This past week has been a blur of nameless anchorages, long narrow canals and more bascule bridges than we can count as we’ve snaked our way down the ICW from St. Augustine to North Palm Beach.
We’ve been averaging 50 miles a day, waking up at dawn, pulling anchor by 7:00am and motor sailing for about ten hours a day, setting anchor by 5:00pm each night, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. Finally around Jensen Beach, the weather got warm and has stayed warm. Today we officially swapped out our coldgear for bathing suits. It was freaking awesome.
We’ve lucked out with some great anchorages along the ICW. Calm, quiet, usually with only a few other boats. And the sunsets have been amazing. Each night was more beautiful than the previous night. It’s our new favorite time of the day.
In Jensen Beach we had a great find – a Publix grocery store that was only a ten minute walk from the water. We called a local marina right by our anchorage to see if we could come in for fuel and leave our boat tied up for a half an hour while we ran to the store to stock up. They (semi-rudely) informed us that they were a private marina and we couldn’t use their docks, but we could certainly buy their fuel. Hmmm. We anchored, hopped in the dinghy with two empty jerry cans and headed over to see if we could purchase some fuel and slyly ask to leave our dinghy tied up while we ran ashore. Turns out they only had gasoline (we needed diesel), but they were nice enough to let us tie up as long as we were back by the time they closed within the hour. This is what provisioning when you’re a cruiser looks like. Not too sure what the cashier at Publix thought of us as we began cramming our groceries into our backpacks. No more Vienna Sausages for dinner that night!
We kept heading south, through nameless town after nameless town, seemingly getting stuck at every bridge possible. Suddenly the landscape changed from secluded marshes to mega mansions. Looks like we finally reached Palm Beach area! These
houses estates were just ridiculous. And it seemed that each one was trying to outdo the other either in size our sheer gaudiness. I guess this is what either Old Money or the Nouveau Riche looks like. And here we thought we were livin’ it large in our 41′ catamaran. Sheesh.
Oh, and we saw a pirate ship. It didn’t look like anyone was actually on it… maybe the crew had a mutiny? Or they were burying their loot on the island behind them? Or maybe they were all sleeping off their Rum Runners from the night before? Either way, it was an odd and welcomed sight to see along a stretch of otherwise boring scenery.
Our engines had a birthday during the trip…. they rolled over to 6,000 hours. That’s a lot of hours for an engine. I guess it’s like a car’s odometer rolling over to 200,000 miles. Of course we had to take a celebratory picture, and coo over how wonderful they are, in hopes that the kind words will keep them going. We’ve really been pampering them to keep them happy so they’ll at least last us until after our Bahamas trip. We hear as long as we take care of them, they’ll take care of us. Sorta like a marriage.
We finally made it to North Palm Beach Friday afternoon and anchored out since our marina reservation wasn’t until the next morning. The weather had shifted and it was blowing from the N/NW at well over 25mph. We had to go through THREE bascule bridges in the mile stretch before our anchorage that only opened at specific times, which was horrible. We would either get there too early or too late for the scheduled opening and would have to sit and wait, fighting wind and current, for up to twenty excruciating minutes before the damn thing would open. Matt was a champ and rode it out beautifully. I, on the other hand, was a nervous skitzo, and had to occupy my mind by checking Facebook so I didn’t loose it picturing our boat crashing into the bridge and our 62′ mast being sheared off by a 17′ vertical clearance. By the time we set anchor,I was feeling very skittish to say the least. Then we had our first experience setting anchor in 25mph wind. That was enough to nearly push me over the edge. Once we were set, I uncorked a bottle of wine to calm my nerves. It helped.
That night we kept hearing a weird grinding noise that we just couldn’t figure out. It only happened during a big gust, or when the wind direction shifted. It sounded like our anchor chain was grinding against the boat, but after checking several times, we knew our anchor was set properly and it wasn’t that. What the hell? After a sleepless night, we checked it out in the morning and think that we had let out too much chain after we attached the bridle, and it had all piled up on itself almost as a second anchor. As we would swing around with the wind, it was the sound of the chain grinding on itself that was making that horrible noise. We were only in about seven feet of water, and the sound carried up clear as if it were right on the boat.
We made our way over to our marina and tied up for the day, happy to be out of the wind, and excited to have lunch with an old friend we haven’t seen in years. It was a great day. Much needed after the long week along the ICW we had before. The wind was still blowing pretty good by Saturday afternoon and we knew the ocean would be pretty nasty, so we decided to stay another day at the marina to let the weather settle down and get some boat stuff done. We had a visitor stop by and stay the night on the piling right next to our boat, probably trying to ride out the weather as well. We named him Pete. Pretty fitting for a pelican, we think.
This morning, we got up bright and early and headed out of the Ft. Pierce inlet to start our offshore trip down the coast to Miami. The ocean has finally calmed down and it was a beautiful morning. We fought a three knot current against us just to get out of the inlet and as soon as we were out in the ocean, we felt the effects of the Gulf Stream almost immediately. We tried to hug the coast as much as possible – we were only about a mile – but the northerly current of about 2.5 knots, combined with wind directly on our nose meant we were motoring along at a cool three knots. With that speed, it looked like our day trip to Miami would turn into an overnighter. Great. Might as well throw out the fishing lines to see if we could liven this long trip up!
Around 10am, the line hit! Matt jumped up to reel it in and we saw a big old barracuda hooked on the other end. Unfortunately, these are not edible, so he (she?) went back in. Bummer.
A little after lunch, we got another bite, and this time it was a big one! It was pulling on the line so hard, our heavy duty offshore fishing rod was bent over in a near perfect arc. Matt grabbed a hold of the rod and slowly started reeling it in, which took him about 15 minutes. This thing was fighting him the entire way. Meanwhile, I’m grabbing the vodka to stun it, and the net to scoop it, all while trying to record the first big catch of the trip on the iPhone. It was chaos. He finally got it in, and we found that we had a whopper of a fish, which was probably just over three feet long. It would feed us for days. We had no clue what it was, so I grabbed our fish book and handed it over for Matt to fumble with as this thing was flopping around on our deck trying its hardest to get back into the water.
It turned out to be a Crevalle Jack fish. Also unedible. Whomp Whomp! So it too went back into the water, this time with our hook stuck firmly in its mouth. Hey, at least now we know that Matt’s not a Jonah. Two fish in a matter of a few hours. I’ll take it, even if we did have to throw them back.
It’s just past 10pm and we’re nearly to Miami. It’s been a really nice nighttime trip having the skyline of Ft. Lauderdale and the northern Miami suburbs so close. Hoping to be anchored in Biscayne Bay around midnight so we can catch some sleep and explore some of the reefs tomorrow. We’ve gone from coldgear to snorkel gear in the span of a week. I could get used to this.