I must first apologize for the unplanned extended writing sabbatical. There have been many projects accomplished over the last year, both on the boat and at home, and it just seemed there was never any time to devote to writing. I hope to be more reliable in the future though, and for those of you who are still reading, I am grateful.
Janet and I decided to take Magic Carpet on a multi-day trip south, just to get away from the dock for a change. Our original idea was to travel from our home port of Daytona Beach south to the Florida Keys, spend a few days there and then return.
The distance along the Intracoastal Waterway between Daytona Beach and Key Largo is about 270 nautical miles. We travel at a maximum speed of around 10 knots, and our average speed, once you factor in the delays associated with bridge openings, slow speed zones and slowing down to carefully observe bikinis, is more like 7 to 8 knots. That means that the time required to travel from Daytona to Key Largo is about 34 to 40 hours. We like to try to keep our travel days to 6 hours or less underway, so by using some of the complex analytical skills honed in various college mathematics courses, and allowing for some delays due to weather, I deduced that we would need a minimum of 12 to 14 days to make the round trip. A complicating factor for us is that we have four four- legged children at home. (Some people refer to them as cats, but we know better.) We get the shakes if we’re away from the kids for more than a few days, so we decided to make the trip in three or four day chunks, returning home at the completion of each leg for a couple days of rest and cuddling with the furballs.
For a variety of reasons, we decided to go as far south as Hollywood this time, then plan a longer trip for next time.
To get a jump on things, on February 19th we moved the boat from our home port of Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona to Titusville, a distance of about 42 nautical miles. While the boat was there, I finished installing the new fresh water pump, which replaced the one that developed a serious leak a few weeks prior. Without that pump, we’d have had no water for washing or flushing while away from the dock, which could have been decidedly unpleasant.
On the 25th, with the water pump fixed, we were good to go, and at 8:30 Wednesday morning we headed out of Titusville bound for Vero Beach. Seven hours later, we arrived at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina. Many cruisers call this Velcro Beach because they say it is so hard to leave. We were less than impressed with the marina facilities and the assistance provided by the dock hand (essentially none) but the area around the marina is very quiet and pretty, and shopping, eateries and the beach are all fairly close by. After checking in at the marina office, we asked where we might be able to buy a new coffee maker since ours gave up the ghost that morning, forcing us to leave Titusville sans coffee. (the horror!) A walk of about a mile took us to a local hardware store where we found one of Mr. Coffee’s finest products. On the walk back, we guessed that passing traffic saw us as a homeless couple strolling along with their worldly possessions all neatly stowed in the box under my arm.
The next morning, we got underway at 9:05 headed for Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens, about 50 nautical miles south. (For those of you unfamiliar with nautical vs. statute mileage, one nautical mile equals 1.15 statute miles) This leg of the trip would take us under fourteen bridges, and based on information we found in several sources, it appeared that we would definitely need five of them to open, and may need two others to open in order to allow us to pass. Our “air draft”, or the maximum height of the boat above the water, is 20′-7″. This is measured from the water to the top of the radar antenna, which is the tallest part of the boat. (This doesn’t include the tall VHF radio antennas, but I can lower them as needed, so they aren’t the limiting factor as far as height goes) Each of the bridges along the way has published in various sources, its clearance at Mean High Water. This means that at high tide, when the distance from the water to the underside of the bridge is a minimum, the published information tells me I should have XX feet of clearance. You’ll notice in the photo that the underside of the bridge forms an arch. The published clearance height is usually given to the “low steel”, or the lowest part of the arch.
You can usually find information on how much additional height is available at the center of the arch, usually three or four feet. Add the published height and the additional height, and the result is a number that is going to be less than, equal to, or more than our required air draft of approximately 21 feet. If there is less clearance than we need, I call the bridge tender on VHF channel 9 and ask him to open the bridge for us. Although some bridges will open on request, many bridges open only on the hour and half hour, so it becomes important to monitor your progress between bridges so as not to arrive at one just as it closes, and then have to do donuts in the water for 30 minutes waiting for the next scheduled opening. On the other hand, if the bridge has more clearance than we need, I’ll call the bridge tender on the VHF and tell him of our intention to pass under his bridge without the need for an opening. (Although I’ve referred to bridge tenders so far in the masculine gender, there are probably just as many female bridge tenders. No misogyny was intended) Bridge tenders appreciate this bit of courtesy, because from their perch on top the bridge, they can see us coming, but can’t accurately judge our height. Unless I contact him and let him know that I’ve thought this through, he doesn’t know that I’m not some clueless idiot who’s busy Googling Bikini Babes of South Florida completely unaware of an impending meeting of bridge and boat.
We arrived at Loggerhead Marina at 3:00, and were greeted at the dock by a uniformed dockhand compete with epaulets and shoulder boards. As I was whisked away by golf cart to the office to sign in, I casually mentioned that our holding tank needed to be pumped out. When I returned to the boat, there were three, count ’em…three dockhands on the boat, all in their sock feet, pumping the holding tank. Talk about service!
On the Loggerhead website home page, you see four rows of boats. At the land end of those rows, you see two parcels of green space on either side of the entrance road. Those are no longer green. They are being developed as multi-story condominiums, and we were told the condos would go for upwards of a million dollars each. The dockmaster said that’s not the real story though…the real story is the people who are buying two adjacent condos and combining them into a single unit. I guess folks need some wall space to hang their art pieces.
On the third morning, we headed out from Loggerhead Marina at 8:35 bound for Delray Beach, a little less than 30 miles south. We wanted this to be a short travel day because we had to rent a car and drive back home, and we didn’t want to get home at dark-thirty. Delray Harbor Club Marina is a small marina associated with an adjacent condominium complex. We arrived at the marina at 1:00 in the afternoon and when I called them on the VHF to ask for my assigned slip, I found out that I was going to be forced to perform my first ever stern-to docking. Usually, I pull into a slip pointy end first because I can see what’s going on. On this boat, I am completely blind as to what is going on at the stern. I can’t see a bit of it.
So here we are, needing to slide Magic Carpet backwards into a slip, with a 70 foot yacht on one side and another 50 something footer on the other side, with the wind pushing me sideways, and me not able to see where the ass of the boat is with respect to any of the aforesaid. However…Janet and I have a set of wireless radios and headsets that we use while docking, and on this day, they truly entered my personal Electronic Hall of Fame. With Janet stationed in the aft cockpit and our headsets on, even though I couldn’t see where I was going, she was able to coach me through the backing-in process with helpful maneuvering hints such as “Come to starboard two feet”, “Straighten it up a bit”, “You’re six feet off the piling”, “Oh shit”, and other useful guidance information.
I got it into the slip, we tossed lines to the dockhand, we got the boat secured, and I started working on getting my heart rate down out of jackhammer range. Oh, and I didn’t even nudge either boat beside me.
We found our rental car waiting for us in the parking lot, just as the fellow at Hertz had promised, so we loaded up the car, said a temporary goodbye to Magic Carpet, and hit the road for home.
Next up: Delray Beach to Hollywood and back to Daytona Beach