Posts Tagged ‘ICW’

Sailing South for the Winter Part III


As we left Fort Lauderdale, it was down to three of us,  Michael, Linda and myself.  It felt like a new start.  We didn’t realize the tension we were under  and were relieved that we were back on the ICW. Next stop was a place to eat dinner.  We weren’t under way for long when I decided to get a quick shower to clean up.  Thinking that it would be awhile before we stopped, I stepped into the shower.  I could here people talking and laughing, lots of people.  I was very disoriented and looked out the port to find that we had docked the boat right up against a restaurant dock where people were sitting outside having dinner. We had arrived at Le Tub, near Hollywood Beach.  As I worked my way up on deck I could see the lights that lit up the water which were a clear lime green.  And in the water were these huge Catfish.  They looked to be 3-4′ long.  The people sitting on the dock were throwing pieces of bread into the water and the fish were as if “in a frenzy”.  I would not have liked to have fallen in the water at that time.  The restaurant was open to the outside . It wasn’t fancy.  Just the kind of place where you wouldn’t mind spending some time.  The music was great, as well as the food.  There were pool tables, dart boards and if I remember correctly, sofas and soft chairs arranged in a living room order.  We had dinner,while enjoying the warm breezes blowing across the place. Drank beer, played pool and darts until it got late.  Afterwards we got back onto the boat, untied the lines, motored across the lake, dropped anchor and made plans for the following day.

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The sun was up early, and so was Michael.  Linda and I had heavy heads and were moving slow. After we all had our coffees, we got underway.  We still had a few hours  before we got south of Miami.  It was a Saturday morning and the ICW was rocking.  I had never seen so many Cigarette boats with so many tanned bodies all in one place.  When we headed out the inlet at Miami,  a submarine had surfaced and was tooling along above the water.  It was a British Sub and  was lined with Sailors standing side by side along the entire deck(manning the rail).  They were wearing white shorts that went to their knees, with white knee socks  and hats that went flat across the top of their heads. They all looked like Gopher on the Love Boat.  And they were waving to everyone.  Linda and I couldn’t wave enough at these guys.  They were a sight to see, so was their boat!  Boats were zooming past us, coming from every direction.  How anyone kept from hitting each other I’ll never know.  It was early for a Saturday and the Marine Patrol was running people down and giving them tickets.  As we continued south, the traffice died down.  At the north end of Biscayne Bay you could see a tiny island with houses built on stilts.  The island had no roads or electricity.  It was too small.  It looked like a great place to “getaway” to.  I learned years later that the houses were distroyed in hurricane Andrew.

The water was a crystal blue, green color.  It was so pretty.  There was no way to gauge just how deep the water was.  Looking over the side of the boat, you could see fish and coral.  Linda and Michael put me in a Bosuns Chair and with help of the wench, ran me up the 60′ mast.  The view was great!  From up there I could see large turtles. I couldn’t stay up there for long.  The rocking back and forth motion of the boat going over the small waves, was very abusive up top.  I had to wrap my leg around the mast and each time the boat hit a wave, my body was slammed into the mast.  Can only do that so many times.  I remember Linda got tired winding the wench, running me up to the top and Michael had to run me up the rest of the way.  Coming down was a sinch.  It was just like repelling.

As we sailed passed Matecumbe in the Keys, we turned starboard which was a short cut through Florida Bay.  This way we didn’t have to go around to Key West.  We had put in a full day and dropped anchor on the west side of the Keys, near Duck Key.  We stopped early enough to fix a great dinner, have a cold beer and watch the sunset.  I knew then that I was going to love spending time on the water here.  I felt like I should  pinch myself to see if I was awake.  Michael had set up the hammock earlier. Then pulled out his guitar and played us a few tunes.  We were only one day away from our destination, Marco Island, Florida.  The next day was spent in open water most of the time and the highlight of the day was watching the flying fish.  They would pop out of the water, at a good clip, sail thru the air and land a few yards away.  Sometimes the fish would even land in the boat.  We arrived at Marco Island right before sunset.  Michael docked the boat at a restaurant called O’Sheay’s.  He was known here and many people were excited to see him.  It was a shock to be around so many people after spending two weeks on the water.  Linda had a time table she had to stick to.  We all had dinner and a farewell party.  The next day she was headed back to North Carolina.  Thru out the day Michael had friends coming and going from the boat.  My head was still on the water sailing.  While Michael and his friends spent time catching up, I would sneek off down below in the boat, and take a nap.  The year was 1990 and cell phones were not as popular as they are today.  The only way of communication amoung the boaters was to use the VHF radio.  Each person had their own call sign.  Since I was new to boating, I had yet to have a name.  I was deemed “The Sleeper”.

After spending several days at the docks at O’Sheay’s, we decided to take the boat out into the Marco River and drop the anchor.  Life out on the anchor was much more like a vacation than life at the docks.  I had almost forgotten that we were there to do charter work. But that was fine. I would enjoy it anyway.


