We left West Palm before 8 am, along with a fleet of sport-fisher boats lined up like ducks along the inside of the Intracoastal. As if on cue, as soon as we got out to open water the wind kicked up and we let out all our sails.
If our first day at sea had felt a bit “off,” today we were playing catch-up. Our bodies started to adjust to the temperature, the motion, the pace. To know what life is like, distilled to its core elements, some people go into the woods. Some climb mountains. We sail. At sea, everything comes down to the wind, the water and the boat.
We busied ourselves with small boat tasks: Greg made a “crown splice” on the dinghy line; I hopped around the boat peeling off blue tape from around the rails where I had applied 5-7 coats of varnish in recent weeks. I hung my legs in the waves on the low side, lathered them up with soap, and shaved in the sea for the first time. At around noon I got a work assignment, which I was able to complete from the sunny cockpit, then we ate ramen for lunch.
In the afternoon we got word about Pepé from the couple who’d moved into Portia’s place: “He is still critical and in a coma, but showing signs of activity in both eyes, which the doctors say is a good sign. He does not have a single broken bone.” To understand how incredible this is, see the photos of the car that hit him. We remain optimistic, but any recovery is going to be a hard road. Not to mention an economic disaster. A retired chef, Pepé has been living in America for over 20 years, but he has no health insurance. Neither does Greg, actually.
We sailed the whole day, at a decent clip of 3 to 5 knots, hitting a high of 5.5. Though the wind clocked around a few times toward the afternoon, we fell off for a minute and it always clocked back enabling us to sail a perfect reach in toward Boca Raton (meaning “Mouse Mouth”), which is about the size of it. In fact, we almost sailed right by.
We finished the roughly 30-mile passage around 4 pm, which Greg suddenly recalled was low tide. He called Tow Boat U.S. to get some local knowledge on the depths. Then he checked the charts and saw it was a new moon – meaning that low tide would be even lower than usual by 2-3 inches. We draw 4’6″; the Tow Boat U.S. captain said that low was around 5. We knew we’d be cutting it close, but we watched a big motor yacht come straight out without issue, so we decided to make a run for it – and immediately ran aground.
We backtracked out to the coast and dropped anchor, opting to wait as long as we could before trying it again – but neither of us wanted to enter a new port after dark. At 5 pm we tried again, and made it. I stood on the bow, looking down through water so clear and shallow I could see a shell on the bottom. Navigating this inlet felt a bit like a video game. “Hurrah!” came the voice from the game gods, “You passed the first challenge.” About 300 yards later a small bascule bridge crossed our path. (See the aerial view.)
Greg called and requested an opening. Another small powerboat was milling around a few feet ahead of the bridge and as we waited, Greg attempted to turn the boat around into the current in order to maintain steerage and our position – to essentially avoid being pushed into the bridge – but he ended up doing 360s as several other boats barreled up behind us and at least one squeezed right by.
When the bridge finally opened, the boats on our side passed through in single file. Because it took us a minute to get back in the queue, we lagged behind the last boat just long enough that two boats coming from the other side decided to make a go for it. And, like most power boaters, they seemed to have no understanding of how this would affect us. Their boats kicked up a massive wake and stirred up the water under the bridge so that it nearly pushed us into the side. I overheard Greg describing it to his BFF later, “It was like a log flume, man. Class 4 rapids!”
Greg acted like a powerboater and accelerated, steering more towards the center of the channel and preventing a third boat from entering and ensuring our demise.
“Bling!” went the video game gods as we came out into a small “lake” surrounded on all sides by well-lit mansions and pink condominium towers.
We almost immediately ran aground. It was shallow everywhere. We’d read this online, so we backed off and steered to the south side and made our way to the western edge of the “lake” – which is actually the Intracoastal Waterway. We anchored for the night along the northeast corner alongside about ten other boats, mostly sailboats. Then we made a beeline for the liquor store.