Sunday: Easter Sunday and the weathermen got it right as it’s a beautiful day for cruising. The winds are down significantly along with the seas, so at 9:10am we’re finally leaving the slip headed for the fuel dock to top off our tanks and get a last pump out before staying out on our anchor for the next few nights. After 175 gallons of diesel in the tanks, 4 gallons of gasoline in the dinghy tank and all the gallons removed from our two holding tanks, we’re pulling away from the familiar docks of Faro Blanco at straight up 10am headed for the Cowpens Anchorage on the Gulf side off Plantation Key. It’s a 36 nautical mile cruise to an anchorage recommended to us by our friends aboard Wild Goose.
The gulf-side IntraCoastal Waterway from Marathon up is not totally friendly for deeper draft vessels, but it does carry a controlling depth of 5.9 feet, so we slowly and cautiously make our way north on the gulf side knowing that we will have good weather tomorrow and we will crossover to Hawks Channel in the Atlantic for the cruise from Cowpens to Biscayne Bay. We’re hoping that once in Biscayne Bay the confines of the ICW will allow us to keep moving even in bad weather.
The seas stay calm and the cruise is very comfortable and at 2:50pm we are all secured by our Ultra Anchor to the seabed and we can now enjoy the afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s a Sunday (Easter Sunday) so, even though we only saw about six vessels on the waterway, there are lots of boats on the water around our anchorage because we’re right in front of a marina with all size vessels from jet skis to yachts coming and going until late in the afternoon when worker bees have to shut it down for the weekend and let us retirees enjoy our serenity. Without feeling like we’re in a foot race, we want to start moving the pace up a bit as we are in the home stretch of our adventure. This will not change our cruising lifestyle, nor will we force ourselves to miss something we would ordinarily want to stop and see.
While Tracy is fishing off the stern, she calls out to me to come and see an iguana swimming up to the swim platform of our vessel. As we’re watching it we’re wondering if it will try and climb onto the platform, but instead, it swims around to the starboard side and frolics around until it gets spooked away and dives down out of sight.
Monday: Tracy spent last night in the hammock suspended in the sunroom, but when I woke up in the morning, she was right next to me in the bed. After firing up the generator and brewing the morning coffee, I brought her a cup and she told me that the bugs got to her at around 5 in the morning and she had to get in to avoid being eaten. So she must have had a long night because she slept ’til nearly 8:30 am, so she definitely needed the extra sleep in the bed. The good news is that it takes less than 5 minutes to leave an anchorage compared to the time required when at a dock. All we have to do in the morning is raise the anchor and we’re off, so at 9:00am we’re raising the anchor and leaving Cowpens Anchorage with favorable tides for the shallow waters of Snake Creek Crossover.
We’re back into the Atlantic Ocean today for our cruise up to Biscayne Bay and once we’re out of the Snake River Crossover the waters are fairly calm, but as the day goes on the waves and winds get higher and stronger but both out of the northeast and we are going northeast for most of the day. So we get a slightly choppy ride, but overall, not too bad. Four hours later, we’re turning into Angelfish Creek Crossover to return into Biscayne Bay and hopefully calmer waters. The depths at the crossover are a bit shallow upon entering from the east, but once we’re into Angelfish Creek, the depths rise to 12 feet and do not pose any problems.
The Bay is not as calm as we had expected and the waves and winds are only slightly less than on the outside. But our anchorage at Billy’s Point off of Elliott Key should provide lee protection from the bulk of the weather.
The Active Captain reviews state that the major issue with this anchorage is getting the anchor to set because most of the bottom is send covered rock. We boldly pull into the anchorage area and confidently drop our Ultra Anchor with no hesitation and are somewhat surprised when it takes three times to get the anchor to fully set. Boy, I guess the reviews are correct. By 2:45 pm we are fully secure and we can relax for the remainder of the day. Only thing I want to accomplish before relaxing is that we’ve decided to stay in a marina tomorrow night because Kailani is soaked with salt water spray from two days of waves.
