Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vero Beach to Lake Worth, Florida

Thursday, October 16 - Sunday, October 25, 2009
We left Titusville this morning for the two-day trip to Vero Beach. The winds have been light and on the nose, so we've motored all day. We arrive at anchorage #1 - Indian Harbor Beach - around 5pm, but aren't crazy about the looks of it. It's in the mouth of the Banana River and doesn't seem to have much protection. We still have some time before sunset, and decide to go the additional 4 miles to the Melbourne bridge. We anchor NE of the bridge in 7-8 feet of water in the protection of the causeway. Time for a sundowner to toast our 40-mile day!

Friday we have another slow, 34-mile day to Vero Beach, FL. Vero Beach is said to be a great stop for cruisers. With affordable, city-owned moorings and a free bus around town, it's a little like a mini-Marathon (Boot Key Harbor). We arrive Friday afternoon figuring we'll stay til Sunday or Monday. Since we haven't been off the boat for a couple of days, we're ready to check out the local restaurant/bar scene. Better yet, Stacy won't have to cook tonight! After checking in at the marina office, we dinghy over to a couple of nearby restaurants: Riverside Cafe is near the mooring field on our side of the ICW and has its own dinghy dock; the Lobster Shanty is supposed to be a bit more upscale, and is located on the opposite side of the ICW. We do a drive-by in the dinghy past the Lobster Shanty, and realize its boat dock is more for mid-size motor boats than dinghies. It would be a long jump up to the dock, and our dinghy would be underneath the dock in no time. We end up at the Riverside Cafe; it's easy to get there from the mooring field, we can see the dinghy dock from our table, and dinner turns out to be really good. (Admittedly, this is a bit of a surprise since their website touts it as more of a party/happy hour spot.) On the way back, the fishing bridge next to the dinghy dock has filled up, and Stacy nearly gets beheaded by someone's fishing line...this guy had a heck of a throw!

Saturday we try Vero's free public transit system for a grocery run. Bus line #1 stops right at the marina at quarter to the hour (according to the published schedule), and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Publix. After a lovely 20-minute tour of the beachside area, the bus makes a turn...and arrives back at the marina. Huh??? Here's the secret the bus schedule doesn't tell you: the route is more like a series of figure-eights. From the marina, catch the bus at quarter to the hour for beachside service, and catch it at 5-10 after the hour for Publix service. Same thing at Publix - if you catch it for the ride back at the scheduled time, you'll have to ride the circuit to the transfer station, and then it'll come back to the Publix 20 minutes later. It really only takes 10 minutes from the marina to Publix; you just have to time it right. Anyway, we finally get to Publix and go nuts over the two-for-one deals. We're in Bahamas provisioning mode, and our shopping runs are getting out of hand. We leave with 5 canvas bags full of stuff and just make it to the bus stop in time for the trip back. Fortunately it's the short ride - we're ready to get back to the boat! The bus doesn't run on Sundays, so we have a leisurely walk to the beach to tour the town. Apparently we're well into the off-season, because everything is closed. What do you do if you can't go into any stores? Walk along the beach and find a bar, of course! Vero really does have a lovely beach, and we get plenty of surf pictures before circling back to the oceanfront bar. We find a funky little place with Adirondack chairs overlooking the ocean and live music. Ahhh ... heaven!

We've decided to spend an extra day here to check out the mall, so Monday we hop on board the bus again and ride all the way to the transfer station. We're becoming pros! The mall is pretty nice, and better yet it's surrounded by "satellite strip malls" full of stores like Target, Lowe's, Ross, Marshall's, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc. Stace makes out like a bandit at Macy's clearance rack (need those shorts for the Bahamas!), and we spend 4 hours wandering through the rest of the shops. We'd better get out of Vero before we bust our budget.

