18/01/2012/12:59 pm, Tavernier Key
We set off from Dinner Key at 7:15 on Tuesday morning after listening to the weather and confirming that the seas would be gentle. Once across the Bay, our route out Biscayne Channel took us past some fascinating houses on stilts.
I thought Stiltsville would be a collection of ramshackle houses on stilts along the shoreline, but this was not what I expected at all. Rather than clinging to the shore, they cling to the flats on their long spindly legs and appear to be far off in the water, and while they looked skeletal from a distance, several of the buildings topping the stilts were quite modern. According to my favourite resource book (Managing the Waterway by Mark and Diana Doyle) the community began as a cluster of fishing shacks, evolving to clubs, getaways and homes. Initially, a fisherman would find a spot and build a structure but as time went on land ownership became an issue and legal battles ensued. After enduring countless hurricanes and storms, it's a wonder they are there at all, and it appears there is now an effort to have them placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The skyline of Miami in the background seemed such a contrast to these imaginative buildings scattered across the water. Passing by them in the early morning light was even more special.
We enjoyed a fabulous sail down Hawk Channel to Tavernier Key where we spent a calm night. The wind (NE to E 10-15 kn) stayed abeam most of the day and sea was composed of gentle swells instead of the roller coaster we've endured on some other days. It was the kind of day we could take turns going forward to read or take naps on the foredeck; the kind of day we could have a real lunch instead of a granola bar. (Shrimp wraps made with leftovers from last night's dinner); the kind of day that simply makes us glad to be on the water. With all sails out, we averaged 5.8 to 6 knots most of the day - just fine for Madcap. We thought about stopping at Rodrigues Key where there is a little more protection, but we wanted to get farther along and we couldn't make Channel Five before dark, so this was the next choice. Because the wind dropped right off to 5 kn or less, it was a fine stopping place but it would be no good if the wind was blowing. We are seeing for ourselves that the Keys offer few secure anchorages for 6 ft draft boats.
The sky was full of stars and the evening stayed warm so we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit instead of huddling in the cabin in our sweaters and socks!
16/01/2012/12:53 pm, Dinner Key Mooring Facility, Coconut Grove, Miami
We had planned to leave on Monday but, luckily, the wind was blowing 20 knots NE to E and any deep draft anchorage between here and Marathon would be uncomfortable that night so we happily delayed our departure.
It was such a good thing because it gave us time to go off to see South Beach. We met up with Steve and Sandi again and took the train from the Coconut Grove stop (Rt 1 and 27th St) to Government Centre where we switched to the bus. (#120 and S will both take you to the beaches). We bought day tickets - $5.00 for the whole day and good on both train and bus. It was a perfect day to go exploring the wide pathway along the beach and the streets lined with art deco buildings. We had been prepared to leave them for another time, but we're so glad we didn't have to.
We hopped off the bus at 17th St and joined the walkers along the winding beachfront pathway, headed south. There were a few hardy souls on the beach but the wind was whipping up a froth and inside the dunes was more pleasant. We missed Art Deco Weekend by a day, but we probably had a lot more sidewalk room without the festival crowds. After all, one needs room to stop and gawk at both people and buildings! (I never did get a good pic between the cars and trees and café awnings!)
The South Beach area was first developed by the Lummus brothers in 1912 and after "taming the jungle" they established a public park along the oceanfront from 15th to 5th Streets and sold off moderate sized lots for middle income people. Hundreds of apartments and hotels were built in the 1930's in what was then considered to be "modern" style. According to my reading material, the term Art Deco didn't come into being until the 60's and by then, the building boom had come and gone, the area was becoming run down and had settled into apartment hotels for retirees who could spend affordable winters here. In the 80's, a movement spearheaded by Barbara Capitman and destined to become the Miami Design Preservation League, took on the city to preserve and restore many of these wonderful buildings with their trademark relief ornamentation, curving lines, porthole windows, stepped rooflines and pastel colours. I don't know what happened to the modest living, because it is pretty classy now!
We stopped for lunch at Oceans Ten and spent a happy time people watching and enjoying our salads and sandwiches (at not a bad price either - $8.95 for the daily specials) before taking public transportation back to our own little neighbourhood of Coconut Grove where we were very happy to be based.
It was a special treat to take the launch back out to the mooring field with Cathy and Bill (Skeeter) who have spent several seasons in Isla Mujeres, Belize and Guatemala. I dug out my little notebook and scribbled down their suggestions as fast as I could. Once again, a day in the life of a cruiser turned out to be full of treasures - from sights and scenery to people to information to excitement about what tomorrow will bring.
