Our Last Stretch of the ICW
05 December 2007 | Lake Worth, FL
Florida is a strange kind of a place. Mind you, this is a purely personal opinion based on one trip down the ICW. The northern part is interesting and mostly friendly; this last stretch has been interesting yes, but in a different way. There is not as much diversity in the rivers and land cuts, and the steering is mostly straight ahead, looking from marker to marker. We passed under far more bridges on Tuesday, including the PGA bridge right beside a lovely looking golf course - and right around the corner from where Tiger Woods reportedly keeps his boat.
We passed the 1000 statute mile point about 11:30 on Tuesday so we toasted the milestone and ate some chocolate!
We passed more estate style properties - but mostly without the property. Many filled almost the whole lot. Several had huge screened in portions of the yard. We are not talking screened in porch - we're talking screened in yard! To be fair, we also passed many lovely homes with beautiful landscaped gardens. In places, little canals ran off perpendicular to the ICW and they were lined with palm trees and houses and docks. Most of the land along this stretch of the waterway is highly developed - gone are the marshes and wild areas, although the wonderful assortment of birds is still present, and Jim spotted another alligator.
Most of the boats around seemed to be powerboats, and most with fishing apparatus, some of them very expensive, others simple runabouts. On the weekends, the fisherfolk roared past us in their fast boats, or sat in their little boats just off the channel.
The ICW is a narrow channel that runs down the centre of the rivers and is sometimes silted in. We bumped on a shoal going around a corner - at Jupiter Inlet. The buoys are frequently moved to indicate deepest water, but still there are sometimes shoals that run right across the channel. The good thing is that they are mostly sand so they are not damaging, and can often be backed off or plowed through. We even hit one in the dinghy as we crossed the Indian River in our futile effort to find a dock at Fort Pierce.
We have noticed that cruising powerboats almost always slow down to pass us, while local powerboats rarely do. Cars do not stop to allow pedestrians to cross, and people don't wave as often. Just as in Fort Pierce, here in Lake Worth we found a distinct lack of enthusiasm about making it convenient for anchorers to come ashore. We feel a bit like we are riffraff that they'd rather keep off their land. It is a strange approach for a town with expensive homes and cars and the kind of stores where we cruisers can spend a lot of money.
Soon after we arrived in the anchorage here, we dinghied over to the Old Port Cove Marina to visit Mary and Blair and find out where the dinghy dock was. They told us there wasn't one - the marina doesn't really encourage people to come ashore. Really! We asked about a dinghy dock close to a grocery store, and Mary gave us directions. We set off in the indicated direction, trying a channel or two before we found the right one, because of course it wasn't marked. There is no dock. The procedure is to run the dinghy up on a tiny sand beach beside a bridge. If there are lots of other boats, which there were when we got there, one must jump out and wade ashore. The dinghies must be locked to a wire running along a fence - because theft is apparently common here. Then one climbs the bank, crosses the highway and walks to the grocery store. I could not believe it. If we were in the Bahamas, I'd laugh and think it part of the charm. Here in this city where boats costing millions of dollars are moored, and where hundreds of cruisers set off to cross the Gulf Stream, it was annoying, ridiculous and beyond my understanding.
I made a call to the marina this morning to inquire how much they charge people at anchor to come ashore to do laundry and have showers, and where we should land our dinghy. The gentleman's reply was: "We don't allow that, ma'am." Their ad in the boating books says "providing spectacular service since 1972". When I said this did not seem like spectacular service to me, he said they offer services only to people who come into their slips. I tried one more question: "Would you please tell me where it IS possible for me to do laundry? I'm sure you would have that information since you must get lots of calls like this." The answer: "No ma'am. I have no idea and you are this only person this year who has asked that question." Amazing. We asked at the North Palm Beach Marina where we went for fuel and the answer was the same. No services offered and no idea where they might be offered. There were a couple of Laundromats one time but they closed.
Jim will tell you in another posing about his bizarre experience getting fuel.
Well - enough of the rant. The weather is hot and sunny. The anchorage is spacious. The lights on the buildings around sparkle and twinkle. Our SSB is working well enough to allow us to listen to Chris Parker give his morning weather report and answer questions of cruisers who sign on to his service. We got a call on the VHF radio this afternoon from David Allester - formerly of Little Gidding (a sister ship of Madcap). He is in Florida, playing about on his nephew's boat. David and Eileen (Quinn) are friends who have encouraged us since we met them in Belleville when they first returned from cruising, and it was great to hear his call. We picked up a load of needed (or would that be wanted?) items at the West Marine store. In fact we borrowed a little fold up box on wheels from Mary and then decided it might be practical to have one of our own. They were handy for toting jugs of engine oil and diesel, and that other liquid - the one we drink.
We did the last of the provisioning at the Publix store this morning. I'm happy to report that the people there were really helpful and friendly. The prices were reasonable enough and we are now fully loaded. We have tried to find a happy medium of having onboard what might be more difficult to find in the less developed Cays of the Abacos and Exumas, without getting caught up in a frenzy of carrying everything we could possibly need for the whole trip. The stores in Marsh Harbour apparently have everything we would find on the mainland. Jim and I love to experiment and eat what is available locally so we'll carry some staples and leave the rest open to possibility. We have our quarantine flag to hoist when we get inside Bahamian waters and before we have checked in. We have the Bahamian courtesy flag for after that, our passports, money to pay the entry fee, and enough food to make sure we don't starve. We may be wearing grubby clothes and be a little unkempt, but tomorrow we'll swim in crystal clear water, do the washing in a bucket and hang it on the rail.
The weather report for tonight is favourable for a sail across the Gulf Stream to the Abacos so our plan is to head out with Strathspey around 10 or 11 pm. A number of boats have left this anchorage to head out near the inlet so as to be ready for an easy trip out after dark, and we will do the same shortly. The wind will be up and there will be some waves but Chris Parker the weather guru says it will be a rare opportunity to sail across rather than motoring. We'll do it at night so we land during daylight. If the wind seems too strong when we get out there, we'll turn around and come back in. Otherwise we should be nicely tucked into Great Sale Cay by this time tomorrow afternoon.
I'll do a posting afterward to let you all know how it went. If you don't see anything here for a day or two, it just means that we have not yet found a wifi connection. Unfortunately the Winlink position report system is on the blink again so that's not reliable.