We leave Vero Tuesday morning for the 45 mile trip to Port St. Lucie where friends, Chris & Robin (also ex-Watergate pier 4 residents), live at a condo/marina. We hope to get as far as Stuart by the end of the day, and will make the rest of the trip on Wednesday. Chris & Robin have offered us their condo's guest dock, so we're looking forward to a few days visiting with them and staying in one place. Surprise! The wind gods have finally smiled on us, and we have 20+ knot winds. We're able to do over 7kts in the ICW, and we make it 35 miles to the crossroads (the intersection of the St. Lucie River & the ICW) by 2pm. We've been warned that things could get interesting from here: there are a couple of shallow spots (3-5'), but the bottom is supposed to be soupy enough to let us pass. As we enter the St. Lucie River, we find the 4.5' sandbar but never feel a bump. We slowly make it upriver against the current, and have good depths until we make the turn into Chris & Robin's cove. We've misunderstood Chris's directions and turn north of the last marker instead of south; suddenly we see 4.5'...4'...3.5'...and we're stuck. We're about to call TowBoat (it's been awhile - we're overdue!), but Rene manages to spin the boat enough to dig our way out. We finally reach the dock at 5pm, where we see depths of 4.8'...yet we're not grounded. Talk about some strange bottom conditions! We spend the next few days visiting with Chris & Robin, who show us some wonderful local restaurants and take us to Publix and Sam's Club for more provisioning. We also get to meet ex-Watergaters Tom & Sandy, whose going-away party we attended when we first moved to WYC in October 2007...funny how small the cruising community is! Chris & Robin have some fantastic neighbors, and we love the marina live-aboard feel of the place. It's hard to leave, and we end up staying an extra day.

We finally leave Saturday to continue south towards Lake Worth. We don't shove off until 1pm in order to give ourselves more water in the cove, and to get to the crossroads near high tide (3pm) to make it over the sandbar. The trip takes longer than expected, and after a stop for fuel and a pump-out, we don't make it to the crossroads sandbar until 5pm. It makes for a short day, and we decide to anchor just 12 miles south of the crossroads. Peck Lake is a gorgeous little spot that we never would've seen if not for local knowledge. Our chartplotter says Peck Lake is 1-3' deep everywhere, but Chris, Robin, and their neighbors have all anchored here. There's a narrow strip of 6-12' deep water if you know how to find it, and we arrive to find 8-10 other boats anchored here. It's beautiful, and we quickly decide to spend two nights here. You can dinghy to the island behind the anchorage, and there's a path to a secluded beach on the ocean. It's crowded on weekends, but we have a feeling we'd be the only ones here if we came during the week.

As tempted as we are to stay a third night, we haul up the anchor Monday morning for the last leg of our trip. It's about 23 miles to Lake Worth at Palm Beach, and we're ready to get to our jumping-off point for the Bahamas. The only bad thing about this leg is the number of restricted bridges. After two on-request bascule bridges, we have to pass through FOUR more bascules that open on schedule. The first three open on the hour and half-hour and are 3 miles apart; the fourth is 1.5 miles downstream and opens at quarter past and quarter to the hour. We get to the first bridge 25 minutes before its next scheduled opening, and try to bob in deep enough water without being in the way of any passing boats. Once we get through, we'll try to make it the 3.2 miles to the next bridge which opens 30 minutes later. 3.2 miles in 30 we need to go 6.4mph to make it, right? Wrong. Bridge #1 doesn't even start the process until noon, so we have to wait for traffic to pass, blockade arms to go down, and span to fully open. It's nearly 10 past the hour before we're on our way to the second bridge, and we end up half a mile short at 12:30. We radio the bridge tender anyway to see if we can make it. "You're not even at the bridge yet." Okie-dokie...note to self: we really need to go 3 miles in 20 minutes, because the bridge tender won't open the bridge if you're not at the bridge a few minutes before the scheduled opening. We sit in front of bridge #2 for 25 minutes til that opening, and take our sweet time to bridge #3. By some miracle, bridge #4 doesn't seem as far as our cruising guide says it should be, and we finally manage two consecutive openings without waiting. Woo hoo! In the end, it takes 3 hours to go eight miles...not our most efficient day.

We arrive at the northeastern Lake Worth anchorage a little after 3pm. The anchorage isn't nearly as busy as we expect it to be, and we find a spot with good holding and plenty of swing room. There's a free dinghy landing (we really can't call it a dock) at the base of a nearby bridge. We have to haul up the dinghy onto a patch of sand, lock it to the fence, and then walk up the embankment to the road, but it does give us access to a nearby Publix and "The Gardens" mall. We've managed to break our broadband stick, so the mall is our first stop the day after we arrive. What a place! Macy's and Sears is surrounded by Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, and the like. Rene gets his broadband stick, and Stacy goes nuts at Teavana ($45 for a half-pound of tea...what the hell was I thinking?? Rene's calling me a tea snob). Thursday we're moving the boat to an anchorage south of the Lake Worth inlet (about 5 miles from here). It's closer to a marina with a secure dinghy dock, and we'll rent a car to visit friends in Ft. Lauderdale and attend the boat show there. We're shopping for a water maker that Rene will install before we leave for the Bahamas...wish us luck!

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