Before long, darkness had descended. The long night watch had begun. Cindy and I alternated with roughly 2 1/2 hour watches throughout the night. I slept from 9:00-11:30 and from 2:00-4:30, while Cindy slept from 11:30-2:00 and from 4:30-7:00. While one slept, the other was on watch, mainly looking for potentially collisions with other traffic. I saw two large cargo ships on my first watch. One passed within about a mile and half in front of us. Cindy saw nothing on her first watch, but her second watch was full of lights from large vessels off in the distance. She awoke me several times, as I asked her to, if she had any concerns about how far they were away or where they were headed.
On our approach into Port Canaveral we were surrounded with lights from several vessels. This port is a very busy cruise ship destination. We and five cruise ships were all bearing down on the port entrance at, more or less, the same time. I was in radio contact with the port pilots on three of the vessels as we approached. They were making sure I knew what they were doing and where they were going… And I was making sure they knew I was there and that I knew what they wanted me to do. We were fifth in line of a procession of vessels entering the port, in the following order: Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Sunshine, Carey Beatitude, and Carnival Sensation. One of these things is obviously not like the others. As we entered the port with the Sensation right on our stern, I heard the pilot radio the port police to make sure the sailing vessel in front of him stays way off to port and out of his way. With the floating city bearing down on us, I didn’t need any reminding. If nothing else, all the cruise ship traffic really helped to keep me awake and alert! It was still dark when we made our way through the port. The sun didn’t rise until after we had cleared the first of three drawbridges for the morning.
We used our radar for the first time while cruising (I’ve played around with it before, but never “needed” it) as we approached Port Canaveral and saw all the lights from all these vessels surrounding us. We could see exactly how far they were from us (which is quite difficult to judge, especially only seeing the lights at night), and we were able to get a sense of what direction they were heading. If we hadn’t had access to this information, the morning would have been much more stressful.
After dodging all the cruise ships, we made our way into the Canaveral Barge Canal and under the 401 Drawbridge. Immediately after this, the crew of Beatitude experienced another first, traversing a lock. Who knew there were locks in Florida? We radioed the lock tender ahead of time for instructions since we had no experience with going through a lock. A lock is a short section of a canal or waterway with two gates on either end to allow for a change in water levels. Based on the indiscernible change in water level as we went through, I think this lock system is solely to block tidal flow going in or out of the canal. Before entering, we placed fenders on the starboard side and prepared our lines to tie off to the side of the lock. We entered when the light turned green and tied off on the cleats. The gate behind us closed. A few moments later the gate in front of us opened, and the tender stated over the loud speaker that we were free to continue on. Cool!
After passing the Canaveral Lock, we entered a beautiful section of the barge canal populated with blue herons, seagulls, jumping fish, and a couple of gators (all seen by us). It is now also populated by a Bahamian Bananaquit. Chiquita, our new crew member, shirked her duties of standing watch overnight and spent the night down in our hull sleeping. As we cleared the lock and entered the more “back-to-nature” part of the canal, Chiquita came upstairs and flitted around the salon. Before long, she had exited the salon front windows and flew off to establish a home in the United States.
Before exiting the four-mile-long barge canal, we passed through the Christa McAuliffe drawbridge, shortly thereafter turning to starboard to head northward up the ICW. While not the Bahamas, the ICW possesses a unique beauty with which we were glad to be acquainted again. The roughly 15-mile voyage northward to Titusville was a difficult one. I was exhausted from our passage from the Bahamas, my eyes were heavy, and the ICW was narrow. There was no relaxing yet. We passed through the NASA Causeway Drawbridge, and then, finally, passed beneath the 65-foot fixed New Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville. A half-mile later, we turned to port into the Titusville Municipal Marina, home to our friends from Regatta Pointe, Tim and Annie. We chose this marina primarily because we knew they were here, and it would be good to see them again. But, the marina looked to be very economical and a decent place to tie up for a few weeks.
After receiving our slip assignment, we backed Beatitude into Slip B-48, tied up the lines, hooked up the shore power, and checked into the Marina. We had done it – A 28 hour, 173 mile passage from Great Sale Cay, Bahamas, to Titusville, FL, U.S. I’ll reflect more on our past few months in a future post. For now, it was good to be back on U.S. soil.