Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy New Year!

Cooleys Landing, Fort Lauderdale FL
Posted by Bill

It’s New Years Eve, and we found out that the city of Fort Lauderdale has a big bash where they shut down some streets and have food trucks, open restaurants and a ball drop, and it is 2 blocks away. We are planning to go. First things first…a trip to Publix for some groceries, which was a half a mile walk away. Then laundry, wash the boat, and some boat maintenance. While I was washing the boat, a manatee swam up right next to our dock and hung out for about 10 minutes. I got a video but haven’t downloaded it yet, so I’ll post it ASAP. I think we will stay here for a few days. We need to time the tide leaving and also the scheduled bridge closings, and it will take a couple of days for all of that to line up. Plus, we need to explore by dinghy some and perhaps go visit our friends on Simple Life who are anchored in Lake Sylvia about 2 miles away. Plus a trip to the beach….so much to do.

Have a safe and happy new year everyone!

Off to Fort Lauderdale

Cooleys Landing, New River, Fort Lauderdale FL
Position: 26 07.066N, 080 08.922W
Posted by Bill

Anchor up at 7:15 AM and on the ocean 30 minutes later. There was no wind and the ocean was flat except for a slight easterly swell. Here is the view looking at Palm Beach.
Calm Ocean
The easterly swell was a bit annoying, but much better than dealing with the 21 bridges and all of the boats in the ICW. There was a contour line on the nautical charts that was about 1 mile off shore. Along the line the depth went from over 80 to 50 or 60. I found that if I stayed on the shallow side of the line, I could do about 6 to 6.1 knots. If I crossed over to the deeper side I could only do 5.6 or so. So we stayed on the shallow side. The wind picked up to between 5 and 10 knots so we rolled out the head sail and that stabilized the boat motion caused by the swell. It was a very pleasant passage. At around Boca Raton we picked up a positive current and our speed picked up to 6.4-6.5 knots. The water also changed color and became a clear dark blue.

As we got close to Fort Lauderdale, the boat traffic picked up. We got in to the inlet around 2:20PM, just in time to make the 2:30 opening of the 17th Ave bridge.
The beach just outside the inlet:
Coming in the inlet:
The inlet is supposed to be a no wake zone once you get past the rock jetties, but a large (over 100 foot) yacht came barreling past us with a wake that nearly caused our starboard rail to touch. Crap went flying in the cabin as we rolled in the huge wave. Thanks to Tricia, everything was pretty well secured, so no harm, but it really pissed me off.

Along the ocean passage we called several marinas to try and get a slip, but everyone was full. One place told us that Cooleys Landing could accommodate us, so we called them and headed their way. Cooleys Landing is about 2 miles from the ICW, up the New River. It is about 2 blocks from downtown Fort Lauderdale, is on the Riverwalk, and close to lots of stuff to do. What we didn’t know is that the river is very narrow in some spots and is lined with boats all the way. In some spots there was only room for 1 boat. On top of that, the tidal current is pretty wicked in some spots. On top of that, the boat traffic is really crazy and there are huge yachts and tour boats a-plenty. On top of that, there were 3 lift bridges to deal with. It was a white knuckle event for me. At our last bridge I was holding for the opening, with a strong current behind me. There were 3 large yachts on the other side waiting as well. I gave the bridge some room so I could maneuver the boat, which is not easy to do in the best of situations. As the bridge opened, the yachts radioed that they wanted to go first. I had the right of way because the current was behind me and told them I needed to go. The bridge tender sided with me so they had to wait. Only problem was…they plugged up the channel and once we got past the bridge we had no where to go. The current was really pushing me and I was starting to get ready for a collision of some sort, and then a tow boat with a huge yacht in tow came barreling in behind me. He slammed the boat in reverse and tried to control the tow. Finally, and at the last minute, the Sea Ray plugging up the channel figured he better move, and I hit the gas and made it through. A lot of Ass Captain awards got handed out today.

Here are a few pics of the New River passage to give you the idea:

The river widened after that and we had to pull up to a floating dock just down from our slip to wait for slack tide, so we could get in to our slip. We waited 45 minutes and got in without incident. We are docked right next to a lift bridge which makes for quite a bit of noise, but it is a cool place.
Lots of boats to watch as they go up and down the river.

