Monday, April 13, 2020

So, what now?

We are under way northbound in the ICW, somewhere north of Fort Pierce, Florida as I begin typing. Our tentative destination for today is Melbourne, which the plotter is telling me we will reach around 6pm.

We spent just a single night at our arrival anchorage in Lake Worth. The anchorage was too crowded for our liking, and, as I wrote in the last post, we need to be moving north. In fact, before we left the Bahamas, we had discussed the option of coming in much further north than Palm Beach, perhaps to Canaveral or even all the way to Jacksonville. The weather, however, did not support a more northerly landfall.

Our first priority was to get out of Palm Beach county. The statewide shutdown in Florida includes additional restrictions in Monroe (the Keys), Miami-Dade, Broward (Fort Lauderdale area) and Palm Beach counties, and virtually all marine infrastructure is shut down. This was done to put a stop to gatherings on sand bars and raft-up of party boats, but it has collateral effects on cruising boats.

Vector anchored in North Palm Beach, as seen from the condos nearby. Someone uploaded this to marine traffic while we were there. Photo: Marine Traffic by DVH2.

At the last minute, exemptions were carved out for boats returning from international voyages, and boats that are primary homes, and we fall under these exemptions. But that turns out to be not enough business for many marinas to remain open and staffed, and the upshot is that getting water and a pumpout, both of which we will need soon, or fuel, which we will need eventually, or ashore for groceries which we need almost immediately is nearly impossible.

Beyond that, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are the three hardest-hit counties in Florida with the greatest number of cases. Not only are we more at risk going ashore in these counties, it will also be harder to get medical attention should we need it. We need to go ashore periodically for fresh food items, and we will unfortunately also need to go ashore at some point to deal with our ailing cat. We also need to get off the boat every few days just for exercise.

Thus we looked at making a beeline north to Martin County almost immediately. Unfortunately, I could not find a spot that we could reach in a single day where we could get ashore for our immediate grocery and trash needs, and so we opted instead to make it a short day and only go as far as North Lake Worth (the lake), in North Palm Beach, where we dropped the hook in a familiar spot (map).

We knew from experience that, even though marinas, boat ramps, and public docks are closed, there is a small beach next to the PGA Boulevard bridge where you can land a dinghy and have just a one-block walk to the Publix grocery store. I found a carry-out pizza joint across the street from Publix, and we splashed the dinghy shortly after arriving, with a plan to go get a few groceries and come home with a pizza for dinner.

Passed on our walk. North Palm Beach firefighters wear some strange turnout gear.

Those plans were quashed when an enormous thunderstorm arrived just as we were ready to leave. So much for "50% chance of rain." Louise, who had been looking forward to eating something other than her own cooking for the first time in over a week was palpably disappointed. If there was a silver lining, it's that the boat desperately needed a fresh water rinse after our sporty passage, and boy, did it get rinsed.

Fortunately, we had prepared for this possibility, and Louise had made pasta e fagioli that we had hoped to just put away for another day. We had a nice meal aboard, albeit devoid of fresh salad. This did leave us right back where we were the previous night, and so we decided to simply remain another day, and do the whole walking, grocery, and pizza excursion the next day.

With the whole day ahead of us, we opted to take our walk and get groceries in the cool of the morning. We loaded up the backpack with our cloth face masks, some nitrile gloves, and hand sanitizer, grabbed the trash, and headed up the creek. We gingerly tied up at a storm drain grate and hiked up to the Publix, our first time off the boat since walking to the dump on Staniel Cay a week ago.

We were stunned at how busy the parking lot was. Also, the general lack of apparent concern by those milling around. And while there were tape X's on the ground every six feet leading to the door, a quick glance at the front of the store was enough for us to wave off the shopping. Too risky. As much as we wanted some salad fixings and fresh fruits and veggies, we decided to wait for a store in a less busy area.

Our friends' boat Adventure. Vector is at far right, looking like she's in the marina. Behind Adventure is the aft half of Mermaid Monster.

On our way back to Vector we swung by a familiar boat, Adventure, hoping to say hello from a safe distance to our friends Brad and Lorraine. They'd been in the Bahamas more or less since Dorian, where they had been operating a relief kitchen feeding locals and other relief workers. They were below decks and never saw us, so we connected via email later. They had just returned from their latest relief trip, helping build houses in the devastated Abacos.

Later in the day I tendered over to another boat, Mermaid Monster, to "meet" (from a safe distance) in person the owners, with whom I had had several on-line interactions. Their own Bahamas plans were waylaid by the virus and now, like many of us, they are trying to figure out where to hunker down for the duration.

