Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in Lake Worth, FL

Wednesday, December 15 - Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Do you ever have those days when you wonder where the time has gone? It's hitting us that we've been here in Lake Worth (Palm Beach, FL, for you landlubbers) for two weeks. We fully expected to be in the Bahamas by Christmas, but somehow we still find ourselves here. Not to worry, Lake Worth is a great place to be "stuck" while waiting on a weather window. There's a dinghy beach nearby, which is just a couple of blocks from grocery, drug, and liquor stores in Palm Beach Gardens. You can also catch a bus to the Gardens Mall nearby, or walk to our new favorite shop, Carmine's Gourmet Market.

We actually arrived at the Lake Worth anchorage on December 15th. We made fantastic time from Fort Pierce, and even managed to get through the four timed bridges without having to wait. If you haven't made the Fort Pierce-to-Lake Worth run, there are ten bridges along the 54nm route. The first six are high-rises or open-on-demand bascules, but the last four really test a sailor's patience. They open on a set schedule, and are spaced in such a way that most sailboats need to really gun the engine to make it through. If you aren't at the bridge at its scheduled opening time, you don't go through until the next opening (typically 30 minutes later). Don't even THINK about asking the bridge-tenders to hold the bridge for you! It can actually get kind of dangerous, given that boats are racing to get from one bridge to another, and sometimes get too close to their neighbors. There were a couple of instances where we had to put on the "brakes" (hard-reverse) because someone ahead of us had to slow down quickly for another passing boat. Fortunately we found ourselves at the end of a 10-boat caravan a few miles out of Lake Worth; as long as we kept up with the end of the pack, we could sneak through the bridges with everyone else.

The anchorage was fairly quiet when we arrived, thanks to a two-day weather window that had everyone running for an off-shore jump to the Abacos. As much as we wanted to be Bahamas-bound with them, we had a few things to do in Palm Beach before we could head out. Rene had a date with our water-maker guy for a warranty repair job, and we were anxiously awaiting Tux's authorization papers from the Bahamas. In the meantime, we bought even more provisions at the local Publix (still love those two-for-ones!) and walked to the ever-so-chic Gardens Mall. Our friends, LA and Susan, arrived a day after we did, so we knew we'd be in good company for however long we ended up being here.

As everyone probably knows, there's been some crazy weather around the country for the past couple of weeks. Even Florida had hard-freeze warnings, with temps in the low-to-mid 20s the first few days we were here. Strong northerly winds meant that no one in his right mind would be crossing the Gulf Stream, and our anchorage saw more and more boats pile in over the next few days. We headed down to Riviera Beach Marina on the 22nd, where we had the water maker serviced and were able to get Tux to a local vet (his papers finally arrived - he's legal for the Bahamas!). We were back in the anchorage Thursday afternoon, and made holiday plans with LA
& Susan for a Christmas Eve brunch aboard Genesis and Christmas dinner on Pipe Muh Bligh. We got a welcome surprise soon after we returned to the anchorage, as Jim and Laurie on Kismet arrived and dropped the hook next to us. We'd first met them on Sojourner in Annapolis over Labor Day, and saw them again in October at the Deltaville Boat Yard. We had no idea they'd be in Lake Worth, and were happy they could join us for the holidays. In the world of cruising, when we're far away from our families for the holidays, it's all about spending time with good friends. Thanks to Genesis and Kismet for sharing Christmas with us!

Remember that crazy weather we mentioned earlier? Well, a front blew through the area the day after Christmas that effectively made us prisoners on our boats for a day and a half. We had sustained winds of 25-30kts on Sunday, with gusts of 35-40kts. Luckily, only one boat had to re-anchor (granted, it took him three tries) and our own anchor held steady. Thanks to modern technology in the form of SSB calls with Sol Mate and Facebook updates from Sojourner, Civil Twilight, and Thate Wate, we also knew that our friends in the Bahamas were about to get hit by the same front. Fortunately everyone was able to find a hidey-hole, and they all made it through safely - albeit with a bit of rockin' and rollin', we're sure.

It looks like our days of waiting may finally be at an end. We've finally spotted a potential window for a Gulf Stream crossing, thanks to a block of days with south-easterly/southerly winds. We'll leave Wednesday evening for an overnight offshore run to Miami, and will sit it out in the Venetian Causeway until Sunday or Monday. We'll keep a close eye on the 5+ weather forecast sources we use, and hope that they'll come to an agreement in the next few days. Fingers crossed...we may actually be in the Bahamas by this time next week!

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