Before I can relax, I like to have commitments for our next destination. I go to work researching marinas based on desired distance of travel and number of bridges to raise and decide that a good day of travel will be to reach Hollywood, FL which is between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. So I find a few marinas to call and the first choice has no available slips, but they recommend another marina right next to them and I call the Suntex Marina of Hollywood and Cortney could not have helped us more. She asked if she could take some time to move things around and call me back. I said sure, but the cell coverage here at anchor is a bit spotty. Anyway, ten minutes later, she called me back to say they had moved a few things around and she’d made space for us and we would be in a stern-in, starboard tie-up slip #105. I told her that was our preference and we both smiled. I gave her our information, she emailed me a map of the marina and everything was set so I could now relax, just like Tracy who was already catching fish she couldn’t identify!
Later in the afternoon, I worked on tomorrow’s navigation plan and it was a far cry from the simple planning we’ve gotten spoiled with. I had to go thru info on 9 bridges for vertical clearance and opening schedules, I had to go thru all current Local Notices to Mariners, and I had to go thru tides and shoaling info. Don’t think I’m complaining, this research has been a fun exercise for me and it’s great to get back into the swing of this which is necessary when traveling the Atlantic IntraCoastal WaterWay.
Tuesday: The night was slightly windy, but very comfortable as our anchor held us firmly and in the morning, we were right where we had been the night before. Lots of people choose to not stay overnight in this area because it’s basically open with no wind protection, but we took a chance and it paid off for us. So at 8:30am after a couple of cups of coffee, Tracy is raising the anchor and we’re headed off to Hollywood. We’ve decided that Kailani has enough salt spray caked on her, so we want to stop overnight at a marina so we can wash off the salt spray with marina provided water pressure.
Once underway we are cruising north in Biscayne Bay and we are headed straight to Miami’s skyline which we have been watching ever since dropping the anchor yesterday afternoon.
As we approach Miami we will be crossing the potentially Port of Miami shipping channel. A lot of worrying turns out to be unnecessary as we hit the shipping channel with no commercial traffic, however immediately after crossing the shipping channel, there is the first of 2 bridges we’ll have to have opened for us today. The bridge is the Venetian Causeway bridge and when closed, the vertical clearance is 12 feet and the opening schedule is at the top and bottom of each hour. Well we’ve arrived 20 minutes too early, so we must float around waiting for the bridge to open and there is not much good water outside of the channel, but a 70 foot vessel behind us turns into a little cul-de-sac type of water and calls us to say we should wait in there also. So we turn in and wait along with Blond, the 70 footer. The wind and current take over and it becomes a juggling act to try and stay away from bridge structures and the adjoining vessel, but after floating precariously close to both, the bridge finally opens 20 long minutes later and we’re on our way again without serious incident.
We ended up really grateful about the bridge incident because between Miami and our destination in Hollywood we ran into the most discourteous and obviously blind boaters we’ve ever seen. The ICW in this area is a breeding ground for boaters who have zero awareness of their wake and the amount of damage their wake can potentially cause to other vessels and the surrounding shores. We found them to be completely unaware of their wakes and completely unaware of the ‘no wake zones’ (hence the blind part).
We both can’t remember ever seeing such a hoard of discourteous boaters anywhere like here. However, we do see some spectacular Maimi skyline including a building called the Porch Building. This is a sixty story residence where each owner has a garage on their floor! So the penthouse owner has room for his cars in a garage on the penthouse level. There are three elevators that are designed to handle cars and as you enter your building, you drive your car onto one of these elevators and you get out on your floor and park your car in your garage right next to your residence. I’m not sure how they deal with exhaust fumes, but I guess they’ve worked that out.
Anyway, by 2pm we are pulling into the safe waters of Suntex Marina of Hollywood and after calling them, there is a dock hand waiting at slip #105 for us to back Kailani in. The slip configuration is a bit tight and the finger docks are not long enough for us to use our starboard salon door to exit and enter the boat, but we are able to get the utilities hooked up safely and give Kailani a well deserved wash.
