We were on a pole mooring in Turtle Cove Marina, Providenciales – Caicos, which we had gone in bow to, and only just squeezed in. With the help of a Danish yachtsman we were able to back out with only an inch or so to spare. We followed a mono out through Sellar’s Cut – the opening in the reef, and hoist the sails once more. Another glorious day with winds from the east at 16kts., some whitecaps and a following sea of 1.5mts. The evenings are cooler with no moon. Day 2 and we are able to hoist the MPS and give it another airing. We are able to fly it until just before midnight when the winds strengthen, so down it came as it is only for winds up to 17kts.
Each day I put the fishing rod out but all I catch is that golden seaweed. Day 5 and we have now entered the Santaren Channel which runs along the western side of the Great Bahama Bank. We have chosen not to cross the Bank this trip, but run further south and keep in the deeper waters of the Old Bahama Channel which then runs into the Santaren Channel. and, we have totally lost the wind. The seas are so flat and calm. It is like a mill pond !!! and a very hot day – temperatures are well into the mid 30’s, but a good day to do some jobs. Alec polishes the stainless steel and I start cleaning. Early afternoon and my line takes off. It certainly is something fairly big. As I bring it in we see it is some type of swordfish. Oh help, this is a bit too big for the freezer. It would be such a pity to waste it, so we make a decision to let it go, but not before taking photos. Later we learn from our fishing expert in the UAE, many thanks Graham, that we caught a Short-billed Spearfish. Also he says they are not common in these waters.
Later that evening with still not a breath of wind we stop the boat for a swim. The water temperature is just perfect. This is becoming a very slow trip due to the light winds, but off the Florida coast we pick up the Gulf Stream which carries us along at 8kts for a time. We arrive off West Palm Beach well before daylight and once again do not want to enter in the dark. Alec sees that it would be no good to hove to as the current would still carry us well past our destination, so we put third reef in the main, full jib out, and turn SHAMAL back around the way we had just come – into the 4kt current. Our speed through the water is now 5kts, BUT speed over the ground is only 1kt. Therefore we only did 3nm in the wrong direction. If we had faced the correct way we would have gone 15nm in the 3hrs, past our destination. All quite technical but it worked really well.
We pulled into the Riviera Beach Marina, West Palm Beach to do our check in procedures. We had just completed a 659nm run. There was an English couple who had also just arrived, so we shared a taxi out to the airport together where we made our visit all legal !! We discovered this couple were also in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, at the same time as us. Roy and Madeline Hibberch off “Mithril”. As I explained in a previous Blog we had obtained our US Cruising Permit in Porto Rico which is valid for one year, and, before we left Europe we had obtained a ten year multi entry visa which is valid for a six month visit at a time. We were surprised we were not met by Homeland Security, Customs or Quarantine, and that the boat was not searched. This made for a very pleasant arrival procedure.
The following day was Memorial Day – a big holiday, so we moved off the pontoon and motored up under one of the many bridges on the Intracoastal Waterways – this one was fixed with a clearance of 65ft. To the top of our mast is 58ft !!!!! then back again to anchor off Peanut Island just inside the entrance to West Palm Beach, and rested. The place was insanely crowed with holiday makers.
Next day it was time to head north to Stuart – this is where we will have our new sails made. We decided we would do the trip along the coast to make use of the current, and had motored back out to sea again when we read up that the Stuart entrance is over a bar which is only recommended for “local” use due to the shifting sands. So we motor back in again and now get our first experience of using the ICW – Intracoastal Waterways. It takes us seven hours to do the 30nm trip. We had to pass under 1, and through 8 bridges, sometimes waiting 20 or more minutes for them to open to allow you through. Some will open straight away for you, and others only open on the hour or half hour. The route took us past beautiful waterfront homes, through towns, and through the swamp areas which have been dredged.
The ICW runs from Key West, South Florida all the way to Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk, Virginia. It is approximately 1200 miles of dredged navigable canals running just inland parallel to the coast. There is a speed restriction in many places to protect the manatees – what we call dugong or sea cows.
At Stuart we leave the ICW and enter another channel which takes us into Manatee Pocket, known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” !! We drop anchor, and from here set out to find our sail loft. The time has come for the old sails to be finally removed – for good !! While all this is going on we have a call from our daughter up in Connecticut saying she is bringing the boys down for a two week holiday while the sails are being made. She will fly into Fort Lauderdale, which means we will return via the waterways to West Palm Beach. From there we hire a car to pick them up from the airport. It is well over a year since we have seen our grandchildren, so it is very exciting.
