Key West, Miami, Bahamas & Bermuda
19 May 2010
20100519 Key West, Miami, Bahamas, and Bermuda
20100419 Ahhhh, back in the USA. It feels so good.
Not to say we have not enjoyed the cultural, geographic, climatic and ecological diversities of South and Central Americas, but seem to miss America, and the greater degree of civilization vs the 3rd world, not matter how scenic the palm tree covered sand strip islands may be. Key West is such a great place to land, and such a contrast. We have over a week here before we need to voyage north to Miami.
We sleep in the morning after arriving from the tiring passage from Mexico, and then back to work. Customs and immigration, shopping, provisioning, cleaning, internet, fix-it projects by day.
By night we watch the street performers at Mallory Square, walk Duval Street, dine out usually; we find our favorite KW latin resto-bar for some salsa dancing.
Brother Norm and wife Connie arrive in the afternoon for a week. After our pitcher of welcome rum punch and some salsa music/dancing on board, Norm makes another pitcher that knocks us on our butts and we all pass out for the night, without dinner. What is it they say about "the drunken sailor"?
The four of us explore Key West, walking far and wide, seeing the "southern most point in the USA", Fort Zachary, more Duval street and Mallory square, dinner etc. Our favorite breakfast place is Pepe's, oldest standing restaurant in Key West.
Next AM we go on a sailing schooner out to some Keys for snorkeling and kayaking the mangroves. Very nice day.
Our friend DaveK who visited us in Belize had shipped us a large box of personally selected, cut and smoked pork bacon and a variety of sausages. Time for the breakfast feast. Wow- great stuff- thanks, Dave!
While Norm and Connie get a massage, Rita and I go find a dentist to put a temporary crown to replace the one I cracked recently. We both get long overdue teeth cleanings as well. We find some relaxing music and medication at a local bar, dinner ashore, etc.
To give Norm and Connie a taste of sailing and anchoring out, we sail aVida to the Marquesa Keys for 2 days and a night. Walk the beach, shelling... not much to do here, but it is pretty.
While sailing back to Key West in the am, a large pod of dolphins escorts us for a while.
As we coming into Key West channel, we are all watching a smaller sailboat rocking terribly in the large waves. Then suddenly the mast breaks in 2 places and the 3 sections and sails tumble onto the deck and into the water. We hurry to take down our sails so we can motor back to the vessel to see if they need assistance. They are calmly sitting in the cockpit and wave us off- they probably have called a tow service already.
After a very nice visit, Norm and Connie depart, leaving us with a gift certificate for 2 fine massages- we immediately go use it- aahhhh....
Our friends on Saphira (a sister ship to aVida) have arrived in Key West, and we go out for dinner with them. One of the greater pleasures of this voyage has been some of the very nice sailors we have befriended. Many of these new friends are interested in crewing/sailing with us on aVida in the future.
We take 2 more days for cleaning, laundry, maintenance, etc. before voyaging to Miami. The watermaker has blown out the end cap of the high pressure membrane cylinder, and the mfg ships one overnight, and I rebuild the unit. It seems to work, then start blowing a fuse on the system board. I replace the fuse, and then it wont start. Arrangements are made to send a service man to meet aVida in Miami when we arrive.
20100429 Depart for Miami in am, with an overnight stop anchoring in a bay at Long Key. In AM, head for Miami- I choose to take a course outside all of the reefs and keys in deep water, and half-way up come to regret this- beating into the oncoming waves is a bit uncomfortable- so we head inshore through a pass in the reefs to follow the inshore passage- good winds, and much less wave action. Lesson learned.
Coming into Miami has lots of boat and large ship traffic to navigate around. We come into Miami Beach Marina, at the south tip of South Beach, to put aVida in a dock slip so we can make watermaker repairs, wash the boat, etc. While backing into the slip, too late I realize there is a 2 knot current running through the marina, and a forward line around a pole slips, and aVida crunches aft into the concrete dock. Fortunately, the only damage is one stanchion in the stb aft pulpit. Fortunately, the marina recommends "Bob" a good fiberglass repairman who works with carbon fiber and epoxy, and he agrees to do the job in the coming 2 evenings, after his existing commitments.
