Dan going up the mast for the first time after borrowing a neighbor’s block and tackle.
Over the last 3 years of planning, Dan and I have talked with multiple cruisers in person and through email, getting A Little Help from our Friends. Everyone we talked to was more than willing to help us in whatever way they could. It’s only logical that we would see the same kind of spirit in the community once we started living aboard, but to be honest we have been awed by the help we’ve received in these first few weeks aboard. It’s amazing how magnanimous people can be towards complete strangers simply because we are now part of the boating community.
As I mentioned in The First Move, Dan and I received our first taste of the friendliness of boaters as we were entering the marina in Stuart. Since we were coming in after hours, there were no marina employees available to help us pull in but we got expert help from other boaters instead. I honestly don’t know if we would’ve made it into our slip safely without the help of Jim and Sandra on Alpha Lady and Gary and Georgette on Two G’s. As we all started introducing ourselves, Georgette brought her cats out and Sandra mentioned that she had been looking for a new cat since their last one had passed a year before. We instantly brought out our cat, Nala, who we had been looking to find a new home for since we had accepted Dan’s new job. She was a good cat, but 2 dogs, a cat, and a 3 year old on a boat was just too much for me to handle. Sandra and Jim instantly fell in love with her and told us that if we were really serious, to bring her over to their boat later that night with whatever cat paraphernalia we wanted to get rid of.
We were serious and after grabbing dinner and talking to Carter about the situation, brought Nala over to Alpha Lady (a beautiful 61 foot 1981 Hatteras). Nala would certainly be living in luxury here. Jim and Sandra invited us to stay for drinks and I’m glad they did. After the stress of the day, we were nearing the end of our rope. In fact, if it weren’t for the ability to relax with them and laugh off the crazy events of our car that morning and our difficult parking I believe that we may have thrown in the towel that night. Luckily, we’re still moving and were treated to even more kindness by others through out the next week that we stayed in Stuart.
Gary and Georgette on Two G’s were incredibly helpful to us as well. They were parked in the slip directly next door and generously offered their help on multiple occasions. We decided after Friday night on Alpha Lady that we would stay in the Stuart marina until we could hire a captain to help us move the rest of the way to Lantana. However, that left us with the problem that we had no car to get Dan to work on Monday. We had spent Thursday night dropping off our Jeep in Lantana since we believed we would only be in Stuart for one night and we left our Scion in Indiantown. Gary and Georgette graciously offered us the use of their car to go pick up our Scion so that we didn’t have to rent a car for the day. Multiple times during the week Gary helped me to load and unload Carter and the dogs while Dan was at work and even went snorkeling to help me find my keys that I dropped next to the dock! That’s way above the typical neighborly friendliness that I’ve been accustomed to in the past!
Dan was able to help our neighbor in Lantana park his boat as others had done for us in Stuart.
We are very happy to be a part of a community that looks out for each other and was so quick to include us. We hope to be able to “pay it forward” to others in the future.
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.