Bridges, bridges, and more bridges! (in Fort Pierce, FL)

Florida Bridges on the ICW

Hope you like bridges!

Okay, listen up. I know no one really wants to see a zillion pictures of bridges, but after transitting through 33 of the suckers in 2 days I’m sorry to say that they’re pretty much the biggest thing I want to talk about 😉

Florida Bridges on the ICW

<aside>: Why does the internet think ‘transitting’ is not a valid word?!? What other verb do you use for canals and bridges, if not transitting?!? </aside>

<second aside>: I also want to talk about how our 3-month old alternator bracket broke and we had to sail our way under a bridge with current and the 4th of July Boat Parade racing against us. But the bracket’s fixed (one-day turnaround and it cost over $100… must be in America!) and we can make enough power for me to charge my laptop again so all I really have to say is this: Nothing Too Strong Ever Broke. </aside>

Now back to the bridges. Did I mention there were 33 of them? Cuz there were. 15 the first day, 18 the second, and with the exception of 2 or 3, every single one had to open up for us. Oh, and I took a picture of them all, just for you!

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Those of you who are familiar with bridges can have a good chuckle at our newb-ness… cuz we clearly did not know how to deal with bridges! The first morning we set out of Miami, I proceeded to drive the wrong way around a marker (Jon: “Leah, do you see that market? That green one? Are you sure you see it? LEAH, you’re going the wrong way!”), have a panic attack about whether a bridge was open or closed, get run down by multiple enormous powerboats throwing 2′ wakes, and sprout a new patch of gray hairs. The last time sailing felt this stressful we were running from a Papagayo with a cracking backstay.

Raining on the ICW

It thunderstorms a lot in Florida

Some of the bridges (the really good ones) are “on demand” — that means they open when you call. Or, in the case of the Miami on-demand bridges, they tell you to “full steam towards the bridge and I’ll have it open by the time you get here”. Cuz that’s not scary at all!

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Most of the bridges are on some sort of a schedule — on the 15 and the 45, or on the hour and the 30, etc. Because the bridges are so close together (we averaged 1 bridge every 2 miles), they are *in theory* timed for a sailboat speed. What this really means is that you pretty much always have 15 minutes to make it 1.5 miles (we can usually make about 1.3 miles in 15 minutes), so you are continuously arriving 1 or 2 minutes too late. And let me tell you folks, these bridge tenders take their 1 or 2 minutes seriously.

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Missing an opening is not the end of the world though… it just means you get to do lazy circles in the ICW, taking in the variety of towns and houses and sights that sprout up along the canal / river / waterway. It’s also a good time for coffee breaks, bread-making, and trips in the dinghy for ice cream 🙂

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One of my favourite bridges, only because Jon went and bought ice cream while we waited for the next opening!

One of my favourite bridges, only because Jon went and bought ice cream while we waited for the next opening!

At the end of our first serious day of bridges, we anchored in a cul de sac. A very calm, quiet cul de sac at least!

Our cul de sac anchorage

Cul de Sac anchorage

The next morning started with a bang.

Cul de sac anchorage -- view from the inside

Cul de sac anchorage — view from the inside

Oh, I meant literally.

I’d read the guidebook’s “possible shoal at the entrance to this anchorage” warning the day before, but since we made it in with no problems… leaving shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. BANG, bang, BANG, bang, BANG  <— that’s the sound Brio makes as she hops rather awfully along the bottom, scraping the last little bits of bottom paint off on who knows what. Luckily we didn’t get stuck, so the bridge fun could begin again 🙂

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Manatee speed zones

Personally I’ve never seen a manatee that could swim at 25 miles/hour… but maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places. This does explain why we get ‘waked’ by power boats so often though!

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One of the super cool highlights in the midst of this bridge-madness was driving through Ft. Lauderdale’s “millionaire mile”… aka the stretch of water that I’m sure must house some of the world’s richest & famous-est. I don’t know who else would have such crazy houses (and the boats to go with them!). Made for some fun house-gawking though 🙂

Millionaire Mile - in Ft Lauderdale

Millionaire Mile – in Ft Lauderdale

Millionaire Mile - in Ft LauderdaleWe spent the night in Peck Lake — an amazing little anchorage on the ICW that’s separated from the wide open Atlantic by just a small strip of sandy land. We tossed the anchor down, tied the dinghy up and discovered we had the entire beach to ourselves. We had the nicest frolic in the sea that I think we’ve had all year… and all this with 3 bars of cell phone signal.

Peck Lake, Florida Peck Lake, Florida

Peck Lake, Florida

Paradise in Peck Lake?

<third aside> I think this means we’ve finally found “it”. “It” being that elusive beach we’d have to ourselves, where we could have a calm anchorage, a wide stretch of sand to suntan naked, and a great internet signal. That’s how we defined paradise 3 years ago with friends on Anam Cara, and I think it still pretty much stands today 🙂 </third aside>

Brio at anchor in Peck Lake, Florida

As we approached the end of the bridges, the ICW also changed from a tight man-made canal to the wider Indian River. This didn’t stop us from running aground again (I swear I was inside those markers, I swear!!)…bump, bump, BUMP, bump… but the soft bumps mean we can keep going, and *knock on wood* we haven’t managed to fully ground ourselves yet. So that’s good news!

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With the last bascule bridge behind us, we’d planned a nice run up to Vero Beach… we even made a reservation for a mooring for the 4th of July. Guess that was our mistake 😉 Alternator bracket broke 20 miles shy of Vero Beach, and Fort Pierce seemed like a more likely spot to have a welder (plus it was 10 miles closer) so here we are. We did have a very nice sail for those last 10 miles… a welcome change from all the motoring we’ve been doing lately!

33 Bridges on the ICW

Of 33 bridges, there was only one I accidentally drove through a little too early… let’s just say I’m glad our mast is a skinny thing that could poke up in the very small space between the not-quite-fully-open-bridge spans… oops!

Now we play the inside-outside game, and continue to meander our way up Florida’s beautiful coast… it’s a good life we’re living over here!




Bridges, bridges, and more bridges! (in Fort Pierce, FL) — 2 Comments

  1. every once in a while I feel the need to pipe up and tell you (again!) how much I love your blog… I’ve got Misha’s dad following you now too 🙂 we miss you both!!

    • Aww thanks Ioana! It means so much to hear that — I read your comment while we were bashing into headwinds and feeling like we’d never get anywhere, so it was perfect timing!! Sending big hugs your guys’ way!! xoxo

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