In this final blog of our trip, we leave Vero Beach and travel to Cocoa Village, FL, where our daughter comes to celebrate a belated Christmas with us. We make a quick car trip home to offload some of our stuff from our spare bedroom (to make room for our daughter). After a nice visit with her, we head home with one overnight stop in New Smyrna Beach. We make the final run home on April 2nd, 2024, crossing our wake at 12:39 and hanging our Platinum Burgee!

Day 305 – Monday, 03/25 – From Vero Beach, FL to Cocoa Village, FL – 55 miles, Travel Time: 4hrs 42min

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Vero Beach, FL to Cocoa Village, FL
Vero Beach, FL to Cocoa Village, FL

From Vero to Cocoa Village seemed like a local trip for us as we’ve done this leg 4 or 5 times. It was a cloudy day, but the rain held off, and we made good time up to Cocoa Village Marina. Our slip was on an end dock this time so it was easy in even with the wind. Cocoa Village is like a second home for us. We’ve stayed there so many times. The staff is great, and there are a lot of restaurants and shops very close to the marina.

Our daughter lives in Kissimmee, and Cocoa Village is an easy 60-minute drive for her to come and visit with us. With her busy work schedule, we haven’t seen her since before we left on our Loop trip in May of last year. We had planned Christmas together but ended up going to New Orleans, so that didn’t work out. This visit was a combination of a Christmas and Easter visit.

Our boat has two bedrooms, our master and the guest berth. For our trip, the guest bedroom became our storage room. We kept our extra cushions, cases of water and soda, boxes, spare parts, Christmas trees, winter clothes, etc. We had been thinking about where we were going to put everything to make room for her and Max to sleep. Max is our Grand Cat.

We decided that when we got to Cocoa Village, we would rent a car for a day and make a run home to Palm Coast with a load. It’s only about a 90-minute drive, so it’s easy up and back. Once we had checked into the marina, we started sorting out what we would take home.

For dinner, we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Cocoa Village, Hogan’s Irish Pub, which is just up the street from the marina. I’m typically a Jameson’s Irish Whiskey fan. When I ordered a Jameson, they asked if I had ever tried Slane Irish Whiskey. They said it was smoother and more of a truly distilled whiskey rather than the mass-produced Jameson. I gave it a try, and it was very nice! I recommend it!

That evening, we were treated to another rocket launch. This time, we were even closer, just 12 miles from the launch pad. We got to see the glow of the engines firing up and part of the climb out, but it was quite cloudy, and it disappeared behind the clouds. We heard and felt the rumble of the launch about a minute and a half later.

Day 306 – Tuesday, 03/26 – In Cocoa Village, FL

I walked about a mile and a half to the local Enterprise Car Rental office and picked up our rental car on Tuesday morning. When I got back to the marina, we loaded the car up. It took about three trips with the dock cart to get everything we were taking home off the boat.

We finished loading about noon and headed toward Palm Coast. Traffic was light, and we made it home just fine. It was funny driving at highway speeds again. The last time I drove at over 20 mph was when we went home from Mobile, Alabama, just after Thanksgiving.

The house was fine. We turned everything back on in preparation for our final return in a few days and unloaded the car. Brenda did a couple of loads of laundry while I got all of our technology at home turned back on. After a quick dinner at our favorite local pub, we tried to get a good night’s sleep in our own bed. I say “tried” because it was disorienting. There was no movement, no wave slap, and no fan noise!

Day 307 – Wednesday, 03/27 – In Cocoa Village, FL

Wednesday morning we ran some local errands, then drove back to the boat. It was cloudy and a bit foggy, with spotty rain on the trip back. We stopped on our way into Cocoa at Publix to do our final provisioning of the trip.

When we got back to the boat, we decided to ride down to Cocoa Beach. On one of our trips, we docked for a night at a restaurant called “Squid Lips” just south of Cocoa Beach. We had seen that there was another on Cocoa Beach, so we decided on that one for dinner.