In walking back and forth to the office to check in, I notice a vessel across from us with a homeport of Block Island, MA. So I stop to talk to them and, turns out they’re actually from Manchester, CT and keep their vessel at Mystic River Marina where we’ve been with family before. Also, the husband owns an electrical contracting company in CT and we’ve done projects together over the years, so we both know lots of common people back home and it was nice to chat with them and as I left to get ready for dinner, I told them maybe we’ll run into them back home if we cruise up the Mystic River.
Tracy found a pizza delivery service and we had pizza on board tonight. It really hit the spot and tasted very good. After dinner, we agreed on our strategy for tomorrow and the weather looks like we’ll be able to go out into the Atlantic Ocean and avoid about 21 bridges (9 of which have to be opened) and all those blind boaters! So we discuss making a longish day out of tomorrow and getting some decent miles under our keel by going ‘outside’. With that strategy accepted, we decide to turn in relatively early and get an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday: Kailani is bustling with pre-departure activity at 7:30am and by 8am with line help from our sailing vessel neighbor, we are pulling away form our slip. We must go 90 minutes on the ICW to get to Port Everglades Inlet where we can go out into the ocean, turn north and head towards Palm Beach Inlet 42 nautical miles up. So the ICW is flat calm this morning with no ridiculous boaters up yet and we are soon turning east out of Port Everglades Inlet to reach the ocean. As soon as we turn east, the waves start hitting us on our bow and they are larger than predicted. So with the waved coming out of the east, you can see what’s coming up when we turn north towards Palm Beach. Exactly, the 2-3 foot waves are now hitting us right across our starboard side and the rocking starts. It takes us about one mile of this behavior to decide its time to turn around and make our way for calmer waters of the ICW, bridges and boaters be damned!
So for the next 40 nautical miles, we tolerated, but expected the rude boaters. Another plus for traveling inside today is that when we pass thru Pompano Beach, we get to see the Pompano Atlantis Tower where we spent a portion of our honeymoon exactly 42 years ago today. My parents owned a condo in the tower on the 16th floor and for a portion of our honeymoon, we left Disneyworld and spent the second week enjoying the Florida sunshine at Mom & Dad’s condo. It was a nice nostalgic touch, but soon we were back to reality where we had to coordinate our rate of travel with the bridge openings for 9 out of 21 bridges. At least it was a beautiful day and there were some nice long stretches of water where we could cruise at our normal 10 mph, and so 9 hours later, we were in the northern end of Lake Worth/Palm Beach anchoring in very nice water with over 50 vessels anchored, but there was still plenty of nice room for us to fit and by 5pm Tracy had set the anchor and I was tightening the snubber line while Tracy shut down the helm for the night. We had tried to get 60 nautical miles in today but even with losing time turning around, we were still able to get 52 nautical miles completed including passing by Mar A Lago estate, the southern home of President Donald Trump. The best news is that if we have to stay inside again tomorrow, there are zero bridges that we will require opening for us to get under, so that’s a plus. Maybe we can get 60 nautical miles completed tomorrow in 9 hours. 60 nm will get us to Vero Beach while 50 nm will get us to Fort Pierce. Time will tell.
For dinner tonight we will feast on the left over pizza and get to enjoy it 2 nights in a row. Tracy does some fishing and is very successful.
Thursday: A shorter day today and there will be no bridges that need opening, so we get ready to depart for 8am and our timing is perfect as Tracy is securing the anchor to the pulpit right at 8am and we are turning out of the anchor field towards the ICW. Once we are centered in the channel of the ICW we see a tug and barge ahead sitting across the channel dredging a problem spot. The issue for us is that the barge is sideways in the channel and completely blocks passage from the red buoy to the green buoy. So I call the barge and ask for procedure and without asking us how much water we need for clearance, he says that if we go outside the channel on the green (right) side we’ll have plenty of water. My charts show that there’s only 4 feet of water to the green side of the barge, but I figure they might’ve dredged it out prior to this work so vessels could have safe passage. We closely monitor the depth gauge as we enter this water and sure enough we are quickly setting off the depth alarm, then getting shallower until I see only 4 1/2 feet below us. So I immediately stop, turn around and return to the safety of the channel south of the barge and go back into the anchor field where I know we can get out from the far east side of the anchor field and come out in the shipping lanes near the east Turning Basin. Once we’re thru the anchor field and into the eastern channel, we see 22 feet of water! So it was a good choice to double back for an extra 2 miles of travel and find this deeper, safe water. Soon we are exiting the east Turning Basin and we’re back on the ICW headed north towards Vero Beach where we will meet up with our good friends Barry and Carol aboard Wild Goose.
