It was one of those days when you want to get off the water. I left my charter
off at Inlet Harbor Marina in South Daytona. A family from New Jersey came
here to enjoy the warmth of Florida. Only problem was Florida was deep in a
winter blast from the north. Temperatures hovered around 35 degrees in the morning,
only warming to the low 50s by afternoon. We didn't expect much improvement
through the week. Fly-fishing would be difficult, if not impossible. Offshore charters
were buttoned down. No one was running trips. I suggested they wear PFDs.
No takers. I have the Type I, bright orange offshore jackets. All guides who charter
in Mosquito Lagoon are required to have them. I have to admit that they are bulky.
But you know they also provide warmth.
I got a call from Joan Ellis at Rainbow Charters at Lighthouse Point. She figured
I could take them to the backwater where we could dodge the wind. I found
some nice spots along the Halifax and ICW. Tall pines, oaks and mangroves
offered cover from the 9-15 mph NNE winds. Cabin fever was getting the better
part of their Christmas spirit and they needed to get out on the water. But it was
going to be cold. In these conditions you will loose a lot of body heat. I told
them to dress warm, sweaters and windbreakers, hats and maybe gloves.
We had a great day, they were all smiles when I dropped them back at the
dock. At noon, and a screaming, dropping tide, I headed down the Halifax
for the inlet. I knew weather, tides and dangerous cross currents would be
bad. So I put on my life jacket, put the kill switch cord around my wrist and
had my long line looped in my belt. I figured if I went overboard, the engine
would be killed and I'd still be able to get back to the boat.
My trek home would be an interesting, I mean a rough, 8 miles south. When
I pulled up to the dock at Inlet Harbor the tide was pulling very hard. Larry
helped me secure the boat while the party gathered their things and got out.
The wind had picked up and you don't really notice how strong it can get when
you are back in the creeks. The protection from the wind is great until you have
to get back to the main channel. Then moderate chop gets heavier almost to the
extent of small craft warnings. But no flags were up. The marina boats where
bouncing and their lines pulling on dock cleats.
The agonizing part of the trip is the slow "no wake" zone along the Halifax. I
motored past the Sun Cruz Casino boat, still sleeping at its dock. Moved
along parallel to "Down the Hatch" a quaint little eatery on the river. As I
closed in on the turn that would take me to the Indian River, I noticed the
huge rollers moving in from Ponce Inlet. Six and eight foot swells mixed
with heavy chop was going to make this turn very wet. I'm glad I didn't have
my charter with me. I couldn't wait to get past he Coast Guard Station.
There is only one way to make this transition and it must be done on plane.
I got Katie up and running on the point past the Critter Fleet. The flats boat
took a lot of air and a nice wave as I followed the Halifax towards the inlet
opening. You have to bare down heading due east towards the Atlantic.
Then you run one-quarter mile along the channel. You make a 90-degree
turn perpendicular to the Ponce Lighthouse and head south into the mouth
f the Indian River. The confluence of these two rivers, Indian and Halifax,
is where Ponce Inlet earns its reputation for one of the most dangerous on the
East Coast. That's the only place that is really treacherous because you turn
broadside to the rolling water. I watched intently as the rollers made their
way in. I wanted to catch a trough, ride up and over it's crest as I made the
turn. This would keep me temporarily out of the cross chop. I was going to
get wet. This I knew. It was just how many waves and how wet did I want
to get. It was still cold, by Florida's standards. I watched the waves coming.
Soon I would make my turn, but I wanted to time this just right.
Up and down, crabbing like an airplane in turbulent wind. We rose and fell.
The heavy chop made this all the more interesting. "Now," I thought.
Instinctively I made the turn, like I'd done about a thousand times before.
I made small adjustments as I snaked across the swell. I caught one wave
and the spray came up and drenched me. I turned my head away just in time
to keep the saltwater out of my face. One wave is all it took and I was wet
from shoulder to toes. But it was the only wave I took. I was headed down
the Indian River, shot down the east shoreline and back into the ICW and back
to the ramp.
I was glad to get home to a hot shower and warm clothes. It is best to stay home when it 'blows'.
Catch/Release: it's the right thing to do.
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.