Shortly before noon we hailed the Crescent Beach Bridge. The bridge master said to continue making our way forward as he would open soon. We had a strong current behind us, strong wind on the beam and a very narrow channel. Just as we neared the bridge, he called back and said to stop our approach has the gates were not working. Well, that was easier said than done as there was not much room to maneuver, but I somehow got us turned around with our nose pointing into the current and with a bit of throttle we were standing still. He called again to say that he needed to get a maintenance person involved and it might take an hour. I knew I'd be hard pressed to stay in that position for an hour, so quickly scanned the chart for somewhere to drop the hook. About a half mile back the chart showed 8 ft behind a red marker. So we headed that way where I thought to drop the hook and have lunch while we waited. Of course just as I was going forward to drop the hook, he called and said it was all systems go. So we turned around and headed back to the bridge. All told we lost about an hour's travel time.
Our intended anchorage was in the Matanzas River outside the old fort only about 3 more miles away. Unfortunately, the anchorage was not tenable in the unfavorable wind, so after poking our way around for a few minutes thinking about it I decided it better to keep going.
The next possible anchorage was only a couple of hours further south. It was a pleasant journey through beautiful scenery and soon enough we neared the entrance to the Cement Plant canal. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? The guidebook said something about keeping the canal clear for a barge, and med mooring to shore which didn't sound appealing to me. Still we poked our way in the entrance, but I didn't like the looks of it and trying to sleep with a potential barge coming through was not appealing. So we headed south again to the next anchorage only 3 miles away. The guidebook description for it sounded slightly better.
Just as we were within a 100 yards of the entrance to the canal, I spotted a line of crab pots in the middle of the channel. There were only red markers to starboard, no green markers in sight, which generally indicates deep water to port. Just as I was deciding how to go around those pesky crab pots, BOOM, we were hard aground! Seems there was a shoal not marked. No amount of effort on my part would budge us loose. I looked around and it looked like the tide was out. How much I wasn't certain but according to my depth sounder I only needed about 6 inches to be floating again. After much deliberation, I finally called Boat US and asked them about the tide, as I would rather float off than be pulled off. It seemed the kinder option for the boat. My main concern was how I would manage to find my way into the canal after dark, and as as dark was fast approaching I agreed to have them come out. Of course, it took them a long time to arrive and by then it was dark.
After pulling the boat free, they tried to guide us into the canal, but unfortunately the entrance was shoaled in and we ran aground 2 more times! They suggested that the Cement Plant canal was a much better anchorage and agreed to let us follow them there. What a scary journey that was! I don't see well in the dark as it is, and even though I was following them I still had to watch out for markers, which of course were not lit. It was a very long 3 miles! Coleen helped me look out as her eyes are better than mine. The dog cried inside the cabin the whole time as he was scared, but somehow I remained calm, although my shoulders were in knots. Finally we arrived in the Cement Plant Canal and dropped the hook in 6 feet with not much swinging room. I could only put out 40 feet of chain. It was however, dead calm and I was happy to be somewhere! After thanking the Boat US Captain profusely, I headed inside for a much needed hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. I asked Coleen if the boat was vibrating and she looked at me funny and said no. I turns out the vibrating I felt was me shaking.
We turned in without dinner around 8:30 and I was I ever happy to be snug in my bunk!
A lesson learned is that I need a powerful spotlight. Although I never intend to be underway in the ICW or a river in the dark, I learned that it does happen. A spotlight would have enabled us to find the markers on our own.