At 1:00 PM on December 14th, at low tide, with the sun overhead, Dolce Vento passed under its last fixed bridge with 6 inches to spare, leaving Vero Beach and all points north behind. We screamed, “No more bridges! No more bridges.” The next morning at 7:40 AM when we motored out of Ft. Pierce inlet, heading off shore for, hopefully, a coastal ocean sail, the ICW became the ditch of the past.
We sailed for the first time in two months, luxuriating in the quiet. When the wind shifted and then lessened, we couldn’t bear to only motor so we left the main up and motored, using fewer RPMs so it was somewhat quiet. Instead of cloudy skies and chill, the sky was clear and we shed layers as the day progressed. We were now really, really in Florida for the winter, ready for shorts, tee shirts and flip flops, Florida’s official formal attire.
The weather change between Vero Beach and Riviera Beach was dramatic. Although we lunched at the ocean at Vero Beach watching the waves roll-in, walked the residential streets fondling the flora and fauna, visited the post office, rode the free bus to get around town, and chatted on the boat with a friend from Vero, we woke every morning to 40 degrees and heavy dew, requiring long pants and sweatshirts.
Emotionally, it’s different now as well. We’ve stopped the almost daily moving down the ICW channel, the shoaling and stress of unexpected high water under the dozens of bridges, and the unseasonable weather with its rain, fog and brittle cold that put me into a funk and left me wondering if we want to go on. However, I now realize that “job” is done. I’ve put away the winter weight foul weather gear, woolly hat and scarf. I am relieved and somewhat amazed that we have traveled some 1200 nautical miles since we left Herring Bay on the Chesapeake October 8th.
This evening, I’m writing from the cockpit, enjoying a caressing warm breeze here at Riviera Beach City Marina, at the north end of Palm Beach on Lake Worth. This is winter in Florida as we envisioned it — bright, breezy and brilliant. I awoke happily our first morning to break a sweat across my brow when I scrubbed the deck of accumulated salt and scoured the canvas to remove puddles of bird poop.
This month will give us time to make some repairs and do needed maintenance. Repairs include replacing the instruments at the top of the mast, changing the generator oil, and replacing an injector on the diesel engine, which we hope will cure the itty-bitty fuel leak that has persisted since our 1000 hour maintenance back before we started.
In mid-January, we begin the “cruising” phase of our adventure as we make our way to Key West/Stock Island. We’ll have 15 days to travel about 230 miles, all coastal sailing. No more ICW shoals or bridges. With decent winds from anywhere, but the south, we should enjoy more sailing than motoring.
In addition to a visit from Justine who is celebrating an early Christmas with her Miami-based son and girlfriend, we’ve met folks who are wedded to the water. They’ve sailed thousands of miles, visited the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond multiple times, and do some very serious ocean sailing. They fill our ears with advice and praises of the life style they’ve adopted. Some tell us the boating life is the only life. Some tell us where to go and not go. Some tell us how to do “this or that”. We listen. We process their words. Will we change our adventure into a life style? We will see what holds true for us in the coming months.
We fly back to visit friends and family later this week for the holidays. Cindy will have her son visit from Boston while we are gone. We will flee the winter and return to the sun on January 4th.
Pictures from Vero Beach: