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Retirement to Bahamas
Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!
Movin' Around Miami

Movin' Around Miami

We've been around the greater Miami area for a week.

Our first day, upon arriving in Miami, we went south to a place called Coconut Grove. It's technically part of the City of Miami but has its distinct culture; very upscale and artsy. It was once the terminal for Pan American Airlines where their airships (Clippers) would convey the rich and famous to Nassau and Cuba. Now the waterfront has several large marinas. We pick up a mooring at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and go into "town" for a while. Lots of expensive art galleries and plenty of restaurants.

Next morning we hear from Roger and Jacquie that they have conquered their engine problem and are coming in from Fort Lauderdale. So, we kick around Coconut Grove for the morning then sail (yes I meant sail) across Biscayne Bay to anchor with them along side of Key Biscayne. It's a gorgeous evening and we spend some time with Rog and Jacquie who will likely be heading out and across to the Bahamas the nxt morning. Our plans are still fluid and we intend to remain in Florida at least for a while longer. We wish them fair winds......

Judy is hankering to go to the beach so the next day we head back north aiming for South Beach. It's only a two hour motor but a complicated one, wending our way under several bridges, complicated waterways and trying to stay out of the way of other vessels. Once past the Venetian Causeway bridge we head east along several, perfectly shaped (oval) man-made islands. The likes of Al Capone lived here and reportedly Gloria Estfan still makes her home on one of these islands.

We wend our way between two of these and end up in a smallish anchorage called Sunset Lake. It's a bit of a misnomer to call this a Lake as it really is the residual water between several of these man made islands and South Beach. We anchor along with a couple of other boats in a very protected "lake", which would probably hold twenty boats in total. The shores are completely surrounded by majestic homes, each with its own watercraft on its dock in the front yard; quite impressive.

We do understand, however, that many of the owners are quite covetous of these waters even though they do not own the lake. In the upper end where we anchored, the owner of one house aims a very bright gazillion candle power spot light at our boat (as he does with all boats which anchor here) and leaves it on all night in a ploy to dissuade us from anchoring in front of his place. We are not deterred nor does this beam bother us. I find it a shame that someone would be so mean spirited as to try to take away someone else's quiet enjoyment of nature.

We spend two nights here and go to the famous South Beach during the day. This is quite a beach with lots of beautiful (and plenty of not so beautiful) people, occasionally sans top. Our friends Tom and Lisa from whom we purchased Sea Sharp, recommended that we visit the Holocaust Memorial here which we do. It is a very powerful experience and a beautiful, if haunting site. Thanks Tom and Lisa for the recommendation.
One of the few other boats in this anchorage is a MacGregor 26X from Ontario. We drop over and they invite us aboard. They are really interesting folks with tons of cruising experience on many, vastly different types of boat. Their first trip down to Bahamas was in 1980 on a home built boat with their two young children and two cats. They've come down many times since in various boats but have settled on this Mac 26 which they feel is an ideal compromise. It is a light, trailerable sailboat which has a large motor and can move along at planeing speeds. So even though it may not be a very robust, seaworthy boat, it'll get you there quickly and you can stay out of trouble if you are judicious about when and where you go.

We really enjoyed this small place and I'm sorely tempted to go to that mansion whose owner shone the light on us to thank him for sharing his bit of paradise and keeping it lit for us.......

01/26/2010 | Ricky
Hey Julian,
The guy with the light was probably Bernie Sandford, the retired President of the IAOTPTPSATPS.
01/26/2010 | Janet
I'm with Ricky!
01/27/2010 | Ricky2
Sounds like that light guy could use a quick visit from the Green B@#$ard and a couple a aliens!
Miami Nice

So we start our planned exit from Fort Lauderdale around 8:30 to be ready to cast off right at 9:00 and get that first bridge opening. Jacquie comes to our boat to tell us that they broke their raw water strainer and will need to make repairs. Judy and I decide to leave anyway; there is nothing we can do to help and we're wanting to move on.

So as I indicated we have some timing considerations today as we "bump outside" to go down the Atlantic to Miami. We have to go outside because there is a bridge, the Julia Tuttle bridge near Miami which offers only 56 feet clearance (and with our 60 foot mast this simply doesn't work).

