Manatee Zone, Lounging along the Lagoon

Joy! The camera-shy manatees were out in force the day we transited one of my top 5 fav sections of the ICW; the Mosquito Lagoon. This was made possible because we FINALLY ripped ourselves away from mooring ball #34 on Sunday, along with at least 15 other cruisers. This being Easter a parade was in order; bonnets optional.

Boat parade ICW north through Sebastian, FL

The Indian River- of grapefruit fame- is scenic, wide and mostly straight with a few bends here and there.  Another plus is no opening bridges- yes, we’re back to that again- and until the very end of our day. What would any self-respecting sailing vessel do on a day like this? You got it!! Sail. For once, every sailboat we saw, whether cruiser or local, had at least one sail up; we had two. Surprisingly, the wind blessed us just enough to sail along at 6kts once we came to our senses and switched out the jib for the screacher. The ICW, a calm and composed shimmer of tiny wavelets completed the near perfection of the day. And this was before we reached Mosquito Lagoon!

Dropped the hook just south of Titusville, to the east of the ICW channel in a section formerly known for being a good shuttle launch viewing area. No current, a light breeze and the nearest boat anchored ¼ mile away. Russ grilled up the lovely Fresh Market lamb chops while the sun set big and red off our stern. Indeed, a sailor’s delight.  A strange, rapid tapping noise along the hulls kept us guessing as to the sea creature source.  Crabs? Dueling barnacles? We may never know.

When the iPhone alarm sounded at 7a.m. Monday (a repeat of Sunday) we did indeed rise and got underway at 7:30, motoring on one engine to conserve fuel. Not a large white hanky day at all. The ICW continues north through the Indian River for 11 more miles until hanging a right over the north end of Merritt Island. Just before this, Russ noticed a recurrence of the fluctuating port engine’s oil pressure gauge so we switched to starboard while he rigged up a test unit.

Many stretches of Florida’s ICW contain Manatee Zone signs; some places you can’t exceed 25 mph in the ICW (oh, let’s try), others are idle speed while still some sections are date sensitive; Nov – April 1 being the time you will need to pay the most attention. We’ve seldom seen a manatee, but the Mosquito Lagoon always offers up at least one sorta sighting.

To get to the Mosquito Lagoon from the Indian River you go through a cut in the land and ask the bridge tender to open the bascule bridge for you. The approach to the cut is strewn with tiny spoil islands & sandbars; a fisherman’s heaven. Kayakers will find a small launching ramp so they can be up close and personal with an area perfect for exploration.  A slow, minimum wake manatee zone sign had us moving along at less than 5 kts. The bridge opened and as we passed through we could see a short ways ahead, a slight disturbance in the center of the channel. This could only mean one thing; a manatee. Well, it could be a dolphin, cormorant or large fish, but I do believe the signs talked about manatees! Sure enough, there he was lolly – gagging about- huge guy too. The photos I tried to get do not show how large he was.

Slowed down and built a nest.

Manatee in middle of channel

The Mosquito Lagoon is a stretch of the Indian River North and is oh about 10 miles long.   The near glass water enabled us to see every ripple and swirl; dolphins and manatee sightings left and right, although I still didn’t have good luck with a picture. More than once we moved aside to avoid a possible manatee- much of the Lagoon is “minimum wake.”

 

 

We traveled along with this guy for quite some time

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