30 April 2005
Riviera Beach Marina N 26.46.090 W 80.03.313
Florida, Home of Carl Hiassen
Two and a half years and we have circumnavigated the Caribbean having visited many interesting and beautiful places. Among the most unique so far is Peanut Island, where we are now anchored.
As morning broke we braced ourselves for the last few hours of this two and a half day passage. We had hand steered, one hour on and one hour off, and we were pretty well spent looking forward to throwing down the hook and sleeping for ten to twelve hours. A cold front was coming through and all during the night the wind was increasing in velocity and the waves were growing. Channel 16 was busy with boats in distress needing help from the Coast Guard and we were impressed with the efficiency of the Coast Guard and the resources they applied to each situation.
We entered Lake Worth Inlet , having been there some ten years earlier on a "learn to cruise" sailboat operated by the Chapman School of Seamanship. We had an idea of what to expect and although some dredging was taking place we found a few familiar guide post. We motored in front of Sailfish Marina and then along the Blue Heron Bridge when we passed a derelict boat with a very thin bare chested man onboard. In her exhaustion Rene wanted to ask this individual where would be a good place to anchor. I objected and we dropped the hook nearby to the applause of our long haired new neighbor. Within a half hour this fellow was on the bow of his 28 foot boat with canine aboard, flapping his arms like a seagull. Every few minutes he would jump into the water then right back out. Tired as we were we had to keep an eye on this guy least he come over for a visit. A few minutes later he was pounding his fist on the cabin of the boat and yelling obscenities at some unknown demon. Finally this demented welcoming party from the state of Florida, hailed a Coast Guard boat manned by three young "Coasties". We assume that one of the young men ask this man to put on some clothes as he looked as if he only had boxer shorts on, so he went below and came back up on deck donned in a bathrobe which he held around himself. No belt? Shortly the Coast Guard was joined by a boat labeled Law Enforcement and they now had this character ranting and raving about something and pointing his finger as if it were a gun.
Finally we had to give up the entertainment and head in to find customs and immigration. The one and only pay telephone at Sailfish Marina was out of order so we had to walk a mile or so to find one. We cleared customs by phone and were given 24 hours to find immigrations and appear in person. By the time we returned to the boat our neighbor was gone and we were asleep by four in the afternoon. The next morning we saw this obviously crazed lunatic sitting on the floor of a sheriff's patrol boat with two officers aboard. He was still in his bath robe and they seemed to be trying to find the dog accompanying him the day before. Soon two other Sheriff boats came along side and now there were three of the county's finest circling within thirty yards of our boat. The amusement was short lived since we still had to clear in and the winds were up and there was a chop in the ICW. We had no idea where to find immigration and thought these nearby officers of the law would be helpful. After trying to signal them to get on the radio we decided to get in our dinghy and hail one of them down. We approached the two sheriff boats now tied together, the other had the lunatic aboard, about fifteen feet away the sheriff's deputy shouted at us, "Stay away from my boat". He had his left arm stiff out in front of him in a Heisman Trophy pose and his fingers spread wide as if pressing on a plate glass window. Was his right hand resting on his sidearm? What the hell is going on. Before I could put the dinghy in reverse he yells again that I should withdraw my little rubber dinghy. What, were we interrupting a dog search or was it that he noticed my "Q" flag and saw us as a possible threat to homeland security. Now there were two lunatics in the area and one of them had a relative that had been elected Sheriff. We made a hasty retreat wondering what our foreign friends might have thought upon entering our country under these circumstances.
We made a few inquires on dockage and finally decided to bring the boat into Riviera Beach Marina where a fellow cruiser was able to point out the nearby building that housed immigration. Things were starting to fall in line. The next day we returned to the marina to see if our slip would become available and met the couple on a boat identical to our Venezia now occupying the slip. They had three children onboard and were about to head north.
Finally the Enterprise car rental agent found us and offered us a great deal. For the price of an economy car he would rent us a Ford F150 truck. Every fill up was over $50.00 but this big beefy four seat pick up gave us a sense of security on highways and side streets where people either drive 45 or 85. Driving around we saw the Florida panhandlers that sprout at many intersections holding their small cardboard signs asking for a handout utilizing one rationalization or another. Will work for food, hungry small children at home, need operation and my personal favorite, the 35 year old holding a sign that says Vietnam Vet. Hey what about veterans of Grenada, Panama or Desert Storm. It is also nice to see that Florida has institutionalized panhandling by allowing the Homeless Voice Newspaper to be sold at many intersection adding to the traffic problems in what is to be soon the third most populace state in the union. Sleek foreign luxury cars never roll down their windows but American built cars sometimes make a contribution. Yeah, I gave the guy a small donation as I was so curious on the paper they were selling.
My father flew to Florida to visit us and my sister, Deanna who lives in Delray Beach, FL. He spent a couple nights on the boat and we took it out for a day sail in 25 knot winds and a heavy chop. It was not bad if you live on a boat but for a day sail it was a bit rough and even in a 42 foot boat most of us were wet by the end of the day. We also took a morning and went drop fishing on a small charter boat. Although no records were broken we were able to salvage one meal from the catch.
Okay back to business. We are here to have our standing rigging changed and of course while here we will attempt to buy, correct , fix, repair, install a number of other items on our list of things to do that covers three pages in 11 font. Small leaks in the watermaker that could go on forever may as well be attended to, rode markers that have worn off, sound deadening material in the engine room that the original survey suggested I replace, the linear drive on the auto pilot and a list of spares that need to be replenished. The list should have been broken down into "things to buy" and "things to do" with a dollar limit on "things to buy". But enter any store and the variety of goods and the quality is unparalleled. Superstores abound and US retailers lead the world in competitive prices. You find yourself buying things just because you can't find them in other ports. Publix grocery store carries 40 varieties of hot dogs and in Bonaire you can get one brand of frozen chicken franks. Well now you can see where our budget has taken our idea of fine dining.
Carl Hiassen is Florida's preeminent author and journalists. I can't speak for his column but his books use humor to lament the destruction of Florida's natural resources due to overcrowding and the political and social issues that accompany such fast growth. Mostly he loves to rake political scandals with a sharp barb and always wants to see perpetrators receive justice at the hand of mother nature. Titles we have read include Stormy Weather, Basket Case, Sick Puppy, Lucky You and Strip Tease. If you like Carl try Tom Robbins.
We have completed the list of important items and now we are waiting for weather. The hurricane season made an early appearance in the Caribbean with a storm from the Pacific that might make it across the Isthmus of Panama. So we wait and try to decide when we will turn in the car, when will we leave the marina and anchor out, and when do we want to give up pizza and ice cream, okay we'll stay put for a couple more days.