I left Hobe Sound around 8am and confidently headed South. The ICW at this point turns into a canal that winds through various rich neighborhoods with megayachts and mansions. It also starts to have many bridges to navigate. I really liked the look of Jupiter Inlet area as I went through it, about halfway down along my journey to Lake Worth.
One thing I learned after my first day on the ICW was that it is good to have ready access to all the waypoints, particularly the bridge information. I simply wrote up a list of each bridge in the order I would encounter them and the mile marker and put it into a plastic ziplock bag to protect it from the elements in the cockpit. This way, as I approached each bridge, I knew the name (very important to know who to call on the radio) and how far away it is so I can estimate if I need to speed up to make the next opening or can slow down. I found that www.waterwayguide.com/bridge/3-117/parker-us-1-bridge was a good source of bridge information, but charts also should have most of the detail needed.
I also realized that listing any alternative names for how bridges might be referred to is helpful, the locals seem to have their own preference that may not match that of the chart makers (IE: US 1 Bridge versus “Parker bridge”).
I got all the way down to the last bascule bridge before Lake Worth and everything was working great, however, the ebb current at this bridge was failry strong so I had to work the engine pretty hard to maintain my position in the canal while I waited 15 minutes for it to open. As the bridge finally opened, I followed a small power boat under the span and then at just the wrong time, the engine died on me. Arrrgggh!. Momentary panic set in but through constant abuse, I was getting slightly more adept at making quick assessments and I saw the current and my forward momentum was taking me beyond the bridge so at least I wouldn’t be crushed as it lowered. My first option appeared to be an area on the starboard side that looked to have enough room to quickly anchor but I noted then that the wind and it was steady at about 5-8 knots directly from behind me. Of course, so simple… I unrolled the jib and slowly continued out the channel and into the lake where within a quarter mile allowed me to find a reasonable spot to anchor safely and out of the way of any traffic. All I needed to do was bleed the engine of air again and it started up again and I was on my way.
I stopped for fuel a bit down the way and then headed south to go into the marina that I had reserved a spot at before I left in the morning. It was getting to be about 4:30 and so I needed to get tied up before 5 so I could have some help but when I went through the last bridge over to the marina, the spot they had me in was too shallow and the current and wind would make it impossible to use. I went back North and back through the bridge I’d just come under and tucked into a spot where other boats were anchored, across from West Palm Beach downtown.
I was a little nervous about my anchoring location as there were shallows in a few directions and I felt I was a little too close to the boat beside me. In hindsight, I should have worked harder to get a good spot the first time around but I was tired and just ready to be done for the day. I got up around 11pm for the tide change to see how the current was going to affect the swing and sure enough, it looked like we were in danger of swinging into each other due to my location choice. In the dark, I went to pull up the anchor with the windlass. As the motor whirred away for a little longer than normal, I started to get a bad sensation and the all of a sudden, I hear the windlass go quiet and realize a nightmare has happened. I had mistakenly pushed the windlass control in the cockpit the wrong direction and had just let out all my chain. The real nightmare of this situation is that despite noticing it back in Charleston, I had neglected to tie off the bitter end of the anchor chain so now my anchor and all my chain were at the bottom of the channel and I was motoring around in the dark.
The race is now on. I had procured a backup anchor from Craigslist in WA, with my good friend Steve’s help and it was neatly stowed in the packaging that he had shipped it to me. Disassembled! I frantically start gathering pieces while multi-tasking helm control, slowly motoring against about a knot of current in the channel. I pull out the extra rode from the chain locker and the pieces of the backup anchor from the cockpit locker and start putting it together. The damn cotter pin takes forever to get in place and requires another search for vice-grips, but I finally get it put together and bring it, along with the rode, up on the foredeck. I start to motor over to a likely place and have to go back up on the foredeck to lower anchor by hand and at this very moment, the engine decides to die again. F&*$#! Luckily, I am able to set the anchor and tie it off and it does just what an anchor should do. It holds well throughout the night and except for the fact that I am in a little bit of a shallow spot on one side and I end up bumping the bottom at low tide a couple times, I came out ok for the time being.
I am of course in total despair as I now have to figure out how to either retrieve my anchor or worse case, go buy a new one. Until this is figured out, I have a much more limited emergency system since the backup anchor is not on the windlass so if I am cruising around and lose power, I have to run up to the foredeck to manually set the anchor before I drift into danger. Arrrggh! I am pretty pissed at myself for the situation which I blame myself in a few ways. 1) I should have made sure that the bitter end was tied off before we left Charleston, it was on my list. 2) I should have gotten my light out so I could verify the direction the windlass was going. 3) I should have taken more time to anchor correctly in the first place. 4) I should not have moved in the dark unless it was critical and I probably just got a little more nervous as I am still on such a steep learning curve for anchoring and all things cruising.
With all these thoughts in my head, I went down to sleep for a few hours until the next tide change as I wanted to make sure I was not in danger of swinging into something or going too shallow in my spot. After an hour of watching this at 4am, I was able to go back down and get a few more hours of sleep.