We drove to the beach, then turned south on route A1A and followed the beach. Just beyond Cocoa Beach is the Patrick Space Force Base a large airbase that serves the Cape Canaveral NASA facility. On the west (ICW side) is the base, on the right are some beautiful beaches. We drove the length of the base, turned around and headed back north. There was a fog or haze hanging over the road. The wind was really kicking up the surf and the haze was mist from the waves. We decided to stop and walk on the beach. We stopped at 2nd Light Beach, right across from the main gate of Patrick Space Force Base. There were only a few people on the beach. We walked about a mile up the beach, turned around, and walked back. There weren’t many shells, especially compared to the gulf beaches, but we did come across a very iridescent jellyfish that had washed up on the beach.

We got back to the car, brushed as much of the sand off of our shoes as we could, and drove to Squid Lips.

At the entrance, there was a large goldfish pond with lots of, well, goldfish (carp). They were pretty, but smelled a bit. It’s not a good start to a meal. We had a choice of inside or outside. No one was inside, and the outside deck was covered, so we opted for that. The deck sits right over the water, and at the railing, kids were feeding the catfish that hang around the deck for the handouts that the seagulls and blackbirds don’t get first. There is a boat-in dock that extends into the river. The meal was just okay. The service was slow. The food was just average. And there were a lot of kids running around being annoying. (I think I’m getting old and curmudgeonly!)

When we finished our meal, we went inside to the gift shop, where they sell T-shirts and mugs. When we were at the other location, we picked up a very good Squid Lips steak seasoning. We didn’t see it out, so Brenda asked, and they had some bags on the back counter. “Put it out where people can see it so that they buy it! Who’s in charge of marketing anyway?!!” (I think I’m getting old and curmudgeonly!)

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 308 – Thursday, 03/28 – In Cocoa Village, FL

I had to return the rental car to Enterprise by 10:00 to avoid paying for another day. At 9:30, I drove back and dropped it off. They were not too busy, so I was able to get a ride back to the marina from them. It was a good thing because it started raining about halfway back, and I had forgotten to take Max’s cat litter box out of the back of the car. (Yes, it was empty. We keep one at our house for when he visits, and we brought it down when we made our quick run home.)

The day was blustery, with a cold north wind. There is lots of fetch (open water with nothing to slow down the wind) to the north at Cocoa Village. When there is a north wind, the waves build coming down the river and splash up against the outer dock. Cocoa has a breakwater-type dock to reduce the wave action into the marina, but it can only do so much, and it was a rocky day on the boat.

We spent it cleaning and preparing for Bethanny and Max’s arrival on Saturday. In the afternoon, a boat pulled in behind us. They had been anchored out in the bay and came into the marina to get out of the waves. We met Jackie and Mike on Halfshell.

In the evening we walked into town and went to dinner at Ryan’s Pub for a pizza.

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 309 – Friday, 03/29 – In Cocoa Village, FL

Lower Place goes by
Lower Place goes past

Friday was pretty much a waiting day. We had made all of our preparations for Bethanny and Max’s arrival.

I put another coat of teak oil on the rails, and Brenda worked on her cross-stitch. In the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk south along the waterfront. I got in a little over 6 miles!

During the day, our friends on The Lower Place passed us, heading toward Titusville.

For dinner, we went back to Hogan’s Irish Pub and just perhaps another glass of Slane!

Day 310 – Saturday, 03/30 – In Cocoa Village, FL

Our daughter Bethanny is an early riser. It must be genetic! She’s usually up before 5:00 am. She had about an hour’s drive to reach us and arrived in time for breakfast. When she visits us at home or on the boat, our first task is getting Max settled. Max runs upstairs and hides in a dark corner under the guest bed at our house. On the boat, he runs to the guest bedroom and curls up at the foot of the bed under the lower helm. It usually takes him a couple of hours to adjust to the change of venue and start becoming social. Temptations cat treats usually help to encourage him out of his hidy-holes.

We spent some time catching up. When we were walking downtown earlier in the week, Brenda noticed that the local theatre company was having the final performance of their production “The Play That Goes Wrong” as a matinee on Saturday. She got three tickets (we didn’t think Max would enjoy it, so we left him on the boat) for us. The play was at 2:00, and we walked into town early to look around and get a bite of lunch.

