We moved aboard our catamaran Makana over eight years ago in South Africa. After sailing across the Atlantic, my wife Katie, our daughter Hoku and I enjoyed exploring the many islands of the Caribbean and up the U.S. East Coast to Maine. More recently we’ve been spending summers cruising in Maine and then when the leaves begin to change color we head south chasing the warmth to spend winters in the Bahamas. While the Bahamas offer cruisers fantastic islands, beautiful beaches and spectacular reefs, finding provisions there can be a challenge, especially in the “out” islands where we spend the bulk of the winter. Our solution to this is to stock up on provisions prior to heading across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
“You can’t always get what you want…..but you just might find you get what you need.” Mr. Jagger couldn’t have stated it better, as we’ve discovered that we can find everything we need for the winter in Vero Beach, Florida.
Why Vero? Well at the top of the list is the Vero Beach Municipal Marina which is right off the ICW and usually has slips or moorings available for visitors. Vero Beach Municipal Marina and the surrounding community offer services resulting in the marina being one of Florida’s premier staging locations for cruisers headed south. But it’s also a destination in itself with some cruisers enjoying the area so much that they stay the entire winter nicknaming it “Velcro Beach.” We usually spend a week or so in “Vero” each year before heading over to the Bahamas for the winter. It’s one of our favorite stops in Florida especially for our daughter, as there are usually several “kid boats” there and she enjoys the beach at the local park.
The facilities are quite nice with economical moorings, Wi-Fi, hot showers ashore, a laundry and a lounge with a small kitchen and two TV’s, one tuned to the Weather Channel 24-7. There is a fantastic free bus service providing access to many of the local stores with a pick-up / drop-off stop at the dingy dock. The beach and accompanying park are a short dinghy ride away and there are miles of bike and jogging paths. Not only is this nice for a cruising kid, it’s also a definite bonus in the minds of most adult cruisers as they are often anticipating a crossing and may not get a good stretch of the legs for a few days. At times there may be over a 100 boats with most moorings accommodating two to three at a time. It’s quite a sight to see a single mooring holding three catamarans with an overall beam of 75 feet!
The majority of these boats are homes to the winter snow birds with migration plans varying from heading to the Keys or crossing the Gulf Stream for the Bahamas to cruising to points further south. With such a contingency in Vero, at certain times of the day the dinghy dock becomes a mini Grand Central station, especially if a “weather window” to cross the Gulf Stream opens. And when the free local bus arrives to unload passengers, each carrying more shopping bags than would seem possible, you know there’s an encouraging forecast on the horizon. It’s amusing to see a dingy loaded with 20 rolls of paper towels, enough canned food for a small army, cases of motor oil, soft drinks and enough chips and crackers to open a convenience store.
This also just happens to be one of the many reasons we enjoy Vero. We are typically guilty on all accounts as we usually rent a car for a day and immediately high tail it to a certain big box store. On our last visit we overfilled four shopping carts with the checkout teller commending me on how this was her longest receipt ever issued!
Once the provisioning is finished we typically spend a few days just taking in Vero. You may find us soaking up the sun at the beach. Or, if you catch us on a Thursday afternoon bring your guitar. It’s Bob’s unofficial jam session and is just one highlight of the weekly cruiser sunset ge- together. Of course we’ll probably be discussing a little boat business while enjoying the assortment of appetizers. How else will we convince our friends and family back “home” cruising is not always rum drinks in paradise?
In Vero we have met plenty of cruisers taking a short or long term break and if you happen to be in the area you should too.