Category Archives: boating

Boating in Florida, on the rivers, ocean, and Intracoastal Waterway.

damage to docks done by hurricane irma

Hurricane Damage to Docks and Waterways After Irma and Maria

Hurricane Irma came right up through Florida on September 10th, and caused me lots of stress. I don’t live on the water, but after traveling around on land and water, I have seen all the damage to those who live or work right on the water.

damage to docks done by hurricane irma
This house has a couple of docks and both are ruined from the storms.

Then Hurricane Maria devastated the islands, and namely Puerto Rico, but missed Florida – mostly.  On land we were safe, but the seashore and waterways had to deal with high waves and tides which eroded shorelines.

The damage here from Maria came as huge waves, which the surfers loved. Rip currents and high tides meant the beaches were not safe for swimming.   High tide meant no driving on the beach, as there was no beach to drive on.  All this, even with Maria being almost 500 miles offshore!

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the effects of hurricane Maria on the East coast of Florida in this article – which has video of the devastation in Puerto Rico.

Yesterday we went out fishing and saw the effects of the storms ourselves. Many docks are still unusable and some are being fixed, like the docks at JB’s Fish Camp. It’s one of my picks for eating on the water in New Smyrna Beach.

JB's dock repair
Repairing the docks at JB’s Fish Camp and Restaurant

As you can see the water level is super high – it was high tide, but going out. The workers were literally at water level while re-building the docks. We saw a few kayakers (JB’s rents kayaks) and people eating under the umbrella tables on the patio, but there is no place to dock a boat. Soon, I hope.

muddy water
Muddy and murky backwater

The water is muddy and murky with lots of leaves and Black mangrove seeds – green pods which look a little like lima beans.

I also saw the long Red mangrove seeds which float vertically in the water. I never knew what those odd looking things were. Mangroves are all over the backwater area where we fish. Mangroves, basically, are plants that can live in salt water.  The ones we see are most likely the Black mangroves, but we must have Red too, since I see the seeds.  All those green plants you see on the horizon, in my muddy water photo above, are mangroves.

mangrove seeds on shore
Mangrove seeds washed up on shore

In the photo above you can see a few long Red mangrove seeds on the beach with many green seeds.  These were floating everywhere in the water too.

Along this island it was apparent how high the water had come.   Large sections of sand were cut away and I’m guessing that some waves washed over the top of the island to the water on the other side.  This is a camping island, and I found black charcoal briquets in the water too!

eroded shoreline
Storm waves washes sections of this beach away

The tide was high when we were out fishing, which meant there were not many sandy areas or beaches to explore.  We stopped on this island (which is one of my favorite to explore) and I went in search of treasure. Mostly I found oyster shells – yuk. But among a bunch of shells which were washed way up under some mangroves I did pick up a worn knobbed whelk.

seashell washed ashore by storms
Oyster shells and a broken knobbed whelk washed way up onto the island

I collected another larger knobbed whelk which was green and broken. It will go into my garden. Photos of the rest of my finds on another post to come.

We did catch some fish – redfish, trout and snapper – but no keepers. My son was keeping an eye out for George of Reel Time as he was staying in New Smyrna Beach to film for his fishing show. We didn’t see him, but we did have to run from a quick moving rain storm late in the day!

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Second Day on The New Boat Spent at Disappearing Island

Finally the day arrived, and we picked up our new boat. It’s a flats boat, Hewes Redfisher and we are loving it! Our second day out found us behind Disappearing Island at Ponce Inlet in New Smyrna Beach. (That’s in Florida, in case you weren’t sure.)

The reason we chose this type of boat is because it can get into (and out of) shallow water, like this canal. We were able to gain access to the backside of the expansive sandy island, and stay a few hours, while the tide continued to go out.  Parts of the canal were very shallow and the tide still had a couple of hours to go out.  It would be easy to become stranded.

floating in the ocean disappearing island
Feet up and floating in the beautiful ocean water around Disappearing Island.

We arrived at the Inlet around noon on a Friday, so it was not overly crowded. On weekends I wouldn’t attempt to visit this place, as it is a madhouse from what I hear. But if you love the party atmosphere, and love to party with lots of happy strangers, who also enjoy the sun and sea, this island is the place to be.

The little backwater canal where we parked was not big, and we shared the space with only 2 other boats. A pontoon was pulled up onto the beach and he was obviously staying for the day. Once the tide was partially out, he was for sure stranded until the next high tide.  The group had rafts, a smaller boat, and were doing some fishing.

boater stuck in the sand
Beached Boater Gets Help

The other boat near us suddenly realized they were stuck in the sand. As I was coming back from my walk across the island, I could see them rocking the boat trying to get it to move into the water.

A group of people from across the way came over to help, and so did my son. They got the boat free of the sand so the grateful boaters were able to leave.

Whenever the tide is going out, keep a careful eye on the water depth, or you’re stuck until the water comes back in again!  Unless some friendly (strong) folks come by to give you a hand.  I have a feeling it happens a lot.

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Looking across Disappearing Island to the Inlet

We did some fishing as we left the area and traveled down the canal. We also saw sea turtles popping up for air. I caught a catfish (ugh) and some kind of little silver fish which got off the hook. Then I had a good bite, but the fish bit off my hook and got away. I don’t know my saltwater fish yet, but my son does. He thought it may have been a Bluefish.

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Hewes Redfisher 18

It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday. Now I must work all weekend to make up for my time off.

By the way, I saw almost no seashells on the island. The crown conch I found had a hermit crab inside. I did find a cute little cerith seashell, and a little crab walked past us near the shoreline. Pictures on my next post.

