It seems a short time since heading south last October, but lots of water has passed the keel since then, and lots of good times. With volunteer crew for the trip home, I left Key West February 28th and arrived in St Augustine March 12. Now in Savannah – March 17 – in time for some St Patrick’s Day cheer at Tubby’s.
Key West to Miami – Following the Hawk Channel to Long Key provided some beautiful sailing and motor/sailing. Clear skies and moderate winds made for a pleasant two days with one night at anchor near Marathon. Coming into Long Key against an adverse current produced the first minor issue. Boat slowed – way too much, and engine temps started to climb. We shut down dropped anchor and sorted out the problem. Weeds on the prop were cleared by crew going overboard. Then clearing the impacted weeds from the raw water intact filter solved the problems, and we were on our way again – now checking the water filter on a regular basis! We made great time up Biscayne Bay to north Miami (Hollywood) and an earned marina night.
Just an aside – pelicans are the starlings of south Florida. They are everywhere – in abundance. As a former researcher of wildlife energetics, I wonder how many tons of fish are consumed by the population each day – must be measured in the thousands. Add to that all the cormorants, gulls, terns and ospreys, it’s a wonder any fish are left. These guys are waiting for the incoming fishing boats and the scraps they discard.
Miami to Stuart (St Lucie River) was a reminder of the trip down. Bridges are frequent along the waterway in this part of Florida. Some are 65ft clearance, many are much lower and require opening to allow for passage. Each has their own opening schedule. For boats that can travel at 7-8mph, timing the openings between bridges works pretty well. For us slow boats it’s a struggle. In two days travel, we cleared 30 bridges, and had minimal waiting time – good luck, helpful currents and pushing the boat pretty hard made it work.
It’s hard not to notice the incredible wealth evident along this part of the waterway with mega mansions one right after the other – many with 60+ft yachts at the dock – mile after mile. Guess this is a good part of the 1%.
Stuart made for an interesting side trip up the St Lucie River. I made that same diversion last Fall so knew my way in. That said, be sure you’re looking at the right buoy. I wasn’t, and found a sand bar – was pulled free by a passing power boat. It was a reminder again of the importance of constant attention. We had a nice visit and dinner on board with sailing friends Chuck and Kathy who are staying there through the winter. We stayed two nights to avoid an arriving storm with imbedded tornado warnings. It was a pretty awesome storm, but left a great sunset..
From Stuart, we made a 63mi day – a record for Valinor. Helpful tides and winds and a few long days got us to Vero Beach marina, Cocao Beach, Palm Coast Marina and Camanchee Cove Marina in St Augustine.
Along the way a hand at the dock with lines introduced me to new friend ‘Frenchie’ also wandering north – and also a scotch fan, so we shared just a bit. Frenchie’s boat had a unique color scheme.
Made St Augustine in time for the Thursday ‘gathering’ of local cruisers, and a chance to catch up with friends Mark & Diana Doyle of Waterway Guide fame.
On to Savannah across St Andrew and St Catherine’s sounds, both of which were calm and easy compare to the difficult time coming south on St Andrew. Instead, Sapelo Sound proved the challenge, with strong winds against in incoming tide making for steep chop and slow speeds. Made enough headway to reach Kilkenny Marina. Well, perhaps better described as a fish camp – it is a bit rustic. But, the folks are friendly and shore power provided heat (starting to get cool).
Left Kilkenny and after a night at anchor, we had a short run, although in the rain, to Savannah. Here now for some engine maintenance and to wait out a couple days of nasty weather.