Today’s cruise is spectacularly calm with very few vessels in the same water as us and bridges are nothing more than an occasional passage tunnel as we go under everyone of them without requiring a lift. We cruise thru some very familiar to me area since we used to come down here every winter to see Mom and Dad when they lived at PGA National in West Palm Beach. So we pass under the Blue Heron Bridge, the PGA Boulevard Bridge, and the Donald Ross Bridge, all familiar names to us.
We also get a bit of a treat cruising past Lost Tree Village which is a private home and country club community where famous golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman live. It’s a very exclusive community.
We cruise thru Jupiter, Hobe Sound, Stuart, Port St Lucie and Fort Pierce before reaching our planned destination in Vero Beach. When we cross the St Lucie Inlet we are intersected with the St Lucie River and the eastern end of the Okeechobee Waterway which we cruised thru 4 years ago when we first purchased Kailani and brought her from Fort Meyers to Fort Pierce for her first winter. When passing thru Fort Pierce we could see the Harbor Isles Condominiums which includes the Harbor Isles Marina. That’s where Kailani spent her first winter and except for more buildings, the complex looks very much the same, however Fort Pierce itself is a bit different as there are now two more marinas. One is the Causeway Marina adjacent to Harbor Isle and the other is the fully developed Fort Pierce Municipal Marina, so between them they’ve added space in this ares for an additional nearly 400 vessels.
After Fort Pierce its a relatively easy cruise up the Indian River about 13 miles to Vero Beach. This particular stretch provided us with a spectacular dolphin show off the port side. There were about 8 dolphins that came into our view approaching Kailani and when three of them caught our port wake the show started. Tracy was cooling in the Salon so I was at the helm alone. I couldn’t resist as I left the helm to lean out over the side and get a snapshot just as Flipper was jumping, then I decided to switch my camera to video and got a nice video of the romping until I decided I needed to get back to controlling the helm. It was nice to get this afternoon show while cruising. Again, I believe the dolphins love our cruising speed and frolic around loopers rather than sport fishers, etc. Lucky for us!
At exactly 4pm we are pulling into the mooring field at the Vero Beach City Marina and since there are no available mooring balls, we will raft up to Wild Goose. They are not aboard, so Tracy and I pull Kailani smoothly up to Wild Goose’s starboard side and with plenty of fenders between the vessels, we secure our lines to Goose’s cleats to secure the vessels together. Soon Barry and Carol are returning in their dinghy and we decide to go into town (Barry and Carol have a rental car) for Thai dinner. They take us to Sake restaurant and we have a delicious Thai meal then drive down towards the ocean and have some Kilwin’s ice cream for dessert.
Once we’re back aboard the boats, we get ready for a good night’s sleep, then tomorrow we will both cruise to Cocoa Village Marina for the weekend.
Friday: We thought the plan was for Barry to return their rental car and retrieve their bikes that were still on shore, then be ready to depart around 9 am, but Barry got an early start, returned the rental car with his bike in the trunk so he could return to the marina on his bike and he was already lifting his dinghy onto the roof at 8am. So we started preparing to pull away form the rafting tie-up and at 8:30am we were both leaving the Vero Beach City Marina mooring field ready to head up to Cocoa Village.
