Captain Kitty Cruises South


by Les Rothman, Autumn Saga, NT37-054

Captian Kitty on Board

It had been about half a year since Captain Kitty and her crew had returned from their five month sojourn north to the Chesapeake Bay, during the summer of 2005. Now, as the spring of 2006 arrived, she was contemplating another cruise to a new destination. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, neither she nor the crew was desirous of another near half year away from their home port. As it happened, a Nordic Tug rendezvous was scheduled for the first part of April, at the Hawks Cay Marina on Duck Key, in the Florida Keys. For the uninitiated, Duck Key lies approximately ten miles northeast of Marathon or half way, by sea, between Cocoanut Grove and Key West. For Florida residents such as we, one beauty of cruising the state’s near 800 mile coastline is the fact that, from almost any place one might tie up, one can drive to their terra firma home, in a rental car, in approximately seven hours. The second is, of course, the relative comfort of cruising in one’s home, if not clearly local, waters. We decided to make this an easy, relaxed, non rushed cruise. With the looming, predicted severe, hurricane season fast approaching, we had loose plans to be home no later than the end of June.

With reservations secured at Hawks Cay, for April 5th through the 10th and rendezvous attendance reservations confirmed, we provisioned Autumn Saga and departed Cedar Point Marina, on the Ortega River, south of downtown Jacksonville, at 1103, on Friday, March 24th. As we were in no particular hurry, we stopped for fuel and a holding tank pump out and, under a cloudy overcast sky, with a temperature of 58 F. and a falling barometer, made our first stop that night at the Conch House Marina in St. Augustine. We have utilized this facility for twenty years but Captain Kitty had never been there before so, of course, she had to inspect everything and meet everyone. After a forty-eight hour layover, during which we enjoyed the familiar sights, sounds and food of the city, we departed, on Sunday morning, at 0845, on a half tide ebb and headed south, in perfect weather, on the ICW. Our intention was to find an anchorage in the Daytona area. Not finding anything to our liking and, with the weather perfect and the waterway nearly empty, we continued on our way until New Smyrna. We anchored, at 1715, among moored sailboats just south of the Harris Saxon Highway Bridge east of the waterway, near G43. At this point, although still in familiar waters, we were leaving home waters and felt we were truly on our planned cruise. Now, with all secured, dinner completed and darkness approaching and our vessel well lit, including the anchor light, a very loud sounding vessel was heard. I went out to see what was approaching and was startled to view a large, power boat roaring toward us through the anchorage. There appeared to be about six people on the bridge and no one seemed to be paying attention. I had no time to sound the horn and he roared past throwing a huge wake. It looked as though he was going to smash into the sailboat anchored about 100 yards off our bow, but apparently someone alerted the helmsman and the vessel slowed significantly, steered out of the anchorage, and departed north bound. Louise speculated that they were running under autopilot while partying. I speculated that their captain was brain dead. Other than wind driven wave slap, there were no other disturbances to our evening. The next morning, responding to Captain Kitty’s “all hands” call, we arose to breakfast, house keeping and a ship’s systems check, as a prelude to our southbound departure, at 0910. The NNW wind had diminished over night and another perfect cool spring day was in store.

Looking for another anchorage, we tentatively thought of going as far south as Melbourne , but when we reached the Cocoa area and saw the excellent anchorage on the western side of the waterway, just off Rockledge, at G77, we elected to drop the hook and spend the night. Secured at 1500, it turned out to be an excellent choice for us. Wine on the aft deck, with Captain Kitty, was followed by dinner with T.V. news. After reading, we went to bed at 2150. At breakfast the next morning, having anchored for two nights, we decided to visit one of our favorite marinas in central Florida. We telephoned the Vero Beach Municipal Marina and made reservations for that evening. With our selves and vessel prepared for the day, we weighed anchor and continued south under perfect cruising conditions. Following a rather tense 7 St.M. low water passage through a heavily shoaled ICW, just north of the Wabasso Beach Bridge, we made the Vero Beach Marina early in the afternoon, and secured at a bulkhead at 1540. I washed Autumn Saga and Louise took a walk. We showered, had dinner aboard, watched T.V. and went to sleep. We lay over the next day, enjoying a late breakfast, a long newspaper read, a leisurely ship check out and a walk to the beach and the town center, followed by dinner aboard and relaxation akin to being at home.

