01/20/2011, Second Day in Lake Park
We are getting ready to leave for the Bahamas. Having learned from the St. Lucie Inlet mistake, I researched Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) for accessibility and marinas. Since it's generally considered better to get further south to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas I wondered why so many we talked to left from Lake Worth rather than Port Everglades. As it turned out, I couldn't find any marinas that took transients or any place to anchor in the area where you didn't have to go through a lift bridge to get out the inlet. Additionally, it is the busiest port on the East Coast for cruise ships. Finally, the marinas I did find were expensive. We had come here with the intention of sailing south one more day to Port Everglades and then heading for Bimini. Given the information I found we decided to stay here one more day and change our destination in the Bahamas to West End on Grand Bahama Island. I figured all of this out at 2 AM last might because I couldn't sleep. I'm a bit anxious about the crossing.
It was probably a good thing we just stayed here. We had a lot more little things to do to get ready. I set up Skype accounts so I can call US phones from my computer. I also added some minutes to call Bahamian numbers. I tried it out and called a marina at West End. Although we will anchor 90% of the time in the Bahamas West End doesn't have a great anchorage, according to the guidebook. Since we'll be coming in late in the day I wanted to make sure we had somewhere secure to go. Skype worked great and it was very reassuring to talk to the woman at the marina who said that they could accommodate us and just call on VHF 16 as we entered the harbor. I also suspended service on our Verizon broadband device, so from now on I'll be limited to using the computer and updating the blog when we have WiFi access. Fortunately, the marina we will stay at tomorrow night (hopefully) has WiFi, so I plan to let you know how the crossing went.
This afternoon we walked out to a marine store. As we were leaving the dock we saw a huge manatee. We'd seen a few of them yesterday (the first we'd seen) but in a part of the marina that was murky and it was hard to see them. As you can see from the photo, this huge one was just lying on the surface of the water. He or she was at least 8 feet long. I'm glad we got to see one before we left Florida.
We bought a grill for our rail and set that up when we got back. We also fixed a leak in the inlet to the water heater, aired the two rear deck lockers and repacked the dock lines and Bud did his usual engine checks. We made sure everything on deck was stowed, and repacked some things below. So I guess we are ready.
It's only 55 nautical miles across, but we will sail further than that because we have to head south at first to compensate for the distance the Gulf Stream will carry us north. Then we'll probably have to head south again on the other side of the Gulf Stream to get back to West End, which is directly east of here. It shouldn't be a huge day, but I'm still very nervous. The weather is favorable, so hopefully all goes well.
01/19/2011, Lake Park, Florida
We left Stuart as planned at about 7:30 AM. We had originally intended to sail the next leg to Lake Worth. The canal across Florida to the west coast starts from the St. Lucie River, which is where Stuart is, so I think I assumed the inlet was big. Note to self: don't assume anything about a route. Luckily, we mentioned our intention to a couple we met who also have a Norseman and they said we probably shouldn't try the inlet without local knowledge. We certainly don't have that. I looked it up in my sources, and sure enough, it had about the worst description of any inlet we've encountered. Definitely not something we wanted to try.
So we had a short trip on the ICW with 8 lift bridges! The last four were restricted; they only opened twice an hour, three of them on the hour and half hour, the last on 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. We had some issues at 3 of the bridges. At the second bridge, the bridgemaster kept us waiting for about 15 minutes for a slower sailboat to catch up. That's an unusually long time to hold up one boat for another. At the second to the last bridge, we hurried to make the 12:30 opening and ended up being 7 minutes early because the current was with us. That current made it hard for Bud to hold the boat in the channel. He ended up having to reverse several times before the bridge finally opened and we made it through. We got to the last bridge of the day about 6 minutes early. Again, we had the wind and current moving us towards the bridge, but it wasn't as bad there. There was a sailboat coming the other direction that came up after we had called the bridge. They also called and asked to come through on the next opening. Since we had the wind and the current pushing us towards the bridge, and thus had less maneuverability, we had the right of way (the bridge openings are narrow enough that only one boat at a time can pass under). We saw that boat start to approach as the time for the bridge opening got close. Bud tried to hail them on channel 16 twice, but they must have had their radio on channel 09, the bridge channel. The bridgemaster hailed them twice and told them to stand down until the bridge opened. In the end, they came through first and Bud had to continue to hold back until they were clear. Bud was really glad to get though that bridge and out on Lake Worth.
