Every Day an Adventure
16 January 2010
So, having cleared 13 bridges yesterday, we face the prospect of another ten today; but the distance is short and we aim to be in Fort Lauderdale (Fort Lau-di-da) by early afternoon. And if we thought we saw big homes yesterday, they got even bigger today.
We consider a couple of options for tonight (and likely a couple of nights as the conditions are supposed to deteriorate this weekend. There is a good anchorage at Lake Sylvie which is secure but there is limited access to facilities and given that we may need to spend a few days, we opt for the second option; up the New River to downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The city is a popular tourist destination, with 10.35 million visitors in 2006.] Fort Lauderdale is sometimes known as the "Venice of America"] because of its expansive and intricate system. The city is a major yachting center, with 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas and boatyards. Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding area host over 4100 restaurants and 120 nightclubs.
So, the New River which we will transit today to take a dock space at the municipal marina in the heart of downtown is really one of these aforementioned canals. Picture this, the Jemseg river but running through a city twice the size of Saint John, whose banks are lined with yachts of every size (ours would certainly be among the smaller) with a constant stream of tour boats, mega yachts, water taxis and every other type of vessel going up and down river. Add to this the complexity of several opening bridges and significant current and you've got the ingredients for our adventure of the day.
I had prearranged for our dock space with the municipal marina but the directions and location were vague to say the least. The dock guy said that he "might" be there to take our lines. Audacious in the lead then Sea Sharp we carefully wend our way up the river. The current is slightly against us which is the ideal situation as we have more control and steerage. Pretty soon between Audacious and us a mega yacht coes out into the middle and with thrusters fully engaged swings the boat the width of the river to turn it heading with us. He is gesticulating and yelling at me to get out of his way but there's really only so much I can do. So this behemoth is right on my stern and pushing me. We call to the next bridge and he opens and we tentatively move forward as we know our slip assignment is somewhere past this bridge but before the next. Now the Mega Yacht is really wild; a crew member on the bow yelling to get out of his way and the captain on the radio doing the same. Our level of anxiety increases......
The reason why the mega yacht is panicky is that they're under the bridge, occupying pretty much the entire opening, their forward movement inhibited by us but there's a large day cruise catamaran going downstream trying to get under same bridge but with the current with him. We have no time to stop to figure things out and we see a free line of dock space up a ways on our starboard side. We think this may be our assigned place and really need to get out of the way of this now frantic captain. So Roger pulls over and tries his best to tie up; luckily there were a couple of good Samaritans to take his lines . Before he's even tied up, we come up in front of him and do the same manoeuvre. Again we have some help with the dock lines but both boats are still not snugged in yet.
We try to muscle the boats closer to the dock tied up to what we thought at the time were three foot high bollards (a bollard is a stout bit used to tie vessels up to). Just as we start to get things under control, there is a huge gush of water (or at least at the time we thought it was water) coming at us broad side from under the dock trying to push us back out into mid stream. It's turbulent to say the least and with the wind now picking up we realize we cannot stay here. After we realize that this turbulence is caused by a regular (every six minutes) release of a huge quantity of what appears to be run off water through two four foot pipes. We get sorted out somewhat and our crew tries to get their heart rates down.
Soon we get a call on our ship's radio from the dockmaster informing us this is not dock space, what we thought were stout bollards are, in fact, decorative lighting and that we'll have to move.
Easier said than done. Between the incessant traffic, the now mid-tide current the cross wind and being penned in by two bridges we know this will be tricky. I have to move over first and as I motor off the dock to move over to the other side, my backstay snags a tree along the shore line and while, fortunately no damage is done, it could have been serious. Nonetheless, leaves and twigs are raining down on me as I concentrate on turing the boat on a dime and tying up down current. After tow attempts and with the dockmaster and Judy on shore and Roger on board with me, we get sorted out.
Roger will have an even more difficult time because his boat is longer and there now is less space to park. He tries to come in down current but it is not going to work so he comes in stern to stern of me and up current. Again after two attempts he's tied up and unscathed.
Nerves are frayed but all's well and captains and crew did a good job. Roger and I go in to register and this laborious process takes the better part of an hour and by this time we are frustrated.
But we are safe and sound even if it's bumpy and now windy along this dock face. We go out to dinner and start to decompress. While it's not a quiet night, with the raucousness due to the proximity of the Friday night bar scene, the steady stream of boat traffic, the semi-regular transit of trains and the now increasing winds, we manage to get some sleep.
As I said, every day an adventure (Pics to follow).