On Thursday morning, we got underway, at 0845, our destination the anchorage at the northern end of Lake Worth. Following an unremarkable passage, when we reached the large relatively crowded anchorage, a 15–20 knot east wind had developed. We found our spot around mid tide and set the hook, at 1620, in 18 feet of water, with 50 feet of chain and an additional 30 feet of nylon rode. We were now back further than I’d planned, but I decided all the surrounding vessels were safe from us, if we swung. Our Delta anchor never has dragged. We relaxed on the aft deck with Captain Kitty until the setting sun made it too warn to remain. We then retreated to the air conditioned salon and had dinner. As the sky darkened, our urban environment was brightened by man made light. I telephoned an acquaintance, not seen in a year, that I had learned was secured at Cooley’s Landing up the New River in Fort Lauderdale. I then phoned that marina for reservations. The wind, which often lies down after sun set, continued to blow from the east but the ambient lighting permitted me to see, quite clearly, that we had not moved from our original position. The bow wave slap and occasional squeaks from the anchor pulpit did not interfere with our slumber, although during the early hours of the morning, when nature called, I did check on deck and found all o.k. Friday morning dawned bright and sunny with the east wind as strong as ever. Additionally, a strong flood, from the SE, added to the forces that made our rode taut. After breakfast and the usual self and ship’s preparation, we made ready to get under way before 0800, envisioning another reasonable mileage, early arrival, cruising day. However, this was not to be.

It is our usual custom that I manage the anchor at the bow with Louise at the helm, maneuvering Autumn Saga to my hand signals. Our Delta anchor has never relinquished her grasp on the bottom easily. If one vigorously rides over the anchor, the chain does damage to the bow area hull. This date, she would not budge, regardless of all our maneuvers, which had worked in the past. At 0930, I gave up the effort and laughed, exhaustedly, that we were now set for the hurricane season. I considered and then rejected calling Towboat/US. I telephoned another vessel, I knew to be cruising north and with whom I had anchored many times the previous year. His experience anchoring far surpassed mine. He advised me to tie, with a rolling hitch, both my port and starboard bow mooring lines, to the anchor rode, as close to the water as possible, slacken the rode significantly, above the tie off and ride over the anchor. With the wind blowing strongly and with my dinghy secured in its chocks on the upper deck, I was loath to attempt a launch and risk having the dink, with its O.B. motor, slam into Autumn Saga. As it happened, the couple aboard the sailboat off our starboard bow had been watching our vain efforts. They called to me, we signaled to use the VHF and I told them my problem. Their dinghy was in the water and he rowed over and joined us. They were from England, had crossed the Atlantic and had been cruising U.S. waters for some months. He had no better plan than that which I had already secured. Now, as the three of us contemplated the problem and the proffered solution, another dinghy came by, carrying a Canadian sailor, who also offered to help. He concurred with the plan, stayed in his dink and tied off the chain rode with rolling hitches. I let out significant rode from the windlass to unload the anchor pulpit. With Louise at the helm, we tried to power over the anchor but to very little effect. However, the arrangement did, in fact, protect our bow gel coat. With each push of our 370 h.p. Cummins, some rode did rise and we shortened the bridle connected to the bow cleats accordingly. The assistant, in his dinghy, had a much better view of the anchor rode angle and directed our powering efforts. After approximately 45 minutes, the anchor did come free. Although there were signs that it had been snagged on more than simply sand and shells, I suspect that the continuous strong blow from the east, reinforced by the flood tide, had buried it significantly, too. And all the time, Captain Kitty, perched on the chart flat, was issuing orders to both the helm and the deck crew which, of course, were completely ignored. So, exhausted but free once more, we said our thanks and good byes, figured this was our pay back for all of the times, over the many years, we had pulled sailboats off groundings, and at 1034 headed south.

Now, entering the very congested waters of southern Florida, and factoring in our two plus hour delayed departure, I decided we’d opt for a marina this coming evening, as we will miss the slack water time advised to make a safe tie up at Cooley’s Landing. A telephone call rearranged our Fort Lauderdale ETA. It was Friday, however, and I did not know how far we’d get this day. While choosing a marina and calling ahead was most prudent, I thought I’d risk finding no place to tie up verse choosing to call a place either too close or too distant. As it turned out, we made it as far as Lighthouse Point, called their marina and found they had one spot for one night. We pulled in, purchased fuel, tied up, at 1700, cleaned up, dressed and went out for a relaxing dinner, at a good restaurant on the premises. Now fully rejuvenated, we slept well.

