Wrapping up the season

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 8 Apr 2019 18:11
In Vero Beach
We are back in the USA, crossing from Ocean Reef – Lucaya to West Palm Beach overnight on 31st March/1st April. We briefly considered sailing straight to Fort Pierce which would have been an easier ride in the Gulf Stream but when it came to making that decision we were offshore and out of range of internet where we could download any weather forecast for that area. So we stuck to ‘Plan A’ and continued on to West Palm arriving at the unearthly hour of 0300 on the 1st April. (Someone’s Birthday!!).
When previously arriving in the USA we have called a 1-800 number and spoken to a customs officer, answered a number of customs type questions, food, animals, number of people onboard etc and been given a 17 digit number to present to the chaps in immigration when we call in to see them (within 24 hours). But could we get the phone to pick up on the free number? No. Each time we went through the process of selecting digits to press on the keypad according to the type of incumbent we were, the line just went quiet. No soothing music to confirm the connection was still made. We had been told there was now an App (yes! another dreaded App) to download which we could use to report our arrival. But when we’d previously asked about this on our departure to the Bahamas ‘they’ said we’d still have to visit the CBP office wherever we arrived back so gave the impression it wasn’t worth bothering with – so we didn’t. Given that neither of us had enjoyed much sleep, 3 hours max, we weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders and so locating and downloading the App took twice as long as it would reasonably take. Then we had to populate all the relevant fields to register on the App. So much input on the tiny ‘querty’ screen the Samsung has for us to use. That took an hour or so but hopefully will be quicker next time. As we were anchored on the spoil ground flats off West Palm we finally got round to launching the dinghy and ended up paying $16 for the privilege of tying it to the marina dinghy dock. Eventually we got to the CBP office in the cruise line terminal next door. At least all went well there – no secondary inspection and they even gave us the exact amount of time we needed on the cruising license.
Although it was now mid-afternoon we headed 5 miles up the ICW to Lake Worth an anchorage we often use when transiting the area. On the way we could see a lightening storm approaching from the north and Sod’s Law dictated that it would pour with rain just as we anchored. But that was the worst we endured. Back where we had just come from our friends anchored nearby endured a microburst with a rotating cloud formation (usually happens with a tornado or water spout) with winds measured at 60 mph and torrential rain with it. The only boat we have heard of who had a knock down at anchor! What a difference a few miles makes.
The following day it was off up the ICW to Peck Lake. Not our favourite stretch, as the bridges are timed on the hour and half hour, so you either crawl along at 3 knots or blast along at 6 knots. If one bridge is late opening then it’s full throttle to the next to catch that opening. One particular bridge The Jupiter Road Bridge is on demand but the road is busy and what’s more the river is frequently at full ebb as it was this time meaning that its advisable to turn into the current and stem the flow. Loss of engine power could result in the boat being unable to hold station with the boat or the mast slamming into the bridge or its parapets with disastrous results. There’s no way the anchor would hold in that flow of water as the bottom would be so scoured from the river. A mere fifteen minutes after transiting that bridge and the one following we lost control on the starboard engine when the throttle/gear shift leaver came off the spindle. If that had happened any earlier we could have been in serious trouble.
Our last few weeks at Ocean Reef – in particular just before we left were strange as of the 40 boats there probably half were about to go back to the USA and Canada. It’s amazing how the human psyche changes when the added stress of an open water passage has to be planned for. But we continued to go about our usual routine – swimming, walking, tennis etc.
Following on from the previous Valentines and Oscars events which were enjoyed by many of the boaters (as we are collectively referred to by the Ocean Reef staff) next up was the St Patrick’s Day event. Green was naturally the favoured colour of clothing. The Admiral managed to dredge up a garish green shirt from the local charity store in Freeport. Attendees were invited to bring along some good Irish jokes to regale the assembled crowd with. Skip had dug deep into the internet earlier that morning for some gems as had others. Our favorite was the one about the ‘Newsflash’ regarding the Elite Irish SAS who had been ordered to parachute into Russia to take Putin out. So far they’ve been to the cinema twice and tonight they were taking him ten pin bowling (ha!) Yes not all instantly got it but there was a lot of booze flooding brain cells by the time we got to the jokes part of the evening! How else would anyone have stood up to deliver a lot of weak one liners!
One of the boater’s had a birthday celebration which was held in one of the restaurants in Lucaya. 42 boaters packed the place increasing the already high humidity as the weather that morning was absolutely foul with pouring rain and strong winds. We were all soaked before getting on the hired bus as we stood on the road outside the resort waiting. The ‘Admiral’ took the Admiral’s boat umbrella which is just large enough to cover the Admiral, leaving Skip soaked to the skin having made the mistake of wearing thin shorts which became see-through when wet! But lunch was good and the Birthday Boy pleased with the turn-out. How the restaurant coped with an influx of 42 soggy people goodness knows – but, well done them -  they did.
It was rather sad to leave a place we’d called home for the past 3 months and where we’d had so much fun with friends new and old.  All good things come to an end and this one was no exception. But we plan to go back next winter to see if the magic is still there. In the meantime we need to put the boat to bed for the hurricane season once again and fly home to be with our own families and friends and enjoy (hopefully) a really nice English summer away from the intense heat and humidity of Florida. The last get together the night before the majority of boats left was a big success tinged with sadness as everyone wanted to say their goodbyes to each other. By 0600 the following morning boats began to pull away from their respective docks and head to Florida.
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Full of Irish Charm for the evening?                                                                                        That shirt
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An informal get-together one afternoon before Karaoke...                                                                    What’s that cooking in the deep fryer?
Wooa – Conch Fritters! Nice!
Whilst we’ve been at Ocean Reef we’ve witnesses the re-building program to repair and improve on the damage caused by Hurricanes in recent years. It’s taken a long time for works to get underway to put a new roof structure in the vicinity of the main swimming pool where the official outside events take place such as the Monday Welcome Dinner and the Tuesday Karaoke night.  But gradually in the last two months progress was made in the footings and foundations ready for the new steel supports for a custom made (In Belgium of all places) tin roof. (That will be noisy in a hail storm!). Watched by an enthusiastic crowd lounging around the pool the build team aided by the large hired crane lowered the steel girders into place like a giant Mecanno set (remember those) and to the credit of the guys that have been working on the project all slotted into place exactly.
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Ready?  Here it comes...                                                                                                                        Just need to get these bolts through....
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Done!                                                                                                                                                    View from our galley window at Ocean Reef
So we have something new to look forward to next time.