February 25, 2015

Cindy and I spent yesterday tied up at the dock at Boynton Harbor Marina, getting caught up on work, relaxing and enjoying the marina. Cindy heated up my leftover Seafood Mac and Cheese from the night before for breakfast, I had the best of intentions for making some hot oat bran cereal but ended up never getting around to having breakfast. I settled for coffee with a shot of Bailey’s and working on my laptop. We took Missy out for a walk and she met up with another Yorkie that came off a boat full of French people (or possibly Quebecoise). I considered busting out my high school French but then realized that all I know is how to ask where the post office is and that would hardly start much of a conversation. On the other hand, Missy and their dog speak the cross cultural language of puppy and wasted no time in sniffing each other and playing. Soon they were joined by yet another Yorkie, the three of them playing together in a tumble of puppies, leashes and wagging tails.

We opted for a late lunch at Two Georges. I got a Reuben and an India Pale Ale and Cindy opted for a burger and a diet Coke. The bitterness of the IPA offset the sourness on the kraut on my sandwich nicely. We sat in the late afternoon sun and enjoyed our meal by the water’s edge. The marina sits in the shadow of the Ocean Ave drawbridge so we watched boats as they tread awaiting the next opening.

Cindy and Martin at Two Georges

Cindy and Martin at Two Georges

Early the next morning we push off from the dock, timing our departure so that we can catch the 9:00 opening of the Ocean Avenue bridge. I hail the bridge keeper as we are casting off our lines and he asks if we are going out to “play with the big boys”. We chuckle at his humor. The demeanor of the bridge tenders we’ve encountered range from friendly to professional to surly. This one sounds like a real hoot. He spots Missy up on the front deck in her yellow life jacket and tells us he can see captain out on deck. We banter back and forth with him before wishing him a good day. Still, we hear him over the VHF for the next several miles, cracking wise with other boaters.

I find myself wondering about this profession. These folks spend most of the day sitting, acknowledging hails from skippers requesting passage at their next opening, informing the uninformed captains about when their next opening occurs and raising and lowering the bridge. Some of the skippers get a little cranky when they realize the previous schedule has changed or that the cruising guide’s bridge times are out of date. This was particularly true for the bridges that were undergoing construction work and as a result only opened once an hour. No one wants to find out that they have to tread water for an hour waiting for the next opening. A quick internet search shows that these folks make between $32,000 and $48,000 per year. A number of the bridge keepers that we have hailed have been women.

We have found that the process of raising the drawbridge has its own natural rhythm. First the bridge keeper announces on VHF channel 9 that the bridge is preparing to open and asks that requesting boats stay clear of the bridge fenders (the wooden fencing that protects the bridge supports from the inattentive helmsman) until the bridge is fully opened. Next there is an undetermined period of time during which the auto and pedestrian traffic continues to cross the bridge unimpeded (this is the most frustrating time for the waiting sailors). Then a bell rings and traffic arms lower across the street and walkway, blocking any additional traffic from proceeding across the bridge. Another minute or two is allotted for any car or foot traffic already on the bridge to cross beyond the traffic arm on the far side (often with us mariners urging them to get their butts in gear as we jostle our throttles to hold ourselves in place). Finally, a klaxon sounds and the bridge leaves begin to raise. The rate at which the bridges raise varies, some proceeding upward at a decidedly more stately pace than others. As an engineer, I’m amazed at how quietly the spans raise.

We will be encountering a lot of these bridges today on our passage to Pompano Beach. Though we will be traveling only 21 miles, we will encounter 10 bridges, only two of which will open on demand. Our calculations have to be fairly precise given this many bridge passages, rushing to make some while slowing down to make others. In some cases we have calculated backup plans in case we find that we can’t make the speed necessary to make the next bridge opening and need to slow our roll to arrive at the following one. Missing any of our openings would have a domino effect on our arrival time. We had thought about pushing on an extra eight miles to Ft Lauderdale but it would mean an additional five bridges added on to what already promised to be a long day.

