St. Augustine to Lake Worth, Florida 4/18 -4/20/2023
We spent 11 days in St. Augustine, and apart from a challenging mooring field with strong currents and contrary winds, our time there was enjoyable. There were the obligatory boat chores, but we also spent a few days sightseeing. We had never spent much time in St. Augustine, so it was all new to us. We went to the fort, wax museum, took the all-day trolly tour, visited the lighthouse, and as is our habit, walked as much of the town as we could. One thing we try to do everywhere we visit is walk the residential areas. St. Augustine has lots of interesting old homes and buildings. We found lots of good restaurants and Linda’s brother, Perry, and sister-in-law, Judith, made the 8-hour round trip from Tallahassee, to visit, have lunch, and see Ocean Song in person. St. Augustine was fun!
We had been on the lookout for a solid, 48-hour weather window to make the transit from St. Augustine to Lake Worth. It appeared that Tuesday, the 18th through Friday, the 21st would be a good window. One thing we always try to do is time our departure so that we arrive at our destination during daylight hours. The passage to Lake Worth (a great jumping off spot for the Bahamas) would be about 225nm. That’s about 36 hours for Ocean Song. In order to arrive in Lake Worth during daylight hours, we opted to leave St. Augustine mid-afternoon. After fueling up at the fuel dock, and passing through the Bridge of Lions, we found a very uninviting sight, breakers at the entrance to the inlet. We decided to cautiously head to the inlet to investigate and found the breakers to be only coming across the shoal on the north side. The channel was choppy but not bad … so out into the Atlantic we went.
Conditions were initially bumpy, not bad. Quickly things became more settled and the first night was easy motor sailing. From 8:00 am until 11:00am we passed by the NASA complex at Cape Canaveral. We had a few dolphin sightings, but it was an otherwise uneventful day. No fishing because we’re still working on the mahi we caught a couple of weeks ago. We sailed most of the day with a single reef in the main and a full jib. It was nice to have no engine noise. We were intentionally trying to keep our speed around 5 knots so that we could arrive near Lake Worth during the day. Conditions deteriorated as the night went along and our second night on passage was rough and noisy. We were also on the western edge of the Gulf Stream. We had around 1.5 knots of current running against us which may not sound that bad, but it’s millions of gallons of seawater pushing in the wrong direction! One thing most people don’t realize is that a small boat on the open ocean can be very noisy when conditions are rough. It was hard to sleep, but both Linda and I got a little sleep during our off-watch periods.
We encountered some shipping traffic during the night. Around 3:30am I noticed a contact to port and astern about 5 miles behind us. The Meredith C. Reinauer, a 591-foot freighter was traveling at 10 knots compared to our 4.7 knots and overtaking us. She stayed about 1 nm to port. Around 4:30 she radioed to let me know she’d pass us to port and cross our bow about 1 nm out in front of us if we maintained course and speed. As she started to pass us, I did slow slightly, and she did in fact cross our bow about a mile in front of us. On the ocean that counts as a close encounter. There were also two tugs about a mile beyond our intersecting point and a fishing trawler about 2 nm to starboard, that’s a lot of boats in a small area at night!
The next morning, we were closer to the Lake Worth Inlet (West Palm Beach) than we wanted to be. By that I only mean we had hoped to get there around 10:00am at slack tide. Again, we slowed to a crawl and made water for two hours to fill our tanks. We actually turned Ocean Song completely around while making water, then headed back toward the inlet. We did see a couple of dolphins and our first escort of flying fish. Flying fish are something we associate with the tropics, and they were flying around all morning as we headed to Lake Worth. The entrance was easy, and we started “hunting” for our assigned mooring. Owners of another Lagoon 42, Allura, live in West Palm and they hooked us up with Zack who owns/manages a large chunk of the Lake Worth mooring field. He gave us the exact coordinates of our assigned mooring; we programmed it into our chart plotter and voila’ we snaked our way through the mooring field for over a mile but pulled up to our mooring with no problems.
The mooring method in Lake Worth was new to us. Each mooring has two pennants, designed to be pulled up to a boat’s port and starboard bow cleats and tied off directly to the boat. Ocean Song is exceptionally wide at 25’3″ and the pennants wouldn’t reach both our cleats. We had to attach our bridle lines and pull the pennants as close to the boat as possible. A couple of hours later Zack came by checked our bridle arrangement, gave it the thumbs up, and collected the mooring fee. Then, as usual after a passage, it was a celebratory beer and a nap!