Friday, June 12, 2015

Wrapping up in Florida

We've spent the last four days at the Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach (map). This is a very upscale facility, with nice concrete floating docks, whizzy electric security gates at each pier, a convenience store with fresh deli, and a crew lounge with three big screen TVs, a few computers, a pool table, and comfy seating. More conventional amenities such as WiFi, cable TV, laundry, and showers are also included.

Under most circumstances we'd pass this place by in favor of cheaper digs further north or south, assuming we needed a marina in lieu of our customary anchoring. But they are on their discounted summer rates of $1.55 per foot, with the second and fourth nights free except for the daily utility fee of $25. That made our four-night stay quite reasonable, considering it's in West Palm Beach and full of ultra-luxurious megayachts home-ported here.

Our last Florida sunset for a while, reflected in a cloud across from our anchorage tonight.

We arrived Monday after the 1:15 bridge opening, and it turns out we probably should have timed it for the 2:15 instead. There was quite a bit more current than I anticipated, and I had to call and ask for a different slip in order to get docked port-side-to, so we could offload the scooters. Between the current and the wind perpendicular to it, it was quite a challenge to get into the slip, but we managed without incident. On our way down from North Palm Beach we passed a ship in port that was transporting yachts.

How coastal boats cross oceans.

Just to give you a sense of how frou-frou this place is, our "welcome bag" included a pair of very nice hats, in addition to the usual array of literature. And the c-store, which they actually call their "epicurean center," looked more like a high-end wine shop, with four full display racks of bottles, than your typical marina store.

Welcome hats. I want the pink one but Louise has other plans for it.

There are two reasons we wanted to spend a few days at a marina. First and foremost, we needed a place to have our mail and some packages sent. By the time we arrived they had already accumulated a small mountain of Amazon boxes for us, and they loaded them all into a golf cart and helped me schlep them to the boat from the office. We also wanted to put the scooters on the ground so we could make Walmart and Home Depot runs.

Among the many boxes which arrived for us was the one containing our new helm computer. I spent more than a full day of our marina stay getting that configured, installed, and working. That's a detailed enough story to warrant a blog post of its own, which I will try to put together on our forthcoming ocean passage.

Configuring the new helm computer (that little blue thing to the right of the keyboard). Angel, at left, is assisting.

I also got the new stern light for the dinghy, to replace the one that broke off its mount in the Bahamas, a new circuit breaker for the fresh water pump, a new Ubiquiti Bullet WiFi router to replace the current one which we suspect is beginning to fail, and double-sided tape to install the new LED strips around the flybridge. I got new glass, and the special glue to install it, for my Samsung phone, which cracked in the Bahamas. Perhaps most importantly we got a new self-cleaning litter box; the old one failed permanently the week before we left Bimini.

The detritus from just a portion of our deliveries.

We were able to recycle the giant pile of cardboard from all of our Amazon shipments, as well as three months worth of beer bottles and cans, glass jars, plastic, wine bottles, and various other recyclables that we carted back with us from the Bahamas, where they recycle nothing at all. And we got rid of lots of trash, including the old litter box.

The scooters, amazingly, started up with a minimum of fuss after sitting on deck unused for four months. We made provisioning runs to Walmart and Publix, as well as a supply run to Home Depot. We also rode to Northwood Village last night for a final meetup with Martin and Steph for dinner at the tasty Agora Mediterranean restaurant; a bit closer to us than to them, but a fair compromise. They have rented a car for the remainder of their stay.

While having the scooters on the ground opens up a wide range of dining possibilities, the truth is that this marina is a short walk to downtown and its nearly inexhaustible array of restaurants. We walked to dinner on Clematis Street the other three nights, sampling Rocco's Tacos, Lynora's Osteria, and the Alchemist Gastro Pub. I even took in a music festival in the park last night after we returned from dinner. One morning we walked over to Makeb's Bagels for breakfast; in four days, we barely scratched the surface of what this town has to offer.

That said, and as much as we'd like to spend another week here taking it all in, we have a good window for heading north over the next three days, and we're seizing the opportunity. Also it is now too hot here to be comfortable without air conditioning, and the two-for-one deal at the dock is only good for four days. There is a free city dock and a nice anchorage just a block south, so we'll do some more exploring when we return in cooler weather.

Free city docks (theoretically day use only, but these boats spent the night) right off Clematis Street.

This afternoon we shoved off and came here, to our now-familiar spot across from the Sailfish club and just a mile from the inlet (map). This is really the closest comfortable jumping-off point for an outside run, and we need to get an early start tomorrow. We'll be raising anchor in the pre-dawn hour and under way by 05:00 for the three-day direct run to Beaufort, North Carolina.

This will be our longest passage ever, and also our furthest offshore. But conditions are favorable for such a direct run, which, in the northbound direction, is greatly assisted by the Gulf Stream. The Stream moves and changes daily, so it's hard to predict just how much of a push, but we're counting on an average of at least a knot, and it might average closer to two knots or more. At the lower end of our estimated speed range, we should arrive in Beaufort just at sunset on Monday, after two nights and three full days at sea. At the higher end of the range, we could arrive as early as 8 or 9 Monday morning.

The direct route carries us away from the Florida coast very quickly, and I imagine we'll be out of cell coverage an hour or so out of the inlet. We won't be back in range until about an hour out of Beaufort sometime on Monday, or perhaps as late as early Tuesday if we encounter any adverse conditions that lower our speed. While we are offshore I will try to post our position twice daily via our Spot device, which will show up on Vector's very own Twitter feed.

If all goes well, the next you hear from me we will be in or near Beaufort, NC, some 510 nautical miles north of here. We'll be there for a couple of days, recovering from the long multi-night passage and changing the oil on the main engine before continuing north.

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