We discussed using channel 68 for ship to ship communication, but when we turned on channel 68, we both heard conversation already in progress and it was a local boater using 68 for the morning local discussion of weather, tides, navigational news, and call-ins. We listened to him as we were preparing to depart and realized that he was right next to us in the sailboat as we were untying from the mooring ball. As we were cruising out of the mooring field, he asked listeners if there was anybody new that had just recently arrived, then he asked if there was anybody planning to depart today, so I responded and told him and his listeners that Kailani was departing the mooring field and headed to Cocoa Village with Nick, Tracy and Frankie aboard. He wished us a safe journey, then Barry and I agreed that we should switch to VHF channel 69 so we wouldn’t interfere with the local broadcast already taking place on 68. As we entered the ICW and turned north, we switched to channel 69 and ran the vessels up to 9 knots for today’s 47 nautical mile cruise. We projected 5 1/2 hours and an approximate arrival at 2pm. This plan would hopefully get us into the marina and all tied up before the afternoon storms that were being forecasted for the Cocoa area. We called the marina and told them we expected to be there around 2pm and they confirmed it was a good plan for our best chance to avoid the worst weather expected to be between 2 and 5pm.
It was overcast as we started, but gradually, there were openings in the clouds and soon we could see patches of blue sky, however, around 10am we did get some rain that forced us to zip shut all our windows, so that made it a bit hotter for us as we were getting the heat without and wind. But luckily, the rains stopped after a short time and we were able to re-open the windows for the balance of the journey. There were no bridges to negotiate today and very little ‘no wake zones’ in this segment, so we made excellent time including the four miles when I ran our rpm’s up to 2,000 and got Kailani up to 18 knots right before our turn to port into the marina channel. And as we had estimated a 2pm arrival, we were actually entering the marina at 2:04pm and tied up shortly afterwards. They put us at the end of a series of finger docks so we would have a full dock along our port side for hooking up our utilities and water. The only hard part was that the marina has fixed docks and their height is the same height as our gunwale, so to make the power and water connections on the starboard side of the vessel, I had to lay on the dock and reach down below the level of the dock to make the connections. Oh well, it could certainly be worse, life is definitely good on the water.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the air conditioned salon aboard Kailani and met Gold Loopers Kevin and Sandy aboard Koastal Karma. They had just recently completed their loop in Marathon, Fl and were cruising back to their homeport in Virginia Beach, VA. Their loop is nearly identical to ours in the sense that they started and finished their loop way south of their homeport, as we will cross our wake in 450 miles in Savannah way before we get back home to Connecticut.
Kevin and Sandy told us about two fairs that were going on in town tonight. One was a taco fiesta that had a $10 entrance fee and the other was the no charge and local ‘Last Friday Festival’ held every month on the last Friday. So guess which one we picked? Correct, we went to the ‘Last Friday Festival’. There was a three piece band playing in the town gazebo and food and artisan vendors throughout the adjacent blocks and parking lots. We had some ice cream from the world’s largest ice cream truck! They make all the ice cream fresh to order with water, dry ice and flavoring and other than the ridiculous price ($8 each), it was enjoyable. Tracy got a chair massage and then while we were sitting in the gazebo listening to the band play 70’s hits, we noticed Kevin and Sandy walk up. Sandy was also going over to get a chair massage, so Kevin sat with us and we chatted about loops, careers, boy scouts, etc. Sandy soon returned and we chatted for another 45 minutes before we got up and started walking back to the marina.
On the way Tracy spotted a local theater with the current show running being ‘The Producers’ which is a Mel Brooks smash Broadway hit. So we bought tickets for Saturday nights performance and went back to Kailani for the evening.
