One of the most difficult parts about being a parent is "letting go". Watching your child take their first steps that you celebrate you are unaware that someday those steps will lead to them walking away from you to live their own life. As they continue to grow you begin to realize what a treasure the time is that you get to watch them as kids. Kids just playing - laughing, trying out new roles, and just purely amazed at the world they are discovering. The gift of course is that you get to discover or re-discover it all with them. Each of our boys found their own unique joys and shared in their discoveries. One their many discovers were the many creatures that they kept in our home - Brad's snake Slinky, the boys turtles - Jim McMann and the Fridge, a snapping turtle - Shambler, and even a scorpion - Stogie (later named Cruella - as she ate all of her young!). Creatures were always part of the many experiences the boys shared. Including the frog that was left in someone's pocket discovered floating in the washing machine ... and more. So, when our boys, Brad and Sean, were young we came down to Key Largo along with my mother and took them out snorkeling in John Pennekamp Underwater Reef Park to find even more creatures - however, ones that would not find a place in our home. Now, Brad was not very fond of the water - he was more of a "land animal" lover. However, Sean took to it like a fish. He was the one who would jump off the bow of the boat during our summer vacations screaming into the cold Lake Michigan water and come up sputtering with a big smile on his face. So he was thrilled to see an Eagle Ray on his first snorkeling experience. He held onto that experience and we did as well.
Time has gone by and the boys are now adult men. So as a gift we presented Sean with an opportunity to take scuba diving lessons. Even with his busy schedule as a husband and detective, he was able to complete the lessons and was certified this past year. Our sailing plan this year included time in the Florida Keys so that Sean and Tesia could go out on our boat allowing Sean to try out his new certification. We had just arrived in Key Largo shortly before the "kids" - Sean and Tesia arrived. (They love it when I refer to them as the kids as they have now been married for eight years! ) We hadn't had an opportunity to plan trips out to the reef to go diving because it took us quite a while to get the boat in the water and ready in Indiantown, stop at a marina in Stuart to get a new winch installed, make our way from Lake Worth, Coconut Grove, and finally find a place in Key Largo.
As a result, our first diving experience on the Molasses reef was with Sean and Tesia. It was amazing to watch the "kids" - Sean and Tesia play in the water and discover all the reef life surrounding our boat. The first dive Sean and Wiley partnered up and Tesia and I went off snorkeling. While snorkeling I was lucky enough to watch my grown son off playing once again. Tesia and I donned wetsuits and off we went with a floating dive flag. We found a Goliath Grouper close in on the reef getting his gills cleaned by small cleaner fish as well as the usual assortment of beautiful reef fish and I got a chance to watch Tesia at play as well. She is an excellent snorkeler and looked so at ease in the water. Both of them came up from the water with new experiences to share - Sean told of seeing a couple of sharks, large midnight parrot fish, an eel, queen angelfish... etc. etc. Tesia wanted to know the names of the fish she saw - spotlight parrot fish, filefish, blue reef fish, and grunts... The second dive I was paired with Sean and we did a very short dive as the current was getting stronger and my buoyancy compensator was not working correctly. However, I was thrilled to watch him darting, bubbles floating up, looking under coral heads - eager to take in all that he could. I was sure that I saw him smiling even with the regulator in his mouth.
So it was a joy to watch "the kids" having fun, but I soon discovered that it was not "the kids" that I was really enjoying but their experiences shared as adults. We were having the same experiences and talking about them. This is one of the great shifts that happened - they are no longer -kids - but adults that shared sharing conch fritters, dinner out on the bay at Snooks, snorkeling at Bahia Mar, stories, jokes, and cocktails. I miss my time watching my children play but am thrilled to let that go since now I get to thoroughly share their joy as adults as friends that we get to go and play with. We are lucky they chose to spend their time with a couple of "old people" who loved spending time with interesting, interested, and fun adults.
I would class the anchorage at Rodriquez Key as "fair weather only," but in nice weather it is beautiful. Our plan was to sail to Tavernier Key, anchor for the night, and go into the marina the next day. Because it is only about 5 miles from Rodriquez Key to Tavernier Key, it would be an easy day. We lingered over breakfast, went for a swim, and at our leisure got underway.
