So….here we are….13 days later. Yes, 13 days…. Yes, tied to a dock for 13 days! We’re so well-protected in the Old Port Cove Marina that we think weather guy, Chris Parker, is a Henny Penny when he says that the winds are high and the sea state ‘not fun’. But every day when we walk around the 3 km boardwalk we realize that it is really windy out there and so we sit and we wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.
One day at the marina, I send Blair to the top of mast, not once but twice, to rearrange various ‘stuff’ up there, including our spinnaker halyard. It’s an easy task for me using our Milwaukee 20V right angle drill fastened onto our starboard winch. It’s a quick trip up for Blair and he spends a good 10 minutes up there each time, quite comfortable. But….he does say that he likes the ‘coming down’ part better than the ‘going up’ bit.
We walk up to the West Marine to look at Garmin chart plotters today. Ours is only four years old but we’re having intermittent problems sending navigation information to our autopilot. While sailing south, every few minutes we hear an awful alarm and the chart plotter display tells us we have ‘Lost Navigation Data’ and, more importantly, we are unable to continue steering using the auto pilot. This auto pilot is a third crew member aboard Strathspey so we’re not confident with the entire system now….chartplotter, connections, the auto pilot display and all our other multi-function display units; they’re all connected…all suspect.
Blair checks all the connections and runs through various scenarios with some units turned on, some units turned off and then makes a call to Garmin. The end decision is that we need a new chart plotter. The good news is that we have $400 in West Marine points so we can pick up the latest model chart plotter for a little more than half price.
With this extra time, hostage at dock because of weather, we look at all the instruments and safety gear aboard Strathspey and we see that the arming kits on our self-inflating life jackets have expired. We buy two new arming devices (think CO2 cartridges that inflate when they are below water surface). Blair thinks we should get a good idea of the sensation when these things inflate automatically so we do a test inflate with the expired arming kits. I’m the guinea pig so I put my life jacket on and am quite comfortable because, un-inflated, the thing hangs flat around my neck down to my waist and I’m totally unencumbered; I can walk around the deck, lean down to pull in a line….heck, I can even do a downward dog yoga pose in it. So here’s the test – Blair says ‘Pull this tab that says Jerk to Inflate’ (just like in the airplane). I squint my eyes shut and jerk and it definitely inflates. It’s comforting to see how big that life jacket gets and I’m really glad to know what to expect and I definitely hope to never experience it again!
I listen to weather guy, Chris Parker, every morning on his webcast and every day it’s the same; strong winds, heavy seas and perhaps a possible short window to cross to the Bahamas in a few days after the next cold front rolls through. It’s been frustrating for us but I’m reading a book, ‘The Power of Now’, that helps focus me on the ‘now’ here where we are rather than the ‘where’ we think we should be at this point in our winter cruise. Here….in the ‘now’….we find an excellent Italian grocery store a 20-minute walk from our marina. The only thing I can compare it to is Zabars in NYC…but for Italians. Wonderful imported wines and cheeses. Fresh baked breads and pastries. Pasta and homemade sauces. Every kind of eggplant dish you can imagine.
Here in the marina of Tiger Woods’ fame, we are one of six sailboats. Every other slip contains a sport fish or huge motor boat, all of them easily $1 million or more. The sailboats wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. The sport fish boats wait for a calm day to go fishing. The big boats, like Tiger’s Privacy, wait for their owners to show up and tell them where to go next.
One afternoon Blair and I start talking about the possibility that we won’t get a window to cross the Gulf Stream. We waffle over whether to go further south towards the Keys in the hopes that we may get a more favourable angle to sail to the Bahamas after the last forecast. That last forecast that gave us a 12 hour window to MOTOR across to West End, Bahamas with an 18 knot wind on the nose. We look at each other with a grimace; neither of us wants to get beat up like that but the alternative is to stay here, stateside, where, although it’s warm, we can’t swim or paddle board or go fishing. Grrrrr!
Once we buy the new chart plotter, Blair spends a day installing it. The actual installation is relatively quick but the downloading of the new software takes most of the afternoon with our slow wifi connection. Everything looks great after the installation and we hope that we’ll soon have time to test it out on the ocean. After the installation, there’s this sudden realization that there is nothing else we need to replace on Strathspey…a bit of consumer shock. I feel like I’m finally on holidays! We start taking long hikes every day, exploring the area. Blair starts playing his bagpipes. I start painting all the flowers and birds we see. We sleep in….long past the 6:30 am weather reports. We know there are no windows to cross the Gulf Stream in the next five days. We’re on holidays, no?
But wait. The buzz at the marina is that there just might be a small window to cross this Tuesday. I’m doubtful because I’ve been scouring every marine weather site available for Central Florida and the Bahamas and I just don’t see it. But, dutifully, I get up at 6:30 am on both Monday and Tuesday to listen to Chris Parker’s forecast and I’m sceptical. It’s a measure of how desperate all the cruisers here on the Florida side are feeling because when Chris says that if ‘you’re a salty sailor you might consider crossing over on Tuesday, but I wouldn’t do it’ everyone talks about this great crossing opportunity. Blair and I think and then have a double think and straighten our spines and shrug and think again and we just don’t see it. Peer pressure is a bugaboo. If everyone thinks it’s good, then it must be good, right? Blair always defers to me when it comes to weather; perhaps because he knows I have researched it until my head hurts or perhaps because he knows I have less tolerance to mal de mer. Either way, it feels good that he has my back. I veto the crossing and that’s it. No more is said. On Wednesday evening when the wind starts building with the next front I check the blog of two sailors I follow and I see it was an awful crossing. The wind never did change to an easier SE direction and they motored 12 hours with 18 knot winds on the nose to get to Bimini. And here we are still…tied to the dock in West Palm Beach. And yet another cold front is upon us.
Now that the next front has moved in, we see grey clouds and the wind steadily picks up. Tied securely to a very sheltered dock in this marina we’re still rocking to and fro and we feel really sorry for the boats anchored in the bay outside the marina. The white caps out there make me shiver with empathy for those cruisers as their boats swing through a 180 degree arc in a steady 23 knots of wind.
It’s a odd winter here in southern Florida and the Bahamas this year so we’re not quite sure how far south we’re going to get before it is time to head back north and get hauled out at Ft Pierce for the summer and fall. But, despite this weird weather, we feel pretty lucky to be in the warmth of the south and able to get out and walk long distances every day and not shovel snow and spend time together and be in the ‘now’.