We escaped from Boca Chita on the early high moon tide. High tide was at 11:45 but with a full moon the tide was at normal height at 10--so we cast off and ran. Why did we run -did I mention "mosquitoes". These little %$^%^&& were trained by the Paraná Fish of the Amazon! I have never been so bitten or attacked by anything like this!! Bug spray be dammed--long pants and long sleeve shirt hat and scarf--still got me. We put our generator on the dock, filled it with gas and hid below from 6 pm till 9 am! We could not even sit in the screened in cockpit -they found every leaky seam. Boca Chita could have been beautiful but the bugs won. It gave s such a bad experience we avoided all the National Parks along Elliot Key and sailed right down to Key Largo and civilization (eg. bug & mosquito control) we anchored where a new friend (Robert Bondi) from Coconut Grove Sailing Club, recommended right in front of a great dive shop. We anchored for the night ate on board and turned in early. Again it is too hot to be outside or to sleep comfortable -so we started the generator on the aft deck and we slept forward in the salon. In the morning we dingy'd in to the Adams cut that goes from the inside passage to the open Hawk Channel on the south side of the key. Thought we might do a little snorkeling off the dingy but the reef is just a bit too far out for me to feel comfortable heading out there. So we swam off the dingy and then came back through the canal to make reservations at the dive shop. We held off making a reservation --waiting to call after we got settled down the AICW nearer the food stores and shopping centers. We planned to re-anchor but were fortunate to contact the Upper Keys Sailing Club dock master (Guy )and we obtained a dock for a few days----Dock=electricity and electricity = AIR-CONDITIONING!!! WE think we died and went to heaven. A club member stopped by about dinner time and offered to take us snorkeling on her 26 foot Mako dive boat. She has lived here in Key Largo many years is an avid diver and snorkeler and she knows all the good shallow spots for Dede and me to explore. More on all of this in the next installment -tomorrow night.
06/05/2012, Bocia Chita-Biscayne National Park
Left Coconut Grove on a beautiful Sunday morning, June 3rd, after going to St Stephan's Episcopal Church (a nice start to any morning!!). we left w/a fleet of sailboats from the club, going out for a regatta. We had a great sail, southeast, across Biscayne Bay to Key Biscayne. We went past former President Nixon's summer home (where it used to be...has since been torn down but sailors still relish in its' history!)...thought to be the site of the planning for Watergate. We dropped anchor in "No Name Harbor," part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. The village wraps the northeast quadrant of the open section of the bay...once a sleepy barrier island for snowbirds and artists...today a year round residential community. Space is limited in the harbor...but we found a nice anchorage and were able to go ashore. They have restrooms and laundry facilities...very clean. The restaurant on the wall, Boater's Grill, had great food!! (Again, we have tried just about every eating establishment near us!!). The weather was almost unbearable...91degrees...but we still took our bikes and biked the whole island...stopping along the way to swim and get Jim a new "butt seat" for his bike!! The beaches have been listed in some guides as the 8th most beautiful in the world!
We left Key Biscayne on Tuesday, June 5th and headed south. South of Key Biscayne, we anchored in 8ft of water and dinghyed over to "Stiltsville"...an historical community that literally clings to Biscayne Flats for its life! It is a cluster of structures built on the finger flats of Biscayne Bay, having started out as fishing shacks. There has been ongoing controversy over its' removal as many of the shacks were condemned after hurricanes. However, 7 houses remain, survivors of countless hurricanes. Efforts continue to save the structures of this very unique little community on stilts in the Bay!
Onward to Boca Chita...probably the 1st of the Keys as you head south. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has 10 historic structures representing typical resort architecture of the 1930s. It was bought by Mark Honeywell of Honeywell Corp in the 1930s. Since he owned all 32 acres, he built a 65ft lighthouse tower, to help his captain bring his yacht in at night. Unfortunately, he did not clear this uncharted aid w/authorities...and he was not allowed to light his lighthouse! He abandoned his dreams for an island homestead when his wife was fatally injured after a fall on the island. It went to 2-more families, and ultimately became part of the Park. The tie-up is free, w/no facilities. The island itself is beautiful...Jim and I went swimming, snorkeling and dinghying...and we are alone on the island!!!!...with the exception of swarms and swarms of bugs!!!!! It is 93degrees, and we have been bitten by mosquitoes and flies...to the extent that we had to lock ourselves below in our boat, and wait until tomorrow am to untie and head to Key Largo!! Stay tuned...
