We've been travelling every day from St. Augustine to Fort Pierce - 4.5 days. We usually get up at 6:00ish to leave at 7:00 when the sun is up and we can see our surroundings. Leaving earlier or travelling at night on the ICW can be tricky: some sections don't have lit buoys, it is narrow and shallow, there are many shoaling areas where we may run aground. There's a sense of safety when we see where we're going even though the water is too brown or silty to see the bottom.
We have breakfast and lunch underway. As big powerboats pass us, sailboats too, the skipper usually notifies us by marine radio that he/she'll pass slowy to avoid a big wake (waves). This is a courtesy that is quite appreciated. It's not pleasant getting big waves on the side making loose items fly off.
We're used to powerboats going very fast in the Georgian Bay as they usually have a short distance (hours) to do. However, the powerboats that pass us on the ICW are also going to the Bahamas and the Floriday Keys (weeks). They travelled much slower. Even at a slow speed, one boater told us that his trip from Quebec City will cost him about $8,000 in gas (and that's only a 42 foot boat). Talking about boat sizes, we're seeing a lot of very big motorboats (65+ feet). They are steered by hired skippers and the owners lounge on the back deck. Beside them, we look like a canoe with a stick ... and we steer our own boat!
We usually stop after 35-42 nautical miles. Depending on winds and currents, we drop the anchor at around 4:00-5:00. Happy hour watching dolphins, pelicans and now manatees, dinner and sleep. We start again the following day.
In my blog from Norfolk, I mentioned buying a towing service, like an insurance policy, in case we need it. It's called TowBoatUS. By paying a $200 "membership" fee for a year, the tow fee is a lot less if you need it. We've travelled 960 miles from Norfolk through very shallow and shoaling areas successfully, so far. But in Vero Beach, at the end of a day, on our way to what we thought was an anchorage beside a mooring field, we ran aground. I was standing at the bow when all of a sudden the boat stops; a good thing I was holding on a rope as I lost my balance. I yelled at Frank to back up; the boat didn't move. Two guys in their dinghie tell us that deep water is just beyond our reach and want to help. They tried to push our bow sideways and Frank tries to go forward. The boat moves to our portside but now the rudder is in the mud. We stopped trying; we don't want to damage the rudder. After calling TowBoatUS, they arrived 45 minutes later. They got us out in no time.
We haven't started to visit Fort Pierce. This time, we will enjoy it with a couple of friends from Toronto who have a condo here at Jensen Beach - John and Dale. I met Dale riding the daily train to Toronto from our homes in Georgetown. As humans with habits, riders always sit on the same seat. After a while, seeing the same faces every day, you start to smile, then say hi and how are you, then enquire about their day or weekend. Next thing you know, you sit beside them and become friends. With Dale and two other friends, we rode the train for years together, met each other's husbands and kids, saw kids grow up, divorces, sickness, remarriages, backyard parties. Thanks to Facebook, Dale and I didn't lose touch when personal moves and retirement made encounters more difficult. Unbeknownst to us, Dale and John have been following our sailing journey. So we were delighted to hear from them a few days ago, offering us their home and help, as we passed through their neighborhood. Now, after more than ten years, we meet again for dinner on our boat. We're so happy to have the chance to spend the next few days with them.
Today, we're meeting Frank's uncle who also lives nearby, for lunch. Even though Howard may be in his late 80's, he still works as a boat broker in the States and abroad. He will certainly be a very interesting man to chat with as we have a lot in common and a lot to catch up on. Can't wait to meet him!
When we leave Fort Pierce, I'll tell you all about it in my next blog.
Oh No, Aground!