At 0600, on Saturday morning, April 1st, Captain Kitty gave her wake up call by opening Louise’s locker door, thus allowing light to fall across our slumbering faces. We contemplated a short run to Fort Lauderdale and up the New River to Cooley’s Landing, the municipal marina, where we were, by previous arrangement, to rendezvous with a cruising acquaintance, another Nordic Tug owner who, we had learned, had broken his wrist falling on the dock. Although having been in Fort Lauderdale numerous times, over the past 40 years, we had never been up the New River by boat. This is a narrow waterway with huge yachts and strong ebb and flood currents. We were heading for a slip that was 90 degrees to the channel, thus the advice to enter at slack. The Pilot gave slack at the Andrews Avenue Bridge, the nearest point to our reserved slip, circa 1045. We left Lighthouse Point Marina at 0847, figuring we’d make the New River at 1100. Within one mile, we encountered our first bridge delay. However, it was only 15 minutes waiting time when we cleared the 14th Street Bridge and continued south. The Atlantic Boulevard Bridge, one mile ahead, was scheduled to open at 0930. We reached it at 0920 and called the bridge tender. No response. Indeed, he did not answer any one of the increasing number of vessels, waiting on both sides of the span. The current was running south. Quite fortunately, a deserted restaurant dock, on the northwest side of the ICW, afforded us a way to tie off a spring line and significantly reduced the required effort in holding for the bridge. About 0950, the bridge tender came on the air and announced that he would open at 1000. We are now an hour latter than planned and we’d only gone about three miles. Furious and planning to write to the USCG, I was also concerned about safely entering Cooley’s Landing. However, the rest of the cruise was uneventful with light traffic and no more bridges that we could not transit without opening.

Making Fort Lauderdale, we turned west from the ICW and headed up the New River. Indeed, the ebb had begun. This waterway was all new to us. We marveled at the huge homes, most vacant at this time, the large yachts we passed close aboard, without a scratch, as well as the huge yachts that were underway, with a working tug at both bow and stern, to get then safely through the narrow winding passage. We cleared under the Andrews Avenue Bridge, found our marina slip and, with the assistance of other boaters standing by, including the one we’d come to visit, made it unscathed, bow first, into our slip, at 1130. We tied up, signed in and visited until 1340. Then we had lunch. Louise went walking and I cleaned Autumn Saga inside and out. Louise returned. We visited with our other dock mates and learned of the nearby restaurants, museums and provisioning facilities all within easy walking distance. Even a hospital ER, which had been utilized by our friend, was within walking distance. Some of the live aboard cruisers had been delaying their planned departures, so attractive was this site.

Captain Kitty, of course, had to meet and be introduced to all those nearby. Aboard the 46 foot sailing vessel just to our east was a couple with a large dog. Much to the surprised amusement of those watching, Captain Kitty and that canine made friends. However, an orange cat, wandering some distance away, was spied by the Captain and hisses were heard.

Relaxing with the Captain

We then both cleaned up and, with our friend, walked to a restaurant, he had discovered during his near month residence. We had a great dinner and enjoyed a beautiful evening walking beside the New River back to Cooley’s Landing. On Sunday morning, the first day of “daylight saving time,” Louise went food shopping with our friend; she could help him carry some things his broken wrist would not permit. This was to be a real R&R day for me. I read the paper, connected to e-mail via the Wi-Fi marina connection and telephoned an uncle and aunt, who live in the vicinity. They came to visit arriving around 1300. Louise returned to Autumn Saga around 1330 and we sat around and did family visiting both inside the air conditioned cabin and out on the aft deck, enjoying an unobstructed view of the weekend water traffic. My family departed around 1530. As we were walking to their car to see them off, we discovered a number of police cars and a large crane truck near an adjacent boat launch ramp. A man trying to retrieve his PWC had backed down the slick ramp with his trailer and was unable to exit. In fact, his entire rig had slid down the ramp into the water and was completely submerged. He said that he had had it only one week. Of course, his PWC had floated free and was tied to the shore. As you might imagine, a large number of people were gathered around to watch the retrieval of his Jeep and trailer. It took some time and required the services of a diver to attach the cables from the crane to the submerged vehicles. After this was accomplished, I was heading to the shower when I heard the sounds of slipping tires and the shout of a male driver asking for help. He wanted as many people as would to get on his rear bumper and add weight and thus traction so that he could drive up the ramp with his trailer. To me this was obviously a very dangerous thing to do. One slip of a foot or tire and those on the bumper would either be under the back of the truck and run over or in the water with the truck on top of them. I declined his pleas. Three other men did jump on the rear bumper and the truck was able to get up the ramp, albeit with roaring engine and heavily smoking tires. We visited some more with our friend, but then, as he liked to eat earlier than did we, he went to his vessel and we had dinner alone aboard, at our leisure. The beautiful weather continued into the now darkening evening. We visited on the dock, watched T.V. and finally retired to sleep.

On Monday morning, we said our good-byes, slipped our lines at 0912 and headed down the relatively quiet New River to an equally quiet ICW to continue south. We had never been on this section of the ICW before and thoroughly enjoyed the passing scene down to Miami. Although viewed uncounted times from the shore, all took on a new dimension from the water. We passed under the Julia Tuttle Bridge at 1230 with the City of Miami skyline in our face. As we approached the Venetian Causeway, whose listed clearance was significantly less than our needed 14 feet, we noted a few boats waiting on each side of the bridge. We radioed the bridge tender indicating our need for an opening and that we’d follow the boat ahead of us who was waiting for a large north bound yacht. The large yacht cleared and as we proceeded to follow the boat ahead of us, the bridge started to come down. I gunned the engine and called to the bridge tender on VHF but received no reply. We very soon arrived at Government Cut. As this was all new cruising territory for us and as I’d been out Government Cut and down Hawk Channel to Key West some years before, on a charter, we elected to take the inside, ICW, route south. At 1317, on Biscayne Bay, we decided to head for the anchorage off Dinner Key. After cruising through the marina, just to look around, we found what appeared to be an ideal spot and dropped the hook in 10.5 feet, one hour past high water, at 1415. NOAA Wx predicted wind south at 5 knots for the next 24 hours. Lou made lunch for Captain Kitty and us. We decided against taking down the dinghy and just relaxed aboard to the sound of Jimmy Buffett, on the stereo. We telephoned my sister in law, just to say hello. We also called my older son for the same reason. Louise was sewing on the aft deck and I was just “messing around.” Snacks and drinks were followed eventually by dinner. Finally, we watched the national championship basket ball game between U.F & U.C.L.A. The Gators won to end a near perfect day, for us and we went to sleep at 2350.

It’s now Tuesday morning, April 4th and we both arise at 0650. With the morning routine completed, we weigh anchor at 0845 to continue south on Biscayne Bay. We reach Card Sound and cross under the Card Sound Bridge at 1240 to enter Barnes Sound. We made Jew Fish Creek Bridge at 1340. I do want to here note that the woman bridge tender at the Jew Fish Creek Bridge was far and away the friendliest and cooperative we’d met on this entire cruise among the many proficient and the few who should be fired.

Now cruising in Blackwater Sound, we scan the chart for an anchorage and find Tarpon Basin, which appears to have near 360 degrees wind protection. We turn to starboard at R48A and are secured at anchor, in 9.3 feet, at 1430. Around 1500, a couple, in a small power cat, cruised over to ask about Autumn Saga. The woman was Swedish, her husband U.S. and they wondered about the “Nordic” in Nordic Tug. We invited them aboard and visited for over an hour. We then had dinner accompanied by NBC TV World News and watched, from the aft deck, the evening turn into a glorious star studded night. At 2055, we retired to read and sleep.

It was still dark when I got to the pilot house at 0606. All was quiet save for the gentle hull slapping water. I fed Captain Kitty, opened some windows and removed some covers. Dawn came about 0640 and I turned off the anchor light. Louise still slept. Captain Kitty and I waited. It’s now 0710, Wednesday, in a full daylight, pre sunrise, and cloudless sky. This is the date we made reservations to arrive at Hawks Cay Resort on the ocean side of Duck Key. When I hear Louise talking with Captain Kitty, I start the generator and the coffee, just as the upper limb of the sun appears over the tree tops to the east. With breakfast, personal care and ships systems checked, we leave this anchorage at 0905. We cross Florida Bay from Bowlegs Cut to the Channel Five Bridge and enter Hawk Channel at 1245. At R44, approximately 8 Nm SW lay our destination. Radio contact with the dock master had us hold off shore for 30 minutes so that they could position their limited dock hands to assist each vessel entering slips being swept, at that time, by strong beam currents. When so instructed, we entered the very long idle speed channel and reached our assigned berth, in the shallow basin, securing at 1435. This is the first of four scheduled lay days.