Well here we are in Coconut Grove Florida. We left the confines of Maul Lake north of Miami and worked our way through the city of Miami's busy port. There was nothing happening when we came through on a Tuesday afternoon. No Cruise ships in port and no heavy duty port security-at least we did not get stopped and boarded by Customs or USCG. There are several bridges in the city of Miami that we needed to pass under and through. One bridge, the Julia Tuttle, gives many sailors big problems--it's a 56 foot clearance bridge -the only bridge on the AICW that does not conform to the required 65'! Don't ask me how or why but it has prevented sailboats from entering the port of Miami and heading north in the AICW or for boats going south to get out to sea. The port of Ft. Lauderdale has therefore become the port of coming and going into and out of the AICW for many sailors. Fortunately we know (OH DO WE KNOW) that our mast is 54'6" and a 56 foot bridge is a piece of cake!. Of course I still said my prayers before going through!! The other bridge sits almost under two 65 foot causeway bridges going out to Miami Beach from downtown. It is the Venetian Causeway Bridge. It does look strangely like the Michel Angelo Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice! Maybe because it's so cool looking they still keep it blocking the traffic in the AICW except on the hour and half hour. Not a problem...we have gotten good at timing our arrival at bridges so as to not have to sit in traffic and wait for the tender to open the thing. We had choices of where to go in the Miami area and opted to head a little south to Coconut Grove and pick a mooring at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club for $20 a night. The other marinas here have moorings way out from shore right out in the open bay. Very rough and windy out there and a long dingy ride in ½ mile or so. . This club has them in side of a small barrier island in the harbor and provides free 24 hour launch service!! Weather has been good -feels very hot with the humidity even though it's only 85-87 degrees. I'm soaking wet after any work on deck or walking around town. So I'm trying not to do any work!! Well after all I am retired!
Dede will tell you about the shore side stuff ----Coconut Grove is technically part of the city of Miami. Its' roots run to the 1830s-era nautically minded people who worked the Cape Florida Light...homesteaders, farmers, fishermen, salvagers and Bahamian builders followed. The area attracts artists in early 1960s and hosts one of the best-known arts festivals in the country. We moored at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club...behind a tiny island appropriately called Tidal Flats...it is a chartered US Sailing Center, one of the training sites for the US Olympic Sailing Team. The Club mooring field and club are situated close to shore...making it convenient to go ashore. They have a 24/7 launch service...a nice feature! Showers are adequate at best although Jim thinks I am a clean freak so...the friendliness of the staff and members far makes up for the lack of laundry (go to the end of Grand St...wonderful laundry mat that does your laundry for $1.50/lb) and "adequate" shower rooms. What surprised us the most were all the fenced in homes, businesses, etc...we made an assumption that they did not want cruisers to bring dinghies in, etc, etc...until Jim's bike was stolen (he had left it unlocked for no more than 7-minutes)! The local police were wonderful during our report...but explained that this area has the highest crime rate in the US (Forbes Magazine just confirmed same)...and lock EVERYTHING that doesn't walk!! Once we outfitted Jim w/a new bike (which I ultimately inherited), we did a lot of biking, walking and exploring w/ the buses/monorails/metromovers. I would suggest if anyone is visiting here, get a good handle on the "Miami-Dade Transit System," and you can get anywhere w/out a car!
We explored some of the residential areas...beautiful homes, private specialized schools (the Hansom School is for "outdoor living," and spends 2 semesters in the Adirondacks). We visited a beautiful Presbyterian Church built entirely (inside and out) from coral. We spent a day at the Vizcaya Home and Garden...the winter residence of industrialist James Deering -International Harvester Inc. . It is designed to look as if built during the Italian Renaissance w/34 decorated rooms and impressive gardens. Coco-Walk is a mecca for shoppers and restaurants! We tried a different restaurant... including a great Latin placed called "Jaguar"... for every meal! Hate to see that Master Charge next month!! The Peacock Garden Café was unique...the Peacock family came here in the 1800s and settled on this property. There are also "wild peacocks" (no relationship to the Peacock family!!) rooming around on lawns!
We spent 5-days in Coconut Grove...mostly because a front came in w/heavy rains and Tstorms. It is not unlike Newport...the VERY, VERY rich and the poverty stricken. The culture is VERY diverse. Today we watched what I thought was a photo shoot of young women in VERY exquisite gowns adorned w/tiaras. When we asked the photographer what magazine he was shooting for, he explained to us that this was private photographs of Latin-originated 15yr olds (similar to a BarMitzva). Their culture includes elaborate photography w/very elaborate gowns when they turn 15!!
People at the Club were very accommodating. The "information booths" around town and the local police were also very helpful. The Chamber of Commerce should close their doors, however...WHEN they were open, they were useless!!
