December 29, 2006 - Stuart, Florida
Although we've visited places of great beauty and historical interest, the best part of this cruise has been the welcome we've received from genuinely nice folks like Barbara and Bruce. Randall and Jo Ann Blackwood in Huntsville, Shirley and David Pleace in Beaufort, Godwin and Sylvia Jones on the Chesapeake, Lewis and Kim Adler in New Jersey, and of course Rhonda and Janet in Rhode Island are just some of the people who, perhaps against their better judgment, gave us free reign of their homes, vehicles, and lives while we visited. And of course there were many others (I'm leaving out family members, not because they don't count, but because I'm starting to feel like I'm making a speech at the Academy Awards).
Leaving the dock or a good anchorage is always hard for me. As much as I enjoy the adventure of new places, there's comfort in staying put in a known, safe environment. As we venture back out into the world of actual cruising--or at least as close to that as this crew gets--I suspect we'll remember the kindness that people have shown us as the very best part of our continuing adventures.
Photos: (1) Bruce and Barbara on the left, Curt and Teri to right. (2) Several of us, including Karen shown here, enjoyed a great sunset cruise on Icarus, Curt's beautiful Beneteau 36.
December 31, 2006 - Lake Worth (Palm Beach), Florida
The run down the ICW from the St. Lucie inlet, along Jupiter Island, was a pretty one, with mangroves lining the channel. We were tempted to join the dozen boats anchored at Peck Lake and walk over to the beach, but pressed on. The Jupiter inlet provided some entertainment as we went aground twice trying to get past it (we simply needed to swing wide around the red nun at the intersection). After racing to get through a series of bridges, we arrived at Lake Worth near Palm Beach. We'd planned to anchor near Peanut Island, but decided to go into the Lake Worth anchorage instead.
For the first time in many months, we launched the Marlin, the Walker Bay 8 that we carry on the foredeck. I'd lost the dagger board off Mayaguana but fashioned a plywood replacement while in Mississippi, and it worked fine as Laura and I sailed around the anchorage. We had read that the town might try to collect a fee for anchoring, but there's been no sign of it so far. Perhaps we're still just on edge after the reception we received in Ft. Pierce, but seeing canals and inlets along the ICW roped off with "private property" signs (a practice of dubious legality) made us wonder how welcome cruising boats are along this part of the coast.
We will probably stay in this area until the seas along the coast are settled for a trip towards Miami. Just for fun I started counting the bridges between here and Miami on the ICW, but I lost track somewhere in the thirties.
Photos: (1) The dinghy dock in Lake Worth is this beach, with posts and cables for locking your dinghy. It's just a short walk from here to shopping and restaurants. (2) After months of stalking, we finally cornered a wild Tofurkey at Publix. Gourmet, meatless, and delicious--serves and delights four! They also had Presidente beer on sale here. It was the best Publix ever!
January 2, 2007 - Singer Island (Palm Beach), Florida
We spent most of today cleaning up on the boat, then went back to the playground where Laura played for a couple of hours. Annie and I talked about our plans. In an exciting new development, we have decided to try to return to Exumas in the Bahamas rather than just hanging around Florida for the next three months. The islands are just a couple of days away and it seems only in keeping with the logic of our cruise that we should go back now when we have the chance. As my friend Jim Bowman likes to say, tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. There's lots to do to get ready: massive provisioning, reactivate the satellite phone, get our latest Coast Guard documentation mailed to us, develop a strategy for the crossing. Our plan is still to be back in Tennessee by June, but this gives us something exciting to do in the meantime.
Photo: Laura and friends on the playground at Phil Foster Park.
January 3, 2007 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Last night we were concerned about how we could possibly get the necessary tasks done to make us self-sufficient for a couple of months in the islands. We Americans are used to jumping into the car and zooming over to BigboxMart whenever we discover we lack the smallest item. There are no Walmarts in the Bahamas (this may be one of the reasons people like to go there) so one must plan ahead. We needed to do some major provisioning, but how? It looked like we were headed for an expensive night in a marina plus cab fare, but David Hurd came to our rescue. David, who we met in Newport thanks to Janet and Rhonda, has a condo in Ft. Lauderdale and managed to create enough dock space for us there, while providing transportation to the store and bank. Meanwhile, our friend Shirley in Chattanooga was making much-needed bank deposits and mailing our Coast Guard documentation to us.
