A Short Run but a Long Day with a Nice Ending
19 January 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.