May 22, 2015

Friday morning we wake up early to a beautiful quiet sunrise on Lake Boca. We hear little noise except for the waves lapping against the sides of the boat. We make ready to get underway for West Palm Beach, our destination for today. We’re both a little apprehensive since this is our first time pulling up an anchor in several years but it goes off without a hitch. Cindy eases Just One Dance forward as I run the anchor windlass, pulling in enough chain so that I can reach over the bow and unhook the snubber. Then I direct her through the headphones to keep JOD lined up with the anchor chain while I pull the anchor the rest of the way up. The chain comes up clean but the anchor shovel holds a good amount of mucky sand, understandable since it has been buried in the bottom all night. I leave the anchor dangling just below the surface of the water while Cindy steers us out of the anchorage and back onto the ICW, the flow of seawater cleaning the anchor off in no time.

It’s busy on the ICW today; it’s warm, the weather is beautiful so the pleasure boaters are out in force. All day long boaters zip by our gracefully moving vessel with varying degree of courtesy and professionalism. At one point we pass a large sandbar along the water’s edge. Boats are nosed up onto the sand, several stereos are blasting out a variety of competing songs, people have lawn chairs set out and are partying en masse. Several dogs gallop through the sand, chasing each other into the water and having a blast. Missy looks on with obvious envy. Cindy and I both agree this would be an awesome party spot if we lived in the area.

Party Cove

Party Cove

We again pass through more bridges, an activity that is getting almost passé by now. We pass through the Atlantic Ave Bridge at Boynton Beach, bantering with the bridge keeper about our boat’s name. We remember this guy from when we were headed down south when he bantered with us about Captain Missy being in command of the boat. We decide he is our favorite Florida bridge keeper.

For the most part, the bridge keepers are all friendly and professional, especially when you treat them likewise. However, as we wait for our last bridge, we can hear a boat hailing the next bridge (bridges all communicate VHF Channel 9 so we can hear nearby bridges as well as ours). The keeper’s response is so slurred its largely unintelligible. He cuts off his transmission. He comes back on several times struggling to get out fragments of response but it’s all slurred and incoherent. The requesting boat keeps hailing him but if there is a response it’s incomprehensible. Cindy and I wonder if we should try contacting someone since even though the guy sounds drunk he might also be having a medical emergency or an adverse reaction to a prescription drug. Soon though another coherent voice comes on and informs the requesting vessel that the bridge will open as scheduled. However, we keep hearing garbled, drunken sounding fragments of transmission throughout the rest of the evening. We are thankful that we will not pass through that bridge until tomorrow.

We arrive at Palm Harbor Marina at about 4pm. It’s been a long 7 hour day that was unfortunately about to get longer. Cindy knew from her research that the current runs very high in this marina, given its proximity to the Lake Worth Inlet and the fact that it’s right next to the Flagler Memorial Bridge. Bridge pilings act like funnels, forcing the water passing through them to speed up. We know we are arriving at peak current and several posts on ActiveCaptain have warned about how tricky maneuvering into a slip at this marina can be (their face dock is reserved for much larger boats than JOD).

As Cindy steers us into the fairway between the docks, the current immediately starts pushing us around. She has the helm locked down so she can steer us with the twin engines but the current is so strong it turns the rudders and slams the helm hard over. At this point we are basically out of control. I lean over the front of the boat and push us off of another boat to keep from colliding with it. Cindy puts JOD into reverse and we back out of the fairway back into the ICW so we can reassess.

We decide there’s no way we are going to try and put the boat into a slip with the current running this high. The fuel dock is open and since this is a face dock we decide to park the boat there until the current eases off. Cindy puts us alongside (much easier to do since the face dock is parallel to the current) and we tie up. However, a lot of marinas won’t let you stay long at the fuel dock since they understandably want room for other boats to come in and fuel up. They tell us we can stay until 5:30 but then we have to move to a slip. A quick check shows that the current will hardly have eased off by then so we go into contingency planning.

We’re only about an hour away from the North Palm Harbor marina, a place where we stayed on our way down south. We give them a call and they tell us they don’t have a problem us tying up on their fuel dock (the fuel dock shuts down at 6pm anyway). I go to the office to tell them we have decided to move on. By the time I get back to the boat, they have already called Cindy and told her it’s now ok if we spend the night on their fuel dock.

