Friday, May 6, 2022

Plague Ship

We are under way northbound on the Atlantic ICW, bound for an anchorage near Cocoa, Florida and with Vero Beach astern of us. It's been an eventful week, but I have few photos or accomplishments to show for it.

Sunday morning we dropped lines at the Venice Yacht Club just before they opened at 8 am. We made our way out via a different and slightly deeper route than the marked entrance channel, which we'll use henceforth, and back out Venice Inlet into the gulf. It was another calm day and we had a very nice passage to Boca Grande inlet, where we again used the swash channel shortcut.

In normal times we would have proceeded just another couple of miles to Cabbage Key, where we are fond of anchoring and tendering ashore for dinner at their restaurant. But you may recall we were racing to beat the lake level before it dropped too far for use to safely cross. We passed Cabbage Key at lunch time, where it was extremely busy with some sort of fishing tournament.

I had my sights set on an anchorage just off a marina with a fuel dock that my online sources said had some of the cheapest fuel on the west coast. Where "cheap" in this case is relative; I think it was around $5.12 all-in. As we approached the anchorage, I called the marina to double-check the price before pulling off into the anchorage, and in the span of a day it had jumped sixty cents. No thanks, so we continued on to a more familiar and protected anchorage in Fort Myers (map), making for a very long day.

The Lima (L) flag, flown by ships under quarantine. Not to be confused with the Quebec (Q) flag, which many think means Quarantine but is actually a request for Free Pratique.

Normally in Fort Myers we'd splash the tender and run ashore for dinner. However, what started out in the morning as, so we thought, allergies for Louise, which have been over the top lately, by late afternoon had turned into full-blown flu-like symptoms. Of course, in pandemic times, flu-like symptoms always bring up the possibility of COVID-19, and especially since we've had our flu shots. Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to quarantine aboard. We had a pleasant night and dinner on board.

I can't say why we did not think to start isolating completely from each other at that same moment.. The following morning things were worse, and we opened up one of our remaining test kits. The test was negative, which gave us a false sense of hope. By the end of the day, however, we were pretty certain, negative test notwithstanding. Worse, while I otherwise felt fine, I had developed a tickle in my throat that I often associate with the early onset of a cold.

With the lake continuing to drop, and me still feeling plenty well enough to drive, we continued all the way to Moore Haven, where we tied up at the familiar city docks (map). There are no hands on this dock so it was a contactless affair, as were the locks, where you pull up to the wall and grab lines that are already hanging there, so we did not worry about infecting anyone. I did have to step inside City Hall, wearing my N95, and push our $52 through the plexiglass window to pay for the night.

Caught a bit unprepared, we had nothing ready for dinner. I ordered contactless takeout from the only game in town, Joey's Pizza, which uses some payment site I've never heard of, but at least I could pay and tip online. I strapped our whizzy pandemic pizza carrier to the e-bike and ran down there for a touchless pickup, but I did have to step inside with my N95 to grab it.

Joey's Pizza and Subs. No one to infect as I pick up my carryout.

Tuesday morning we awoke to a minimum navigation depth across the lake of just 6.9'. I normally like to see 7', but the Corps of Engineers is very accurate with these numbers, and we had previously agreed that going across the lake, even if we had to do the shallow spots at dead slow, was preferable to 160 nautical miles around through the Keys. I had steeled myself for as low as 6.5' or so, so we dropped lines and made our way to the lock.

There were several spots in the lake where we saw just ten inches under the keel, which makes for high pucker factor. It's a real ten inches -- the bottom here is rock, not mud. I coasted over most of them out of gear, but we made it across without incident. Just as last time, the lake was so low the Port Mayaca lock opened both ends and had us drive through. We made it to the St. Lucie lock after closing time and dropped the hook in our usual spot in the upstream pool (map).

We needed to get off the waterway. We could not afford to be trapped upstream of any potential problem with the lock (they've had to close it at least once since the three-month maintenance closure at the beginning of the year), and we also wanted to be closer to civilization in case we needed a pharmacy, a doctor, or an ambulance. And so Wednesday we weighed anchor just after the lock opened and continued on to Stuart, which has all the services and plenty of dinghy landings. With no actual plans to land during our quarantine, we passed up downtown, cleared through the highway and railroad bridges and anchored in a bend of the river known as Hoggs Cove (map). Louise needed time to rest, recover, and regroup, so we had the hook down before lunch and stayed the whole day.

By this time I was still mostly asymptomatic, although perhaps I was not firing on all cylinders.  After having passed up possible fuel stops in Venice, Fort Myers, and the lake, I spent a good deal of the afternoon researching fuel prices. We're down to out last 50 gallons, not counting reserves, and we'll need to add fuel to even get out of our "hurricane box" by the June 1 deadline. I found relatively cheap fuel in the immediate vicinity of Stuart, the best we'd see until the Carolinas, and I made plans to put in 250 gallons. It was not until we were discussing the weighing and route plan ahead of yesterday's departure that we both suddenly realized we could not really fuel without breaking quarantine. Oh, perhaps I could get a fuel dock to agree to keep away, let us tie up and fuel ourselves, then take payment over the phone, but that was unlikely at any of the busy, lower-priced docks.

Creative pizza delivery. The NYC guys have hard boxes bolted to their bikes; I had to make do.

