West Palm Beach, FL
Well we have finally made it to Florida and are ready for the trip to the Bahamas. After the anchor troubles in Charleston we had another excellent overnight sail to Cumberland Island, 163 miles at an average of 7 knots arriving by 1pm and best of all having a warm night at sea.
Cumberland is one of our favourite spots on the US coast, (see our posts from 2007) and we had another great visit. Since our last trip here the Parks Service have opened up the Plum Orchard estate on the north of the island.
Unlike Dungeness this one is preserved as was and the tour gives a great insight into the life on the island. As well as the formal living areas, it takes in the servant quarters, kitchens and machine rooms.
The electrical system was designed by Thomas Edison to showcase his invention of DC electricity to the Carnegies and their wealthy friends – a more appealing marketing strategy than inventing the electric chair, which he did to demonstrate how dangerous Westinghouse’s AC system was!
From Cumberland Island we motored down to Saint Augustine on a flat calm day. It was our first trip here as with our draft the entrance has always seemed a bit daunting given we always like to leave when it is windy, but this time the weather forecast, tides etc seemed to look good for the in and the out trips.
The entrance has recently shoaled and has some buoys missing so it never promised to be easy, and with the setting sun making visibility even harder, we had a stomach wrenching trip in. The initial line up was easy, but as we passed the second set of buoys we suddenly found ourselves with no visible markers in front – where the hell is the next set?
We carried slowly on in as the deep water was reasonably obvious as we had breakers on either side and finally picked up 2 port hand marks off to the left but still could not see the starboard marks, just breakers and a beach. The further in we got the more worrying this was, so we headed across to pick up the port marks, but on local advice didn’t want to get too close to them due to the shoaling. Imagine our surprise as we passed the first port mark to realise it was a starboard one! A sharp left turn and we were back in the by now very narrow channel and safely in. We were never in any danger as there was deep water where we were, but still a bit of a scare!
The town has two sets of attractions the old colonial bits, including a large fort, plus in the 19th Century Henry Flagler turned the town into a super resort for the rich and famous, building 2 enormous luxury hotels and much of the town infrastructure.
I am not sure how many University dining halls can boast Tiffany stained glass windows, but I can’t imagine it is many!
We leave St Augustine on a beautiful warm day with gentle easterlies, the trip out is easy as we have better visibility and having been past the markers once it is a bit more obvious what the much altered and somewhat randomly buoyed channel is supposed to be doing.
The forecast is spot on and an hour or so after we clear the channel the wind fills in from the ENE at 20 knots and we have a superb sail down to Palm Beach, 210 miles at an average of 7.5 knots, arriving in Palm Beach early in the morning.
We have had a rather hectic week here as we make the final preparations for departure. My visa expires at midnight on 26th so we have no choice but to leave by then, and the water maker membrane that survived 12 month pickled while we were in the UK decided to have a melt down during the 6 week pickling after leaving Annapolis, so we needed a new membrane fast.
We got fabulous help from Murray Marine, meeting me at the dinghy dock on a Saturday morning and fitting a new membrane in the housing. Trouble was that while this solved the problem, the water quality was poor. I spent 2 days rebuilding and rewiring the system to eliminate lots of little problems like voltage drop, worn feed pumps etc but while each fix improved it slightly the water remained marginal.
We finally worked out that the problem was a faulty membrane from Spectra, and Dick Murray did a great job of finding another one at very short notice and getting it fitted for us on Thanksgiving Eve, ready for a hurried departure!
Hopefully the next post will be from the Bahamas!