Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #47 Cruisers Rule!

There aren’t many kudos that we can express about Vero Beach Municipal Marina that haven’t been said before by other cruisers. This truly is a cruiser’s haven, in every sense of the word. We arrived yesterday after a horrible overnight stop in Ft. Pierce. The 4-knot current in the anchorage there kept us awake from midnight to 3:00 AM, wondering if we would collide with other boats that were circling in the wind-against-tide tug-of-war. At one point we were within two feet of touching one of them, so we started the engine and pulled in some of our anchor chain. After a few hours of sleep we prepared to make the 12-mile trip to Vero, but we needed a few more gallons of diesel. We were reluctant to go into the marina where getting pinned against the dock in the 20-knot wind was a real possibility, so Jim took the dinghy in to fill a couple of diesel jugs. On his way the outboard stopped, just as it had at Peck Lake, but this time there was no re-starting it. Fortunately, he got a tow back to the boat. Then we had to take the boat into the marina. The wind was kind enough to let us get away without the fight we had feared.

The rest of the trip was blessedly uneventful, except for the confusion about what mooring was assigned to us when we got here. The unique thing about this mooring field is the raft-ups on the mooring balls. In order to accommodate the high volume of boats who stop here, the marina requires rafting of up to three boats on each mooring ball. So we were assigned to a ball that already had one boat hanging on it, and, unfortunately, the boat was unoccupied at the time. Now, we used to raft our Catalina 25 frequently on Lake Monroe, but we’ve never tried it in this boat. Plus, we’ve never rafted up to an unoccupied boat. So as we circled, trying to figure out how to do this (especially in our sleep-deprived state), we eventually called for some help from a couple of boats with which we had been acquainted elsewhere. Gypsy Common and Blue Rider both came to our rescue and helped us to get tied up without any mishaps.

After a good night’s sleep (we went to bed before 9:00 PM), we were ready to explore and get the dinghy functional again. We had to get a tow to shore, but a free public bus stops at the marina and goes to several major shopping areas. Jim had diagnosed the outboard problem as a non-functioning tank-to-engine fuel line. He had borrowed the fuel line from a neighboring cruiser’s dinghy (also a Yamaha engine) and the outboard started right up. So a trip to West Marine provided us with the solution to the problem—hopefully. It took a while to get the new fuel line to work properly. Apparently, the check valve in the new line was not seating properly, but thinking it might be the pickup tube Jim dismantled it. It was fine until Jim dropped the tube into the tank! Again another cruiser came to our rescue with a long tool that could reach in and snatch it back. We put that tool on our shopping list! The outboard purred nicely once again.

Notice the number of other cruisers who have given us assistance in the short time we’ve been here. Being a part of the cruising community is like having a wide circle of friends, many of whom we’ve never met. And here at Vero Beach the congregation of cruisers is a real joy; it’s a great place to get acquainted with some of those un-met friends. Living aboard here indefinitely is not allowed, so there are no derelicts such as we’ve seen in other cruiser anchorages. The bus service makes provisioning and repairs an easier proposition than elsewhere, and the mooring field is well-protected from wind and fetch. Even the rafting encourages social contact. We’ve had some delightful cocktail-hour and after-dinner conversations with our neighbors, Rita and Frank on Calypso.

Incidentally, we asked the marina staff what it is that makes Vero Beach so much more cruiser-friendly than other coastal communities, and their response was “the marina staff”.  Hospitable and accommodating they definitely are, but we surmise that there must be more to it than that, because the marina doesn’t control the bus service or any other businesses that seem to value our presence. We expect to be here about a week (the nickname of “Velcro Beach” is appropriate!), so maybe we’ll sleuth out a more satisfactory answer to our query in that time.

Vero Beach Mooring Field
Vero Beach Mooring Field

Today was a work day. Jim got the plankton filter for the watermaker installed. Hopefully, it will keep the other filters from getting clogged as often. I (Alice) did some cleaning in the head and galley. It’s surprising how quickly dirt can accumulate in such a small space, but the upside is that I don’t have a lot of space to clean.

A beautiful Sunday when the buses don’t run called for a dinghy trip to the beach. We had a lovely day, including a restful sunbath on the beach and a yummy lunch at a seaside restaurant. Sundays are meant to be like this.

An early bus ride took us to Wal-Mart, where we got some essentials and some goodies. Several other cruisers have recommended the use of a vacuum Food Saver, so we picked up one that we think we can make room for. It actually sucks all the air out of the storage bag, and thereby preserves food for a longer time than in an ordinary Glad or Ziploc bag. I’m eager to try it out with freezer food that we’ll get tomorrow. The best part of our shore excursion was getting to a movie theater that was showing Sahara. For any of the uninitiated out there, Sahara is based on Clive Cussler’s book by the same name. Clive Cussler has written for the past 20+ years about a fictional marine engineer super-hero named Dirk Pitt and Dirk’s cohorts, Al Giordino, Rudy Gunn, and Admiral Sandecker. There are some 20 books in the series at this point. Cussler seems to have an imagination par excellence, and all the stories are just fun variations on the super-hero-saves-the-world theme with fascinating premises and convoluted plots. The movie Sahara remains mostly faithful to the tone and essence (if not the plot) of Cussler’s book, and it made for a fun afternoon, indeed. I won’t give anything away about the storyline, but I will suggest that anyone who enjoys James Bond or Jack Ryan will also enjoy this movie. Dirk Pitt rules!