Autumn Saga at Hawks Cay

We were certainly one of the early but not the first to arrive at this year’s SENTOA Rendezvous. Our first contact was with Mini and George on MUGGINS, a new 42 N.T. A short time later, while washing AUTUMN SAGA, TRANQUILITY TUG came in with Jack Nostrand in command. He waved and a short time later walked over to visit. I finished the washing, had a drink, took a shower and then we had dinner aboard. Around 2030, I took a walk around the marina to see its offerings, bought some ice cream, and returned, with it, to Saga. Thinking about cruising around Key West and possibly to Fort Jefferson before returning to Florida’s east coast via the Okeechobee Waterway, following the rendezvous, I looked at the needed charts and determined that it was an easily doable. After some T.V. watching, I joined Louise in sleep.

Thursday proved to be another beautiful day and beautiful weather was predicted for the next four days. As the formal proceedings were to begin on Friday evening, this was a time for informal socializing and general R & R. During the formal rendezvous meetings, the membership was entertained and educated by the infomercials presented by the many commercial enterprises that come together to produce Nordic Tugs and who contribute significant financial support to the annual SENTOA rendezvous. The final meeting on Sunday morning was devoted to organizational business, during which time, the financial status of SENTOA was reviewed, answers to questions from the membership were presented, officers for the coming year were chosen and suggestions as to the location for the 2007 rendezvous considered.

In spite of the above noted weather prediction, Monday, April 10th, our planned date of departure, saw the weather continue to deteriorate. The very heavy over night rain fall had abated by 0706 but the sky continued mostly cloudy. The NOAA Wx radio forecast called for NE winds 15 to 20 knots, along with scattered thunderstorms, for the next five days. Our on board barometer continued its five day downward trend and currently stood at 29.76, with a temperature of 72 degrees F and relative humidity of 70%, significantly different from the weather enjoyed on our out bound leg.

Anticipating this possibility, we had already decided to change our original plan of continuing south around Key West, taking a detour to the Dry Tortugas and crossing the peninsular via the Okeechobee waterway. Instead, we would return north, retracing our original route, avoiding the alternative Hawk Channel, as seas were reported to be 8 – 12 feet, inside the reef.

Jim Cress' Nordic Tug 52 Big Fun

During the course of the rendezvous, we made the acquaintance of a couple from New Orleans, brand new to boating and new owners of a brand new, albeit one year old, 37’ Nordic Tug, they had named NeverMore. They had picked up their vessel from the dealer in Fort Lauderdale, where it had languished, unsold, at a marina, for about a year. Admittedly, they had done all of their home work on personal preparation, having chartered, a few months earlier, a trawler yacht, with a captain, for a week of instruction. They also were well versed. via personal study, on the rules of the road and inland navigation. Since the dealer was coming to the rendezvous on his own 52’ Nordic Tug, they apparently believed that they could follow him from Fort Lauderdale south to Duck Key. I presume that they also believed that, since they were buying a brand new boat, they would encounter no difficulties mechanically. Unfortunately, before they ever left Fort Lauderdale, the captain instructor they had had on the month’s earlier charter, did significant cosmetic damage to their new boat and then abandoned them. Already traumatized, they followed the dealer, on his much larger N.T., out government cut to Hawk Channel and turned south. As they related the tale, they were unable to keep up with the 52 N.T. and soon were on their own, in rather choppy seas. They experienced repeated engine failures, due to contaminated fuel, and were eventually towed into Hawks Cay after dark, on Friday evening, missing the initial gathering of the rendezvous participants. When I first met them on Saturday, they were in surprisingly good humor considering that they most likely had felt abandoned, as well as frightened, during the voyage. To emphasize their newness to boating, they did not even have a filter wrench on board to change a filter, if they had had one. I must say that a large number of us in attendance, who learned of their experience, were rather appalled, at the treatment they had received at the hands of so called professionals.

