Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Phew... we're in Ft. Lauderdale

Chris here - We made it Ft. Lauderdale, and we made it to the marina we'll be staying in for the next week.

Last night we pulled into a Pompano Beach marina to stay the night. Because our batteries won't hold a charge for more than a few hours we've been hesitant to anchor out. The marina was OK - it was right on the ICW, so we didn't have to travel anywhere for it, and since it was part of a hotel we had access to the pool. Yesterday was Mardi Gras, so we celebrated by having a meal at a nice Italian Restaurant.

We only had about 10 miles to go today, so we took it easy this morning. The kids swam for a while in the pool at the hotel/marina we were at and then had school for a couple of hours. The bridge by the marina opened on the hour and half-hour, so we got prepped and left at the 1pm opening. Right after the first bridge we put our genoa up and, once again, sailed down the ICW. You get a lot of strange looks when you sail down the ICW - people just aren't used to seeing that. We heard someone on shore comment, as we passed them, "You can sail on the ICW? I don't think I've ever seen that before!" The houses along the way were amazing, and we saw megayacht after megayacht after megayacht.

Kristen here - Chris forgot to mention the delicious gourmet breakfast at the hotel this morning! They had a *beautiful* and varied display of apples, oranges and prepackaged sara lee danishes. The kids had danishes, and we took as many apples as we could without looking suspicious. I like to bring them back to the boat and use them for apple pie. Hay, we're cruisers now and every penny counts!

Sailing down the ICW was quite a nice experience. It seems that we haven't been sailing much during this trip, and today made me realize how much I've missed it. It's so quiet and peaceful. Nothing matches the feeling of turning off your motor and letting the wind gently pull your living space gracefully through the water. Well, at least until the motor yachts and cigarette boats zoom by and throw wakes that bring you to a screeching halt!

Things got a bit interesting today when we left the ICW and went up a side river to our marina. The river was quite twisty and turney with a lot of 90 degree bends that you couldn't see around. On top of that it wasn't heavily laden with marking buoys (floating marks that let you know where the channel or deep water is). Chris was driving and we were all a bit nervous about hitting bottom. Kaitlin was calling out readings from the depth meter, so Chris could watch for boat traffic. I was navigating using the paper chart, and Casey was commenting on the scenery.

As were were rounding one of those bends we came face to face with a three story paddleboat. Nothing scares your pants off like being face to face with a mammoth paddleboat going at full speed! We had a red buoy to our right and just on the other side of it were waves crashing up on a rocky shore, hmmm no wiggle room there. Kaitlin, what was that depth? Nine feet daddy! Then we hear the paddleboats engines roar into reverse. It immediately came to a dead stop. Phew, now we have a whole 20 seconds instead of 4 seconds to figure out what to do. As usual, the answer is go forward and pray.

Someone must be listening, because we squeezed by with rocks 10 feet to our right and a paddleboat 10 feet to our left. Then Kaitlin says, am I done now, can I go back below and watch a movie? Sure sweety, and toss up the rum.

But as usual the fun didn't end there. I took the wheel so Chris could push his pulsing heart back into its rightful cavity. I felt like we were in Venecian canals with beautiful houses on either side, and megayachts lining the waters edge. Then it was around another bend. This time we had Kaitlin on the bow watching for oncoming boats. The waterway was so narrow that if another boat was coming in the opposite direction, there wouldn't be room to pass. Luckily there were no oncoming boats, but as soon as I rounded the bend we were faced with a bridge. Normally this is no big deal. You radio the bridge and ask them to open it. Then the bridge operator sounds a horn, lowers the road gates, stops the road traffic and then lifts the bridge. All of this takes about 5 minutes or so. This is not a problem on the ICW where there is a bit of room to hold your position, or spin the boat around while you wait. It becomes a big problem when you have mega motor yachts 20 feet off of either side of you! Hmmm...40 foot boat, 40 feet of wiggle room. Lets hope the wind doesn't pick up! Oh, and did I mention the current? It was only about .3 knots at this point in time, but that will come into play later.

So to calm my nerves I yelled over to a crew member standing on one of the mega motor yachts. "Oh dear, I really hope I don't crash into one of these yachts!". I don't think he liked my humor. So I jockeyed the boat between forward and reverse and prayed that I didn't drift into a yacht or the bridge. Finally the bridge opened and I could commence with that sweet sweet forward motion that keeps us in a straight line and lets the rudder steer the boat. Phew! Oh, what's that I see about 500 feet ahead? Its another bridge. Grrrrr Stupid bridges. This one was a bit less congested though and we had much more time to do a slow and gradual approach.

