Finally Moving On

By all accounts the day should have been easy. It’s a short run down to Palm Beach Gardens. We are up at 7 and get the boat ready for departure. I run through our checklists while Deanna rigs fenders and lines. It is only a short mile to the last lock on the Okeechobee, the St Lucie lock, and it will drop us 14 feet to sea level and once again place Tivoli in salt water. We’ve timed our departure so that we should be able to lock through and make it to the Old Roosevelt bridge in Stuart at slack tide. This area can be a bit of a challenge if one attempts to pass through this bridge and the very narrow channel under the adjacent railroad bridge in strong currents and busy traffic.

We are lucky, the St. Lucie lock-through was uneventful, in fact, the easiest and smoothest of the 15 locks we have traversed on this trip. The miles pass as we approach Stuart, nice homes and boats line the waterway and before we know it we are passing the mooring fields full of boats and Sunset Bay marina, also full, and are in front of the Old Roosevelt bascule bridge. A boat has already requested passage and, to our surprise, the bridge is opening just as we arrive! Just as we start to pass through we see another boat coming from the other direction, a Nordhavn 62, headed to Sunset Bay 100 yards down the road. We are again lucky and pass through both Old Roosevelt bridge and the adjacent railroad bridge without any current or problems.

We continue on our route down to the Crossroads, the intersection of routes down the St. Lucie and out the St. Lucie inlet to the Atlantic and the ICW that crosses the inlet from North to South. This area is gorgeous! Beautiful homes line the waterways, the water is clear and turquoise. We are reminded of the Mediterranean; stucco homes, orange tile roofs, tall Mediterranean cyprus, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and red Bougainvillea in bloom. We turn South into the ICW and proceed towards Jupiter.

It is Saturday and the waterways are super busy. Bumper to bumper; I mean bow to stern traffic the entire way. We pass under several bridges; many have high clearances and don’t require opening, several require a call on VHF channel 9 to request an opening. Surprisingly, even with the heavy traffic we wait very little and are able to continue down the waterway at a stately pace. I mean 5-6 knots because of the Manatee zones or marinas requiring low speeds. As we approach Jupiter the magnificent homes and golf courses give way to more high rise condos. We pass the red Jupiter lighthouse, enter Jupiter inlet, turn West, and pass by the U-tiki restaurant where we previously spent a lovely evening with friends. We wait a few minutes for the Jupiter Federal bridge over Florida highway A1A to open, then continue on toward Loggerhead Marina.

Once past Jupiter it is a short ride down to Loggerhead and the Donald Ross bridge next to the marina appears before we know it. While we are partially ready for for arrival with fenders and lines placed; in retrospect we weren’t exactly fully prepared. Our easy trip was about to end on a sour note; we had used up all our good luck for the day.

Our slip in this marina is typical in Florida and requires that we back the boat into the dock and attach lines to pilings out in front of the boat. We have not done this before, and not with a crosswind piping up. We get our comm radios hooked up so that Deanna and I can communicate without shouting (they work fine but do not suppress the shouting) and make our first pass. It wasn’t pretty. We discovered one can’t park a 50-foot boat sideways in a 20-foot wide slip. In large part this is due to the fact that I cannot see rearward from the pilothouse. We don’t have a flybridge nor do we have outside electronic controls. We do have a stern camera but it has a 170-degree field of view and thus distorts the image making it difficult to judge distance or whether the boat is properly lined up with the slip; at least it is difficult for this rookie. To add to the stress there is a brand new and beautiful 65-foot Fleming on one side and a 55-foot Nordhavn on the other; both multimillion dollar beauties. Fortunately the owners of both were gone and did not suffer the heart attacks they would have had should they have seen us at work. We leave the scene of this poor approach, motor back out the fairway, turn around, and try a second time. This time the gyrations I put the boat through were even worse, the bow thruster overheats, times out, and is useless making maneuvering this single engine boat even more challenging. Finally, with the help of marina staff and friends, we do manage to get the boat into the slip with only a minor scuff mark on our boat from the dock, no insurance claims, and no YouTube videos.

Deanna and I always do a “post mortem” on our landings to review what worked and what didn’t. This one took an hour. We arrived more quickly than anticipated and we weren’t really ready; we failed to run through our “pre-arrival” checklist and, thus, I forgot to switch the stabilizers from ON to CENTER so they may have contributed to the boats sluggish response; we spun the boat to starboard when it turns better to port due to prop wash; I used the slip in front of me as a visual reference and forgot it was at an angle relative to the one behind me I was backing into; the tide was out and the fenders were too low; we could have waited and let the wind abate; on and on….rookies! Even though we’ve safely traveled about 3,500 nm on Tivoli we are clearly still newbies and have much to learn. Part of the joy of boating!


2 thoughts on “Finally Moving On”

  1. Bob and Melonie ~ Istaboa

    You guys aren’t rookies. It’s a difficult task backing a single engine boat into a slip without a stern thruster. Many forces working against you. Some Caps are embarrassed to rub up against a piling, but that’s what rub rails are for, yes? We think If you make it in and no one is bleeding, touch down!
    Welcome to the neighborhood. See ya soon

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