We left Bimini Sands Marina at 4 am. The marina basin is large and well-lit so each of the 4 boats in our convoy took in their lines and fenders in the basin before heading through the narrow lit channel into the ocean. We were the second boat and followed Casita out; in fact we were within 1-2 nm mile of them for the entire crossing. Keeping a sleepy watch on the helm, I was rewarded by the sight of a shooting star against the black night sky. The sea appeared calm as we came out of the channel, but once out of the lee of the island it was rolly. The swell turned into lumpy confused seas once we hit the Gulf Stream at dawn about 10 nm later, and Skipper Steve succumbed to sea-sickness. I pushed Frankie the engine into turbo-mode, and with a good boost from the current, we were doing between 8.5 and 9.5 knots (SOG), with a 10 degree northerly offset on our course, which really helped our speedy crossing.
By noon we were through the Gulf Stream, the sea settled down and Steve recovered enough to hoist the quarantine and US courtesy flag and then take the helm as we entered Lake Worth Inlet. We made for Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach. Pat on Casita had called ahead and made arrangements for three of us (including La Toison D’or).
I had mixed feelings as we motored up Lake Worth. In some ways it felt like a return to civilization – the opportunity to shop in great supermarkets, the abundance of good restaurants, bars, pretty landscaping and nice looking condo buildings. In other ways it was incredibly sad to leave the simplicity, gentleness and beauty of the Bahamas behind, and return to the world of excess and extravagance.
By 2:40 pm we were tied up behind Casita on the face dock in Old Port Cove Marina, and went into the office to register. We were delighted by the service and facilities here. We were given goody bags upon registering, including 3 days of free coffee and the express take-out patisserie and 3 days free wifi. There was a cruisers lounge with business center and large screen TV, lovely showers and laundry, a restaurant and bar on site. All the staff were incredibly helpful. We called customs and immigration right away from the cruisers lounge, and with our Nexus cards and existing Cruising Permit, the clearing-in process was quick and efficient for us. Unlike the others, there was no need for us to appear in person at Customs & Immigration office the next day. I’ll say it again – Nexus cards are the way to go. They make entry so much easier. Just remember to ask for a Boat Registration number if you apply for one, like we did, for cruising in your own boat.
La Toison D’or arrived about an hour later. We were all worn out from the early start, long day crossing and rough seas in the Gulf Stream so we ordered pizza together for dinner on their boat. Strange as it seems in this world of conveniences, after the Bahamas it seemed like a luxury just to order pizza! Over the next two days everyone made use of the free fresh water on the dock (for the first time since we left the US in November) to give our boats a good shower and scrub down. Well not quite everyone – I did laundry and blogging while Steve cleaned Tai Chi and repaired a leak in our dinghy. We walked to West Marine in the afternoon and were able to get some needed items (and some nice-to-have’s too). On our walk I admired the variety of palm trees in North Palm Beach (seriously)!
After two nights at Old Port Cove, we moved to the nearby North Cove anchorage for a night, and enjoyed barbecued lobsters (bought on the dock in Bimini) with our good friends Claude and Marie from La Toison D’or. It is not strictly correct to call them lobsters – the spiny “lobsters” that are caught in the Bahamas are crawfish and not real lobsters like our Maritimes and New England sort. But grilled with garlic butter, lime juice and a little Cajun spice, they were delicious anyway!
We left the next day at 8:45 am for a northward run up the ICW, and made the scheduled 9:15 am opening of the first of 7 bascule bridges. We seemed to collect other boats as we went along, admiring the mansions of this very affluent area on either side of the ICW. So by the 3rd and 4th openings, we were one of 5 sailboats requesting, or rushing to make a scheduled opening. It all went smoothly though and we were not required to drift around waiting more than a few minutes at any of the bridges.
In fact it was a lovely sunny day and there was lots to see – wading birds, wealthy homes and spiffy boats. In fact the section between the PGA Boulevard Bridge and the Indiantown Road Bridge is called Admiral’s Cove, but the community describes itself as “liquid gold”….a collection of natural-looking canals and oxbows meander through a gated community of $4+ million mansions. Local residents include Tom Cruise and other celebrities seeking privacy and luxury in Florida.
We dropped our anchor at Peck Lake in time for lunch on the hook. This part of the waterway is the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. We rowed our dinghy over to the little park beach, from which a short path led to a lovely, long ocean beach. So we enjoyed a long walk on the beach with Claude and Marie. I loved watching a mother sandpiper with her little fledgling family on the beach.
We returned to Tai Chi in time to prepare dinner – a sort of a farewell do with Pat and Celine (and Lexi) from Casita as we were leaving them the next day to go our separate ways.
We were back on the ICW “highway” after breakfast the next day, and, after turning off the highway at the St. Lucie Inlet “crossroads” to follow La Toison D’or up the St. Lucie River, we picked up a mooring in Stuart. On the way we heard a channel 16 distress call about a particularly nasty accident – a man had fallen off a boat and been hit by the prop and was severely injured. We hope the medics got there in time.
We enjoyed the weekend in Stuart. The marina is very nice and surroundings pretty. We wandered through the centre of Old Stuart, browsing in shops until Steve found a good ice-cream store. On Saturday night we met long-time friends of Claude and Marie, Larry and Lacy, for dinner aboard La Toison D’or. The next day the four of us went out for breakfast on Mulligans patio in Old Stuart, and browsed the Sunday farmers market.
Steve and I then walked to Publix to do some grocery shopping while Claude and Marie borrowed bikes from the marina to go to West Marine and Walmart.
That evening the four of us enjoyed a bitter-sweet special steak dinner on Tai Chi. After being cruising buddies on and off since we met them in mid-November, we are parting company. Claude and Marie are continuing upriver to haul the boat at Indiantown Marina and fly home to start their busy work season at their marina in Oka. Steve and I are heading back onto the ICW, and then turning North to Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, St. Augustine and on. We are very compatible cruisers on two beautiful boats, and have enjoyed each other’s company and become close friends over the past few months. It was a sad farewell….but we are thankful for the adventure that brought two such great new friends into our lives.
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