Monday, May 12, 2008

500 Miles to Brunswick, Georgia

It was finally time to begin our journey north to Brunswick, Georgia, just across the northern border of Florida. We have made plans to leave our boat there for the summer while we return to Greenwood.

We vacated our mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor on Sunday, May 4th, and headed up the Keys in the company of two other boats, La Buena Vida (Harold and Val) and Bay Breeze (Russ).

The first day we made it to Rodriguez Key, just south of Key Largo. The second day we got to No Name Harbor, at the bottom of Key Biscayne, where we stayed for a couple of days to rest and enjoy the beautiful state park there.

We left No Name Harbor on Wednesday, May 7th, and turned north in Biscayne Bay, exiting through Miami's Government Cut out into the Atlantic. All three boats decided to go out into deeper water to see if the fishing was better.

We headed out about three miles and were soon in 600 feet of water, on the edge of the Gulf Stream. The water was a beautiful indigo blue. We could see for miles and the influence of the Gulf Stream gave us a fast ride north.

As we scanned the horizon to the east, we saw an island with high rise buildings and a large water tower. A quick check on the chart plotter indicated we were looking at Bimini, in the Bahamas! It was 42 miles east of Miami and clearly visible.

We both decided that being able to see Bimini from Miami made it seem close enough that we might actually be able to make that crossing next winter.

It was a great day of motor-sailing, but we did not catch any fish. We anchored that night in a quiet Ft. Lauderdale residential area called Middle River.

The next day's sail, to West Palm Beach, was not one of our better days. The weather forecast had called for five to eight knot winds and two to four foot seas. The wind began picking up late in the morning and we were soon dealing with winds gusting to 25 knots and 5-8 foot seas. It was a most uncomfortable ride and at the end of the day, we were pleased to have it behind us.

We rested and resupplied for a couple of days at North Lake Worth, then prepared to resume our journey on Saturday, May 10th. Our plans changed quickly when we discovered that Sunshine's port engine would not start.

The three captains conferred, tested, and conferred some more, finally deciding that our starter motor was the problem. After several phone calls and more conferring, they found a mechanic who was working on the weekend (it was Saturday) and who agreed to rebuild the starter. Phil quickly removed it and he and Harold dinghied to shore. They took a taxi to the shop and were back within a few hours, with a rebuilt starter motor.

That night, everyone came to our boat to celebrate with a steak dinner and strawberry shortcake. As we were preparing dinner, someone noticed that a boat that had anchored next to us, a catamaran named "Suitsus," was dragging its anchor. There was no one aboard.

Our three captains decided that immediate action was needed to keep the boat from colliding with pilings behind it. Quickly, they launched two dinghies, each carrying an extra anchor and plenty of line. The two additional anchors were soon secured to the wandering catamaran and it came to a stop, averting near certain disaster.

The boat's owner, his wife and son returned to their boat as we were finishing our dinner. They realized immediately that their boat was not where they left it, noticed the two additional anchors, and let us know how grateful they were for our help.

Sunday morning, we headed north again. The destination was Jensen Beach. Again, the weather forecast was incorrect and light winds turned into 30 knot winds by early afternoon. Fortunately, we had decided to travel on the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW), which is an interior route. Even in the protection of the ICW, the winds were very strong.

As we were about to cross under a high-rise bridge, about five miles from Jensen Beach, we noticed that Bay Breeze was having problems. He was without power and was forced to throw out his anchor.

We turned around and came back to lend moral support. The winds were too strong to attempt any repairs, so Russ had called SeaTow for assistance. (SeaTow is AAA for boats.) Within a few minutes, SeaTow arrived.

At about the same time, Phil and I noticed that two young boys had overturned a kayak about 500 yards away. We watched as a boy on a jet ski rescued one of the boys, but a second was still waving his arms in distress. We alerted the SeaTow captain, who immediately went to aid the second boy.

After he took the boy to safety, the SeaTow captain returned and towed Bay Breeze to the anchorage. We followed behind.

As we pulled into the Jensen Beach anchorage, Phil and I noticed that Suitsus, the wandering catamaran from the night before, was also already there. We anchored beside him, not behind him.

With all three boats safely anchored, we all went ashore and had a great Mother's Day dinner at a waterfront restaurant called Conchy Joe's.

Today, Russ, a mechanic before he became a cruiser, was able to fix his boat. We are all getting together for dinner tonight and will likely resume our journey tomorrow morning.

The wind is still howling.

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