Ode to Stuart

This week marks the end of our second month in Stuart, Florida. Our original thought was to spend one month here and then head south to the Keys. Aside from our home port on the Chesapeake, we’ve never lingered in one place for so long. But we just can’t seem to tear ourselves away from mooring ball #69 at Sunset Bay Marina. The  only times we’ve moved is to go to the main dock for a pump-out and to refill our water tanks.

Everything about this place is easy–the marina offers a low price for the mooring rental and with it comes all the amenities of the shore side facilities. This includes use of the showers, laundry, lounge, courtesy bicycles, free WiFi, convenience store and nice restaurant on the premises, shuttle bus to shopping and occasional use of the courtesy dock. Although landlubbers may wonder, “What’s the big deal,” these kind of things are important to cruising sailors. They even have a free holding tank pump-out boat if you don’t feel like motoring over to the dock.

Charming downtown Stuart is a quick stroll from the marina via the town’s Riverwalk. This route along the St. Lucie River, takes you under the congested highway and the busy railroad tracks.

The Roosevelt Bridge is the visual centerpiece seen from most parts of the Riverwalk. At night, when light up from below, it’s hard not to be impressed by the graceful lines of this utilitarian concrete structure. One of our favorite spots to soak in the sights is the Pelican Cafe which sits almost under the bridge.

Roosevelt Bridge as seen from the Pelican Cafe Roosevelt Bridge ~ Stuart, FL Roosevelt Bridge ~ Stuart, FL
Roosevelt Bridge Roosevelt Bridge Roosevelt Bridge
Stuart, FL Sailfish Fountain Circle ~ Stuart, FL Crew of the Mary T
Downtown Stuart Sailfish Fountain Happy sailors
Stuart Sunset Bay Mooring Field Stuart, FL
Downtown Stuart Sunset Bay Moorings Downtown
Rainbow over Stuart Sunset Bay as seen from the cockpit of the Mary T The Pelican ~ Stuart, FL
Rainbow over Stuart View from our cockpit Pelican Cafe

Another benefit of staying in Stuart, is the close proximity to my son, Justin, and family, who live about 35 minutes south (by car) in the town of Jupiter. Enterprise rent-a-car has occasional special deals with our marina where they rent cars for weekends at $30.00 plus tax. We’ve done this rental multiple times giving us some quality time with granddaughter, Trynity, as well as visits with the rest of her family. We’ve brought Tryn to Mary T  for overnights aboard and for romps on the Stuart ocean beach. Tryn loves nothing better than to create sand sculptures and, eat sushi.

Trynity Trynity aboard the Mary T at Sunset Bay ~ Stuart, FL Trynity
Trynity Aboard the Mary T Sculpting Sandy the Bear
Work begins The sand sculptress The Bears
Sand Sculpture artists at work The finished work The Bears
Shelly Another Trynity sand sculpture Proud artists
Shelly Squiggy Unicorn
Tryn and Amy The artist at work 49-DSCN5494
Almost like the Bahamas Working on Shelly Rainbow over the Atlantic

Amy went to Boston for a Flannery/Ahern/Lally family gathering for the Christmas holidays, while I went to Jupiter to spend it with Justin and family. Below are some photos.

69-DSCN5539 Tryn with her new hat Nugget doing her best bat imitation
Christmas morning Tryn and Nugget Nugget
Sea Puppies Nugget wants a "Sea Dogs" T shirt, too Trynity's gift to the Mary T
Madyn’s new shirt Nugget wants a T, too Tryn’s gift to us
Trynity with her new paint set Madyn Madyn on guitar
Guess she’s happy Madyn Madyn on guitar
Nugget with Poppy Uber Brother-in-Law Uber Mummsey
Nugget Uber hot Brother-in-law Uber Hot Mumsy
Molly and Mary in Boston Les 'n' Kev The Ahern House
Molly and Mary in Boston Les and Kevin The Ahern Home

We’ve been fortunate to have lots of visitors here in lovely Stuart. Amy’s elementary school friend, Dietra, drove down from Savannah, GA, just before Christmas to spend three days aboard the Mary T. Amy and Dietra spent most of their days on the Atlantic beaches of nearby Hutchinson Island. Dietra was happy to have a few days off from her contractor business, because she rarely takes a vacation.

Cruising buddies, Lou and Jane, from Nyack, NY, whose sailboat, Ripple Effect, was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, have rented a house in the town of Lake Worth, about an hour south. We’ve visited them on two occasions when we had a rental car. Tita and Corning, formerly of the sailing vessel, Blessed Spirit and from Edgecomb, ME, rented a place in the Keys. They stopped by on their way to meet us for dinner.

We also shared fun times with the crews of Gormã, Spartina, Windfall, and Novia. We’d like to give special thanks to Phil and Sarah of Spartina for helping us with the delivery of our new batteries. They store their boat in Ft. Pierce and so, had their car here in Florida. The procedure of swapping out the old for the new would have been way more difficult without them.

