03/26/2012, West End, Bahamas
Opening a bottle of bubbly to celebrate traveling for 8 months at 5mph and perhaps 2,000 miles - finally arriving in the Bahamas was a dream come true! We made it to the Bahamas - Woo Hoo!
The passage took us about 12 hours. We left at 2AM on a moonless night and arrived shortly after 2PM. The night passage out of the inlet was exciting and a bit nerve wracking for the two of us because it took us a while to get our night bearings - looking for the green(starboard) and red (port) lights to the channel and avoiding other boats.
Once off proceeding down the channel we encountered a couple of power boats deciding to have a chat in the middle of the channel at 2 in the morning! They moved aside (thankfully!) and we were off /out of the channel.
It is a great inlet to leave from as it is well marked and a short distance from the anchorage near Peanut Island where we spent the night. Prior to our exit from Lake Worth we had traveled from Old Port Cove Marina to East of Peanut Island. On our way we almost hit a man in a small Zodiac with a "dead" outboard. We could not see him because of Dimples on our foredeck. We heard him shout - and altered course at the last second. We missed him by maybe 3 feet. When we set our anchor near Peanut Island we were in the company of 13 other boats waiting for the crossing. Moonsplash, Ubuntu, Celebration, Indulgence, Southern Journey, and Folly were some of the boat names we jotted down, so that "just in case" we needed help we would have some names to call out to.
We were out onto the Atlantic Ocean and near the inlet and for a short distance the waves were around 4 -6 feet. It settled down as we continued East. The stars became more and more brilliant as we loss the ambient light from Lake Worth. It was absolutely gorgeous. It took us a little while to set our course and have Fernando (our self steering) take over for us. We studied every light in the distance with our binoculars to understand what type of vessel it was and if it was coming toward us, crossing our path, or traveling ahead of us. The waves settled down but unfortunately the wind was "on our nose" so we were not able to sail or motor sail. We relied on our "iron Genny" (Yanmar Engine) to get us across. During the early morning hours it start to rain and the wind picked up a bit. The sad part was we lost our view of the stars that were overhead. However, it was shortly after the light rain that we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise. The sky changed from the early morning warning of daylight coming to brilliant orange.
We were thrilled by the color of the waters that ran from indigo, to royal blue, to aquamarine, and finally teal blue. At points during the crossing we were in waters that were over 2,400 feet deep (deep indigo) and as we entered the Bank the waters changed to these multiple beautiful hues. We were greeted on the radio by a young woman Laquel, her Bahamian accent was a delight as we listened for directions to our slip. Jamal, the dockhand, greeted us at our slip and brought the necessary paperwork to clear customs. We had run our yellow Q flag (quarantine flag) up about 3 miles out from the islands.
Most of our paperwork had been completed since Mark, a dock master at Old Point Cove Marina, had provided these in advance to our crossing. We finished up the final paperwork and Wiley went ashore to customs. He greeted the officer with an announcement, "We have come all the way from Chicago and ask permission to enter your beautiful country." A smiling Bahamian responded back with a laugh, "Permission granted!" Once the paper work was complete we raised the Bahamian flag and then we both went ashore to complete the paperwork for our stay at the marina. The Old Bahama Bay Marina is not inexpensive (about $2.00 a foot, $15.00 for all the water we want, and an electrical fee). However, we have access to all that is offered for those who stay at the resort - health club, large swimming pool with a waterfall, a Tiki bar (that serves Yellow Birds our favorite rum drink!) and of course showers. As we look out from where we are staying we see the ocean in all of its hues, the beach, and swaying palm trees. It truly is paradise and we are eager to go snorkeling. We have arrived!
03/22/2012, Lake Worth - West Palm Beach
It took us 2 fairly short days traveling south on the ICW to reach our next destination, Old Point Cove Marina on Lake Worth.
Vero Beach is at mile 951 on the ICW, and on the first day we traveled as far as the Peck Lake anchorage, which is at mile 1014. It has been our practice to get to the marina or anchorage where we will spend the night by mid-afternoon to avoid having a situation where there is no room for us when we arrive - something, by the way, that has never happened. Upon arriving at Peck Lake at 2:50 we spotted ten boats already at anchor and thought maybe our luck had run out. However it was a roomy anchorage and we put the "hook down". We rowed Dimples ashore and walked a short distance through a beautiful state park to the gorgeous tropical aquamarine blue watered beach (previously unseen on this trip) with a high white foamy surf rolling in. We took our triathlon swimming wetsuits but found that the surf was to high to enjoy swimming. After a walk on the beac we rowed back for a sundowner glass of wine and dinner. During the night the wind came up and blew hard, but our Bruce did not drag an inch.
