Make Space for the Turkey -
November 28, 2002
"Little Gidding" (left) rafted up at the Vero Beach municipal marina
Vero Beach, on the central east coast of Florida, is a popular spot among cruisers. For eight bucks a night you can tie up to a mooring at the municipal marina and have access to water, laundry, showers, trash disposal, a public phone, and TV lounge. The shore facilities are in a well groomed park-like setting and the staff are friendly and accommodating. A free community bus comes by roughly on the hour and will deliver you to any number of shopping plazas in the general area. For this reason, many cruisers make Vero their last provisioning stop before crossing over to the Bahamas (and beyond). It's a convenient place to lighten your pocketbook while sinking your waterline.
Some boaters arrive in Vero intending just to stock up and complete a few last minute boat projects but end up never leaving. It's that kind of place. We know several former cruisers who, after years of passing through Vero, have now sold their boats, bought condos, and settled permanently in the vicinity. They refer to it as "Velcro Beach".
East coast cruisers fleeing the snow and ice aim to be in Florida in November, when hurricane season is ending. Many attend the annual Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) gam in Melbourne (see last week's log entry) and then push on to Vero, a day's motor further south on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. By this time it's close to Thanksgiving. Over the years, so many cruisers have found themselves in Vero at Thanksgiving, that it's been popularized up and down the eastern seaboard as the holiday destination of choice.
Experiencing Thanksgiving at Vero is like witnessing a well rehearsed military operation. Volunteers rent a nearby community hall, line up a caterer, sell tickets, and assign people to set up, serve and clean up. The turkey and trimmings are provided with the price of admission and everyone brings a side dish to share. It's a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new acquaintances. The only problem is that it might have become too popular.
This year most of the moorings at the marina were already doubled up two weeks before Thanksgiving. For some unknown reason, we were just about the only boat by itself at a mooring. We had mixed feelings about this. We enjoyed the privacy but were worried that maybe our appearance or personalities were scaring off new arrivals. Was Eileen practising her music a little too loudly? Was it time for David to change his wardrobe and get a hair cut? We didn't have to worry for long. When we dinghied back to the boat one evening a week ago, we were greeted by the sight of not one, but two, other sailboats rafted alongside "Little Gidding".
As it turned out, we knew both of our mooring mates. We first met Pam and Glenn on the 42 foot catamaran "Anything Goes" four years ago in the Bahamas. We got to know Michael on the 38 foot cutter "Madeline" this past summer when we were imprisoned in the same boatyard in Virginia. He's since been joined by Mary Beth and their black lab (whose name is also Madeline, which should give you some idea of her privileged status on board). The three of us make an impressive raft - "Madeline" and ourselves appearing to be small appendages on either side of "Anything Goes".
Last Sunday, the tickets for the Thanksgiving dinner were sold out. The hall has a maximum capacity of 130. Boats kept on arriving. The flotilla of tenders at the dinghy dock grew to three and four deep. The laundry room was packed from dawn to dusk and there were no more spaces left in the bicycle racks. The TV lounge became filled with people waiting to use the only available public phone. The guy who tried using the phone line to download multiple satellite weather photos barely escaped with his life. Yesterday, the number of transient boats peaked - a total of 124 boats on 40 moorings. Bill Eastman, the hard working marina director, shook his head in amazement. "This is an all time record," he announced.
Today we had lots to be thankful for: our health and good fortune, the company of family and friends, and - not insignificant - a place to park. Bring on the turkey!