Tavernier Key proved to be an even nicer anchorage than Rodriquez, and with better protection from weather. Like Rodriquez, it is uninhabited, with nice stands of mangrove trees.
We decided to take Dimples to the marina where we would be staying. It is on the lower end of Key Largo. The marina is located a long way up a canal, and having never been there before, we found that locating the entrance and going in the canal was a little tricky. There was a lot of shoal water, but of course we knew this from the charts and it was no problem for our dingy Dimples, which needs only two feet of water for her outboard to clear the bottom. We brought our hand-held depth-finder to "scout" the entrance for later, when we brought Les Miserables in. It was a good strategy, and would have made taking our "big" boat in later a much calmer experience.
The canal seemed very narrow, because it was tightly packed with boats on both sides. We found the marina, and the slip we had reserved for two weeks. It wasn't hard - it was the only empty slip. However, there was a huge problem. Merry has had some still undiagnosed problem with one of her knees for years in spite of multiple trips to local doctors. Last late fall, during a four mile run, Merry's knee "went out," and she came limping back in pain. Now she had a noticeable limp and experiences some pain in her knee. The marina had no "finger docks" - just a row of pilings on each side of the boat as you pulled in, and a walkway wall in front of the boat, with cleats for mooring lines. You had to clamber from the bow of the boat down the walkway to get off the boat (or from the stern if we backed in), and for Merry this would be impossible.
We walked around the marina, and were shown great hospitality by some people who live on boats there. The area is full of very small houses, and mobile homes - some right on the canal. There is a gas station you can walk to that has a few food items. There is nothing else. We have no car and no bikes. This place was not going to work. Our plan was in ruins. We had no place to stay with the boat - and Sean and Tesia were arriving in four days. YIPES! We motored back to Les Miserables trying to come up with a new plan.
Back on the boat, we dined handsomely on pre-made packaged sandwiches we had purchased at the gas station, accompanied by a nice French wine. A nice sunset turned into a beautiful starry night.
By the time we went to bed, we had a new plan. Merry called the marina in Tavenier to cancel our reservation and call Marina Del Mar even though we knew it would be an expensive stay. In addition we had originally decided not to stay at Marina Del Mar because Merry thought that I would be a constant nervous wreck going in and out of the place. The canal is like the one at Tavenier, but much busier. The cruising guide warns that during the day, large "excursion" fishing boats, dive boats, big sailboats that take people out to snorkel, and even a big glass-bottom boat makes constant passages in and out. If a large boat is docked just past the jetty at the entrance to the canal, you may not be able to see a vessel coming from the other side of it. Further up the canal, it makes a 90 degree turn. At that spot, you cannot see what is coming from the other side - it is truly a "blind corner." To make it worse, there isn't enough room for two vessels - unless one or both are small to pass each other. It's like a blind corner in which a two-lane road turns into only one lane through the turn. It is aptly named "crash corner"! To add to these navigational features, the channel at the entrance of the canal is only 4 feet 6 inches deep at low- low tide. If we ever came in at low tide we would have only inches between our keel and the channel bottom. Thus, we had decided earlier to not stay there because of the expense, my nerves + blood pressure, and getting the boat in and out to go diving on the reef would be a challenge.
However, we were desperate.
We got up the next morning, put on our wetsuits, and snorkeled over to Tavernier Key. We spent time among the mangrove roots on the edge of the island, in two or three feet of water. We knew that mangroves are the "nursery of the reef," and this is certainly true at Tavernier Key. We saw huge school of tropical reef fish - only they were all little babies an inch or less long. Merry also saw a school of tiny barracudas - babies eating babies!
After we got back to the boat, Merry called the marina in Tavernier and explained the reason we would not be able to commit to our reservation. She offered to pay for canceling the reservation, but the lady who owned the place declined. She could not have been nicer. She then called Marina Del Mar. The guy at Marina Del Mar was also very friendly, told us we would not have trouble getting in, and so Merry reserved us a slip.