The anchor came up without difficulty the next morning, but we had a brief scare upon leaving the anchorage because we got out of the channel and almost ran aground. The second day was marked by rain/sun showers and bridge openings - a total of 7 of them. Most of the openings were "restricted", which means that they only open at certain times, usually twice an hour), and not "on demand". We did our best to time our passage to reach each bridge at the right time. In once case, a bridge opened early to let a big barge through and the bridge tender then closed the bridge before we could reach it. He announced on the radio that the next bridge opening would not be for a half an hour. While we were in the channel, waiting with the engine in neutral, a 70 foot yacht, Serenity, moved slowly past us; just then a small powerboat passed us on the other side, making a wake that caused Les Miserables to slide sideways, almost hitting Serenity, an outcome we avoided only with going "full ahead" on the engine and "hard to starboard" on the helm. Serenity now....serenity now!!
At 10:45, we passed ICW mile 1,000, representing the distance our little sailboat has traveled since October 16, 2011 when we passed the buoy off Norfolk, VA which marks the start of the ICW.
We spotted an Osprey nest, with a mother bird feeding her young babies. Other than this, our two days were marked by the works of man rather than the wonders of nature. The ICW from Vero Beach to Lake Worth is marked by huge, multi-million dollar mansions, often with multi-million dollar yachts tied to private docks behind the mansion.
The opulence continued after we reached the Old Point Cove Marina, following a minor incident when we got into some shallower water after we passed on the wrong side of a marker marking the channel into Lake Worth.
The marina is part of a huge "gated community" which includes a bunch of high rise condos, each costing more that a million dollars. Our introduction to the marina was delightful. We had a fairly strong wind behind us as we docked (violating Captain Jack Klang's rule - NEVER DOCK WITH THE WIND BEHIND YOU!) and I had to put the engine "hard astern" as we entered the slip. "Prop walk" caused the stern to move to port into a piling, so it was not pretty. Suddenly we saw our 83 year old friend from Vero Beach, Merl, dash across to our slip. He took the bow line Merry threw him and in seconds had it secured to a cleat. His movements were as lively as a keen teenager dockhands! It turns out that Merl and his lovely wife Barbara and their great dog - Mozart, with their big trawler Endurance are docked right across from us. We have been delighted to join them in nightly "sundowners" - wine +! We have been to dinner on Endurance multiple times by the gracious invitation extended to us by Barbara, who is a fabulous chef! Merry and Barbara went on a shopping expedition using the boat bikes the Endurance carries. They ended up coming back with 2 neat folding chairs Barbara bout strapped to the back of Merry's bike along with groceries. They had a good laugh about hauling their loads rather than riding their bikes back to the boat. We have had some great runs along the waterfront, dined at some nice restaurants, and spend whole days walking 8 + miles round trip to John D. MacArthur State Park (that's right! - the guy from Chicago donated a portion of his huge estate to the park!) and to a big shopping mall.
However, we feel "stuck" again, as we wait a whole week for a "weather window" to leave here and cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Our Les Miserables is the smallest boat in the marina. She is surrounded by vessels costing anywhere from $300,000.00 to $3,000,000,000.00, and further down are yachts costing 20-30 million, including Tiger Woods' yacht, Privacy (his ex and kids live in Palm Beach). Interestingly, we do not see many people on their yachts - we mostly see cleaning services and "yacht detailers" working on them. It is nothing like the thriving community of "J" dock at North Point Marina during our all too brief season in Illinois.
Frankly, we don't feel we fit in. Wiley has been stopped twice by security at the guardhouse gate when re-entering the gated community. The parking lots are full of cars that cost half of what our house costs. When we pass people on the sidewalk and say "hi", they sometimes look at us and don't answer back.
