Carter is quickly becoming climatized, it was 85 degrees in this picture!
Even with our bad luck on a Friday, Dan and I still decided to leave for Stuart after lunch that day. We really wanted to be able to reach Lantana before Monday when Dan’s new job would start, especially since we had already dropped off one of our cars there on Thursday night. We prepared ourselves (again) to leave and shoved off with some help from the marina worker. As the boat started reversing, however, Dan quickly realized that he had underestimated the power of prop-walk when reversing a large boat. While we had read about it before, we had never experienced the effects ourselves and so were not really prepared for how to deal with it properly. Dan quickly adjusted his plan for getting out of the marina safely and got us into the canal, but we realized that we were going to have problems at the end of the day getting the boat stern-to the dock.
The water really starts pouring in quickly
Before we could worry about that we had the locks to transit. As we got within approximately a mile from the locks, we radioed in to let them know we were coming. We were somewhat surprised when the reply was a sarcastic “I can’t see you yet.” Apparently, at the St. Lucie Locks they won’t even respond to information until you are within sight of the operator. Luckily, everything still went quite smooth once we got into the locks as we had hoped when watching the previous day. The only negative about going through the locks was the dramatic decrease in wind when you are inside. The drop in wind and requirement that everyone be wearing life-jackets made for a very hot crew, as we haven’t yet purchased the inflatable PFD’s. After that experience, we certainly can understand why the inflatable kind are so much more desirable.
The view coming up to the Roosevelt bridge
The next obstacle we had was the Roosevelt drawbridge that we had to go through. According to bridge schedules online, the bridge opened every half hour on Monday-Friday. As we were getting close to the bridge, we thought we would have about a 20 minute wait until the next opening, so Dan slowed us down quite a bit in order to come to the bridge right at the opening time. About the time that we were coming into full slight of the bridge, we could hear over the VHF radio another boat requesting the bridge to be opened. The operator responded that he could open it but that a train would be coming through soon and he didn’t have control of when the secondary train bridge would close. We had no idea we could’ve just requested the bridge to be opened and we definitely didn’t want to wait for the train, so Dan threw the throttle down to try to beat the clock. We radioed the operator to let him know we were coming and he assured us he would keep his bridge open for us but again warned that he had no control over the train bridge, but it “wasn’t moving yet”.
Let me just say that you should never be in a hurry on a sailboat. Even going as fast as our engine would push us, we were definitely moving at less than 10 miles an hour. Some people joke that taking a sailboat around the world would be faster if you just walked and I can see that they weren’t entirely kidding. In any case, we got past as the lights started to flash announcing the imminent closing of the train bridge. We could now see our home for the evening but still had to figure out how to come into it safely. We had to pass the marina by a fair amount before turning back towards it to stay in the channel; we definitely didn’t want to bottom out after a long day.
As we came around the corner of the docks to get to our assigned slip, we had a moment of panic. The time had come to park the boat, and we were in the inside corner with boats all around…no room to maneuver at all. Amazingly, there were people walking down the docks near our slip who asked if we needed help docking and we accepted. With their help and the help of our new next-door (next-slip?) neighbors, we were able to wrangle the boat into the slip and get her all tied down. Our first journey had come to an end with no damage to life or property. I’d call that a success.
The water equalizing at the St. Lucie locks.
At the end of our first week as liveaboards, Dan and I decided that we were ready to head down the Okeechobee Canal to Stuart on Friday and then on to Lantana on Saturday. Thursday afternoon we visited the St. Lucie Lock to watch how the process worked, since we have never transited a lock system before. Once there, we were encouraged at how easy everything looked and we were confident that we could handle it even with our limited experience. We spent the rest of Thursday evening packing up what definitely needed to be on the boat, buying some food for lunches underway, and dropping off one of our cars in Lantana.
I think the car wanted to come too.
We got up early on Friday morning ready to head out. Dan made a quick stop at McDonald’s for his morning coffee and I finished straightening up around the boat. When Dan got back he parked the car on the hill in front of our slip and came in to let the dogs out one last time, our last step before casting off. That’s when things went south. As Dan was walking the dogs, he saw movement from the corner of his eye…our car was rolling down the hill straight for the docks! Amazingly, the car was stopped on the edge of the docks by the bowline from another boat, only damaging a few fittings on the boat and denting our bumper. However, now we were stuck with a car teetering precariously over the water; we did not want it falling in!
Some of the workers from the marina were able to bring over a chain and straps to attach the car to a tree and then adjust the boat away from the front of the car. Not before reminding us of the sailor’s superstition, “You know they say it’s bad luck to leave on a Friday.” Then the waiting game started. Indiantown isn’t exactly within quick driving distance of anywhere, so we waited almost two hours for the first tow-truck to arrive…only to have him tell us that his truck wouldn’t be able to winch the car out without further damaging the docks and our car. The sheriff on the scene has the number of another company to call that were able to help us, after another hour wait of course. All in all, the incident cost us about $150 in towing, 5 hours of time, and an unknown future amount from insurance claims. Not exactly how we had envisioned the day going.
We did decide to still leave for Stuart later that day, but that’s a story for another post.
Ready to head out on Saturday morning.
Dan, Carter, and I have now officially survived our first week as liveaboards. After 20 grueling hours in the car (plus a nice day-long pit stop in LaGrange, Georgia with Dan’s brother Kyle), we were ready to get onto the boat and start making it our home. Easier said than done we soon realized. In Peoria, we loaded a 5×8 cargo trailer plus our two vehicles with all of our stuff and once we started unpacking quickly figured out that not everything was going to fit on the boat. (This is the point where Dan can say I told you so!) About 60% of what we brought is currently on the boat with us, 20% is still in our cars and trailer, and 20% is now in the Indiantown dump.
In the heat, we are in a constant struggle with Carter to keep his clothes on!
Indiantown Marina is a great place to store a boat over hurricane season and we met quite a few people preparing their boats for summer storage. It is not, however, a place where we would want to live on any extended basis, as there are almost no amenities in town and the nearest area of interest is a significant drive. Not to mention the friendly neighborhood alligator that liked to hang around our boat waiting for our dogs, cat, or toddler to fall in the water. As you might imagine, we were ready to move on as soon as possible since Dan’s job officially starts on Monday.
This is where we will be staying once we get our boat moved
To help break up the monotony of unpacking, each day we made sure to get off the boat and enjoy ourselves. Carter had been asking to go to the beach since he first found out we were moving to Florida, so we spent one evening touring our future marina home and heading over to the beach and dinner. The marina is part of the Loggerhead family of marinas that are up and down the east coast of Florida and we have been very impressed with their friendliness and beautiful facilities. Because the same group owns multiple marinas we will be able to stay at the Stuart marina for free on our way to our home base. Here are our top impressions of living aboard after our first week:
- Organization will be very important for our sanity. We have a lot of storage on this boat compared to others we’ve seen, but it’s still a major adjustment for us.
- Even after only a few days, going on land makes us all sway a little. After the first night on-board, as we got off the boat Carter stopped and started turning his head in a circle saying “Whoa! Everything is moving Mommy!”
- Little boys skin their knees a lot more when they don’t have the protection of long pants.
- Systems on a boat are more different than house systems than we had anticipated. Dan is very handy, but we’re feeling at this point that the learning curve is steeper than we’d hoped. We’re seriously considering hiring an instructor to help us learn our boat better.
We’ve been running pretty much in high stress mode over the last few days but we know that everything will normalize soon once we get settled into our new marina and Dan starts working. Thanks to everyone for your help and encouragement through this stressful process. Let us know what questions you have or share your first week stories in the comments below.