I was nervous finding the channel into the canal, and making our way into the marina. Merry checked tide tables to make sure we weren't going in at low tide. We followed proper procedure. As we approached the jetty, we called: "Security, Security, Security (pronounced "se cure a tay") sailing vessel Les Miserables inbound Port Largo Canal at the jetty. Will stand by on 16 (channel) for concerned traffic". We did the same thing when we approached "crash corner". The idea of course, is to warn vessels coming the other way. They can then call you on the radio, and you "negotiate" who passes the jetty, or crash corner, first. This seems to work very well, and I have been told there hasn't been a crash since everybody started doing this. After the first couple of times, going in and out of the Port Largo Canal it because a usually easy and comfortable routine.
I quickly ceased to worry about the cost. After all, being here and having Tesia and Sean fly down to go diving and snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park off our sailboat was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thus, its not a normal expense it has to be amortized! The math works as follows: THE LARGE EXPENSE OF STAYING AT MARINA DEL MAR is divided by 77 (the total number of years I will live if my life is of average life for a male in the US), producing a number which is in turn divided by 365 (the number of days that I'm alive each year) proving that the expense of staying here is, IN FACT, ONLY PENNIES PER DAY.
The slips at Marina Del Mar have two pilings on each side to secure the boat to, - and two cleats on the face dock for bow or stern lines (lots of boats back in to slips here). This is the best possible set-up for keeping the boat safe if there are high winds, because the lines to the pilings on each side can be used to "center" the boat and keep it from hitting pilings on the dock. There are also "finger docks" so that you can board the boat from the side (the usual arrangement). Merry happily found that she was able to get on and off the boat.
The owner of Marina Del Mar also owns the Holiday Inn, which adjoins it and the Marriot - as a result we have access to three beautiful swimming pools. One pool has a waterfall and Tikki Bar. One is very large - u shaped and big enough to swim laps. They offer free towels, free 'continental breakfast' and even free bags of popcorn in the afternoon. The showers and laundry room are for the exclusive use of boaters and they are maintained like the rest of the hotel - they are spotlessly clean! Brian the Dock-master, as well as the entire staff could not be nicer. The only marina we have ever stayed at that I liked more was the Hopetown Inn and Marina in the Bahamas.
There are also a dozen good restaurants within easy walking distance, along with dive shops and Divers supply a huge "discount" scuba store that also fills scuba tanks. There is a big Publix grocery store two miles up highway A1A. The place is perfect.
For me, it is also a place of dreams. The first summer that we were married - the summer of 1972 - Merry and I had watched the old movie Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, at our first apartment. We thought the movie was very romantic and we liked it a lot, and the experience of watching it is etched in my memory. Later, we loved Bertie Higgin's song - Key Largo: "We had it all - just like Boggie and Bacall - Sailing on to Key Largo (poor Bertie's only hit).
Years later, we drove down here twice with the kids and stayed at the Marina Del Mar Hotel. We went out on the "snorkel boats" with the kids, and I remember Sean and I chasing a 2 foot barracuda until it got mad at us and "turned" as if he was going to bite! Merry and I also bought a package of dives on a small dive boat and spent a lot of time underwater on the reef while the boys grandma, Merry's mother, took the boys to the pool and played cards.
Most of all, I remember having a great romantic dinner at a wonderful restaurant, and then walking with Merry along the canal, looking at all the boats - especially the sailboats. There was a beautiful young couple who owned a big old sailboat, and there was a homemade sign by the boat, advertising "day sails, snorkel trips, sunset cruises and weddings". I used to think, "imagine what it would be like to live on a sailboat at Key Largo! It must be wonderful beyond words."
Now we are here, and when Merry and I sit in the cockpit of our beloved Les Miserables in our slip at Key Largo, drinking wine or having dinner, and couples stroll by, I wonder what are they thinking?
Is it "imagine what it would be like to live on a sailboat at Key Largo?" Will they have a dream come true like mine - Or, if they are a young couple is it, " look at the two old people on the sailboat. I can't imagine what it is like to be old like that!"
