Freeport to Norfolk via Florida

Captain’s Log May 24 to May 13, 2011

The Great Mango Run –

Freeport, Bahamas to Norfolk, Va.

May 26, Saturday: We left Nassau late in the afternoon for an overnight run to Freeport, our last stop before returning to the USA.  I for one was anxious to get back home to U.S. waters.  It was a calm, lovely evening and the cruise was delightful across deep, open water.  What a thrill it is to run Odyssey, particularly in such nice conditions.  Around 1000 the next morning we made Freeport, but we had to drop anchor and wait 8 hours for the next high tide because the entrance to the harbor was just 4 feet at low tide and too shallow for Odyssey.  Of course this wasn’t the main shipping harbor, but Lucaya, a yacht harbor just outside of town.  Yachts are not encouraged to go into the industrial harbor s there are no yacht facilities.

May 27 & 28: Lucaya is a fun port, with several yacht clubs, hotels, casinos, a golf course and shopping facilities.  A lot of things were closed as this is now the off season in Florida and the Bahamas.  We tied up around 1600 and went for a walk along the pier, grabbed a beer and dinner.  When we got back to the boat some people came by to admire her and told us that a weather front was on the way that would keep us in Lucaya for a week unless we left in a day or two. 

May 29, Saturday:  First thing we called OmniBob to find out about the weather.  Sure enough, we had to leave on Saturday or Sunday in order to avoid some big seas.  We decided to take Saturday (5/25) and tour the area.  We grabbed a bus and went to Freeport, which as it turns out is pretty limited.  The big hotels – Xanadu and Paradise Island– are out of business, so the “downtown” doesn’t really exist anymore.  All the action is at Port Lucaya, and that isn’t worth much more than a day. 

As I mentioned above we took a bus to town from Port Lucaya. The busses here are just little Nissan vans and the bus stops are located next to police stations (which seems like a good idea).  When we got in there was the driver, a man and his boy aboard.  As soon as we got in they asked about us and in the course of things we found out that the male passenger was a fisherman.  All the Bahamians we met were very kind, laid back people.     

May 30, Sunday: We left Port Lucaya on the morning tide and hoped to make the 90 mile crossing of the Gulf Stream in 11 hours.  It was a lovely day and our crossing was picture perfect.  Our destination was Lake Worth Inlet near West Palm Beach.  Originally we had hoped to go directly to Port St. Lucie and Stuart, Florida which is the location of Nordhavn’s facility.  This is where our new boat will be commissioned and we planned to unload a bunch of stuff from Odyssey and move it to the new boat next February.  But Port St. Lucie is very shallow and must be approached only at high tide and with someone with local knowledge.  As it was Memorial Day weekend, no one was available so we put in at Old Port Cove Marina, north of West Palm Beach.  Entering a unfamiliar harbor is always cause for a certain amount of anxiety, and this transit proved no exception.  We got to the inlet about 1700 and the waves had been building late in the day.  It was Sunday of a big holiday weekend and all manner of floating vehicles were running about, completely disregarding the fact that we are fairly big and cannot stop on a dime.  We made our way around Peanut Island and planned to follow the inter-coastal waterway north.  The interesting thing here are the channel signs: when a boat comes from the ocean the red markers are supposed to be on the starboard side of the boat (right side when facing forward) , but when you reach the inter-coastal the signs reverse if you are going north, red is on the port side.  If you leave the inter-coastal and enter a waterway or marina channel, the signs reverse again!   In addition, the waterway is narrow, shallow, and there were hundreds of boats and thousands of people out enjoying the afternoon.  We moved Odyssey very slowly along the five mile or so channel, picking our way amongst the boats, surf boarders, jet skis, and swimmers. It was a mesmerizing scene: so many boats, so many people, so many bikinis, so little room!  We eventually made it through the maze and under the Riviera Beach Bridge, moved up the channel and found our marina.  By this time the wind was blowing pretty hard, but we tied her up and joined the little party on the dock.

May 31, Monday:  When you enter the U.S. by private yacht you have to call the U.S. Customs service upon tying up.  They ask a few questions then issue a number: you have 24 hours to report to a facility in person.  As we arrived on a holiday weekend, everything was made more difficult and expensive.  As it turns out we had to take a cab to the airport, rent a car, then go to the general aviation building and check in there.  After that exercise, we provisioned the boat and returned to Odyssey. 

June 1, Tuesday: We had hoped to move the boat to Stuart, but arrangements couldn’t be made until the next day.  I needed to buy some charts for the east coast and attend to a few boat related things, so the day resulted in a tour of the area and a little R&R.

June 2-3-4: John Hoffman, Nordhavn’s commissioning manager came by at 0600 and we got Odyssey underway for the four hour trip up the inter-coastal to Stuart.  The Inter-coastal Waterway is a canal that runs along the east coast and permits small vessels to travel without going on the open ocean.  As we traveled we encountered many bridges, each with an operator and opening schedule.  As we approached each one, we called to request an opening and then waited for the exact time that it is supposed to open.  Most open every half hour on the hour, others on the quarter.  Along the shore are many beautiful homes belonging to some of America’s wealthiest people, including Tiger Woods, Gregg Norman and others.  By noon we had reached Stuart and tied up to Nordhavn’s facility.  During the next few days we prepared for the sale of our beloved Odyssey and the time next winter when we will be back in Stuart to commission the new boat. 

