Day 95, Year 10: Passage to Florida, Day 15–Meeting Mark’s Florida Oncologist
Date: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Weather: Sunny, Temp in the High 70’s F
Location: Anchored Between the City Docks in West Palm Beach, FL
Our day started with Mark’s phone refusing to come on. And, of course, we couldn’t find the paperwork telling us what we should do if it wouldn’t work. Then, after being gone all day, our day ended with us coming back to boat after dark and hearing the high water alarm blaring non-stop. Thankfully both problems turned out to be minor and the rest of the day went great. More about the problems later, but first I will talk about the good parts of the day. We picked up Lynda and Lee at 8 am and went to shore to have breakfast together at ER Bradley’s on the waterfront. The servings were huge and the food was good. Mark and I then hurried down Clematis, the main street in West Palm’s waterfront area. Lynda and Lee told us about the little shop that fixed Lynda’s iPhone yesterday, so we wanted to stop there being catching the trolley to the train station. Our heart’s sunk when we saw it was just an iPhone shop, but we went in anyway. The young man was a charmer and in about two seconds he had Mark’s phone reset at no charge. The trolley runs about every 10 minutes, so we didn’t have to wait long to get to the train station. We were there early, so we sat in the sunshine and read our books. The Tri-Rail that runs from just north of here to Miami came right on time at 9:06 am and we were in Boynton Beach a minute or two early at 9:20 pm. Brad was there waiting for us and took us to his house. Brad and Sue had invited us to bring our dirty laundry, so we did and I got the first load in the dryer before we had to leave for Fort Lauderdale. They loaned us their car and we traveled down I-95 for about 30 miles. Mark had an appointment to meet his Florida oncologist at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. We were early, which was a good thing, as the paper work took forever to fill out. But once that was done, we were taken in to see the doctor right away. As always, a nurse took Mark’s vitals and then put us in a room to wait. Soon a very young woman came in from the waiting room, walked by the door, backed up, and said, “Hello, Mr. Handley!” The nurse asked her how in the world she knew this was Mr. Handley and she said, “Well, he looks like he sailed here.” We chuckled and then she introduced herself as Dr. Gomez. She was just returning from lunch and needed a few minutes before meeting with us. When she returned, she spent a lot of time with us reviewing Mark’s medical history. She had never met anyone who had undergone nano knife surgery and she wanted to talk about that. She also reviewed the December CT scan that verified that the current treatment routine is working. Dr. Gomez is a ball of energy and very anxious to work with us and our unconventional cancer treatment regime. Sailing to the Bahamas is not usually on the prescription list, but she says it is obviously working and that we should keep doing what we are doing. Mark’s first treatment will be on Thursday of this week and then every two weeks until the end of February. He will have another CT scan then, and things will continue unless there is a drastic change. After that scan, we will head to the Bahamas. So everything is working out great to keep us on schedule. After the appointment, we drove to a tourist information center to get bus schedule information and then we headed back to Brad and Sue’s. Sue had finished my laundry for which we were both thankful, thankful, thankful, and then she fed us an early dinner before driving us back to West Palm. We feel so lucky to have a fantastic, welcoming doctor here and family that’s taking care of us.
Now back to bad start and end to our day. As you have already read, the early morning phone issue was quickly resolved. And after checking, Mark found that the problem was a back-flow valve on the small pump in the bilge. A small bit of something had lodged in it causing it to stick. It was still pumping water out, but then it was letting water continuously flow back in. The problem is solved for tonight, but tomorrow we are going to have to do a complete clean-out of the bilge using our little wet-dry shop vac. Over time, things fall into the bilge and it is obviously time to make sure it is completely clean. So that takes care of what we will be doing tomorrow. There’s always something. It’s a boat!
