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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our last run on Algonquin ...for now!

 Time travelled:        10 hours
 Nautical miles:        82
 Docked at:             River Forest Yachting Center

Locks: St Lucie Lock

West End, Grand Bahamas

We left West End Bahamas at 8:30 am and had a beautiful run right across to the St. Lucie Inlet. Speaking for myself, it was a little scary being that far away from land, by ourselves and in really deep water. The depth finder stops at 286 ft. but the charts tell you that the water was 2500 feet deep!  Very different from the Bahamas where half the time you could see the bottom of the ocean.  We both sat outside just enjoying the warmth and watching for whales. The North Atlantic Right Whale season is from December to March. No whales in sight.

About thirty miles off shore the VHF started to get busy, the first conversation we heard:

" White westbound vessel approaching West Palm Beach this is Customs"

There was no answer, about three minutes later,

"Grady White with three outboards approaching West Palm Beach this is United States Customs"

There was still no answer but it was kind of eerie that somewhere up there they were watching. With three outboards the guy probably couldn't hear anything.

Next conversation,

"Yeah, he popped up about a half mile in front of me all in yellow,scared the crap outta me"  "I am the White Viking, hes at 12'o'clock off my stern"

"He got away from the herd, he has a gun"

"Do you see him? Do you see him?"

Well- that certainly got our attention - who got away from the herd, why do they have a gun in the ocean, and where are they? Scanning the radar we could see that there were no other boats in our immediate vicinity. The only logical explanation we came up with  was that it was a diver who strayed from the others and was carrying a flare gun.....who knows!

I dislike coming into the inlets, I read the big yellow CAUTION section in the Waterway Guide saying that the St. Lucie inlet is not marked due to constant shoaling. Great!  I called Boat US for local knowledge and they were wonderful - go to the sea buoy, parallel the north side of the south jetty, at the green five turn to starboard and head to the red eight.  Sounds easy, but they failed to mention the dredger in the middle of the channel , all the red dredging buoys, and the fifty little fishing boats zooming in and out. The Inter Coastal Waterway markers intersect here with the Okeechobee so it was a little confusing but we made it through without a hitch.  I called US Customs to report our arrival and was told to call back when we were stopped. So, we decided to just keep on going instead of stopping there for the night.
We knew that we had clearance under all bridges except the Old Roosevelt Bascule Bridge. Garth called on the VHF requesting his next opening and he said he "I am having a malfunction" A few minutes later Garth called again to ask if the malfunction was going to be fixed anytime soon or should we turn back and go to a marina?  The bridge tender sounded a little panicky and explained that only one side of the bridge was working and he would open  for anyone who wanted to go through. Of course there was a line up and shortly thereafter we made it through with only one arm up.

The Okeechobee is actually quite nice, narrow and not very deep but lined with lovely homes and trees. It is a manatee zone and therefore we had to go really slow. Never did see a manatee. We arrived at the River Forest Marine Center after hours and tied up to the wall ourselves, hooked up the power and took a deep breath.

Back in fresh water, no tides, no current - a little like a big bathtub for boats. A few boats are already wrapped and strapped down.