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And So We Came To The Crossroads

And So We Came To The Crossroads

Titusville to Vero Beach

 

 

It was partly cloudy and 71 degrees with a light southeast wind when we shoved off from Titusville Marina at 7:45 am, bound for Vero Beach, 74 miles away.  After a nice day off to wait out the high winds we were ready to keep cruising, hopefully, every day until we reach Sarasota.  As always, it’s mostly up to mother nature, but the forecast looked good and we hoped to reach the Gulf Coast in about five days.

In the course of this day, with many no-wake zones, we cruised at an average of 9 knots, maxing out at 19.3, burning 84 gallons of diesel.

 

 

 

The night sky cleared, with the promise of a morning sky much the same. Our last Jasper walk beneath the moonlight was truly beautiful.
Promise kept. The sun and sky welcomed us to a great day on the water.
7:48 am Titusville departure with a calm day ahead.

At 9:30 we came upon Ann and Bob423 on Fleetwing who were also bound for Vero. After a nice chat on the VHF, we gave them our usual courtesy of a very slow pass. It was now the first time we’d be traveling the ICW without Bob’s most up-to-date guidance. Thankfully the big problem spots were behind us.
Breakfast is served. This was proclaimed by the Captain as one of the best omelets he’s ever had. Beyond meat crumbles, sauteed with baby Bella mushrooms, sweet onions, garlic, and fresh sage. Topped with diced mini sweet peppers, goat cheese, black truffle oil drizzle and a dash of smoked salt.
This was a fortuitous meeting.  After making passing arrangements with Motorsailor Roman Holiday, her Captain reminded us that we had met just over a year prior when he and his wife were down from Canada, boat shopping in Fort Lauderdale.  They stumbled upon OLOH when they were wandering the docks of our marina at the time and introduced themselves as readers of our blog.  It was so great to see these friendly folks now off on their own adventure!
The Roman Holiday Crew from a year ago in Fort Lauderdale!
A short time later after making passing arrangements with S/V Thunderchild, her Captain informed us that they had pulled out of Shelter Cove Marina in Hilton Head just behind us a week prior and were surprised to see that we weren’t much further along. We felt their great energy right away and made arrangements to connect when they also landed in Vero later that day.
Thanks to the Thunderchild Crew for this cool shot of OLOH underway. We boaters can never have too many shots of our boats!
These sand bars may not look like much, but they are a clear sign that the stunning waters of Southern Florida are indeed upon us!
This is another beautiful stretch of Florida waterway with many small, inhabited islands across from sweet, mainland waterfront communities. Jasper was clearly enjoying the day.
With all the houses stacked on each other along the coast, this one was intriguing and so nicely sited among the mangroves and scrub.
Dolphins riding along with us is now an everyday occurrence. Our cruising wake is just right for their playtime.
Captain Sean readies the lines for our Vero Beach arrival.

After seven hours, twenty-five minutes underway we pulled into Vero Beach City Marina where we had stayed two years prior.  It’s a simple and lovely place with a park-like setting and basically one dock that can accommodate OLOH which we were fortunate enough to have been able to reserve.  They also have a vibrant mooring field and will raft boats when the mooring balls fill up.

Sean and the Admiral secure OLOH to Vero’s fixed docks. There’s minimal tide swing here so the setup is just fine for us.  While the wind had picked up to 13 knots it was 80 degrees when we landed just after 3 pm, the perfect temp for an arrival OLOH-Rita!
The Dockmaster in the office at Vero couldn’t have been more kind and welcoming and we appreciated her for that. It was a stark contrast to our interaction with the dockhand who caught our lines on our arrival.  Actually, he only caught one line.  If you follow us, you know we rarely speak negatively of an experience. However, we did not feel this dockhand was worthy of the tip we gave in this instance.  We understand marinas have busy days, and that some people may be having a tough day, but tips are meant for people who are, at a bare minimum, pleasant.  In the best of circumstances we are met by helpful, knowledgeable and engaged dockhands but that was far from the case here, on this day.  We’d be happy to sit down and share our seminar about what boaters look for (as we did with our good friends at Stock Island Marina Village – a place where excellence in all areas is the expectation).  We were so disappointed by that experience that it has us rethinkink our tipping policy.  We’ll be writing a post about that soon.
Thunderchild ended up motoring around the harbor for an hour waiting for their slip to become available. Once it did, we cheerfully waved them in.  Once they settled in, they popped by for a visit and we had a terrific night getting to know them.  Thanks for the great hang Doug and Victoria – see you at Stock Island Marina Village!
A beautiful end to another great day on the water.

