December 20, 2018

Traveling Florida’s Lower East Coast

We stayed in Vero Beach, Florida from December 1-5 and really enjoyed all it has to offer! Vero is a lovely, cruiser-friendly town, nicknamed "Velcro Beach," since many cruisers stop for a visit on their way south and then decide to stay long term.

We stayed at the popular Vero Beach City Marina, where they often tie off boats two-to-three deep on the marina's moorings, which are surrounded by mangroves in a well-protected lagoon. We ended up moored alongside, S/V Sandpiper, and greatly enjoyed chatting with and getting to know our boat neighbors Debbie and Robert during our five days there. 

Vero has a free city shuttle, which conveniently picks up in front of the marina's captains' lounge and runs all day, making numerous stops around the island and mainland to the many supermarkets and major retailers. It's a great service for boaters, since we've often recently found ourselves walking a mile or two along a busy road with no sidewalks! 

After leaving Vero Beach on December 6, we headed 15 nm south to Ft Pierce, which has a wide, deep and well marked channel for heading offshore. We've been battling cold fronts recently, which often bring heavy winds and high seas offshore, so after two days of hanging out in Ft Pierce, with no clearing in the weather, we made the decision to stay inland and make more progress south down the ICW. 

Our first stop was Hobe Sound, where we stayed for two nights in warm, sunny weather (and clear blue water!), but steady wind that blew 20-plus knots. 

The following day, after 5 bridge openings in a 16-mile stretch that was lined by grand mansions with manicured lawns, we arrived in sunny Palm Beach, Florida. We are holed up in a nice little anchorage called Turtle Cove near Old Port Cove Marina. 

Nick on the paddleboard on a warm, clear morning in North Palm Beach

We've seen a drastic increase in the size of boats since we've arrived in southern Florida, including a few 150-plus foot boats docked nearby. Our first morning, we saw a shadow come across Borealis and looked out the window to find mega-yacht "Privacy," owned by golfer Tiger Woods, within a football field of us (no spottings of him; he likely isn't even aboard). 

We also had quite the surprise our first night in the anchorage, when low bubbling rumbles from below had us momentarily thinking we were sinking! The noise appeared at dusk and sounded like low, deep consistent croaking, but grew so loud and got so close that we could feel vibrations through the hull of the boat and our floorboards. After some extensive research, we learned it's spawning season for the Black Drum fish, which are often found along the muddy bottoms of lagoons along the coast and can grow to more than 100 pounds. Since then, each evening at dusk, we've heard their rumbles from below.

Check out the sound of the Black Drum fish here:

Sailing conditions are difficult this time of year because of the frequent winter cold fronts, and we've pretty much been waiting for good weather windows since we reached the Florida border a few weeks ago, which is exactly where we are now too! 

Heavy weather with rain and gale winds ahead for the weekend

While we wait out another gale coming later this week with lots of wind and rain, we are enjoying sunny, warm weather and spending our days provisioning, picking up mail and parts we had shipped from our boat manufacturer Hallberg-Rassy in Sweden, catching up with friends, and tackling some boat projects... including Borealis' burned out deck light and blown gas strut in the boom vang. 

Sara, waiting at the dinghy aka our car, while Nick runs to the post office
to pick up our mail and packages

Nick aloft replacing Borealis' burned out deck light

Sara catching up with  a former colleague from Washington, D.C., Laura,
who now lives in Florida

The disassembled boom vang on the coachroof
The boom vang prevents the boom from dropping into the cockpit or on the coachroof and is fitted with an internal gas spring. Since this was something we fixed on our last boat, we realized recently the hydraulic spring was starting to go. Thankfully we weren't under sail when it went, and we were able to adjust the topping lift, a halyard that supports the weight of the boom, to lift it in the meantime.

We could sail without a vang strut, but sail adjustments would require a trip on deck to raise and lower the topping lift from the mast, and since we have more offshore sailing ahead of us, and it's way easier to fall overboard on deck, we'd prefer to fix it and stay in the safety of the cockpit as much as possible. We reached out to Pete at nearby Florida Rigging & Hydraulics, who found and ordered the part for us, and after it arrived from South Carolina, Nick had it installed and working in minutes. 

So for now, we are researching our next steps and destinations ahead and dreaming of sandy beaches and crystal blue waters.

Borealis' route from Annapolis, Maryland to Palm Beach, Florida

Tracking our progress south with our boater guides

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