Thursday, February 8, 2024

Stumbling Into An Odd Job

Squint Close for Egrets

It was going to be one of those wonderful Florida winter days; just barely overcast, but with enough sun to make you reconsider not using sunscreen on your face. I was well up the North Fork of the St Lucie River at a place called Kitching Cove. After a few days reuniting at anchor with some dear friends, I was going to make my way back to civilization. Groceries and laundry were looming chores.  Four or five other boats were in the cove but we were the only cruisers living aboard. The cove is separated from the St. Lucie River and the boat traffic by a long strip of mangroves with just enough solid ground to support several palm trees and the occasional oak. Along the opposite shore were some condos, a yacht club, and a resort, but it was a quiet, peaceful spot. The plaintive cry of an osprey regularly echoed across the flat water, and at evening, a flock of egrets would fly across the face of the mangroves, their bright white feathers a stark contrast as shades of black oozed across the green of the mangroves in the dissolving light of the day.

Kitching Cove Sunset

While I had looming chores to take care of, I had also picked that day because it appeared the wind was just right for sailing all the way back to the anchorage in town. Ruth Ann was upwind from Mollynogger, my friends’ boat, but there seemed to be plenty of room to drift back in the gentle wind once I had hauled the anchor. I prepped to first raise the main, then haul the anchor, and to be able to raise the jib after I had started. The last choice was whether to have the engine idling just in case I needed … or not.   

I left the engine off and went forward to raise the anchor as the main sail lolled from side to side in the breeze. Twice I paused to check my bearings on Mollynogger and another nearby boat. All was well, so I kept hauling. Once we were free, Ruth Ann fell away to the south as I walked back to the helm. It wasn’t that early, but I quietly whistled a bird call as goodbye to my friends as I ghosted by. 

I had my chartplotter on, but the charts were purportedly not accurate in that area. My inward track was only in my head but I attempted to follow it out. Ruth Ann crept along but I had all day and we were already doing two and a half knots in the enclosed area. We glided through the cove’s narrow entrance and passed a sailboat languishing nearby. After the cove, there is an open spot just upstream of the resort’s marina. A couple boats were anchored there, including the catamaran where a party was hosted the previous Friday night. I recalled that I was told to pass near the end of the marina docks, so I aimed Ruth Ann there. The river began to open up but was still shallow in spots. I watched the water and eyed my chartplotter. At one point, the depth sounder was showing that I had gotten into some skinny water, so I steered hard to starboard toward deeper water indicated by the potentially less-than-accurate chart. We passed near the Red 10 marker and the lower part of the North Fork opened up. We had lots of water before us and all the way down to Stuart. 

Sailboats don’t go in a straight line, so I had a basic plan to crisscross my way down the river. By the time we were approaching the western shore, we were regularly sailing along at three or three and a half knots. It was wonderfully pleasant sailing on a broad reach and Ruth Ann was as ecstatic as I was. We got close to some docks and tacked back out into the river. 


The longest leg was another nice broad reach the other direction as we made good progress down the length of the river. We were hitting four and a half knots and more. I don’t race and I’m not (knot?) really concerned with my speed, but it was satisfying anyway to know that we were going nearly as fast as we would have if we’d been motoring!

After a jaunt down past the Red 6A marker, we were pointed right at a small group of docks just past Britt Creek. There was lots of depth up to the shore, so I kept us speeding right at the docks for a good long time. Once we got within a couple feet of rubbing the keel across the bottom, I tacked us back to the south. I had been eyeing my windvane and expected to run downwind from there. The wind had been a little fluky all morning, but after we came around in a gybe and traveled several yards, we were still reaching. Ruth Ann just loves a good beam reach and she danced across the waves toward the neck where the river makes a bit of an ‘S’ curve just before the North and South branches join and go under the Old Roosevelt Bridge as one. 

Sketch of Ruth Ann's Track

The channel is marked for bigger, deeper boats than Ruth Ann and after taking a look at the chart for the waters ahead, we gybed again and cut both corners of the curve to head straight at the South Fork. At the confluence of the river’s forks, we sailed right at the boats tugging at their moorings at the Sunset Bay Marina. There is another curve to get into the South Fork where the Pendarvis Cove Anchorage is. I had to get Ruth Ann far enough south to make it inside a buoy marking a shallow area. We got as close to the moored boats as I could stand and tacked to the west. There was a little traffic around but it was a weekday, so no obnoxious weekend warriors with their wakes and their misappropriated glares. 

Just ahead of us was a large sailboat, they turned into the anchorage ahead of us and, of course, they turned toward the area I was aiming for. We sailed past the anchorage to let them decide what they were doing and I doused the jib, started the engine, and dropped the main. I set Ruth Ann to wallow in a slow circle as I went forward to tie up the sails and prepare for anchoring again. When we turned around, the bigger boat had picked a spot and they were already backing down on their anchor. I entered the anchorage and slid through the many boats and up near that bigger boat. Just past them was a Canadian boat that I suspected might be staging to cross to the Bahamas, so I anchored just past them. I row to shore, so I wanted to sneak into a spot as close to the dinghy dock at Shepard Park as possible. 

With that, I was in; I was back ‘home.’ Nevertheless, I prepared to go ashore. I had found a new upscale market, a good hike further than the nearby Publix. Publix is getting pretty pricey these days and I don’t like how their produce guy minds his department. Sprouts Farmers Market is another bougie grocery market, but it seemed less expensive and less cult-like than Trader Joes or Whole Foods. To their credit, and the reason I hiked a six mile round trip to get there, was that they have a great bulk foods section, including raw cashews and nutritional yeast (look who’s bougie now). I needed some freshies and some galley staples that are not available at the little downtown Publix. In addition to my bulk stuff, I found some tahini, a purple yam, some zucchini, onions, a head of cabbage, and some good raisins. 

Halfway back to the boat, I realized that all that fresh air I’d been consuming all day long was going to make me mighty sleepy. I had stopped at the liquor store to renew my tequila stock and ended up with a bag of Voodoo potato chips as well. I stumbled into the very Publix that I had meant to avoid and bought a Cuban Sandwich and some tabouleh for supper. Their tabouleh is actually quite good and I’ve had homemade Lebanese Grandma tabouleh in my life. The Cuban on the other hand, hit the spot but was only adequate. And I was just bragging online about being a Cubano connoisseur. The Publix Cuban is a decent attempt and they probably had the capacity to ‘hot press’ the sandwich for me, but I didn’t bother. Without being pressed the bread seems like too much. The cheese, pickle, and sauce are good; not great but good. Also, the pork is sliced deli meat. A proper Cuban has deli sliced ham, but small chunks of roast pork. By the time I had rowed back out to Ruth Ann, after sailing all morning, and hiking all afternoon, the Publix Cuban was just fine. I enjoyed it along with some Voodoo chips, but I saved the tabouleh for the next day.  

The following day, I could feel the big hike to the bougie market in my legs, but I mustered the gumption to go back into town to do laundry. While I was folding my clothes, I struck up a conversation with the guy who had introduced himself as the new owner and I ended up with a part time job. This is actually just what I needed. So far, I have really enjoyed his approach to people and business as I have witnessed it. I think he is going to be a great guy to work for and the job is pretty casual; some work but a lot of time. I’m sure I’ll have laundromat stories for you in the future. 

Now I’ve got to go add ‘Laundry Clerk’ to my encyclopedic list of odd jobs, which is here.  

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