Wednesday, June 27, 2018

New York Bound

We are anchored in Palm Beach, just north of the Royal Park Bridge (map). This is a familiar and comfortable anchorage for us. And while our hook is set in Palm Beach, just two miles from the President's retreat, there's no way to get ashore on the Palm Beach side, and we really think of this stop as West Palm Beach, across the channel, where we can easily land at the public dock.

Final sunset from the Bahamas.

We enjoyed our final evening in the Bahamas, again without going ashore. We had dead calm conditions for the evening, which made it a bit hot in the boat, but made our final swims quite enjoyable. We dined inside in the air conditioning, but still enjoyed a final sunset from the deck.

Sunday morning we got an early start, headed north around North Rock, and nosed out into the Strait of Florida in near-zero visibility due to a passing thunderstorm. By the time things cleared up, Bimini had receded too far to get a good photo. We had Internet coverage for two hours and soaked up as much of our "unlimited" data as we could before losing signal.

Dead calm in our anchorage on our final evening. From this side, Bimini looks unspoiled.

Our speed increased steadily as we angled closer and closer to the central axis of the Gulf Stream. We had glassy conditions for the first half of the trip, and in hindsight I regret not stopping to swim. The chop increased once in the center of the stream, with a light wind out of the north, and it became unsuitable for stopping.

The Strait of Florida is a heavily used shipping lane and an enormous Stena Weco freighter passed just a half mile ahead of us. Later a small Tropical Shipping freighter, the Transport Express, was on a near-collision course with us, with a CPA of just a couple hundred feet. We were the stand-on vessel; I called to ask his intentions which were to "maintain course and speed" and I had to instruct him that, no, he would have to alter course to pass astern of us. He did so, but seemed mighty annoyed that someone made him follow the rules.

Stena Weco freighter just a half mile dead ahead.

All our phones came back on-line about an hour out of the Palm Beach inlet. As soon as we crossed the three-mile limit, I fired up the new CBP ROAM app on my phone and started the process to clear in to the US. We had only about a one minute wait for a Customs officer; he looked at both of us on the "two way video chat" (wherein the Customs side of the conference was a black screen), and within seconds declared us cleared to enter the US. Done. We were not even to the inlet.

We dropped the hook right at 5pm at another familiar spot in the lake, just across from the tony Sailfish Club (map). This is really the first comfortable spot inside the inlet, and also a fairly short tender ride to Customs in the event we had needed to go there. From here we could easily have also tendered to dinner for our first night in the US, but with temps in the 90s and after a long passage we opted to just eat on board.

Transport Express passing close aboard. This was how calm our crossing was.

You may recall the real reason we chose to come in at Palm Beach, rather than someplace considerably further north, was that we lacked fuel to make it all the way to North Carolina, and anyplace between here and there means leaving the helpful push of the Gulf Stream behind, not to be seen again on this northbound journey. So, of course, the first order of business was to arrange fuel.

The best fuel pricing on the east coast of Florida is offered by delivery services that bring the fuel truck right to the boat; there are two such services in the Palm Beach area and they run neck-on-neck in price. If you happen to already be staying in a marina that allows this, it's perfect, otherwise you need to find a dock to get the delivery. There are three or four docks that provide this service for a fee of $0.05-$0.10 per gallon. We arranged for Palm Beach Marine Fuel to fill us up at Viking Yachts' repair docks, just a half mile from where we were anchored.

Just inside the inlet we spotted Grand Celebration boarding passengers for her overnight run to Freeport. Customs and Immigration is in the building just to her starboard, where we've cleared in before.

The dock there is available after the haulout lift is done for the day, and we arranged to meet the fuel truck at 4pm. It's a tight, shallow entrance channel with two 90° turns in heavy current, but we arrived without incident. It took an hour to load 1,050 gallons of fuel aboard. Prices have gone up since fueling in Fort Lauderdale before heading offshore, and we paid $2.70 per gallon, plus the vig of another five cents to Viking, and the sales tax of 7%, for a price just under $2.95 a gallon.

We dropped lines right at 5pm and headed south on the ICW for this anchorage. We had barely started down the west side of Peanut Island when we had to stop to allow Paradise Cruises' Grand Celebration to back out of her berth into the turning basin. I have a special fondness for this ship now, having spent a week aboard as a guest of FEMA while doing disaster relief work, a welcome relief after two weeks in a coffin-sized bunk on a MARAD ship.

