Crossing the Gulf Stream - The Return
07 May 2012 | Indiantown, Florida
We spent our last night in the Bahamas at West End and it was rather bittersweet. On one hand, we were sad that we were leaving the Bahamas and Abacos but on the other, I was looking forward to my first Gulf Stream crossing. Wayne was able to cross this off his bucket list on the way over, but this was my opportunity. I had a sense of nostalgia at the West End Marina. Back in the day, it was a Jack Tar Village and my parents went there for a week's vacation in the late 70's. I remember them talking about how beautiful it was (at that time, they had never been out of North America). My father spent hours walking the beach and as Wayne and I strolled the beach on that last night, I could envision my dad combing the beach for seashells. If he were still alive, he would have been so excited to know that we walked the same stretch of beach that he did so many years ago.
Friday morning we awoke about 6:00 am, made the coffee and when everything was stowed, cast off the lines for our next amazing adventures. The dawn was just breaking and it was destined to be a beautiful day. The seas were relatively calm and the winds were about 10 knots out of the east so we through up our main sail and motor sailed out of the Bahamas. It was an exciting adventure for me, watching freighters transverse the Gulf Stream, other boats (although not many) going to and from the Bahamas and watching flying fish. I was hoping that we would see some dolphins like we had yesterday on our way to Memory Rock, but it was not to be. The water of the Gulf Stream was the most incredible royal blue and I was mesmerized by its beauty. The waves built to about 3 feet, but it was very manageable. The hours passed by and we each took turns watching for boat traffic. A few times, our trusted Hemslay (the autopilot) decided to go on his own little adventure and would lose his connection, but Wayne would unplug the system and plug it back in again and we would be back on track. As the Florida coast began to appear, there was more traffic, larger freighters, coast guard vessels and pleasure boats. We arrived at Lake Worth (West Palm Beach/Riviera Beach) at about 3:30 and tied up at the Riviera Beach Marina so that we could check into customs.
Our experience with US Customs and Immigration has, for the most part, always been good. Not this time. We were told that the customs office closed at 4:00 pm, so Wayne rushed over to the office only to find it closed (it was 3:50 pm). Unfortunately, the office isn't open on the weekend. When he got back to the boat, I called the Florida Clearance Centre and was told that we had 24 hours to appear in person at a customs office. The nearest one was at the West Palm Beach Airport. So, a $90. taxi ride later we were legal and back at the boat. We were told by the agent on the phone that we could get our cruising permit at the airport, but when we asked, they said they didn't process them there, but could get one on Monday at the West Palm office. They also suggested that we apply for a Local Boater Card. This is normally only available for US residents, but because we have our Nexus card, we could apply as well. This would make it much simpler the next time we check back into the US by water. They told us to go to the West Palm office on Monday and we could get the card and our cruising permit. Great. The winds were forecast to be fairly high for the weekend, so it would let us sit out the high winds in Lake Worth and then do this next bit of business on Monday.
Saturday morning we moved the boat north to the Lake Worth anchorage and settled in. The wind blew a steady 20-25 knots but our anchor held firm. Nobody moved, but we did see two boats come in that had made the crossing from the Bahamas. We were both glad that with the winds the way they were, that we weren't out there. It wouldn't have been very nice. Monday came and the weather wasn't any better, so we stayed hunkered down again and enjoyed the day reading and doing small projects. The weather was somewhat improved on Tuesday, so we ventured back to the Riviera Beach Marina and tied up at the visitor dock so that we could, once again, go to Customs and Immigration. We walked over to the office and told them why we were there. We were then told that while we could get our cruising permit, we had to apply on line for the Local Boater Card, be approved and then come to the office for an interview. Needless to say, we weren't pleased. We did get our cruising permit ($19.00 later) and went back to the boat shaking our heads. We untied the lines and once again went back to the anchorage for the night. We purchased some wireless internet access and applied for our Local Boater Cards online and scheduled the interviews for Friday when we would be back in Indiantown and had the truck.
On Wednesday we left the anchorage in time for the first bridge opening at 8:45 am and made our way north through 8 bridges to Stuart. Stuart is one of our favourite places. The staff are very friendly and the town is just a short walk from the Marina. Our 24th wedding anniversary was on the 16th of April and because we hadn't yet had our "anniversary dinner", we thought we'd go to shore and have a nice dinner. We had stowed the dinghy on deck when we left West End and put the dinghy engine on the stern rail, so we had to launch the dinghy in order to go to shore. We thought it would be relatively easy to row to shore instead of putting the outboard on, but it was a real struggle for Wayne. First of all, you can't row an inflatable dinghy with any speed. Second, when the wind is blowing against you, it makes it even harder. Although Wayne was doing an admirable job, it was tiring. A fellow boater came along and we threw him a line to tow us the rest of the way in. Once we realized we needed more weight in his dinghy (I got in with him), we made it to shore in no time. After much needed showers, we walked into town and had a nice dinner and then strolled along the boardwalk back to the Marina. Fortunately someone came along again and towed us back to the boat so that Wayne didn't have to row very far. We settled in for the night and talked about our travels to Indiantown the next day.
Thursday morning we awoke to another beautiful day and after coffee tossed the mooring lines and began our journey to Indiantown, the last trip of the season. We made it to the lock at about 8:30 am and waited for the 9:00 lift. It takes about ½ hour to go through the lock because they actually open the gates slightly to let the water in. It wasn't long before we were out the other side and making our way further up the St. Lucie Canal. We arrived in Indiantown at about 11:00 and tied up on the main dock in front of the marina building. Once settled, we went up to check the truck to see how it had wintered and went into town for lunch. Wayne had booked lift out for Tuesday, so we had a lot of work to do before I left on Sunday. We thought it best to split up and get some chores done, so I took the truck into town and had the oil changed, tires and airbags filled while Wayne changed the oil and transmission fluid in the boat. With these jobs accomplished, we tackled some other jobs and then called it a day. It was hot - so hot you would sweat standing still. Time for a cold shower.
Friday morning we headed back to West Palm Beach to get our Local Boater Cards. Prepared for the interview process, we were quite surprised when we walked in and 5 minutes later had our cards in hand, sans interview! Not sure why they couldn't have done that on Tuesday, but we weren't complaining. Time will only tell if this system really works. We got back to the boat and started working on the rest of the jobs to get it ready to come out of the water. We chatted with people that we had met last year, friends Wayne had made in the fall when he was down and caught up on their adventures. Did I say it was hot? Good grief it was hot! We worked Friday and Saturday and accomplished a lot. Sadly, I had to fly home on Sunday. Wayne drove me to the airport for my 11:30 flight and then he headed back to the boat to finish up the job of putting Leeway to bed for the summer.