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Old 26-12-2012, 15:33   #1
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Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

Waiting for a weather window when we'll continue our trip around Florida.

For the next leg, I'd like to do a 48 hour push from Beaufort to Ponce de Leon Inlet for an overnight and refuel. Second leg is planned to Ft Lauderdale, Third to Key West.

This is pretty much a first for us on the outside. We transited the Chesepeake but decided to stick with the ICW at Norfolk due to foul weather outside.

What advice does the forum have to offer regarding our first leg...specifically recommended ports. I'm comfortable that we can make a daylight landing anywhere between Fernandina to Ponce...if not, we can just continue to Fort Lauderdale. I'd rather stop though to give the crew a break.

Active Captain has been a HUGE asset to us as we have journeyed so far and there are a some definite pointers on there regarding Ponce and St Augustine. From what I've read here and on AC, I think Fernandina would be a fairly simple stop. St. Johns/Jax is big with fewer places to stay near the inlet. St Augustine has some somewhat ominous postings on here...I'd rather avoid. We have a 6' draft. Ponce isn't entirely simple with most people seeming to recommend heading south vs. north once inside due to draft/shoaling issues. I'm gonna call TowBoat US to see if what they have to say about it since they look to be located to the north of the entrance.

Any sage thoughts?
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Old 26-12-2012, 15:56   #2
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

The weather is your biggest concern. Don't fight it. Go inside when the weather is not cooperating for the outside run. Fernandina/St. Mary's River is a big ship inlet, well marked, and pretty much all weather--submarines use it. St. John's River inlet is fine, and from there you can do the ICW down to St. Augustine, with a nice anchorage near Pine Island (undeveloped). I personally do not recommend St. Augustine inlet unless the weather is clear, and wind and seas are down. They shift the buoys there very often, in order to accommodate the shifting sands. A big power boat went up on the beach there a few weeks ago. Cape Canaveral is all weather, with plenty of marinas inside and anchorages not far away. After that the best inlets are Ft. Pierce, Palm Beach (Lake Worth Inlet), Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. Ponce inlet is used a lot, especially by local boaters, and there is a CG station right there, but I wouldn't do it in bad weather. Yes, head south once inside.
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Old 26-12-2012, 16:22   #3
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

i live in the ponce inlet area and regularly transit it.

IT IS NOT AN ALL WEATHER INLET!

there, i said it. wind against tide can result in truly steep overfalls and confused seas at the mouth of the inlet and for several hundred yards in. and they can come up suddenly. whatever you do, don't allow yourself to be turned sideways, as the rocks and shoals are fairly close at that point. there is a large shoal running the length of the inlet on the south side. the north side is a long unforgiving rock jetty. just the fact that ponce inlet is a choice spot among the surfing crowd should tell you something about it. it is well bouyed but the coast guard station at the inlet spends a lot of their time moving the bouys around. because of that many of them are floating and not easily visible in rough seas. and worst of all, you really can't tell the true conditions until you're nearly committed to the entry. just a few years ago a 70' motor yacht went up on the rocks at night, drifted onto the south shoal, and was hauled away in dump trucks with the aid of a crane. we've sometimes waited outside hours for tide changes to alleviate the conditions before entering. scare you yet?

on nice days it's an easy entry. notice i said 'days'. few attempt it at night, not even locals, except in small fishing boats. just stick to the north side. follow the bouys around to the south once well inside. don't go up the north channel unless you've been through there before. lot's of shoal areas. going around to the south will bring you into new smyrna beach. there is a drawbridge there. past that there are a couple of marinas (nearly always full) but you can go on past them to join the icw. turn south and go under the fixed overhead bridge and you'll come to an anchorage on your port side. there's also a yacht club there if you have reciprocal but i can't ever remember them having visitors space.

i haven't been through st augustine in two years but friends have and tell me it's quite an experience now. both managed to hit bottom in the trough of a wave as they came in on what appeared to be exactly the correct line. and the number of bouys around just inside the pass can be downright confusing to a newcomer.

so what's better? jacksonville is wide and well marked. you can pick up the icw once inside and past the navy base, or you can continue on and get some FREE docking in dowtown jax. south of ponce is cape canaveral, also wide and well marked thanks to the cruise ships based there. there are a couple of giant marinas as well. but if you want to go on to the icw you'll have to run several miles west AND go through an actual canal lock (which will help you prepare for the panama canal, if you're so inclined).

closer to home, if you happen to pass through daytona beach there's a nice anchorage just to the west of red 44. you'll see a dozen or two local boats there and more during the migratory season. depth is about eight feet, soft mud over sand. fair winds and following seas...
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Old 26-12-2012, 16:37   #4
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

Thanks folks. I'll certainly let weather and tide guide our decisions if we decide to try Ponce...might just avoid the stress and plan to stop short at Fernandina. I called the BoatUS rep at Ponce. Nice gentlemen who passed some advice on the Inlet. I had picked a fuel stop on the north of the entrance...He said it wouldn't be a problem and he could come and guide me in if we felt we needed it.
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Old 26-12-2012, 17:07   #5
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Regarding canaveral; the lock is under repair and closed weekdays from early morning till evening, and there's no anchorage in the outer area only marinas
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Old 26-12-2012, 17:29   #6
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

