No manatees. Not one. 400 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), hundreds of “Slow Minimum Wake Manatee Area” signs, and not a single manatee. It started us thinking that a manatee was an imaginary animal, sort of like Pooh’s Heffalump, but this one invented by Florida authorities to make slow boat traffic more appealing to gullible animal lovers.
Oh, well, in our “segmented migration” trek from Key Largo to Jacksonville, we didn’t see flamingos or wood storks either, but plenty of pelicans, including white ones, and all manner of other birds, competing with the fisherfolk. And plenty of porpoises, of course. (A sign of my age, I guess, that I don’t call them “dolphins,” which is maybe more accurate. When I asked them which they were, they only squeaked at me.)
My wife, Lucy, and I joined Mike Dais, Laura McGuffey, and Gretchen and Teddy Schwamb on Indian Summer in Key Largo Saturday night February 11. As noted in the article about our Hampton to New Bern, NC, leg southbound last fall, our snowbird migration is segmented. Mike and Laura, with the help of friends, had taken the boat to Tavernier Key in January, spent time lounging in the sun, swimming, and fishing, and then started back north to meet us in Key Largo.
We spent a day at Anchorage Resort and Yacht Club, which turned out not to be as quiet as we had anticipated. The all-day live music at the Tiki Bar across the cut wasn’t too intrusive, however, and Mike made great use of the barbecue grills provided for guests. There was a lot of Sunday traffic on the water, ranging from inflatable dinghies through pontoon craft to 40-foot muscle boats. Sitting in the warmth watching them go by was pleasant and relaxing compared to the chilly weather we had left at home.
Monday, we ran through calm water up through Biscayne Bay to Miami which was busy with setup of the Miami Boat Show. We anchored between Miami and Miami Beach, close to Rivo Alto Island. That anchorage, with spectacular lights all around us, was in stark contrast to the deserted little coves we usually find for overnights.
From Miami we went to Ft. Lauderdale and got a slip at Bahia Mar, where an inferiority complex is available for only about four bucks per foot per night. The marina provided ocean beach and swimming pool, included in slip rental. After a nearby restaurant supper, we wandered in for a look at the Ft Lauderdale Aquatic Complex with its Olympic Pool and a board listing world records swum there.
Next, we walked the well-lit Bahia Mar docks, pacing off two of the boats at over 300 feet and several at 200 feet plus. We hardly noticed the dozen or so between 100 and 200 feet long. One of our group reported after a Google search that one of the boats was available for charter at $1 million per week, not counting fuel and food. [We’ll rent you Indian Summer for less than half that, all expenses included.]
Laura and the Schwambs got off in Lauderdale, and Lucy, Mike, and I motored north headed for Vero Beach. Wednesday we covered 65 miles and 31 drawbridges (but who’s counting?), passing thousands of houses, medium and high-rise apartments, and condos. Despite the development density, we were able to find a quiet anchorage off a small wildlife sanctuary, which Mike and Lucy explored by dink.
On Thursday, we got to Vero Beach at noon or so and were joined in the afternoon by our friend Paul Kydd. The marina was right next to the Vero Beach Yacht Club, where we were treated to a great meal based on reciprocity with Annapolis Yacht Club and Oyster Bay Yacht Club in Fernandina Beach, FL, which will be Indian Summer’s home for March and part of April.
At the Vero Beach City Marina, I got a memory jolt when I recognized Quo Vadis, an Offshore 40 yawl that had belonged in the late ‘60s and ‘70s to our friend Jim Fox. Jim, an Air Force officer, had lived in Briarcliff in Arnold, MD, and had sailed in the ‘50s on our first Alaris, and then on the current Alaris, including her first Newport race in 1959. He bought Quo Vadis because of her similarity to Alaris.
In Vero, we took my former partner Sid Leech and his wife Janet for a day trip a few miles north on the ICW and back to the City Marina. Although Chesapeake Bay boaters, the Leeches were in Vero Beach for February without a boat, and saw the area from the ICW for the first time.
After Vero, we pressed north through a lot of pretty areas, both civilized and unspoiled, anchored out a couple of nights, and got to St. Augustine on Sunday the 19th. As we moved north, we saw more and more damage from Hurricane Matthew. Lots of docks were missing their decking and some pilings; sail and power boats were beached or among the weeds, looking forlorn.
We docked at the St. Augustine City Marina, which we recommend highly. Unfortunately, in Matthew the marina lost one of its large floating docks, an uninsured $1 million hit. The other docks and mooring field, however, are in good shape and hospitable. Repairs in upper Florida are moving slowly. On the St. Johns River, there is an estimated three-year waiting period to get a dock repaired.
We spent Sunday afternoon and Presidents Day touring St. Augustine on foot, including Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest U.S. masonry fort, built originally in the 17th Century. We also saw probably the most opulent college building in the world: the 19th century Ponce de Leon Hotel, now the main entrance hall of Flagler College. It’s undoubtedly the only college with Tiffany windows in the cafeteria.
St. Augustine is set up for tourists, and we did the tourist bit, with several restaurant meals and between-meal ice cream cones to keep the guilt level high. Of course, we had to do a critical comparison of ice cream and gelato. Results of the testing were inconclusive, so repeated trials will be conducted on future cruises.
After St. Augustine, Tuesday’s half-day run to Jacksonville was easy, and we docked Indian Summer on Sisters Creek, just off the ICW, at fine city-owned floating docks where dockage is free for 72 hours. Lucy and I caught our train home from JAX.
Our next segment will be part of the trip back to the Severn, but we’re already discussing a possible migration for next winter, maybe this time through the Okeechobee to Florida’s West Coast. Segmented, of course.
by Charlie Iliff