We stopped at a small plant store that sells succulents. Bethanny works for LiveTrends, a company that sells small plants in cute pots at major stores like Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s and supermarkets like Publix, Lowe’s, and Winn-Dixie. You’ve probably seen their plants in pots with cute faces at your local store.

The play was a hoot! It’s a local theatre group that does the productions, but like so many local companies, there is great talent! The play was an over-the-top parody of a comedy. It was hilarious! Everyone in the full theatre had a great time. The play spilled out into the audience, with actors frequently wandering amongst the viewers and engaging with them. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

After the play, we walked around downtown for a while, checking out the shops. We then went to the Village Bier Garten, a German restaurant. On a previous trip, we went there on one of the first nights they were open. They have a good selection of German beers, and the menu features German favorites like potato pancakes, wienerschnitzel, spaetzle, bratwurst, pork knuckle, and rouladen. They also feature a German one-man band, a guy dressed in leaderhosen, playing a selection of German drinking songs. I’m not sure if the musician is there to support the restaurant or the restaurant is there to support the musician!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my mother was German, and I grew up with German food (and music). We are always excited when we see a German restaurant and are frequently disappointed with the quality of the food. On our first visit, the food was good, not great, but good. We gave them a mulligan because they were just opening. A year later, the food had improved slightly. This time the food, well, to use a non-German phrase so that you understand, SUCKED! We won’t go back again. (Note: I checked online to get the name of the restaurant, and it looks like it might have closed. GOOD!)

After dinner, we went back to the boat to entertain Max and catch up. At 5:50, we watched the first of two rocket launches that day. Just after dark, there was yet another rocket launch! It was spectacular to be so close to a nighttime launch!

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 311 – Sunday, 03/31 – In Cocoa Village, FL

We celebrated our little Christmas and Easter Sunday morning with Bethanny and Max. Max was interested in the wrapping paper and the cat treats. He was sort of unimpressed with the catnip mouse. Bethanny got us a stained-glass copy of our boat logo. It is beautiful! We have it hanging in our front window at home.

Stained Glass Frog
Stained Glass Frog

After our gift exchange, Bethanny packed up her stuff, and we walked over to Hogan’s Irish Pub for Sunday Brunch. Sunday Brunch, or “Sunday Roast” as they call it in England, is a pub staple and Hogan’s does a good job.

After brunch, we went back to the boat. Bethanny herded Max into his carrier, and we walked them up to her car. We said our goodbyes, and she headed toward home. We don’t see Bethanny very often, so it’s always an emotional departure. Brenda spent the next little while taking pictures of a mother duck and her ducklings.

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 312 – Monday, 04/01 – From Cocoa, FL to New Smyrna Beach, FL – 52 miles, Travel Time: 5hrs 53min

Cocoa Village, FL to New Smyrna, FL
Cocoa Village, FL to New Smyrna, FL

Monday morning, we headed out from Cocoa Village for New Smyrna. It is only 95 miles from Cocoa Village to home, and it is possible to do it in one day, but we didn’t want to rush and wanted to extend our trip at least one more day. There was a 10-knot wind, but it was just kicking up some light chop on the water. We cruised north past the Cape Canaveral Launch Facility.

When approaching the Haul Over Canal, there are some small islands and sandbars on the left that are popular with birds. There are usually pelicans, egrets, and seagulls on the islands, but we always look for the bright pink spoonbills. As we passed today, we saw a few spoonbills and some flamingos! We’ve never seen flamingos in the wild! Very cool!

Haulover Canal is a short canal that connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Mosquito Lagoon. Midway through the canal is a lift bridge. The Canal is in the Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge and is popular with fishermen, kayakers, and manatees! When transiting the canal, we always look for manatees, and we saw a few as we passed through. Because it borders the Cape Canaveral Launch Facility, we had always assumed that the name Haulover referred to something to do with rockets. We learned that it comes from the native Americans and early settlers using the narrow point in the land through which the canal was dug to “haul their canoes over” between the two lagoons.