Kennedy space center

Finding a Remote Boat Ramp in Scottsmoor

While we were over on the east coast of Florida one day, we decided to head south from the Edgewater area and try to find the next closest boat ramp.  Down that way the ramps go into the western part of the Mosquito Lagoon.  From there, make your way (in your boat) across to the Haulover Canal which passes through to the east side of the Lagoon.

Mosquito Lagoon
Mosquito Lagoon West

We drove east for a few miles from Rt. 1 on a dirt road and finally came across the small boat ramp.  It has room to put in one boat at a time and the boat loads into a narrow channel that feeds out into the open water.

Looking south, the Kennedy Space Center vehicle assembly building is barely visible.

Kennedy space center
Space Center, Cape Canaveral

I found some crown conch shells and thick clam shells, but the most interesting item I found floating among the weeds in the shallows was this horseshoe crab.  It was not alive.

horseshoe crab
Horseshoe Crab

Area map of Scottsmoor Landing Boat Ramp, Credit: Google Maps, Google imagery @2016 TerraMetrics

map of mosquito lagoon area
Boat Ramp, where we were, with Haulover Canal, Space Center view

Once we have a flats boat we plan to spend some time fishing in this area. For now, we have to stay close to the Edgewater ramp where we put the little boat in, as it doesn’t travel very fast, or handle waves well!

boating florida

Our Little Boat Fishing Trip Looking For Keepers

catfish
Catfish (not mine – credit goes to tpsdave @ Pixabay)

Went out on the little boat yesterday and three of us tried our best to catch a keeper. If we wanted to eat a meal of catfish, we could easily have done so. I caught a couple of large cats when we stopped one of the backwater canals for a swim and then fished from the water. We had more room than when we all tried to cast a line from the Gheenoe.

Other than the catfish, I did get a small snook. He was a silver shimmering beauty! It’s snook season right now, and my older son was hoping to reel one in. All he got was a few catfish himself. My younger son got a small redfish, and we certainly saw more than a few “tailing redfish” along the shore.

Yes, I am beginning to learn fisherman talk. When redfish are eating they circle and show their tail. The ones we watched each seemed to be alone, but they can swim in big groups with their tails above the water, and that’s what the fishermen look for.  The ones we watched would swim in a circle and make a large ripple in the calm water. These fish are really beautiful and they are delicious to eat. But size is important when you catch one you want to keep.

Because the little “Yea Mon” Gheenoe has a shallow draft, we can get into the backwater channels where most other boats can’t go. We always find shallow water to swim around in and sand islands when the tide is low.

And we have the place all to ourselves!  The water was flowing, and we could drift along in the very warm water.  Yes, it’s brown, but it usually is in this area.

florida backwater swimming
Floating in Backwater Chanel

Other than fishing and enjoying the sunny Florida weather, I also did some shell hunting. Because the tide was just coming in, there were a number of sandy beach areas exposed. I found a large shark’s eye shell with a piece missing. Also picked up a crown conch and pear whelk. Picked them up and then had to put them back down. Every shell was inhabited by a hermit crab.

sharks eye and crown conch
Shark’s Eye & Crown Conch
seashell
Slime covered Pear Whelk Shell

I really would have liked to keep those shells as they are all favorites of mine. In fact I don’t think I have ever found a pear whelk. I really wanted that one for my seashell collection! The place to go and get great shells is the Gulf Coast. A vacation may be in order – one day.

I took photos with my iPhone, but because of the extremely sunny conditions, it was difficult. Also, I worry about dropping the darn thing. I really need a waterproof case. Shuffling along the uneven sandy bottom of the canal is tricky. I could step into a hole at any time and drop my phone! My nice camera is still packed away, waiting for me to move into a permanent home.

Once we have our newer, bigger boat, it will be so much easier to grab the phone and get video and photos while the boys fish. Not to mention that fishing will be much more fun! So it’s all a waiting game, which is par for the course in my life. But we still had a very nice day out on the water.

 

Boating the Florida Backwater, Fishing and Shell Collecting

boating florida
Catching a Catfish

Three of us in one tiny boat isn’t ideal, but it gets us out on the water. We go boating in the Florida backwater where my son Nick tries his best to catch a nice Redfish.

My younger son caught some catfish (picture) and I didn’t fish this particular day. I took the photos, because my goal was to find some awesome seashells.

Since I’ve moved back to Florida, it’s been mostly work and not much play. Summer in the sunshine state is for tourists, in my opinion. The rest of the year, when the weather is not as stifling, is for locals to enjoy. But tourists are here all the time, and the only way to get away from the crowds is to go boating – during the week.

Below: Yes, that’s our little Gheenoe, and it does hold three people! It can’t move very fast when it’s loaded down, but it’s fun to go out and explore. We have to keep an eye on those building cumulus clouds. Storms can build and move in fast. It’s not fun to try to outrun a Florida thunderstorm! (We’ve done it.)

low tide on the Indian River
Low Tide Treasure Hunt

The day I took these photos it was terribly hot, over 100 degrees, but there was a breeze. Even the water was hot, and I mean very hot. I half expected that if we caught a fish it would be partially cooked already! The tide was out which made maneuvering the shallow channels a bit tricky, but my son fishes this area frequently and was pretty good at not hitting the sand bars.
Finally we stopped at Three Sisters, which is a set of three islands, one of which has a long sand bar on the northern side when the tide is low or out.

bivalve cockle shells
Atlantic Giant Cockle Shell

I found this giant Atlantic cockle shell (it’s name is “Giant”, it’s not really all that big) while walking in the hot shallow water on Three Sisters. Both sides of this bivalve were connected and it was upside down and filled with mud.  Since then, I have found a few more of these beauties, in exactly the same state – upside down in shallow water. In my experience, shells that are attached eventually dry out and come apart, but it’s fun to find joined bivalves.
I also found my prized big horse conch on Three Sisters.