Day 94, Year 10: Passage to FL, Day 14—Tour of West Palm via Molly’s Trolley
Date: Monday, January 12, 2015
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, Temp in the High 70’s F, Intermittent Rain in the PM
Location: Anchored Between the City Docks in West Palm Beach, FL
Our quick assessment of West Palm Beach after today’s free trolley tour is that it is a very welcoming city and a great stop along the way. Because of that, we will hang out here for a few more days. The town has more fountains, centers for the performing arts, and fake grass than any city I have ever visited. But those things can be forgiven. There are a gazillion restaurants which all look inviting and all parts of the city that we have seen so far are perfectly manicured. Of course, when the grass is fake, it is easy to look perfectly manicured! West Palm Beach is the oldest city in the southern Florida metropolitan area and it is obvious that the people here have worked hard to keep their little corner of the world in top-notch shape. There are two free trolleys, a green line that goes to the train station and a yellow line that goes out to CityPlace and the Convention Center. CityPlace is the upscale shopping area where all of the buildings have kept their old-time charm. Even the Publix supermarket is ‘camouflaged’. The whole of the downtown area is walkable, and even though we took the trolley from the waterfront to the end of the line just past CityPlace, we walked most of the way back home. We walked to the train station to check it out and then headed back toward the waterfront. We had planned to walk all the day, but it started to mist. About that time a trolley came along, so we hopped on. The misty rain continued off and on through the afternoon and evening, but it is such a light rain that it is not much of a bother. Mark and I worked on cleaning the boat this afternoon. I washed down the deck and Mark followed me doing an AwlCare wax job. He then got down in the dinghy and cleaned the black off the back of Windbird that comes from the exhaust. After he was done, I cleaned the dinghy and that was the end of the work day. Tomorrow morning we will take the trolley to the train station and the train to Boynton Beach. Brad will meet us there and then we will head on down to Fort Lauderdale to Holy Cross Hospital where Mark will meet his new oncologist, Dr. Christina Gomez. We are anxious to meet her and to get the next couple of months of treatments scheduled. Once we have those dates, we can more definitely plan our trip itinerary. So onward we go.
Day 93, Year 10: Passage to FL, Day 13—Jupiter to West Palm Beach
Date: Sunday, January 11, 2015
Weather: Partly Sunny, E 15-20, Temp in the 80’s F
Latitude: 26 42.670 N
Longitude: 080 02.913 W
Location: Anchored Between the City Docks in West Palm Beach, FL
Miles Traveled: 20.0 Nautical Miles
We made it to West Palm Beach this afternoon and after the encounter we had with a bridge early in the day, we were most grateful to be here all in one piece. We had six bascule bridges we had to negotiate today and it was the second one that gave us the challenge. We had just gone past the Jupiter Inlet when we came to the Jupiter Federal Bascule Bridge. As the bridge started to open, we headed toward it. But we misjudged the strength of the current and were getting there too fast. Mark put the engine in reverse and it did what it always does. It started turning us to port and that was going to ram us into the bridge wooden fenders. So Mark put started going forward. But the bridge just wasn’t opening fast enough. I looked up and my heart sank as I thought the top of our mast was going to get entangled in the opening bridge. By the luck of who knows what, we made it through, but both Mark and I were truly shaken by the experience. The rest of the day went without incident, and we were most grateful to arrive here in West Palm. This is not the final destination, but we will hang out here for a few days. The city of West Palm Beach has three piers that run from shore out toward the Intracoastal. You can tie up to the docks during the day, but you cannot stay overnight on the docks. But you can anchor between the second and third pier. There are probably ten of us nestled in here now. We’re not sure how long we will be permitted to stay, but for now it is quite a convenient anchorage. We can take the dinghy to one of the piers and walk right into the center of town. There is a free trolley there to haul us around. Very nice.
But this afternoon it was Brad, my sister-in-law Sue’s husband, that came to pick us up and take us to their house for dinner. ‘Us’ included not just Mark and myself, but also Lee and Lynda and Sue’s sister Ginny. We had a delight dinner, enjoyed visiting, and Mark and Lee solved some computer problems that Sue has been having. It was in a computer class in the early 1980’s that Lee and Mark met, so working on a computer is something they both love doing. Sure hope they solved Sue’s issues.
Tomorrow we’ll explore and maybe do a little boat work. On Tuesday Mark has his appointment at Holy Cross Hospital. After that, we will decide whether to stay here a few more days or head on to Fort Lauderdale.
Day 92, Year 10: Passage to FL, Day 12—Vero Beach to Jupiter
Date: Saturday, January 10, 2015
Weather: Mostly Sunny, N 10-15, Temp in the 70’s F
Latitude: 27 00.348 N
Longitude: 080 05.750 W
Location: Anchored in Hobe Sound, Just N of Jupiter, FL
Miles Traveled: 42.9 Nautical Miles
The world was a bit brighter today as those overcast skies gave way to sunshine. And it is getting warmer. But traveling in the Intracoastal is definitely wearing. All day long you stare at a little screen trying to steer to keep the picture of the little boat (representing your boat) right on the ‘magenta’ line. The line on our screen is black, but it is always referred to as magenta as it is that color on most chart plotters. Some days you are in narrow waterways and other days there are wide expanses of water. But those wide expanses are deceptive because they are shallow, shallow, shallow. You’d better not get off that line because just out of the channel the depths might be three feet or less. The Intracoastal really is a ditch! We have one more day of this tedium and then we get a break. We will arrive in West Palm Beach in the early afternoon and we plan to stay there for at least a couple of days. Once we get settled tomorrow, my sister-in-law Sue, who lives just south of West Palm in Boynton Beach, is coming to get us and take us (including Lee and Lynda) to her house for dinner. What a special treat!