We walked downtown to get something to eat and ended up in a “meat market” of young singles doing their thing. The food was great and the people watching was outstanding. The downtown area was hopping.

Lake Worth/Palm Beach/West Palm Beach

Lake Worth FL, ICW
Position: 26 44.878N, 080 02.643W
Posted by Bill

For our old neighbors…here is an interesting story that I forgot to write about yesterday. When we anchored in Peck Lake, we were next to a smaller McGregor sailboat that had a local guy who was staying there for the weekend. He saw the hailing port on the stern of Island Bound (which reads Columbus, Ohio), and he yells over “What part of Columbus are you from?”. After we replied that it was Powell, he says “My brother lives in Powell…do you know Michael Marchiondo (sp)?” We are like “OMG yes…he lived in our neighborhood!” Blew me away!

After the ICW boat traffic died last night, Peck Lake was delightful. It was peaceful and all you could hear was the sound of the ocean. We almost opted to stay another day and enjoy the beach, but we wanted to keep getting south while we had good weather. After we got past the Lake Peck area, the ICW started to change to row after row of mega homes and larger boats.
These were just a sampling. We continue to be amazed at how many people have that much money.

We also started to see more places that you could tie up to and eat and drink. If we weren’t in such a hurry….
Then there was this cool lighthouse, but I can’t remember where it was exactly. Check out the Christmas decorations on it.

Once again, the boat traffic was horrific, and it got even worse when we got in to Lake Worth. More boats, and more boats going fast and throwing a large wake. It was making me crazy. Lake Erie is bad like that on the weekends, but never as bad as the last couple days on the ICW. Today we had to deal with 7 lift bridges. We timed them pretty well except for one, but it is not fun dealing with trying to control your boat in wind and tide while waiting for the openings…especially with all of the other boats.

As we got close to the ocean inlet we rounded an island called Peanut Island. There were dozens of boats anchored around it and lots of people in the water drinking and having a good time. Lots of kayaks and paddle boards too, many of them in the middle of the channel. So picture dozens of drunk obstacles and dozens of boats zooming around with no regard for anyone else on the water, and throw in the fact that if you go outside of the narrow channel you will run aground. Not at fun day of passage.

We anchored south of the ocean inlet in Lake Worth, with Palm Beach east of us and West Palm Beach west of us. Here is what it looks like:

We will hang out here until the weather allows us to go “outside” to Fort Lauderdale, which is probably Tuesday based on the current forecast. Going “outside” means transiting via the ocean versus the ICW. From Lake Worth to Fort Lauderdale, there are 21 bridges that require us to wait for their lift schedule, and there is a section called the Canyon that is concrete on both sides of the ICW. Apparently, the boat wakes from the power boats just bounce from side to side, creating a nasty condition for us slow boats. No thank you!!

Exploring West Palm Beach and Palm Beach

Lake Worth FL, ICW
Posted by Bill

The wind picked up today from out of the south, and it created a nasty chop on Lake Worth. It wasn’t enough that it bothered us on Island Bound, but when the tide opposed the wind, it was pretty rough for the dinghy. We weren’t deterred, and jumped in and motored directly into the chop and weather for about 2 miles to West Palm Beach. It was a slow, wet ride, but we made it. West Palm has some nice floating docks that are owned by the city and they are free. You just can’t dock later than midnight…no problem for us. We went ashore and walked around.

Here is our first view of West Palm Beach:
They had cool Christmas sand sculptures instead of the traditional decorations…very cool!
Right next to where we landed the dinghy is the Palm Cove Marina which easily had over 50 very large yachts. It was an impressive marina and the boats there were even more so. It made our 42 foot sailboat look like a dinghy!
Again…where does all the money come from? We saw many large yachts with Cayman Island flags and figured that documenting the vessel as a Cayman Islands home port was a way to shelter assets.