When we entered Mosquito Lagoon, we saw a lot of thrashing and splashing in the water just ahead of us. At first, we thought it was dolphins feeding, but as we got closer, we could see that it was manatees mating! Normally, when a manatee hears a boat, they dive out of the way. Here, we had to slow down and move over to go around them. They were too “preoccupied” to care about boats!

EPIRB floating

As we neared New Smyrna, Brenda noticed something moving in the water against the current. It looked like an EPIRB, and we thought a boat might have lost theirs. (An EPIRB is a device carried on boats that automatically sends an emergency distress call if it gets wet. They are mounted so that if the boat sinks, it automatically releases and floats on the surface, transmitting to satellites) As we got closer, Brenda noticed that it was attached to a manatee! The manatee had a harness around its tail, and the device was attached floating on the surface above it.

She looked it up, and the Florida Fish And Wildlife Service attaches them to track and monitor the manatees’ movements. We slowed down and watched it for a minute. It didn’t seem to bother the manatee. It was able to dive and pull it underwater, then when it came back up for a breath of air, the tracker popped back up to the surface.

We arrived at the New Smyrna Marina just before 2:00. They did not expect us until after 3:00, so we had to hover out in the channel for a little while until they could clear some dock space for us. Once we were tied up, we topped off with fuel so the tanks would be full when we got home, and the boat sat for a while.

There were two other looper boats at the marina. Gemini & Endless Somers, and we chatted with them for a while.

We had dinner at Outriggers Restaurant at the marina, our last dinner of the trip, and then turned in for our last night on the boat of the trip.

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 313 – Tuesday, 04/02 – From New Smyrna Beach, FL to Palm Coast, FL – 43 miles, Travel Time: 4hrs 39min

New Smyrna Beach, FL to Palm Coast, FL
New Smyrna Beach, FL to Palm Coast, FL. Home!

Our last travel day! We left New Smyrna at 8:00.

Just past the marina is a lift bridge that we always hesitate at. We call our mast height 24 feet. I know it’s actually only 23 feet, 3 inches, but we use the extra 9 inches as insurance. The bridge height in New Smyrna was listed at 24 feet. We didn’t want to wait for the next 1/2 hour opening, so we just crept up and slowly went under. We cleared it with no problem. Most bridges are arched, so the middle is taller than the sides. The heights usually are for “low steel” or the lowest part of the arch, and many will list the added space in the middle “Plus 3 ft at Center.” The New Smyrna bridge is at an angle higher on the west side and lower on the east as there is only one span. This makes it appear shorter than it is.

New Smyrna Beach Bridge
New Smyrna Beach Bridge

We rounded the corner out of Ponce Inlet and onto the ICW getting a good look at the Ponce de Leon lighthouse in the distance. A pod of 3 dolphins swam over to the boat and played around the bow for a few minutes.

As we went under the first bridge into Daytona Beach. A smaller boat passing us shouted, “Hey! Tom!”. It was our former neighbor Rich who recognized The Frog.

Our next bridge was the International Speedway Bridge. The piers on this bridge are decorated with mosaics of dolphins and manatees. We had caught up with Gemini, who had left New Smyrna at first light (they only travel at 5 knots). They had already called the bridge for an opening, so we went through it together and passed them while we were going slow.

We overtook one more boat, a Ranger Tug called Happy Trails before the channel narrowed down in North Daytona.

Twelve miles from home, we came to our last lift bridge of the trip: the L.B. Knox Bridge. We always chuckle at this bridge. It’s known locally as the “High Bridge Road Bridge” because the road that crosses over it is High Bridge Road. But the bridge only has a clearance of 15 feet! It’s not really a High Bridge. And in case you are wondering, no, there are no other bridges on the road. This bridge is on demand, and there was a small sailboat in front of us that had requested the opening. We called and asked them to hold it for us and hurried to make the opening.

We arrived back in Palm Coast at 12:39 pm, crossing our wake and earning our Platinum Looper status. We backed into the slip, and once we were all tied up, our first action was to swap our bow flag for the Platinum burger. We made it!

I’ll publish a separate blog post with the stats and some observations from the trip.

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

1 Comment

  1. Congratulations. Wonderful trip. I enjoyed reading your adventures.
    Brings back lots of memories.

Write A Comment