I had called a marina in the morning to make sure we would fit and that they could take us. They said our 5' 8" draft would be no problem. I called our friend Roger Gifford, who lives in Lake Worth and was coming down to see us and gave him the name and address of the marina. When we got close, I called the marina again. They gave me directions and said they'd have someone out to show us the dock when we came in. We found their marked channel and headed in. It was windy which makes docking difficult. Bud commented that the channel was really shallow. He touched bottom once. As we approached, we couldn't see anyone on their docks. I called them back (they wanted to be contacted by phone) and they said they'd send someone out right away. Bud held the boat in their shallow, narrow channel against the wind for a couple of minutes more until finally we saw someone come out and indicate the slip we were to use. I was quickly adjusting fenders, and switching to a longer stern line because of the configuration of the docks. Bud turned the boat into the slip and we went aground. The marina guy said that was impossible, it was a particularly low tide, but they had at least 7' of water there. Well we draw less than 5' 8" and we were stuck! He suggested we go in the slip just to the outside of the one we tried. I switched all the lines and fenders because the boat would now be tied on the other side. He sent for one of the marina boats to pull us off. Bud felt the boat move a bit, gave it some power at an angle in reverse and got us off. Meanwhile, the marina guy said he'd put us in a different slip where a deep draft sailboat usually docked. That boat was gone for a while, so we could use his slip. The lines I had were good for that slip, too. We started over to the new slip. Bud kept the boat close to the slips at the end of the marina as per their instructions and we went aground again! This time the marina boat did have to pull us off. We told them, thanks, but we thought we'd try another marina. I had listed two marinas to try that morning, so I got on the phone and called the second. He said he had just 6 feet in the entrance channel, but if we kept to the center we should be OK, and once in the marina we'd have no problem. So we headed over there as soon as we figured out that green buoy 35 was one we'd already passed and Bud got the boat out the shallow channel and turned around in the ICW to head back the way we'd come. We were towing the dinghy and I'd shortened the tow lines during our maneuvering, so I had to adjust that and found that one line was stuck on the wind vane and had to get that free. Then I changed all the lines and fenders again! And I called Roger to tell him we weren't at the marina I said, we had to move to Lake Park Marina. When we got to the second marina, I called them back for directions to the slip and we headed in their channel. Bud carefully steered the boat up the middle of their channel, we saw the boat we were to turn in behind, we saw the guy from the marina and he indicated the slip. We never touched bottom, and Bud got us into the slip with a lot of wind without a hitch. The marina guy caught the lines and helped us secure and we were in!
Bud was exhausted. I was pretty tired, too. What a tense day. We immediately had to gather up our laundry. The laundry room was over by the marina office and, of course, we were about as far from the office as you can get. So we took the laundry with us when we went to sign in and pay. On the way over we met Roger who had just arrived. He walked over with us and we chatted while we got the laundry started. Then we went back to the boat, talked a bit more, but told Roger we needed to get the dinghy aboard. I asked him if he'd take some pictures while we did it, since we really needed to see if we could do this by ourselves. Roger helped here and there, but he also took pictures so we have the picture here of us hoisting the Tohatsu outboard using the preventer hung from the end of the boom. (The preventer is a block and tackle arrangement that is used to keep the main sail from swinging on certain points of sail.) That's Bud's leg as he hoists the engine; I'm in the dinghy keeping it away from the side of the boat and the lifeline. It actually worked quite well. I also put a couple of photos in the gallery of us getting the dinghy itself up on the foredeck. We hoisted it with the spinnaker halyard, and that worked out, too.
I went back and finished the laundry. Bud and Roger hung out in the cockpit. The laundry wasn't done until the sun was setting. Bud and Roger were still sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the warm evening. We decided to just go to a Chinese restaurant and order take out and bring it back to the boat. Of course the first Chinese restaurant that I found on the computer wasn't there when we got to the address. Roger used the navigation system on his new Dodge truck to find another one. When we got there it was run by a number of dusky skinned people who didn't look Chinese at all. Roger thought they were perhaps Haitian. Regardless, we were tired and hungry and we gave it a try. We took the food back and had a nice dinner on the boat. It wasn't bad for Haitian Chinese.
I walked out with Roger when he left and realized in all his picture taking I hadn't gotten a picture of him. So I snapped a shot of Roger by his truck in the dark, and that's in the gallery, too.
01/18/2011, Stuart, FL
Today my Uncle Al and Aunt Fran drove over to see us. It's almost a three-hour drive from their place to Stuart. I had mentioned taking Fuzzy to the vet yesterday, and Al said they had a little dog, too. I suggested they bring him along if they wanted and they did. Al called when they got to the marina and Bud, Fuzzy and I dinghied over.
We sat at the marina and talked for a bit and then we walked back down the riverwalk to the Pelican Grill for lunch. We took both dogs and it worked out fine. We were pointing out the lift bridges, the railroad bridge and the highway bridge right next to it. The railroad bridge is normally lifted for boat traffic. It's automatic and only closes when a train goes by. I told them in the time we'd been there trains had only come by at night. A few minutes later I noticed the railroad bridge closing. We all watched the bridge close; soon we heard the train coming. It was the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus train! I took a picture of it and put it in the gallery.