Despite the rough start, it was a good sail down to Ft. Lauderdale. We sailed half the distance and motorsailed the rest through the beautiful blue abyss. This is what the boat was made to do. The sun came out, Laura felt better, and it was a great day to be a sailor.
Photos: (1) Annie must love doing laundry. She was in such a hurry to get back to it that she would only pose for two pictures instead of the dozens I requested. (2) Glad I took this one; I knew I would need a vertical shot to go with Annie and the laundry. (3) This big Hatteras was kind enough to move back a few feet so we could squeeze in beside it at the condo docks.
January 5, 2007 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
I am starting to feel like a real cruiser again (even more sleepy and lazy than usual) because I'm getting up before the sun comes up to catch Chris Parker's weather forecasts on the SSB radio. Annie and I pored over the charts and guidebooks for hours last night, trying to figure out how to get to the Exumas quickly given the forecast for the next week. It would be possible to go straight to Chub Cay and try to beat a cold front that's scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but we're not that desperate yet. It's been great here at the dock to have fast Internet so we can overload ourselves with information. After lots of angst over the cost, we reactivated the Globalstar phone so we can continue updating the log, receiving e-mail, and have emergency communications should we need it [Postscript: Big Mistake! Globalstar had become useless. See my rant].
Our plan is to go outside tomorrow to Miami and Biscayne Bay. If the forecast is wrong and seas are up, we could take the ICW down--there are only eight bridges left! I think we'll head for No Name Harbor and see if there are any boats there waiting to cross. We'd like to have a buddy boat, if possible. Even with the sat phone, EPIRB, and SSB, it's safer and usually more fun to have some company.
January 7, 2007 - Miami, Florida
The antics of the boats trying to anchor here are also entertaining. I watched a poor fellow drop his hook three times just a few feet in front of a big trawler, as if he was trying to anchor right on top of the bigger boat, while the trawler owner stood at his bow trying to wave him off. This morning a powerboat snagged our anchor chain (apparently he was driving around the harbor with his anchor still hanging in the water) and spun his all around. I came within inches of being chopped into pieces by a small boat's propellor while snorkeling to change a shaft zinc and check our anchor...my fault for being crazy enough to get in the water here. However, a lot of people swim. As I said, it's a zoo, but we had a good time at the beach (where Laura got to go swimming for the first time in four months) and play on the playground. There is a fee for anchoring ($15/night, honor system) but that gets you full use of the park including trash disposal, and there is a free pump-out.
We've got the alarm set for 4:30 AM so we can get an early start for Bimini, not much more than forty miles away on the other side of the Gulf Stream. I have reservations at Blue Water Marina there ($30/night with power, $40/with). We asked around the harbor and didn't find a buddy boat, but later a single-hander named John from a Valiant 40 called Chance came over and may be going with us in the morning.
Photo: One of the seven remaining houses in "Stiltsville" out in Biscayne Bay, with the towers of Miami Beach in the background. The Biscayne Channel, which we took in to the Bay, goes right by this famous community. Supposedly built in the prohibition era, these houses miles from dry land are slowly disappearing as a result of hurricanes and restrictions on repair.
January 8, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
It was well into the afternoon by the time I had cleared Customs and Immigration, but we had time for a trip to the beach. Last year we checked in at Cat Cay, which had a well protected marina but little for us to do during the time we were stuck there waiting for weather. There's one restaurant on Cat but the rest of the island, including the beaches, is off-limits. Bimini is a much better place to be stuck, with lots of beaches, shops, and things to see. That's good, because we will probably be here for a while since there is rough weather forecast.
Coming back to the Bahamas was an expense and a complication in the larger scheme of our return to Tennessee. Watching Laura play in the surf today at a postcard beach made it all seem worthwhile.
Photos: (1) This wreck is near the entrance to Bimini Harbor. That is, I mean the wreck in the background, not Annie. Not that Annie is a wreck! But I digress...the important thing is that moments after this photograph was taken, a crab attacked us and my brand new polarized shades were washed away by a rogue wave. Consternation! (2) Wreck diving can be dangerous! Fortunately, this one is out of the water, so even novices can make a safe penetration.
January 9, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
Photo: Conversation was interesting at today's happy hour.