Sailing South for the Winter Part II


Part II

The following day, we  each took our turns at the wheel. But there was lots of free time on our hands.  I like to be doing something most of the time, so I would clean anything I could.  We  also took turns at cooking the meals.  Everyone else had either a gadget to mess with or a book to read.  I could never slow down enough in the past to read so I didn’t even bring a book.  Then the issue came up of Felicia.  She was only able to pull one of her shifts and was down sick the rest of the time.  When she felt a bit better she would come up on deck, with blanket and pillow, and lay down on one side of the cockpit which would force four of us to sit on one side.  At this point Michael decided that we would continue on all night all the way to Jacksonville, FL..  Michael and I took the 2 am to 6 am shift.  I took the first two hours and Michael took the next.  Everyone else had retreated to their cabins for the night, so I grabbed my pillow and blanket and layed down beside him.  There were lots of stars out that night.  It was so very dark.  The wind was on the port quarter and we were sailing at a good clip.  All you could hear was the sound of  splashing on the side of the boat as we made way thru the water. I was almost a sleep when out of the blue Michael yells “Oh my God, What is that?” I jumped up (out of my skin) looked in the direction he was looking, behind the boat, and there were two tubular shaped figures coming up very fast.  He thought they were torpedoes.  He explained later that we were passing Kings Island where the U.S. has a big submarine base.  We were also 20 miles off the coast which is where the subs like to come to the surface and he was watching for them.  With all this going through his mind in the middle of the black ocean, torpedoes seemed logical.   But as they got closer, we realized they were dolphin approaching the boat at a high rate of speed and the phosphorous  was lighting them up as they went along.  So they glowed.  It was wild looking. The excitement was enough to keep him awake until the end of the shift.  I knotted off until the sun was in my eyes and noticed the humidity had risen substantially.

As I sat up and looked around the sun was extremely bright, and the strong scent of salt was in the air.  Over to our port side was a huge ocean liner headed in the opposite direction. The difference in size between our boat, the Flying Dutchman, and the ocean liner was immense.  It took my breath away.  I thought “If he hit us, he’d never know it”.  We were approaching Jacksonville, Florida Inlet .  The ocean liner was one of many huge vessels moving up and down the inlet that morning.  As we approached Florida, our quiet stretches of sailing would be few and far between.  The term “snow birds” started to make sence to me.  Florida had a “hum” to it.  There were people, and every kind of boat you could imagine on the water.  This seemed to be the dividing line from cold weather to warm, each had a price.  Navigating on the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) was similar to I95 or I75 on a Sunday afternoon.  Up till now, Michael would be doing maintenance on the lines or the engine or studying the charts down below.  Now, he stayed close by and kept the charts up top.  With all of the commotion of life going on, he had to stay on his toes at all times.

A couple of days passed, now it is Thanksgiving Day.  Thinking that it was a family holiday, there may not be as many boats on the water.  Our location is still the ICW and we were approaching Juno Beach, Fl.  The waterways characteristics started to change from here south.  It had the appearance of a suburban neighborhood.  Houses were lined along the waterway with canals that fed into it like fingers or streets that fed into a main road.  The smell of turkey dinners permeated the air.  We hadn’t planned for a turkey dinner that day and hot dogs were on the menu.  Needless to say I was salivating for homemade bread, baked turkey, dressing, green beans, cranberry salad and pecan pie.  I failed to mention earlier, spending time on the water had a way of keeping me hungry.  I spent lots of time thinking of “what would be good right now”.  Especially when I had no way of getting it.  This frame of mind drove Michael crazy.  He barked at me once “keep your thoughts to yourself”.  As the day wore on, the number of boats on the water increased.  The wake from the “fast boats” churned the water up and had the “fishbowl” effect.  It was very uncomfortable with the constant up and down motion of the boat.  If anyone was drinking anything, they had to keep it in their hand, otherwise it would be knocked over.

To date each of us were still taking our turn on the wheel, all except Falicia.  She had stayed in the parallel position most of the way .  She seemed mostly tired all the time.  It put Michael in an awkward position, due to the fact that “her spot” was intended to be a “paying position”.  And she had not payed her way nor was she able to work.  After discussing the sensitive topic with her husband Bruce, Michael realized they had no intention of paying and expected meals as well. As the boat approached Fort Lauderdale, it was determined that the boat needed some maintenance work.  We docked at a Marriot where Michael gave Bruce and Falicia the proverbial “boot”.   It was then that Michael announced the alternator wasn’t working and needed replaced. He was a good mechanic and needed someone to pick up the part while he worked on the boat.   I volunteered and headed down the docks, thru the Marriott and out to the street where there were several taxi cabs sitting waiting for business.   The first one that approached me was a tall young dirty blond guy.  He opened my door for me, ran around and got back in the car, turned and asked me where I was headed.  I told him the Napa and he started driving.  It was then that I noticed the naked Barbi Doll leg hanging from a chain on his rear view mirror.  All I could think of was “Oh God, If I get to where I’m going and back to the boat, it will be a wonder.”  He tried to drum up conversation, but I was a little “weirded”  out to talk.  Fort Lauderdale turned out to be an interesting/wide open town.  We passed several strip clubs along the way and the people were very interesting.  Thankfully, I got the part I needed and was back on the boat safely.  Michael fixed the problems and we were off and sailing again.

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