I promised a more complete report on our return journey to the US and, as we motor north in the ICW, finally have the time to fulfill my promise. Or maybe you see it as a threat.
Before dawn on March 28th, we hauled anchor and headed out from Meek’s Patch with High Stepper right behind us. Through the channel between Egg Island and Little Egg and out to deep water was the course plotted. More and more lights showed up as other vessels headed out as well. Most of those turned northward towards the Abaco Islands. High Stepper and us sailed off on a course of 305M and held that exact course almost all the way across.
The winds were light and up our butt so it was a motorsail as we maintained an average speed of 6.5 knots. When the wind piped up, we shut down the engine and when the wind died again, on came the diesel.
There was a beautiful green flash at sunset that seemed to hang in the sky longer than usual. Meals were served in the cockpit as we kept a close watch on vessels around us. During the night, we came close to Freeport. There must have been a backlog of ships waiting for port services as cargo ships littered our path. They all were lit up like Christmas trees which made it difficult to pick out the running lights to determine their direction. Most were stopped. It was very scarey to approach these behemoths and maneuver around them. At any one time we could count a dozen ships within our sight!
We took turns on watch so the other person could sleep for three hours at a stretch. Both of us managed to sleep and felt quite refreshed in the morning. When the sun peeked over the waves I watched for a green flash once more. But, although someone had assured me that they had seen it before, I was not so lucky.
Once we reached the currents of the Gulf Stream, we turned slightly more north to take full advantage of the increase in speed.
We motored into Ft Pierce at 1330 hrs on March 29th. Total distance traveled – 230 nautical miles. Time taken – 31.5 hours. That translates to an average speed of 7.3.
By the time we hooked up to a mooring in Vero Beach, it was 1500 hrs. High Stepper loaned us their cell phone to check in with Customs.
On Monday, we rented a car and headed back to Ft Pierce to Customs for our cruising permit for the next months. The officer was very unhappy with all of us. We were required to report within 24 hours, no longer the 48 hours of other years. As rental cars are not available on Sunday in Vero Beach, we could not report within the time frame and had made that known to the officer on the phone. But, it wasn’t good enough. A written warning was put on our file and, if it ever happens again, we are liable for a $5000 fine and confiscation of our vessel! Yikes!
So, if you are returning to the US aboard a private boat, make sure that you phone in and then appear at the Customs office within 24 hours.
The balance of our stay at Vero was very pleasant. Fred & Cindy Meyer stopped by and took us to visit with Jeff and Heather and their 4 year old daughter Jillian. Sitting around their pool, drinking goombay smashes in the afternoon was hard to take. Murray brought along some lobster tails and we barbequed a mixed grill of chicken, steak and lobster. Mmmmm. Jeff did some magic with a pot of oil and produced wonderful conch fritters. Heather made a lovely salad and strawberry cheesecake for dessert. We may ever need to eat again.
It was hard to pull away from Velcro Beach but we finally did. Bright and early today, Friday, we dropped the lines that tethered us to High Stepper and with tears in our eyes, headed off alone. It has been a very enjoyable time cruising with Doug & Connie and we have shared some wonderful experiences. But our paths separate here. They are flying to Boston for a few days to meet their newest granddaughter and we must head to the marina to haul out and drive north to see our family and friends ashore once more.
Our plans you ask? The weekend approaches and we will arrive in Titusville today and stay there until Monday before heading north again. By mid week, we should arrive at Green Cove Springs. Ten days or so after that, we will haul out and drive towards Ontario. But, we will keep you posted.
Hugs to all, Heather & Murray