Sunday, January 4, 2009

21 Bridges between West Palm and Ft. Lauderdale


SOUTH FLORIDA via WATERWAY:
We did this section once on Absolute years ago and thought ‘never again.’ But the offshore weather was gusty and contrary, so... There are roughly 21 opening bridges between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, - they, plus Ft. Pierce to the north and Miami to the south are the ‘safe’ ocean inlets, or in our case, outlets. Most bridges have schedules, hour and half hour, and even if you step smartly you can’t quite get them all timed right.
We got lucky, following a sand barge through a couple unscheduled openings. The gears under several bridges looked freshly painted, in peach and lime, or whatever those Florida football team colors are. Not a single squashed pigeon either, here in the land of pelicans.
Before the buildings got too tall and too numerous, we could roll out the jib for a power-assist. We even found an anchorage on the waterway, north of Ft. Lauderdale at Lettuce Lake (no lake, no lettuce).

Next day, Christmas Eve, we droned on. The weather was squally, the sky dark and for while we thought there had been some disaster – there were no people, no lights in the houses, and Santas and snowmen were collapsed in puddles on the lawns. But then the landscapers and pool boys appeared, and there was always traffic being stopped for us on the bridges. I could imagine people cursing the delay, or, I hoped, being glad for the respite.

Florida is said to have one of the highest unemployment rates and highest foreclosure rates in the country (also highest number of lightening strikes), but it’s hard to say what we were seeing when we saw so many empty buildings. The traffic reports are always full of congestion, breakdowns and delays.

In the “how times have changed” department, I hooked up my new wifi antenna (thanks Alf 124, whoever you may be) while waiting for a bridge, and was able to send a digital photo to a supplier, call him and arrange for the correct part, and have it shipped to an address I arranged in Key West, all in the 20 minutes we waited for the bridge!

We even bashed our way out the Ft. Lauderdale channel that Christmas Eve afternoon, but when the short steep seas kept washing the deck, the wind moved well forward, and the GPS quit, we turned around, slunk apologetically back through SE 17th St. and Las Olas bridges again, and anchored in the middle of the Middle River, alone.

Good thing too, because just then Amazon came around the bend. Next day we had a nice brunch (shrimp and grits) in the cockpit. Conditions lightened all around, and we spent Christmas night reaching down the coast to Miami, chatting with family on the cell phone all the way.

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