We went back and forth until nearly the day of departure. We had been in Vero for two months – our longest stay in one place since we began cruising – and inertia had most definitely set in. Vero was easy. Getting groceries was easy, laundry, showers, and trash was easy. We had some nice walking routes. A little voice inside my head said we hadn’t caught Covid-19 while we were there, so why press our luck? Maybe we should just stay.. But that pesky hurricane season was coming and there wasn’t anywhere to sail. So we ultimately decided to toss off the mooring line and head north towards the Chesapeake.
Although we had hoped to hop outside from Ft. Pierce, we quickly realized that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate so the inside it would be. Really looking at the calendar for the first time in weeks, we saw that that Memorial Day weekend would kick off at the end of the week. Uh-oh. The Florida ICW is chaotic on a normal weekend, let alone a 3 day weekend shortly after Florida lifted its Covid restrictions, We had less than zero interest in traveling on the water for any part of that. Looks like we were going to be putting the hammer down.
Between debating for a week as to whether we should leave the Bahamas, and spending 60 hours on our passage, we had plenty of time to discuss where we should go. Restrictions being implemented in each state varied, and it was too cold for our taste to head north of Florida.
Vero Beach quickly rose towards the top of the list. At $435 the monthly price for a ball was very reasonable, it was well protected from weather, and there was a grocery store within easy walking distance. Although we would prefer not to be in Florida for hurricane season, protection-wise it wasn’t a bad spot to be if we found ourselves in that position. And if things were so bad that everywhere was locked down for months, it would be sufficiently warm in the winter. Now we just had to get there while we still could.
After spending several lovely days in Oleta River State Park, it was time to move down to Miami to wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We had passed up an earlier window because it was a bit short for our taste and we just didn’t feel mentally ready for it. That turned out to be a good call. We later learned that a cruiser who had done the crossing over a dozen times considered it his worst ever, and we also heard of a few other boats that turned back. That was NOT something we cared to experience.
We dropped the anchor at Marine Stadium on New Year’s Eve and ended up having a great stay in Miami.
Some people complain on Active Captain about Marine Stadium on the weekends. It gets pretty busy with power boats coming over from the city and anchoring out, partying with Latin music pumping, but we loved it. People were courteous about not anchoring too closely and everyone was obviously having a great time. It was impossible not to enjoy it. And boy those boats can party! We went to bed after the fireworks at midnight (we had a great view of them from the anchorage) and when I woke up at 7:00 a.m the next day I could hear the bass thumping. I looked at Jeff and asked, “They’ve been partying literally all night?” It was pretty funny. Oh to be that young again.
As Jeff and I were walking to an auto parts store in North Miami to find carburetor cleaner for the dinghy outboard (the subject of another post), I took note of the fact that it was December 29th and I was warm. It was cloudy but there was a warm breeze, and I was perfectly content. I turned to Jeff and said, “I’ve found my maximum latitude.”
I’ve written before that we are chasing the warm weather. We aren’t going to live on our boat forever, and something we frequently ask ourselves is where we might want to live when we’re finished. Annapolis is great, but it’s too cold in the winter. We love Beaufort, SC but again, it can get pretty chilly. St. Augustine? Getting better, but it still occasionally has lows in the 30’s. Vero Beach? Better still, but the average low in January is 51 degrees. But now we’re in the Miami area and I can feel it in the air. If we’re living on the east coast, this is the furthest north I want to be.
Last year we only went as far south as West Palm Beach, FL before crossing over to the Bahamas. This year the weather systems have been much stronger and more frequent, with crossing opportunities proving to be few and far between. Rather than hang out in Vero Beach or the Palm Beach area while we wait, we decided to head farther south. We’ve never been to Miami and we wanted to check it out, and given that we plan to focus on the Exumas this time it made sense to make some more southerly progress while we wait.
We were poking along the ICW as we did last fall, content in knowing that we were three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year and hoping that would be enough to keep the cold weather at bay. We had enjoyed a beautiful, leisurely trip down the Dismal Swamp, spent a few nights in our favorite small town of Belhaven, and stopped in Beaufort, NC for the first time where we waited several days for a strong weather system to pass.
Vero Beach has a reputation for being extraordinarily convenient for cruisers.It’s the kind of place where cruisers come to stay for a day or two and end up spending the rest of the season.A not-insubstantial number of cruisers end up swallowing the anchor here and moving to Vero permanently, with the CLOD’s – Cruisers Living on Dirt – organizing a Cruisers Potluck Thanksgiving every year.You can see why it gets the nickname “Velcro Beach.”With this kind of build up, we were excited to finally pull in and see for ourselves what it was all about.
One of the reasons we’ve been in Vero Beach for so long is that we decided to switch back to a roller furler.Yes, I finally agreed to give up my beloved hank-on jib.
Little Bristol came with a furler and so did Pegu Club, but a few years ago we decided to remove it and switch back to a hank-on jib.We tend to be a bit old-school and liked the simplicity of a hank-on with the added bonus of better pointing ability into the wind.It was great while we were sailing on weekends and vacations.
However, what we discovered while cruising over the past almost-five months was that the hank-on jib wasn’t really working for us any more.Jeff did NOT like me going up to the foredeck when conditions were sporty, and the jib bag was taking up valuable foredeck space making anchoring more of a hassle than it needed to be.
After leaving St. Augustine, our next planned multi-day stop was Vero Beach.We left early on December 29th, anchoring in a place known as the Cement Factory and at Callilisa Creek the next night.
On New Year’s Eve we were motored down Mosquito Lagoon and then the Indian River.Although the forecast had called for 10-15 knots, we were instead getting a steady 20-25 knots, right on the nose.The water was rather choppy and the channel was narrow with depths of about 2 feet right outside.
Because there are never any engine issues in calm conditions with plenty of room all around (it’s always in rough water, or when you’re going through a narrow cut with rocks on either side, or trying to dock), at that moment the RPM’s on the engine dropped, almost to the point of stalling.Almost as quickly as it had dropped, it went back up again.A few minutes later, it dropped again, but not quite as severely as the first time.Once our heart rate returned to semi-normal, we decided to siphon our remaining diesel from the jerry jug into the tank on the off chance the choppy water was interrupting the diesel flow from the tank.Continue reading “It takes a village to change a fuel filter.”→
We reluctantly left Cumberland Island after a short visit due to the incoming weather, but it was the right choice.We tied up at the free dock on Sister’s Creek near Jacksonville and spent the next three nights hunkered down while the wind blew and the rain poured.We picked this particular spot based on the forecasted wind direction, and it did not disappoint.We were rather protected by Florida standards, and after the system passed we were ready to move on to St. Augustine.
St. Augustine was the first place we’ve been where some cruisers spend the entire winter.We knew that wouldn’t happen to us because we’d prefer a bit more warmth, but we were still looking forward to staying for a bit and exploring, so we made a reservation for five nights on a mooring at the municipal marina.We had such a nice time that we extended our stay for two more nights!