Don’t Come Here! Covid issues take hold and we decide to shorten our trip.
350 Days Looping
5,056.2 Nautical Miles Total (5,818.6 Statute Miles)
50.7 Nautical Miles This Week
6.3 Hours Underway This Week
8.0 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks
Monday – Mar 23rd – 50.7 NM – To: Cocoa Beach, FL
We left Loggerhead in Vero Beach just before 9:00 and turned north on the ICW toward Cocoa Village Marina. Shortly after we got underway, my phone rang. It was Cocoa Village Marina telling us that due to Covid concerns, they were closing the marina to transients and were canceling our reservation. Well! That was short notice! We remembered seeing a large marina down the Canaveral Barge Canal called Harbortown when we took a ride the last time we stayed at Cocoa Village last year, so we called them to see if they were taking transients and had space available.
The good news is that they were taking transients. They emailed me a “Survey” that we needed to fill out before they would accept a reservation. It asked if we had been out of the country (specifically in the Bahamas), if we had any symptoms, and if we were US residents (no Canadians). We were able to answer all the questions correctly, and they gave us a reservation. The only hitch was that they were only taking one-week reservations. That was fine with us!
So, we updated our chart plotter and continued on. Harbortown was only a few miles farther on.
Just before we got to Cocoa, we caught up with Gyp-C who had left loggerhead about an hour before us this morning. We followed them under the Cocoa Bridge.
Just after passing under the Cocoa bridge, our original destination Cocoa Village Marina was on our port side. We recognized the water tower! We continued on, and after about a mile took a right down the Canaveral Barge Canal toward Harbortown. Harbortown is 2 miles down the canal under one lift bridge (which we were just able to go under without having it opened). We pulled in and went to the fuel dock to top off with fuel. We still had over half a tank, but we wanted to be sure to get fuel where we could as we didn’t know which marinas would be open going forward.
After filling up, we went to our slip and tied up for the week. When we went to check-in, we could not go into the office, had to stand 8 ft from the office window, and read out our credit card information out loud so they could write it down. This Covid stuff is going to get real old, real quick!
For dinner, we did chicken and corn on the grill.
Tuesday – Mar 24th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
On Tuesday we just hung around the boat. With the travel restrictions getting more severe and marinas closing or not allowing transient boaters, we made the hard decision to end our Great Loop trip early. We had planned to go to Jacksonville, Florida, and then spend two weeks exploring the Saint John’s River which goes back south to Sanford, FL. But it seemed that with the risk of infection and where most attractions and restaurants that we might want to visit were closed, the best thing to do would be to fast-track it home and wait for things to settle down again. We’re only about 7-8 days from this part of Florida, so coming back is not a problem.
We put together an itinerary for when we left Cocoa Beach, that would get us home in 7 days and I started calling marinas along the route to see who was open and taking transient boats. We got lucky in that marinas that we had stayed at in the past recognized the boat name, and made accommodations for us. We had to call a few in Hilton Head, South Carolina before we found one that would take us. In the end, we had a plan.
In the afternoon, we started hearing splashes all around the boat. We went out on the deck and saw that schools of fish were jumping out of the water. Something big must be chasing them around! I grabbed my fishing pole and tossed it in to see if I could catch anything.
Mostly, I was feeding fish my bait. I did hook one that I was able to land. I’m not sure what it was. It really doesn’t matter, I would never eat “marina fish”. There is too much “stuff” in the water.
By mid-afternoon, the temperature on the boat was over 80° as the sun was shining right into our back sliding doors. The boat next to us had a mesh sunshade stretched over the back of their boat to keep the sun off. I didn’t have a sunshade, but I did have a tarp, so I stretched it across the back of the boat to shade us from the sun. It worked a champ! When we get home I’m going to order a mesh sunshade.
For dinner, we did a Grub-Hub dinner and got delivery Pasta from a local Italian Restaurant.
Wednesday – Mar 25th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
Wednesday we were expecting Bethanny to arrive in the mid-afternoon. In the morning, I decided to try my hand at fishing again to kill some time. This time I used some different bait, hot dogs! Hot dogs were more successful. I caught a couple of good-sized catfish. Again it was catch and release, especially bottom-feeding catfish!
Bethanny arrived around 2:00 and we got her settled in and caught up with her. Since we had a car, we went out to the shopping and restaurant district of Merritt Island and found a place to get some dinner.
