Since crossing the Okeechobee last November, Slip B57 at the Harborage Marina in Stuart, FL has been home. We’re not the only Loopers with plans modified by the pandemic. In theory, a boat is the ultimate platform to self-isolate and ride out a pandemic. It’s why boats and RV’s are selling like chocolate covered hotcakes. But we’re not those boaters trying to get off Zoom, or get out of the house for the weekend. This IS our house.
Loopers like to get off the boat (out of the house) to explore places along their journey. With restaurants serving take-out only, museums closed, docktails, potlucks, and even Canada off-limits, the Looping experience is greatly diminished. Then of course, there is the issue of needing to be in your home state for a vaccination. For us, that’s Florida. For all of these reasons and a couple more, we’re still here. We’ve had our first dose, and in a few weeks, we’ll get the second poke. Afterwards, we head North.
Being voluntarily “stuck” in South Florida during the winter doesn’t invite sympathy. Back in January, we actually wore jeans and socks for a few days. Since they share our conservatism about wearing masks and respecting viral outbreaks, we’ve spent several weekends with our great friends, Brian and Virginia Eamer. They own a dirt home nearby, and we’ve exhausted our guest privileges at their golf club. Our stay here has been no hardship, just borne of A Change of Plans.
After settling into the Harborage last November, we retrieved the car from Fort Myers, and took a road trip North. Driving from Florida to Michigan in November seems foolish by most accounts, but Dawn’s folks needed some help, and we wanted to welcome a new family member. Yes, we became grandparents, and held Theodore Thomas Jeglic in Lansing on his two-week birthday. Side trips to Gross Point, Cleveland and Columbus spiked our joy meter, despite COVID protocols. Our expected ten day trip stretched to nearly a month, allowing us to celebrate Thanksgiving with family.
A splendid Christmas with the Eamers was followed by the gut punch of January 6. The insurrection and those turbid weeks leading up to it explain my scarcity on social media. It’s why the blog is relatively quiet. You see, the boating community seems to have a disproportionate number of folks who countenance those events. I struggle to reconcile and struggle to write while coping with my disgust.
We emerged from our insurrection blues by cruising south to Lake Worth, to visit Jim and Melissa Kelly. Our friendship began during the short time we were marina-mates, back in Houston. Boat issues and work delayed their Houston departure. Then more boat issues and a few hurricanes stalled their progress along the Emerald Coast. They finally caught up and were en-route to the Bahama’s!
Since I’ve mentioned the Emerald Coast… Here the Treasure Coast stretches between Vero to Palm Beach, and is named for a Spanish Treasure Fleet lost in a hurricane three centuries ago. Just offshore, the mighty Gulf Stream surges between the Bahamas and Florida’s peninsula. It’s where the ocean’s strongest current makes its closest approach to land. In a Northeaster or tropical storm, the waters can rise up and swallow boats.
Our cruise to visit the Kelly’s marked our first traverse along the Treasure Coast. Staying “inside”, the journey from Stuart begins southward, through The Saint Lucie Inlet Preserve. This natural and pristine section of ICW is a known haven for migratory birds, like the Peregrine Falcon and American Kestrel. And we thought they were all Ospreys! At Hobe Sound, where Jupiter Island stands between the ICW and the Atlantic, the pristine bows to corpulence. We motor past the estates of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Celine Dion, Rory Mcllroy, not to mention the one Greg Norman just sold for fifty million. Backyard stairways make the Supreme Court’s edifice look paltry, and boathouses could shelter families of eight. Opposite, on the west side, wannabe’s in lowly seven figure homes settle for pools, putting greens, and docks crowded with water toys. No humans are to be seen, making me wonder if they’re all inside, hiding from their wealth or their debt.
Just past Tequesta, as one approaches the Jupiter inlet, the water transforms into azure splendor. This is where Burt Reynolds chased Lonnie around the pool, and Joe Namath still films Medicare commercials. The Jupiter lighthouse guards the point, bridges slow progress, and boat traffic intensifies as we round the bend, continuing south, towards Juno Beach. At North Palm Beach, the waterway pops out into Lake Worth, which stands between eight towns named “Choose-Adjective” Palm Beach. I think 90% of the1% live nearby.
We found Jim and Mellisa and their pretty Grand Banks Classic, “On Course At Last” opposite the mega-yacht basin. We dropped anchor and spent three fun-filled days together, eating, drinking, laughing and sharing boat tales. It was the longest we’ve spent at anchor since leaving Houston! We saw them off before sunrise, waving as they headed out the inlet to cross the Gulf Stream.
I’ve enjoyed learning some local history at our stops along the way. One of the most fascinating takes us back to the Herbert Hoover dike, (No, not J Edgar) which surrounds Lake Okeechobee like the walls of of an above ground pool.
In 1928, after pummeling Guadaloupe and Puerto Rico, a Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Palm Beach. On approach, its circulation caused a tremendous storm surge to breach the levees of Lake Okeechobee, inundating the rich farms to its south with twenty foot floods, killing thousands. As the hurricane passed, its reverse circulation pushed floodwaters over Okeechobee’s northern bank, killing hundreds more. The Herbert Hoover dike was built in response.
The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane was the third deadliest in US history, after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and recent Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. Most of the Treasure Coast was smashed; half the homes surrounding Lake Worth were destroyed. The mortar of Jupiter lighthouse was squeezed from between its bricks “like toothpaste”, canting the lighthouse some 17″ after the storm.
Most of the 2500 casualties were poor, black migrant farmers. Their bodies were either burned in large funeral pyres, or thrown into mass graves in West Palm Beach and Port Myacca. Authorities reserved the few available caskets for white folks, burying them separately. A proper memorial did not come about until just twenty years ago!
Zora Neale Hurston wrote of African American life in the early 20th century South, and explored the effects of the 1928 hurricane on black migrant workers in her seminal 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is regarded as one of the 100 best English-language novels published over the last century. I can attest – it’s a remarkable story, masterfully told.
In another interesting piece of history, Hurston spent her last years at a senior home just north of here, in Fort Pierce. Upon her death in 1960, she was buried unceremoniously in a nearby cemetery. No stone marked her grave. The cemetery was of course segregated at the time, and Hurston died poor and black. Today, history regards her as one of Florida’s ten most iconic novelists, along with the likes of Marjorie Rawlings, John McDonald, Elmore Leonard, and Ernest Hemingway. I’d read her over papa.