Sunday 10th May - Safely anchored in Lake Worth
We didn’t realise just how physically and emotionally tense we had both been. Iain had an awful responsibility looking after both of us, the boat and the navigational decisions. He was very worried my sea sickness would over power me rendering me unable to function, thus adding to his task list.
I am overwhelmed by how well we both coped with the challenge. My only regret is our children were not with us, although they were never very far from my thoughts.
We had been advised to report to the Customs Office within 48 hours to obtain a cruising license. We slept until quite late in the morning. Iain spent the afternoon investigating the customs procedures. I could not function, feeling very dizzy and quite drained. I lay on the sofa and watched TV, being of no help to Iain.
Monday 11th May
The next morning we were up early and Iain started telephoning the Customs Office on the dot of 09:00.
The procedure for entering the US on a private yacht is via a phone app - ROAM. When we were approaching the coast we used the app to request entry. The answer came back within the hour - 'You may not enter the US'
Iain was getting very concerned as time and again he was passed to different departments, each of whom confirmed it would not be possible for us to obtain a licence/entry into the US for various reasons (COVID restrictions on pleasure crafts, no proof of check-in in the USVIs, having passports from a banned country etc). Iain was very worried. No entry would mean we had to sail home across the Atlantic. The mood was tense. I said nothing, which is not usual for me.
The only information which could be obtained from all the telephoning was we should report to the Customs office at the airport.
Silently, I was willing my husband to remember how much he has achieved to date on this mammoth dream of his. Obtaining a cruising permit may not be simple, but nothing compared to the adversities he has surmounted so far. Further more, I was not worried should we be turned away. We would deal with it.
We arrived at the dinghy dock without incident and primarily, dry. A state which should never be taken for granted. We ordered an Uber cab which arrived bearing a very friendly, polite lady who took us to the airport dropping us at the Customs Office. The roads were devoid of traffic, making the journey simple and quick.
Iain was very nervous. He approached the window of the Customs Office with his files and many words ready for the very laid back gentlemen on the other side of the glass.
Iain began to speak. Many words were being said at great speed. The gentleman politely stopped Iain mid flow asking him to confirm the name of our boat. The Officer turned leaving the window and Iain. After 10 minutes the gentleman returned. He required confirmation of Iain’s name. He asked if we were married. We showed him our passports and boat registration. Then casually, the Officer pushed a cruising licence, valid until May 2021 under the glass divide.
I think Iain had aged at least a year in the two hours since leaving the boat. At the sight of this piece of paper, his face irrupted into a smile with perhaps an added distinguishing laughter line to enhance his lingering boyish good looks.
Tuesday 12 May
We have both been extremely lethargic. Life did not resume its normal pace for three days when we eventually felt re-energised.
We cleaned the boat, inside and out. In the late afternoon we ventured to the supermarket. We were in the less affluent part of town, finding ourselves in the local Hispanic supermarket. We were delighted to find lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. We filled our bags and returned to the boat.
Storm Arthur, the first named storm of the season, was forming by Friday giving us another lazy day. By the following morning Arthur had moved out to sea and we ventured forth for our regulation walk with a difference. Ten miles, all at sea level.
There was a long dinghy ride to West Palm Beach City Docks municipal pontoon. We were privileged to see another side of the city many do not witness. We discussed the different boats on the water, the lake was calm and we had a gentle 20 minute ride. All in all, a very pleasant journey.
From here we began our long flat walk. For the first time, hand in hand. Things were looking good. Once again, we did not fit in to our surroundings.
We crossed the Flagler Memorial Bridge. The original Bridge was constructed in 1927 to connect West Palm Beach to Palm Beach.
From our anchor vantage point we had watched the many smart, beautiful people each morning, jogging in matching lycra, pushing babies in designer prams, or walking perfectly groomed, very small dogs. We joined this merry group remembering to step to the side for social distancing. Lots of people smiled or nodded, we returned the pleasantries, not sure if they are extremely polite or the sight of two obvious tourists who did not know the dress code brightened their day.
We passed some extraordinary homes. All shielded by very high, well groomed hedges. It would be fair to say, everything on Palm Beach is well groomed. We are not. Lockdown has taken its toil in so many ways.
We continued to the end of the walk way on the river side, cutting through to the Atlantic Sea side of the spit, again passing many exclusive homes and cars as we walked. The only two people on foot.
The beach was disappointing. Perhaps we have been spoilt in recent months, but the walk and the vast expanse of the Atlantic with her powerful rolling breakers was exhilarating. I enjoyed collecting pebbles and shells which I hope to use as a replacement for flowers on our dining table.
Iain obliged by waiting for me while he gazed longingly out to sea. He volunteered a pocket of the very useful rucksack to carry my spoils back to the boat. I felt a warm glow, knowing at this moment Iain was thinking only of my happiness. Collecting shells is not on his list.
My scavenging had brought the pace to a halt. Once on the boat, should my spoils scratch his much prized varnished table, or not have a secure designated place when sailing, they will be turfed overboard without a second glance. But for now, I loved him for thinking of me.
We held hands along the beach. For the people enjoying their prime fronted homes, this would not be an unusual sight. For us, walking and holding hands have never been in the same sentence. I was happy.
There are very few public access points to what is primarily a private beach. We reached a point where the tide was rising forcing us to exit the beach through a private garden, an hotel or climb a wall to exist on to the road. We chose the latter and made our way back to Palm Beach along the road. At the East end of the Flagler Memorial Bridge is a small exclusive shopping complex. I noticed a bakery within the complex. I thought we could buy a cake to take back to the boat.
Iain agreed to go shopping. This was definitely my day. Once inside the complex, it was apparent it was very exclusive. Some of the shops were open, with strict guidelines for entering. The bakery was in fact a cafe. Very reminiscent of St Mark’s Square, Venice. Iain was happy for us to join the Channel clad ladies and gentlemen, taking lunch at outside tables. Having sand stuck to my legs, and sunscreen streaking our faces, I could not bring myself to join them.
We looked through the windows of the closed designer shops, breathing in the very tranquil perfumed filled air of the shopping complex. “What a shame Hermes is closed”, declared my husband as we crossed the bridge. Me following the bag once again back to our dinghy.
The homeward bound ride was different. The wind was beginning to increase, and we could see the beginnings of a thunder storm building on the horizon. Iain was keen to beat the rain.
The more I write this blog, the more I realise I am not naturally suited for a life on the water. I do not like speed. I do not like bouncing up or down. I certainly am not a fan of arriving somewhere wet.
I was holding on for dear life being bounced at great velocity from the side of the dinghy, listening for instructions, complete with gestures to move forward or back or to the middle aiding weight distribution. “Listen to the revs of the engine. When they alter move”. Really? All I was concerned with, was staying in the dinghy. Again, not to be taken for granted when travelling with Iain. He, on the other had was enjoying the burst of speed, all in the name of keeping our insignificant dinghy on the plane to stop us getting wet - apparently. The grin was enormous. Iain was enjoying the speed, I was thinking this is another piece of ammunition for the argument to purchase a new bigger tender as our dinghy is not fit for purpose. Personally, I would prefer galley lights which work, meaning I do not need to cook during daylight hours, or wear a head torch in the evening.
We decided to make the next step of our journey to Charleston the following day. As this journey would take us almost 48 hours, it would not be possible to make the trip to arrive in day light so we left at mid day to arrive about the same time two days later in Charleston.