Thursday, December 24, 2020

Palm Beach Holiday

Warm wishes to everyone for a very happy holiday, whichever one you celebrate at this time of year. We are anchored at a familiar spot in Palm Beach (map), and we will be spending Christmas here. For the record, we made that decision shortly after arriving here, before the President announced his plans. We've already grabbed the good spots, though, so he'll have to settle for Mar-a-Lago and dining with the annoyed ghost of Merriweather Post.

Holiday show at Clematis street, with the Sand Tree in the distance behind the dancing fountain.

Not long after my last post, we arrived in Fort Pierce, where, after hovering for fifteen minutes waiting on a bridge opening, we dropped the hook in a familiar anchorage (map). There are not a lot of anchorages in Fort Pierce, and this one happens to have a decent, mostly open-air restaurant immediately adjacent. We splashed the tender ahead of dinner time and headed ashore in light rain to find plenty of covered outdoor seating available.

Sadly, once again, not a single restaurant staffer was masked, and we beat a hasty retreat back to Vector, where we heated up some leftovers. Among many gubernatorial responsibilities is that of signing death warrants, and it seems Florida's governor has taken this to heart. While the executive order prohibits the closure by local officials of any restaurants, it does not prohibit them from mandating masks for staff, and we knew we needed to keep moving until we landed someplace with such a mandate.

This festively lit tiki-bar boat circled the anchorage nightly when we anchored across from the Sailfish Club.

On our way to Fort Pierce we passed by (and passed up) another familiar stop, in Vero Beach, where we noted the marinas were full, and the city mooring field was making boats raft up. As if that might be a good idea in a pandemic. When we passed through Florida in the other direction in the spring, "rafting up" was considered a huge problem and had been prohibited.

Tuesday morning we weighed anchor early and headed south, looking to get out of Dodge ASAP, and figured to be anchored somewhere in Hobe Sound for the night. We had been so rattled by the dinner experience that neither of us thought to check the ocean weather before leaving to see if it had improved. We were already well past Fort Pierce inlet, with an incoming tide behind us, before we realized it would be a great day on the outside.

Vector tied up at the West Palm Beach day dock to take on water.

Fortunately, we had gotten an early enough start that a quick route calculation showed we could make Lake Worth Inlet in plenty of daylight if we zipped outside at St. Lucie Inlet instead, and that's what we did. We angled off gently, taking us outside the three mile limit just long enough to take care of business before angling back in to Palm Beach Inlet. We made a left turn once inside the lake, and dropped the hook in our usual spot immediately across from the tony Sailfish Club (map) to figure our next moves.

I should mention here that I am working on two problems (yes, I am always working on problems) that figure prominently in our current planning. The first is the seat cushion on the dinghy. I may or may not have mentioned it here before, but there is something weird about the glue they used in the composite foam that is causing it to break down and migrate through the vinyl covering, causing a sticky mess on the seat that will, among other things, ruin clothes.

Glue bleed-through on the seat, which also melted the clear vinyl we used to try to cover it.

This has been going on since the tender was new. At first we did not understand where it was coming from, thinking something sticky was spilling on the seat, and we kept cleaning it off. Once we figured it out, we thought we'd give it some time, to see if it would stop. And finally, I talked to the manufacturer's rep about it at a boat show, who told me they had changed the foam and we could get a replacement.

After the show we went back and forth numerous times about logistics, and at some point they stopped answering me. When communication finally resumed, we were working our way down the east coast and did not have a good shipping address. A couple of weeks ago, when it became clear we'd be heading to the Palm Beaches, at least temporarily, I asked them to send the replacement parts to their local dealer here.

West Palm is full of murals, and this one, on the telephone central office, speaks to me and my Bell System roots.

That dealer is a mile or so north of the inlet, as opposed to where we are now, nearly five miles south of it. If the seat parts were coming in soon, I wanted to go north first to pick them up before coming down here. As it turned out, again due to crossed signals, they had not yet even been sent.