Greg and Corinne from Gormã sailed into Stuart on their way to the Bahamas. They stayed a few days, had their new sails custom fitted and then headed out again only to be towed back a couple of days later. Their old Perkins diesel had died in dramatic fashion. Fortunately, they were able to buy a rebuilt one and found a local mechanic who could install it. I lent a hand in the removal of the old motor mostly for educational purposes. Gormã is a sister ship of Mary T’s and has the same model engine. I was thinking this experience may help us in the future.

Gormã and Spartina have since made it to the Bahamas. Windfall will be crossing soon and we’re not sure where Novia is. (Anyone interested in chartering in the Bahamas, contact Raffi and Lisa aboard Windfall.)

Retro Publix Supermarket in Lake Worth, FL

Retro Publix Supermarket in Lake Worth, FL

We had first met Brian, of Novia, down in Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas when we, and many other cruising sailors were waiting out seriously strong easterly winds. Brian was cruising with wife, Gayle and, like us, was planning to head to the Caribbean. Novia however, had a wide variety of problems so, they, like us, headed north and back towards the States. The following year Brian, as a single-hander, did make it to the Dominican Republic. His appearance in Stuart was a happy surprise for us as we had knew he made it to the DR but hadn’t heard the details.

We also made some new friends. Luann and Wolfe own a sister ship to ours and GormãEasy Goin’. They pulled up in their inflatable one afternoon and introduced themselves. They told us they had downloaded our “Cruising on the Mary T” video. Wow! Since our sales are few and far between, we’re always thrilled to meet people whom we don’t know that still bought the video.

Wolfe and Luann had an interesting story about crossing Florida from the Gulf side through the Okeechobee waterway to the Atlantic side. What makes this trip extra challenging is that there is one bridge too low for boats our size. They ended up hiring a local captain who placed several 55 gallon drums on their side deck. Captain Bill then filled them with about 4,000 lbs. of water to create 30 degrees of heel to tilt Wolfe and Luann’s boat sideways to fit under the bridge span. The procedure sounded pretty harrowing. When asked if they’d do it again, they both answered without hesitation, “No!”

Other new friends we made while in Stuart include Russ and Jane from Luna, and Ed and Chris from Freedom. Ed, like Amy, is in the video biz. They’re paying their cruising bills with video productions related to the marine industry. (StarboardFilms.com)

Cousin George and wife, Peggy, live nearby in Jensen Beach. We’ve met on several different occasions and it’s always a good time. Cousin Alex and wife, Sharon, live a ways down the coast in Delray Beach but they were up here staying at their friends condo in nearby Port Salerno. They took us out for breakfast and a mini tour of the Manatee Pocket area. We hope to see more of them once we’re in Ft. Lauderdale.

Wolfe and Luan, another new Morgan 38 owners Jane and Lou Lisa, Raffi (from Windfall) and Amy off to Logan International Airport
Wolfe and Luann Lou and Jane  Lisa and Raffi shared a flight to Logan
Sarah and Phil, the crew of Spartina Greg and Corinne, the crew of Gorma Cousin George, Peggy, Ken and Amy at the Dolphin
Sarah and Phil  Greg and Corinne  George, Peggy, Ken and Amy
Buddies Grade School Pals--Amy and Dee Dee Ken and Lou in Lake Worth, FL
 Tryn and Amy  Amy and Dietra Ken and Lou in Lake Worth
Amy at work in her Mary T office

Amy at work in her Mary T office

The primary reason we are staying put is to give Amy uninterrupted time to work on her documentary, Red Dot on the Ocean. There are multiple distractions when we are underway–boat management is the obvious factor–but then, when we arrive someplace new, the urge to explore is tough to resist. As it is now, Amy works most of the day and then sometime in late afternoon, she turns off her computer and the fun begins.

We have used the courtesy bikes for utilitarian purposes as well as just to ride about. The town is pleasant to ride through as long as you stay off Route 1. This however, is unavoidable if you want to go food shopping or to the pharmacy. There is the courtesy shuttle that can take us there but we never seem to plan to catch it. Route 1 is a challenge for pedestrians, bicyclists and even car drivers. It’s six lanes through Stuart and there does not seem to be a speed limit. There are sidewalks but no bike lanes. We’ve learned to take whatever few back roads we can, but there are not enough.

Amy working at her office in Mulligan's

Amy working at her office in Mulligan’s

On one outing to West Marine, I almost got slammed by a car racing out from one of the dozens of fast food joints along the highway. As the driver bolted onto the road, he only looked to his left for a break in traffic and did not see me peddling down the sidewalk on his right. There was no hesitation–he just tore out so as not to miss his big chance. I hit the brakes in time to stop inches from his passenger side door. Had I been a mere second earlier, I’d have been a hood ornament on his Mercedes-Benz. Now, I ride on the sidewalk that runs with the traffic.

Lately, we’ve been riding the bikes to the municipal tennis courts and then swatting at balls. The courts are in great shape and we’ve never had to wait to play. Most times we are the only ones there. Last time we played Amy tried to hit a ball so hard the racket flew out of her hand and across the net. The ball did not make it. That game threw her back out of whack, so it may be a little while til our next game.

The downside of standing still has been the amount of growth that accumulated on our boat’s bottom. I recently donned my wet suit and snorkel and went down to clean the propeller. I’d never seen it so encrusted with barnacles and vegetation. The rest of the bottom is a slimy mess but at least the paint has kept the barnacles away. I had to clean the dinghy bottom the week before. A different process done on shore, but actually a tougher job as there was no spot that did not have a barnacle growing. You have to use a metal scraper to pry them off without gouging into the hypalon fabric.

We’ve found Stuart so comfortable and inviting that a couple of weeks ago, we were seriously looking into buying a condo here. I spent time online narrowing choices and one day, when we had a rental car, we drove around to assorted complexes just to get a feel for them. There was one place in particular that looked very promising. As we walked around the grounds, we talked to some of the residents and heard nothing but glowing reviews of the place and the people who lived there. One guy we met suggested we talk to Sylvia, a realtor who lived in the complex. We took his advice and called her to arrange a meeting with her the next morning to see some of the units.

Sylvia

Sylvia talking with Charlie and Flo

Sylvia is 90 years old but you’d never know it. She’s really quite inspiring. Sylvia has lived in the complex for 30 years and knew everyone. She showed us a very nice place owned by Charlie and Flo. Charlie, an excellent and prolific water-color artist, had his work hanging all over the walls and was eager to talk about it. This sort of ticked off Sylvia, who was trying her best to sell his condo unit—not his art.

We were really impressed with the place and the complex in general but, after thinking about the 55 and older age restriction and no pets allowed, we kind of cooled on the entire idea. We came to realize that although now is a good time to buy due to low prices, it’s a bad time for distractions that may keep Amy from finishing Red Dot.

Neither Amy nor I are all that crazy about Florida but it does have a lot going for it; year-round boating being the most important. Of all the towns we’ve visited in our trips here, Stuart ranks high–right up there with St. Augustine. The town has plenty going on and looks and feels vibrant. The marina is pretty nice and while not luxurious, it’s well run and very accommodating. And there don’t seem to be any insects! At least there aren’t any out on mooring ball #69. I don’t want to sound like a Chamber of Commerce booster so, here are some negatives.

On the way to the tennis courts

On the way to the tennis courts

Our mooring ball, out on the southern edge of the field, is right under the landing approach to a mid-sized airport that means some rather large planes swoop low over us. Fortunately, they don’t land throughout the night.

Then there are the oft-travelled railroad tracks. Early on, I had to Google why train engineers blow their horns so often. Turns out it’s the law—they’re not just trying to disturb sleeping sailors. As a train approaches within a quarter of a mile of an auto or pedestrian crossing, they are specifically required to blow two longs, one short, and then one long blast. So, if an area has several crossings as Stuart does, the engineer has to blow for each crossing no matter how close together they are. We are about as far away as any boat in the mooring field so, it’s not as bad for us as those closer in. Yet, it certainly can get to you if you are having a restless night.

Tennis Courts

Tennis Courts

How about that traffic? While downtown Stuart is fairly civilized, drivers elsewhere are somewhat anarchistic. Florida has pedestrian crossing laws but many drivers hate to observe them. Rt. 1, as mentioned earlier, is a six lane scar through the middle of town but at least you can wait for a favorable light before crossing. At many other intersections just outside of town, it’s always a gamble as to whether a car will stop and let you cross even if there is a flashing light and “Pedestrian Cross Walk” sign.

The St. Lucie River where we are, is mostly brackish—much like the Chesapeake Bay. The nutrient rich water, along with the warm climate is great for growing stuff on the bottom of your boat. Recently, sea nettles have appeared making us think we’re in Maryland and it’s July.

We expect to bid farewell to Stuart and head down to Ft. Lauderdale around February 20 for a rendezvous with Amy’s sister Leslie, and brother-in-law, Kevin. It’s not likely we’ll stop here on the way back but, if we do, it’ll feel like coming home.

 



One comment on “Ode to Stuart
  1. mary says:

    Hey Mary T you sure all know how to have fun. Love the pictures. Tigger the dog is scary. Or is it Nugget? Toto too? I love the pic of your real estate lady and the water colorist. Also I want to go to Pelican cafe. Keep up with the barnacles and have a swell birthday sail to Ft. Lauderdale! AHOY. OVer & Out.

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