Saturday, January 25, 2014

Greetings from Miami Beach!

75 degrees in the sunshine here!  And you?

Martin Luther King Day and Alison's Birthday on January 20, saw us leave Ft. Lauderdale for an offshore passage to Miami.  At 62 feet of vertical draft we are too high to pass under the 56 feet available at the Julia Tuttle Bridge in North Miami.  That is all well and good with us, since we had a beautiful day and some very pleasant sailing.  

There are Sailfish out here.

George.  With another fishing story.

We arrived mid-afternoon at Government Cut and took the Dodge Island Cut toward downtown Miami.  As we turned South back into the ICW, a good size porpoise jumped clear of the water by about six feet (higher than our bow at least and not six feet away) and turned head first back into the water.  Like being at Sea World!  Incredible.  

We went under the Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge at Virginia Key and South into Biscayne Bay to No Name Harbor (that is the name, "No Name") at the southern tip of Key Biscayne and Cape Florida.  No Name is known as a small and popular hurricane hole. 

No Name Harbor.

Arriving at 3:00 PM on a Holiday (MLK), there were over 20 boats at anchor.  We made three full circles of the Harbor before dropping anchor so close to the Mangroves (in 12 feet of water), that I was concerned if we swung the wrong way we would get caught up on the branches. When the day boats left, we pulled up anchor and re-set in a clear patch with only seven other overnighters.

Sailboat Racing on Biscayne Bay.

No Name seems to have a good 11 to 12 feet throughout, and despite being not half the size of Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals, it has plenty of room and good, clean holding. We stayed three nights.

Another fine, feathered friend.

No Name is part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park which has a 1.2 mile Atlantic shoreline and 1.4 miles of frontage on Biscayne Bay.  It is consistently rated one of the ten best beaches in the US.  Hiking Trails. Biking Trails. Two great restaurants (unbelievable for a State Park!).  

We hiked. 

We rented bikes. 

We went to the beach.

We ate fresh Grouper and fresh Snapper.  

A great destination. We will definitely be back.

Remains of the day.

A quick inquiry to the Island Packet List looking for tips on where to go and what to do in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys, yielded great information and even coded charts (thanks again, Hayden) showing great anchorage locations.  We were so taken with how good it looks here that we decided to postpone our movement south in order to first explore some of Biscayne Bay.

Cape Florida Light.  From near...

…and from far.

On Thursday (January 23) we moved from our anchorage to the seawall for a free DIY pump out (sadly, no water source), lunch at the Boaters Grill, then off into Biscayne Bay.  This time headed North against the wind, back under the Rickenbacker, and into the anchorage at Marine Stadium.  On the way and all day at anchor we were surrounded by go-fast sailing machines with two person trapeze crews hiked out and whizzing around us.  Olympic training with crews from the US, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden!  Pretty cool!

Olympic hopefuls.

Girls from Italy.


Hiking out.

Sadly, the days of glory for Marine Stadium have apparently passed. I am sure we all saw waterskiing and motorboat racing televised from there in the 1960s, but now the Stadium is abandoned and the area is a bit derilict.  Apart from the sailing Training Center and the Rowing Club at the far end.  We were told at the City Marina that the signs at the dock say you can't tie a dinghy there without authorization.  And it was crazy for us to come into the office to ask for authorization because no one could give it.  But, no one really cares.  So we walked ashore there but found little of interest.  

Back in the dinghy, we found no docking or tie up facilities at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant, and the Security Guard on that side of the Rickenbacker Marina shooed us away (unless we paid $50), but seemed to indicate that we could tie up for free on the other side of the Marina (having better Spanish language skills would help).  On that other side, past the fuel dock, the crew there actually encouraged us to tie up to see the restaurant and Ship's Store at Rickenbacker. We did. And it's a good spot to know about.  Bought some gasket sealant, fuel stabilizer and a fishing net. I know we'll use at least two of those.

Quite a wind on Thursday night, but we were treated to the best of what Marine Stadium has to offer.  An amazing view of the downtown Miami skyline at night!  Pretty spectacular.

It's Miami, Baby!

In the continuing big wind of Friday morning (from the North, of course), we headed North to Miami's Venetian Causeway to anchor behind Miami Beach among the homes of the rich and famous.  Here just off Sunset Isles north of the Sunset Marina (and in sight of that notorious Julia Tuttle Bridge) before lunch, we are enjoying the sunshine but the breeze is keeping us aboard, likely until late afternoon or morning, before we explore this part of the city.

