Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Stuart, FL 27º11.826N | 80º15.682W

In general, I believe any day that starts hunched over the toilet is not gonna be a good one.

Our plan for this day was to make our final, short trek down the Intracoastal Waterway to Lake Worth where we plan to make a hop down to Miami outside in the ocean. The ICW between Stuart and Lake Worth is punctuated by ten bridges that either open on demand or are on alternating scheduled openings, some on the half hours, some on quarters, so we knew there could be a lot of fits and starts.

All we wanted was to get the ICW behind us, once and for all. Our last rite of passage.

Not so easy.

After a crappy few hours unstopping the toilet, we left the marina and ran smack into a grumpy bridge tender, who wouldn't answer to the bridge name we had successfully called the previous day. Busting my chops already?

Then about three miles past the bridge a man hailed us on the VHF. When I answered he went on a four-minute yelling screed -- on Channel 16 for everyone to hear -- about how we had waked him on his motoryacht as we passed his marina. ("Waked" means going fast enough to create a wave behind your boat, called a wake, which can cause damage.)

It's hard not to laugh at the possibility of us creating a damaging wake along the ICW where boats constantly fly through wreaking havoc with their wakes, especially since we can create a larger wake with our dinghy than we can with the boat.

Deep breath. Onward. The Coast Guard then made an announcement about a problem with the bridge we were approaching. Now, I don't know how the Coast Guard selects who will make their radio announcements, but it seems to be the same selection process used to hire McDonald's drive-through window employees. What?!?!?!? What did they say?!?!?

So, I start hailing the bridge to find out what horrors we might be approaching, hoping we were not going to be turned back.

I hailed "Jupiter Bridge" and hailed again. And hailed and hailed. Finally a dispassionate voice come on saying, "Are you hailing the Jupiter 707 Bridge?"

"Yes." Nothing. "Jupiter 707 Bridge, this is Cara Mia."

"Bridge here."

"Can I have an opening!?!?!"

Sheesh. Second chops-busting of the day from a bridge tender. He didn't even respond when I thanked him.

So, after passing through Mr. Grumpy II's bridge our next peril loomed up about 50 yards ahead: a dredger right in our path at a turn where a heavy current was running. It was unclear how to pass them, and they too did not answer hails on the radio. We guessed. We guessed right.

As we passed the dredger I hailed the next bridge about 100 yards ahead, only to be advised by Mr. Nice bridge tender that he was happy to have us, but his bridge only opened on one side. At least he was nice about it.

We then entered the group of bridges that opened on a timed basis. The first one acknowledged us and two other boats traveling with us, and said that the opening was imminent. We waited and waited, idled, reversed, pivoted, waited. Finally the horn sounded. We waited. The bridge started moving and so did we. But wait! Have you ever seen a bridge open that slowly? We idled and reversed and pivoted again until we could safely lurch through hugging the port side. Whew.

At the next bridge, we were second in line behind a sailboat, and the tender told us this was another malfunctioning, half opening bridge. At this point it was hard not to see our bridge as half closed.

With the same sailboat in front of us we motored toward yet another timed bridge as a large sportfishing yacht pulled between us. At the same time I could hear a sportfisher approaching from the opposite direction asking if he could fit under the bridge with "23-foot outriggers." He decided to wait for the opening.

As we were all idling, pivoting, reversing, Chip said, "Is that a flashing light on top of that boat?"

We took a look with the binoculars and could see that the boat waiting on the opposite side of the bridge had his big-ass Furuno radar spinning -- in the ICW. There is NO reason to have radar on in the ICW on a clear, sunny day. None. Laughable.

So, once the bridge opened, I could see the sailboat start forward, because everyone on our side had the right of way since we were traveling with the current. Just as we started moving, I looked ahead to see the sailboat turned sideways just on our side of the bridge.

The sportfisher with his outriggers and spinning radar was barreling on through the bridge opening, right of way or no.

The bridge tender came on the VHF: "Sir, you need to take a boating right of way class."

Someone else chimed in after him: "And you can turn off that radar too!"

The very last bridge held only minor thrills as it was around a sharp turn with swift side current and heavy traffic, but we made it. Triumphant. Goodbye ICW.

We anchored near our friends on Jessie Marie at the mouth of Lake Worth Inlet, poised for an easy escape. I checked my email to find an insurance claim had been filed against us for waking the large motor yacht.

Determined to pull out a good day, we had our friends over for home-cooked pizza, wine and laughs, then set the alarm for 2 a.m. to watch the lunar eclipse. Beautiful.

Thanks, Gio!     Photo credit: Giovanni Calabro
Lake Worth, FL 26º45.935N | 80º02.601W

I didn't see any peanuts, but they got the shack part right.
Palm Beach across the water.


  1. I spent most of my youth either going under or over those bridges. Brings back memories!

  2. We're still stuck in Charleston, SC and I'm dreading the rest of the ICW draw bridge routine. When I read the wake damage part of your post out loud to Hans he couldn't believe it. Really? A sailboat causing wake damage even at full speed? What a joke! What the hell kind of jerk is this anyway? I sincerely hope you're disputing his claim because it sounds to me like he's looking for an easy out for free repairs to his boat.