We walked around downtown, had a slice of pizza and then walked across the bridge to Palm Beach. This is the road coming in to Palm Beach:
Palm Beach
We walked down to the beach and around town a bit. Palm Beach is very nice. It was amazing to see that almost every building on the main road onto the island was a bank or financial management firm.

Back in West Palm, we hit happy hour and then had dinner. When we started back to the boat we had the tide and wind in the same direction so it was a lot calmer and we got the dinghy up on plane, making a smoother and faster ride home.

The forecast looks great for an ocean passage to Ft Lauderdale tomorrow, so that is the plan. We will try to find a slip somewhere so I can troubleshoot the latest issue related to boat systems. We have 3 batteries that compose a “house” bank that supplies power to everything except starting the engine. Then we have 1 battery that is the starting battery. The 2 banks are isolated so you don’t deplete the starting battery, and then our charging system will charge both banks as it sees the necessity. Each battery has a rated capacity of 105 amp hours, so the house bank is 315 amp hours. We use around 80 amp hours between dusk and dawn and then run the engine for an hour in the morning and the generator to top everything off in the afternoon. I try not to deplete the house bank below 75% to maintain the best battery life…50% is the absolute max that you should deplete. When I got up and made coffee this morning, the refrigerator was surging on for a few seconds and then dropping for a few seconds, and just kept repeating the cycle…not good! After reading up on it, it does that when the battery voltage is too low to run the refrigerator. We had only used about 70 amp hours so I am not sure what caused the voltage to drop in the house bank. I’ll need shore power to figure that one out.

Anchored in Peck Lake

Peck Lake FL, ICW
Position: 27 39.459N, 80 22.216W
Posted by Bill

We got up fairly early today and filled our water tanks and fuel tanks, and pumped out the holding tank again…once again waste free! Then we motored down the ICW towards Stuart FL. Our original destination was a place called Manatee Pocket, near Port Salerno FL. We liked that destination because it had some really good restaurant reviews, and lots of places you could dinghy to with Tiki Bars. As we got close, the boat traffic on the ICW really picked up. There were dozens and dozens of power boats zooming at top speed all over the channel (which isn’t that wide) and it made for a hectic day with many bumps and rolls from the boat wakes. As we got into Manatee Pocket, the boat traffic increased and the water depths decreased. We got to the anchorage we targeted and it was crowded with too many boats, and the water depth was making us nervous. I have read that many cruisers don’t travel on the ICW in Florida on the weekends because the boat traffic is just too insane, and now I get it! We may opt for that as well in the future.

Here is what the ICW looked like most of the way:
And then there was this billboard…hope for Island Bound if we ever run out of money…lol!
Then we caught up to our new friends that we met in Vero Beach on Simple Life:
And of course, we saw lots of dolphins again:

We conjured up Simple Life on the marine radio to get their recommendation on an alternative anchorage since Manatee Pocket didn’t work out. They were going to a place south of there called Peck Lake. There is a thin strip of land between the anchorage and a beautiful beach on the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped in and dropped the hook. We didn’t launch the dinghy to go to the beach, but we can hear the waves crashing on the shore from our boat. It ended up that our friends on Paperbird were here. They left yesterday and we caught up to them yet again. Honestly…we are not stalking them.

I put our outdoor grill together. We bought it before we left but have never used it thus far. We didn’t use it today either but at least it is ready to go!

Tomorrow we will head to Lake Worth/West Palm Beach.

Manatee Siting

Vero Beach FL, ICW
Posted by Bill

I forgot to mention in my last post that we saw a Manatee for the first time.

We were at the dinghy dock getting ready to go back to the boat and we saw this thing floating by that looked like a radio beacon or something.
At first I thought it was a lost EPIRB (read an earlier post if you don’t know what that is…search people). Strange, but it was moving against the wind and current, so we got in the dinghy and tried to get closer. It was then that we could see that it was a Manatee with a radio beacon tag. It swam around the lagoon by the dinghy dock all day and then finally we saw it moving back toward the ICW in a later trip ashore. Pretty cool.