Our Sunset Isle neighbors.

Needless to say, we really like Biscayne Bay so far.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Finally, an Update.

Here we sit in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Despite the claim that we are dealing with a Cold Front (it was 41 degrees in St. Lucie where we woke up this morning - Friday, January 17), the sun is out, Lake Worth is calm and we are warm and relaxed.  We left Manatee Pocket in St. Lucie this morning and went out into the great Atlantic.  We actually sailed (with no engine!) for a good 90 minutes until the wind just died completely.  It was great to get out on the ocean again and away from the ICW.

Our plan now is to avoid the Ditch until we start our return.  That means we avoid about two dozen bridges between here and Ft. Lauderdale.  It’s offshore to there.  And then offshore to Miami and the Florida Keys. Can’t wait.  In fact, we are leaving in the morning.

Here’s a brief recap and some pictures since our last post.

On January 8, I started to write:  Brunswick to Eau Gallie!!  It has been a cold and often blustery, but we are least 20 degrees warmer than our friends in Brunswick.  Our first night back on the ICW was spent anchored in the Ft. George River just north of the St. John’s and Jacksonville.  From there we made it to St. Augustine where we picked up a municipal mooring for one of the coldest nights in Florida history and one of our worst overnights aboard.  Blowing and banging and straining and whistling and whipping about all night.  For $20.20 we would have expected a better night’s sleep.  Next time in St. Augustine, we’ll try the Econo Lodge.  St. Augustine to New Smyrna on Tuesday as the barometer started to climb.  When we awoke on Wednesday, it was 51 degrees!  And climbing.

On Friday, January 10, Tess wrote from Vero Beach: Well, I thought it might never happen.  We have been pushing, pushing, pushing to get to somewhere warm (and relatively comfortable) for so long we’d nearly given up.  After leaving Brunswick, GA we spent our first night at anchor just north of the St John’s River.  Fog came in so thick we thought we were back in Maine, but the morning was temperate enough.  The next night we spent a miserable time on a mooring ball in St Augustine...we couldn’t leave fast enough.  It was cold, wind “like stink” as sailor Tim would say, and the mooring field was immediately off the cut through to the Atlantic and the wind and current were having a battle of wills.  I don’t know if either won, but the boaters did NOT.  So, we left at first light and did another long day south as far as New Smyrna expecting warm...not so much.  We pressed on to anchor in Eau Gallie, and while it was a bit warmer, the water was still a choppy mess for sleeping.  We left a little later in the morning – about 9ish – and after an hour the rain came, and came, and came.  Water-logged, we pulled in to Vero Beach to the municipal marina.  The rain continued all day, the wind was whipping but we’re behind a mangrove break and are protected from it....and  Here we are!

I got off the boat for the first time since Sunday (January 5) at 10:00 to go ashore and shower.  They have a courtesy bus system which we took in to town to see a grocery story (we’ll stock up another day...we were just celebrating today) and we’re told the shuttle goes all the way to a Mall with a MOVIE THEATER!  We are wearing shorts.  We are a little uncomfortable with the heat.  There’s little enough wind that the tiny bugs are coming out to nibble away at our arms and legs.  In short, it’s GREAT!!!

Tomorrow we’ll do our chores – the boat needs another bow to stern cleaning; the dingy has been up on the davits since August and has a lovely layer of green algae in the bottom; we’ll work ourselves for a while and then do a walk to the beach, or a bus ride to a movie, or whatever we WANT to do rather than what we MUST do.  The down coat is hung for the last time before heading north I hope. 

And to friends from our last trip to the Bahamas who were staged to cross from Miami:  We've listened to Chris Parker the past two mornings, and both Tony and I figured you'd take the window he has for you.  There's no doubt you'll have company going over.  God, I can hear the celebration from here!  We are at Vero Beach City Marina.  There are people here who've been waiting for two months!  We have, for the FIRST TIME since  leaving Vietnam in November, put on shorts.  We're going to pause a moment and celebrate that today is what we're considering our First Day of cruising this season.  Until now, cruising was the plan but weather turned us into a delivery crew -- up
early, slog through what you can get through, and go to bed wondering what
happened to the good weather.

I'm so sorry we're going to miss you  We're so close -- 120 miles to Miami
from here I think....but if I were you I'd be SO OUTTA THERE!

