We arrived at Grand Bahama Yacht Club in Lucaya late on Friday 16 March. This marina is very comfortable, quiet and familiar as we had stayed here twice before. The alternate marina near the casino is full of the more flamboyant bill fishing crowd. At our spot many of the same cruisers from past years were also settled in to wait for the March winds to die down. In fact, two couples we had met last year, that had been avid sail boaters, had recently slipped over to "...the dark side" and were now living aboard very nice trawlers. The long term boaters at Lucaya are well organized with activities.
During the stay, members of the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club arrived on their winter cruise. This happy coincidence led to memorable potlucks and evening happy hours around the pool. The laundry room fit in as the serving line with the utilities draped in sheets and decorated with local flowers and greens. The stay had lots of walking trips...our bikes had been swiped in Sarasota...including a trip to the dolphin pools. This is where busses and boats full of tourists are brought to touch a dolphin. The stay also gave us plenty of time to complete the 2006 taxes. One Sunday we attended a nice service at a Scottish Presbyterian Kirk, complete with a pastor from the old country and a delightful brogue. Our weather window opened on 28 March and we headed out into the channel at sunrise...alone.
The crossing to Lake Worth was uneventful and we pulled around Peanut Island to the anchorage just north of the bridge. This leg completes a journey from Sarasota to the southern Bahamas and back to Florida; a total of just under 2000 Nm. On arrival a phone call was all that Customs needed, but the folks at Immigration are another story. They close down early so we couldn't make it that afternoon. The dinghy was lowered the next morning to be at their door at 0800. We arrived on time and were greeted by no less than eight security personnel...all involved with guarding the building entrance. They informed us that Immigration wouldn't be there until 0900 and that we would then have to be escorted up to the second floor. It is clear that we have a lot more security here in the homeland....
With the dinghy in tow our stop on 29 March would be the Vero Beach Municipal Marina. This place is very popular and has a unique feature to maximize use of their moorings. Virtually every ball had two and three vessels rafted together, and we were directed to tie up to a nice, single Cheribini trawler. We soon discovered the boat and found it unoccupied. Now, common boating etiquette frowns on climbing aboard another's vessel without permission and it was going to be difficult to make an immaculate landing on her port side. A hurried exchange with the marina confirmed the procedure. We were saved by the arrival of fellow cruisers, by dinghy, who diligently clambered aboard for our lines. By the time the owners arrived we were safely tied and fendered alongside. Took the dinghy to the Riverside Bar and Grill for dinner that night with old friends on Diamond Girl.
The next day was a long one with the usual bridge waits and dead slow "manatee zones" that cover central Florida. Coming thru the haulover canal cut in a rain squall we were treated to several manatee playing at the surface. Hoping that some of the gentle cows would follow, we chose an anchorage in the lower Mosquito Lagoon just around the corner. But, they must prefer the cut, because we had the anchorage to ourselves. The last day of March our anchorage was in picturesque St. Augustine. Just north of the Bridge of Lions and under the old fort, we could watch the former being dismantled, followed by the evening sunset on the latter. On 1 April we checked into Beach Marina just off the ICW at Jacksonville. It is here that we will stay a few weeks to move the truck north and refinish the teak cap rail.