I once pulled a 300' container barge into Ponce, during daylight hours, a very nice town, at night there was music and dancing down by the yacht side, little bodegas selling food and drinks, seemed like a very congenal place, have it marked down as a place I want to visit on my sailing vessel so that I have more time to explore. The weather was good when we made our entrance and had no problems navigating.
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Old 26-12-2012, 17:31   #7
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

I came in at St. Augustine a month ago with no problem, but only because (a) I got a look at the current buoy placement on Salty Southeast Cruiser's Net (http://cruisersnet.net/?s=st.+augustine+inlet&cat=-6&x=21&y=12) and (b) I talked to the local TowboatUS operator (904-669-1923) for a briefing on how enter the inlet.

Salty Southeast provides a wealth of information on ICW problem spots, but you have to look around the web site for stuff--it isn't always found where you might expect it.
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Old 26-12-2012, 17:55   #8
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

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Originally Posted by captain58sailin View Post
I once pulled a 300' container barge into Ponce, during daylight hours, a very nice town, at night there was music and dancing down by the yacht side, little bodegas selling food and drinks, ----
I've got to ask, are we talking about the same Ponce, as in the inlet at Daytona Beach, Fl.?
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Old 26-12-2012, 18:07   #9
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

67Therapy -

St. Augustine inlet has just been dredged recently, depth should not be a problem. The channel has a bit of a dogleg, might not want to use it at night or in poor viz. SeaTow is a very helpful source of current info.
Both Ponce inlet and St. Augustine require care and preferably good conditions. If you use Ponce inlet definitely head south on the ICW rather than going up the north channel from the inlet.
Jacksonville and St. Marys River (Fernandina) are class A inlets. I've gone into Jax in godawful conditions and was happy to be there.
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Old 26-12-2012, 18:29   #10
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

ponce inlet is south of daytona beach/port orange, just north of new smyrna beach.

67therapy - if you decide you just have to go north inside the inlet for fuel, here's what to look for;

after coming in the inlet heading west you will eventually be turned south. you can continue south to the drawbridge as i described above, or turn right to go north up the halifax river and to the fuel dock you've heard about. just don't turn right too quickly.

a few hundred yards past the 'turn to the south' you will observe about a dozen poles in line sweeping around to the north. these mark the eastern edge of a shoal that extends off the land and into the halifax river. to the left of these poles you will observe two red floating bouys; these mark 'disappearing island', a very large shoal on the western side of the halifax river. your job is to head up the halifax without going onto either of these shoals. i usually aim for a distant sign warning that you are entering a slow speed manatee zone, but unless you know where the sign is it's not always easy to pick it out against the backdrop. 'disappearing island', is of course visible at low water and not at high water, and the scene of numerous beerfests on summer weekends. favor the side with the poles. follow this course up the river, staying to your right as you go, and you will quickly see a few marinas ahead. aim for them. DO NOT aim for the marina that comes up on your right as you pass the last pole. you will also eventually spot some more floating red bouys which mark the rather narrow channel up the halifax river. don't go west of them as you will quickly run aground; nice to know that sea tow is right there if you need them. in order to accomplish the above procedure you will have to come perilously close to some rather large yachts at dock, so keep a close eye on other peoples wakes.

there are some fuel docks and restaraunts there as well as two working boat yards. also the 'famous' ponce inlet lighthouse which you can climb if you're in need of excercise. coming back down the river to head for new smyrna beach, be sure to backtrack as closely as you entered. get well out past the two floating red bouys that mark disappearing island before picking up the markers that will lead you back to the drawbridge, as the shoal extends farther than the bouys indicate.

have a safe trip.
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Old 26-12-2012, 19:25   #11
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

NO Ponce, Puerto Rico.
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Old 26-12-2012, 19:26   #12
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

Sorry, brain fart, didn't read the OP very carefully. I have a slight case of "old timers disease." Apologies for the confusion.
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Old 26-12-2012, 19:52   #13
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

Captain58 -
No worries, I suffer from the same malady.
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Old 27-12-2012, 06:31   #14
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

Ha. Thanks to all for the advice and knowledge.
Capt58...I've also been diagnosed with CRS..."Can't Remember...Stuff"...when I get near PR, I try and remember not ask the same question about that inlet...if the CRS doesn't kick in!
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Old 27-12-2012, 06:40   #15
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Re: Overnight Advice - Fernandina to Ponce Inlet

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Originally Posted by gettinthere View Post
Regarding canaveral; the lock is under repair and closed weekdays from early morning till evening, and there's no anchorage in the outer area only marinas
I'm in Melbourne FL at the moment and came through the locks a couple of weeks ago in the early afternoon and no one said anything about restricted openings. We had some friends who came through yesterday at 14:30. one of the west gates isn't working and you have to squeeze between it and a barge to get out west bound. It's a bit tight but we got through with a 44 foot boat and a 19 foot beam.
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