A beautiful full moon tonight, and U/W tomorrow am for Key Biscayne. Weather hot, humid and sticky!! Thank goodness Jim put ac on the boat!! Stay tuned...
Well, we have been in Ft Lauderdale (at a friend's dock, up the New River) since May 15th, w/a quick week-end turn around to MD (Grandparents' Day for Nathan), wedding in Vermont (Jim's cousin) and a surprise 65th birthday party w/family for me!! (Thank you Becky, Donna Jean and Jim).
Ft Lauderdale is truly a hot spot for cruise ships and mega yachts, the best marinas anywhere, beautiful beaches and...by far...every single store you need to replace a broken boat part or an article of clothing!!...and along w/that, of course, goes a big wallet!!
The weather was not favorable until our last 2-days...so we rented a car and went on land to sight-see! We explored Las Olas Blvd...a little Newport, and the older part of Ft Lauderdale. In the center of Las Olas Blvd is a memorial marking the site of the earliest white settlement on New River (18th century), in which place members of Wm Cooley's family were murdered in a surprise attack by the Indians at the onset of the 2nd Seminole War.
We spent a day driving to Miami...to an airshow (not of the caliber of the Blue Angels!!) followed by a Blue Grass Festival! Onward to Coral Gables to have lunch (very expensive!!) at the Biltmore Hotel...built in the early 1930s. It had fallen onto bad times originally and had become a hospital for a period of time until the city resurrected it again as the Biltmore. It is exquisite...I can't imagine what it looked like as a hospital!! A quick drive thru Miami, then to Hollywood and back to Ft Lauderdale! This is "party week-end" at both Hollywood and Ft Lauderdale beaches...and the sun is out w/the temp in the 90s...so ALL are partying!!
Jim spent a day w/our friend David, (who is a yacht broker), at an open house for yachts!! He sat in Malcolm Forbes' boat (a measly 135ft!!). Fortunately, I kept the check book w/me!!!!!!
We explored some churches...none as old as that north of St Augustine...but St Anthony's Old Chapel surrounded a small waterfall w/a beautiful lush green garden!!
Well, if you read Jim's previous blog, you know we are a LITTLE angst about going back under the Rt95 Bridge!! We have spent many an hour determining the low tide level!! With all the rain, the tide board has not been favorable to our going underneath...but, alas, we have graphed, measured, and "broken thru fences" on very secure property to observe the Rt95 tide board ourselves!! We have convened w/just about every marina and dock master along New River...and, we have secured our own "rock" to further determine!! All said and done, we will head down New River at lowest tide at 9am tomorrow ...and, by the way, hope that the "Jungle Queen" isn't coming around a corner!! Wish us luck...and hope that the next time you see us it WON'T be driving an RV!!...LOL...Stay tuned....
05/22/2012, David Zitez's Dock
Rented a car. Visited very large Marine consignment store - Sailor Man --more junk like all the others. Visited Blue Water Book Store --fantastic they have what the Arm Chair Sailor had in Newport but three times the size. Went to the Flag Ship West Marine Store --more of the usuall West Marine stuff and a few things extra. Could not find a thing I needed. Backl on board WX forcast more sun & rain every day for next few days.
Waiting for a few days to visit with Dave and Fran and check out the tide. Check ot the tide board photo.
05/16/2012, Up the Creek!
