Monday, February 5, 2024

South To Stuart

Pendarvis Cove

I was bombing my way south to get out from under the cold weather that often reaches into North Florida in January. And I was watching my diesel consumption and wondering if I had enough to get far enough. Then a friend ‘sponsored’ a jerry jug of fuel and I had a few more options. As I sailed down toward Melbourne, I was also watching the weather. Stiff winds were in the forecast again, this time out of the northeast. Ruth Ann and I ended up going all the way down to the Melbourne Causeway, the southernmost bridge in town, because it offered the best protection from the wind. 

Melbourne Causeway

Passing through Melbourne, I determined that it was not a place to find work either. The Indian River is also fairly wide open through there and all the anchorages were similarly exposed to lots of fetch. Fetch being the distance that wind can travel unimpeded over the water. Lots of fetch means lots of choppy waves when the wind comes from that direction. I scratched Melbourne off my list. It was also easy just then, because I had realized that Stuart was now less than two days away. I spent a couple months in Stuart last winter and I knew that the access to shore was excellent; groceries, water, and trash all readily available. 

Shepard Park Dinghy Access, Stuart

Ruth Ann and I stayed where we had tucked in behind the causeway for the next day as well. The second day’s forecast was iffy, but I decided to make a run for it anyway. After we got down past Sebastion and under the Wabasso Bridge, the mainland and the beach islands drew together and the wind would not affect us so much. It was blustery, but not bad; not the worst we’ve seen by far. 

After Wabasso, was Vero Beach and then Fort Pierce. The tidal current is quite strong through Fort Pierce, so my next hurdle was to try and time the tide. Further, Vero Beach was as far as we could likely get that day, but it is also a popular spot with cruisers and I was concerned that the anchorage there might be crowded. I decided to stop a bit early at the Pine Island Anchorage; another of my favorite stops. 

Once again, I left a favorite spot with the first light. We had to get moving to be able to time the tide at Fort Pierce and get beyond there that day. Down past Vero Beach, the anchorage didn’t look too crowded but we had had a peaceful night where we’d been at Pine Island. Vero is nice, but I don’t understand why so many cruisers, especially those with sailboats, stay there. They even call it “Velcro Beach” because it is so hard to leave. But Vero is far away from waters that are open enough to sail in. Of course, that only highlights how few sailors are actually sailors, but whatever. 

Ruth Ann carried me down to the North Fort Pierce Bridge, where we had to wait a couple minutes for the top-of-the-hour opening. After getting under the south bridge, we entered the last “lagoon” of the Indian River on the way down toward Jensen Beach and Stuart. My next challenge was the weather again. The wind was on our nose and was going to be out of the southeast through the next day. It was forecast to stiffen overnight and I was concerned about the anchorage I was aiming for. Last year my friend Nancy and I had sailed all the way in off the ocean, around a corner to the ICW, and into the Marriott Resort Anchorage without using the engine!  However, the anchorage was wide open to the southeast and would likely be very rolly that night. 

I got to Jensen Beach and decided to take a look at the Marriott Anchorage anyway. Ruth Ann and I passed under the Jensen Beach Bridge as I watched the wind, the waves, and the boats bobbing in the municipal anchorage. The Marriott Resort is just under the next bridge and about halfway there I decided that I didn’t want to anchor there in that weather. The Jensen Beach mooring field is on the southside of the bridge’s causeway, as exposed as the Marriott anchorage, but on the northside of the causeway there is an anchorage with some protection from south and southeast winds. The boats anchored there looked more peaceful than the boats in the mooring field. So I turned around. 

After anchoring on the northside and having a comfortable night, I arose again and finished the trip up the St. Lucie River to the Pendarvis Cove Anchorage where I stayed last year. Earlier, my wonderful friend had actually given me a  bit more than I needed just to get five gallons of diesel; I could have bought fifteen or twenty gallons perhaps, but I had held out. The morning after arriving, I rowed to shore to get a few basic provisions to tide me over. I was very grateful. 

And then the most wonderful, funniest thing happened: my sister called. 

In order to tell this story, I need to start in about 1975. When our family moved into Charlotte, the woman who had been in the house before us, left us kids three stuffed characters on the mantle of the fireplace. They were more than dolls, literally two feet tall and almost like muppets. There was a hippie, an indian, and a witch. I got the hippie and it might have affected my whole life; at least my outlook. 

The Hippie Abides

Fast forward to 2019, I was still driving a truck for boat money when Trump sent out a last check for $400. I don’t even remember the rationale behind that odd amount. Regardless, my check went to my parent’s address where I had last filed my taxes. My sister had called to tell me that it had arrived and suggested that she cash it and save the money for some time in the future when I might really need it. I was making good money on the road and didn’t have any reason to argue. Sure, sounds good, do it, I had said. She cashed the check and stuck four one hundred dollar bills in the pocket of the tie-dyed shirt of my hippie which she is “keeping for me” in her basement guest room. A hippie has never had so good actually. 

In the meantime, we both completely forgot about the four bills.  

Hilariously, after I had gone to shore with the last money I had to my name, my sister called that evening to tell me the story of remembering the hippie’s money. She had told me that she had just deposited it for me. Now, I had been living on cabbage, onions, lentils, and rice for a couple weeks. About all I could afford when I went ashore was some more onions, some garlic, and a cabbage; along with some grapefruit and a couple zucchini that were very special treats. I was a bit overwhelmed and exceedingly grateful after the phone call. I could live for several weeks on $400 and just that had taken a lot of pressure off my situation. I no longer had to take any job right away. I had some time; the most precious commodity. 

Shortly after that call, some dear friends invited me to a party the next night, up the river. In the morning, I bought some more diesel and got some water at a nearby marina, but didn’t manage to get ashore again for any provisions. You can take the boy out of East Lansing, but you can’t get East Lansing out of the boy. There were friends to hang with and a party to be had. I went running. 

sv Mollynogger next door

I’ve been hanging out with my friends, the Sail Bums, aboard Mollynogger, ever since. They are great people, fantastic musicians, and good to me. (Thanks again!) 

The party was fun and the next night was hours of deep thoughts and deep tracks, crowned by Stan Rogers’ rousing “Barrett’s Privateers” about 03:00 am. Later that same morning, we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by 10:30 for their regularly scheduled “Cockpit Coffee” live on Facebook.

Life is good. Good friends. Good old boats. Rum and conversation. 

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