20100501 Rita takes care of laundry, cleaning, and provisioning. I work with the watermaker repairman to get the watermaker fixed. He replaces the system board and we are back in the water making business. Another project: our 2X2 bank of very large 8D size AGM house batteries is showing major imbalance between the battery banks. Originally in Chile, one of the batteries I shipped was faulty on arrival, so 2 mismatched batteries were installed. It appears that over time, this imbalance has led to some sort of deterioration of one or both battery banks. With a coming Atlantic voyage, I don't want Any risk with the critical house batteries, so am able to find a marine battery supplier who can deliver 4 new 160 Lbs batteries to the boat within the hour. I spend the afternoon getting them installed. Fortunately, the delivery man, and a marina helper, are willing to do the heavy lifting of the old batteries out of the bilges of the boat, and put the new batteries in place. I tip them well. Even the job of hooking up the heavy battery cables is a bit of a grueling sweat job- the terminal types are different. But, am very glad to put this possible problem to rest- the batteries are working great.
After this Very busy day, our friends Mark and Keith arrive to join us for a week, including several nights in SoBe, and the voyage to Abacos, Bahamas.
We know SoBe very well, having been here many times before. We begin with a taxi to Setai, a high end restaurant and bar with over the top interior design and ambience. The drinks are so expensive, we move on after one cocktail. Walking south from N22 street, we eventually end up all the way south at the marina on foot, but not until we do some serious damage. Delano hotel. Nice dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant on Ocean Drive. A look at Mangos- too busy, will come back another time. Then we end up at Nikki Beach Club, where there is a runway fashion show, and we find a great table right at the runway. Before the show, the elevated runway is full with people dancing, so we get up and dance as well. I am quite shocked to have a group of women stuff a dollar bill in my belt as I dance near the edge of the stage- hey, this could be my new career. Somehow we almost make it all the way back to the marina, but finally 4 blocks away we cave in and take a taxi the rest of the way. What a night. What's that again about the drunken sailor?
The rest of our days in SoBe are much more relaxed and sensible. Chillin in the am. Internet time. Lunch at Monty's. Bob finishes the stanchion repair- I will have to finish sand and paint later. Time in the swimming pool with a cocktail. Night walk on Lincoln Road. Dinner at Quattro- v nice. Beach time. A lot to do and see. Ahhhh.
20100505 AM depart for Abacos. This is a simple overnight trip, but the shipping and boat traffic through the night around Berry Islands, Bahamas is insane- we had a dozen radar targets going at one time at one point!
Our destination is Marsh Harbor, Abacos and we find a dock at the Moorings marina there, after filling up with diesel.
An interesting tidbit about Abacos is that after the Revolutionary War, the british loyalists in America did not feel too welcome, so many of them settled in Abacos. This explains the charming colonial feel, and the still strong UK influences and products they have. Abacos is quite different from the rest of the Bahamas.
AM brings breakfast aboard, then we dinghy about 2 miles to "Mermaid reef". This is not on the outer barrier reef, but it is a small patch of corals with Lots of fish.
My daughter Michelle arrives for a brief 3 day long weekend visit, and we take aVida to Hopetown on Elbow Cay for the night. Hopetown has charming colonial character, with a scenic protected harbor, overlooked by a large red and white striped lighthouse. We make dinner on board, what a feast it was. Michelle and Mark and Keith get along great together; all in all a very fine evening, again.
AM on the way back to Marsh Harbor (Mark and Keith depart in the afternoon), we anchor aVida off Mermaid reef again, and this time we take several bagels with us to feed the fish. We are surrounded by swarms of greedy fish, some quite large actually.