Recall over the many posts where I've commented about the many bridges along the ICW that the fixed bridges are all 65 feet or greater. Somehow the engineers and planners of this bridge screwed up by nine feet!

It's a very pleasant day with light westerlies. We get our 9:00 bridge, safely transit out the New River, hit the 9:30 (actually the bridge tender held it open for us a few minutes, normally not done) then out the wide channel to the Atlantic. It's only 22 miles or so and it was very pleasant as we follow the coast down to Miami. We are actually able to sail some although the winds are quite light.

Miami harbour is a huge affair with as you can imagine, many cruise ships coming and going. But, we turn in and navigate the somewhat complex maze of channels towards downtown Miami, then turn south towards our destination today, Coral Gables.

In its ostentatious sort of way, Miami is pretty. The skyline has many skyscrapers but they are generally light, pastel coloured buildings and set against the white beaches and blue sky it's quite attractive.

We plan on spending some time around here so our next few posts will chronicle our several stops here.

Raucous and Noisy

We end up spending three nights in Fort Lauderdale waiting out a fairly vigorous front. While we are secure on the dock face as shown in the picture from the previous blog post, it is very windy. Raucous because we are right in front of a very popular restaurant/night spot and it is a weeknd. Also, all sorts of traffic plies this New River, all hours of the day and night and, of course they pass very close by us. Finally the regular spewing of run off from the other side adds to this cacophony.

There are several large trees on the banks just by us and soon our boat is riddled with thousands of tiny leaves. Of course we track them into the cabin and our normally Bristol boat now looks quite shoddy. Also these little wet leaves are leaving brown stains on anything they touch so it'll be some work to get rid of it.

Nonetheless we make the best of it and roam around Fort Lauderdale. It is very upscale and if you go by the cars people drive, you would easily see two European luxury/sport cars for every American sedan.

We meet an interesting cruising couple on a Hunter 44 who we help take their lines as they try to negotiate the same docking procedure we had done the day before. Margaret and Ben to show their gratitude and in keeping with the normal cruisers' congeniality, have us over for happy hour.

We take a bus to the beach then Roger and I take a transfer to the West Marine store. This helps put in another day.

The weather promises improvement so we hope to leave on Monday to make Miami. There is some timing involved; we want to leave on a rising tide so we can manoeuver better down the New River but we cannot leave before 9:00 a.m. as this is the first opening of the bridge just east of us. There is another opening (bascule) bridge which we'd hope to make at 9:30 (if we're lucky), then out into the Atlantic and down the coast to Miami.

We will be glad to leave Fort Lauderdale. Coming up the New River was an adventure but we doubt we'd do this again. We'd likely anchor off the ICW.

Every Day an Adventure

So, having cleared 13 bridges yesterday, we face the prospect of another ten today; but the distance is short and we aim to be in Fort Lauderdale (Fort Lau-di-da) by early afternoon. And if we thought we saw big homes yesterday, they got even bigger today.

We consider a couple of options for tonight (and likely a couple of nights as the conditions are supposed to deteriorate this weekend. There is a good anchorage at Lake Sylvie which is secure but there is limited access to facilities and given that we may need to spend a few days, we opt for the second option; up the New River to downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The city is a popular tourist destination, with 10.35 million visitors in 2006.] Fort Lauderdale is sometimes known as the "Venice of America"] because of its expansive and intricate system. The city is a major yachting center, with 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas and boatyards. Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding area host over 4100 restaurants and 120 nightclubs.

So, the New River which we will transit today to take a dock space at the municipal marina in the heart of downtown is really one of these aforementioned canals. Picture this, the Jemseg river but running through a city twice the size of Saint John, whose banks are lined with yachts of every size (ours would certainly be among the smaller) with a constant stream of tour boats, mega yachts, water taxis and every other type of vessel going up and down river. Add to this the complexity of several opening bridges and significant current and you've got the ingredients for our adventure of the day.