I’m not going to miss staying on the magenta line, but I am going to miss seeing all of the bird life. That has been one of the special treats of this trip down the ICW in Florida. But starting yesterday we entered a much more densely populated part of Florida—more boats and less wildlife. And the boat traffic and the number of bridges increase exponentially from here. The anchorages are different, too. We have had quiet anchorages up until now. But when we arrived here late this afternoon, there were three power boats pulled up to the little mangrove beach blaring music. Mark’s take on that was that they were providing us with free entertainment. Lee’s take was that there was “beer, babes, and barbeque” on shore and that we should join them. But the sun went down and they left—opportunity missed. Tomorrow we have six bridges that have to open for us in just 21 miles, so I’d better quit writing and go to bed so we can get an early start.
Day 91, Year 10: Passage to FL, Day 11—Cocoa to Vero Beach
Date: Friday, January 9, 2015
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, N 10-15, Temp in the 70’s F
Latitude: 27 39.746 N
Longitude: 080 22.338 W
Location: Moored in Vero Beach City Marina, Vero Beach, FL
Miles Traveled: 47.5 Nautical Miles
Today was what I call a monochrome day. It was cloudy most of the day and a bit hazy. Everything looked either black or white or gray except for an occasional pink or red roof. And not much happened, which can be a good thing. As Lynda pointed out this evening, nothing went wrong. We just kept plodding further south. I did go aground once when I was going around a dredge, but it was a soft landing and we were able to back off without incident. We saw lots of dolphins and birds, but even they were either black or white or gray. Once we reached the marina, we picked up a mooring that we had reserved. If you are traveling with someone, this marina asks that you raft up because they have only so many transient moorings. So we are rafted with Sea Turtle. The instant we got here, we put the dinghy down in the water, put on the motor, and took off. Lynda stayed on Sea Turtle, but Lee and Mark took me to the marina so I could do laundry and they went to the office to check-in for us. Then they took off in the dinghy to find a grocery store. We read that you could just dinghy up the creek and the office staff said that was true. But the problem when they got there was that there was no place to tie up the dinghy and go ashore. All of the docks were privately owned. But they looked harder and found an old rickety dock that they tied to. It had a sign declaring it as private property, but the path led to a parking, so they continued. They found a great little supermarket and bought the items Lynda and I had put on lists. It was dark when they returned, so Mark dropped Lee off at Sea Turtle and came to rescue me from the laundry. We then went back to have Happy Hour with Lee and Lynda on Sea Turtle. We’ve been traveling for 11 days now and have hardly seen each other, so it was great to sit and relax together.
The weather is getting warmer, but unfortunately the forecast calls for rain for the next seven days. Yuck! But on closer inspection, actually only one of those days has a high chance of precip. I’m hoping the forecast is wrong and that we will warm, Sunny days for our arrival in the Fort Lauderdale area.
Day 90, Year 10: Passage to FL, Day 10—Dinghy Motors That Work
Date: Thursday, January 8, 2015
Weather: Sunny, Wind NW 30-40, Calming to NE 20, Temp in the 60’s F
Latitude: 28 21.167 N
Longitude: 080 13.236 W
Location: Anchored Off Lee Wenner Park, Cocoa
Miles Traveled: 11.2 Nautical Miles
Woohoo!!! We once again have a ‘one pull’ Yamaha dinghy motor that works and Lee and Lynda have a brand new Lehr propane dinghy motor that should definitely work. I told Lynda and Bruce at The Boat Shop in Cocoa that we will forever be indebted to them for getting Ethel running again. When we bought this dinghy motor in Malaysia I named it Ethel after my Aunt Ethel that will turn 100 next September. She is still going strong and I don’t think she has ever had an illness worse than the common cold. She is amazing. And it was my hope that by naming our dinghy motor after her, it would also be amazing. And it has been, except for the fact that it desperately needed a thorough carburetor cleaning. Lynda at The Boat Shop made the arrangements and Bruce did the work. In fact, when Mark rowed the long distance from the anchorage to shore this morning in steady 20-30 knot winds, Bruce just happened to be at the launch ramp working on another boat. He took the cue from the fact that Mark was rowing in such terrible weather and immediately said to us, “You must be the folks that need your engine worked on.” We nodded and he told us to get the motor off the dinghy and that he would take it to the shop and get to work on it after he finished his work on the boat sitting in the launch ramp. He helped Mark carry the engine over to his truck and then Mark and I walked through the little village of historic Cocoa and on down the highway to his shop. After filling out paperwork for Lynda authorizing the work, we walked across the street to hop on a city bus.
