Maybe we should rename the boat. How about Maytag? I feel like I’ve been in a washing machine for days.
We finally got a break in the weather and left Velcro (Vero) Beach on Wednesday. It was a little breezy, but not too bad. Madge made good time and we made it all the way to the south end of Hobe Sound (about 42 nm) with plenty of daylight left to set the anchor and enjoy the scenery. We passed a peaceful night. We gained enough distance on Wednesday that we had a short day on Thursday to the north end of Lake Worth. We negotiated seven bridges on the trip, with only one embarrassing incident where I mistimed an opening and almost ran into the bridge. I had to make a three-point U-turn inside the bridge fenders, making a flock of Pelicans that was lining the fenders a bit nervous. I profusely apologized to the bridge tender, but he had a good sense of humor and told me he enjoyed the show. Good old Madge was as nimble as a cat when I needed her the most. I will never approach a bridge the same way ever again. We stopped at a marina along the way to top off our fuel and water tanks, and for a pump out. The crew at the marina was great. It was like an old time full service gas station. They did everything except put air in the tires. Cruisers, I highly recommend Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens. Glen will take good care of you. Lake Worth gave us great holding. We set the hook easily and had another peaceful night. Unfortunately, that was the last one for the foreseeable future.
Friday promised to be a long, difficult day. The route included 13 bridges, all with staggered times that made it hard to get from one bridge to the next in the amount of time between openings, and if you missed an opening, you’d have to wait 30 minutes for the next one. It’s hard to hold a boat in one place in a canal with the current running behind you, so you don’t want to get to a bridge too early or too late. I did a lot of calculating Thursday night trying to figure out the timing between each bridge. We left Lake Worth early Friday morning, and immediately our troubles began. Lake Worth is wide, but the ICW channel through it is relatively narrow. As we were heading south, so too, it seems, was every 50-ft sport fisherman in the State if Florida. These guys would pass us at full speed within a few yards of us, pitching Madge every which way with their enormous wakes. If they passed you head-on, you could turn into the wake and cut it with the bow, but these guys overtaking us from behind caught us stern-to with the wakes, and we were badly tossed. One even passed us while we were going under a bridge, almost rocking us into the fenders around the bridge supports. Not much farther down the ICW, we had to transit the Lake Worth Inlet. This is where all the fishermen were heading out, so thankfully they left us. In the inlet, though, there was a dredging operation underway. I was confused by all they various markers and buoys that surrounded the work zone, and had a soft grounding on a shoal – but Madge easily pushed off it, and thanks to the calls and directions from the dredging crew, we made it safely through the area. We only had to kill time for one bridge after that, but there were still many power boats that knocked us around. The constant battle with the wakes made it difficult to use the autopilot, so I manually steered for much of the day, which was exhausting. We pulled into our chosen anchorage at Lake Boca Raton, only to find many boats. We picked a likely spot, but the anchor wouldn’t set. On our third try, we got a catch, but I wasn’t quite sure about it. Since the wind was forecast to pick up overnight, I set my alarm for every three hours and kept checking our location and swing room through the night. We didn’t drag or swing into anyone, but I didn’t get much rest.
Saturday was another 13-bridge day. The early day was fine. It was peaceful and quiet. There seemed to be no-wake zones from Boca through most of Ft. Lauderdale, so we weren’t fighting the power boats. At our fifth or sixth bridge, we fell in behind a boat named Mad Sam, whom we had followed through the last several bridges on Friday. Madge and Mad Sam are about the same length and draft, with nearly the same hull speed, so we hung close behind them and worked our way through the remaining bridges together. We had to go flat out on several segments to make the bridge openings, and got lucky a couple of times with helpful bridge tenders, who would hold open for an extra minute or two to let us sneak through. Our luck changed at the Hollywood Blvd bridge. As soon as we passed, it seemed all rules were off, and the power boaters tore through the canals at maximum speed and disruption. Heavy wakes from multiple boats bouncing back and forth between the concrete walls of a narrow canal turn the whole channel into a washing machine. Madge and Mad Sam were pummeled mercilessly. I don’t know what it is about these boaters, but whatever it is, I hate it. The only exception seemed to be the motor trawlers. They had manners. Maybe it’s because a lot of motor trawler people are cruisers. But the speed boats, sport fishers and luxury yachts had no manners. Out of three days of travel through South Florida, I can only recall five boats in these categories that showed us any courtesy. On the contrary, most seemed to enjoy pushing us out of the channel, making very close passes, cutting us off and creating as much wake as possible. I thought we encountered a few rude jerks in North Florida, but these guys down here make those North Florida guys seem like Gloria Vanderbilt. By the end of the day, we had been through so much with Mad Sam, and had communicated so often over the VHF, that Mad Sam followed us into Oleta River State Park and we anchored next to each other. The Mad Sam family came over for sundowners, and we enjoyed a pleasant evening with Duane and Hope, and their daughters Maddie and Sammie — hence “Mad Sam.” The Mad Sams have been cruising for three years, and have been trying to get back to the Bahamas since November, but have been thwarted by weather and mechanical problems. We wish them fair winds and safe travels.
The wind picked up overnight, but we had no problems in our protected anchorage. We bid farewell to Mad Sam this morning and headed out for the last segment of this part of our trip, which terminates at Dinner Key Marina’s mooring field in Biscayne Bay, just off Coral Gables. We’ll leave Madge at Dinner Key while we drive a rental car to meet friends in Key West. Today’s trip took us through the Port of Miami and a portion of Biscayne Bay, but the forecast called for increasing winds a rough conditions in the Bay. We made good time through all the chop and congestion and pulled into Dinner Key just after lunchtime. We discovered two-foot chop in the mooring field! We had multiple failed passes at picking up our mooring ball, including losing our best boat hook, before a neighbor in his dinghy offered assistance and we were able to catch our ball. Since then, the chop has increased and is predicted to worsen tomorrow before improving on Tuesday. We won’t attempt to mount the outboard on the dinghy under these conditions, so we’re trapped on the boat for the time being. We’re safely connected to the bottom of the bay by our mooring, but it is a very uncomfortable ride — the perfect ending to days of rough, exhausting travel. I doubt we’ll be getting much sleep the next couple of nights. Things are banging, bumping and creaking all over the boat.
Many boats close together.
I think we are even in a different time zone than the marina.
Definitely a different area code.