We have an appointment with Customs and Immigration, thanks to Barbara's help, to get a "local boater's card" to make it easier when we re-enter the United States. After that appointment early on Friday, if weather allows, we want to leave the marina (which is nice, but pricey!) and travel four miles down Lake Worth to an anchorage near Peanut Island. Our plan is to leave for the crossing to West End at midnight and figure it will take us 12 hours to get to our destination.
The sound of velcro being pulled apart has always annoyed me. My sons used to pull their velcro shoes tabs just for fun - a little habit that for some reason grated on my nerves. Well, here we are preparing to pull away from "Velcro Beach" and there is an annoying sound - the two of us moaning about leaving such a great place. Yet we know that it is time to move on - after all we have been stuck for a month! Vero Beach is truly wonderful; it offers a beautiful beach, fine dining, shopping, easy transportation and many new friends. The Thursday evenings sunset gatherings has allowed us to pick the brains of other sailors. This has been a great place to learn about preparing for our crossing to West End in the Bahamas. Additionally, we have had the lovely opportunity to get to know Ingrid, Erik, Connie, Alec, Jim, Peter, and many more new friends.
New learnings while here have included such things as: what happens when you overfill the oil reservoir in the motor for the dinghy (smoke, smoke, and more smoke), how easy it is to run the dinghy over your own mooring ball in the dark (me), and the fun of running in 85 degree weather with 95% humidity! We've had practice using our dinghy as our "taxi" to pick up supplies, water, laundry and fuel and figured out a few tricks for getting onto the boat when unloading. Believe me it doesn't look like dance moves as we attempt to move from Dimples to Les Miserables. Picture holding on to the back of the bigger boat while balancing as the little boat lurches up and moves away from the bigger boat as a result of your weight shifting. Crawling onto the dock has been known to happen- including in front of an audience. It isn't pretty. Finally, while no-seeums truly cannot be seen they can definitely be felt - scratch - scratch - scratch. That is at least for me while they have not yet developed a taste for Wiley.
However, our favorite part was watching a family of dolphins come in and feed right in the harbor; Dimples took us up for a close look. A dolphin turning to look up at you from the water conjures up feelings that somehow you are communicating with this wonderful, intelligent creature. It could all be the "pathetic fallacy" - but still there is a glimmer of hope that maybe it is not. The birds - pelicans, crane, parrots, woodpeckers, ibis, and more are all part of the joy of being here. There is even a small barracuda that likes to hang around the dingy dock.
While we continue to miss the cultural opportunities in Chicagoland we found that the art festival Under the Oaks at the Vero Beach Art Museum was fabulous as was the museum itself.
We plan on leaving early in the morning to travel to an anchorage prior to getting to Lake Worth. It sounds like a beautiful spot where we can take Dimples to the ocean beach. Our next stop will be at Old Port Marina in Lake Worth and it is here that we hope to connect with other boaters who are planning to cross over to the Bahamas. Our plan includes letting everyone know just before we leave to cross over the Gulf stream by using our Spot system that provides our longitude and latitude via e-mail - it also has an SOS button to push should we need help. So while we can barely tolerate the sound of the Velcro being pulled away - we are doing just that pulling away to our next step of our adventure.
02/15/2012, Vero Beach, Florida
We stopped at Melbourne on the way to Vero Beach and fortunately (or unfortunately) discovered Grimaldi's - where we bought their speciality -chocolate covered potato chips. We munched away while we watched the pelicans fish and dolphins swim by our boat.
We are now living the boating communities cliche' of being "stuck" in "Velcro" Beach / alias Vero Beach. We are staying on a mooring ball at Vero Beach City Marina and have been here for a week. The reason so many boaters end up being stuck here is that it is nice walk or free bus ride to a gorgeous beach, stores, and great restaurants. Additionally, there is a nice Captain's lounge, laundry facilities, and fellow boaters are providing us with a lot of great information about going to the Bahamas. On the 9th of February we joined a sundowner celebration and listened to a number of boaters sing and play their guitars. This place is especially wonderful for boaters because the small bus stops right in front of the marina and takes you to the beach, the little downtown or to the mall on the other side of the big bridge.
