Thank you for reading our blog and for your positive words of encouragement since we started writing. Regrettably, this will probably be the last post we do on this trip. Some things have come up and we are going to halt our journey. I will go back to Philly for a while and Kasy will stay in St. Petersburg, Florida.
That said, I again have waited too long to update you on our journey, so I’ve got a month’s worth of pictures and information to share.
When last I wrote, we were sitting on a mooring in Fernandina Beach, about to wait out a storm. The current and chop in the harbor, combined with strong winds, were enough to strand us on the boat for one day and to strand us on shore for another day. To be clear, this was because we have a rowing dinghy (no motor) and in those conditions rowing a dinghy to and from the boat was very dangerous. However, we did have a good time because of some highly hospitable locals (Thanks Jason and Anna!) that we came to know.
After one harrowing row back to Stout one night, we continued down the ICW a short distance to St. Augustine, where we managed to meet up with our friends on Finest Kind yet again! We spent a day walking around St. Augustine, “the oldest city”, which is a very interesting place but very tourist-trappy.
We stayed a couple of days, hung out more with Finest Kind, and then took off again. About fifteen miles south of St. Augustine is the Matanzas River, which was the site of another Spanish fort built in the 16th century. There is a free ferry you can take to the fort and a free tour given by the National Park Service. This fort was built to ensure that no intruders would attempt to go up the Matanzas River to attack St. Augustine. There were people stationed here consistently for almost a century, and they only fired a cannon 7 times that entire time, and never hit any vessels. I had fun imagining how a bunch of bored Spanish military personnel would entertain themselves during all that time.
After this pleasant anchorage situation, we took off again down the ditch. This time our goal was Vero Beach, where we planned to leave the boat for a week and go visit Kasy’s sister Kym. This period of time was very tough because we, mostly I, had completely lost patience with the ICW. And then in the process of planning an offshore excursion to Vero Beach, the engine started giving us problems, so we decided to go inshore. Each night we would troubleshoot, and each day we would listen to every noise the engine made, praying that it wouldn’t quit on us during a bridge opening, tight turn or some otherwise stressful situation. So the pictures here look great, but maybe this is a great example of how things are more complicated in real life than they appear on the Internet.
The engine problems were solved by replacing all of the fuel filters and bleeding the system repeatedly. With that out of our way, getting to Vero Beach for us was like finding the Holy Grail. For months, ever since we figured out that the marina there had the cheapest moorings available on Florida’s East Coast, we had been fixated on it. When we get to Vero, it will be warm. We’ll be able to take a break. We’ll go to Kym’s and not worry about making miles the next day.
In Vero, we ended up having to raft to another boat, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened. We rafted up to Ken and Luiselle, a retired couple cruising around on a 30′ Allied Seawind Fair Winds, same type of boat as Finest Kind. Apparently these boats contain the best of human beings. They had all sorts of advice for us, and were very impressive people. Ken sailed the boat for years by himself, and since he only has one arm, he is a true singlehander. They proved to us (and the world) that being retired doesn’t have to mean living on the largest boat possible with all the bells and whistles. (When I’m retired, I want to be like them.)
I obviously forgot to take pictures while we were still attached at the hip to their boat, but here is Luiselle waving goodbye.
This is pretty confusing, but here’s what happened: we left Stout in good care, rafted to Fair Winds, and Kym and her husband Eddie picked us up in Vero Beach. They had to drive two hours to get there (They live near Ft. Lauderdale) but we had no choice but to stop in Vero Beach, because every marina south of that was outrageously expensive, and our frayed nerves and tempers needed a break. We had a great five days, being fed extravagantly and hanging out with Kasy’s family.
Since Kym and Eddie are wonderful people, they insisted on going grocery shopping for us before we got there. Not being able to turn this down, we gave them a long list and it was all waiting for us when we got there. While there, we began to formulate another plan: through a series of friendships, we got connected with someone with a dock in Ft. Lauderdale at which we could leave Stout while we waited for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. That way, Stout would only be a short drive from Kym’s house and we could visit… again!
So they drove us back to Vero Beach, where we still had stuff to do. We put all the food away, installed a new radio we had ordered, and climbed the mast several times. Kasy changed the oil in the engine and replaced a fuse that was blown from being too aggressive with the starter switch. With everything in working order, we said goodbye to Ken and Luiselle and headed south.
We traveled 10 miles to the Ft. Pierce inlet, anchored for the night, and then went offshore from Ft. Pierce to Lake Worth, which was 50 miles. We left at 4AM and found our way out of the inlet in the dark, which was an adventure all on its own. The red and green lighted channel markers on the chart look like a straight shot, but against the pitch black ocean all the lights appear to be the same distance away. It was very nerve-wracking despite the fact that each light flashes at different time intervals. I guess you get used to this sort of thing with experience.
Once we reached the ocean, we sailed south for two hours in the dark, and then watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. There was a steady 15-20 kt north-northwest breeze, and we were running with the swells. In other words, pretty ideal conditions for us.
The breeze lasted all day, so we sailed downwind until 4PM when we reached the inlet. After a stressful moment of heaving-to in order to wait for a gigantic cruise ship to enter the harbor, we threaded our way in against the current through hundreds of sport fishing boats and a sailboat race. Feeling accomplished, we finally anchored and slept like babies.
In Lake Worth, we were forced to sit at anchor through two days of gales and rain. The final night was so rough that we got out our lee cloths, the hammock-type things we attach to the sides of the settees to keep from rolling onto the floor. After the weather cleared, we knew we had to face a day of Florida’s infamous bridge traffic; with our offshore jaunt we had done our best to avoid this up until now, but had to face it in order to get to the “free” dock.
So off we went, through 14 bridge openings in one day. To be honest it was not nearly as bad as we thought it would be. Our VHF got a workout, but most of the bridge tenders were very courteous.
So we did find that free docking situation, which we are very lucky to have, because otherwise we’d be out of money by now. We’re at Kym and Eddie’s house again, where we have been trying to work out our situation.
As I said earlier in this post, things are much more complicated than they appear on the Internet. I’ve shared with you the best and most memorable of times, but there are many things about cruising that are more stressful than I was willing/able to explain here. It’s incredibly sad that we have decided to stop the trip at this point, but we’ve been forced to address the reality of our personal lives and how they have affected our situation.
Until next time, readers, stay inspired.