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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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.
So let’s get out of here. We cross the lake and head to one of its iconic marinas next. See you out there!
Please be sure to subscribe to our blog on the top right of this page to get notified when new content is posted. And please leave any comments or questions below – we love to hear from you & know that you’re along for the ride! For real-time updates and the very latest on what we’re up to, be sure to like us & follow us on the M/Y OLOH Facebook Page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @MYOLOH and for plenty more pictures and videos find us on Instagram and YouTube.
And that concludes your OLOH instructions. M/Y OLOH back to 1-6