1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Moor, the Merrier

As usual at this time of year, I start hearing from people asking about where they can keep their boat in south Florida from December onwards, usually until they are ready to head over to the Bahamas.
Alas, I have some bad news for you....according to several people who have been looking around, there is very little available for longer term dockage, particularly if your boat is 45 feet or more.
What usually happens is that cruisers get their boat south sometime in December, at the height of the season. They've been looking for a slip, and probably not having a lot of success.
Believe me, I know - I book slips for up to 20 boats for the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, and the further south we get, the more of a struggle it becomes.
Let's discuss this a little. First of all, is it mandatory that you be in south Florida? And just how long do you plan to be there before you move on?
Although you can get chilly weather in central and north Florida, it's a relative thing. 50° may be cold for Florida in mid January, but compared to where you've come from? You'll survive! And if you're a Canuck like me, that's t-shirt weather at that time of year.
South Florida?
If your goal is to leave the boat over the Christmas holidays before returning to head for the Bahamas, you might be wiser to stop further north and complete your trip south on your return.
Doing that, you could consider anyplace in Florida that is reasonably proximate to an airport instead of getting into the battle of finding a spot in the south.
That is, unless you're like our friend above, who simply sticks wings on her dinghy like you see here. That's the way to do it!
Fernandina Beach, Jacksonville and St. Augustine all are close to Jax Airport. Further south, Titusville, Cocoa, Canaveral, Melbourne and Fort Pierce are all within a reasonable distance of Orlando. And still further south, you have Fort Pierce through to Palm Beach - all with access to Orlando, Palm Beach and even Lauderdale airports. Best of all, prices are going to be less than in S FL - considerably less in fact.
Dinner Key Marina and Coconut Grove behind
You could also consider a mooring field. There are mooring fields in St. Augustine, Titusville, Stuart and Vero Beach. Of those, Titusville and Stuart offer the best chance of getting a spot, but Vero Beach is far and away the safest place of the three to leave your boat on a ball. Stuart is very nice, but a bit off the beaten path.
Boot Key Harbour in Marathon, in the Keys, is the other possibility for a mooring ball, but it's typically got a waiting list of over 20 boats by mid December. And it's a long way down, especially if the Bahamas are your destination.
But what if you must must must have your boat further south? In that case, you're just going to have to struggle with finding a slip. I honestly can't recommend the Dinner Key mooring field, it's too exposed and rough. If you can get a ball at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club - they do occasionally have one available and you can see the club in the photo here, it's above Dinner Key Marina - that would be the best of all. They have a great clubhouse also. Probably my favourite spot in S FL in fact.
 Coconut Grove Sailing Club
Just south of Fort Lauderdale, there's the Dania Beach Marina. Good marina with reasonable prices, good security and protection, but absolutely no space unless you're lucky and call at the right time. Loggerheads, just south of that on the other side of the bridge, may have a spot for you, again, very well protected but it won't be as cheap as its neighbour.
Your two best online resources for searching out a marina are the websites www.WaterwayGuide.com and the Salty Southeast Cruisers Net. Both have excellent resources and complete information on every marina on the east coast.
Another potential resource is a private slip. although they tend to ask for long term dockage. Most of these will be in the Lauderdale area where many homeowners on the canals rent out their docks. One place to search for these is http://www.docksearch.com/. There are other online resources, but they seem geared to huge powerboats rather than our smaller, more restrained yachts...and of course, there's always Craigslist. With these, keep in mind, it's caveat emptor. Be sure of what you're getting. A lot of places won't permit living aboard for example, since you'd be living in that person's backyard.
You could of course anchor out, but I won't anchor out and leave my boat except in very specific circumstances. There's simply too much risk involved: being broken into or dragging are the two biggest ones.
If you're aboard the boat daily, that's another situation. Anchoring out has lots of advantages, especially if you are in a well protected area. Contrary to what you might have heard, most of Florida is still open to anchoring, although it's not without its challenges (he says with a wry grin!).
One of those challenges is finding a place that is friendly to cruisers, has a convenient dinghy dock or other means of going ashore, is protected from the elements and has a good liveaboard or transient cruiser population.
Palm Beach Anchorage looking south
One of the nicest spots is, believe it or not, West Palm Beach, at the city docks downtown between Flagler Memorial bridge and Royal Park bridge, at the top of the photo.
As you can see from the photo, taken just before the boat show when the boats are moved out, it's a nice, protected anchorage. If you need to bring the boat to a dock, say for shopping, you can do so during the daytime. The small liveaboard population there is very watchful and more than happy to help you out. You're right beside the downtown with its lively ambiance, including a great pizza restaurant nearby and several good pubs, and there is a free trolley that will get you to the grocery store and other needful places.
Another nice spot for transients is Cocoa, on either the northeast or southwest side of the Hwy 520 bridge. Why either side? Depends on which way the wind is blowing of course.
During the winter months, the southeast side is often more comfortable and, during the spring and summer, the northwest. On the southwest side, you have a lovely downtown, convenient dinghy dockage, and a dock where you can get up to four nights per month (no power or water though). On the other side, you have grocery and other stores within walking distance, and water. I often move back and forth between the two, depending on weather and my needs at the time.

My last blogpost brought out some rather entertaining comments, a couple of snarky ones too. I seriously hope that I helped to encourage a few of you to work at your writing and to consider the projects I suggested. If I did, and you'd like to discuss them with me, contact me using that super annoying (but useful) popup here on the page. I'll give you whatever help I can.

The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally itinerary has been finalized, and it can be seen at Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. For those heading south, the itinerary will allow you to avoid the congestion that sailing with 15 - 20 boats can create at the marinas we come to.
There are still a couple of events that I'm working on for the Rally, including a full day seminar event to be held in Florida with world class speakers on cruising. Stay tuned for more information on this event as it will be open to the public.
It's one you won't want to miss, and it's timed perfectly for snowbirds heading south. If you're looking for good information on your next destination after leaving Florida, about crossing the Gulf Stream and other cruiserly subjects, this will be the event to attend. Then there's the party afterwards...