Saturday: We agree with Wild Goose that it makes some sense to get a rental car for the weekend, so I make a reservation with Enterprise and our plan is to pick up the car at 11:00am, then return it on Monday morning right before we depart Cocoa. So at around 10am, I call Enterprise to be picked up and they answer and ask me to hold for a short while. 27 minutes later, I hung up on the elevator music and re-dialed the local office for our pick-up. The same guy answers and says, ‘Welcome to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, please hold’ and I shouted ‘NO!’ And he said he’d be right back. Then I waited for 5 additional minutes before he picked back up. I confirmed that they had a vehicle for us and that I could get picked up and he said he would send someone right away and the driver would call me when he was close so I could walk out to the parking lot. Well in less than 5 minutes, I got a call from the driver and he said that he was just pulling into the parking lot, so I said, okay, I’ll be right out and Barry and I started walking out to the parking lot. We were there in less than 2 minutes and there was no car waiting there for us, so I called back the number of the guy who called me and there was no answer. I tried again a few minutes later and there was still no answer, so Barry walked back to the Goose and I kept waiting. In about 10 minutes a guy showed up in an Enterprise tee shirt, so I got into the vehicle and he immediately went on about apologizing about how he was there earlier and picked up the wrong guy! Apparently at the same time I was going to get picked up there was a guy already in the parking lot waiting for an Uber. So the Enterprise driver thought he was picking up me and the passenger thought he was getting into an Uber. Apparently he was quite surprised when he got dropped off at the local Enterprise office! I never found out where the guy really expected to be going, but everything worked out in the long run for us and before noon, I was back at the marina with the KIA Optima for the weekend.
We decided to all get into the car and drive over to Merritt Island for the local West Marine and to find Bob Petersen at his house. Bob is the brother of an Architect I worked with on a project at the University of Connecticut and she had told me about her older brother that lived on Merritt Island, was a retired mechanical engineer from NASA who started a business in his yard collecting and selling salvaged nautical items. My mission for the day was to get new battery wires and a new battery for the dinghy because the guy, Sean in Marathon who troubleshot our dinghy motor said the battery wires were frayed and the battery posts were corroding away, so we should replace both at the first next chance. So today was that next chance and off we went to find Bob and his salvage yard. He was easy to find and literally only 2 miles away from us. His yard is covered with storage bins, Bimini frames, sinks, heads, wires, cables, fender balls, etc. You get the point, he has a little bit of everything. Well I asked him about the battery cables and he said he would go over to his warehouse and make them up for me as long as I called him back with the proper length so he didn’t have to cut two sets of wire! Then we went to West Marine and I looked for a battery. They didn’t have one that satisfied me, so I decided to try the local Batteries + Bulbs for the battery. Everyone wanted to return to the marina and I wanted to do some dry goods shopping at WalMart, so I brought everyone back to the marina and left for the battery and WalMart.
Batteries + Bulbs is a great store with very knowledgeable staff in every location I’ve walked into and this one was no different. Adam took care of me and I was walking out of there with a new battery in 8 minutes. Then it was off to WalMart for lots of dry goods supplies for Kailani. Then back to the boat to confirm the battery cable length for Bob. I told him we would be good with 10 foot length and he said we could come by and pick them up anytime this afternoon and they would cost $5. So I grabbed up our burnt out 30 amp 50 foot power cord and the 50 amp to 30 amp ‘Y’ adaptor and ended back to Bob’s. I felt bad about the $5 so I gave him $10 which he reluctantly took. Then I showed him the burnt cables and he said he would repair and sell them and as I gave him the cords, he took out the $10 and said “here, this is how I work. I sell stuff and I buy stuff” So I got my new battery cables for zero cost & I’m a happy boater!
We learned that Barry & Carol had decided to join us for the play this evening and we would be going at 7pm, so I have plenty of time. We also got a surprise this afternoon as a very familiar to us vessel pulled into Cocoa Village Marina. Salty Lady with Bart at the helm and Chris aboard along with Art and his wife. Bart is our slip neighbor back home in Chester Marina, small world huh!
Well at 7pm we walked over to the theater and the production was tremendous for a local community theater. All the costumes, all the acting, all the singing, all the musicians were all plenty good enough for this small town and we had a great night of laughter watching this extremely popular Mel Brooks play. Then it was a leisurely walk back to the marina and back to our respective vessels. Tonight is the end of our 54th week on the loop and we have approximately two more weeks to get to Savannah. So we’re real close and we find ourselves occasionally reminiscing about the great times we’ve had to date rather than talk about the places still to come.