John and Cindy yelled, “Abort! Abort! as I steered Dolce Vento toward a fixed bridge about 10 miles north of Daytona under gray skies burdened with a damp, chilly wind. With a hard turn to port and a burst of reverse then a strong thrust to forward, we averted a disaster meeting of bridge and mast. The bridge board that measures the air height between the underside of the bridge and the water was barely reading 63′ and we needed 64′. Holy Moley! as my dad might say. Despite carefully tide and timing calculating, we were completely caught off guard. How could this reliably “safe” fixed bridge (65′ clearance at Mean High Water), suddenly become not passable?
Our attempted anchor on the north side of the bridge put us aground on a sandbar. The Boat US captain who towed us off that sandbar (that’s three times so far) explained the situation and we learned that we were not the only sail boat of fools. He also showed us a hidden anchorage that would keep us safe, out of the channel and not on a sandbar for the night, until low tide the next morning.
It was all about the Super Moon. A super moon occurs when a full moon coincides with the point in its orbit at which it is closest to Earth. When this happens, tides become extreme giving the ICW water has no place to go except up as it is pulled by the gravitational force (closeness) of the moon. On the ICW that means bridges with 65′ Mean High Water (aka high tide) clearance suddenly had only 62′- 63′ feet clearance at low tide.
Most likely you stood out in the cold air, awed by this December 2017 Super Moon. It certainly made for breath taking photos and sky watching. We certainly peaked through our hatches to admire it. However, at dawn the next morning, at the very lowest tide, we scraped through under the bridge. Then, 10 miles later, just north of Daytona’s three fixed bridges, we anchored, totally unable to proceed, stopped in our tacks, captured like a wild animal, for Super Moon reasons. The weather was warm and the sun shined, but we frustratingly wanted a solution beyond waiting for three days for the Super Moon to vanquish itself and the water to recede. As each sail boat passed we radioed, asking them to report the latest clearance reading on the bridge board and give us the height of their mast. Boats with masts 2′-4′ lower than ours reported barely scraping through.
Impatient to wait any longer, I called Boat US to ask them for piloting help. We expected them to pull our mast over at an angle to lower it so we could be pulled through the opening. Our surprise, Scott, our stunningly talented Boat US pilot arrived late afternoon. At low tide he was able to “hip tow” us ever so slowly at an angle through the three fixed bridges. We had at least 2″ to 3″ to spare. We all had goose bumps.
We’re moving now that the Super Moon is gone. Fixed bridges are once again manageable. The next Super Moon is January 2, 2018. Dolce Vento will be safely tucked away at the Riviera Beach Marina and John and I will be visiting friends and family up north.
As snow falls back home in metro DC, we are reminded that 60 degrees and sunshine is not so bad. It’s looking a lot more like Florida every day. Cindy and I ate lunch at the ocean the other day in New Smyrna Beach, enjoying fish sandwiches and afternoon libations while, back on the boat, John toiled on a irksome, intense, mind numbing consulting project using my computer because his had a near death experience. Resuscitation requires a week long hospital stay with the Geek Squad. Even adventuring has it bad days whether it’s broken technology or Super Moons.
Daytona Bridges — the beauty and the wait
Daytona Bridge — the rescue
Waterway sights, Cindy’s friends at a St. Augustine farmer’s market, and sculptures in Daytona.