Did an off shore passage from West Palm Beach inlet to the major Port Everglades inlet at Ft Lauderdale? It was a nice close reach on port without needing a single tack. I made the mistake of going out to the sea buoy which seems to be IN the Gulf Stream. The water in the stream was indigo blue and the breeze was warmer and very much 'tropical'. With main and jib flying and Perkins ticking away at 1500 rpm we were making 7.7 kts through the water--unfortunately with 3 -kts of north flowing current and us on a 188 course that was only 4.6 over the bottom. It took a while to realize the error of my ways but when I did we headed in a lot closer and ran down the coast in about 50 'of water, Current in the shallow water is much less with bottom friction to slow the flow--only problem with this is the shallow water made for larger sea swell and a few white caps. It took 8 hours out there but it was better that the two days inside trying to get through 28 opening bridges!! When we got into the Ft Lauderdale turning basin I thought we had arrived and any major concerns were behind us; WRONG! When we got inside and dropped the sails and headed north we realized we had just enough time to make the 4 o'clock 17th street bridge opening. It is a 55' bridge but I'm not comfortable going under that close to my 54'6" height so we waited 5 minutes for the opening. The current was flowing with me and I had to back down and do a 180 turn to kill time!! Once the bridge opened I noticed a stack of boats on the other side fortunately I remembered that the up current boat has right of way and I went through first. Within a very short distance I came to a particular location in Ft Lauderdale that I have navigated UNSUCESSFULLY three other times!! Twice ran aground and once went around the sand bar on the wrong side!! This time with the aid of a good scale chart, a chart plotter and Dede yelling which way to go I made the passage unscathed. A short lived moment of joy however in that the next 90 degree turn to port revealed a 160' motor yacht coming right at me - I got to his port side and we did the honorable port to port passing with at least 10' between us--and next to nothing on my starboard side and the sea wall! It's not over yet--the next turn in the New River called Tarpon Bend bends an arc of about 130 degrees to port followed in 50 yards with a 90 degree turn to starboard into a narrow section of the North Branch of the New River at red day marker #12. This is where I met the "JUNGLE QUEEN "doing her river boat cruse tour. She is about 120 feet long and about a $%#@#$#$ mile wide! No radio communication...no horns... just run my sorry ass into the mud on the starboard side of the channel and keep going you %%^$#@! Fortunately at 2 knots and soft bottom on a flooding tide and current we slid right on through. I just had time to change my undershorts when we turned a bend to find the "New River Bascule Bridge" as it says on the chart. HOWEVER all the bridges on the New River are bascule bridges and they only respond to their 'proper names'--quick reading on Dede's part found the proper name on the street map and the port guide book--3rd avenue bridge. We called -they acknowledged and we waited -being pushed by the current -oh well turn and spin a couple of times and it will finally open. I felt like a dumb dog chasing his tail in circles!!! Oh did I mention that the bridges DO NOT open after 4:30 !! They are restricted until 7pm !! We were fighting the clock! So the time is 4:12 and we are working our way up stream in the New River...getting the hang of it now and the St Andrews bridge opens on our first call. We now know that just a few hundred yards ahead around the next bend ( 160 degree bend -lined with mansions and mega yachts on both sides) is the William H. Marshall memorial bridge -so we call ---the response is "call when you get here"! Well in about 45 seconds later we round the bend to a CLOSED bridge -we call and then do two donuts in the river waiting for the opening! Through that one and only one to go with 10 minutes to spare before 4:30. A mile further up the river making turn after turn -including a very cute 175 degree swing to starboard (thank God no out bound traffic--did I mention the sides of the river are lined with mega million dollar yachts) We made the call to the Davie Blvd. bridge at 4:28 and the bridge tender gave us the last opening of the day at 4:30! Thank goodness the next bridge is a simple fixed bridge of ----of $#!* 55 feet!! This is the 6 lane in each direction route 95 fixed bridge with a railroad bridge draw right after it--usually open (damn I hope so). As we approach the final bridge of the trip we pass the Lauderdale Marine Canter that usually only caters to mega - mega yachts 100 --200 foot. There must have been 10 of these suckers lined up on the port side of the channel.. There were so many yachts lined up on the side of the river we only saw the bridge when we were 50 yards from the channel fenders!! Yippee the rail road bridge is open-----But oh no there is a barge/dredge being pushed by a tug coming through--and holy $#!@% the tide board says 53 feet and oh my God were doing 3 knots in neutral with the current pushing us under !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did I mention our 54 foot mast -lest you forget my sudden concern! THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED RPM IN REVERSE! Rudder to PORT, BOWTHRUSTER hard to Starboard and did a Turn on Point!!! "Dede !!! get a set of lines on Starboard -screw the fenders -just get the #$$@$ lines--screw the rain and lighting that just started !!!
Yes there was some room between the big boys for a little squirt and Dede's fine line work -and the barges wake and sudden squall's wind put us smack on the dock -safe and sound unscathed!! After we stopped shaking we walked down the dock to look at the bridge -sure enough at high tide the bridge clearance is 53' NOT the 55 feet indicated on the chart!! The Dock Master John came by and said nice docking!! Told us we could stay for free until low tide at midnight then pass under at 56' of clearance -or wait till morning for the next low tide at 11 am and just pay the single night rate for dingys of $0.80 per foot! Damn 80 cents a foot is a no brainer after that experience!! So here we sat with the big boys all around us. Not one of the yachts had an owner on board all crew working at clkeaning and polishing--we are actually having more fun on our Lady than anu one here!!
Tuesday morning at low tide ( 10:30) we went under at 55' showing on the board and my VHF antenna tapped each of the 20 RT 95 highway beams. No damage it is just a wire antenna like on an old car -but it does give one pause to consider. I found my friend David's dock right across from another mega yacht yard and we squeezed in between a couple of normal boats and tided up for our trip home. Spent most of today cleaning up and closing down for a few days. Hot and humid --very glad for air conditioning.