Robin and I never fail to learn something new when we leave the dock. Each time we travel we are handed a new challenge, something new to fix or overcome. Most of the time, it’s not hard, just requiring some extra planning.
In 2005 when we took our American Sailing Association courses, we exited Port Everglades and entered Government Cut, the port of Miami. We did this because we had to avoid the Julia Tuttle Bridge because of the height of the sailboat’s mast. The air draft of Tuttle is 55 feet and the boat we were learning to sail on had a mast that was 60 feet. Similarly, Sea Change’s mast needs 56 feet so again we had to exit and enter in these same inlets. The last time we passed this way through these inlets we were met with steep standing waves. Some of them could have been as high as 10 feet. Sailors know this is perfectly okay in another person’s boat, but we are moving our home and that’s a different story altogether. So, we consulted local knowledge and found that when the tides and winds were in opposition this was the perfect set up for standing waves. Great for surfers, not great for Sea Change and crew. We needed to study the tide tables, currents and weather to find the right time to make our exits and entrances through these inlets.
With a strong east wind blowing, we had to time exit and entry at both Government Cut in Miami and Port Everglades in Ft Lauderdale. We were looking for slack tides so current and tide would not be an issue The plan was not simple we had to time the departure for slack tide at Government Cut (8:45am); plan another entry at slack tide at Port Everglades near Ft. Lauderdale (2:56pm) some 22 miles away and work our way up the winding river to Cooley’s landing, where we needed to dock at slack tide (5:00pm) because the tremendous cross currents would make it impossible to stuff Sea Change’s 12 foot beam into a 14 foot slip. Did I mention that the bascule bridges are all “locked-down” from 4:30 to 6:00 each night for rush hour traffic in downtown Fort Lauderdale? Sounds like a math problem; it’s great that Robin enjoys puzzles. I watched her think all day long.
Once we got into the Atlantic, again we had 4 and 5 feet waves on the beam which could make for a sloshy a ride. However raising both sails allowed Sea Change to hook up with with the wind and we had steady but sometimes still bumpy ride up the coast. There was plenty of traffic to entertain us as we traveled northward; the occasional mega yacht would potentiate the hight of the existing waves and swell. With our auto pilot driving, we sat on opposite sides of the cockpit and chatted, occasionally looking out the eisenglass enclosure for boat traffic.
It wasn’t too long before it was time to douse the sails and make the approach into Port Everglades. Robin headed us up into the wind just as a green and yellow container ship appeared in view. This was a small ship, maybe 350 feet long with containers across her deck. The Automated ship identification system(AIS) display said that it was returning from the Bahamas. As I had just furled the genoa, I then set my attention to dropping the main. Releasing the halyard the main dropped nicely on to the boom, and then to the deck obscuring Robin’s view from the helm. I went on deck struggling to maintain my balance in the sea way, abruptly sitting down a few times on the way to secure the mainsail. With the main secured, Robin turned the boat towards the well marked Port Everglades inlet. We were both were surprised to see the green container ship abruptly turn and head back out to sea. We reviewed reasons that ship might turn back. Perhaps there was traffic coming out the inlet, perhaps the ship was early and there was no room at the dock to offload. We weren’t certain.
Listening to the radio hadn’t helped ascertain what was going on, so Robin nosed Sea Change towards the inlet. Honoring the reds and greens she began to line the boat up on the port. Next we see another small orange ship heading out the inlet. This one about 200 ft in length. Robin and I discuss our next action and we both agree to get Sea Change out of the channel. Moving northward of the channel, the orange boat continues to head right for us. We quickly headed back out to sea again noting the massive grey tanker behind the orange survey ship. This was the real deal as our AIS indicated she was almost 900 feet long. We must have looked a bit silly running around in circles trying to avoid these other ships, but we did so safely.
Soon we coasted into the inlet and began the task of making our way up the New river. The currents were fierce and without warning the bow or the stern would quickly head in the wrong direction. Compounding the current, water taxis zipped back and forth, other yachts headed down stream, and we had to wait in the current for small bascule bridges to open.
Don’t get me wrong, the New River is beautiful. Billion dollar homes and million dollar yachts line the waterway. On the banks of the river is expensive shopping, restaurants and a river walk. There is an art museum, performing arts center, and much much more all just a short distance away.
We made it up river to Sailboat Bend and tied to a floating dock near the performing arts center to wait for slack water on the river. With a little assistance, Sea Change nosed in to a slip by the bridge at Cooley’s Landing. Time to look around the area!