Wrapping up our stay at Vero Beach

Vero Beach FL, ICW
Posted by Bill

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. As predicted, we ended up going to the cruisers potluck. They shut down the laundry room and laid out all of the food on the washers and dryers.
Christmas Potluck 1
We all brought our own plates and utensils and what ever we wanted to drink. Then people went through the line and moved out to the picnic tables.
Christmas Potluck 2
The food was really good and we got to meet some more people, including a couple that had an Island Packet 44 which is a little bigger than ours. They had a cute dog that looked like Fozzie Bear, and that dog can navigate her way around the boat like no other that we have seen. We had also admired their solar panels, so Forest and Susan invited us over for a look at how they were installed. It was very helpful and we got to know them a little better. We really liked them and hope to see them again. Forest gave me a boat card and said…”we have a house on the water in Rode Island…you are welcome to dock behind us and use our laundry and car…anytime”. Another example of the bond in the cruising community. It is just amazing. They have sailed all over the Caribbean…and Forest is 75 years old, but you would never know it.

Today, we took the bus and had lunch, then bought some more liquor. Then I changed the oil in the big boat. We were going to do laundry but settled on cocktails for the sunset, even though it was cloudy! Tomorrow we leave…but it is tough. Vero is a very easy place to hang out. We will definitely be back.

Here are a few shots of the beach area.
Vero Beach Misc 2
Vero Beach Misc 1

Merry Christmas!!!

Vero Beach FL
Posted by Bill and Tricia

This has been a very strange Christmas for us as we broke all of our traditions of so many years. It is also a time that always involved family, and the fact that we are missing that makes us sad. On the positive side, it was 87 degrees and mostly sunny here today. We took a walk on the beach and went to a local seafood market and bought fresh shrimp and hogfish (man, do I love fresh hogfish) for dinner tonight. It is green and bright. We are expecting a cold day tomorrow as a front in moving in tonight…the high tomorrow will get all the way down into the 70s. Tomorrow is a pot luck that most of the cruisers are attending, so we will go to that and then have a nice Christmas dinner on the boat.

So to all of our friends, family and blog followers…have a Merry Christmas!!!

Harbor Cheer

Our first Sundowner Invitation

Vero Beach FL, ICW
Posted by Bill

Yesterday we met a young lady on the bus that is on an Island Packet sailboat like ours, named Simple Life. Different model, but for the most part the same. Being an Island Packet owner helps make a connection right away with other owners. Some say it is a cult, but it is just a common bond that sparks new relationships. After exchanging contact information, Joe and Michele invited us over for “sundowners” on their boat. This is the first invitation we have received since we left our old home port on Lake Erie. For those who don’t know, “sundowners” is a common term to enjoy the sunset while enjoying cocktails and Hors d’Oeuvres, whether by yourself or with others. It is a common cruiser practice, but we haven’t met anyone yet who invited us and we were not sure of the correct protocol for initiating it.

Proper protocol also suggests that you bring your own cocktails and an appetizer or Hors d’Oeuvre, with your own glasses and ice. We get that, because it is so much more difficult to prepare food, wash dishes and make ice on a boat, that you don’t want to add a burden to your gracious host. We went prepared and spent a few hours getting to know them. We REALLY enjoyed it. They have been cruising for several years and we learned a lot from our conversations, as well as laughing about the challenges we all face in this this lifestyle. We hope to have many more sundowners with Joe and Michele.

This morning we got on shore early to catch the bus to the grocery and liquor store. Yesterday’s experience in the grocery store was crazy…Christmas rush and all, and we cut it short to spare our sanity. Today we kicked ass by getting up early and finishing our shopping. Then we came back to the boat and waited for the pump out boat.

The pump out boat comes to your boat and pumps out your holding tank. Normally you have to do this at the fuel dock. We signed up as the boat only comes on Tuesday and Thursday, and Thursday being Christmas Day, they are not operating. The pump out boat starts at 1:00 PM in the south mooring field and works it’s way north. They don’t specify a time and if you are not at your boat, you get skipped. We needed a pump out so we were at the boat all afternoon. It came at the last minute before leaving for our get together with Joe and Michele, but we are waste free.

This year we are planning to attend the Christmas cruisers potluck here at the marina, which will be fun, but we are missing the normal get togethers that we traditionally had each year with friends and family. It is very different.

