We’re three weeks into our trip North on the Intracoastal Waterway, and some things are becoming apparent:
- No bridge tender has ever heard of a boat named Slappey ll. When we call them on the radio to request an opening, we most often are met with, ‘Sloppy, our next opening will be in 7 minutes.’
- To the extent that you can count on a power boat politely slowing down as it passes you, so as not to throw a king-sized wake your way, you can count on it happening much more frequently the farther North you are. This happened zero times in Ft. Lauderdale, rarely by Jupiter, but frequently beyond Vero Beach. So now we have been warned.
- Manatee signs, manatee zones, and boater info about manatees abounds. We can only conclude that the waters are plastered with them. This is only a supposition, however, as our official manatee sighting total number remains……ZERO. Sure, hide all the manatees from the West Coasters, the only folks who actually WANT to see a manatee!
- If the wages of sin is death, then the wages of Florida warmth and beauty are thunderstorms and bugs. Would that we had a photo of the Slappey made black by a giant swarm of flying ants. And I’m sure this is only the beginning.
- The East Coast equivalent to Mr. Heater Little Buddy, named Mr. Frosty, will become even more beloved.
The ICW, so far, has encompassed everything from a narrow canal, lined with private properties, to wide-open but shallow areas such as Lake Worth, and the even wider Indian River Lagoon. Within those bodies of water, there is a narrow, marked channel where you must remain, and even then, you can get into some trouble with depth. The deepest parts so far have only been about 20 feet deep, and most often it is 9 to 13 feet. Once, and for the first time ever, we bounced on the bottom as it shoaled up to 4 1/2 feet. Our draft is officially 4’11”, and before then, we had NEVER gone aground. There are also lots and lots of opening bridges where roads cross over the waterway. Most of them open on a certain schedule, such as the quarter and three-quarter hour, or the hour and half-hour. The greatest number of these were between Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach County, but we will continue to encounter some as we make our way North. They all have an actual bridge tender who you must call to announce your request for an opening. Once, we had to ‘tread water’ for nearly two hours in front of a bridge because some fool car had hit the gate that morning, and it was being repaired. There is wildlife to see: many birds, pods of dolphins, manatees…oh wait, NOT MANATEES. Once, a sea turtle with a head as big as mine surfaced right next to us and he (or she) glared right at me. She was probably thinking, “Slappey? Who would name a boat Slappey?”
So far, stops have included Sunrise Bay in Ft. Lauderdale, Lake Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne, and Cocoa Village. Some of the stops were just anchorages for the night, but we stopped for a time in North Palm Beach, Vero Beach, and now Cocoa Village. There is a lot to see, and we’re only scratching the surface this time around. The season is also winding down, as most boats have already passed Florida for points further north. It’s kind of like Mexico in that regard; only the hardiest folks stay down in Florida on their boats for the Summer. We’ll get beyond Florida in the next few weeks, but only just. We don’t want to have so far to travel when we return in the Fall. Slappey….always a rally of one.
I have to say, I much preferred Bonnet House in Ft. Lauderdale to Henry Flagler’s over-the-top mansion. Bonnet House was built by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an artist who didn’t take himself too seriously. This place should have a plaque that says, “I’m Henry Flagler, I built this damn state, this is my Winter home, and I’m likely the most important person you’ll ever meet. Behold my glory.” But it is in Palm Beach.