Thus, with our changed plans, we offered to shepherd these new tug owners north. They wanted to return their boat to Fort Lauderdale, for the necessary cosmetic repairs. Additionally, as they had had, as a “gift” from the selling dealer, a fuel polishing system now installed, no more fuel issues were anticipated. Regardless, the previous traumatic maiden voyage’s effects were still present and the developing weather front was not to be trifled with. Thus, they accepted our offer. After fueling the vessels and pumping the holding tanks, we slipped our mooring lines and left Duck Key at 1120. Turning north on Hawk Channel, we passed under the Channel Five Bridge at 1253 and into Florida Bay to pick up the ICW northbound. After running for two hours into head seas that, not infrequently, sent green water over our pilot house, our calls to marinas found all either full or too shallow for us to enter. We thus made for Tarpon Basin once again. Six vessels, two much larger than our own, were already at anchor. The sky was filled with black clouds and the thunder was coming more frequently, as we entered the basin, at 1630, followed by NeverMore. We were secured at 1645, and NeverMore anchored about 300 yards to our SE. A strong NE wind and a light steady rain were our companions. We agreed on a working channel and kept our VHFs on so that they could call any time if needed. Checking around Autumn Saga, I discovered a 12 foot length of black polypropylene that, viewed from the swim platform, was trailing from our rudder. Whether it was the strong wind driven current or some other unknown factor, I was unable to free it from above. At 1815, I started the generator. Louise served dinner at 1840. At 1900, Louise donned her snorkeling gear and decided to go under the swim platform to free the snag. I roped her torso to the boat and she went over the stern and was able, within ten minutes, to cut it away. All the pieces of the line were brought on board. Then I hauled Louise back on board. The line resembled that used by crab trap fisherman. How long I had been pulling it, I could not guess. NeverMore called to say that their generator was not discharging any cooling water. He had no spare impeller and, after checking everything I could think of to fix the problem, it was deemed further exploration, such as diving under the boat, was neither safe nor doable under the prevailing conditions. It’s 1930 and raining seriously. As far as I could discern, the anchor was holding solidly. By 2000, we were all cleaned up, as the darkening sky engulfed all of the anchored vessels. The wind had eased and the rain was now intermittent. NeverMore and I decided to leave the radios on all night but otherwise signed off and we went to sleep at 2130.

Nevermore at Hawks Cay

After a couple of nighttime arousals to check the situation, I finally arose at 0650. A heavy gray overcast with near black clouds still dropped rain. The temperature was 70 degrees, the humidity 76% and the barometer still falling. While Louise continued to sleep, Captain Kitty kept me company, as I did my morning engine room survey. The heavy cloud cover, concentrated in the NE, began to break up to the SW, and some blue sky was now visible. When Louise joined us at 0720, we began our morning routine. With breakfast and personal grooming completed, I telephoned the Dinner Key marina at Cocoanut Grove and reserved two slips for the evening. I then called NeverMore with the news and twenty minutes latter, we left Tarpon Basin in tandem at 0935. Northbound, with intermittent rain and seas up to four feet, after clearing Jewfish Creek Bridge, the sky became partly cloudy with bright sunshine. We entered Biscayne Bay and faced whitecaps and nearly constant green water over the bow, dousing our windows and frequently passing over the pilot house top. NeverMore, trailing us, later said that more often than not we “disappeared” from view. With both vessels performing flawlessly, we made the Dinner Key marina and secured in adjacent slips at 1445. Much to our happy surprise, we encountered Almar directly across from us, Al and Marlene Casanova had arrived the previous day and Al had decided to lie over until the weather cleared. His wife rented a car and drove home. I washed Autumn Saga, showered and visited on the dock. Al declined our invitation, so the crew from NeverMore and ourselves wandered around the streets adjacent to the marina, finally settling on the third restaurant we encountered. From our shore side table, it was moonlight over Miami. We returned to our respective vessels, at 2140, thanked the NeverMore crew for the dinner treat and retired to a much welcome sleep.

Wednesday, April 12th was planned as a lay day to further explore Coconut Grove and relax. In the evening, Al joined us on our vessel and all contributed to a great “pot luck” meal. On Thursday, the wind continued to roil the water, while on land it was making the bright south Florida sunshine quite pleasant. Another day to sight see was followed by another great dinner for five, this time at a Cuban restaurant. We were all agreed to try and depart on the morrow by 0800, if Al’s prediction of favorable weather bore true.