Vero Beach to Stuart

 

 

Our nearly seven and a half hour day to Vero set us up nicely for a relatively short run to Stuart, Florida, our last stop before crossing Lake Okeechobee for the Gulf side.  While the winds were blowing a bit more strongly, the forecast and lake levels remained good for us to stay on schedule.  Being able to get to Stuart by the early afternoon also allowed us to schedule a few service appointments we had wanted to make given the good resources in the area, without having to stay an extra day to get things taken care of.

 

We had an easy departure at 7:34 am which would set us up for an arrival at “The Crossroads” at almost exactly high tide (more on that in a moment).  It was 70 degrees with a 9-knot wind out of the east/southeast on our departure.  It was 45 miles dock to dock with OLOH averaging 8 knots including some slow-go and some sitting still, maxing out at 17.5 knots and burning just 44 gallons of fuel in the four hours fifty-five minutes we were underway.

Vero Beach City Marina in our wake.

It’s difficult to impress just how impressive these bridges that open are. There’s something striking and sculptural about them and there’s a certain rush every time you pass through one.  And, we always try to see if we can get a shot of the bridge tender (if you zoom, you can see them in the window!)

“The Crossroads” is so-called because it is the spot on the ICW where you can either continue along the ICW, head east to the Atlantic Ocean or turn west to traverse the Okeechobee Waterway which, of course, was our plan.  It is a notoriously problematic area with moving shoals which is why it is typically good to arrive at a higher tide, particularly if you don’t transit the area often, but we weren’t all that concerned given some recent dredging, a recent survey we had showing the shallow spots and good advice from our new friends on Thunderchild who are quite familiar with the area as Stuart is their winter home.  The timing was just a happy accident.

The Crossroads almost upon us.

Sunset Bay Marina, our stop for the night, is seven miles from The Crossroads and immediately before arriving you have to open the Old Roosevelt Bridge, the last of three bridges in a row.  Rather than pass under the bridge and then standoff from the marina while we rigged our lines and fenders, we decided to hail the marina before the bridge so we could begin preparing.  After discussing our very specific dockage needs with the person with whom the reservation was made several days earlier we did know what to anticipate as he was able to give us our slip assignment in advance, but it’s always best to confirm.  So we hailed the marina on channel 16 as is typical before they switch you to their working channel.  Nothing.  We slowed down and hailed again a minute later.  Nothing.  We then tried their working channel.  Nothing.

After several unanswered attempts over the next ten minutes, our radio call was finally answered by a seemingly disinterested dockhand.  When he gave us our slip assignment and directions it was clear that this was not the slip we had been told to expect nor was it desirable for our particular needs.  One of our service appointments was for scheduled maintenance on our crane and we needed to dock with our bow into our slip, not at all ideal with docks ten feet shorter than OLOH’s length, especially since we needed our techs to be able to load their equipment from the dock to our swim platform.  When we told the dockhand that we were told we would be in a different slip, his response was, and we quote, “I don’t know what to tell you – they just give me a slip of paper with dock assignments.  You can call the office on the phone.”  Ugh.  And now we were frustrated.

The wind was now blowing 13 knots with higher gusts as we approached the bridges.  The relatively tight space as you navigate past the normally open railroad bridge and then through the Roosevelt Bridge requires full concentration.  This spot, at least for this Captain, is not a lot of fun.  So we decided to proceed through the bridges before calling the marina to sort out an issue a good dockhand would have handled for us.

Once clear of the bridges and now idling around in circles outside of the marina’s entrance, we called the office and spoke with a very nice person who apologized but couldn’t understand why we would have been told we could have that slip when the boat that is normally there was due to return on the same day.  That was a shame.  We would have made a reservation elsewhere had we been told in advance that our needs couldn’t be accommodated.   But with the howling wind, the other marinas being back on the other side of the bridges with unknown availability and us wanting to be tied up, we decided to try to make it work as we were told they didn’t have anything better to offer us.

