Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano
Sorry for the long delay in blog posts. No we haven’t sunk, but a lot has been happening around here that was taking up our attention. Foremost among our recent changes is that Dan has taken a new job in Sunrise, Florida which he started Wednesday morning. Subsequently, we decided to move our boat from Lantana to Hollywood. While that only takes about an hour in a car traveling the interstate, the ICW is another story all together.
We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.
For anyone who has ever traveled on the ICW by boat, you will remember the number of bridges that cross your path. Unfortunately for us, of the 21 bridges between Lantana and Hollywood exactly 1 of them is tall enough for us to fit under. That meant waiting for 20 drawbridges to open, almost all of them on a set schedule of every half hour. We estimated that in actual travel time at 5 knots (5 nautical miles per hour or approximately 6 miles per hour) it would take us around 6 hours to go the entire distance. In reality, with the bridge openings included our planned total time on the water was closer to around 11 hours.
To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.
To help us with our planning, we utilized Dozier’s Waterway Guides for the Southern ICW. It was the most highly rated guide by Practical Sailor reviewers and also had good reviews online. The guide proved to be very helpful with bridge schedules and phone numbers (though we were able to contact all of them by VHF radio channel 09), along with additional navigational suggestions and good listings for dockage and anchoring down the entire path. Our original plan was to head out by 6 am on Monday morning and hopefully make it to our new marina between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. However, when we woke up on Sunday morning and looked at the forecast for Monday, we were concerned about the potential for serious storms on Monday afternoon so we decided to head out Sunday and split the trip into two days instead.
We were able to keep mostly to schedule with one minor exception, we missed our first bridge entirely in the planning, putting us behind a full hour! While the road directly to the South of our marina in Lantana was called Ocean Ave, the actual bridge was called the Lantana Bridge… unfortunately, the very next bridge (an hour drive to the South) was actually called Ocean Ave. While this certainly was disappointing to us, at least it didn’t negatively affect our trip since we were no longer fighting the clock to get in on time the first day. Even our cruising guide was confused, calling both bridges Ocean Ave.
It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!
At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.
Our next boat…
Overall, our progress was blessedly uneventful…no storms, no engine failure, and no problems docking. A good trip in our book.
We crossed paths with another fellow marina resident on the way out who took this picture for us.
This weekend some new friends of ours from the marina offered to go out sailing with us on our boat for the first time. Since we hadn’t taken Horizon out yet on our own, we were a little nervous to go by ourselves and so we gratefully accepted and made preparations to head out on Sunday morning. Craig and Lisa own a sister ship to the one from Captain Ron, a favorite sailing comedy from the 90s, a Formosa 51 named Windborn. With their added experience of sailing a large ketch and knowledge of the many bridges in our path to the West Palm Beach inlet, we were confident that we would all have a great time and learn a few lessons along the way.
Lesson #1: We need to move closer to a sailing inlet if we are going to get any good practice. The motor trip from our current marina to the inlet requires us to wait for 3 bridge openings, which sounds like no big deal until you realize that each bridge only opens every half hour. The one way trip to the ocean takes somewhere in the range of about 2 hours of motoring, all of which is very noisy due to our lack of sufficient sound insulation in the engine compartment. The insulation will be moving up on our list of priorities after a day of motoring on the ICW.
Lesson #2: Check the functioning of the swing keel before you get to the ocean. Once out of the relative shallows of the channel and out on the ocean, we started raising the sails for the first time. They all look in great shape as expected and were fairly easy to handle due to the rigging upgrades that we done to the boat before we bought it, not the least of which being a nice Mack-pack and lazy jacks system for the mainsail and mizzen. These allow the sail to easily come in and out of the sail cover when needed. As soon as we got the sails up however, we realized that we needed to lower the swing keel to give us more stability under sail (a.k.a. not tip over). Unfortunately, we quickly figured out that our swing keel was not going to budge. We aren’t sure yet whether there is a lock on it somewhere that we haven’t found or its somehow impeded underwater, but for our first trip it was completely out of commission. That meant we weren’t going to be doing as serious sailing yesterday, but we figured that we’d have some lunch on the water, have a good time and then head back to the marina.
The radar went from perfectly clear to this before you could say “Holy Thunderstorms, Batman!” We were right about where the map says Palm Beach when we got hit.
Lesson #3: Keep an eye on the weather. Dan and Craig had both checked the forecast before we cast off in the morning, but nothing had indicated the storms that we ended up trying to avoid all afternoon. Though the radar had looked perfectly clear with simple afternoon showers expected, not long after getting out onto the ocean a huge line of storms developed directly over the ICW stretching from Boca Raton all the way up to Jacksonville. While we didn’t get directly hit by any of the thunderstorms, we did get surprised by the strong outflow winds of one of the storm cells. The wind picked up very quickly from 6-8 knots up to a gust of 30 knots, catching us unaware and nearly knocking us flat on our starboard rail. It was literally the scariest thing that has ever happened to Dan and I, but luckily no one got hurt and the boat wasn’t damaged in the process. We now understand better the precautions that the cruising community takes in advocating a “reef early” standpoint when it comes to approaching weather. We certainly would never want to get caught with too much sail up again.
Its a good thing everyone was in the cockpit when this happened!
Lesson #4: Knock-down proof your interior. During our near-capsize, we were treated to the noise of crashing objects below. Drawers fell out, cabinets fell open, and pretty much anything not properly secured on the port side ended up in a heap on our salon floor. Luckily, nothing was seriously damaged and our dogs were smart enough to keep themselves out of the melee, but if someone had been below at the time they could have been seriously injured. While we hope to never be at that severe of a sailing angle again in the future, we will definitely be putting some effort into ensuring that we don’t create flying projectiles in our cabins. New cabinet latches, additional tie-downs, and drawer stops are all in order to say the least.
We spent the next 2 hours or so out on the water motoring to stay out of the storm’s path down the coast. It certainly wasn’t the best day on the water that we’ve ever had, but we know that it could have been a lot worse. We were glad for the opportunity to test out our electronics and sails, which all worked great, and to find the problems that still need to be addressed in a (relatively) safe environment. We made it safely back to our home dock without damage to our boat or the crew, had a (mostly) good day on the water, and learned a lot in the process.
Carter and Dan love to fish together!
Last week Dan and I finally made time to get to the driver’s bureau to get our official Florida driver’s licenses. Along with that came the ability for him to finally get a Florida-resident fishing license, something he’s been wanting to do since we first moved down. Now we can start making a dent in the bout with Davy Jones!
Our first attempts were with our friends Bill and Mary on their fishing trawler, the Mary Gannon. We spent two beautiful Saturdays with them out on the ocean hunting for Mahi but unfortunately weren’t able to land any fish for dinner. We certainly wouldn’t consider our time wasted however, with the excellent company and great weather we had both days.
The water was like glass!
Our first catch was claimed by Carter on the docks near our boat. He and Dan were finishing up fishing before dinner when suddenly Carter yelled, “Daddy, where’s my bobber?” Dan assumed that Carter’s line had just gotten tangled around the dock but as he reached for the pole, he realized that there was a fish on! In fact, it was too big for Carter’s Spiderman fishing pole to reel in so I had to find the lobster net to get Carter’s first catch onto the dock.
Carter’s very first fish
Carter was unbelievably excited at catching his first fish ever, as is only proper for a little boy. He was running around the docks grinning from ear to ear, telling every passerby his fish tale. He was supremely disappointed to learn that we would not be gutting and eating his lovely catfish but releasing it back into the water. I guess he was looking forward to the sweet taste of victory.