Have we mentioned that cruisers are wonderful people? Well, just in case anyone remains unconvinced, let us share this tale. The free bus service here in Vero is an enormous aid for provisioning, but our usual tow-carts that we use when we walk to a grocery are too bulky for the small Vero buses. So today we just took a collection of sturdy bags to haul our provisions back on the bus. However, we needed a bunch of stuff, and, sure enough, by the time we got to the check-out, we were going to have to be very creative—not to mention muscle-bound—in order to carry it all. Serendipitously, the folks behind us in the check-out line commented that we must be cruisers, recognizing our characteristics from once having been cruisers themselves—circumnavigation cruisers, no less. Bob and Carol are presently living here in Vero Beach, and, of course, they had come to the grocery store with a car—like most sane people! They graciously offered us (with a fair degree of insistence) a ride to the marina, thereby saving us a huge hassle in getting all our stuff onto the bus. Once more, we are both awed and gratified by the generosity and hospitality of the cruising community. We only hope that we can one day do likewise for other cruisers in need.

Vero Beach was a great place to pass some time, but if we don’t start putting some miles under our keel, we’ll never see the Chesapeake. So we bid good-bye this morning to our mooring-mates and Blue Rider and Evermore, and headed north to Melbourne. The winds are predicted to build to 20-25 out of the north over the next few days, but today’s motor passage wasn’t too bad. We’re anchored at Dragon Point at Melbourne, possibly until the winds ease next week. Dragon Point got its name from the life-sized sculpted dragon that once guarded the anchorage. Sadly, wind and weather claimed the dragon several years back, and today not much is recognizable of the poor beast. This anchorage isn’t really as appealing as the description in the guide books suggested. Private moorings curtail anchoring space, it’s too deep for our comfort, and there are no other cruisers here. But the protection is good, so it may be fine.

Indian River Paddlewheeler
Indian River Paddlewheeler

Protection or not, we decided we didn’t want to spend another night at Dragon Point. There turned out to be more current than we anticipated, and once more we found ourselves circling and getting too close for comfort to another boat and the shore. So we upped anchor and considered moving to another spot, but after finding nothing else more suitable we decided to head on up the ICW. We hoped that NOAA’s report would again be a day late, and that the 25-knot winds wouldn’t hit us in the face. No such luck. By 10:00 we were getting splash over the deck and making just 4.5 knots. We had planned on passing Cocoa by this trip, although the guide books say that it’s a pleasant place to visit. But in studying the chart, we thought that the Cocoa anchorage might provide us with the protection from the northerlies that we were going to need. So we decided to check it out. Sure enough, we’re protected by the bridge causeway, there’s no current, and we’re far enough away from other boats. We’re happy that we made the decision to stop here. We’ll probably be here until the winds ease on Monday, so hopefully we’ll get to see the town. Incidentally, Carol on Blue Rider gave us a call this afternoon to find out how we were fairing with the winds. They wisely decided to wait out the winds in Vero, and they were concerned for our welfare. One more example of the consideration and community among cruisers.

Pinned here at Cocoa by the high winds, we decided to go see the Historic District which gets high marks in the cruising guides. We knew that getting the dinghy down and crossing the windy anchorage would be a challenge, but not one we haven’t met many times before. What was different this time, though, was the outboard dying half-way there. We thought we had this problem licked with the new fuel-line hose we bought in Vero, but maybe not. Jim was able to re-start the outboard, and we tied on to a nearby dock while he fussed over the “new” fuel line and worked some magic. He seemed convinced that it was working okay, so we continued on our way to town, ever fearful of being once more set adrift in the punishing wind. But we made it, and enjoyed the walk around town. Most of the shops seemed to sell collections of things we could neither use or afford, but looking was fun, anyway. The most intriguing stop was at Travis’s Hardware Store, built in 1885 and still a family business, and touted as the best hardware store in Florida. The maze of aisles that wander through two levels in several buildings contain all manner of gadgets, widgets, tools, and anything remotely resembling hardware. Apparently the Travis family has been collecting hardware inventory since 1885, and if you can’t find it there, you obviously didn’t look hard enough. Jim found a few goodies that weren’t exactly necessities, but certainly niceties—especially a duplicate of the handy-dandy picker-upper that saved the outboard tank in Vero. For anyone new to Cocoa Travis’s is a must-see—if only to believe! After wandering the town for a while we had an excellent Italian lunch at Franco’s—veal parmagiana for Jim and manicotti for me. Not to mention the to-die-for tiramisu. And the dinghy got us back aboard Caloosa Spirit with no more heart-stopping incidents. A pleasant day, all things considered.

After yesterday’s harrowing dinghy ride to shore, we decided to spend the day aboard. The wind is still blowing, and it may blow all the way through tomorrow. It would be nice to be on our way, but the whitecaps we can see on the north side of the bridge aren’t the least bit inviting. So we may hold out here at Cocoa until Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

P. S. Don’t forget to look up Alice’s book, Reaching a Far Horizon, at www.lulu.com!

Posted Sunday April 17, 2005

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  1. I saw your letter in the Apr. 05 Seaworthy and I just went to your website.

    I own a 17 ft Sea Hunt trailer boat and I usually put in at Winthrop or Salem, or Gloucester, Mass.

    Best regards,
    Capt. of “Shorty” Ch. 9
    Doug Swain    04/24/2005 07:46 AM    #
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