Now it was time to call the marina and get directions. The plan was to go to a holding marina until we could get into the regular marina. It seems that the regular marina is quite a bear to get into when there is a current. The next slack current wasn't going to be until tomorrow. I gave the wheel back to Chris and got on the phone. The marina promptly informed us that we had just passed the holding marina. "Don't tell me I have to go back through those bridges!" I told him. So now our options were go back through the bridges, or go straight to the regular marina. The current was still at .3 knots so we decided once again to push forward and pray.

We had three dock spaces open to us. They were all in a row and next to each other. They all faced perpendicular to the river, so it's kind of like pulling into a parking space at the mall. It's just that the last space ended with the bridge running parallel to it. So, if you messed up your parking, you couldn't just pull out and try again. You would smash into a bridge! I kept flashing back to the time we were trying to dock the boat in Annapolis with a current and it took 5 tries. No worries I kept telling myself, that time we were trying to back in, and the wind and current were much much stronger. This time would be fine.

The marina guy on the phone told us to be careful because the current often got a bit stronger right next to the bridge. We told him that it was only .3 knots and we were going for it. Well, by the time we made the turn to pull into the slip, the current was up to 1.3 knots! Quite a difference in just 500 feet! Chris got us into the slip like a pro, but then the current grabbed us and we started drifting away from the dock. Thank goodness there was Joe the marina guy there to grab our lines and hold on for dear life.

Then the struggle began. We had a dock in front, a dock to the left, and a piling (long telephone pole like thing sticking out of the water) behind and to the right of us. We were drifting away from the dock on the left, and tug-of-warring between going way too far forward and starting to hit our bow on the dock in front of us, and rubbing the outboard engine stored on our aft lifelines on the piling behind us. Kaitlin rushed to the rescue and started to push us off the piling. Upon seeing this I immediately screamed for her to get away from there. The golden rule of boating is to never never never ever put any part of your body between the boat and any other surface. Chris rushed to put the boat into forward to save Kaitlin. All the while our amazing helper, Joe the marina guy, was holding the lines and trying to keep us from destroying our boat.

Kaitlin was unharmed, and later Casey informed me that she had not put her hand anywhere dangerous. After the dust cleared, we got the boat pulled in closer to the right side dock, and farther away from the forward dock and rear piling. I guess the guy was right about the current picking up!

Feeling lucky to have gotten away without majorly damaging anything, I had some adrenaline to burn. Chris went off to check us in, and the kids and I cleaned up the boat. Then I got out my trusty sewing machine. It seems like most of the clutter on the boat consists of sewing projects that I still need to get done. There is the kids leecloth (a piece of fabric that is tied up to keep you from falling off the bunk in heavy seas, but in this case it is to keep the kids pillow from falling off the end of their bed), the bumper covers, and the velcro on the life sling (a throwable floatation device). I want to get these done because everything piles up in the kids room, and they don't have much space as it is. I decided to tackle the life sling first.

That went very well and after some scrubbing, we had an almost new looking life sling up on the back of the boat. Now we have two throwable floatation devices available for use. Then after a diner of stir fry chicken, broccoli and rice we headed out for a evening walk. We immediately found the science museum which will be visiting tomorrow. We also found a beautiful brick path lining the water with many different trees labeled with a name and description. My Mom said that researching the trees would be a good school science project. Good idea Mom!

I'm very excited to finally be here. The Bahamas are so close I can almost taste them! My provisioning list is ready to go. There is a lot of work to be done, but the water just keeps getting clearer and clearer. It's a sign of what awaits us.


Anonymous said...

Hey guys, Jackie here - while in Ft. Lauderdale - either hitch a ride (or if you get a car)& get over to SAILORMAN - "a used boat parts emporium"!!! We went there a few years ago and it was great - Love the blog - just wish we were there w/you (next year !! we're letting you figure it all out for us - ha ha)- we're trying to figure out when we're heading south in March to visit our friend David and stay on his boat for a week or so - warm weather would be nice and get us into the spirit of the boating season approaching- Love to you all and know you're missed -and stay safe

Human runner said...

We've just found your blog and have really enjoyed reading it. In five years, we hope to do something similar to what you're doing now - head down the ICW and then cross to the Bahamas. We have a two year old. It's good to see people with kids getting out there and having adventures like this!