Captain A.J.:  In two and a half years with OLOH we are happy to say we’ve only had one docking experience that did not go well.  Statistically a good thing.  But, of course, you want them all to go well.  And on this day we would add number two.  As we entered the fairway and headed towards our slip halfway down it was clear that the marina didn’t offer the protection from the gusty east wind we had hoped it would – the wind was actually funneling through the fairway.  There was also a stronger than expected current emptying out of the marina, moving with the wind.  With our slip on the windward side, this presented a challenge as typically you want to dock into the wind and current.  Given the position of the slip, this simply wasn’t possible and we aborted our first attempt when it was clear we’d have to dock with the wind and current.  If the dock was longer (like our originally assigned slip) it would have been fine.  But it was impossible to keep the conspiring forces from grabbing the stern and twisting the boat as we quickly turned into the slip, despite every attempt to counter the effects using our engines and thrusters.  Fortunately, Tim and Sean did an excellent job fending off the dock as best as possible as I eventually brought OLOH back in line with the slip and pulled her in.

While we normally don’t hand off our lines to dockhands until we are ready for them to tie us off, I did have Sean hand off a line and give specific, urgent direction on what to do with it so I could use it as a spring to help bring the boat in (as the Captain of an 80 foot schooner, Sean is excellent at this).  The dockhand had no idea what to do, did not follow our instructions and ended up creating more of a problem by tying us off improperly.  This further soured our arrival experience and his level of disinterest was consistent as we finally settled the boat down and we properly tied her up.

While it wasn’t the graceful landing I pride myself on being able to make, ultimately no harm was done (a little dock rash from the rubber guards that quickly buffed out).  But the whole experience was a real bummer and this dockhand’s incompetence made a difficult situation worse than it needed to be.  While it is always important to be able to be self-reliant, it is also reasonable to expect that high-end marinas like Sunset Bay should have more competent people catching the lines of the multi-million dollar boats that stay here – and I’m told they do.  On this day it was the (bad) luck of the draw.  But given the critical importance of a positive arrival experience, we were very, very surprised that this was someone they task with such a responsibility.

What you see in the video actually takes place over just under five minutes.

After a much needed and well-deserved arrival cocktail we decided to order lunch from the onsite restaurant, Sailor’s Return.  We enjoyed some good conch fritters and other tasty treats while we awaited our service techs and reviewed plans for our lake crossing.

We did NOT leave the marina property with our arrival cocktails!

One silver lining to our stay was meeting Olivia and Bob on their beautiful Jefferson Yachts 58 Rivanna YF, the only one ever built, which was docked right next to us (you can see our bow coming uncomfortably close to them in the docking video). We never see other late model Jeffersons in our travels. Bob had connected with us through this blog many months prior but it was pure coincidence/serendipity that we were side-by-side in Stuart. We only had time for quick boat tours but it was wonderful to see another well-built, beautifully maintained Jefferson and meet more good people. See you out there guys!

Sunset over Sunset Bay. Despite a few negative experiences, we found it to be a beautiful marina with great docks, just a short walk from the charming village of Stuart.

Because it was the night of the big LSU – Clemson Championship game, we knew Sean would want to be in front of the TV rather than out to dinner.  So we decided to revisit Sailor’s Return and see what it was like to eat there.  We don’t know if they’re related but the hostess at the restaurant seemed almost more disinterested than our dockhand.  After not greeting us with even a glance while we patiently waited right in front of her at the hostess desk, we’re pretty sure she actually scowled when we dared to ask her if it was possible for the two of us to be seated.  Now we were feeling self-conscious.  Is it us?  It’s not us.  Fortunately, our waitress was lovely and the outside dining area is a nice spot but the food was average at best (it had an institutional quality) and nothing we can recommend in good conscience.