Briefly anchoring in Marsh Harbor again, Mark and Keith depart, and we sail with Michelle to Guana Cay- explore on land, and don't really find any place we like for cocktails and dinner. So we make our own feast on board. Rita makes bacon-wrapped filets, and Michelle makes an incredible bread pudding with mango bread, chocolate, nuts, and whatever else, plus a hot rum sauce to put on top. Ahhhh... After dinner we surprise Michelle's sister Lauren in Australia with a phone call together.
During the sail back in the AM, we have time to anchor off a "spoil bank" where they dump the dredgings from the channels. We swim to shore, to walk this excellent shelling beach, and we all fill a bag with shells for Rita to make more of her "shell mobile wind chimes". Back in Marsh Harbor, sadly Michelle departs.
We get a night to ourselves, then AM we are back in cleaning mode; laundry, trash, etc.
Afternoon Rita's sister Annette arrives for a 3 day visit. Dinner ashore at Curly Tails restaurant, named after the pervasive lizards with tails that coil up over their back.
AM we head out for Hopetown again to give Annette some variety of experiences.
Rita and Annette have a grand day ashore, renting a golf cart, exploring the island and its beautiful beaches. They walk on Tahiti Beach far out onto a sandbar. They say the incoming breaking surf looks like Big Sur.
In the meantime, I have some more maintenance work to do on aVida. One of the large Harken drum winches (7 total) started to slip its ratchet. These winches are exposed to serious amounts to salt spray and waves over the bow- tough corrosive environment. And again, with an Atlantic crossing coming soon, we can't take a chance on failing equipment. So I go ashore to a marine store to buy some special PTFE synthetic lube (not what Harken recommends, but probably better than trailer axle grease), and some other supplies, and head back to aVida to disassemble, clean, lube and reassemble the winches. The 3 forward-most winches take me all afternoon- these are complex buggers, and some bearings and ratchets are dry or slightly corroded.
Next, the Antal dagger board winch is malfunctioning, so I tear that baby apart too. This requires going into the cabin below and removing the bugger entirely- but it goes back together and everything works smooooth.
After a few happy cocktails ashore, Rita and Annette call me just as I am finishing up, and have found a great restaurant on top of a hill overlooking the harbor. We have a fantastic dinner there.
AM we sail back to Marsh Harbor. Rita and Annette go do some provisioning, and I do some more boat work. Isn't sailing fun?- arrggghh. Annette departs in the afternoon, she had a grand time and was very thankful for all the experiences we shared with her.
20100513 AM prepare for voyage to Bermuda. This is a fairly long one, approx 760 nautical miles on our course; hope to cover in 4 nights. We visit customs and the harbor master to get exit papers. MarkJ arrives back again in the afternoon to help us with the voyage, and we depart at 15H00.
There is decent wind, but it is too close to our ENE course, so we have to adjust our course northward, beating into the wind NNE. Sailing to the wind, rather than a course, we are adjusting heading all night long to make the best VMG- velocity made good- toward our destination.
By the middle of the next day, the winds have gone more north, and faded, so we set a rumbline course for Bermuda, and motor sail. Even though the apparent wind angle is 20 degrees or less (a sailboat can only effectively sail to a 30 degree wind angle effectively), putting up the main sail adds about 1 knot of boatspeed, taking us from 7.5 knots (into wind and waves) to 8.5 knots. Sometimes the wind angle goes aft enough that we can also put the genoa sail up, for a bit more boost, but the winds is still too weak to make acceptable progress without a motor running. Unfortunately, this is the story of the whole trip after the first night; light and variable winds. Our boat speed varies from 7.5 to sometimes 10.5, motorsailing. Sailing alone in 5-8 knots of true wind would be half that.. We are on track to make Bermuda in 4 nights, with an AM arrival on 5/17. Fortunately, aVida is a great motorsailer as well as sailboat. Her 200 gallons of diesel with give us a range of about 900 NM, plenty for this voyage. This motorsailing technique allows us to arrive after 4, not 5-8 nights at sea. Along the way, we spot several other sailboats, which we are able to "tag" as targets on our Furuno radar system, which tracks these targets and gives us heading and velocity. These other boats are making 1.5-3 knots, and going nowhere fast. This "tagging" ability is crucial when sailing a night and large 1000 foot long freighters are moving at 25knot speeds- we use the heading and velocity data to determine if we are on a collision course, and when and how to take evasive action.