The second problem I've been working is our cantankerous bow thruster. As we were weighing anchor in Melbourne, I tried to thrust to port, and instead of the sound of propeller cavitation, we instead heard the unmistakable scream of a runaway motor with no load. Operating to starboard did engage the propellers, and then the thruster continued to work in both directions.

Another relevant mural, off Clematis west of Quadrille.

There are only a couple of things that can cause this, and one of them requires the boat to be hauled out of the water to repair. Here again, the local haulout yards are north of the inlet, rather than down this way. So on Wednesday, Louise packed up a bunch of her quilt studio so I could get under the berth to have a look at the thruster.

It was unlikely to be a broken Gates coupling or a loose setscrew, but I had to check to be sure. As expected, those were in good shape, but rotating the drive by hand through a full revolution I could feel a spot where the teeth were slipping -- an internal failure in the sealed drive leg. This is the part that takes the vertical rotation of the motor inside the boat down to the middle of the tunnel and turns it into horizontal rotation to spin the propellers.

Shiny new thruster drive leg.

I immediately called all the yards around the lake, but they are all booked out to the last week of January. It looks like we will be running without the thruster for a while. I did find a replacement drive leg available on-line from a supply house and had it sent to FedEx ship-and-hold here, so I will have the part in hand whenever we can get hauled to replace it. Long time readers may know this will be the third replacement leg we've installed; it's a lousy design and they last only a few hours each.

Clematis Street is always festively lit.

We had a lovely and quiet couple of nights in that anchorage, and Wednesday evening we even enjoyed the soft music from a live trio playing at the club for some event, probably someone's holiday party. But with both reasons for moving north now off the table for a while, we weighed anchor Thursday morning to come here, stopping first at the free day dock in West Palm Beach to take on water. With no thruster the incoming tide made for a bit of a hard landing against the dock, but no harm done.

Looking toward West Palm over the Flagler Bridge from the Palm Beach side. A police cruiser was parked at each bridge into town... Traffic enforcement, or keeping the riff-raff out?

We spent a good couple of hours on the dock watering up and simultaneously running a few loads of laundry through the washer -- this is the single largest consumer of fresh water on the boat and will run the tank out in just a few loads, so we seldom do laundry when we are away from a spigot. I also hoofed it down to the Publix for a few provisions, stopping off at the bagel shop on my way.

We came in a bit before high tide and we left a bit after, since depth alongside is a bit tight. The current that helped us onto the dock when we arrived thus helped us off the dock when we departed. In just a few minutes we were settling in here at our customary spot. We are on the Palm Beach side of the lake here, though there is no access to shore, and we dinghy back to the same docks in West Palm.

Holiday light show featuring the Sand Tree.

We splashed the tender shortly after settling in, and headed ashore for dinner. We were quite relieved to see lots of masks on the street, and all restaurant staff masked at all the restaurants lining Clematis street. Well, save one: one heavily-bearded guy at American Craft Aleworks was unmasked, and has remained so every time we've passed there, in defiance of county ordinance. He circulates through all the tables and interacts will many customers; suffice it to say we will not be dining there.

Looking toward the dancing fountain in the same show.

We ended up at a sidewalk table at one of our favorites, Lynora's, and since then we've also been streetside at Kabuki, Grease, Kapow, and Rocco's Tacos, all of which have been behaving properly and felt safe to us. Rocco's has been off our list for a while, as the food is mediocre, but the pandemic sent us back for another try. It's off the list again. That first evening we determined that protocols were sufficient here for us to remain in West Palm for the holiday.

The Grinch circulates around downtown in his three-wheel Grinchmobile with music and lights, stopping for photo ops.

While we were strolling the more westerly blocks of Clematis we passed a sign in the window of bistro Hullabaloo advertising dinner on both Christmas Eve and Christmas, with a prime rib special getting top billing. They have plenty of outside seating and real chairs with backs (many patios now sport picnic tables or bar stools), and so I called later and made a reservation for Christmas dinner when they open at 5pm.

This sign caught our eye, at a casual Italian bistro.

