Green Cove Springs - Miami, Florida
2nd - 12th March 2008
After our unplanned and traumatic visit to the
UK for yet another family tragedy, we were finally back in Green Cove
Springs at the end of February and eager to head south quickly to catch up
with friends already in the Bahamas. Two days later
we pulled anchor and bizarrely began to head north, which is the initial
direction down the river from Green Cove Springs towards the ocean.
Our new motor was performing wonderfully but as it was so new, we were still in the running in stage. This meant we needed to run at 2600 revs for 15 minutes each half hour, 2800 revs for 10 minutes and then wide open throttle for 5 minutes to ensure all the moving parts of the engine were run in properly. This kept the crew busy leaping up to adjust the throttle six times every hour!
By lunchtime we were nearing Jacksonville and experiencing our usual trauma with the railroad bridge, which according to our pilot book was "usually open unless a train is approaching". In our experience this meant "will usually close just in front of you and you'll have to wait for 15 minutes in a very strong tidal current, while a mile long train crawls slowly across the bridge over the river".
The city of Jacksonville kindly provided three
days of free dockage, right downtown, for visiting boats. As on
previous visits we found Jacksonville to be somewhat of a tale of two
cities. The waterfront was very fancy, with a promenade,
landscaping and fancy skyscrapers. Unfortunately as a reminder of the other Jacksonville,
the waterfront area was also inhabited by numerous down and outs, sleeping rough.
There were concerns for about the Captain's blood pressure due to our proximity to the "Hooters" bar and its ultra short-shorted, skimpy-topped waitresses!
Bad weather was forecast, thunderstorms, tornado watches and the like, so we decided to stay put for a couple of days. This gave us the chance to stroll around the downtown area to see what changes had occurred since our last visit. We also hiked and biked to not-so-nearby supermarkets for extra provisions.
Anju in Jacksonville, favourite RR bridge in background!
Tin Can Space Shuttle at the Library
Night Prowler visitor in downtown Jacksonville
Our US cruising permit for Anju had long-ago
expired, during our time in the yard and we'd been in contact with the
friendly folks at Homeland Security at Jacksonville port so often over the
course of the previous year, that we were on first-name
terms. Now it was time to finally meet them in person, as
in order to proceed from Jacksonville we needed to obtain a clearance,
exactly like a big ship, to allow us to continue to Miami.
We set off in search of a taxi to make the trip, approaching the waiting line of taxis at the nearby waterfront hotel. Strangely, after asking where we were headed, the first couple of taxis in line, driven by Haitians, didn't want to make the trip to Homeland Security! Finally we got lucky on our third attempt and although our Haitian driver struggled with English and didn't seem to understand where we were headed, off we set. He didn't seem concerned about being unsure where we were going, besides he was too busy eating a curry filled roti for his breakfast! Luckily we'd downloaded a map from the internet so managed to track down the office.
The efficient folks in the office had our papers ready for us on our arrival. We enquired about the possibility of catching the bus back, after our bizarre taxi experience, but were advised that in that neighbourhood, "any number of things could happen to us between the office and the bus stop". Nice venue for new arrivals to the US to check in; "Welcome, but its not safe to go out!". In view of the advice we decided to take the chance that our friendly taxi driver might just find his way back to pick us up again!
Next morning we were fuelled up and heading
down the river, with the help of the strong tidal current, towards the
Atlantic Ocean, a distance of about 25 miles. We'd left Jacksonville with
lovely north west winds forecast for at least three days and hoped to make Miami direct. Of course, by the time we'd been offshore a couple of hours, the forecast was for one night and day of NW winds, followed late the next day by very strong south winds.
"What's the name of this blue stuff again? It's been a long time ashore!"
Beautiful weather of Jacksonville Beach
In view of the new weather forecast, after a
wonderful night's sail, we implemented Plan B and dived into Ponce de Leon inlet, just north of Cape Canaveral at first
light, arriving at the George Musson bridge by the inlet with seconds to
spare before the scheduled opening! After a day's hard motoring
on the Intracoastal Waterway, we found ourselves in Eau Gallie, near
Melbourne in time for dinner. As we dropped our hook the
torrential rain accompanying the forecast severe thunderstorms and tornado
warnings began and we got soaked. Luckily neither had our number on that particular occasion.
Eau Gallie was famous with Team Anju for being the home of the thieving little boys who stole our dinghy and went joy riding last year. This time it was too windy for us to even contemplate launching the Anjulita, so she was quite safe.
After 36 hours anchored behind a bridge, we decided to make a break for it as the wind had turned west. Unfortunately it also decided to pipe up to around 30 knots and after one hour of hard work steering, trying to stay in the narrow ICW channel, we gave up. We anchored at Melbourne and napped the rest of the day away.