They call this area the "Horse Lattitudes", a region of notoriously light and variable winds. In the old days of sailing, ships going from the new world back to Europe, when becalmed in these waters, would first toss all their horses into the sea to lighten the weight of the ship for more speed- we don't have horses to throw overboard, but we do have our iron sails..
The seas are so calm, the winds so gentle, this is a truly relaxing voyage. We are in a persistent high pressure cell, the skies are clear by day, the sunsets and sunrises just beautiful- and at night there are an amazing number of stars to see.
We spot 3 whales some distance off. Some dolphins. A flying fish lands on the aft deck, and we take some fun positioning it near MarkJ's face while he is napping in the saloon, take some pictures, then wake him up to see this thing looking him right in the face.
Evenings are spent playing cards, music, dinner, and vino. Very few boats or ships out here, just us it seems.
One evening while playing cards before bedtime, Rita gets up from the table for a moment to go below, and in the near darkness she sees a shape moving and lets out a series of blood-curdling shrieking screams. Mark and I freak out not know what is going on, then a dark shape flies past the saloon table and into the galley. As I look below, it turns out to be a sea-weary bird that was simply trying to find a warm resting place for a bit. But now the poor bird is trembling with fear over the screams and commotion. I pick up the bird in a towel, and he just wants to get out of here. We take him outside and put him on the aft deck. Mr. Birdie waste not time getting the heck out of here, and he flies off into the darkness.
Approaching Bermuda in the AM from the SW, a number of other sailboats are also converging on their approaches. We are heading for St. Georges Harbor, entering through Town Cut channel on the NE end of Bermuda.
Bermuda has the northerly-most coral reefs in the world, a result of the Gulf Stream (which we crossed 3 times in the past weeks) crossing the Atlantic ocean just north of Bermuda.
Bermuda has very picturesque and historic colonial towns and forts on a handful of islands totaling less than 20 miles in length. The 3 of us rent motor scooters for an afternoon and ride to almost the other end of the island group, all linked by bridges. Grand estates on beautiful beaches are on the south shore.
There are surprisingly few restaurant options, and the prices are the highest we have seen anywhere. It seems they must import almost everything, mostly from far away UK.
20100519 We have only been here for 2 days, but the weather data we download leads to the conclusion that we must leave Bermuda asap, or we will not have a suitable weather window to depart until approx June 1. We are not ready, and we don't want to go so soon, but there is no other sensible answer. The voyage to Azores is 1950NM (2300 miles), and we only have enough diesel to motor for about 900- so, we Must have good winds for most of the trip, otherwise the planned 10 night journey could take 15-20 nights, either drifting slowly in doldrums, or sailing on a close hauled beat tacking into strong winds and waves on the nose, because we don't have enough diesel to just power through it.
Our new crew BobS and MarkL arrive today at about 3:30PM, and MarkJ does not leave until tomorrow- so we find MarkJ a room at Antie Neas Inn in town. Presently doing internet blog updates, catching up on emails, some cleaning and provisioning.
When Bob and Mark arrive, we will go straight to Customs to get our exit documents, take aVida to the fuel dock to fill up on diesel (200 gallons in 2 tanks, plus 4x5 gallon jerry cans in reserve). Then we will head for sea before dusk. Sadly Bob and Mark wont get to see much of Bermuda except the drive from the airport. Also, we will miss seeing our friend MarkR, who arrives tomorrow, who sailed with us helping to take aVida from Galapagos to Panama last December/Jan. Mark is flying in as crew to help sail another boat from Bermuda to USA.
Next- voyage to Azores and Gibraltar, and into the Med.