Well we were having so much fun activity here in Key Largo haven't had time to blog. So here is a recap of Thursday May 6th to today Monday the 11th. The trip over from Boca Chita was a simple (once we escaped the mosquitoes) follow the channel drill. We anchored up in front of the Marriot Courtyard Hotel Resort complex. Dede, w/her latest "fetish" for history, told me that Key Largo is the largest of the Florida Keys (30 miles from end to end). It originally was called Cayo Largo, or long island, by the Spanish. Film buffs, however, will forever associate it with the classic movie of the 40s...Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. At mm100 is the highly recognizable steamboat from another classic film, The African Queen. We actually saw the steamboat, w/its' RI-built Hereshoff steam engine! After we secured the boat, we dingy'ed in to look around -a collection of outdoor Tiki Bars, pools, dive shops and tee shirt shops as well as a few upscale restaurants but we did not go in for dinner! We also visited Quintessence Dive shop on a recommendation of our friend Robert from Coconut Grove. In our dingy ride we discovered a neat man made (cut straight through the coral) channel that was lined with homes and coral sea walls that looked like a Venetian Cannel-although it lacked the elegance of Italian Architecture--Florida modern...w/Iguanas laying on the walls. The canal led us from the bay side to the lagoon at John Pennicamp Park on the ocean side. We dingy'ed out of the lagoon through a fantastic mangrove cut that brought us to the ocean side and the Hawk Channel. The wind was a little up and the chop was 1-2 so we opted not to venture out 3 miles to go diving! It was still very hot when evening came -winds out of the west - bringing moisture and bugs out of the lower keys and everglades. We spent a 'quiet' and cool night on board below deck with the generator running on the aft deck and us sleeping forward. Around mid night we were awoken by the blue light and serine of the local water police!! They were looking for information concerning a flair sighting. I'm not convinced that they weren't 'just checking' on the anchored boat out front of the resort.
Next day (Friday the 7th) we moved to the Upper Keys Sailing Club and there we met great people. Mary Lou and Tom befriended us and took us out on two separate snorkeling trips into the John Pennicamp Under-water national park. Our first trip out was with Mary on her two jet skiis. Jim learned that driving a jet ski in calm water (in the mangrove canals) is a real blast--BUT THAT OFF SHORE IN A 1-2 FOOT CHOP IT'S A lot OF WORK. When you are heading up a big swell DO-NOT back off the throttle -the jet ski dives down the back side of the wave and down into the face of the next--blue water over the bow for a complete soaking!! Do this once and you learn quick!! Fortunately here in the keys that water is 80 degrees with 92 degree air temp and it is some what welcome relief. The experience gained however says NO Jet Skis in Rhode Island for us. I can't imagine scooting along Narraganset Bay at 50 MPH getting soaked with 68 degree water in 75 degree air BURRR!! We stopped to snorkel on a few shallow reefs. Because of the chop we did not venture out as far as the 'real' diving areas so the snorkeling was only OK. On Saturday Tom and Mary took us out in the Mako to the real dive areas -we picked up a state dive ball and -we had a BALL !! The water was Gin clear, we saw the statue of Christ of the Abyss, tons of purple fan and yellow brain coral. It looked like an Easter Parade of colors. WE also saw-millions of tropical fish, parrot fish etc etc..and turtle! It was like diving in a Dentist Office fish aquarium!! Trivia: Parrot fish are transgender!! The "supermales" are born as females but undergo a hormonal induced sex reversal. As they switch, they become larger and may dominate a harem of initial phase females!! As Ripley says, "believe it or not..."but biologists have confirmed it!! I wonder if it becomes more prevalent as we head to Key West!!
Saturday night we partied with the sailing club crowd after the sailing races. Sunday morning we took a lift from Bob a club member to Publix for some needed food shopping . Once back on board and food all stowed we took our bikes in the early afternoon and had lunch at the Holiday Inn Tiki Bar and pool. We of course brought our bathing suits -and spent the day lounging around the pool while we dragged out our 4 hour lunch! (I think it's called pool "hopping") Sunday night we spent a good deal of time with club members chatting about navigating the shallow (skinny water) water between Key Largo and Marathon. There were many people of the opinion that we could not do an inside passage with a 5'6" draft--actually no one thought we could do it and knew of no one that had!! That really made my night -DAMN. If we could not get down the keys on the inside from here we had to go back to Biscayne Bay and out near Boca Chita!! I do not want to do that and am going to find the "North West Passage"!! Blew off further 'discussion' about the impossibility and went to supper with Mary Lou., As expected she knew the right places to go -- she was fantastic company and knew the hot spots. Ate at a local ocean side "Keys" bar and grill (The Turtle Bar) and key lime pie! Schools of tarpon around the docks, waiting for some morsel of food!
WE made our thank you's to Mary and club members -settled up the bill $$$ and went back to Lady at the end of the dock in 6' of water at high tide!!!!. Back on the boat Jim poured through charts -chart guides, cruising web sites etc etc. E-mailed friends Conrad and Kathy ,that have cruised here years ago, and e-mailed the cruising guide author Mark Doyle!! By 2 am Jim was convinced with a minimum of water in our tanks, the jib out but sheeted home to heal the boat and the dingy hanging on the boom to heal the boat if necessary we COULD DO IT--we WOULD DO IT!!. The charted depths were 5' foot (and one pesky 4.5' area) and so far with the moon phase in 5' charted water we have had closer to 5'-7"(Hell that's 2" of clearance !!) Monday morning bright and early I called USCG to get the latest 'scoop' on the time of tide and height above or below MLW. Well we left at low tide -incoming High and by the time we got to the really shallow parts near buoys 74-through 84 (charted 4' in places) we had an extra 16" total (5'4") which is not quite deep enough but with the sail up and water gone we healed enough to never even scraped bottom once. We anchored in Lower Matacumbe Bight at 3 pm. Took naps till 6 pm--guess it was a little stressful!!! Stay tuned...
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.