The following night we took a mooring at Vero Beach marina and enjoyed a much needed long shower ashore. In the marina, we meet Heather and Brian on Holding Pattern, Green Cove Springs Marina friends. They had left for the Bahamas weeks before us but had only made it that far due to an unfortunate series of events. Maybe it wasn't only us after all.
Now we were able to carry out the 50 hour oil change and checks on the new engine, which meant it was officially run-in. We were relieved as the six-times-a-hour rev changes were getting old!
Full of enthusiasm again and now squeaky clean, we set off at the crack of dawn next day towards Palm Beach. Christine began the day with a slight headache. By the time we'd passed Jupiter Inlet on the ICW and run hard aground once, followed by two softer groundings; "where the heck is the darned deep water" or similar being muttered by the frustrated crew, the headache was more of the pounding variety! Luckily the strong tidal current helped us get afloat again and we finally managed to escape Jupiter, vowing that any future trips this way would be made outside on the ocean!
Matters were not improved as we approached Lake Worth. We circled in lovely deep water, waiting for the scheduled bridge opening. As the bridge opened and we approached, right in the middle of the channel, we suddenly felt Anju head uphill again. We ran aground again, right in front of the open bridge!. This time it was down to our wonderful new Yanmar motor to get us off and through the bridge. During his running in period and shortly thereafter, Yanny had now ungrounded Anju about six times now and it didn't say anything about that in the manual!
We anchored just inside the inlet at Palm Beach for the night. Phil awoke just in time for the scheduled Space Shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral at 2.30 am. Unfortunately we weren't able to see the launch for clouds, although we did have a wi-fi internet signal from somewhere and could watch it on the NASA website. As we were already up at 2.30 am, the Captain decided it was high time we set off for Miami. Christine, still too sleepy and headachy to object, took the helm and off we went.
Heading out to sea in the pitch dark is always a little unnerving but the trip was uneventful and by the following afternoon we were entering the Government Cut in Miami. We decided to top up the fuel, ready to head to the Bahamas and enjoyed the experience of being ripped-off at the Miami Beach Marina, where diesel was over a dollar fifty a gallon dearer than in Jacksonville. Fuelling in Jacksonville had been an excellent decision, we were glad we were only topping-up at those prices! Needless to say, we wouldn't be fuelling there again! By dark we were safely anchored in lovely deep water between the luxury homes of Palm and Hibiscus Islands, after scraping our way into the anchorage with inches below the keel.
Before we could head to the Bahamas we had three important tasks to carry out. We had to provision the boat as best we could by dinghy from the Publix store nearby. We arrived there at 8 am next morning and by 9 am we were back aboard with whatever provisions the First Mate had grabbed in her usual morning half-awake state. Next we had to buy a new inverter-battery charger. We'd installed one belonging to our friend Rob in Green Cove, buying the remote, drilling all the holes to mount it and so on, only to discover after a day's hard work that his charger wasn't working. We tracked down a refurbished charger of the same model, Freedom 20, in Miami for a good price and it was being held for us to collect. We dinghied to the nearest marina we could spot on our chart and made enquiries about the location of Sun Electronics. We were surprised to find that they were located right there at one corner of the marina, so with our trusty shopping trolley, we had collected the charger and had it safely aboard Anju by 11 am.
Now we just had to complete the Custom's formalities and contacted the office in Miami's port. We were told to arrive before 2 pm and duly dinghied quickly ashore again, grabbed a cab and made the $10, one-mile trip to the office, arriving at 11.59 am. By the time we'd cleared reception, the office was closed for lunch 12 until 1 pm. We had a choice, sit and wait in the office for an hour, or try out the Cuban Seaman's diner we'd spotted nearby for a spot of lunch. We enjoyed a delicious and remarkably economical lunch in company with numerous merchant seamen, before heading back to the office for our papers.
After finally clearing up the confusion about whether we were checking in to Miami or checking out, when actually we wanted to do both at once, we had our clearance papers in hand. We also wanted to hand in our I-94 departure forms ready to leave the US early next morning. The Immigration Official was reluctant to take our forms, telling us that we should post them back from the Bahamas. There followed much discussion when we explained that, having read the notice while we were waiting about what would happen to to us if we left the US without handing in our departure forms, combined with our concerns about the reliability of the postal service from the Bahamas, we really were more comfortable handing them in then and there. Finally we were relieved of our departure forms on promising to return straight to our yacht and not to dare venture ashore again before leaving.
Having blown the return taxi fare on lunch, which in any case needed walking-off, we enjoyed the mile long stroll over the waterway bridge, along the waterfront and back to the marina. Dinghied straight back to our vessel, as instructed and installed our new charger/invertor. It was a great relief to discover that this one actually worked! Now we were ready to cross to the Bahamas next day.
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