And tomorrow will bring a departure toward Marathon!
16/01/2012/12:50 pm, Dinner Key Mooring Facility, Coconut Grove, Miami
We've driven through Miami on the way to the everglades and we've flown out of the Miami airport, but we have never sailed to Miami before so it was all new to us. What an awesome entrance! We came in through Government Cut, and then along Lummus and Dodge channels because the main channel was closed to provide security for the cruise ships in the harbour. (Art - we got a glimpse of the Epic!!) The route wound past skyscrapers and loading docks and fancy condos and boardwalks with joggers and was right up there in our list of exciting harbours to transit.
Friends have stopped at No Name Harbor on their way to the Bahamas, and other friends anchor at the Venetian causeway, but the friends we were with (Yonder) are partial to Dinner Key Marina at Coconut Grove and so we followed their recommendation. What a good decision! There were plentiful moorings (costing $20 per night/$300 per month) with launch service on the hour from 8 to 5. (We were a long way from shore so that was handy.) Coconut Grove is a lovely little neighbourhood - filled with galleries and shops and cafes and a state park. It has a Fresh Market (upscale groceries) along the waterfront with Home Depot and a marine store (Crooks and Crooks) within walking distance. It is accessible to downtown and the beaches via train and bus as well.
We arrived mid-day Saturday and after some confusion got ourselves tied up and ready to go exploring. The confusion was over "North channel vs South channel" approaches in conversation with the marina office. Really - there should be no confusion; go in the main channel to Dinner Key Marina - right up to the piers - turn to port past the little islet and back out the "South" channel to the mooring field. No Problem! Only those vessels with shallow draft can go in the south channel (if you can find it.)
We never did put our dinghy down which meant we spent evenings aboard Madcap, but that was just fine because we (along with Sandra and Steve) packed the days full! Having done a little reconnaissance on Saturday, we set off on the 8 am launch on Sunday to find breakfast and continue our exploration. Steve asked for a suggestion from a fellow on the launch and struck gold. Coral Bagels is THE place. Walk up 27th St (right across from the mooring field office) to US 1, wiggle your way to starboard behind Crooks and Crooks to find it. It's far more than bagels. We saw firemen and policemen and grandfathers with sweet little granddaughters and aging but elegant ladies (high heels and jewellery and expensive clothes) and families and scruffy dudes and even some slightly scruffy but comfortable folks who looked like cruisers! Oh yes - there was food too: eggs any way you like 'em and home fries and corn beef hash and ... bagels. I spotted an item called "Nova Scotia eggs and onions." Well - how could I resist? I did wonder what Nova Scotia eggs were even though I had a suspicion the term must have to do with smoked salmon. When I asked Krista (the effervescent server who labeled herself Cuban/Italian aka "dynamite on a match") she said, "Well, you know what nova is, right?" "Well, I know what Nova Scotia is ... I live there." " Really? Where is that?" "Umm, in Canada." Oh, but I digress ... So "Nova" is apparently a term for smoked salmon down here and Nova Scotia eggs are scrambled eggs with smoked salmon - and good they are indeed. We all loved our meals and the atmosphere and the décor. It was a total winner.
After a visit to Crooks and Crooks - whose motto is "We aim not to live up to our name" - and a stroll back to Grand Avenue, we got local info from a most helpful "ambassador" who suggested a visit to Barnacle State Park. Once again, we struck gold. This National Gold Medal winning park is composed of several acres of land that once belonged to Ralph Munroe and his family. The path wound along through a portion of tropical hardwood hammock (part of what was once the Miami hammock) to his architecturally interesting but modest house, built in 1891 and enlarged in 1908. A wide open lawn sloped down to Biscayne Bay and the boathouse where he designed and built sailboats.) Our guide, Frank, was so much more than a tour guide - he was an historian and story teller extraordinaire and he made the place come alive for us. We'll be on the lookout for a book (currently out of print) called "The Forgotten Frontier" because it is full of Munroe's exquisite photographs, and we'll remember the tales of his life and passion for this part of Florida. He was an entrepreneur, an environmentalist, a friend to Blacks, Indians and Whites alike - unusual for his time.
A stop at the Fresh Market for wonderful produce, local shrimp, interesting crackers, cereals and pastas ended the day. The evenings have been downright cold so we've been eating indoors lately - oven roasted veggies - sauteed garlicky shrimp - spicy pasta with garbanzo beans (better than it sounds) - and we even put our little fireplace on to take off the chill!