Have some coconut bread for me...let us know where you touch and what you're
doing.  We'll live vicariously through you.  Scott's list of anchorages is
tucked in to Tony's cruising guide.  Hopefully we'll be able to offer back
some tips one day!

Have fun.  Our crossing to Bimini from Government Cut was'll be
there by lunch and the Customs lady will tell you where the best conch fritters can be found, up around the bend.  It'll be just like being at home.

Congratulations.  I miss you already.

Well,… we spent a week at Vero Beach.  It’s called Velcro Beach by cruisers since it is warm and protected, has great (free) bus service, and that means access to everything. 

And Tess and I went to the movies to see “Her”.  Weird to me, but Siri tells me that not all AI girlfriends are like that.  We’ll see, I guess.

Mike Parda met up with us on Monday (January 11) and is with us until about January 26.  We took advantage of the fact that Mike had a car for the rest of the week as well.  Schlepping lots of groceries, including 14 gallon jugs and four cases of water is not something you can do on a bus.  Even if it is free.

Mike and I bought Florida fishing licenses at Vero Beach Bait & Marina, under the bridge, where Captain Brian gave us tips and maps for fishing (and drinking) in his hometown of Key West and Jim gave us local tips and instructions as we loaded up on new gear.  At one point, Jim said “and I’d use this plug in the morning just casting a few from deck while drinking my first cup of coffee”.  Well, at 6:00 the next morning, my first thought was of Jim.  I made a pot of coffee, cracked open a new plug and went above to cast “a few”. On the third cast I had a Sand Seatrout and as I lifted him out of the water, his tail bounced off the cap rail and he was gone.  He did leave some scales as evidence so when Mike arrived (with his first cup of coffee), I had evidence.  When I snagged the bottom a few minutes later, I hopped in the dinghy to retrieve my lucky new plug.  Once on the water, why not keep going?  Mike and I then spent two hours further up in the mangroves casting for fish.

Back by 9:00 for eggs, toast, more coffee and fresh Seatrout.  A good start to our Florida fishing experience.

We left Vero on Thursday, January 16, to move to St. Lucie on a cold and blustery day.  Not because we were done with Vero, but because we wanted to take the St. Lucie Inlet out into the Atlantic on a good day sail South.  So, here we are in Lake Worth.  We are really in Florida now.

The reason we left for Vero Beach.

It still gets cold out here!

St. Augustine.  Where we hoped to get warm.  And failed.

A juvenile pelican friend.

It can be bad...

… and it can be good.

Porpoises.  Warmer blooded than we are.

Girls at work.

A man.  On a New York City subway.  Dreaming of being on a boat in Florida.

A man.  On a boat in Florida.  Dreaming of being on a warm boat in Florida.

Mike, in sunny Vero Beach, Florida talking to Howie in sunny San Marcos, California.

Attracting porpoises on the way to West Palm Beach.

Nice visit.

First day of fishing results in Seatrout at Breakfast!

Vero Beach Pelican gorging on Florida Pompano scrapes from local fisherman (not us).

A more mature Pelican friend.

Girls still hard at work in Vero Beach.

Staying warm on the way to St. Lucie.

Route Selection or Fish Identification?

Heading to Lake Worth and West Palm Beach.

How long to Key West?

A lizard fish (maybe) on our second day fishing (off the coast headed to Lake Worth).

We arte in Ft. lauderdale now.  George and Craig met us in West Palm and Tess took their car back to Ft. Lauderdale while the four "boys" sailed down on a beautiful day.  We sailed.  We fished.  We ate.  It was good.

Leaving the Lake Worth Inlet….

…and into the bright and sunny Atlantic.

Freshly caught Bonito in Clam Sauce on our sail to Ft. Lauderdale.

Wing on Wing as we sail South.

Sunday Dinner with Mike & Sherri at Il Mulino in Ft. Lauderdale.  Mama would be proud.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You know you're in Florida when...

…you can paint the bottom without a haul-out.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Florida!! Finally!

Reached Florida at 1:27 this afternoon.

It can look like Brunswick…

Fernandina Beach Paper Mills

Or it can be Beautiful…

Amelia Island on the ICW.

And, you can wear shorts…

Finally, it is Warm!

Until the Fog rolls in…

Looks like Maine.

Anchored in the Ft. George River off of Sawpit Creek.  We'll keep heading toward Sunshine.