We've enjoyed being on Clematis almost nightly. Similar to the Clematis By Night program and other events in the park throughout the year, the waterfront park is doing a wonderful holiday show, involving a holiday "tree" made entirely of sand, and a coordinated music/light show reminiscent of the Osborne Family Lights (and possibly using some of the same synchronized tracks). In fact the whole thing could give Disney a run for the money, it's that well done.

I passed Peanut Island in the tender on a warm Saturday and it was packed with boaters partying. No masks, of course, which would have covered more than the bikinis.

Last night we switched it up by walking from the south dock to Rosemary Square (formerly City Place) instead, dining outside at Il Bellagio. The property has remade its main courtyard and now features a splash-through dancing fountain as well as a "wishing tree" that looks similar to a banyan but its leaves consist entirely of fancy LED panels that make a spectacular light show.

The Wishing Tree in Rosemary Square.

Since settling in here, I've made two tender runs all the way back to Riviera Beach. The first was to pick up the thruster drive leg from FedEx hold, along with Amazon deliveries to a locker, both locations chosen back when we figured to be anchoring up near the tender dealer. And the second to get the tender seat parts when they finally arrived. I also made a big circuit on the e-bike, starting with the post office to pick up our mail at General Delivery.

My best attempt to capture the light show. The music is barely audible above the merriment.

The mail very nearly got returned to sender, because it turns out the downtown post office does not do General Delivery, even though it is explicitly listed as a service on the web site. Fortunately we got a delivery exception text and I was able to race over there and intercept it before it left. They were blasé about the web site error, which nearly cost us $13 and another week's delay on our mail.

The new splash fountain, with the tree behind. The kids in the middle were drenched in short order.

All's well that ends well, and after stuffing the mail in my backpack I continued my ride across the bridge to Palm Beach, my first visit there since we started stopping here. I made a loop down along Worth Avenue, which is sort of the Rodeo Drive of the east, along past the municipal beach, across the front of The Breakers, and back past Poinciana before crossing back at Flagler. I did pass some outdoor dining that looked nice, but nothing I saw in Palm Beach made me think we're missing much by not being able to land there.

The public beach, at the east end of Worth Avenue.

We had a clear night on the solstice, and were able to clearly see the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn low in the west. We would have had a much better view from someplace with less light pollution, but that was a small price to pay to be here for the holidays. West Palm Beach has a welcoming dinghy policy and we have access here to everything we need.

Vector at anchor in Lake Worth. Palm Beach at right, West Palm left. All the other anchored boats in this photo are actually in a cable area, technically illegal. Unenforced, and all good until you hook a 12,000-volt cable.

Trump arrived yesterday afternoon, but we are mostly unaffected here. We are north of the maritime security zone, and the bridge lockdowns don't affect us while we're anchored. In the distance we can see the blue lights of the USCG patrols, and we're getting more airplane noise as the Palm Beach International flight path is diverted to right above our heads for the duration.

Sunset view from Vector.

At the risk of offending our more northerly readers, it's been mostly in the 70s here since we arrived, and I've been in shorts for the first time in months, dining outdoors in short sleeves on occasion. Today it broke 80, but a cold front is moving in, and we will have to bundle up tomorrow for Christmas dinner, when it will be just 55 or so. That's really our lower limit for outside dining, but we really, really want to dine out for the holiday.

We're waiting on one more package, after which there is nothing really keeping us here, but we don't have any sort of plan moving forward. I still need to nail down a place to haul us out and change the thruster drive, which could be anywhere from here to Miami, and I also need to deal with the tender seat, which, after all the sturm und drang, does not fit on the existing mounts. That might suggest we remain close to the local dealer here until resolution.

A final gratuitous holiday decoration photo from downtown West Palm.

In any event, once we do finally decide to move along, we will be looking for a window to run to Fort Lauderdale on the outside. The gauntlet of poorly timed draw bridges from here to there on the ICW is something we try to avoid in any case, and with an inoperative bow thruster even more so, as it complicates station-keeping at the bridges. Plus we prefer to avoid docking for pumpouts until the thruster is fixed, making an offshore excursion every two to three weeks a matter of convenience.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw this entry after sending you an email. I am so relieved you found a proper Christmas dinner. Hope you guys have a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!