We have enjoyed running along the beach and one day I happened upon a celebration of a surfer's life. Troy, a young man (43) who was a surfer passed away and all of the surfers came with their boards and fresh flowers. They swam their boards out and formed a circle in the ocean. Words dedicated to Troy were said and fresh flowers were thrown to Neptune. Since I stopped to ask about why so many people were gathered on shore and in the water I too was given fresh flowers and took part in the celebration of a life. As we walk/ run along the boardwalk we are constantly aware that Florida is "God's Waiting Room". Wiley told me that he was sorry that he knocked the little old lady off of the boardwalk and into the ocean. However, he said that at least her walker would be found by the guy with the metal detector and it would be used once again. (Wiley's sick sense of humor!) The boat and Wiley will stay here while I fly home (Feb. 23-29) to do a some consultant work. This allows Wiley to stay, play, and hopefully stay out of trouble!
Trouble (?)- well we have had some minor troubles as we learn how to maneuver Dimples with our 2HP outboard motor. Just getting in and out of the dinghy is generally very amusing - one leg in the center of the boat and the other on the dock with hopefully a quick step in without tipping the boat over and taking in water. Of course there is the dignified ceremony involving crawling out of the dinghy onto the dock, as you push aside other dinghies, all while holding the 'painter' - (line to tie up the dinghy).
The powerful (ha!) motor does not have a transmission - so it is always in forward. It is always a surprise when you pull the cord and start the motor. When you start the motor you are facing the motor and not where the boat is heading. Also, as soon as you push in the choke it takes off! We have managed to drive Dimples right into the mangrove roots lining the channel much to the amusement of other mariners. Of course tying off on our boat and getting aboard is another trick and we have frequently made a couple of passes before we are able to grasp Les Miserable. You can imagine what this looks like when it is dark, windy, and we are managing a hand held light as well. We are fortunate to have "dinghy dogs" - inflatable tubes tied to the sides of Dimples to help keep us afloat and balanced. The good news is that neither of us have "gone swimming" while on this learning curve - however we do wear our life jackets just in case. Dimples has been good about getting us back and forth to our boat and allows us to haul groceries, laundry, run to the showers, etc. We have tended to tie up at docks as this allows us the convenience of just stepping off of the boat to access all these resources. However, staying at a dock is costly. When we are in the Bahamas we expect to be staying on mooring balls most of the time. I know that while I am home I will be thinking about Wiley managing Dimples.
We have been studying the trip across the Gulf Stream and talking to experienced sailors about it. We have decided that we will cross from Lake Worth - West Palm Beach to West End, Bahamas. We will hopefully celebrate our arrival and clear customs at West End. This means when I return at the beginning of March we will need to provision for the next face of our trip, break the hold of "Velcro Beach" move on to Stuart - and then Lake Worth....and finally to the Bahamas as soon as the weather allows.
Upon leaving St. Augustine we landed in Palm Coast. In the Palm Coast Marina we had to do a four point tie (you tie your boat to pilings) in a slip that was much too large for our boat - so an older gentleman came down to the slip to help us in and began yelling at us that we needed to get lines over the pilings off of the stern of the boat which our boat past between. We eventually were able to do this by using boat hooks, lines, yelling, and pushing the boat back and forth. The gentlemen who helped us was courteous but nevertheless left with the impression that he was dealing with novice sailors, complete idiots or some combination of both. He was right!
The marina was lovely. However, the big attraction in Palm Coast is the "European Village", consisting of 4 story condo buildings of typical Florida construction that sit in a circle around a fountain with shops on the lowest level. The buildings have certain detailing meant to suggest "European Row Houses". Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, either as a result of foreclosure or because it was Monday. One of the resident boaters told Wiley that a condo in the European Village which originally sold for $100,000. was recently sold for $16,000.
The marina has a "happy hour" - at 4:30 and Wiley joined the group while I took some family phone calls. Wiley got into his first political argument of the trip which was set off when one of the locals made the statement that there would be no federal deficit if we just cut all the blacks off from their welfare checks. Of course, Wiley could not resist pointing out that 75% of all people on welfare are white, and that southern whites are disproportionally represented on the welfare roles. From there it was "off to the races", and Wiley fled back to our boat and eagerly planned our departure for the next morning.
We skipped by Daytona Beach landed in New Smyrna Beach and were thrilled that we did so. We stayed at the New Smyrna Beach Marina and the stern of our boat faced out on the ICW where we watched dolphins swim by and listened to the call of a variety of birds (mostly pelicans, cranes, and ibis) on a nearby island -a mere 50 yards from the boat.
