Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stuart to Key Biscayne (Part 1)

We left Stuart and our friends Patty and Jimmy 10 days ago. Patty and Jimmy again lent us their car and that was a real treat. This was to be our last serious provisioning before the 'BIG' trip across the ocean and we spent 3 days getting things done. We really appreciated the free dockage that Patty and Jimmy set up for us at the Finz restaurant, as well as the use of their car. We surely did have a fun time visiting with them again.

We ran down the Intercoastal Waterway from Stuart to an anchorage at Lake Worth. The next day we had hoped to run 'outside' to Fort Lauderdale since running inside meant dealing with all those darn bridges. But the weather Gods were not cooperating so we spent most of the day waiting on about 20 bridges to open so we could continue on our way. The first time we did this stretch back in 2007 we said we would never do it again. But this will be our 3rd trip. We need to do more to appease the weather Gods, me thinks.

Anyway, we knew that the winds were going to blow hard for at least 4 days so Vicki found a marina that only charged 80 cents/foot which is the cheapest we have ever been charged. Both boats needed to take on fuel and she also found a fuel delivery service which would send a truck to the marina to deliver fuel to the boats at a very reasonable price.

There was one small problem...we had to navigate up the New River for about 4 1/2 miles. We didn't think much about that as we made our way in on a sunny Friday afternoon as the river was wide and didn't appear to be much of a challenge. But we didn't know what we were getting into! It turns out that the New River goes through the heart of Ft. Lauderdale's seemingly most exclusive residential area. Almost all of the multi-million dollar homes had multi-million dollar boats parked in the river outside of their homes and the river started to get very narrow. In addition, because it was such a lovely day and it was a Friday afternoon, it seemed like everyone took off work early to go boating on the river. It was a real traffic nightmare. Following are some pictures of the river. You can see that is is pretty narrow in spots.

There are 5 bridges that have to be opened along the way. After going under one of them, we were making our way to the next when the railroad bridge came down! We could also see on the other side of the bridge and a huge tourist paddle-wheel boat, which seemed to take up most of the water, was waiting on the other side coming our way. We had several very tense moments as we tried to find a place to hang out waiting for the train, as that can take as long as 3o minutes or so. The current was to our stern so it was pulling us into the bridge. Tidehiker was leading the way, then Rickshaw and a 60+ foot boat was behind Rickshaw, so there wasn't much room to maneuver. But both Captain Norm and Captain Rick were able to pull alongside a dock and wait out both the train (that never came) and for the paddle-wheel boat to pass us.

Since there was no time for us to take pictures on the way up the river, all of these were taken going back down which was at 9:00 on a Tuesday morning so it was much, much easier! Here is Tidehiker going through one of the bridges.

This house on the point had a beautiful yard and included 2 life-like alligators!

We had one last bridge to go before getting to the marina. It was about 4:20 or so and we called the bridge for an opening, not realizing that we probably wouldn't get to the bridge for another 3-4 minutes. There is a portion of the river that is called 'the wiggles' made up short dramatic turns, including one hair pin turn with not a lot of maneuvering room so we were going very slowly. The bridge tender came back on the radio and asked 'Where are those trawlers'? Another thing we didn't know is that all of these bridges close from 4:30 until 6:00 every weekday. Luckily, we had a caring bridge tender who held the bridge for us even though we were a few minutes late. Below, just another mansion along the way.

Yikes! We made our way to the marina and it was immediately time for happy hour!

Lauderdale Marine Center is the largest of its kind in Florida. We've never seen so many megayachts in one place. We spent 4 nights at the marina and even rented a car for a few days and got to see 2 movies! None of us had been to a movie since we left and it was nice to catch up.

Here is Tidehiker in her slip. The next one is not a building, but a huge boat!
This was the view from the back of Rickshaw and below is boat traffic passing by our slip.

More in Part II.