Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Traveling North

     A week ago at 6:30 AM Joe tuned the SSB radio to 4045 to listen to another Chris Parker weather broadcast. The forecast for the entire Atlantic seaboard was still grim. Gale force winds off Cape Hatteras, huge waves in the Gulf Stream, drenching thunderstorms throughout the entire state of Florida, with high winds in the Bahamas sprinkled with squalls and thunderstorms. Cruising boats were holed up in safe harbors and few were moving north or south. Cruisers staging along the east coast had been waiting for favorable weather windows for a couple of weeks and those who had chosen to head north of northern Florida were facing squalls, headwinds and unseasonable chilly temperatures.

     Even after processing Chris' forecast Joe and I decided to poke our nose out of the Port Everglades inlet just to satisfy our own curiosity. We raised the mainsail in the turning basin and began motoring out of the inlet. The wind was a steady 18 knots from the east southeast. Cresting waves in the inlet we're four to five feet with a short four second interval. In other words it was rough and the waves would have been cresting on Simple Life's starboard side. It would have been an arduous overnight up the coast to Fort Pierce. After slogging around off the coast of Fort Lauderdale for a short period of time a unanimous decision was made to turn around, head back into the inlet, take the sail down and return to the anchorage in Lake Sylvia.

     So now what? Joe processed additional forecasts from several internet sources as well as Chris Parker' broadcast the following day. It appeared that things were going downhill even further. A stationary low over the Carolina's was keeping normal trade wind activity away from South Florida and was ushering in northerly winds and severe thunderstorm warnings with winds in excess of 40 to 50 knots! That information was enough to chase us the short distance up the ICW to Las Olas Municipal Marina where we could procure a mooring for the duration of the impending bad weather cycle. The moorings were a pricey $37.00 per night, but Joe considered it a means of insuring the boat in the event of squally thunderstorms with the potential of dragging boats in a tight anchorage.

     Neither of us cared much for Fort Lauderdale with its high rise hotels, megayachts, luxury condos and overpriced restaurants. I missed Marathon along with the calm, down to basics environment it offered. Though, apparently Fort Lauderdale appeals to the masses.Traffic was gnarled, restaurants were hopping, foreign languages filtered out of bars and sidewalk cafes and we felt out of place. With the $17,000,000.00 homes surrounding the area we felt like "gypsies in the palace," as Jimmy Buffett would say. It was time to move on.

     When the thunderstorms subsided and weather turned more favorable northerly winds and seas were still high. It was evident that if we were to make any progress north it would require us to travel within the boundaries of the ICW. With days of potential travel lost Simple Life finally slipped her mooring lines and began the arduous journey north in what is known as "the Canyon." One of the main reasons we hoped to travel offshore was to avoid the fifteen restricted bridge openings in one day. Bridges open on schedule on the hour or half hour. It's easy to get out of sinc with the timing between bridges.
 If one bridge tender was only a few minutes late with an opening that had the potential of setting a vessel back and having to wait a half hour for the next scheduled opening at the next bridge. Another problem was that local power boats ruled this area with little regard for the lowly traveling sailing vessel with limited maneuverability or power. Travel in this area is not advised on weekends for a good's nuts! We departed on Saturday and made considerable progress until calling it a day in Lantana when we just couldn't stand another minute of relentless motor boat wakes. Simple Life was anchored for the night off the ICW. On Sunday conditions were even worse with unskilled large and small power boaters who aimed their boats at us in tight conditions while naively waving and throwing wakes in our direction without regard. We called it a day at 1:30 PM by turning into a peaceful anchorage in North Palm Beach.

Sabastian Inlet Lighthouse
     Monday offered hopes of less boat traffic and making considerable progress north. Mild weather throughout the area promised progress. We hoped to make Fort Pierce, but actually made it to Vero Beach! We'd traveled 62.5 miles in one day! That is a good day in sailing miles. Vero Beach is a cruiser friendly town that offers convenient shuttle buses to grocery shopping and the beach. We'd stopped in Vero on our trip south and looked forward to our return trip north.

     Grocery shopping always seems to be high on the list so we hopped an early bus to Publix and West Marine and were back aboard by noon. The afternoon was reserved for a trip to the beach for a fitness walk and lunch at a restaurant on the beach.

     Calm winds are ideal for traveling in the ICW and we were up early to take advantage of the conditions. First we needed to refuel, top off the water tank and get a pump out. All were available at the Vero Beach City Marina before departure. With Simple Life fueled and ready for sea, we await fair weather for passages offshore.

Fueling up at Vero Beach

Simple Life is now ready for sea...if only we can get to the St. Augustine inlet before the weather turns once again.

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