We’re leaving . . . now?
As we went to bed Monday night the 31st of March, we had resigned ourselves to at least 1 more day in Marathon. We weren’t seeing the weather to leave on the 1st even though everything else about Orion and her crew was ready to go. But Dave was up early checking the weather on Tuesday, when he said to Cathy, I think we should go. Go? Now? It was about 8am already and we needed to get to Rodriguez Key, about a 50 mile trip. We still had to make a run to shore, get the dinghy stowed and strip off the solar panels in order to get underway. That meant we would get underway by 9am if we were lucky. There wasn’t even time to let Slow Dancin’ or Fortunate know of our sudden decision.
Dave ran ashore and Cathy readied the boat for getting underway. When he returned and we were hauling the dinghy, Rusty from Slow Dancin’ buzzed over in his dinghy to confirm the obvious and say goodbye. We wished each other well and promised to look for the other up the waterway. Similarly, we waved goodbye to Barb and Dave and Fortunate and headed out for the bridge and the Hawk Channel. After the bridge tender urged us to visit again, we made our way to the turn east up the channel between the outer reef and the Keys. This was going to be the worst part of the trip, a slog into 20 knot east winds and 2-4 seas. It’s not weather we would normally have picked, but the promise of calmer weather and more favorable winds as the day progressed – and the grandbaby at the end of all this – made it worth the uncomfortable ride early on. (At one point, some of the unstowed items still in the cockpit rattled loose, and our dinghy light slid overboard before we could even react.) Sure enough, as we turned to a more northerly course, we had moderating winds and the right angle to motorsail the last 10 miles to Rodriguez Key.
We got a late start on Thursday out of Key Biscayne. The weather forecast gave us some concern, but since Fort Lauderdale was a relatively short run, and we could do the first 10 miles on the ICW, we decided to poke our heads out and give it a try. On the off chance that we might find the right conditions to keep going, Cathy went down below for a nap to try to get us on a pattern for an overnight.
We were making our way out of the inlet, having turned well before the sea buoy, to get a few miles offshore, with the hopes of picking up the northerly Gulf Stream current. NOAA had reported it only 8 miles off Fort Lauderdale. Within 3 miles of shore, we were already seeing 10 knots of speed. Orion doesn’t go 10 knots under power. We decided to put out a furled headsail and kill the engine. We were still making better than 8.5 knots. The waves had moderated since leaving the inlet. Although we were still getting rocked a bit, it was more manageable. It didn’t take us long to start doing some math. At 8 knots, even with our late departure, we could actually make it to Lake Worth before dark. That would gain us a full day of travel north. Since the Gulf Stream was supposed to be even closer to shore at Lake Worth, it seemed achievable.
Sure enough, the current stayed with us up the coast, and we had our anchor set by 7:30 in the Lake Worth anchorage, having done in 10 hours, what had taken 14 to do in reverse.
Don’t you love the Gulf Stream.
So, what was next? We had continued to listen to the forecast, and the winds were supposed to be less intense on Friday, so a run outside from Lake Worth to Fort Pierce seemed reasonable, assuming we were up before dawn, not like yesterday. At this point, the Gulf Stream and the Florida coast diverge, so we wouldn’t get the favorable currents on this trip. Instead, we did a modest 5.5 knots under the headsail as we moved north along the coast. As we traveled, we listened to the boats on the VHF doing the inside run, navigating all 8 opening bridges. We didn’t miss it at all. What surprised us was the conversations about 25 knot winds. We weren’t seeing anything like that. Hmmm ….
At about 3pm we were making for the Fort Pierce sea buoy, when we started realizing the southeast winds that had been helping us along, were going to make for a wicked run up the inlet. The winds were also increasing as we headed for shore, which was unusual. Dave carefully lined up for the inlet, trying to stay to port to offset the effect of the waves. As we got heeled over with each wave, we tried to make out the boat traffic ahead of us. We couldn’t believe it, but a sailboat was heading out the inlet. Were they crazy? This would make it a little more interesting. Dave was having trouble reading their progress as they first lined up for a starboard to starboard pass, and then starting turning to port, which put them right on our path. It took us a few seconds to realize that they were turning around. Smart move. I guess they realized it wasn’t going to be worth it.
It's always something.
Inside or Out?
We decided to wait out a few stormy days in Vero, which included some violent thunderstorms. On Saturday, we visited with the couple on Pearl, whom we had met in Marathon and their friends on Freedonia. They arrived the day after we did, having made a longer outside run to Fort Pierce from Marathon. Finally, we decided it was time to move on, but that we weren’t going to get the wind to travel outside. So we committed to an inside run up to Fernandina Beach. We still had hopes of connecting to Pat and Fred, who were likely to come in at Cape Canaveral. That meant we had to get north of them.
We were glad to pull into our slip at Halifax Harbor. Hopefully, the worst was behind us. We got in early enough to take in yet another tour at Angell and Phelps chocolate factory and then went back to town for a minor league baseball game featuring the Daytona Cubs vs. Palm Beach that night.
Fernandina to where?
In the meantime, we are enjoying Fernandina Beach, which is a lovely town to spend time in if you’ve got to be stuck somewhere.