August 31-September 1
Maintenance completed, we were up early to make a speed run down to Key West. Our plan was to go offshore at the Lake Worth Inlet, near Palm Beach, and make an overnight run direct to KW, but rough weather offshore and an ominous sky to the south turned us around within a couple hundred yards of the jetties and we headed back in shore for another fun filled day on the ICW!
The first bridge you come to south of West Palm Beach is the Flagler Memorial Bridge. Like most of the bridges that cross over the ICW in South Florida, Flagler Memorial Bridge is a bascule bridge which means that it hinges up from one or sometimes both sides to create unlimited vertical clearance for large (tall) sailboats and power yachts to get through. Most bridges in this area open on a 30 minute schedule, e.g., they open on the hour and half hour. The Flagler bridge is under construction and the road that it services is particularly busy, as it is the main access to Palm Beach from the mainland. As a result, they are currently only opening once per hour, except for 8:00 AM, when they don’t open at all because that’s “rush hour.”
When we realized that we didn’t want to continue offshore, we looked at the clock and knew we’d have to hustle to make the 7:00 AM opening at Flagler. Running the big 165 HP “Lugger” engine at near WOT (Wide Open Throttle), we were smoking a long at an awesome 8.5 Knots, thanks to a favorable tide. When we were within 1/4 mile, we called the bridge operator to let her know we would wanted to pass through on the 7:00 AM opening, but she deemed that we were too far away, so she wouldn’t open for us, meaning that we’d have to wait for two (2) hours before we could pass through! Thanks for playing and have a nice day! Down went the anchor and now we have time for a little napping, reading, etc…
When Flagler finally did open, they were late, of course, which caused us to miss the next bridge down stream, but lucky us, this one only caused us a 30 minute delay. And on it went for the rest of the day, passing through over 25 bridges between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Rough conditions be damned – when we finally did make it to Fort Lauderdale just before sunset, we headed out the jetties and in to the open Atlantic. There’s not much to talk about for the next 28 hours. Michelle and I each did our 3 hour shifts at the helm and in between, we slept, read, ate, watched movies, etc. As we continued on towards Key West the winds continued to shift from South to South West, and finally to West, always on our nose as we made the bend along the contour of the coast and Keys. Feeling a bit guilty about their trickery, the Wind Gods decided to lower the wind velocity slowly as we continued south, so that by the time we made the final turn in to Key West, there was barely a ripple on the water.
We arrived at Key West Bight Marina at 10:30 PM the next night (September 1). The boat was covered in salt and we were exhausted, but excited to be back in one of our favorite ports of call with plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep, clean up the boat, and have a rum drink or two in town before Patrick and Heather arrived. Let the fun begin!!