We were excited when we had the opportunity to watch a dolphin swim right near the boat into the harbor hunting for some lunch. This has been a great place to walk/run to the beach and a town with lots of little shops. There is a restaurant (Breakwaters) right on the beach where you sit and watch the ocean roll in through huge open sliding glass windows while dining on one of 17 different burgers - all while sipping on a (or a couple) of drinks of choice.
We have been eager to have more beach time now that we are in Florida. Wiley could not resist swimming in the ocean and donned his triathlon wet suit twice - while I preferred to just relax on the beach and read. (The water was 65 degrees and a too chilly to tempt me in.) They are very accommodating in New Smyrna and have a free electric car that will transport you from place to place upon calling for free (you are expected to tip). We took advantage of this service when shopping at Publix the local grocery store.
We past the location of the New Smyrna Shuffle board club which has a club house and dozens of shuffle board courts with benches for the players and audiences to sit during the games. Almost every court had teams of seniors at each end engaged in lively competition while wearing their shuffle board team T-shirts. Most of them seemed to be in their 70's or 80's. Wiley said these are "active seniors" and that because we run and swim we are also "active seniors". This might sound slightly funny the first time you hear it but now Wiley talks endlessly (over and over again!) about us being "active seniors". One grows weary - it is hard enough admitting that you are in fact a senior and constantly being told that you are in fact an "active" senior is just a tad too much reality and more like a pitiful commercial for a supplement that keeps your systems moving! Being surrounded by so many old people is scary - recognizing that you are one of them is even scarier! I would truly like to find a way to "skip by" this reality as I observe that comfort trumps fashion (dark socks with sandals, plaids shorts and plaid tops - whatever is clean?, hats that look like they have also lived a long life...etc.), bodily functions are willingly shared (loud coughing to clear the morning, afternoon, and evening throat, and other bodily noises that need not be mentioned), as well as a constant need to repeat, remind, and reference ones own experiences over and over and over.... Hmmm - Florida is providing a reality check that I am finding difficult to embrace.
The next morning we decided to try to get to Cocoa and skip by Titusville in order to get further south and to take advantage of a highly recommended marina - the Cocoa Village Marina. As we have moved south from St. Augustine, the weather is warm and humid and water temperatures are rising. We have encountered an increasing number of bridges that we have to get through and there are many more boats on the waterway. On the way to Cocoa a power boat was on a collision course with us, it looked like we were playing "boat chicken", so we were actually forced out of the channel: as it went by we observed that the Captain was a woman talking on her cell phone! For weeks it has seemed like we almost had the ICW to ourselves, so this is a big change.
A more happy development is that we now see dolphins multiple times during the day; we are hopeful that we will soon see our first manatee. Driving the boat from New Smyrna to Cocoa was marked also by our passage of Mosquito Lagoon which is a massive body of very shallow water with a narrow channel that you must navigate. It goes right past Cape Kennedy and for hours we could see the huge vehicle assembly building. As we got closer we could also see the launch tower used by the space shuttle. After 9 hours under way we arrived at the Cocoa Village Marina, and although the very shallow water on the channel into the marina (5 feet or less) made it a little bit tense the marina is gorgeous! The town is filled with lots of little shops and restaurants. However, town is too small to have its own post cards- so we cannot send them out. Wiley became bored with the place within a few minutes - lots of shops - but no access to beach. We joined fellow boaters to watch the super bowl on the huge flat screen TV in the comfy and professionally decorated captain's lounge. Most of the boaters were Patriot fans - so it was fun watching it and cheering for the Giants. It was a great game - yeah Giants! Our plan is to leave for Melbourne ( a short skip down the ICW - about 20 miles) in the morning and hopefully reach Vero Beach the following day.
01/28/2012, Saint Augustine Florida
Upon arriving in a harbor new to us one of the first things we do is re-read all of the information about the place and attempt to sift through what we want to see and do. We have learned that we like the history (especially Wiley), some of the "tourist traps", love anything that is natural - beaches, lagoons, etc. and of course both enjoy eating our way through any of the recommended restaurants! We have been fortunate (our waistlines are not so fortunate!) to be in St. Augustine for about a week - which allowed for a lot of "sifting". We were especially blessed because we had the opportunity to share some of joy of St. Augustine with my father and his wife Pat as well as my sister-in-law Marybeth and her mother - Joan.