After lunch we walked back to the marina. We offered them a dinghy ride out to the boat, but since we wanted to fuel up and pump out the holding tanks, we said if they wanted we'd bring the boat over to the gas dock and they could board it there to see it. They both really wanted to see the boat (and you can barely see the mast from the marina) and I think if we hadn't offered to bring it to the dock they might have ventured out in the dinghy, but they opted to board from the dock.
It only took us a few minutes to go back out, drop our mooring and bring the boat over to the fuel dock. Uncle Al, Aunt Fran and Sammy all came aboard. They came down in the cabin for the tour. By then it was almost 4 o'clock and they still had that three-hour drive home. I took the photo of Fran and Al in the cockpit. Al is holding Sammy, but they are in the shade and Sammy is black so it's hard to see him. I took one last photo of Uncle Al and Aunt Fran on the dock and they had to go.
Bud and I finished pumping out and filling the water tanks and then went back and grabbed our mooring ball again. A nice day and the first visit from family since we left home.
01/18/2011, Stuart, FL
It was supposed to rain today and Bud wanted to get groceries. He decided to go early and Fuzzy and I stayed behind on the boat. He was back by 8:30 and by then Fuzzy and I had everything ready to jump in the dinghy and go. We brought the groceries on board and Bud put away the things that went in the freezer and refrigerator while I loaded the dinghy for the next trip.
Fuzzy was relieved to finally get ashore. I took a shower while Bud kept Fuzzy and then Bud returned to the boat while I took Fuzzy to his vet appointment. It still hadn't rained, but looked like it would at any minute. I decided not to take a bike because the ones at the marina had no fenders and if I rode one in the rain I knew I'd get a stripe of water up my back from the back tire. I did take the front pack to carry Fuzzy in case it started raining. I didn't want him to be soaked for his appointment. It wasn't as far to the vet as it looked on the map, an easy walk. Fuzzy got his papers filled out for the Bahamas. They decided not to put an identification chip under his skin because he is going on 15 and already has a tattoo in his ear. The chip goes in with a big needle, and the vet didn't think it was necessary to put Fuzzy through that. It isn't actually listed with the requirements for a pet to visit the Bahamas, but they do ask for the chip number on one paper. Instead the vet filled in the information of the tattoo. Fuzzy dodged a bullet there.
I noticed how much this feels like Florida, now. Just walking around felt so familiar from when I lived here almost 40 years ago. It was warm and muggy. The grass is coarse and there are all kinds of strange bushes. There are birds everywhere. I took this picture of four birds pecking like chickens in someone's front lawn. I think they were wild birds, but they just kept pecking away as I struggled to get their picture (with stuff in my hands and Fuzzy on the leash).
When we got back to the marina I tried our new communication method. I had the hand held VHF and called Bud on board. We had specified we'd use channel 72, so he had the radio on that channel on the boat. "Earendil, Earendil, Earendil, this is T/T Earendil, come in please, over." (T/T Earendil specifies the dinghy; I don't know why I didn't just say Jill, except I've always used VHF radios for calling from boat to boat or boat to marina, and I couldn't say it was Earendil calling Earendil.) I felt a bit conspicuous calling like that in front of the marina, but it worked. Bud answered and came and got me with the dinghy. It still hadn't rained.
In the afternoon Bud took a nap, Fuzzy was napping in his bed and I went up in the cockpit and watched the wind and clouds and read my book. Finally, at about three o'clock it started to rain. We had a tornado warning in the area, but it never really got bad here.
After supper when we went to dinghy back to shore, one side of the dinghy was partially deflated. We were worried that the dinghy was defective. We pumped it up and went to shore. It's 1 AM (I fell asleep in the salon, again) and I just went out to check on it. It's still fine, so maybe we just didn't get a valve tight when we added air yesterday. Who knows, we'll watch it and see. It seems there's always something.
01/16/2011, Stuart, FL
I ran a few errands today. Running errands when you live on a boat is not like running errands from a land based home. The first thing I had to do was get from the boat to shore. Since Bud and Fuzzy were staying aboard, that meant my first solo in the dinghy. Oh great, and I got to go to the crowded dock. Luckily there was a pretty big empty space along the inside of the dock and I putted around the end of the dock, along the empty space, grabbed the dock and flipped the engine into neutral like I knew what I was doing.
Next I had to check out a bike. The marina had bikes you can borrow for free, so that seemed easier than hauling one of ours ashore. Off I went. I needed to go to the hardware store, the drug store, and, of course, West Marine. The drug store would fill Bud's prescription, but it would take a while. Happily they were just a block from West Marine, so I said I'd go there and stop back for the prescription. Simple enough, except that one of the things we wanted from West Marine (besides the correct rearming kit for my PFD) was a cart to haul groceries, etc. back to the boat. They no longer carried a cart with big wheels, but they had a hand truck and a collapsible crate that could be bungeed to it, so I got those.