We returned from dinner and it was clear the game was a nail biter. Pillows were strewn about (of course we had no choice but to throw some flags…Illegal Touch, Pillow Foul, Roughing up the Pillow, Pillow Interference and of course, Loss of Down) and Captain Sean was speaking tersely to the TV (another flag, Unsportsmanlike). We threatened him with a TV/Radio time-out and went to bed. Thankfully, his team won or we fear the boat would have been completely trashed!
Sunset Bay has a very nice setup for its resident and transient boaters with plenty of relaxing areas to hang out on shore – even this fire-pit we came upon on our nightly walk with Jasper. It was made all the more interesting by a lone gentleman sitting on the porch, playing a ukulele and singing.

So let’s get out of here.  We cross the lake and head to one of its iconic marinas next.  See you out there!

⚓️

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And that concludes your OLOH instructions. M/Y OLOH back to 1-6

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Hello, always love the blog. Did you receive any comments from the marina, restaurant re your less than pleasant experiences? - Dan
    1. Hi Dan - So glad you're along for the ride. We are usually quick to bring up issues when we feel it's important for management to be aware. At Stuart, for a variety of reasons, we did not address the situation with the dockhand but the person at the desk when we checked in was apologetic about the slip confusion. There was simply nothing to be done about it. As far as the restaurant, the word from our waitress about the hostess was, "oh - that's just how she is." That they have someone with that personality at the front of the house and know it says it all. Cheers!
  2. Always enjoyable to read your blog. Belated ('course you were through about three weeks ago) welcome to the Space Coast. We all know that good feeling of being 'behind' Bob and Ann and having verified tracks out ahead. Now that Matanzas is dredged (even without all the green markers) the Crossroads is certainly one of the very few real trouble spots between Jacksonville and the Keys. Bob reported in Waterway Guide that there is significant side sloughing between Indian River (South Section) 228 and 230, did you see that too? Any concerns at the infamous transition from AIWW to St Lucie River between R2 and G3? How about as you made the west to northwest turn around St Lucie River lighted buoy 6? That's a pretty well known trouble spot too. Understanding your passage through the area was several weeks ago, was just wondering if those areas stuck out? Sorry to hear about the two in a row dock hand bad days. It always seems to me that we get the best folks on the easy docking days (wind/current) and the blank stares, or even worst "I know what your boat needs better than you do" on the tough landings. As you noted, the good certainly do outnumber the bad.
    1. So glad you've been enjoying the blog. I'll be responding to your inquiries about depths once we are settled in to our next spot so please stand by. Cheers!
  3. Wow.... not quite sure what to make of all that! I can tell you that Vero City Marina has always gotten a C- grade from me which is why I no longer stay there. Suntex Marina (just to the north) might be worth consideration next time through -- nothing special about it, but at least they seem happy to see you. As for Sunset Bay, I am dumbfounded at your experience and interactions. Sam (the manager) and Matt (the dock master) have always prided themselves on running a first class marina and operation. As you know, we kept Endless Summer there for a few months last year and I can attest they consistently met my rather stringent standards for a "best" marina. I tend to agree with you about Sailor's Return -- okay but not noteworthy. Next time, give The Gafford a try. In old town just a short walk. Local, casual but very good food.
    1. Hey Pete - yes, we were surprised by our experience as well based on yours and other's reviews. When Thunderchild arrived they were not at all surprised by our dockhand experience when we told them who caught our lines. Apparently he is the exception. As far as the slip assignment, it really surprised us as Sam was the one who handled our reservation. He initially couldn't find us a slip that would work for us as they were very full. So we let it go and were about to reserve elsewhere when he called back to let us know that he found us a spot. I respect that most marinas have a policy of not guaranteeing slip assignments but this was a very specific case of Sam knowing we were only confirming the reservation because he effectively guaranteed where they would be putting us. So it was a shame but we move on. As far as Vero, we have considered the Suntex marina but you and I will need to have a deeper discussion about how well you feel they can accommodate us/what their channel is really like. Judging by the Active Captain reviews we opted to return to Vero. It's a nice spot and as long as we can be on that face dock it works out very well for us, dockhand personalities aside. Cheers!
  4. Hi OLOH! It was great meeting you guys and we are definitely looking forward to seeing you in Key West! Doug & Victoria

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