Vero Beach Update

Vero Beach FL, ICW
Posted by Bill

This is day 2 after our arrival at Vero Beach City Marina. It has been in the 80s every day and in the 60s at night. We had a few sprinkles last night in the early morning but other than that it has been sunny and bright. This is not at all what we are used to for Christmas so it has been difficult to wrap our heads around the fact the Christmas is in 3 days.

Vero Beach is a really great place from a cruising perspective. The marina is very well protected from the weather from almost all sides. There is very little current and the tidal range is around 1 foot. They have 50 mooring balls and a hand full of docks/slips, and decent bathrooms and showers. The mooring prices are really cheap and the dockage prices are very reasonable for Florida. The beach is a 20 minute walk at most, and there are many choices for eating or drinking in the beach area near the marina. A 20 minute walk across the ICW bridge takes you to more places to eat and a few shopping alternatives, but if you walk another 10 minutes from there you have Publix, Fresh Market, a huge liquor store, a huge dive shop, and a West Marine. Better yet, there is a free bus service that stops in front of the marina that will take you to this shopping area in 5-10 minutes, and will allow you to connect to other bus routes that can get you to a mall, Super Walmart and the airport, just to mention a few. The same bus will also take you to the beach if you don’t want to walk. To top it off, the weather is pretty close to what it is in Miami and the Keys. For the time we have been here, the highs are the same but the lows are only in the 60s here, and in the 70s in the lower Keys.

This town is known as “Velcro Beach” to the cruising community, because it is easy to get really comfortable here and not want to go anywhere else. We have met several couples who are here for “the season”. I can see why as I don’t really care when we leave at this point.

The day we arrived, we relaxed and just soaked in the idea that we were not moving for a few days, and enjoyed the warm sunshine. Yesterday we walked to the beach:
Vero Beach
It was a really nice beach…one neither Tricia or I have been to before. There is a lot of residential area along this beach and the commercial areas are well kept and have a touch of class, definitely not a run down beach town. We stopped at a beach bar called Waldos. We enjoyed some rum runners while listening to a really good live band. They reminded me a lot of Grand Funk Railroad. We mostly walked around the beach area near us to explore and get our bearings.

Today went like this: Dinghy ashore to get showers, back to the boat to have breakfast and charge the batteries for a bit, dinghy ashore to catch the bus, go shopping, catch the bus back to the marina, take the stuff we bought back to the boat in the dinghy, put everything away, charge the batteries the rest of the way, wax the cockpit while charging, clean the transom while charging, charge the iPod while charging, add another pennant to the mooring in anticipation of higher winds this week, dinghy to Mr Manatees restaurant across the ICW, dinghy back, write a blog.

While shopping, we scoped out the liquor store, Fresh Market and Publix to see who had the best prices on what. Then we went to West Marine and bought a jerry can for gas, and browsed through the dive shop to price what we need for the Bahamas. We brought back some groceries and the jerry can and will go back tomorrow for more groceries. The bus service is great, but it was amazing that it pretty much takes a day to go get groceries and put them away. During this whole process, we got to meet several more couples doing what we are doing, and we have been learning a lot from them. It has been fun meeting and talking to them. Everyone is so willing to help. One of the couples heard us asking about Bahamas cruising guides and came over later in their dinghy with one that they didn’t need anymore. They bought a new one and found that the only difference from the old one was the ads. We asked what they wanted for it and they said “nothing”. That was really cool.

As I have stated before, the dinghy is a crucial piece of gear to have while cruising. It is your “car”, getting you to and from places and your boat. At most marinas there is a dinghy dock where you park the “car” while you go ashore. Here is the dinghy dock at our marina:
Vero Beach Dinghy Dock
This may look crowded, but it gets a lot worse than this sometimes! Common courtesy is to tie the dinghy to the dock with enough line that people can pull your dinghy away from the dock and work their way in to tie theirs off. They can get stacked 3 deep.

We are getting pretty comfortable with this way of life at this point. It is very different, and it is both challenging and rewarding. It gives you a completely different perspective on the world, and life in general. Stay tuned….