I had prearranged for our dock space with the municipal marina but the directions and location were vague to say the least. The dock guy said that he "might" be there to take our lines. Audacious in the lead then Sea Sharp we carefully wend our way up the river. The current is slightly against us which is the ideal situation as we have more control and steerage. Pretty soon between Audacious and us a mega yacht coes out into the middle and with thrusters fully engaged swings the boat the width of the river to turn it heading with us. He is gesticulating and yelling at me to get out of his way but there's really only so much I can do. So this behemoth is right on my stern and pushing me. We call to the next bridge and he opens and we tentatively move forward as we know our slip assignment is somewhere past this bridge but before the next. Now the Mega Yacht is really wild; a crew member on the bow yelling to get out of his way and the captain on the radio doing the same. Our level of anxiety increases......

The reason why the mega yacht is panicky is that they're under the bridge, occupying pretty much the entire opening, their forward movement inhibited by us but there's a large day cruise catamaran going downstream trying to get under same bridge but with the current with him. We have no time to stop to figure things out and we see a free line of dock space up a ways on our starboard side. We think this may be our assigned place and really need to get out of the way of this now frantic captain. So Roger pulls over and tries his best to tie up; luckily there were a couple of good Samaritans to take his lines . Before he's even tied up, we come up in front of him and do the same manoeuvre. Again we have some help with the dock lines but both boats are still not snugged in yet.

We try to muscle the boats closer to the dock tied up to what we thought at the time were three foot high bollards (a bollard is a stout bit used to tie vessels up to). Just as we start to get things under control, there is a huge gush of water (or at least at the time we thought it was water) coming at us broad side from under the dock trying to push us back out into mid stream. It's turbulent to say the least and with the wind now picking up we realize we cannot stay here. After we realize that this turbulence is caused by a regular (every six minutes) release of a huge quantity of what appears to be run off water through two four foot pipes. We get sorted out somewhat and our crew tries to get their heart rates down.

Soon we get a call on our ship's radio from the dockmaster informing us this is not dock space, what we thought were stout bollards are, in fact, decorative lighting and that we'll have to move.

Easier said than done. Between the incessant traffic, the now mid-tide current the cross wind and being penned in by two bridges we know this will be tricky. I have to move over first and as I motor off the dock to move over to the other side, my backstay snags a tree along the shore line and while, fortunately no damage is done, it could have been serious. Nonetheless, leaves and twigs are raining down on me as I concentrate on turing the boat on a dime and tying up down current. After tow attempts and with the dockmaster and Judy on shore and Roger on board with me, we get sorted out.

Roger will have an even more difficult time because his boat is longer and there now is less space to park. He tries to come in down current but it is not going to work so he comes in stern to stern of me and up current. Again after two attempts he's tied up and unscathed.

Nerves are frayed but all's well and captains and crew did a good job. Roger and I go in to register and this laborious process takes the better part of an hour and by this time we are frustrated.

But we are safe and sound even if it's bumpy and now windy along this dock face. We go out to dinner and start to decompress. While it's not a quiet night, with the raucousness due to the proximity of the Friday night bar scene, the steady stream of boat traffic, the semi-regular transit of trains and the now increasing winds, we manage to get some sleep.

As I said, every day an adventure (Pics to follow).

01/16/2010 | David & Margot Russell
OK.... one question..... are you guys having fun yet?..... I guess the warmer weather beats the cold weather and congrats on your new dingy!

great posts and pictures by the way!! M&D
01/16/2010 | Gail & Greg
Whew! Glad both boats and crew are OK! I guess this is why we always take the outside route from Ft Pierce to Miami, preferring a sail, a nice BORING sail compared to the excitement on the ICW. s/v Yoohoo
01/18/2010 | Mark and Trish Murray
Excitement around every turn!

Great pic's, and congratulations on your new Dinghy!
01/19/2010 | Hughena & David Macneil
Thanks for the adventures, great reading on a cold, if pleasant day in Freddy. Glad there are no issues that a few boat bucks will not resolve.

Regards to Roger and Jacquie,

Keeping warm, H&D
01/20/2010 | Nigel & Anne Cox
I see from Roger's tracking you off at last to the Sunny Isles. Well we have just taken delivery of a great pile of logs, its going to be a long winter. Hope you are all having fun and Mozart is jumping in the rigging! Is Rog wearing his black skull and crossbones bandana
An Embarrassment of Bridges

Our next two days, from Lake Worth/West Palm Beach will have the greatest number of bridges to transit of the entire trip down (23 in fact). Many of the bridges are on restricted openings meaning that they open at specified times (Hour and half hour, quarter and three quarters, every 15 minutes, etc). They do their best to create these schedules so displacement vessels, if you can make at least 6 knots, may be able to hit the next bridge in time for the next opening.

