We had three very annoying days last week.
On March 29th, we sailed from New Smyrna Beach, headed for Fort Matanzas at the Matanzas river inlet. Upon arrival we turned from the channel and headed down river toward the fort. Less than 100 metres from the ICW we hit a sandbar. We plowed over it without stopping but I decided that I didn't want to risk hitting another. A hard turn to port and we swung around 180 degrees, headed back to the ICW channel. A few minutes later we were safely back into the channel and continued northbound. This now left us with a predicament. Searching our "Captain Bob's Anchorages" book, along with our local charts, our chartplotter, and even the Active Captain website failed to reveal any more anchorages within 3 hours of us.
About an hour's north, after passing the Satellite Beach drawbridge, we decided to pull off the channel and inch in to the mud flats. It was already low tide so we found a shallow channel in, and anchored in about 1.5 metres of water. Our draft is 1 metre so this left only about 50 cm of water under the keels, but since it was already low tide, we were good.
During the night, the tide came in, rotated us on our chain, and floated us over another sandbar. The tide then receeded leaving us in 60 cm's of water. That's 40 cms less than we need to float. ARGH! By 7 am we were up and ready to go only to find we were high and dry. We waited as the tide slowly came in. Around 11 am the hulls started lifting a little, rocking on each wave. By 11:30 pulling on the anchor line started moving the boat forward. We quickly fired up the engines, with Kyle pulling up the anchor as fast as he could, I put it in gear and powered forward. The boat was slugish at first, but within 10 metres she was completely free and moving into the channel. We were free and moving.
Two hours later we arrived in St. Augustine and pulled in at River's Edge Marina. They were pretty filled up so they had to keep us on the pump-out dock. Nearly every marina we have visited has the pump-out dock on the end of one of their docks, in the deepest water, closest to the channel, and easiest to get to. Not so at River's Edge. We had to maneuver between two docks right to the sea wall. The toughest part was that they had some very large yachts out in the deepest water and the entrance was narrow as a result. But Sail Quest is a VERY maneuverable boat. We did a 90 degree port turn in our own length to turn in towards the sea wall, squeezed between all the large yachts, and upon reaching the pump-out dock, a 90 degree starboard turn in our own length to place the port side gently alongside the dock.
The marina is an excellent little marina. They have all the regular facilities you would expect, pump-out, showers, laundry, washrooms, and a book exchange (got some excellent books too). They also have an onsite restaurant (Hurricane Patty's Grill) that gives 15% off to people at the marina, and an on-site boating store. They are also a short walk to the old downtown area, and stores and shopping (Home Depot, Winn-Dixie, West Marine).
The next morning we got up a little late. Our plan had been to leave for 7:45, as the Bridge of Lions (about 35 minutes further along) opens only on the 1/2 hour. Well since we were late getting up we pushed back our departure by 30 minutes, and at 8:17 were heading for the bridge. We arrived behind a small catamaran, with two monohulls behind us, only to find there were already 3 or 4 monohulls circling waiting for the 9 am opening. There was a modest current of about 2 knots heading towards the bridge, so all the monohulls were doing loops and jostling positions to keep themselves from drifting into the bridge. The catamaran ahead of us, and we, just put our engines in slow reverse and sat there waiting for the bridge. By the time the bridge opened 10 minutes later a whole armada of boats were waiting. The first three boats through were the small cat, us, and a large Lagoon cat that were all lined up ready to go. The monohulls all sped through after us, a total of 13 boats. There was a poor catamaran waiting to head southbound that had to sit and wait for this stream of boats to get through. Most of the boats headed out to sea as it was race day in St. Augustine and they were either watching or taking part.
We continued north along the ICW, following the Tolomato river. About 6 miles later, with our sails up and flying at about 6 knots, we ran aground. ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?! We were in the channel, near green marker 35, and the boat came to a complete stop. We doused the sails first. Next we put down the dinghy and carried the anchor out and set it. We tried, unsuccesfully, to drag ourselves off the sandbar. They we tried reversing off and started inching backwards (Note to self, try reversing first!). Well it took about 15 minutes but we got ourselves off the bar. We had contacted an incoming yacht who stayed back and waited for us to get moving (and find some deeper water). Just as we were recovering the anchor a speedboat came zipping along. Obviously they had no radio as they just flew past us right over the sand bar. We were half expecting to see them come to a sudden stop, but they made it passed.
Once we were done we headed back north again and reported it to the Coast Guard. A southbound yacht also heard us talking to the Coast Guard and asked for more info so we told them how they could get passed the bar without hitting it.
This was un-nerving and very frustrating, three groundings in 2 days.
By the end of the day we had made it back up to Sister's Creek, on the north side of the St. John's river. We spent three days there, and helped two other boats tie up. The current along the dock can get pretty strong and if you are not experienced it can be easy to damage your boat. We met another nice couple, Bruce & Kathy Whyte, aboard S/V Aussie Mate. They were on their way back north to Georgia.