At dinner time I called the pizza place and ordered a pizza and two salads, one for dinner and one for the next day, since we were unable to get groceries. I masked up while Louise remained outside, picked up our food, and we carried it next door to the shuttered statuary business that had an Italianate stone bench outside. We ate on the bench, rather than let the pizza get cold on the way back to the boat. The pizza was just so-so, but as the first in nearly two months, and the first outside meal in ten days, it was a welcome break.

Guess what? Lion butt. Our dinner venue outside the statuary store.

We decked the tender after returning to Vector, in preparation to continue north. Our experience with the grocery store underscored the urgency of getting out of Palm Beach County. I plotted a course for Jensen Beach, where, under the right circumstances, I could get ashore and have about a mile walk to a Publix. A small craft advisory was already out, and we were expecting high winds, so we agreed to revisit in the morning whether we could leave the anchorage.

Winds picked up overnight, but yesterday morning they were still acceptable for weighing anchor and getting under way. We left in time for the 1015 opening at Parker Bridge. Traveling up through North Palm Beach was an eerie experience, with the numerous waterfront bars and restaurants shut down, and the waterway, normally bustling with small-boat traffic, quiet and subdued.

All of that changed once we left Palm Beach County behind, but getting out of the county was not without one last insult. A shoal has been building at the turn from Jupiter Inlet to Hobe Sound, and while we knew about it and approached it gingerly, fortunately with the substantial current on our nose, we still ran aground. I backed off, with the current sweeping us toward a nun that we gently kissed with the swim platform before I could turn the boat in deep water.

A Jupiter police boat was right next to us, and after I called him on the radio he was kind enough to sound around for us a bit. Our next attempt carried just enough water and we went without incident the rest of the day. That police boat was the first of a half dozen we passed in Hobe Sound, which on a normal weekend would be chock-a-block with rafted boats and youths partying on the sand bars.

We passed this German boat in the anchorage, our namesake, "Vektor." We chatted with them briefly. When we were in the Bahamas, a couple of other European boats hailed us thinking we were these folks. Small world.

We saw plenty of small boats, including many rentals, mostly with a single family aboard, but the police were doing a good job of keeping Beer Can Island from forming. This is a marked contrast from the counties to the south, where other than salt water fishing, recreational boating has essentially been stopped. Marinas, ramps, and boat rentals are still open here.

Now that we are north of Palm Beach County, we can, in theory, stop anywhere and settle in "for the duration," whatever that may mean. Lacking any sort of advance plan for this, we've been discussing where that should be. There are a number of underlying factors driving that decision.

For starters, we have a firm deadline to be north of Brunswick, Georgia by the time midnight rolls around on May 31st. If we're not, our insurance will be null and void. There is no wiggle room on this, and no way to change it as things stand today. While that's still 46 days from today, it's a ten-day cruise from here on the ICW in normal conditions, and we're not comfortable leaving all of it to the last minute.

With a little extra downtime in the anchorage I tore into the watermaker pump. This is what's left of it. The vanes are destroyed, along with part of the chamber itself and some of the upper bearing. I hope to find a rebuild kit so I can keep this as a spare.

Beyond that, while a boat at anchor may seem like the ideal place for self-isolation, it comes with some logistical issues. For example, there is no option for delivery -- of anything. Not groceries, not pizza, not medicine, not parts for the watermaker or any other critical system. Even in a marina, if we could even find one to take us, deliveries are a challenge because the normal mechanism for such things involves handling and interaction by marina staff.

Considering the fact that deliveries, upon which so many are relying in this time, are not an option, we next need to face the fact that drive-through or drive-up services, which are also a life-saver for many right now, are also not available. No drive-through restaurants, no drive-up banking, no drive-through pharmacy items. Only businesses open for walk-up (or walk-in) service are options.

Next up: getting ashore. With many or most marinas, boat ramps, public docks, and boat-up restaurant docks closed, getting ashore anyplace will be a challenge. Getting ashore someplace with access to all the necessities of life, as well as a place to receive shipments, will be even more challenging, and just to make it even more interesting, we're ruling out anyplace where we'd have to use public transit or ride-sharing services to get to any necessities from the landing.

The normally aloof Angel cuddles with me on the bed. A sign the end is near.

It's all proved to be quite an exercise. We've done the ICW so many times now that it feels like it should be second nature. And in normal times, it is. We know where the restaurants are, and where the best places to get ashore for groceries are. We know where to find accessible hardware stores and veterinarians. We know how to get to Walmart and Petsmart. And we know where to settle in for a month or two with access to everything we need via some combination of walking, bicycling, Uber, and transit. But having to find all of it in one place under current business restrictions is a curve ball.

Add to this that, wherever we are, we will need to be able to get water (until I can fix the watermaker) and discharge waste every couple of weeks. And the situation is fluid: the list of marinas that are open for fuel and water changes daily. States, counties, and cities are still changing rules. Nothing is certain, and we never know if a total ban on movement along the waterway may go into effect in any jurisdiction.

