Fort Lauderdale, Loggerhead Marina, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida will be our staging area for the Gulf Stream Crossing.
Saturday December 5, 2008
We left Cape Canaveral after dinner on Friday evening and motor-sailed through the night, doing our regular four hour shifts at the helm. The water was calm and the wind was light once again. Our goal was to make it to Fort Lauderdale by Saturday evening because our friend Andrew McAllister from the Port Credit Yacht Club was flying in from Toronto on Sunday morning. Andrew is a great sailor and he is planning to help us sail across the gulf stream to the Bahamas this week. Saturday morning was sunny and warm and we enjoyed sailing down the coast. We had to keep careful watch as we sailed through hundreds of fishing boats, some trolling long lines. Some of the recreational fishermen were quite arrogant and acted like they owned the ocean, making it hard for us to to sail through. They did not change their course at all, even when on a collision course with us. We had been sailing the same course all day, and you could see us approaching under sail for hours, yet they would motor right into our track and expected a sail boat to dodge their motor boat. We felt like we were dodging between fishing boats all afternoon. One fisherman was flying a kite (attached to his bobber), we did not notice his kite as we tried to squeeze between the fishing boats. He made it quite known that he did not like us sailing through when he screamed at us. Our mast just missed his kite and we continued on our way.
On Saturday afternoon the wind picked up to twenty knots on the nose of the boat. The waves were uncomfortable on the bow and we started to think we would not make it to Fort Lauderdale in time as we were only at West Palm Beach (forty miles to the north). We tried to tack, up-wind but as we got further from shore we were in the gulf stream which has a strong northern current. After a few hours we realized that we hadn’t gone far. We decided to pull in to Palm Beach for fuel and possibly continue down the intra-coastal waterway the rest of the way. With full fuel and water tanks we decided to brave the wind and waves and motor the rest of the way to Fort Lauderdale down the coast. The waves were rough and the bow crashed down on them. We were very surprised to pass three small fishing boats out in the rough weather. About an hour later we heard a mayday on the radio. Someone was in trouble and called the coast guard for help but they did not give their location or the name of their boat. Then we didn’t hear anything more from that boat. The coast guard sent out a message to all boaters asking if anyone heard the mayday call so they could narrow down the location of the troubled boat. Ed radioed the coast guard to let them know that we heard the call for help and we gave the coast guard our location, and the approximate location of the fishing boats we passed. The coast guard was thankful for our information, as there really weren’t any other boats on the water. Not long after we saw the coast guard helicopter fly by us as they searched for the boat in distress.
Fort Lauderdale is the boating capital of the world. I would guess about 80% of the population owns a boat or has a friend with a boat. Much of the city is built on canals and is also considered the modern day Venice.
At approximately 11:00 pm, on Saturday, we pulled into Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades and continued south on the waterway to Hollywood. We had to call ahead to three bridges to let them know that we were approaching from the north so they could open for us. We went through the first two bridges without any problems. We arrived at the third bridge at the same time as a large barge being pushed by a tug boat, heading towards us. The bridge keeper asked us to talk to the tug boat about how we would pass each other because the barge was almost the width of the bridge and could not stop. The Captain pushing the barge told us to wait close to the bridge and quickly pass through just before he arrives. We waited at the bridge, but the bridge keeper took too long to open the bridge. Once the bridge was open the barge was right there and he quickly called us on the VHF radio to tell us to move out of the way because he was coming through. This was not an easy task to ask of us, as there was a three knot current pushing us towards the bridge. Ed quickly turned the boat around 180 degrees and tried to hold the boat close to a green buoy against the current as the barge passed. Unfortunately, the current pushed us slightly behind the green marker and we felt the keel lightly bump something hard. Ed and I agreed that travelling on the Intracoastal Waterway is much more stressful than travelling down the ocean. Once the barge passed us we turned we continued through the bridge to anchor in a small lake called South Lake in South Hollywood, a suburb or Fort Lauderdale. We spent the night at this anchorage which is around the corner from the marina where we were suppose to meet Andrew the next morning. This saved us $160 for the slip fee.
The next morning we pulled into Loggerhead Marina, the beautiful grounds made it feel like a Caribbean resort. Andrew arrived and we met Stewart Saunders and his wife Susan for lunch. Stewart and Susan have a large vehicle and were very kind to drive all of us. They drove us to the Bass Pro shop where the kids enjoyed the Christmas displays and the aquarium full of interesting fish. Alexander became obsessed with a large eel, and now says that eels are his favourite animals. Stewart is a knowledgeable fisherman and he helped Ed choose the right gear need for fishing offfshore and in the Bahamas.
The next day we rented a car so we could run around and pick up provisions for the boat. We decided to buy everything in Florida because everything is extremely expensive in Bahamas. In some of the remote areas that we are planning to travel to, food and supplies just aren’t available. Ed and Andrew took our propane tanks to be filled, on another trip they filled the car with 500 bottles of water along with other drinks, while I shopped for food at the grocery store. I started making a shopping list at home and knew exactly what to buy. It was a difficult task shopping for five weeks of food for a family of four, plus guests. The carts were full with five times the amount of food of a normal shopping trip. People gave me the strangest looks at the grocery store as I put four and five of each item in my cart. At the checked out the lady packing my bags asked me if there was a hurricane coming that she didn’t know about! We spent about $1,300 at the grocery store, filled 6-7 shopping carts, 2 Ford SUV loads of supplies.
We spent three days at Loggerhead Marina, we made good use of the beautiful swimming pool while we waited for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas.