-bound. and we set off for New Smyrna Beach, 30 miles to the north.

From the mooring at Titusville City Marina

From the mooring at Titusville City Marina


It’s odd how, after a few days on the boat, especially if we’ve been anchored or moored at a buoy, I can’t wait to walk about on dry land. But after a couple of days stuck in the same place, it’s a great feeling to be off, on the waterway again.
Indian River near Titusville

Indian River near Titusville


For the first ten miles we were still in the wide reach of Indian River, before passing through the short Haulover Canal, which leads to Mosquito Lagoon.
Entrance to the Haulover Canal

Entrance to the Haulover Canal


Island in Mosquito Lagoon

Island in Mosquito Lagoon

Our arrival at New Smyrna Beach wasn’t without drama. As Ian turned the boat to get into the dock, apparently without warning the wind caught Carina’s stern, and she swung alarmingly towards the other boats that were already tied up. There followed several minutes of frantic manoeuvreing, with the dockmaster pulling on various lines, and me fending off the adjacent boats, assisted by the owners of the next door boat, who turned out to be John and Sue whom we had met at Titusville and who had passed us along the way. Eventually all was safely sorted, with the only dent being to the Captain’s dignity.
‘Nice to run into you guys again,’ said John, with only the slightest hint of irony.

New Smyrna Beach Marina, with a manatee swimming in the dock

New Smyrna Beach Marina, with a manatee swimming in the dock

Sebastian Inlet

North of Wabasso, the waterway is very pretty, with numerous small islands as well as the longer barrier islands to the east.

The Intracoastal Waterway near Sebastian Inlet

The Intracoastal Waterway near Sebastian Inlet

We’ve seen a number of dolphins, but this is the first photo I’ve managed.
IMG_7965

But attractive though it was, I wanted to see the ocean on the other side of the islands. There was a possibility of mooring at Sebastian Inlet marina, from where we could have walked to the beach, but we had inconveniently used up all our wifi and the only way to get some more was to take a trip to the dreaded Walmart.
This in turn meant a marina from where we could at least get a taxi, so we carried on 10 miles north of the inlet to Melbourne and stayed at the marina there.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in Northumberland for nearly 30 years, or maybe all the holidays in Cornwall, but I still really wanted to see the proper sea, as opposed to the river inlet which we’ll be on for the next 200 miles.
You can’t really wander at will in the US, it seems, and probably you wouldn’t want to, given some of the wildlife. You have to see the wild places through the State Parks, and after a protracted discussion, it was agreed to suspend fiscal caution, stay another night in the marina, and hire a car for a day which would not only facilitate the shopping in the afternoon, but would allow us to drive 10 miles back down the island to Sebastian Inlet State Park

It was the right call. The ocean was awesome. We looked at the beach, and the birds, and Ian had a chat with some people who were fishing on the pier.

First view of the Atlantic at Sebastian inlet

First view of the Atlantic at Sebastian inlet

Pelican

Pelican


I think this is a Caspian Tern. He certainly didn’t mind having his photo taken.
Caspian tern

Caspian tern

This one’s for any Newcastle supporters who may be reading this.

Sheepshead Porgy

Sheepshead Porgy

We decided to walk along a 5km trail that would take us round the river shore and back across the island to the ocean shore. A nice Park Ranger advised us that we couldn’t possibly get lost, and insisted on giving us his insect repellent when we said we hadn’t got any.
He added a note of caution. ‘If you see an alligator on the path, don’t try to go past him. Just turn around and go a different way.’ You bet.
But apart from a few tantalising rustles and splashes, the wildlife were having a quiet day.

This is the river shore at the start of the walk.

The cove on the river shore, Sebastian Inlet

The cove on the river shore, Sebastian Inlet


Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus

The trail went along the top of a man-made dyke which had been put in to help prevent hurricane damage, but even so, the views were very limited because of the dense mangrove.

walking along the trail near the river shore

walking along the trail near the river shore

There was a very occasional break in the vegetation.

A brief glimpse of the river shore through the mangrove

A brief glimpse of the river shore through the mangrove


As we turned back away from the river, taller trees on the slightly higher ground formed a hammock.
Under the hammock

Under the hammock

We had another 2 km to walk back along the ocean shore. I think this is an agave, but I’m not sure. It seemed to be an escapee from the garden of one of the very few houses in the vicinity.

? Agave

? Agave

Back on the Atlantic shore

Back on the Atlantic shore


shells on the beach

shells on the beach


IMG_7990

Today we’ve travelled another 30 miles north and are moored close to Cape Canaveral, where a rocket is due to be launched in just under two hours’ time. There’s a fair bit of chop, so we are rocking and rolling a little, but we’re looking forward to seeing the action.