Gratuitous shot of the raw water pump. Various temperatures have been creeping up in the engine room and I needed to inspect the impeller. I can't see it where it's located, so I have to take a photo. Looks fine.

Looking ahead, we see a couple of possible options. Titusville has a working marina with mooring balls (and an anchorage) and a still-open dinghy landing close to much of what we need. Though that is still quite a ways from where we need to be come May 31. Jacksonville may be a better option if the docks are still open for dinghies, which would also get us close to our mail drop so we can get packages. Both locations have access to Amazon lockers.

The entire state of Georgia is out, because they've outlawed anchoring anywhere we could be to access essential services. Proposals to fix that ill-conceived legislation are on hold due to the virus. As June approaches, we will need to move swiftly through or past Georgia to the Carolinas, which are going through their own machinations with closures right now.

In summary, we're winging it. Fortunately, that's something we're good at. None of this is made any easier by the fact that Angel declines every day; the end is near for her. We've made the decision not to traumatize her any further by taking her to the vet unless she is in pain. Right now she is driven to seek out every inaccessible place on the boat, and we've had to close off the part of the bookcase with the SSB radio in it, and cover the breaker panels so she doesn't trip them off jumping onto the helm in search of comfort.

Jury-rigged breaker covers made from cardboard out of our recycling bin.

Against this backdrop we made our way north to Jensen Beach yesterday, on a day windy enough that we'd likely have stayed put absent the motivation. Those winds increased through the day and were blowing 30 when we got to Jensen Beach, and in that location anchoring would have been uncomfortable, and getting ashore for groceries a wet and salty experience. We opted to press on.

Instead we dropped the hook in a familiar spot north of the causeway island in Fort Pierce, just off the Coast Guard station (map). The island broke the south fetch and we had calm water, but the current rushing through the inlet kept us broadside to the wind, now over 30 knots, and we were a bit tilty the whole time. Also, well-ventilated. The last time we were here we were the only boat, and this time there were a half dozen.

This has been consistent since we arrived stateside. Anchorages are much more full than we are used to. It's the natural consequence of there being literally hundreds or maybe thousands of boats that would normally be scattered through the Bahamas, the northeastern Caribbean, and the Florida Keys instead concentrated in southeast Florida. I'm not sure how they're all solving some of the problems that I related above, although I suspect some of it involves bending, breaking, or ignoring rules. Let's just say I would not swim in any of those anchorages.

Sunrise this morning over Fort Pierce inlet, at left. Palm trees at right are on the USCG station.

We had a nice dinner aboard, pasta e fagioli of course, accompanied by the extra salad we had picked up the previous evening with the pizza. Shortly afterward, all hell broke loose as the USCG made a pan-pan call for a kayaker possibly in distress at the Fort Pierce Inlet. The next few hours were filled with Coasties screaming by with sirens blaring, and police helicopters hovering overhead.

In the middle of the kayaker search, another pan-pan was issued for a person in the water under the causeway bridge. More sirens and more passes from the helo, which had to beat a hasty exit after running low on fuel. The person in the water was found safe a short while later, and the kayaker was also declared safe hours later and well after dark.

This morning we left at the turn of the tide, so we would have a favorable current for the first few hours. It's in the 90s today, with a heat index of 98, and so we're running the air conditioning in the pilothouse. There is little incentive for an early stop in such conditions, and so we will continue to Eau Gallie, drop the hook around 6, and tender ashore to stretch our legs and pick up takeout for dinner. That should let the rest of the boat, which is a sauna right now, cool down a little. In the morning we will continue north on the Indian River toward Titusville.


  1. Insurance companies are granting no cost extensions for boats that need to leave FL before hurricane season. You should check with your agent. My company granted an extension through July

  2. i am sorry to hear about Angel. Pls pass to Louise? this sunday was Saul & Penny to Sara - so I spent all day cleaning and mopping, my pillows do not smell like Penny's butt, and the mighty Samurai is covering and protecting me this week.

    i hope your travels improve, and you find ways to get to pump-out for tanks.

    best wishes to you and the crew. C

  3. If you need me to do a grocery pickup and delivery for you from North Myrtle Beach, SC to Holden Beach, NC, I am available!

    1. Sorry for the delay; I'm really bad at keeping up with comments. Thank you so much for the offer; we stayed in MB only long enough to fuel up. I hope you are managing to stay safe there.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Send me a generic email link and I'll send you 10 photos and no I wasn't gonna jump off the 520 bridge trust me
      But then again if you knew me better I would've lowered you down a couple of excellent calzones
      But then again the sailing vessel (backup plan) would probably have snag them first

  5. Jennifer from Starlet sent me this, for I'm a feline Vet in Jacksonville and we live just off the intracoastal. You can reach me at


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