Our bus trip to the planetarium at a local community college didn’t go as smoothly as planned, but it was an adventure. We got on the bus and it took us to the transfer station where we had to catch another bus to the college. We explained to the driver where we wanted to go and she said she didn’t think she went there. Strange. The first bus driver told us exactly what to do and assured us that the #6 would take us to our destination. There was a long line of people waiting to get on, so we got off and went to the bus station office to inquire. There we found out that we should have taken that bus, but now we would have to wait for the next one. The waiting wouldn’t have been so bad except for the wind. It was just as windy inland as it was out on the water. We finally got to the college, now Eastern Florida State College and not Brevard Community College as we had read on the web last night. We had hoped to eat there at the student center, but it was closed, as was the entire college. They are still on break. We didn’t figure that into our planning, but we continued to walk on to the Planetarium & Observatory. It was also closed, but we were able to get into the lobby and see some of the displays. By now, Mark was starving, so we headed back across campus to catch the bus back to where we had come from. There was a gas station across the street from the campus and we got a couple of bananas and some cheese sticks to tide us over. The bus was late, but in the meantime we got a call from Lynda at The Boat Shop. All the engine needed was a good carburetor cleaning and it was good to go. We were ecstatic, especially since parts for this foreign-made engine are hard to come by. The bus trip back went much more smoothly. Bruce demonstrated to us that the engine was running and then we helped put it in the back of his pick-up. He took us back to the launch ramp and we were off and running. It felt so, so, so good to be in the dinghy with that motor running again. When you live on a sailboat on anchor or on a mooring, your dinghy and dinghy motor are what allows you to freely come and go to shore. Rowing is fine if the weather is settled and there is no current and you don’t have to go very far. But most of the time the weather is not settled and there is always current to contend with and often we do want to go far. So we are thankful, thankful, thankful that we have our transportation back.
We got back to Windbird and had a late lunch. Lee’s new motor was supposed to arrive sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock, but it ended up to be 5 o’clock. But it did arrive. Lee and Mark went back to shore to get it and on the way they crossed paths with a young man trying to row a metal fishing boat out to his boat (way beyond ours) with only one paddle. The wind was still blowing about 20 knots. As I watched, I was thinking he was never going to get his boat with only one paddle. About that time, I guess Mark thought the same thing as I saw him turn the dinghy around and come back to tow the guy to his boat. It felt so good to just watch him have the ability to do this kind of thing again. I love my dinghy and motor! Mark and Lee had to wait a while on shore, but before the sun went down they were back at Sea Turtle getting the new engine hoisted onto their dinghy motor mount. So today was all about dinghies and I know both Windbird and Sea Turtle are happy to have their dinghy motors in working condition once again. Now we just have to get Sea Turtle’s inflatable successfully patched.
One last thing . . . a bit about the weather. The 30 to 40 knot North winds during the night were stronger than we expected. But we did expect strong N winds, just not 40 knots! We had anchored behind the causeway wall thinking there would be very little fetch and that the wind would not be able to build up big waves. Wrong. Just before 2 am I got up to check on things as we were being bounced around by the waves. Our anchor was holding tight despite the strong winds, so I went back to bed. Evidently a few minutes later Mark got up and spent most of the rest of the night in the cockpit wrapped in a polar fleece blanket. It got down to 40 degrees F last night and that felt downright chilly. He came back to bed at some point, but morning came too quickly. The good thing was that the wind had settled a bit, so we were able to up anchor and take off without the strong winds. But Mark wasn’t going to take off without bringing the Mr. Heater propane stove up into the cockpit to warm things up a bit. We haven’t needed to use it since we arrived at Cumberland Island, but it did feel good this morning. However, it didn’t take long for the sun to take over, so we turned off Mr. Heater. At some point on the way to Cocoa, the wind returned with a vengeance. But as I write this log, it seems very calm outside. Hopefully we’ll get a good night’s sleep.