June 5-6-7: We left the Nordhavn dock at 1100 on Saturday morning  and were headed for Norfolk, Va., about 700 miles north.  This would bring us to within 300 miles of our final destination.  During most of the trip we would be several hundred miles off the coast and positioned in the middle of the Gulf Stream.  It is a long trip for the two of us to undertake, about 3 ½ days underway.  We generally try to take a 6 hour watch, which allows us about 5 1/2 hours of sleep plus nap time during the day.  Three days at a time is about the most that I think we can safely handle: if it gets too rough and we lose a night’s sleep we could get pretty punchy, which could be dangerous if something went  wrong.  The first day out of Port St. Lucie was a little lumpy, but improved over the afternoon as we headed north.  Day two was very nice, with a big, slow swell and a low surface wave passing under us from the north-east.  Day three was not very nice: we encountered seas that built over the day to 7-8 feet by early evening.  Rebecca smelled smoke and we looked all over the boat, but finally concluded that it was a forest fire ashore.  Outside it was hazy and smelled of smoke.  Our last day out was beautiful and calm.  It is hard to realize on such a lovely day that these are among the most dangerous waters in the world.   Today, however, it is the kind of day we live for.  As we moved northward toward Norfolk we could hear the Navy’s guns firing during a live fire exercise, and, in the distance, the roar of jets taking off from a carrier. 

We arrived at the Chesapeake Bay at 1900 and proceeded to the entry channel.  Four and half hours later we anchored off Hampton Roads across for the world’s largest naval base.  It was very exciting to anchor across form so many capital ships of the Navy.    The next day we completed our passage to Norfolk by moving another hour down the channel into the inner harbor and tied up in Portsmouth, across the harbor from Norfolk proper.

June 8 – 13: We found this part of Virginia a very pleasant surprise.   Portsmouth and Norfolk are very attractive, with urban renewal having been very effectively applied here.  The downtown areas are vibrant and interesting with boulevards, rotaries with monuments in the center, public gardens, and clean, lovely streets and sidewalks.  Norfolk has one of the loveliest art museums that we have visited, the Chrysler Museum, which in large measure was donated by the son of Walter P. Chrysler, the auto magnate.   Near the museum is the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial.  General MacArthur and his wife are entombed here and the building contains many interesting pieces of memorabilia from his long and distinguished career.  Interestingly, both he and his father Arthur were both general officers and Medal of Honor winners.  General MacArthur is probably the closest person in history to a reincarnation of Caesar.  The awesome power he commanded and his appointment as the Supreme Commander of Forces in Japan and its effective governor following WWII are unparalleled since Caesar won and commanded Gaul.  One cannot help but be struck by the disgusting and petty behavior of our politicians today when you read his Duty, Honor, Country speech delivered to the West Point graduating class of 1988. 

Not far from the memorial is the Battleship Wisconsin BB-64, tied up at the Nauticus Museum.  We took a tour of the ship and posted pictures on .  It is very interesting and breathtaking in its apparent power. A few notes on the ship: it expends 400 gal of fuel per mile; costs $1 million a day to operate; has a crew compliment of 1,550, but during WWII it was over 3,000; has no heating or AC; is 68 years old and has seen 14 years of active service, most recently in the Bush I Gulf War.  I have been aboard the Missouri (BB 63), which at that time was tied up next to the New Jersey (BB 62) in Bremerton, Washington.  The only one I haven’t seen is the Iowa (BB 61), which may be moved to Los Angles and opened as a museum next to the Queen Mary (which we stayed aboard last year).  One of the most interesting things that I discovered on our tour was the navigational bridge, the place from which they steer the ship.  It is very small, enough to give a person claustrophobia.  It is located in a cylinder of 14 inch cast armor plate with tiny slits for windows.  Of course the ship had no autopilot, so every wave required someone to move the ship’s wheel in order to maintain course.  It must have been a tedious job.   Outside the navigational bridge was an open area that looked a little more like a traditional bridge, but still, the work was all done in that tiny compartment. 

Over the weekend we went to Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestowne.  Williamsburg was the colonial capital of Virginia and has many of the original buildings and excellent reproductions.  Jamestowne, a few miles down the road, was the original Virginia Company settlement in the New World circa 1615.  It is being excavated by archaeologists, and is very interesting also.  Further yet down Colonial Parkway, which is a beautiful drive, lays Yorktown, the scene of the last major and the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War.  At first I wasn’t very interested in this monument, but after driving around the battle fields and understanding the battle itself, I found it very interesting and informative.  It covers a very large area, several miles from Washington’s headquarters to the main battle area. There were several very large staging areas for cannon and other equipment. I did not really appreciate the scope or size of the armies involved nor did I fully appreciate the French contribution before being here.  It was quite moving to see the field of surrender – in a sense the actual birthplace of our nation.

Tomorrow we will put out for NYC.  It is a two day run.






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