February 22, 2015
We cast off early on Sunday morning headed for North Palm Beach, a light favorable wind and a good position on the dock enabling us to move out without assistance. The sky is blue though the air is still cold, so we keep the cockpit enclosure rolled down to keep warm.
We have an additional challenge today…the last four bridges we will encounter only open at certain times. Now that we are hitting the greater Ft. Lauderdale-Miami area, drawbridges that only open at fixed times will become the norm and they are plentiful. Given the high population density in this area, we will encounter bridges every few miles and given the traffic volumes they can’t afford to open the bridges for each boater as they arrive. Not to mention the prevalence of bigger and bigger boats in conspicuously wealthy Miami which cannot pass underneath these low bridges without an opening. It will require Swiss timing and some balls-out speed runs for us to not end up having to tread water for up to an hour awaiting the next bridge opening.
In anticipation of this, we have planned our route today as meticulously as winds, tides and currents will allow us. The more frequent presence of inlets leading to the ocean means currents run one direction north of the inlet, the opposite to the south. And the directions change with the tides. That change with our location. And with the time.
It’s a Sunday and the beautiful weather has brought out the weekend boaters in force. I was hoping that the Daytona 500, which starts at 1:00, would keep most of these yahoos glued to their television sets but that appears to be a vain hope. Boats fly by us left and right, sometimes on both sides simultaneously, usually with a couple of young ladies laying on the bows while the men steer the boat, beer bottle in hand. No one seems the least concerned about what their wake does to their fellow boaters.
Weekend Yahoos Coming at Us
We pass the St Lucie River Inlet which is popularly known as “The Crossroads” where the channel to Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean cross the ICW. The cruising guide cautions boaters to be wary of the heavy cross traffic at this location especially on weekends. We find it not nearly as congested as advertised and on the other side we’re pleased to find the high rise condo developments disappear and the land reverts back to verdant mangrove thickets. These trees line the shoreline, their tendril roots reaching down from slender trunks into the water. They are favorites of boaters around the world, their tough roots making a convenient place to tie a bow or stern line to hold your boat in place. Fish love to hang around these roots, making them in turn favorite hangouts for the herons and egrets that wade and fish along the shore.
After an hour or so this paradise reverts back to high rise heaven and the boaters are now really out in force. The waterway looks like a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday. I make a mental note to plan no travel for weekends from here on out.
We reach the Indiantown Bridge, the first of four consecutive bridges that open only at fixed times. This one opens on the hour and half hour. From here we have to cover 3.1 miles in 30 minutes to make the next opening at the Donald Ross Bridge, meaning an average speed of 6 knots. With the warming south wind on our nose, we’ll have to run JOD’s engines wide open to average this (we are officially classified as a slow moving vessel). Once we pass this bridge, the next one down the line is the PGA Boulevard Bridge which is 3.3 miles downstream and likewise opens on the hour and half hour. Parker, our final bridge of the day and literally a stone’s throw from our marina for the night, opens at 15 and 45 after the hour, but lays a scant 1.1 miles down the waterway.
We clear the first bridge and rev up our engines as soon as we’re clear of the fenders. We quickly realize that our calculations didn’t take into account the fact that it will takes about five minutes to be clear of the bridge from the scheduled opening time. Opening requires stopping traffic, waiting for traffic, including any pedestrians, to clear the bridge, sounding the claxon and then actually raising the bridge. We rev up our rpms and pound toward the next bridge. As we get close we hail the bridgekeeper and request passage at their next opening, as we have hear that they will not necessarily open if you don’t hail, even they can clearly see you. He informs “Here’s how it is…if you’re here, we’ll open. If not, you’ll have to wait until the next opening.”
We push the throttles to maximum, clocking in at over 7 knots on our GPS and pray, but make the opening with no problem. We drop our speed to pass through, then rev back up to full throttle and slice through the water at 7 knots towards the PGA Bridge. We make that opening, drop our speed since the next bridge is only a little over a mile away and still end up having to tread water for about five minutes waiting for the opening.
We hang a right into the North Palm Beach Marina and tie up on their fuel dock, the only space that’s big enough to hold our boat that’s open. We don’t have shore power to plug in to there, but the night promises to be in the 60’s and we could run our generator if it does end up getting cold. We sleep with the hatches open for the first time. We’ve finally found warmer weather.
Missy Stopping To Smell The Flowers
Total Distance Traveled: 328