While we were at Coconut Grove we became more and more concerned that our youngest son Sean and daughter-in-law Tesia would be arriving in Key Largo in a week or so, and we still didn't have a place for our boat where we could comfortably stay. At last an old friend, Ron Barkley, who lives in Vero Beach with his wife Mavis, was able to come up with a place after we had been in contact with them through email. It was at a marina at Tavernier, which we thought would be about 4 miles south of where Sean and Tesia would be staying. The marina would give us easy access to Hawk Channel, so we would have easy access to Hawk Channel, and take Them out to the reefs - Sean is a newly-certified SCUBA diver and was eager to get underwater. The marina which charges $2.00 per foot per day, which is still expensive to us, but we called and learned that a slip opened up and other than the slip the marina was full. So we made a reservation.
We made a plant to depart early in the morning and sail to an anchorage at Old Rhodes Key, where we would spend the night, and then to Tavernier the next day.
We left our morning at 8 o'clock and by 8:24 had cleared Dinner Key Channel. Once we were in Biscayne Bay, we began seeing lots of Portuguese Man-O-War drifting on the surface. They look like blue bottles floating in the water. We were forced to conclude that it would be a really good idea to wear a wetsuit, or at least a dive skin when diving, snorkeling, or swimming down here. At 9:38 we cleared Biscayne Channel, and sailed out into the Atlantic. We could see "Stiltsville" to the north - houses built over the water on high pilings. Only seven of them remain, and the owners are at constant war with the National Park Service, which controls the Key Biscayne National Marine Sanctuary. It was amazing to learn that the "waterworld" houses have survived numerous hurricanes, including Andrew.
Of course, the wind dropped to 4.9 knots. Les Miserable at 10,500 pounds displacement, is heavy for her class of sailboat, and does not do well in light winds. It seems like whenever the old girl has to get us someplace on a schedule - in this case, to meet the kids in key Largo - we get one of three kinds of wind: no wind, or wind too light to sail in; or great howling gusts of wind coming from exactly the direction we have to go.
Still, it was a sunny beautiful day, temperature in the low 80s - 65 degrees warmer than in Chicago. With our new engine Tim McGee running like a Swiss sewing machine we had little to complain about. In fact, we felt so good about the day that we decided to motor right past Old Rhodes Key, which is open to the north, east, and south and therefore lousy, unprotected anchorage in even the most benevolent weather.
Once we were off Key Largo, we called Sean on the cell phone to tell him - we were right off our "island of dreams," where we had spent happy times with Brad and Sean when they were little - along with their Grandma. Sean said he could hardly wait to get there!
At 7:15 we lowered the anchor off Rodriquez Key, only two miles from the entrance to the Key Largo canal. There were 4 other boats in the anchorage. I dove the anchor and found that it was set in a sand and grassy bottom in 8 feet of water - mediocre holding, but good enough on a clear, calm night.
We could see the lights of Key Largo across the water. After an absence of more than 20 years - we were finally back in Key Largo.
The "water taxi" guys at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club are very friendly, which is a good thing if your staying there, because you get to see them a lot! We elected to stay on a mooring at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club instead of the huge municipal moorings by Dinner Key because the municipal moorings are very open to whatever seas are prevailing on Biscayne Bay - there is no break wall or other protection of any kind. The municipal moorings are said to be very uncomfortable in any wind over 12 knots.
Ah - our first thoughts about the upside of staying in Coconut Grove: The moorings at the sailing club are tucked in much more comfortably, and have some protection from the wave action from the bay. This is one of the big advantages of staying there. When we arrived a marina manager/dockhand - greeted us in the water taxi and directed us right to our mooring. This was a great service. Additionally, we just happened to arrive at the time that the famous Coconut Grove Art Show was running and were given free admittance since the marina was surrounded by the art show. The weather was warm, sunny, and very welcoming.
