A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
While in West Palm Beach, we continuously checked the general weather forecast, the wind and swell forecast, and the weather in the Bahamas so we could plan our crossing. Finally, it looked like we had a weather window starting in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. The forecast was for 5-10 knot easterly winds and 2-4 foot wave heights with occasional 5 foot waves. It seemed very manageable. So we topped off our fuel and water and traveled up Lake Worth to find a spot to anchor close to the inlet. Our plan was to leave at midnight, travel southeast for about 10 nautical miles, then tack to the northeast and head toward Memory Rock in the Bahamas. From there we would make our way across the bank to Great Sale Cay and begin our adventure in the Abacos.
We set our alarm for 11:30, checked the weather one more time, and got up to make coffee. The anchor was up by midnight and we headed into the inlet. The waves in the inlet were high and steep and it was a rough ride out to the ocean. Once in the ocean, it became clear that the forecast had not been very accurate. The wind was from the expected direction, but it was 10-15 knots higher. We continued on our planned course for a bit, hoping things would calm down. Despite the preventative doses of motion sickness medications, it wasn’t long before Marin was throwing up in the sink and Kendall was hanging over the lifelines. The waves were big and more uncomfortable the closer we got to the Gulf Stream. Finally, we decided to take advantage of the building east winds by turning toward South Florida. We had a great sail on this new course and arrived in Biscayne Bay by Friday afternoon. The crossing would have to wait.
We didn’t go to shore during our two-night/two-day stay in Biscayne Bay, but we did take the dinghy to a sandbar to snorkel. This was the first time we had been able to swim in clear, warm, turquoise blue water and it felt like a big milestone. Later, we explored the mangroves fringing the bay and found a narrow channel that was just wide enough for the dinghy. Before the mosquitos drove us back out, we saw some interesting fish in the still, clear waters.
After raising our anchor in Lake Worth, we headed south on the Intracoastal Waterway and waited for the 5:15 pm opening of the Flagler Memorial Bridge. Once through, we found the perfect spot to anchor across from the West Palm Beach waterfront. The water was calm and the view of the sun setting behind the city was beautiful. We took the dinghy to the city dock and went to explore the downtown and have some dinner.
Our week at West Palm Beach consisted of school, shopping, boat work, work work, exploring, playing, and eating. In our continuing effort to preserve our onboard food stores, we made sure to enjoy the local cuisine. We also (Brian in particular) spent a lot of time at the local grocery and marine supply stores. The lack of a car necessitated multiple, incomplete trips to the grocery store so that we didn’t leave with more than we could carry in backpacks and big bags the eight blocks back to the waterfront.
A typical day in West Palm Beach: Breakfast and morning clean-up. Kendall and the kids begin the day’s boat school session while Brian and Bobby (from Alkemi) head to shore to run errands. Brian returns after lunch and depending on how the school day has progressed and whether or not he has work to do on the boat, we go on a family or partial family outing. Sometimes this outing was just a trip to shore to run more errands and/or have dinner, other times, it was more exciting.
One afternoon, we crossed the bridge to Palm Beach, walked across the barrier island to the Atlantic, and swam and searched for shells at the beach. One another day, Brian and I took Marin, Isla, and Jolly and Myles from Alkemi ashore to play in the fountain and get ice cream while the older boys stayed on Alkemi. Later in the week while Brian did work work, we went on a field trip to learn about gilded age Florida and railroad/oil executive Henry Flagler at the Flagler Museum. The kids enjoyed seeing the opulent first floor and the upstairs bedrooms, each decorated in a different theme. While at the museum we had the good fortune to see a traveling exhibit of Edward Curtis’ photographs of Native Americans. We’d seen the photos many times in books but had never seen the originals and it was an incredibly moving glimpse into a vanishing culture and into Curtis’ motivations for what became his life’s work.
West Palm Beach actively encourages and supports the painting of murals on walls around the city. We did not seek out the murals to photograph them; it is impossible to walk anywhere in downtown West Palm Beach without seeing one. Click here for more information on the Street Art Revolution.
This past Saturday, the girls and I went to the sculpture garden at the Society of the Four arts in Palm Beach. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. It was a beautiful afternoon and the garden was stunning.
Yesterday morning, with a favorable weather forecast, we began the passage from St. Augustine to Lake Worth. Around 7:15 we hailed the bridge tender to request an opening, cast off the mooring, and went to queue up near the bridge. Because of the full moon, the tides were higher than usual, and the current on the flood tide was ripping along at what seemed like 5 knots.
While we waited for the bridge to open, we noticed that there were two sailboats on the other side waiting to pass through. Then a powerboat came from the marina and scooted into position in front of us. We assumed that the boats with the current pushing them toward the bridge (the two sailboats on the other side) would have right-of-way as they have less maneuverability than those of us motoring into the current. This morning, however, it turned out to be a free-for-all. As the bridge began to open, the powerboat in front of us accelerated quickly. At the same time, the two sailboats on the other side made their move to pass under the bridge. We hung back since we are kind of wide. The second sailboat was dodging the powerboat in the middle of the bridge, appeared to momentarily lose control, headed toward the abutment, accelerated to gain steerage, unintentionaly overtook the leading sailboat, and ended up heading straight toward us on the down current side of the bridge. Brian threw the engines into reverse to get out of the way, the skipper of the other boat regained control, and we moved forward past the bridge. Nothing like an early-morning adrenaline rush! We could have skipped our coffee that morning!
We had a sporty ride through the inlet as large swells rolled in from the northeast nearly parallel to our beam. Counting Stars pitched from side to side and we heard things hitting the floor inside. Catamarans are quite stable and it has been unusual for us to have things flying around the saloon. The motion was too much for Marin and Isla and they became queasy almost immediately, but recovered quickly. Fortunately, once we were able to turn to the south, the swells became a following sea that pushed us forward more comfortably.
During the day, the wind was light, and what wind there was came from almost directly behind us. We alternated between motorsailing with the genoa (large foresail) unfurled and just plain motoring. There was so little wind that at least one engine was running for the entire passage.
Our friends had also left St. Augustine that morning, and we could see their mast on the horizon for most of the day. Another boat was behind us on the same course and we had all been talking to each other on the VHF off and on throughout the day. At sunset we all checked in and wished each other a good night. It was nice to know there were other boats nearby keeping track of us while we kept track of them.
The night passed uneventfully and we managed to avoid huge ships. Although we don't keep a watch schedule during the day, we took 3-hour turns at the helm overnight so both of us could get some rest. Sailing at night can be nerve-wracking (we passed uncomfortably close to two boats with no lights that were also too small to provide radar targets - what could they have been up to anyway? - on our first night sail past Virginia Beach) but it also can be a very peaceful and contemplative time. The sound of the water slapping and splashing against the hulls, the sight of phosphorescence in the bow and stern wakes, and the feeling of connection to one's surroundings can be both enthralling and relaxing. The Super Moon coincided with our night at sea and we were able to see it briefly through the heavy cloud cover.
By late morning on the 15th, we were anchored in Lake Worth and ready to start the school day! Afterwards, we dinghied over to Peanut Island (a local park) for snorkeling and beach play. Our stay in Lake Worth was short-lived, as it was a less-than-ideal spot due to weather, current, and proximity to seemingly abandoned boats. The next day we moved south to an uncrowded, less exposed anchorage along the Intracoastal Waterway between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars