I’ll spare the minute details of our trip from Titusville to Melbourne to Fort Pierce. It was like every other leg of the ICW journey, full days of just watching boat traffic and channel markers. Entering Fort Pierce was pretty straightforward. We had decided in Melbourne that we would leave for Fort Pierce super early in the morning so as not to have to fight for a spot in one of the few anchorages. Frank was a little wary of that being the only anchorage around as he had issues finding a spot to anchor in the last time he was there as crew on another boat. Getting there in the early afternoon, we were able to find a spot almost immediately. We spent 2 nights during which time, we discussed some route planning options to Miami. The options were to take the ICW for longer, or hop outside and head straight to Miami. We ended up going with the latter as trips down the ICW have not only been boring, but also tiresome as well.
So with that decision being made, we planned to leave sometime in the afternoon from Fort Pierce, and at the average rate of 5-6kts, we’d figure we’d be in within 22 hours, perfect timing to getting into Miami as it would get us there either late morning or early afternoon, with some daylight to spare. We were both a little apprehensive about taking a night passage as neither on of us has had to do it with just the two of us. We’ve both crewed on other boats where it wasn’t just Frank and I, and the idea of it just being him and I on watch for the first time was a little unnerving. There is a first time for everything right?
Going out the inlet was a complete shit show. Since it was Sunday afternoon, everyone and their mothers were out. There were john boats, powerboats, jetskis, kayaks, dinghies, SUPs and more john boats everywhere you turned. And of course they were all coming in as we were going out. That coupled with the inlet being extremely choppy due to the strong current and the ongoing removal of a wrecked tug, I was starting to feel that it was an omen for our passage to come. Luckily, it was not.
It was originally predicted that we would be taking the passage with 15-20kts of wind on our nose almost the entire. night Not the most ideal conditions, but doable. Luckily Poseidon was on our side and put us at 10-15kts at our nose for only the first half of the trip. As this was the case, the first few hours were spent motoring down the coast. As the night wore on, the wind died down to 10 kts and changed to a near beam reach, and we were even able to get some sail up for most of the second half. Frank and I took hour long watches as the other slept in the cockpit. For those of you who don’t know what being on “watch” entails, let me just side track a bit. No, a watch does not mean you are looking out for pirates, preparing to shoot them with a spear gun and stealing their booty. Nor does it mean watching for whales or dolphins (of course if either one was spotted, that would be a treat). The person on watch basically looks for other ships around and makes sure that we are not on a collision course with anyone (at one point our AIS reregistered 144 different boats!). That person makes sure that the sails are trimmed properly, and adjusts them according to the direction of the wind. He/she also has to make sure, even with an auto-pilot, that you are not veering off course. During this time, Frank decided to name our auto-pilot, Poppy, as that is what he called his grandfather. We’d like to think that Poppy was there in spirit, steering the boat, and protecting us from come-what-may. I must say Poppy did an amazing job and I’m so glad we had him there helping out.
It was an easy trip, with small seas, and thousands of phosphorescence twinkling in our wake. We got to Miami at around 1pm, and upon arrival, we realized that we’d have to traverse through some crazy traffic, with container ships, cruise ships, powerboats, and other extremely large intimidating vessels in the midst of it. I offered to get us to our anchorage as I’m better at dealing with stressful situations like that than Frank is. Our planned stopping point was to be Dinner key. After incessantly calling the Dinner Key Mooring field, they had assured us that anchoring outside their mooring field would be the best thing for us to do as they did not have a mooring open that was large enough to accommodate us, and so we reluctantly followed their directions and dropped the hook. We were meeting with our buddy boat after all and he was moored in that field, so we wanted to be close by. The people in charge assured us that where we were never dropped below 7’ and so should be fine for us and our 6.5' draft. Boy, were they wrong. As the afternoon wore on with Frank taking a nap, and me anxiously checking if we were dragging, I had started to notice that the depths were slowly creeping into the 6s. I woke Frank up to see if perhaps we should anchor some place else, but with his lack of sleep, he hadn’t even heard what I was telling him and muttered something about it being ok. I kept going below to tell him, “hey our depth sounder is starting to read 6.5’…then 6.4’…then uh-oh 6.3’ ...”By the time I had finally gotten Sleeping Beauty out of bed, it was too late. We were aground. Dammit, 2 times in a week, shameful! So we waited for tides to change which seemed like hours, and eventually Frank saved the day and got us unstuck. By this time, it was around 9:30pm; it was dark and very hard to read channel markers to see where else we could anchor. With Frank at the bow flashlight in hand and me behind the wheel, we were able to get the boat safely through the channel, and find a less protected but deeper area to anchor. It’s been a steep learning curve, and hopefully the next few posts you get won’t be about us running aground or breaking dinghy davits, and more about free diving, lobster hunting, snorkeling, and conch salad making. Until then, wish us luck on our crossing which we will be undertaking in a week to a week and a half or so from now.
|Heading into Governors Cut Miami|
|A Mouse among Giants|
|Anchored out at the entrance to Dinner Key|