The trip from St. Augustine to Palm Beach was very much like our previous two-nighter from Charleston – very little wind and a lot of motoring. This time there was a consistent swell throughout the trip which kept me feeling undeservedly hungover, aka seasick. I am not looking forward to how I will feel in any serious waves. It is said that it often takes a couple of days at sea to get over seasickness, and so far I haven’t been out long enough to see if it will go away as reported. (You can read about how I deal with seasickness here.) I was hoping that I wouldn’t be one of the unlucky people who feels sick for each voyage, but of course, I am. And of course, Jon is completely unaffected; a good thing since one of us needs to be relied on to steer this seven ton piece of plastic out of harm’s way regardless of the circumstances, and we all know that person is not likely to be me.
Anyway, we made it to Southern Florida and were rewarded with warmth – glorious, 80 degree warmth – just in time for my birthday the following day. On the first day we arrived we found a place to anchor, caught up on some sleep, and searched rather fruitlessly for a place to land the dinghy. Which brings me to what sucks about Florida. There is water everywhere, and it’s surrounded by other people’s houses and giant marinas set up for giant yachts and apparently devoid of dinghy docks. I even called a few marinas to see if we could pay to tie up. They asked about the boat’s length to charge by the foot. Umm, it’s eight feet and like most dinghys, doesn’t need its own slip, thank you. That’ll be $55, was the reply. Per day. Surprisingly though, there are a ton of boats at anchor. Many of them have not yet sunk, and some even have their dinghys attached. So how do these people get from land to their boats? Beats me. Maybe they don’t.
Later that day we thought we had stumbled upon the secret when we found a public park with plenty of dock space for day use only. It seemed legit enough so we tied up in front of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s powerboat and added a padlock for good measure. We walked up to the road to find ourselves in some beach-adjacent serious suburban sprawl. With vacation rental condos. It was weird, but it met all of my birthday desires: beach.
The next day we tied up at the staging dock where a sign indicating a ten minute limit was prominently displayed. We tied up around the backside of the dock in the company of another dinghy where we were certain no powerboats would venture. We then ignored the time limit (who is going to raise a stink about our tiny rowboat?) and spent half the day at the very lovely Riviera Beach. We forewent the $10/hour beach chairs and cabanas, and spread our towels on the beach. As we walked along, the piles of shells at the edge of the waves tinkled like a rainstick as the receding water pulled them crashing together out to sea. The water was clear and many shades of our boat’s favorite color. And that is why Florida is awesome. Also, everyone is very friendly here, so far as I can tell. As in, people on the street who are not required to be nice and who don’t appear to be on vacation, smile and offer pleasantries. I think they must just be very happy to be living in the appropriately named, Sunshine State.
When we returned to our the dock, a third dinghy was keeping ours company and only two staging slips out of ten were occupied. Upon climbing aboard I discovered a notice declaring our vessel to be abandoned property that would be removed per county ordinance at noon the following day. Well, at least we got our day at the beach, but how would we get ashore for celebratory dinner?
I had been madly searching the internet for any place boats at anchor could land and read about people tying up to a road girder next to the highway bridge. We could not find any such location, but we did encounter some people in their front yard (which looked deceivingly like part of the marina) who offered to let us climb up the pilings and get onto the road through their front gate. Two men took each of my hands and with a big step I was swung to shore. The same was done for Jon and we went to call a cab. $25 and six miles later we were in downtown West Palm Beach. All you can eat street tacos were consumed. Seven was the magic number, but six would have been a better idea. We then walked a mile or so out of town and past some abandoned buildings to await a cab in another – umm, restauranty – area of town, saving ourselves $10. Then with two brave and stretchy leaps we descended six feet into the floating dinghy and rowed home to contemplate how we might reach land next time.