Then again - our first thoughts about the downside of staying in Coconut Grove: While we (as we almost always do) found the other transient boats to be friendly and helpful the club members (locals who keep their boats there) were not very friendly nor were they helpful. The bathrooms and showers for transients were filthy - the second worst we have encountered since we left Illinois (only the marina in Dunkirk, New York was worse.) Little pieces of toilet paper on the floor in one of the men's showers, which I noticed on our first night there, were still present when we spent our last night there almost a week later. It smelled of raw sewage. Merry encountered several large cockroaches - or as they say in the south Palmetto Bugs - on the floor in the toilet stall, which caused her to quickly abandon - EWWW!! using the facilities at the sailing club. The women's facilities were filthy with the shower stalls coated with inch think black mildew growing along the shower walls. When taking a shower Merry used the 3 sailors' rules when using public facilities - do-not to breathe deeply, wear flip flops, and do not accidently bump into the walls. Our first or second day we used Dimples to go ashore, and were told by an officious older gentleman that he was the Club's facilities manager, and that we were not allowed to come ashore in our dinghy to their docks, but were required to use the free water taxi. Though he didn't explain at the time - the reason was so that the sailing classes could set up their sailing dinghies at the dock with out be encumbered by other dinghies.
The water taxis were convenient and accessible, so it was really no problem. We would simply hail them on our hand held radio and they would quickly arrive. The facilities manager came into use the men's bathroom a few days later, while I was finishing my morning shower. Apparently, the conditions he observed (unlike the sight of little Dimples tied to one of the docks) did not bother him, as a result it was never cleaned up.
The downsides however are crabby quibbles. We more than liked the "town" of Coconut Grove, which is actually a neighborhood of Miami. The huge art far went on for the first three days we were there. This was great because it took three days to go up and down the countless rows of art booths. Some of the art, including photography, sculptures, paining, and prints was magnificent. Additionally, there were lots of food vendors and being Florida most of it did not hold up to our high Chicago standards. One low point was observing a hot dog vendor putting KETCHUP on hotdogs! These people are animals.
By contrast, we had lunch twice at a wonderful restaurant named Jacquars. We dined outside "sidewalk café style". The wine, food, and service were wonderful.
The neighborhood also had a small mall, with a multiplex movie theater. This is a rare treat for cruising sailors. Alas, the movies they were showing were either ones we had already seen, or ones we didn't want to see. We ended up seeing Monuments Men, a badly executed film about an interesting subject - the special US Army unit charged with protecting and recovering great art during World War II.
There is a fabulous little bookstore in Coconut Grove that we visited frequently and Merry even found a hairdresser to "clean her up" - her words not mine! There was a Fresh Market Grocery store nearby, as well as a Starbucks, and really most everything we needed or wanted we had easy access to. The only exception was that the sailing club had no fuel dock so we filled Les Miserables fuel tank from the three five gallon jugs we keep on deck, then I motored in Dimples about a mile or so to a larger marina to refill the cans. I ended up having to make two trips - which I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed.
So all in all, looking back, the upside of Coconut Grove certainly won us over. Should we have the opportunity to return we know what to expect - a good time!
It will surprise no one that a huge swinger like me would like Fort Lauderdale. Running along the beach, enjoying the huge margaritas, and best of all the "scenery."
There is even one piece of interesting historical signage. On the beach in Fort Lauderdale, a sign indicates that this was the spot where a series of "wade-ins" occurred during the civil rights era of the 1960s. Black citizens of Fort Lauderdale had been allocated a "negro beach," but promised beach facilities and a necessary access road were never built. This is yet another example if how, during the era of "separate but equal" the whites usually cheated - the segregated facilities allowed "colored" people were almost always unequal, especially in the South where (in most places) blacks were prevented from voting until 1965, and thus had little political power. The first "wade-in" occurred when a group of young black people, lead by their minister, went down to the all white beach after church, kicked off their shoes, and waded in. This sparked more protests; the filing of a civil rights suit, and eventually, the beach where I ran and swam when we were in Lauderdale was open for everyone.