We had to scramble to find a place to stay the night since we have now reached the latitudes that everyone heads to in order to avoid the winter cold and many marinas have no slips for our beamy catamaran. We finally found a spot at the Sand Harbor Resort and Marina, a place that doesn’t usually have any transient slips but who agreed to put us on the dock in front of their bar for the night. Even though the slip had no power, we gladly accepted.

The day itself preceded uneventfully as had many of the days before, us now growing used to the mad dash/slow roll routine. Boat traffic is heavy and the VHF emits an almost constant stream of voice traffic on channel 9 from skippers requesting bridge openings. We again watched an endless parade of opulent waterfront homes, many with mega yachts parked in private slips next to the house. We see a surprising number of new homes going up and wonder how it could be that any open lots exist on this crowded waterway. A quick check of the waterway guide informs us that it is not uncommon for people to a purchase multi million dollar home and then tear it down to build a new custom home in it place. We really wonder what people do to make that kind of money.

Big Boat

Parking In Front, Rampant Consumerism in the Rear

Around 3:00 we arrive at Sand Harbor just in front of the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge. The dock master has decided to put us into a slip on his facedock that is normally occupied by a 96-foot yacht. The owner is currently in the Bahamas and is not expected back until Friday. Since we are only spending Wednesday night at this marina, we will be out and on our way before he returns. This allows us to plug into shore power, which makes life a bit easier than living off of the house batteries.

There is a Publix grocery less than half a mile across the waterway from our marina so I strap on one of our daypacks and head out on a provisioning run while Cindy plans our fairly short run to Ft Lauderdale tomorrow. I get to live the pedestrian experience as, just as I’m about to step foot on the bridge, the bell rings and the traffic arms come down. I dutifully wait with the rest of the traffic for the klaxon to sound and the bridge to raise. Even standing this close, the raising bridge barely emits a sound. At Publix, I load up essentials like beer (for me) diet Dr. Pepper (for Cindy), as well as meats, chips and some AA batteries that we need for our handheld GPS devices. Decidedly loaded down, I head back and reach the bridge right at 30 minutes later, just as the bells ring, the arms coming down…you get the picture. I guess the drawbridges are inconvenient for all involved.

I cook up a simple dinner of hot dogs (sometimes they just hit the spot), we watch The Bachelor on Hulu (yep, we do that) and then we head off to bed. I awaken in the middle of the night to my wife doubled over in pain and throwing up. Its pretty clearly a case of food poisoning, though we’re at a loss to explain from what. We’ve eaten identical things today and I’m feeling fine. The only thing we can think of is that Cindy put mayo (yep, that’s her thing) and ketchup on her hot dog and I didn’t. Cindy spends a miserable night and in the morning we decide to stay another day to let her rest and recover. The dock master informs us that we’ll have to move to the dock in front of the bar around 4:00 since he doesn’t know when the slip’s owner will return. I don’t relish having to do this with a sick wife but at least she will have all day to recover.

I work from my computer most of the day while Cindy sleeps. Later in the afternoon, I make another run to Publix to get new mayo and ketchup to replace the one’s we threw out as a precaution, again hitting the bridge opening on my way there.

Cindy comes up to the salon at about 2:00, looking better but still decidedly under the weather. She remembers that she also ate the last of our salami slices while I was shopping, ones that had been in the fridge for a while. I fish the package out of the garbage and find it was still well within its freshness date. However since our refrigerator can struggle to maintain its temperature below 40 degrees though, we decide it’s best to police our lunch meats more carefully. It looks like the mayo has been exonerated.

At 4:00 I head over to the dock master’s office to get his help undocking from the slip and docking at the bar. He tells me he’s decided to put us on his fuel dock instead when it closes at 6:00 so we’ll move the boat then. At 6:00, I head over to meet him again and he now tells me he heard from the slip’s owner and they’re still in the Bahamas, so we can stay where we are for the night and clear out early in the morning. I am grateful for this blessing since it will let Cindy rest.

Missy at the Bar

Bartender! Where’s my Pupperoni Colada?

Total Distance Traveled: 369 miles