St. Augustine was founded 42 years before Jamestown, Virginia and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It is the oldest village in the United States. Menendez, Spains most experienced admiral, came to the coast of Florida in1565. As a result there are wonderful historical sites to re-discover in St. Augustine. We joined Marybeth and Joan Powers, who drove in from Boca Raton, at the grand coquina fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos built to protect the Spainards. Costumed guides at the fort on a beautiful sunny day served as reminders of the Spanish Empire who once ruled the cobblestone streets. Later in the day we dined at the Santa Maria Restaurant. It is here that you can feed the fish - actually (mostly the seagulls) right from your dining table. The restaurant has little doors that open and you can see the ocean below. Unfortunately, there are no fish around to feed, when the waters are warm they dine but with this being winter they have swum out to warmer waters. As a result, the seagulls take advantage of the stale bread and persistently squawk at you through the window next to our table. It is a little like a scene from Hitchcock movie The Birds.
We rented bikes (1/2 price for those staying at the marina) at Pedal St. Augustine on King street. We were delighted to be able to ride to the beach and Wiley swam in the cool ocean waters in his wetsuit. Early in the day we had run to the beach - a little over 3/12 miles from our boat and back and so were thrilled to have the ease of biking back to the beach. We discovered a wonderful little Mexican restaurant along the way - Mojo's - which of course we had to try. We also toured the famous St. Augustine Lighthouse, near the beach and climbed the 117 steps to the top. We were greeted with great gusts of wind at the top as well as fabulous views of the waters we had traveled and will travel.
My father and Pat drove from Summerfield and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Columbia Restaurant and finished our Christmas celebration. We also had to try the gelato at a nearby restaurant. It was wonderful seeing my dad who will turn 90 this year and finds joy in going on cruises with Pat. They have 2 more cruises planned this year. Columbia Restaurant is right on St. George Street which is one of the "longest" mall strips in America! There are a lot of little shops along with the first wooden schoolhouse, a historical tavern that serves Sangria and is only lit by candles, and places to buy lots of sweet treats. Of course, while here we have tried them all.
There are many places to tour and we plan on saving some for our return home, however we decided to check out the Alligator Farm and Zoological Farm. It was amazing to see and even feed some of the alligators at this zoo. The collection of alligators and crocodiles is enormous. I was interested in trying the Zip line over the alligators, (Wiley was interested in watching) but the tickets and the zip line together cost about a weeks worth of groceries - so I settled for the ticket alone. However, on our trip on the way back I will be on that Zip line!
One of the best things about St. Augustine is the live music. Many restaurants, bars, etc. have live music and it is outdoors. We enjoyed dining at the romantic O.C. Whites and listening to live guitar/ folk music. Additionally, earlier we stopped for a beer at the local tavern for lunch and enjoyed more music. Also, along the way a group of seven string/ percussion street musicians were playing. A young man who is traveling by bike and hauling chickens and his dog in a trailer (self created which included a peace sign on it :-)) got 2 chickens out of the trailer and had them join in dancing while the musicians played.
We have once again met some wonderful people including a couple, Peter and Gayle McCann, from Australia that came here to purchase their sailboat- Salty Sally. They picked up their boat in St. Petersberg and are taking it to Georgia where they will leave it to go home to greet 2 new grandchildren into the world. We had a lot of fun comparing Australia's and the United States political systems, sports, and much more. We enjoyed dining with them at the A1A restaurant while watching a football game.
There are still the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, The Fountain of Youth, the Wax Museum, Flagler College tours, and the Lightner Museum, and more. Of course by now you know that we have learned to sift out most things that do not involve some eating or drinking. Tonight we are planning to bar hop (Saturday night!) and enjoy the local live musicians. This will, of course, require that we purchase some spirits to allow us to listen in to the music. In our "sifting" we have learned that our preferred sport involves a lot of bending of the elbow, the opening of our mouths, and loosening our belts! On Monday morning we will leave this delightful place because the current, tide, and weather will all be in our favor. We plan to head south to Palm Coast Marina and then onto to either Daytona or New Smyrna.