East Coast Sailing: Dispatch 21

on the way to Vero Beach12/26/12, Cocoa, FL

 Well, sometimes things don’t exactly go according to plan. We’ve been here two nights because there was a pretty good blow predicted (and which arrived right on schedule) today. Paul took care of a number of boat-related chores, mostly wiring, including wiring up some 110 volt outlets so we wouldn’t have to have cords strung all over when we hook up to shore power. Great idea, and the outlets look very professional.

 Then it came time to cook dinner – have I mentioned that I’m the cook? – and when I flipped the propane switch, which usually lights up when that happens, it remained dark. Okay, maybe ipelicans in flightt burned out between this morning and now. So I tried to turn on the propane stove anyway, and, you guessed it: nada! (nothing) Paul tried to trace the problem back, but only discovered that a couple of other lights that had been fine were also not working. He couldn’t figure it out,so brought out the single-burner butane stove. I am nothing if not flexible, so quickly changed my two-burner dinner to one requiring just one burner. Dinner was just fine.

Tomorrow, we’ll head down the ICW to the next stop, Vero Beach, and Paul will either trace the problem and fix it or he’ll call in a marine electrician to sort it all out. (Since the autopilot hasn’t worked since DW went in the water, and not for a lack of trying on Paul’s part, having a marine electrician take a look doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.)

 We do have a sort of plan around the Gulf Stream crossing. There are a limited number of places where it’s safe to crosFlorida mansion on the ICWs from the ICW to the Atlantic. One of those places is at Ft Pierce. We may continue “outside,” in the Atlantic between the Florida coast and the Gulf Stream, heading south for a few hours. The Gulf Stream has such a powerful push to the north (around 2-1/2 knots), that we want to use it rather than fight it. Our first stop may be a place called Green Turtle Cay (all of the Bahamas Cays – usually very flat islets, really – are pronounced “keys”), which Paul hopes to reach about 24 hours or so after we start out. So we need a weather window of south, southeast, or southwest winds of at least 24 hours in order to cross.

view along the ICWI have really been dreading this part of the trip. We’ve heard about bad crossings, as well as good ones, and it all seems to come down to really paying attention to the wind. If there’s any northerly component whatsoever, the crossing may be very unpleasant. Paul isn’t the most patient person, so we’ll see how all of this goes. (How many times on this trip down the East Coast has he told me: “It won’t get any better than this,” followed by a passage that only got rougher and rougher? Answer: too many! But once would be too many for me, and that is very unreasonable on my part. We’d probably still be waiting for favorable winds in Falmouth, MA, had it been up to me.)


 12/27/12, Vero Beach, FL:

 We met a couple here, who are aboard a slightly smaller boat than DW, a Cape Dory 28. They have done some extensivhome on ICWe sailing in the area (Caribbean, Bermuda and East Coast), and told us that they’d just tried to head out the same inlet we were planning to use and wound up returning to Vero Beach because waves just beyond the inlet were coming at them from three different directions. No fun at all! So we’re rethinking where to exit. They’re recommending a location we’d initially planned to use that’s about a day’s sail/motoring further south.

1/4/13, (still in Vero Beach …)

 We’re still awaiting a weather window, then may head south outside to avoid the many bridges that would otherwise have to be opened for us. There are nine bridges that have to be opened betweeIMG_3530n here and Lake Worth on the ICW. Because of the scheduled openings (some on the half hour and top of the hour, others :15 and :45, and still others by request) and restrictions at morning and evening rush hour (varies by location), it can be quite challenging and many sailors choose to do this portion of the trip between the FL coast and the Gulf Stream, which closes on the coast, to a point just 3 or 4 miles from Florida at Lake Worth (West Palm Beach). The harbormaster told me that a counter-current runs in places, which may give us a small boost as we head south.

Vero Beach has been a great place to stay. The municipality offers free bus service all over the area. There is a bus stop right at the city marina, where we’re staying. A very small marine chandlery (West Marine) and large grocery are on the bus route. Transferring to another line(also free!) can get you just about anywhere in the area, including the large mall, which is at least a 45 minute bus trip from the marina. I’m pretty excited about getting to see “Lincoln”at the AMC Theater at the mall, as it’s been more than a year since we’ve seen a movie.

We always jmarina 2oin a line of cruisers at the bus stop, and the buses are also heavily used by residents. It’s funny that something as simple as convenient transportation makes such a difference to the cruiser’s lifestyle. The municipality has to spend money buying and maintaining the small buses and paying the drivers, but cruisers and residents patronize local businesses, helping to keep them in business. Sure,there are a few empty storefronts, but compared to the very depressed Titusville (where the end of the Space Program as it had been is playing out), or downtown Jacksonville, Vero Beach is thriving.

Wildlife in this benign region has been a lot of fun to observe. One very dignified great blue heron likes to frequent the dock near where our boat used to be and where we now land the dinghy to go ashore. It used to complain when we landed, but now simply takes a dignified walk away from the small power boats where it watches for fish, and either goes to another dock or flies a short distance away to resume its watch.

We watched a very noisy woodpecker the other day, probing a palm for insects, never letting up its complaints. Was it complaining about us, warning other birds off, or scaring the insects? I don’t know enough to hazard a guess. How a woodpecker can probe for insects at the same time it’s warning us and other birds, I can’t imagine. Later there was squirrel chattering away as it made its way up another palm, then went silent as it sat in the palm’s crown foraging for nuts. It seems very odd to see this small,furry rodent, much more familiar to us in northern areas, here in subtropical Florida. Seems islet at the marinaout of place, somehow.

 Not out of place whatsoever are the lizards – scores of them! – we see on the dock near the marina office on very warm, sunny days. Most of them are maybe 2 or 3” long and tan. Until they move, they look rather like dried leaves, but they skitter away very quickly! There are also some slightly larger ones that are either dark brown or black. Not sure if they’re the same kind, just bigger and older, or if they’re another type entirely. There are only a few of the darker ones. Someone told me later that the color variation is due to where they live. The lighter ones make their homes high in the trees, whereas the darker ones live lower down.

 channel marker

 1/9/13, (still in) Vero Beach:

 We visited friends from Vashon who had moved to the FL Gulf (west) coast. There was the perfect weather window while we were gone (of course): a sustained gentle breeze from the south, but we were on the other side of the state, and in any case,Paul still needed to sort out the problem with the autopilot (finally corrected today after a lot of detective work on his part). We had a great time visiting Norm and Linda, meeting their new puppy and seeing their typical south FL house and their Island Packet 29. Their boat is much roomier and much more nicely finished than DW. The truth is, though, that I love our Nova Scotia home-finished boat! Funky, but it suits us both very well.

paddleboarder at dawn All of the boat projects are completed, including the autopilot and installation of a solar panel, and we hope to head south over the next few days, so we’re in place when there’s a break in the weather. There are only certain places where it’s safe to go “outside” (into the Atlantic). The first one is a little more than 10 nm south of here, and the next one south of there, the inlet most cruisers use to clear in at Green Turtle Cay, is another 40 miles.

I’ll send a final short dispatch before we cross, then will resume after we reach the Bahamas, as internet connections are available.