Friday, April 14th, saw our feet on the deck by 0550 and breakfast, personal hygiene, house keeping and ship system checks were completed by 0700. All three vessels made ready to depart, checked out with the dock master, slipped lines at 0740, and following in the wake of Almar and NeverMore, we headed out the Dinner Key channel to the ICW and turned north. With the weather considerably more settled and with little traffic, with which to contend, this was a comfortable passage, which, I suspect was most appreciated by NeverMore’s crew. We cleared the Rickenbacker Causeway at 0813, admiring the Miami skyline lit by the sunrise. We cleared the Broad Street Causeway at 0935, all the while enjoying the beautiful calm waters of Biscayne Bay. This totally unremarkable cruise had us clear the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale at 1135. NeverMore turned west up the New River and Almar and Autumn Saga continued northbound. We passed Lighthouse Point at 1335 and, at Almar’s suggestion, anchored in Lake Boca Raton at 1500, with Almar rafted along our port side. The single handing captain of Almar joined Louise and Captain Kitty and me on Autumn Saga where we visited over wine and snacks. We then took a few hours of personal time and rejoined, circa 1900, for a superb, team prepared, dinner, perhaps enhanced by the convivial conversation enjoyed by all. We repaired to our own bunks around 2100 and to sleep by 2200.

Saturday morning, April 15th, saw me on deck at 0650. Al C. was already moving about on his vessel. I started the generator and as his was not functioning; I passed his power cord to one of our outlets, so that he could cook his breakfast. Almar departed at 0755 and we weighed anchor and followed in his wake about an hour and fifteen minutes later. In spite of the intermittent pockets of wild and crazy small craft activity on this beautiful day, all was smooth motoring. We were on the lookout for a south bound sailing craft we had reason to believe we would meet, but had been unable to raise on either VHF or mobile telephone. Totally unexpectedly, just south of the Jupiter Inlet, at 1500, we passed said vessel, but they did not acknowledge our hail. Al C. had suggested we could locate good anchorage in Hobe Sound. At 1545, just NW of R40, we were secured in nine feet of water. We brought out drinks and snacks and watched the world go by from our aft deck. I telephoned Vero Beach Municipal Marina and secured a reservation for tomorrow afternoon. After dinner, Captain Kitty and I sat out again in the gathering darkness to watch the stars twinkle. Then we all went to sleep at 2130 and I hoped for an earlier than usual start in the morning.

I began Easter Sunday, April 16th, at 0553 with my companion, Captain Kitty. Louise, somewhat reluctantly, I believe, soon joined us. We finished all of our usual morning activities and weighed anchor at 0749, destination Vero Beach. With a temperature of 67 degrees and a humidity of 66%, we were underway under clear blue skies with light and variable winds. In spite of a falling barometer, this weather continued for the duration and we were tied up at the Vero Municipal Marina fuel dock at 1322. After fueling and pumping the holding tank, the wind and current hindered a smooth departure to our slip. I wanted to warp off. Foolishly, instead of having Louise manage the lines, I accepted the insistent offer of one of the dock hands who insisted he knew what to do. Nevertheless, I gave him explicit instructions, which he did not follow and we just managed to escape without damage.

Dock hand incompetence is so ubiquitous, you’d think I’d learn to reject any offers of dock hand aid. Secured in our slip, I washed the boat, completed other routine chores and showered, in preparation for dinner aboard, accompanied by T.V. news. Unlike many cruisers, who anchor out for weeks, or longer, at a stretch, a marina berth leads me to feel refreshed, relaxed and “civilized,” with all of the comforts of home, without the background sound of the generator and thoughts of a potentially dragging anchor .

This Monday began weather wise, as beautiful as yesterday’s had ended, save for the fact that the barometer‘s continuing descent was accompanied by increasing wind velocity, now fairly steadily out of the west. In no particular hurry this morning, we leisurely completed our chores and telephoned a fellow tugger, Jack Nostrand, who lives in Eau Galle. We were invited to stop at his dock for a visit. We departed this familiar facility at 1048 and a moment’s inattention had us promptly aground.