Alas, the day came when we departed Fort Lauderdale, going down the ICW to the turning basin where the huge ships are (we counted five) big cruise ships), down the inlet and into the Atlantic Ocean. The cruise ships look like tall sky scrapers lying on the water. Small cities that take to the sea and one we noticed, with a large screened movie sized screen atop the ship. We looked like a little ant along side these giants. We got to the point where Les Miserables had forty feet of water under her keel, hoisted the mainsail and jib, shut down the engine, and by God we were sailing! The roller-furling jib is working fine now, the reefing lines are no longer tangled, we had a modest but usable 10-12 knots. The waves were little "one footers", the boat was heeling maybe ten degrees, it was 72 degrees and sunny, and Merry's kind of sailing day. Smooth, sailing, light winds, ...relaxing - with sunshine - a perfect cruise.
Of course it didn't last. The wind "clocked around" until we were close-hauled and sailing within 45 degrees of the direction of the wind. The wind was now from the southeast. Then the wind began to die. When the wind died down to 6 knots we started the engine - when it fell to 2 knots we took the sail in and we were once again a slow motorboat.
From Fort Lauderdale to Miami is not much more than 20 miles and soon it became time to enter the inlet for the Port of Miami. We picked a bad time to do so.
The inlet has two great vices - tidal current and traffic. If the traffic consists of a cruise ship in or out, the Coast Guard closes the inlet - at times, for a whole day. The reason is simple - they don't want what happened to the USS Cole happening to a cruise ship loaded with thousands of people.
No cruise ship was arriving or departing the inlet when we made our turn around the entrance buoy and headed up the inlet into the Port of Miami. However, there was lots of traffic including some sailboats, but mostly powerboats of every size and description, from jet skis to huge sport-fishing boats, and loud fast powerful cigarette boats. The result was the most slaphappy collection of boat wakes we have experienced in Les Miserable. We were tossed this way and that as we were passed on both sides from behind by boats and by boats approaching. Some of the wakes were large enough to actually swamp a small boat. Of course, with her high freeboard and 3,800 pound keel, Les Miserable finds boat wakes a mere annoyance. However, any passengers on Les Miserable will find the experience living up to her namesake. One of the cruising guides advises against making passages into our out of Miami on weekends precisely because of the heavy boat traffic. Added to the incredible boat wakes was a strong current by the outgoing tide. The current must have been close to three knots, because even after the engine, "Tim McGee," was pushed to 3200 rpms - "full speed ahead!" - we were going only 3.8 knots.
Because conditions were so unpleasant we opted to detour off the main channel into Miami and instead take a channel called the "Lummis Cut," to the "Dodge Cut," and then turn onto the ICW. The Port of Miami is located on Dodge Island formed by the main channel on the north, and Lummis cut on the south. It is interesting, but unattractive, with cranes and docks for large container ships, everything with a "seen better days" look to it. To someone used to the magnificent architecture of Chicago even the skyline of Miami is unimpressive. The boat traffic, the current, the mediocre visual appeal of the city snuffed out the idea of spending more time there.
By the time we reached the ICW the current was most gone and we throttled "Tim McGee" back to 2800 rpm for a comfortable 5.2 knots. South of downtown Miami we went under the big Eddie Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge, with a vertical clearance of 120 feet. After the bridge we entered Biscayne Bay, a large body of water only ten or twelve feet deep. Just before mile 1095 on the ICW - the distance Les Miserable had come since we first entered the ICW in Norfolk, Virginia in 2011 - we turned into Dinner Key Channel to take a mooring at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.
We "skipped" Miami. Actually, quite honestly we didn't go into Miami to explore marinas, the culture of the city, etc. We were eager to move down the coastline to get to the Keys because Sean and Tesia were meeting us in Key Largo to go scuba diving. However, we think that from now on, we may stay out in the Atlantic and pass Miami offshore. There is no compelling reason for sailors to go in, other than to dine on Cuban Chicken, black beans and rice in "Little Havana", or to see if the Miami Vice police detectives really don't wear socks!
We were very eager to leave Indiantown. We waited for additional days for our mail that was delayed due to Atlanta being paralyzed by 2 inches of snow. Next day delivery took 6 days. The UPS trucks in Georgia were at the mercy of the "idiots" who could not deal with 2 inches of snow.
Additionally, the secrets of the ancient tombs of Indiantown were slowly revealed to us. It seemed that until our pockets/ bank accounts are empty or near empty we would not leave Indiantown. There is always some work that is needed on the boat that we don't know how to do (seeing as how we don't know how to do anything).
