Saturday, April 09, 2011

Daytona Beach to Biscayne Bay...

We are back in Deland after our almost month-long cruise from Daytona Beach to our new berth at the Harborage Marina in Bayboro Harbor, St. Petersburg.  We found it pretty easy to post short comments on our "geo-tracking" blog Sailing Alizee, but we didn't get to share as many adventures as we'd have liked to.  So here is the first of three posts about our trip, filling in what we didn't have the energy or time to put down before.

We left Halifax Harbor on March 3rd, well supplied with provisions.  Sufficient wine, beer, rum, gin and miscellaneous liquors to keep an army squiffy for a month.  Frozen meats to last us through the month, and loads of canned and dried foodstuffs.  Turns out we've learned pretty well what to and what not to take and what will last.  Alizee has a great freezer and refrigerator, which makes things much easier, but fresh vegetables are always a problem, and we love to cook with fresh things.  Nonetheless, we only had to stop once on the trip to restock our fresh things, which we did in Marathon, about half-way through the trip. 
Our first destination was the anchorage just southeast of the railroad bridge at Titusville, where we had stayed on our last trip down the ICW.  Along the way we had a bit of weather, and got a lovely video of Alizee motor-sailing with the staysail (we'd just pulled in the Genoa during a squall).  Dean Lucko aboard Rich Jadczak's Pomalu, a 35' Island Packet Cat, took it with his I-Phone and emailed to us a day or two later.  They were on a fast trip delivering Rich's boat to the west coast of Florida, and Dean kept in touch with us along the way ... they made it two weeks before we did.

We had a nice night at anchor and the next day continued south to a new anchorage for us just northwest of the causeway bridge at Eau Gallie.  We had a threat or two of thunderstorms along the way, but never really got any weather. 

The ICW can be a slog, for one must mostly motor sail but it's a busy place with occasional interesting things to see.  We passed a number of cruisers in trawlers and sailboats heading north along with myriads of small fishing skiffs and the occasional sport fisher, either heading to their favorite fishing ground along the ICW or toward one of the few inlets along the way that will take you out to the Atlantic.  We saw ospreys nesting on the markers and lots of dolphins, who were generally feeding and ignored us, though a couple of times they'd come a swim along with Alizee.  

And then there are the sunsets, like this one at our Eau Gallie anchorage, which are often spectacular.

The next couple of days saw the sun shining more brightly and the threat of thunderstorms pass on.  We were going to try and go outside on the Atlantic to miss the bridges, which become numerous below Jupiter, but the wind just never seemed to build sufficiently or shift to a favorable angle, and offshore swells and the period between them would have made it a choppy ride.  So we stayed inside and did our best to not let the bridge schedules upset us.  Sometimes we just coasted along, other times we sat and waited for openings, and once or twice we ran the engine hard, which served the purpose of blowing out any deposits building up as well as catching a couple of bridge openings on the fly.

You really have to plan how far you're going each day, especially if you're anchoring out, because anchorages along the ICW in southeast Florida are few.  On our way down from a nice anchorage behind a spoil island north of St. Lucie Inlet trying to reach Lake Worth, we got stuck without an anchorage at the PGA Bascule Bridge, which shut down because of hydraulic problems.  The bridge tender suggested that we try and get a slip at the Soverel Marina, just northwest of the bridge.  It was mid-afternoon, it was either that or backtrack several miles and through two bridges we'd already been through.  It turned out to be a nice break from anchoring.  We got showered, washed the boat down a bit, walked around and found a nice little outdoor bar on the ICW in which to eat, and the next day we were refreshed and ready to move on.

On another occasion, while waiting for a bridge to open on our way to anchor at Boca Lake in Boca Raton, Pen was at the helm slowly bringing Alizee from side to side in the ICW channel and stopping her from drifting with the current toward the bridge.  After 20 minutes our so of this, as it neared time for the bridge to open, she gave the helm to me, and I promptly put Alizee aground on a shoal to the northwest of the bridge.  Sadly, passing power boats leaving wakes behind simply pushed us more on to the muddy shoal, and I couldn't budge her out.  I had to tell the bridge tender we wouldn't make the opening, and then I pulled out my trusty Boat U.S. Captain's Card and called for help.  About an hour later, Boat U.S. appeared and the captain pulled us off the shoal.  But now the sun was starting to wane.  We had perhaps an hour of daylight left and two bridges to go through before reaching Lake Boca, which was a new spot to us and a bit tricky to get into.  The Boat U.S. captain suggested that he could tow us to the lake, which meant he could open the bridges off their schedules.  Since my coverage made it all free, I agreed, and we had a nice little ride all the way to the lake and a nice anchorage.  "Yes-siree," said Pen, "just give the captain the helm and he'll show you a good time aground."

Next day we continued south to Fort Lauderdale, where we anchored in Lake Sylvia, one of the nicest anchorages in southeast Florida.  Pen's nephew Tony, as it turned out, lives in an apartment with his wife Lynn that is just off the ICW and less than a mile dinghy ride through a couple of canals and a short jaunt along the ICW.  So for the first time on our trip we took Bertha, our dinghy, down from the davits and took a ride over to visit with them.  We all piled in their truck and drove over the ICW to one of their favorite eateries, where we enjoyed a nice meal. 

Lauderdale is, of course the place where every multimillionaire who wants to build a second, third or fourth mansion has landed.  The houses are obscene displays of profligate wealth, and naturally Penelope and I were just thrilled with the idea that the Republicans decided that these poor slaves to free enterprise should not have to pay more than 35% in income tax.  Really, what would they do?  This is the epitome of the trickle-down economic theory that conservatives love to tout.  I shudder to think of all the gardeners, housekeepers, boat boys, and other day laborers who would be out of work if the tax rate on the top 2% went up. But, I digress...

The ICW from here on through Miami and into Biscayne Bay is not much to talk about.  Lots of wealthy enclaves along its shores mixed up with high-rise condominiums.  We were joined at a bridge just outside Maule Lake, where we'd spent a night at anchorage a year ago on our way to the Bahamas, by a fellow in a little 27 foot Pearson, chugging along with an 9.6 Yamaha 4-stroke outboard.  (Hey, that's the motor on our dinghy!)  We chatted a bit while waiting for the bridge and found out he was taking his boat down from Palm Beach near Lake Worth to Coral Gables, where his family was going to meet him for a short vacation.  He was having problems with his Yamaha, which was hard to start at times, and I suggested he put in an ethanol treatment to stop the build up of plaque in the carburetor.  It had solved that problem for me, and he admitted he didn't think about the ethanol in gasoline these days.

While we were sailing along with him and yet a third small sailboat, we all got caught in a sudden thunderstorm while waiting for Venetian Causeway Bridge (right in the center of Miami).  Our friend threw out his anchor, while I decided to ride it out and get through the bridge on the opening.  The wind hit 40 knots, I was soaked through, and Pen battened herself down below, but I made it through the bridge and within about 30 minutes the storm passed and we found ourselves heading out on to Biscayne Bay and on our way to our final anchorage before heading into the Florida Keys, which is No Name Harbor.  We spent a couple of days here in 2010 waiting on weather to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini in the Bahamas, and it brought back a lot of memories, plus one of the most beautiful sunsets we experienced this entire trip.

Next post ... "Down through the Keys"

More trip photos


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