The fun’s not over yet though; as soon as we let Missy out of the salon, she jumps off the boat and takes off down the dock. What?! She’s never done that before! The floating docks here are quite tall and I guess that put the dock close enough for her to jump down. Fortunately, we corral her with dog treats and put her back on the boat. And she promptly makes a beeline for the side of the boat and jumps off again. Fortunately, her love of Milk Bones undoes her once again and we get her back on the boat. Later, when security comes by to check on us, she gets out again (this time she gets distracted by playing with the guard so we manage to snag her again). We reluctantly decide to put her on a leash to assure she won’t get off the boat again.

Then, without warning, the bottom falls out the sky. It goes from zero to monsoon in about 10 seconds. Cindy and I scramble to get our hatches closed and enclosure down so that everything doesn’t get soaked. The area around the marina is nice and we had looked forward to finding a good restaurant to go out to for dinner, but both of us are soaked, exhausted and haven’t even showered after our long day on the water. We decide to settle for Domino’s delivery and watching Survivor over the internet.

In all fairness, this is a very nice marina and the staff is top notch. There are much bigger boats than ours in the slips, though these boats have thrusters that make tight maneuvering much easier. For our boat, we would have to time our arrival for slack current to be able to dock there.

We push off the dock by 9:00 the next morning, headed for Stuart, Florida. We have arranged to stay Saturday night at Sailfish marina, a small facility just off of the ICW near the confluence of the waterway and the St Lucie River. This area is lovingly known as The Crossroads since traffic heading up and down the ICW crosses with traffic heading out the St. Lucie Inlet to the ocean and up the St Lucie to Lake Okeechobee.

We soon see the environment around us change, as the development gives way to the Florida wilds. The waterfront homes become much sparser and the concrete-reinforced shore yields to tree lined marshes. We pass by deserted little islands covered in mangroves and loblolly pines, sporting small, inviting beaches. It’s been a long time since I was a kid and dreamed of finding pirate treasure on islands like this, but these gems just seem to transport me back there without effort. Egrets, herons and cormorants appear again. Dolphins are everywhere. Cindy and I both agree we like this environment much better than the heavy development Palm Beach-Ft Lauderdale-Miami area.

Desert Island

Desert Island Fantasies

It’s a warm sunny Saturday and the weekend boaters are again out in force. Part of me resents all of the activity around us because it forces us to be much more cautious. You never know if the boats coming at you will follow the rules of the road or are even aware of them and whether the drivers are so hopped up on alcohol and testosterone that they are even capable piloting their boats safely. But the better part of me realizes the waterways are for everyone and just because we can’t manage much more than 6 or 7 knots shouldn’t mean that everyone has to plod along at our stately pace. It’s a beautiful day and I can’t blame folks for flocking out to enjoy it.

We reach The Crossroads in the mid afternoon and it certainly lives up to its name. It looks like quittin’ time at the factory, boats zooming in from the ocean and out from the St Lucie, cutting in front and around each other without care. We carefully maneuver from the ICW into the St. Lucie and then quickly veer off into Manatee Pocket and hail Sailfish Marina. We dock without incident and settle in.

Reviewing the list of nearby restaurants, we settle on a place about a mile and a half from the marina called The Twisted Tuna. As Cindy said, “how can you not eat at a place called The Twisted Tuna?” The walk does both of us good after a long day on the boat and the weather is nice. We arrive at the Tuna to find it hoppin’ with locals on a Saturday night. There’s live music playing outside so we get a table by the window where we can hear it (there’s only bar service on the deck). Suddenly the crowd at the inside bar gets loud and rowdy and we realize that The Preakness is being shown on the bar TVs. American Pharaoh wins and the patrons cheer raucously and high five each other. The hope of a Triple Crown winner remains alive.

Our food is good and the portions are enormous; we end up taking half of it back to the boat with us. Our drinks are generous as well but we down them there. The singer is entertaining though not particularly talented. We watch the crowd down on the deck and Cindy notices one of the locals, who is a dead ringer for William H. Macy’s character in Shameless, dancing by himself. He catches her watching dance and dances up at her. She smiles and chair dances back at him. He smiles and motions us to come on out and join their group on the deck. We head down and visit with them for a while. They live nearby and run a charter business; we exchange contact info so we can keep in touch. Cindy spies a ring game at the corner of the deck, one where you have a ring hanging on a string and you’re supposed to swing it so that it catches on a hook in the wall. She tries and nails it after just a few tries. I’m impressed.

The music has stopped by now so we grab up our leftovers and walk back to the boat. Missy as always greets us as if we’ve just returned home from the war. We take her down below and curl up for a good night’s sleep.