FP - jasaru

sv Jasaru with Justin and Sherri aboard, heading into the inlet at Ponce de Leon, FL once we decided to cut our overnight trip to West Palm Beach

Three maddening weeks spent in our worst anchorage yet had us chomping at the bit to haul anchor. The moment our weather window opened, we made tracks and cleared our most terrifying inlet so far, out into the blue ocean. Sayonara, St. Augustine.

Our choice to “go outside” (meaning, sail in the ocean as opposed to heading down the ICW) was a weighty one. This trip coincided with news that 25 shipping containers had fallen off a cargo ship somewhere south of Florida a few days prior, and that debris had started washing up on shore. We grappled with the bone-chilling prospect of hitting one of these partially submerged behemoths and weighed it against the much greater odds of running aground in the ditch. Perhaps our cabin fever made us a little too eager, because we ruled in favor of an overnight run from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach.

We’d only been at sea a few hours when we started to notice some funny things in the water. Justin, who was slightly ahead, called us on VHF to report that they were floating among packs of lysol spray, dog food, coffee, and ramen noodles. Shortly after that, an ice scraper floated by, followed by some dog food. A little while later, Jasaru was surrounded by a sea of tennis balls and we spotted a large wooden pallet. All of it made us nervous, and together, we made the decision to duck into the inlet at Ponce de Leon for the night. The following day we set out, once again hoping to make the run to West Palm Beach, only to find more miscellany on the water. Shadowed by doubt and paranoia, we turned into Fort Pierce to sleep and re-evaluate the plan.

FP - NT underway

sv Nightingale Tune, heading into Ponce de Leon just before dark (Photo: Sherri/Justin)

FP- schlepping

One last cruisers’ schlep before departing St. Augustine. Yes, that’s a dinghy anchor attached to my backpack. (Photo: Justin Smith)

FP brian sleeping

Brian and his 67 day beard, snoozing in the cockpit while I take watch

FP - sunset

Sunset, a few hours from Fort Pierce, FL

By morning, We’d thought more about the situation, and were no longer comfortable with the risk of making the passage. We parted ways with Jasaru and headed into the ditch, for a tedious day of negotiating with bridge operators and getting waked by power boats.

WPB icw

National park along the ICW

WPB manatee

WPB - bridge

Bridge opening on the ICW. Timing the bridges, which open at different intervals during the day, proved challenging for us, as did playing chicken with bridge keepers who commanded us to move closer via VHF before they would begin opening. Clearly bridge operators do not grasp that sailboats cannot just come to a stop or turn on a dime.

FP - boat cat

Nico, enjoying the ICW

Our arrival in North Palm Beach immediately made us forget all that stress. We dropped anchor and were reunited with Jon and Thomas, who had anchored their boats, sv Hecla and sv Brosel, nearby. Jon generously offered us the use of his outboard engine, as we continue to search for a 2 stroke model that will meet our needs, and we delighted in using our new dinghy for the first time.

WPB dinghy

Reunited with Jon (sv Hecla) and testing out our new inflatable dinghy with Jon’s 8hp 2 stroke outboard motor

WPB - dinner

Dinner cooked by Sabina aboard Thomas and Sabina’s boat sv Brosel. The last time we saw them it was Thanksgiving. Sabina remembered that I was enchanted with their on-board grist setup, and she gave me a parting gift of hand-ground spelt and wheat flour for making bread. We can’t wait to reunite in the Bahamas.

WPB running 2

North Worth Lake anchorage is powerboat land and very inhospitable to sailors. Here’s we’ve just tied the dinghy under a sketchy overpass bridge and Brian is cleaning the dirt from his feet to put on shoes and socks to go for a run.

WPB running

We’re not in New York City anymore, Toto

WPB ceviche

Ceviche, made from the remaining tuna Brian caught

WPB dookie

Our Canadian friends, Annick and Giles, popped up in the anchorage the day we arrived. They dropped by our boat with their dog Dookie, who was the perfect gentleman. Nico was none the wiser.

Our happy reunion was shadowed by the discovery that Justin and Jasaru decided to bypass West Palm Beach on the outside and continue to Fort Lauderdale. We’d all been expecting a joyous reunion, and there was much disappointment in Justin’s very conspicuous absence. Jon, Brian, and I look forward to seeing him in a few days, but Thomas and Sabina will have to wait until early spring, somewhere in the Bahamas.

We’re making use of the ample resources here in North Palm Beach (Trader Joes! Costco! Publix!) to do most of our provisioning before we leave for the Bahamas. Here in the blissfully warm weather, we enjoyed gin and tonics at sunset from the bow of our boat and are getting our first taste of winter cruising as it’s supposed to be – warm sunshine, clear(er) water, and friends, old and new.