We spent three nights total in Cocoa Village, thanks in part to our friends Robin and Jim Roberts who gave us the “One Free Night” certificate they had gotten at the DeFever Rendezvous (another boaters’ group we are in) and which they couldn’t use.
Continuing on the Indian River, which seems to go on forever paralleling the ocean shoreline, there are many bridges. Some bridges are high enough so we can go under them without asking for an opening, others we have to have opened for us. We have what they call an “air draft” (translated to “height above the water”) of 27’. Our mast carries our radar, a TV antenna, lights, a weather station and some GPS antennas and is VERY HEAVY.
We could lower the mast if we had to, although it would take four strong men and a winch, OR. . . a clever Hans with a VERY clever rig he has devised for doing it single handed, but . . . with no small effort. We do not lower the mast. So for a bridge with 9’ clearance, or 16’ clearance, or 24’ clearance, we ask for an opening via the VHF radio. The answer will be something like this: “Opening in 24 minutes, Cap’n,” if they have a posted schedule, which is usually on the hour and half hour, or every fifteen minutes. Or it will be, “Yes Cap’n, get a little closer and we’ll open for you.” Sometimes they do it immediately, and sometimes you just hang there, waiting. But you almost always have observers.
So you’re traveling along the Indian River forever. There are barrier islands between you and the ocean, where there is often development and sometimes not, but there is also often a second set of barrier islands, sometimes east of the ICW, and sometimes west. On the chart they look like a string of beads, and in actuality it looks like some of the islands are big enough to live on. Or not.
We had many dolphins join us along this stretch, with one group that followed us for a good ten minutes. There were four of them; the smallest would leap fully out of the water in a big arc, and re-enter with a determined splash; the largest one would splash his/her tail really hard after every couple of “soundings” or whatever they call the graceful arcing into breathing time. . . ; the third had apparently lost its dorsal fin at some point, although it didn’t seem to affect its swimming; the fourth one was sort of speckled, and swam on her side with one eye focused on us the whole time. Niya was overjoyed, and she squealed so much I thought she might lose her voice.
On Saturday, January 5th, we stopped at the Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce. A longish walk to the nearest supermarket let us replenish our stores. We’ve been pretty successful with the groceries. I think the inclination on the part of most boaters (or possibly just those of us who are new to long term cruising?) is to carry more food than you can possibly use. The unfortunate truth is that after carefully stocking refrigerator and cupboards, local restaurants and eateries are often too tempting and you eat out rather than on the boat. Which of course we did that night, as there was a restaurant/tiki bar right there at the marina. . . Sometimes what you can fix in your own tiny galley with limited ingredients and a creative mind is better than what you can get at the local tiki bar. Okay?
A “Personal Yacht” is beyond what we have. What we have is a . . . well. Let me think about the perfect definition, because sometimes with our peeling paint and worn varnish (both of which are on our list of “things to fix when we get to Marathon”) we don’t really look like we belong in some of these marinas.
Passing through the Jupiter area was interesting. There are many bridges at or near the Jupiter Inlet that were low enough that we had to wait for openings, so it’s slow going. The ICW takes a little snaky curve there, and with all the bridges and Sunday boaters in their small go-fast boats, water police were very much in evidence. That area felt almost carnival-like in atmosphere.
And getting into Lake Worth in North Palm Beach — YIKES! Wide open water, lots and LOTS of Sunday boaters, many of them no longer so small, gave us a pretty bumpy ride down to our Sunday stop just north of the Port of Palm Beach at the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina.
The marina is undergoing a major renovation, as they are adding floating docks. These were still not available to the public (next week is “launch” apparently), but were fully occupied by birds. Evidently birds can be a real problem in Florida in the winter, as this is where many of them come when they “head south.” The docks — and boats! — can be pretty disgusting with bird droppings.
Our dock was right across from the Tiki Bar, which looked to be VERY popular.
Our plans to head out Monday morning at 7 were cancelled when we realized that our Port transmission was not working. Several years ago we replaced the Starboard transmission with one that is more modern and is definitely smoother in operation. It’s not an easy or inexpensive job, but we had decided to replace the Port transmission before we left Baltimore. . . unfortunately the wrong part arrived from Volvo, so we are still limping along with the old transmission. One of the parts of this mechanism is called a “damper plate.” It is the weakest link in an archaic system, so we carry spares. Hans has had experience in changing the damper plate, but it still took almost three hours of hard sweaty labor.
After getting underway again, we realized that we were seeing water that was that wonderful green that means you’re in the southern waters! It’s a gorgeous color, and unlikely when paired with blue skies. It just doesn’t look real!
Lake Worth narrows down at Boynton Beach, and we travelled through a long canal of attractive condos and homes. As we neared the megacities of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami there were more canals on both sides of the waterway lined with expensive — or derelict! — homes, and pretty much everything in between.
It’s very odd to see lavish homes with carefully manicured gardens and lawns and swimming pools (frequently guarded by life-size bronze or stone Grecian water nymphs for some reason) flanked by falling down and sometimes clearly abandoned homes that look like they were built in the ‘50s. It brings obvious questions to mind: where is the owner? Still alive? Was it a place of wonderful memories for a generation or two and then forgotten? Are the heirs not aware of the property? Where IS the owner??
We arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale Las Olas Municipal Marina after they closed, but before dark. With our slip assignment already taken care of by phone, we took Niya for a quick walk and then scrambled to the flybridge for sunset cocktails. Across the ICW, at the foot of the Las Olas Bridge on the other side, a bag piper was playing. Can I just tell you how awesome our arrival was??
An unusual weather system has brought “unseasonably warm” temperatures in the 80s, and strong south/south-east winds to Southern Florida and the Keys. We are sitting tight here until those winds subside and we can cross Biscayne Bay comfortably. There are many, many worse places to be stuck, wouldn’t you say?
A few things I’ve learned so far:
- You can vacuum up “half-a-dog’s” worth of hair one day and the same amount two days later, but there’s still a whole dog here.
- House plants that we nurture at our windows up north make great hedges when cut and trimmed correctly.
- It may look delicious in the supermarket, but the temptation of a menu on the board outside a restaurant almost always wins. Unfortunately.
- The floating thing in the water in front of your boat is not likely to be the head of a swimmer or even, God forbid, a decapitated head. It is a coconut.