However, the work allowed us the opportunity to stay for the Super Bowl party. A pot-luck dinner was held in the screened in porch area that has a television (with the worst sound system ever!) mounted at the top of the wall. In the tradition of the Midwest I made a pot of chili with all of the trimmings. As we sat in the screened room an elderly man came in and announced he had something for us to eat, which he carried in a brown paper bag. He brought out a piece of fried something and thrust it insistently at Wiley. He said he would not tell us what it was but we should try it. Wiley nibbled lightly with a certain lack of enthusiasm as the colorful old southern gent looked on. In fairness, Wiley later admitted that, "it was the best toad I ever et". I refused to eat it unless he told me what it was. He refused to divulge his recipe.
As we sat in the screened porch area we had an eerie sense that all the old folk (the ancients) were lined up to watch something special in the "dayroom". Most all of the boaters and sailors at Indiantown are 60+ - there wasn't a "young person" in sight! So, using your imagination you can probably envision how all the old faces were turned up to look beyond their bi-focals to watch the football game (sighing at the lopsided game), grimacing at the wild half-time show, and drooping by the end of the game (after all it was well past everyone's bedtime!). Yikes, as kind as the elder hostel group was we were eager to find some young people.
We celebrated our arrival in Stuart, Florida with the docking help of 4-5 kind boaters. No crash course this time! With strong winds, the current pushing us, and the cement wall of D dock we were more than delighted to have help. We had read on Active Captain reports of boats smashing into boats and/or D dock because of strong currents. As always, Wiley thanked them all for Boat US, our boat insurers.
While in Stuart at Sunset Bay we once again found a way to spend more money on the boat. Yes, it is a hole in the water into which we pour $$$$. We had a new winch installed that we use to raise the mainsail and also hoist the dinghy on deck. Our old winch had a prong broken inside and since they no longer make that winch we had to buy a lovely new one. John from Mack Sails came out to the boat and installed it. It turns out that John and Wiley are both Trekies, so they had a great time discussing Kirk, Bones Klingons etc, and exchanged the Vulcan "live long and prosper" salutation when John left. Since we name everything on the boat - our winch is now called BIG JOHN! It works wonderfully and Wiley is absolutely thrilled to have a new toy.
We timed our departure so that the current and wind would allow us to ease off the dock and since this was early in the morning we spent some time waiting around for bridges to open to begin our journey to West Palm Beach. We had an uneventful trip through the many bridges on our way to Old Port Cove at West Palm Beach.
This is probably our favorite marina. It is full of million dollar boats and even though we arrive in our little vessel looking a bit like a "Chinese honey barge" they make us feel like we have a multi- million dollar yacht.. They greet you at the dock, take your lines, give you a free bottle of wine, and offer lovely facilities as well as a fabulous restaurant - Sandpiper Cove.
We managed to eat our way through West Palm with 2 terrific dinners there as well as a stop at the French bistro down the road. We staged our departure from West Palm Beach and once again anchored near the inlet prior to "going outside" - sailing on the ocean rather than taking the ICW. This is where we have previously left to go to West End, Bahamas. However, this time we would not be leaving at 2:00 am but wait till after sunrise to begin our sail to Fort Lauderdale.
After a lovely motor sail we arrived at Los Olas Municipal Marina in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We were delighted to meet up with a sailor and friend, Dick of Dick and Margaret, whom we sailed with down the ICW in Virginia and North Carolina in 2011, and saw again in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas in 2013. It is so much fun to reconnect.
Los Olas Marina is 2 blocks from the beach. Ah, we have finally reached the wild celebrations of the young. Bikinis are pranced in, and Wiley frequently has to be told to close his open mouth. Wild music, flowing liquor, and limited clothing on beautiful (and a few not so beautiful) bodies is the new norm. Wiley managed to drink a "fish bowl" and a half (half of mine) of Margarita. We sat and watched the world go by. As I watched a young man jogging down the beach in an orange thong - a very tan bottom- I knew we were no longer in Indiantown.