Our first week is spent around Peanut Island where the waters are clean and warm with lovely sandy beaches for the boys to play on. We find a play ground when a change of scene is needed. This is where Alec was threatened with a red sticker, his first citation - yes that is right. We had tied the tender under the big bridge well out of the way, not being able to find any where else to leave it, and, we locked it to a fence. We then took the boys into the play area to use the slides at the park, then off for a walk. On returning we are approached by the CEO of the park who told us we COULD NOT leave the tender where we did. When Alec asked where we were meant to leave it, the guy said he didn’t know, there was actually nowhere. Come on, how do all these people come ashore. He said some come ashore in there tenders because they don’t want to use the marina where you have to pay, but they are not meant to. The marina was NOT in walking distance from the park and amenities we were using. We read later that a by-law is trying to be passed in their State Parliament where no-one can anchor within 200 yards from any homes built along the waterways. Well that would make it impossible to stay the night on most part of the waterways in this area, as they are not even 200 yards wide in some places.Thousands of boats use them – is that not what they are for.
We moved SHAMAL around the Island anchoring in different places. On the first occasion we up anchor, it won’t budge. Brigitte goes overboard to see what it is stuck on, then Alec goes over as well. Out comes the Power Snorkel and they both go down again. The chain is caught around a bow-sprit on an old sunken yacht. Thank goodness it does not take them long to untangle us. Our next anchorage on the other side of the island also saw us getting the chain snagged, this time around a rock, but that came unhooked by just driving the boat around it thank goodness. After a week there, we motored south towards Fort Lauderdale and dropped the anchor about half way in a small lake. Most of the lake was very shallow and the last bridge attendant gave us directions where to park among some other boats. These guys do a great job and are polite and helpful. Later that evening one of the boat owners came out in his tender and told us we it was a big lake and we were too close to his boat. Rather paranoid, but we moved a little just to appease him. The next anchorage was where Alec was once again told he had parked the tender in the wrong place – a public wharf !!!! This was after we had dropped Brigitte and the boys off for their return flight to Connecticut. It was the water police who told us we were parked in the wrong place, and again were not too sure where we could tie up ??
As we were loading everyone and the luggage into the tender for that last trip ashore, William was trying to tell Poppa that there was a “green frog” . No one was taking any notice till Brigitte turned and saw a rather large iguana had swam out to the boat and climbed out onto the outboard motor. I have never seen the Brigitte evacuate the boys and herself from the tender so quickly.
Alec and I returned to West Palm Beach taking the coastal passage, then back into the waterways to reach Stuart. The sails were ready and fitted, some new lines, main sheet traveller replaced, new track and Carr on the boom for the main outhaul, a new mast anchor light which works on a sensor so it will come on at night and off at dawn when at anchor, etc etc. We are working through the list of jobs. All a bit of a rush, but we are ready to keep heading north.
Our next leg to New Smyrna Beach is 132nm which will be another overnighter. We decide as it is the weekend we will follow the other million boats out through the passage to the open sea as they all must have “local” knowledge they way they skim through the waters here. We also have had a call from Brigitte asking if we could leave the boat somewhere safe and fly up to Connecticut to mind the boys while she is off on a trip to Europe with a new job, and Dan is away flying as well.
We have friends in New Smyrna Beach who offer us the use of their waterways pontoon which was wonderful. Ed and Aubrey Lunsford. Our first night is spent at anchor in the waterways, then the following morning we pick Ed up and he navigates us around to his pontoon. We would have run aground if he had not been onboard. Aubrey met us with her wheelbarrow. Aubrey how practical – a fellow sailor understanding the needs of cruisers. Yes she was there to collect our laundry. I do have my small washing machine, but we had had the family with us which always creates more than our usual. Also while we are away we will be able to leave SHAMAL in very safe hands on their dock which is just wonderful. They also have a Seawind 1160, which at this time is out in the Bahamas. Even though they have their other catamaran on the pontoon, they make room for SHAMAL. Ed and Aubrey are the most hospitable hosts. We stay with them while making arrangements to fly north.
So Friday 26th June sees us leaving SHAMAL for a couple of weeks while we head out of Orlando via Washington, and on to Hartford where we will be minding our “ Munchkins”.
Love to you all from
The Admiral and the Commander