With me still feeling pretty good, and Louise up to the task of bosun work weighing and dropping anchor, we opted to get underway and do whatever northing we could on our remaining fuel supply. We chalked the extra ~$0.50 per gallon we'd likely pay for fuel up to the cost of the pandemic. We weighed anchor, proceeded downriver and made the left onto the ICW, but not before briefly touching bottom as I moved out of the way for a towboat pulling a disabled vessel  We were centered in the channel, but the best water is in a narrrow strip on the "wrong" (inbound) side.

With landing anyplace out of the question, we passed Jensen Beach, Fort Pierce, and Vero Beach without stopping. We dropped the hook in a small anchorage, new to us, between Vero and Wabasso next to Hole in the Wall Island (map). We were all alone; it was dark, peaceful, and quiet all night, with the only sounds the constant surfacing of dolphins feeding all around us. This morning I popped up to the flybridge at 05:40 to watch the latest SpaceX launch; while not as spectacular as further north, I still had a decent view as it cleared the treeline up until MECO.

We've been sleeping and eating in separate rooms since Tuesday. Louise used all her strength to clear enough space in the guest stateroom, er, I mean, quilt studio, for me to access half of the bed and enough of the head to brush my teeth and use the loo. This is my first stay in our own guest quarters, and I have to say it's been plenty comfortable. Natural airflow is even better than in the master. Under way she's been in the saloon while I'm in the pilothouse, calling her up only to supervise Otto while I run down to pee.

Louise should no longer be shedding as of today, per CDC guidelines, and in the meantime my mild symptoms have become more pronounced, including more sore throat, sniffles, and some sneezing. Occam's Razor said it's a safe bet that I have it, albeit a mild case, even though I tested negative yesterday. So as of this morning we are back in the pilothouse together, and we're looking forward to sharing a meal this evening, where we will belatedly celebrate our anniversary, which passed while we had to stay separated. Which Louise may not taste -- that went away for her a couple of days ago, although the rest of her symptoms are subsiding. This afternoon I tested positive, which seals the deal.

This boat ramp dock high and dry speaks to how low the lake is.

On the off chance that my symptoms will get worse, even though I too am on day four, today's cruise will end in an anchorage off Merritt Island across from Cocoa. We intend to remain quarantined and not land ashore, but, again, if we need a pharmacy or something more serious, we can access it there, as opposed to the more remote anchorages we could reach further north. We stocked the larder before leaving Pass-a-Grille, so we have plenty of provisions on board, and we're just now going through the meds we bought back in the Bahamas at the start of the pandemic.

We should be out of quarantine before we need provisions, or a pump-out, or to take on water. Sadly we'll have passed all of the yacht clubs where we could do that for free by then, but such is the way of things. Fuel is a slight concern, but we do have a 250-gallon reserve that can be accessed at the expense of listing to port, further with each gallon withdrawn.

The bigger fly in the ointment is our joint dentist appointment, across the state in St. Pete. I have marina, rental car, and hotel reservations, but we will literally both be just off the recommended 5+5 day quarantine. I don't know if that will be sufficient for the dentist office, so I am looking into where we can get PCR tests before leaving, in the hopes that they will accept negative PCRs on top of the quarantine. If they do not, we'll have to postpone by two full weeks, as the doctor is out the following week. That will mean flying into Tampa from someplace further north, making this a very expensive crown indeed.

We've been scratching our heads about how this came about. We're both fully vaccinated and boosted (I had to delay my second booster due to prednisone; it would have been scheduled next week), and we've been extremely careful, dining outdoors, masking in stores, etc.. As near as we can guess, Louise picked it up when she was in for her mammogram just a couple of days before departure. She remembers being in a little waiting room with an unmasked patient who had a coughing fit; Louise immediately stepped out into the hall to protect herself (prompting some very snippy commentary from the offender). We knew all these doctor appointments would be the riskiest things we did, but determined the benefits outweighed the risks, as they were well overdue.

Last night's sunset from our lovely and quiet anchorage.

One of our biggest concerns is whether or not we passed it along to our friends, whom we saw just before we left. We're checking in daily and thus far there have been no issues, but we remain concerned.  Louise has reported her case through her primary care doctor, but there does not seem to be any other contact tracing we need to do. We continue to follow the CDC guidelines, which are more stringent than Florida's.

This morning it was blissfully cool in the anchorage, but it is brutally hot now and will remain so well into the evening. So we lingered in the anchorage for a late start, to have under-way air conditioning and stave off running the generator a bit longer. In the morning we'll continue north unless I am not up to driving, in which case we'll stay put. We're restricted to daytime running right now because my eyesight is wonky from the prednisone; I am very much looking forward to that subsiding in the next week or so.

As a final note I feel compelled to say: We are fine. All is well aboard m/y Vector. Well-wishes are always welcome, but we are not in need of any assistance, nor are we in any real danger. Not being able to go ashore for any sundries or meals is a pain in the butt, but we know that many, many people suffered far worse early in the pandemic. We continue to consider ourselves very fortunate, no matter how miserable we might, temporarily, be feeling right now.

You'll next hear from me in several days, when we are well past quarantine and have some kind of answer regarding the dentist. In the meantime we continue to plug along, at a somewhat reduced speed to stretch our fuel supply.


  1. Ain't that a kick in the teeth. You have been so careful! I officially have no idea how we have not had Covid yet, unless we were completely asymptomatic.

  2. The same thing happened to us. Phil went to Home Depot wearing a mask, but hardly anyone else was. Four days later he had Covid, and I came down with it four days after that, even though we were both fully vaxxed and boosted.

  3. Sean, might want to fill up, my sources say that it will hit $7.00 soon, and that's at truck stops, no telling what marinas could be.


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!