An Inauspicious Start
12 January 2010
So, having languished in Stuart for more than a month, we decide we need to push on. It is very easy to get complacent and kick around in one comfortable place; the days evaporate quicker than the rum in the happy hour glass.
This stretch of cold weather had had everyone hunkered down but, while this morning is no warmer, the winds are dropping and temperatures improving. So, we, along with long time cruising buddies Rog and Jacquie on Audacious decide to start a trek south. Yesterday we provisioned so much that it took two dinghies to get all of our "stuff" on board. Stagnation had set in to the extent that when we finally decided to start to move, we had many things to organize. It felt almost like last year when we left Douglas Harbour to commence this trip.
We did some final sorting out this morning, including finding a place to store our Jeep in our absence and getting last minute provisions. Around 1:00 we leave this wonderful Marina, in the company of Audacious. This place we highly recommend to cruisers; it is a top quality place with great employees and as I've already reported, Stuart has all of the amenities that a cruiser could want.
So, we leave in what we now consider balmy conditions (58 degrees and sunny) buoyed by the notion that we are moving. It is hard to leave all the great folks we have spent the last month with but this ain't cottage country. Our destination today is very modest; out the St. Lucie River and down the ICW to Peck Lake, a nice anchorage we used last year - about 12 miles.
The confluence of the St. Lucie River, the St Lucie inlet and the two branches of the ICW make for a very complex piece of water with shifting sands that the dearth of public funding for maintenance means that it is very shallow and the marks off position. A sailboat (a CS 36 from Toronto) radios us and Audacious to tell us that they have run aground in the narrowest part. Roger and Jacquie approach and bump aground but keep their power on and muscle their way through. We slow down so when we inevitably bump, we don't have enough momentum to make it through and we're hard aground in the middle of a busy and obviously shoal channel. No amount of horsepower will move us and we almost resign ourselves to waiting several hours for the tide to rise sufficiently to float us off.
We had taken out tow insurance last year through Tow Boat US; one of two companies which offer towing services to recreational boaters. In all of our almost 3000 nautical miles we put on last year, we ran aground just twice; an amazing feat. And in neither case did we need to get towed.
This time, with my towing policy renewed, I call Tow Boat US and within about 15 minutes they are on the scene. By this time, though a combination of vigorous throttle, sails out, rising tide and the wake from other vessels, we have extricated ourselves; but on the wrong side of the river. So the Tow Boat guy leads us through the channel, actually having to go significantly on the "wrong" side of the buoys to bring us eventually into the ICW.
No cost, nor damage done, we continue our way through the ICW, the now couple of miles to our destination of Peck Lake. Judy takes the helm as we wend our way through the narrow channel and soon, bump, we go aground again. Again, we use the boat's engine but cannot move so I get in our dinghy with it's 8 hp engine to aid in the salvage. No go. In fact in the process, I do significant damage to the transom of the dinghy and fear that we may need to replace it; another couple of boat bucks (recall the new definition is one boat buck equals a thousand US). We give up and call Tow Boat US again and within ten minutes they are back on scene. The captain of this small but very powerful boat is very professional. He asks for our boat information, then quickly and expediently attaches a bow line and muscles off the shoal.
We carry on and he confirms that our recently acquired renewal of our tow insurance has covered this procedure. It costs about $125 annually for this insurance for unlimited towing; one such event today, had we not had insurance would have probably cost $600.
Anyway, despite these inconveniences we press on another twenty minutes or so to Peck Lake to join Rog and Jacquie who have us over for dinner. This is a peaceful anchorage with little traffic, despite its proximity to West Palm Beach and we are anxious for a quite night.
So, our first day under way had its' adventures and challenges. But, it's great to be moving.