Thursday – Mar 26th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
Thursday we had Bethanny drive us over to the Cocoa Village Marina where we were supposed to stay. When we still had a reservation, I had some packages and our forwarded mail sent there. We had to call to make an appointment to pick up the mail. When we got there, I went to the office and knocked on the door. A person in what looked like a hazmat suit asked me what I wanted through the door. I explained who I was, and they gathered up my packages and had me move back away from the door, then set them outside so that I could get them. The packages were all stained and damp. The person explained that they had sprayed them with Lysol to kill the germs. Okay.
After picking up our mail, we went to Manatee Sanctuary Park, an outside venue that was still open. We walked around and did a few Geocaches. We saw a bunch of turtles but no manatees.
We had heard that there was going to be a space launch at 2:30 in the afternoon so we made sure to be back to the boat to watch. Harbortown Marina is less than 15 miles as the crow flies from the NASA Cape Canaveral Launch Pad.
We were watching on TV and ready with our cameras. At something like T -5 minutes, they had some sort of issue and put in a delay while they figured out where the error was coming from. After a half-hour of investigation, they decided to, well as the commentator put it, shut it off, and turn it on again. Well, it seems that the re-boot worked because just after 4:00 it blasted off. We saw it arcing up through the sky and about 30 seconds later, we started hearing the rumble! Very cool!
That evening, we had dinner on the boat and watched the moon rise.
Friday – Mar 27th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
On Friday morning we had breakfast, and Bethanny packed up to head back to Kissimmee. After she left, I decided to do a boat project. When we were in Key West, we got a complaint from the marina manager about the smell from our waste holding tanks. Newer boats have charcoal air filters on the tank vents to reduce the smell. Ours do not. I had ordered some (those were the parts that we picked up at the other marina), and since there was nothing else to do, decided to put them in.
The installation is fairly simple, cut the vent pipe. Attach two fittings with hose clamps. Screw the filter into the fittings. Easy! The issue is getting to the vent hoses. The hose for the front holding tank is pretty accessible. It’s inside a cabinet with a standard door, so it was just open the door, fish out the hose, and install the filter. The first one was done in about 15 minutes with no skinned knuckles or blood let.
The filter for the rear holding tank is another story. It is in a compartment behind a cabinet under the sink. To get to the compartment, you have to remove 12 screws. Disconnect an electrical outlet and pull it out of the cabinet by reaching into a small access door behind the toilet. Then lift out the fiberglass cabinet unit which barely fits in the small bathroom and get it out of the way.
Once that’s done, you crawl into the hole where the cabinet is, and then you can get to the hoses for the forward tank. While I was there, I took a look at another problem. The macerator pump that empties the tank was not working. It is not something that is used very often, only if you are more than 3 miles or more offshore. We tried to use it once just to test it out and it didn’t work. The issue was pretty easy to fix. Because it had not been used in a long time, it was just sized up. I disconnected the hose from the tank so that I wouldn’t pump waste into the marina and filled it with hot water, then turned the pump with a screwdriver until it got a bit loose, and pumped the water out. I then put some vegetable oil into the pipe and pumped that out to lubricate the pump. It seemed to work fine, so I put some more oil into the pipe and put everything back together.
By the time I got the cabinet back in place, my tools picked up, and the blood cleaned up on my several scrapes. It was time to take a quick shower and have dinner. We finished up some left-overs and I went to bed early.
Saturday – Mar 28th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
On the heels of my success with the filters and pump, I decided that since we were going to be running pretty hard to home, (and since there was not much else to do), I decided to change the oil in the engines. This involves warming up the engines, which makes the engine compartment where you are working very hot. (It was already 85° outside). Then you use an electric pump to pump the oil out of the engines as there is no accessible drain plug. This takes about 15 minutes per engine. Once the old oil is out, you change the filter, (which is a messy, drippy, process) and then pour 4 gallons of fresh oil into each engine. No matter how much you try, there are always drips, and spills that need to get cleaned up. Also, to change the filter on the Starboard engine, you have to crawl around the front of the engine and squeeze behind the hot engine to reach it.
I always estimate that it’s a 2-hour job, and it always takes 3-4 hours by the time everything, including me, is cleaned back up.
While I was in the engine compartment cussing and complaining, Brenda went up to the laundry and did a couple of loads.
Sunday – Mar 29th – 0 NM – In: Cocoa Beach, FL
Sunday was our last day at Harbortown. We really liked the marina. There is nothing within walking distance, but there are a lot of people there who live on their boats so there is always someone to talk to. We pretty much goofed off all day. The only project I did was to update the maps on our chart plotter which is a push a few buttons, then watch a counter for the next 4 hours and hope nothing goes wrong. The Wi-Fi at the marina was good but not great, so it took quite a while but finished successfully on the second attempt.
Next Week: Our last week on the loop. We return to South Carolina.
Tom & Brenda