After our training adventure and solo outing, we went to Vancouver, Canada to spend the holidays with family. It was wonderful and fun. And wet. Very wet. Like, “there for 26 days, it rained for 25 of them” kind of wet. But we had beautiful hikes, too much food, lots of laughs and philosophizing and overall had a magical time.
We returned to Vero Beach on January 11th, and started preparing for our planned haul out for some annual maintenance and repairs that are best completed on dry land. Easy Peasy…
We left our marina on a beautiful January 19th morning, electing to travel down the ICW rather than the open ocean as the wind was not in our favor, and would have made for an “adventurous” ride.
We charted a path to dock at Sailfish Marina in Manatee Pocket, just south of the St. Lucie inlet. It was a pretty cruise, with lots of radio practice (it is amazing how tongue tied you can get when trying to just ask a bridge tender for an opening…). We had dolphin pals for a large part of the journey – they always seem to be harbingers of good luck. They also seem to enjoy watching us fumbling along on their highway. They swim with us, crossing the bow back and forth, and pop up to smile and check in, while surfing our wake. Then, they show their true speed and scoot off as if we were standing still. So cool to see.
There was A LOT of traffic on the ICW. Weather had been rather rainy for the past month or so, and it was also Martin Luther King Jr. weekend – so, sunshine, warmth, water and a long weekend guaranteed Floridians and their guests were coming out to play. We came to understand courteous and discourteous behavior (i.e. it’s really not polite for a 60 foot sport fisher to go by a 30 foot sailboat while traveling at a speed that puts out a wake that could nearly swamp said sailboat). Salty language on channel 16…
We had made a reservation at Sailfish Marina, a very busy, very fun place. Unfortunately, the manager of the dock did not get the information that we were coming. No problem; he pointed to a slip we could use for the evening. Neil got to experience spontaneous aerobic training for this one. He managed a 270 degree turn in a very tight space with a very large boat, then backed it into the slip. Beautifully done, no scrapes, awesome docking. This was our first time tying up to a fixed dock with pilings. “What’s the big deal?” you may ask. Well, we use fenders – big, inflated bumpers to protect the side of the boat from the dock. However, when the pilings stick out from the dock, it’s necessary to set the fenders horizontally and possibly set up fender boards.. We had theoretically heard about this during various classes and training. Our knowledge base shot up meteorically when we had to execute it nearly immediately after tying up to prevent any boat dings.
Once we were secured, we noticed it was shaping up to be a beautiful sunset. We whipped up some gin and tonics, set the deck chairs on the upper deck, and watched the evening traffic play out in front of us.
We did notice that there is a floating pontoon boat/tiki bar that is available for rent. Something to keep in mind as we have college-aged kiddos and friends coming to visit over the next few months.
After an easy evening, we arose the next morning, prepped the boat for departure, and got underway about 10:00 am. We had another pretty day of cruising with much less traffic for some reason. The ICW is really stunning – whether passing “neighborhoods” of mansions with boats out front, or cruising through quiet waters with mangroves growing down to the water’s edge with no one but birds (and other crawly stuff) watching you.
Kathleen got more experience requesting bridge openings, and Neil got more experience navigating through bridge spaces with on-coming traffic. We cruised into an anchorage at the north end of Lake Fort Worth just off the Old Port Cove Marina. We set the anchor, and settled in around 4:00.
The winds were high, however, that night, and we got to experience boat swings of 100 degrees. Kathleen pretty much slept through it; Neil, being more attentive, got up often to walk around and be sure our anchor did not drag. It did not.
On the morning of the 21st, we raised anchor, and made our way back up the ICW about two miles to Seminole Marine for the haul out.
Neil earned his captain stripes on this one. The wind was brisk, and pushing from the north as we headed into it. We needed to steer into a travel lift bay directly to the west. Boating is basically like continuously steering on ice; it’s hard to calculate angles of approach and speed even without the wind “adding fun”. The first approach was too shallow, and we were quickly being pushed into docked boats. Neil got us out of a tight situation, backed off, and then came into the slip, leaning Granuaile against a wooden piling to pivot around and enter the bay. It was awe inspiring watching Granuaile be lifted out of the water by a giant rolling lift and moved to our assigned spot in the yard. We were officially “on the hard”.
The work was either annual maintenance, items that had come up during survey, or things that we discovered needing repair during our previous weeks owning the boat. Everything from power washing, prepping and painting the bottom of the boat, waxing the hull, and fixing a stuck pilot house door, to dropping the keel cooler, cleaning, boiling, and testing it, to deck drain hoses and seacocks that needed love, replace stabilizer seals and replace the main shaft cutlass bearing.
We had anticipated four days, seven at the most. We got back into the water yesterday, the 30th, and are still at the dock in Old Port Cove Marina having some work finished up.. This has been a fantastic experience in “equanimity” – one of the recent Calm meditation app lessons practiced by Kathleen. We may or may not be back to our Vero Beach slip by Super Bowl Sunday, but as we’ve said quite often, there are worse places to be waylaid.
Palm Beach and its environs are beautiful. We went to a turtle rescue facility, a manatee research and information site (right next to a power plant – they like the warm water), toured a lighthouse and museum, and learned so much about our new home here. We spent three hours soaking in the sun on Jupiter Beach, finally getting to play in the Atlantic for the first time since we arrived here in November.
We went to lots of great fish restaurants and a funky tiki bar, but our very best night here was being able to see friends, Brenda and Mark Taipale, who we hadn’t seen for 23 years. The years fell away, and the evening passed too quickly with belly laughs, memories, and getting caught up. It was a most wonderful unexpected surprise.
While sitting here typing this entry, we are still awaiting a new swim ladder. Our wind speed and angle sensor is officially dead, so a new one is ordered. We’ve met so many great people – marine specialists, other boat owners, folks just walking the docks checking out the boats. Being in AirBnb’s and hotels left us antsy to get back to our home, and the calmness that comes from this life. Waking up this morning to a smooth, quiet bay, watching the sun come up and enjoying warm coffee together on the upper deck was perfect – as all homecomings should be.