In order to load fuel at full rate (28 gpm), we have to load the port side first. The fuel truck is on level ground; Vector is listing several degrees.

We ended up waiting ten minutes or so for the Flagler Bridge before reaching the anchorage, and by the time we had the hook down it was 6:30. We again ate aboard rather than mess around splashing the tender so late. That meant that by yesterday we had not been off the boat since Chub Cay nearly a week earlier. We splashed the tender mid-morning and headed ashore for groceries.

We landed in our usual spot on the city docks, where we were enthusiastically greeted by wheelchair-bound vet Sam, sporting a neon green shirt that read "Volunteer Dockmaster." In three years of coming to these docks I've never seen him before, though he claims to have been doing this at least that long. He helped us tie up and I gave him a small tip, even though we need this about as much as we need those guys that jump out at urban stoplights and "clean" your windshield. For the record, the city docks are entirely self-service.

Passing my old friend Grand Celebration just after she's backed out. Her thruster wake pushed us around some.

We committed a strategic error in that we arrived ashore before the Yellow Line of the free city trolley started service, at 11am, and so we ended up walking to the Publix. We had a deli sandwich for an early lunch and did our shopping, and by the time we were finished the trolley was running and whisked us back to the docks.

We again headed ashore for dinner, strolling to one of our nearby favorites, Lynora's, on Clematis. En route we strolled through the exhibit of Fairy Tale Playhouses in the park, part of the city's Summer In Paradise program. One of the things we love about stopping in West Palm Beach is their ongoing downtown arts and entertainment programs. The free trolleys, convenient shopping and dining, and free docks make it one of the best stops in SE Florida.

Fairy Tale Playhouses. They gave us tokens to vote for our favorites by depositing them in the mailboxes to the right.

We had not really intended to stop here at all; once we cleared in and fueled up we were ready to head right back out into the Gulf Stream, which is just offshore here. But a patch of rough seas north of here made a Tuesday departure unwise, and we decided to wait to Thursday when it will be clear sailing all the way north. With three nights to spend in the Palm Beaches, it made sense to come here.

It looks like our decision to wait a couple of days might pay big dividends. We had hoped for a clear weather window to Beaufort, NC, a three day trip. But at this writing it is looking like calm seas all the way to New York harbor. That's a six-day trip offshore, but it shaves more than two weeks and hundreds of miles off the trip, and if the window holds, we intend to seize it.

In a half dozen transits of the east coast we've never managed to get a window to go around Cape Hatteras, and if we do it this will be our first time. The Gulf Stream will have us dozens to hundreds of miles offshore for most of the trip, but the stream turns too easterly after the cape and we'll leave it just before Diamond Shoals.

We're going to miss this water. Remember I said in the last post you can count every blade of grass? I shot this on our final evening from on deck; the bottom is 13' below the surface. If you zoom in you can see every blade, and a starfish just at the edge of Vector's shadow at left.

If conditions permit, we will come shoreward of the defunct Diamond Shoals Light Station and proceed north along the coast of the Outer Banks briefly; this would be our only chance to pick up a little cell and Internet coverage until we arrive off the coast of New Jersey in six days. As usual, I will try to update our situation and position on Vector's Twitter page.

We'll use our last two hours of Internet tomorrow morning to plot the Gulf Stream and adjust our route. In two days we'll try to download enough weather info on our sat phone to make a final decision about the Cape Hatteras transit. If the forecast deteriorates at all, we'll divert to Beaufort instead and go around through Pamlico Sound.

The extra days offshore mean we need a few more provisions, and so after dinner this evening we'll head back to Publix for a few more items. In the morning we'll weigh anchor and head for the inlet an hour away. My next post here will be several days away, whenever we next get coverage.


  1. Wow.. what a contrast in pace! We absolutely LOVED the WPB anchorage and enjoyed a few days there as well. In early April.

    And now, nearly 2.5 months later we've made it to New Smyrna Beach.

    And here you are, about to whiz right by us all the way to NY in just a few days time!! And to think, your boat technically goes slower than ours.

    Wishing you calm winds and following seas our friends. One day, Vector and Y-Not will meet.

  2. I'm ignorant concerning "rules of the road" at sea, but seems strange that a 10,000 ton freighter would need to yield to a 50 ton small vessel? I suppose a "right of way" rule pertains to any vessel...whether it be a canoe or a massive ship.


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