So many bridges.....!

Melvyn Brown
Fri 28 Jan 2011 20:55

26:26.7N 80:03.9W

Delray Beach


We had a thunderstorm and approximately 1.5 inches of rain in Stuart on Monday night.  Another down-side of relying on the dinghy….all that rainwater had to be baled out before we could get to the marina.  In the event we stayed an extra day in Stuart because the wind was gusting to 30mph (see choppy seas left), however as the dingy had already been manhandled back on board and the engine stored in anticipation of leaving the following morning, we were effectively confined to the boat and managed to finish two books and start a third between the two of us.

We wanted to leave on Wednesday in order to get to Fort Lauderdale before the weekend when all the motor boats and fishing boats coming out to play.  In addition the guide book mentioned a stretch of (proper) canal with concrete walls each side where the wash from fast moving boats rocked you once as they passed and then again as the wash hit the opposite wall and came back again.  The Guide recommended avoiding this part of the ICW on weekends, holidays and late afternoons.

Just in case Chuck and Jeff were looking out we both gave big waves as we passed their marina.






Because we needed to get fuel and water we missed a couple of openings of the lifting bridge next to the marina but in the event it probably wasn’t a bad thing because where the North Fork of the St Lucie River (going up to Stuart) met the ICW we came across a yacht grounded.  As we gingerly went passed it (ostensibly outside the channel) we too touched the bottom a couple of times.  Here is a photograph of Boat US towing them off (it only took a matter of minutes).  For those sailors among you…take a look at the green buoys.  For those not in the know, those green buoys indicate the extreme right edge of the (supposedly safe) channel, and you can see the yacht is the inside them.  Here is another example back in the ICW.  The red triangle indicates the extreme right of the channel – but look at the trouble you would get into if you took that at face value.  Those birds are standing – not swimming!



There were virtually no anchorages and few marinas offering sufficient depth en route, but we found one in North Palm Beach, opposite Peanut Island, where 8ft depths were advertised.  The berths at the marina involved “parking” between two wooden piles – Melv’s least favourite method.  It not only requires careful manoeuvring of the boat, but the lassoing of the piles at the entrance to the slip and getting ropes tied off at the front of the boat to prevent it ramming the dock – seemingly all at the same time.  Then to add insult to injury the boat touched bottom at low tide in the night and we couldn’t leave until there was sufficient water to get Zarafina properly afloat – about 11.30 this morning.  The yacht next to us also drew nearly 6ft and the skipper told us, having been caught out in the past, he had made a point of confirming the advertised depths before he arrived.


There are approximately 30 – three o – bridges between Stuart and Fort Lauderdale, the majority are opening bridges and most opening to a schedule.  Unfortunately the distance/timing ratio seems geared to neither the speedy motor boats nor slow sailing vessels such as Zarafina which leads to a lot of frustration and necessitates desperately trying to remain (near) stationary in the current.  Once through, you then have to hope you can cover the 1.9 miles or whatever to the next bridge scheduled to open 15 minutes later.  (We failed on at least three occasions.)


Our journey took us past Palm Beach.  The obvious wealth of the inhabitants is unbelievable.  The occasional mega yachts which took our breath away further north are positively commonplace around here.  There were marinas and storage facilities with millions and millions of dollars worth of boats (a great many with Bahamian flags).  Some were shrink wrapped for the winter.  We had seen this before – but nothing as large as this example (note the one next to it has been partially shrink wrapped – or possibly partially unwrapped).


WE SAW OUR FIRST MANATEES!!  Great excitement.  You would wonder how they survive because for all the “Slow – Manatee Area” signs the speed boats race past.  Further north on the ICW they would invariably slow down passing sail boats so as not to cause too much wake, but hereabouts they make no concessions and one passed today which caused so much rocking that things fell off the shelves.


Don’t be fooled by the photograph of Melv.  It WAS sunny, but the wind was cold again today and he hadn’t long taken off his Misco wet weather wear and bobble hat!!  He is still in three layers although a little later he did don his new sunhat.  It is truly awful – complete with leather strap to hold it on – I will get a photograph.  Tonight’s temperature is just 41 degrees but we are back to “normal” after this weekend with the daytime temperatures forecast to be rising to near 80 by the end of the week.