Now I had to figure out how to carry them back on the bike. I asked for a piece of rope to tie them together and they gave me about 6 feet. I put my bag in the basket and tied the crate and hand truck on top of it. It was a bit wobbly, but I used the bike cable to hold it a bit better. Once I got back to the drug store, I managed to get part of the cable around a post to lock the whole thing up. I was worried about my things being stolen, but actually it looked like the set up of a homeless person, and probably too pathetic for anyone to bother. Prescription filled I came out and reloaded and retied everything. This time I got it more secure and better balanced, which was good because I realized I'd forgotten to get a circuit breaker we needed at West Marine. So back I went.
I finally checked the bike back in at 11:55. I'd taken it at 9:16 and gone to three stores within about 2-and-a-half miles of the marina. And I still had to take all the stuff to the dinghy and get it loaded. Then I had to get the dinghy out of there. The dock was now crowded, really crowded. I had to kneel in the bow and drag the dinghy out past the others until I got to the end and had enough space to actually move with the engine. I made it without mishap and soon was back aboard.
Still, I probably had the better part of it today. While I was gone Bud got to rebuild the other toilet. This one needed a shaft replaced to stop a leak. He was just finishing up when I got back. After he was done we started up the generator and turned on the water heater. Bud took a shower and I did up a day and a half's worth of dishes.
We spent the afternoon sitting out in the cockpit trimming poor Fuzzy again. We need to trim him a lot because it's hard to get enough off. We're slow and he runs out of patience. This time after a lot of scissor trimming we actually used the clippers and took him down to less than an inch all over. We are hopeful we'll be in warm weather now. While we were working on Fuzzy one of our fellow mooring field residents stopped by in his dinghy. He also has a Norseman 447. It's the first person we've met with one. We had a nice talk, him standing in his dinghy hanging on to our gunnel and us in the cockpit. We invited him aboard, but he had to run (so to speak). We promised to get together before we left Stuart to exchange information and tour each others boats.
We ended up eating supper at the little café in the photo. They let Fuzzy sit with us outside. It's just under the new high bridge for US 1 that runs right by the Marina. Like many of these bridges we've seen in Florida, this one has a fishing pier built underneath it. That connects to the riverwalk and that connects to the café. I put a picture of the pier in the gallery. It was starting to get a little cool while we ate, but all in all, it's been lovely.
01/15/2011, Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage
We arrived at Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage at about 2 PM today. We didn't leave Vero Beach until 7:30 because we waited until almost sunrise to take Fuzzy ashore in the dinghy, as we have no navigation lights for the dinghy yet. Once back on board leaving was pretty quick. No power to disconnect, no dock lines to release and no worrying about getting away from the dock. We did have to take the gas can off the dinghy and tip the outboard up. Then we moved it to tow from the stern, Bud fired up the engine on Earendil, and I uncleated and dropped the mooring pendant.
We weren't too worried about the time as this was the shortest leg from St. Augustine to Stuart. We did bump the bottom twice today, after I made the comment yesterday that the ICW hadn't given us any problems in Florida. Just as we were nearing the St. Lucie Inlet we passed a Coast Guard barge putting up a new day mark. Not long after we went by them, they finished and started to come our way. Bud was keeping to the starboard side of the channel to let them pass to port. He was still 30 feet inside the channel when we bumped the bottom for the first time. It made Bud very nervous, but the Coast Guard barge passed us safely.
Then we made the turn from the ICW to the St. Lucie River to come up to Stuart. The information I had said to keep to the south side of the channel from Red 4 to Red 6 (markers). We were just passing Red 2 and going slowly to allow some boats to pass so Bud could move further out into the channel before Red 4 when we bumped again. This time it was more worrisome to me, we were going slowly and bumped at least twice; I was afraid we might get stuck. But we didn't and had no more trouble. After the inlet there seemed to be no more shoaling on the 7 or so miles of the St. Lucie we traversed.
This marina is very nice. We are again at a mooring ball, it was warm enough today that I was in short sleeves a couple of times. It's a big marina with a lot of mooring balls and a crowded dinghy dock. I guess we can put up with that kind of traffic jam. The photo above is of the marina taken from the sidewalk of the bascule bridge we came under on our way in. I put a photo of the mooring field from our place in it and one of the traffic at the dinghy dock in the gallery.
We'll be here until a package we ordered arrives. It is due in on Tuesday afternoon. We also have that vet appointment for Fuzzy on Monday, and some shopping to do (we need a light for the dinghy, for one thing). We'll have a taste of the life to come, commuting from boat to shore in the dinghy. It should be interesting.