In spite of this idle speed grounding, we were unable to extricate ourselves, as the ebb held us fast against the oyster bed. A call to TowBoat/US had us free and underway at noon. With my attentiveness now prodded back to an appropriate level, we made an unremarkable passage, reaching Dragon Point at 1615. We turned east and were promptly informed by the Mathers Bridge tender that he could not open for 24 hours. Another call to our expectant host suggested that we proceed to an adjacent marina fuel dock where he would meet us with his car. They did not answer our VHF hail and, as we stood off about 25 yards, we drifted aground in soft mud. Why a commercial facility, presumably in business to service customers, would allow their fuel dock to be blocked by a mud bar is inexplicable to me. Needless to say, I’d had enough of this nonsense for one day. I had Louise call our potential host, advise him of the situation and tell him we were leaving and would meet again in the near future. We continued north on the ICW for about ten miles and anchored just off the waterway east of Rockledge. The west wind was now blowing at 15 knots and NOAA Wx radio indicated that we could expect a shift to the SW with gusts over night of 20 to 25 knots. We observed another Nordic Tug, among the many anchored vessels and spoke to them by radio. They had come south from Missouri and were heading north in what sounded like a great loop cruise. We then secured in 10 feet of water. I had out my Delta on 50 feet of chain followed by 30 feet by nylon rode. Although closer than I like to the sailing vessel off my port quarter, he and I agreed that it looked safe enough and that we’d keep our radios on over night. I added some fenders to my port quarter and made other contingency plans. We had dinner aboard at 1845, during which time I happened to over hear on the radio, a Krogen 42 named Dawn Treader, with which I was well acquainted, talking to a marina, at Port Canaveral, no more than 20 miles distant. After dinner, I reached said vessel by telephone and we agreed to rendezvous the next day, underway, as we were both heading north. They had come in from the Atlantic having endured a brutal crossing from the Bahamas, during the weather system we’d negotiated in land. I slept reasonably well although I did arise at 0220 to check the situation on deck. Indeed, the wind had backed, as predicted, but had also diminished, perhaps because of our proximity to land. Additionally, the sailboat of concern, had swung with us and it was now clear that we would not collide. I returned to bed.

At 0620, Captain Kitty and I viewed the predawn sky from the salon. Louise soon joined us. We completed the morning routine and weighed anchor at 0830. As we left the anchorage, I contacted Dawn Treader; I did so again at 0935 when I estimated that they were about _ Nm ahead. Just south of the Titusville Bridge, among four other vessels, we caught Dawn Treader. Their destination, for the evening, was Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach. We called that marina for reservations for ourselves and fell in behind Dawn Treader, to follow in their wake at their leisurely, full displacement, pace. An unremarkable passage into ever increasingly familiar waters is welcomed by both vessels. We made the marina at 1625 and were secured in our berth at 1640. Quite by happenstance, we spoke with another Nordic Tug owner acquaintance that lives in the area. We then cleaned up and welcomed aboard, for cocktails, the captain and mate from Dawn Treader. Being cat owners themselves, they were happy to make the acquaintance of our very sociable Captain Kitty. Four of us then went to dinner at the marina restaurant to share our lives’ adventurers since our last meeting. The very good meal with pleasant company ended at 2145, as we wanted to get underway early and they had an early flight home to Georgia.

It is now Wednesday, April 19th. My rest was interrupted at 0230 by Louise, who reported a total power failure in the marina. I arose to switch the refrigerator to battery power, but then both of us had difficulty returning to slumber. Eventually, I invited Captain Kitty to find another place for her body away from our feet. This helped Louise but I don’t believe I ever fully returned to sleep. At 0630, I was feeding the Captain in the salon. Day broke with calm wind, a cloud free sky, and a temperature of 70 degrees and a relative humidity of 72%. When Louise finally arose, we “forgot” the previous evening’s decision and unhurriedly completed the morning’s routine, finally clearing out of the Halifax Harbor Marina at 1043. Now north bound once again on the ICW, we were in home waters and the familiar land marks passed like clock work. At one point, we passed and spoke with the sailboat, near which we had anchored at Rockledge, two nights previous. He was in totally new waters and, to his questions, I was able to give him some local knowledge about facilities and hazards he might encounter. As we neared the southern extremities of St. Augustine, at maximum ebb, I called the Conch House Marina, our destination, to advise them of our ETA. I also discussed making a safe landing at their fuel dock and waiting about two hours before entering our slip nearer to slack. This was agreed upon and we tied up at 1650. We had dinner aboard and then moved to our slip. Owned by us since 1968, we had not personally entered it for about 10 years as it is usually rented to long term tenants, while we are out cruising, or berthed in other facilities.

After being underway for about a month, it was good to settle in for a stay in one place, we know so well. We plan to be here until some time in June, when we will return to our current marina on the Ortega River which, not incidentally, is a very good hurricane hole. The next morning, I called Hertz, secured a car, and we packed up and left Autumn Saga at noon, to go home, with Captain Kitty.


Copyright © 2008 SENTOA • Last Update October 2, 2008 • Questions? Contact the SENTOA Officers.