"Low bridge, everybody down . . "
The trip from Stuart to South Palm Beach is only 43 miles, but it is the longest 43 miles we hope to
ever travel, due to all the bridges with restricted opening schedules. A few bridges open on request, but the norm now
seems to open only twice an hour, and the opening schedules are definitely not planned with slow boats in mind. We passed
under ten bridges that had to open for us, and only three opened on request.
Circling in a narrow channel, trying not to be carried in the wrong direction by wind or current, while
dodging other waiting boats is a nerve wracking experience. It also tries the patience of two not very patient sailors.
In another patience-trying development, it seems that the bridgekeepers in this part of Florida are in lawsuit
avoidance mode. Instead of providing helpful information like the amount of clearance their bridge offers under current
tidal conditions, they feign ignorance. This is in direct contrast to the bridgekeepers up north who will tell you exactly
what their clearance is in the center of the span and request that you go for it if there is even 6 inches to spare, because
they don't want to open unnecessarily.
Well, all those little frustrations aside, we did make it to South Palm Beach a little after 3 pm, and we
saw Dad and June waving to us from their condo as we passed it on the ICW. They arrived at our Lantana anchorage in
time to watch us try three times before we got our anchor to hold firm. Then we took our little dinghy over to
the dinghy dock of their condo.
They served us a great Florida meal of locally grown vegetables and a roasted chicken from a great local
meat market, topped off by peach pie. it was wonderful to finally all be here together and healthy.
We returned to our boat in the dark. While we ran the generator to recharge our batteries and cool
our refrigerator, we lay on the flybridge where the generator engine was just a soft growl, and the music of the Old Key Lime
House wafted across the bay to us. A live band with a saxophone and good vocalists was playing, and the volume was about
right from across the bay. It must have been too loud to talk in the Key Lime House. Gently rocking in our tropically
festive anchorage, watching the lights of the beach bar refected on the water was so relaxing that any residual
tensions of the day pretty much melted away.
We Pay a Surprise Visit to a Boatyard
We awoke to a clear and warm day at our Lantana anchorage. We hopped in our dinghy, motored the
short distance to the Lantana fishing docks, and joined dad and June for breakfast.
We ate a Tackey Joe's, a little breakfast and lunch spot with decor so tacky it's trendy. The place
is frequented by everyone from stylish condo owners to grizzled fishermen. The attraction is great food and great service
at a great waterfront location with prices about a decade behind the times (two eggs, bacon and toast for $2.60). They
recognize the importance of coffee and pour it liberally. When we returned for breakfast three days later, the server
remembered our order--"Two decaf, two regular?" she greeted us, ready to pour.
After breakfast, we headed back to the boat, and the day began its downhill slide as we noticed that
our batteries were not being charged as they should be when we ran our generator. As Dick was trying to investigate that problem, the
generator just conked out .
We decided to head back north about ten miles to Rybovich Spencer, the nearest authorized repair facility
for our generator. It is also a major boatyard with haul-out facilities for huge vessels many times our size.
Due to the unfavorable bridge schedule, it took us three hours to go 10 miles, which didn't brighten our
The Rybovich Spencer Marina is a bare bones affair. It became clear pretty fast that most owners of
the boats here don't stay aboard while repairs are anticipated. They simply send their captain and crew to the yard
with the boat while they retire to the Breakers to await the results.
At Rybovich Spencer, while trucks and cranes and uniformed staff bustled about attending to the needs of
the immense yachts of the rich and famous, we got as much attention as a minnow in a school of sharks.
Eventually, our problems were fixed, we think, but the technician sent to handle our little boat and
its little problems, fell more than a little short of our expectations. He had far more questions for Dick than
he had answers, and he left us to go check with his supervisor more times than a car salesman in the heat of negotiating a
sale. When he disappeared into the engine room for long periods with no sound, Dick would periodically check on
him, and the technician would invariably respond that he was "just thinking." As Dick so aptly put it, "He spends
too much time thinking, and too little time working." Times like this we really miss the expert team of contractors
we have come to know and depend upon over the past year on Hilton Head Island.
The best part of our Rybovich Spencer stay was that it gave us the opportunity to get Dad and June aboard
Starsong as our first official guests.
Rybovich Spencer has fixed docks and a three foot tidal variation, so there was a magic 40 minutes or so
as the tide was in the middle of its rise or ebb when the top of our bulwark was even with the level of the dock,
making it possible to walk onto the boat with the aid of a short gangplank--no climbing involved. We timed
it right, and Dad and June came aboard for a short visit and tour.
We were excited to be able to show them the boat, after all the interest and support they have shown in
our boat and cruising adventures, dating back to when we were just looking for a boat at this time last year, and using their
condo as our jumping off point for seeing Florida boats and boat shows.