Each opening is somewhat of a ballet. Usually there results a cavalcade of boats of all types which get on the same bridge interval. Each boat must call up the bridge tender (and each has a specific bridge name) and signal that you (your boat's name) would like to transit on their next opening. If you are not close enough, they will tell you that you'll have to wait for the next scheduled opening. They generally give no leniency. Sailboats are very limited in manoeuvrability so the queue up for the opening is challenging. You've got to be ganged up close enough yet you can't get too close if the guy in front of you needs to back up or if the current pushes you closer.

Anyway, we hit all the bridges spot on today; combination of good luck and some aggressive motoring. On our way we pass hundreds of mansions (or MacMansions as they now often are called) most with large yachts on docks in front of them. We get to Boca Raton around 3:30. My cruising guide tells me that Boca Raton means Rat's Mouth in Spanish but don't let this derogatory title fool you; Boca is the epitomy of luxury. We anchor in a small "lake" just off the ICW called Boca Raton Lake. We are surrounded by luxury hotels, resorts and private dwellings. The lights are impressive and while it is the antithesis of the remote, secluded anchorages that we love, it is impressive. There are about eight cruising sailboats anchored here with us; the flotilla who we transited the bridges with today. It blows a bit during the night but we are well hooked and sleep fine. Off tomorrow to Fort Lauderdale.

My Dingy Dinghy

So after a peaceful night sleep in Peck Lake, I awake to assess the damage to my dingy. It's worse than I thought and doubtful it can be repaired expediently. The entire transom which I reinforced last year in Georgetown, has rotted and collapsed. It will certainly not support the engine which would run the risk of completely falling off. I'm a bit discouraged but it's the price of boating. So I turn my thoughts to how and where to acquire a new one.

Now that we're on the move I don't want to either backtrack or spend a lot of time looking for a new one so the quickest way is to get to the nearest West Marine store and buy one. Our destination today is North Lake Worth and I know there are several in the Lake Worth/Palm Beach area. It's a short hop from Peck Lake and despite the many bridges, we should be there early afternoon which will allow me to get the new dinghy.

As an aside, as I will chronicle in my next few postings, there is incredible wealth in this area and as we turn into Lake Worth North, there's a mega yacht marina on our way in and we understand this is where Tiger keeps his boat, Privacy. We were expecting an invite for cocktails but expect he was too busy trying to reconcile with his wife and sponsors to have us over; maybe next time.

I decide on a 10 foot air floor inflatable under the West Marine marque although it is likely built for them by Zodiac. It will be available for me to pick up at the West Marine store about a mile from where we land in Lake Worth.

You may grumble about West Marine's prices and the near monopoly it holds on boating supplies but the staff are, in my opinion, almost always very knowledgeable and accommodating. They are sympathetic to my plight (an unexpected expense, the urgency of a replacement and our transportation limitations. They do their best to give me the best price they can and make arrangements to drive us (Roger and I) and the new dinghy to the anchorage. We assemble the dinghy, which looks very good and are back in business.

Well, not quite....what to do with my old dingy dinghy. As we head back out to Sea Sharp in Roger's dinghy with my new one in tow, I spot a cruiser with a really crappy dinghy and ask him if he wants my old one. He follows me back to my boat and when he sees it's condition, other than the transom, he is thrilled. He wants to pay me but I refuse so for the princely sum of one dollar (legal tender) I'm rid of my old and he gets my new dinghy.

I put the motor on this new one and it surely scats. Like all things boating, with dinghies there are many trade offs; weight, strength, price, stability, etc, etc. My new one is exceedingly light and fast but a bit less stable and robust in a big sea.

We have Rog and Jacquie over for dinner in appreciation of their helping with the new dinghy acquisition and bed down for a quiet night.

01/19/2010 | Jim Lahey
Glad to see you got rid of your s**t dinghy. At least you didn't try sinking it with the barbecues so it didn't come back to haunt ya. So - was it Cyrus you sold it to?

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Preparing for Retirement Trip
Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
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