Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Slight chop" on Biscayne Bay, my eye!

Weather forecast had the wind direction correct this morning (from the west), but they sure goofed on the velocity. NOAA predicted 10-15 with gust to 20 knots, so we left No Name Harbor after hanging out there for two days, waiting for a favorable forecast to sail down Biscayne Bay. First three hours made NOAA weather forcasters look like soothsayers.

Then the conditions turned "snotty." That really is a sailor term, and it means yucky. The wind gods slept in this Saturday, but woke up around 11 a.m. to kick it up a notch, as good ole Emeril says. We experienced a consistent 28-30 knots with a few gusts greater than that for the next 5 hours. That is NOT fun sailing conditions in my humble opinion. I know that the East Coast is also seeing high winds, along with googads of snow, so I guess I can't complain. Plus it could have been a lot worse--if Biscayne Bay had deeper water.

Speaking of water, we saw Biscayne Bay in many different colors today: turquoise, then pea soup, then dark blue, then coffee with a lot of cream, and finally now black. But a very CLEAR black that let us see the dolphins under us as we dropped anchor.

Captain Pete and crew are enjoying a well deserved happy hour on the hook right now, in Tarpon Basin, off Key Largo. We are now officially in the Keys, and we're still listening to a howling wind at this anchorage. It's really "honking," another perfectly apt term.

We've reserved a slip in Plantation Yacht Harbor on Key Largo tomorrow. Gotta watch those Saints and Colts!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's a "beautiful day" in Key Biscayne

Yesterday was a perfect day too, weather and wind wise, to leave Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades inlet and motor sail out in the ocean down the coast to Port Miami. We looked for the new world’s largest cruise ship, the Oasis, but she was out cruising.

Miami skyline through the dodger
This was the first truly turquoise ocean waters we've seen on this trip. The ICW in Florida was quite blue and clear, but the ocean today was beautiful, with only 2-3 foot swells.

The Miami skyline was quite impressive, especially with the Goodyear blimp making a practice run over us for next Sunday’s Super Bowl. Toto, we’re not in Willieburg any more.

We were allowed to enter Government Cut without any consternation from the Coast Guard. Since 9/11, cruisers like us can't use this inlet if more than 2 huge cruise ships are in the harbor.

Five hours later, we entered Biscayne Bay and grabbed a Coconut Grove Sailing Club mooring. Their launch picked us up and we walked around the cutesy downtown and found a Fresh Market within walking distance.

Today we sailed across the bay to Key Biscayne, and anchored in No Name Harbor (really). Whoopee, I can finally post a sentence with the word “key” in it! This is the key (actually cay) where Nixon enjoyed some relaxation at his other White House. I believe it’s where the infamous Watergate planning began as well.

We have now travelled 1095 miles since October 11. As we leave the hustle and bustle of Miami behind, it’s time for Jimmy Buffett “changes in attitude.” The Keys are full of colorful history and persons, such as those in the lower Keys, the “Conchs,” who proclaimed their independence from the U.S. in 1982, declared war (over the Border Patrol stopping cars and causing roadblocks), then immediately surrendered, applying for foreign aid. The spirit of the Conch Republic remains, and quite a few anarchists love living here.

Cape Florida Lighthouse
No Name Harbor is a terrific anchorage, especially in an east wind. It's hard to believe we're only 15 minutes from downtown Miami. We dingied ashore, walked to the end of Key Biscayne, and explored the Bill Baggs Florida State Park, its Cape Florida lighthouse, and lighthouse keeper’s home. Pete again climbed to the top, while I played lighthouse keeper's wife.

Florida truly is a jungle in its natural state, sans condos. This area took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew, and all the invasive Australian pines were toppled. So the state replaced all the fauna in this park with native plants.

Those are remaining Stiltsville houses!
There's this cool sight as you look out the inlet here. It's called "Stiltsville," and it reminds us of the softshell crab sheds built over the water in Tangier Island. Some fishermen did the same thing here many years ago. After Hurricane Andrew, only a few were left. That in itself is amazing.

Just spotted “Sheet Music,” a sailboat we last saw on Thanksgiving Day in Melbourne. Chuck and Kathy have already been down to Key West and are now on their way to the Bahamas. They have a blog too, so I’ve added a link to it. Blogging is not just something I do in lieu of boat drinks (I am ambidextrous), but a great way to check the whereabouts of fellow cruisers, in case we cross paths again. We also met Patty on Bum's Rest who also has a blog. They are cruising with Sheet Music to the Bahamas. I just had to stop and talk to her when I saw Williamstown, NJ, on their transom. I taught there for one year in 1974-75, as a newly wed!

No Name Harbor sunset
Enjoy the sunset from No Name Harbor. . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fort Lauderdale, the Venice of America

So many canals, so little time.

This city is REALLY impressive from the water. I realized my mouth was hanging open (guess I looked like a mouth breather, Arthur!) as we motored past Las Olas Marina and up the New River yesterday. Countless megaboats (excuse me, yachts) surrounded us. Fiberglass on the grand scale and gorgeous megahomes (like the one on the left) have replaced the dense jungle and swamp of the 1800s. Fort Lauderdale has 270 miles of canals to explore, compared to 45 miles in Venice.

It looks like we’ll be spending a few more days here, waiting for that “weather window” to offer a calm day to motor/sail down the coast to Biscayne Bay, where we can begin our next leg to the Keys. We are looking for 2-4 foot seas or less before we go out the inlet. No need to be a hero bashing around in 6 foot plus seas. Been there, done that. Not fun.

We are tied up at the New River Downtown “Marina” in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the restaurants and shops on Las Olas Boulevard. I put “marina” in quotes because boats literally tie up to both sides of the New River and we’ll be showering on MicMac (second boat from the bottom of photo). But the price is right.

For entertainment yesterday, we watched the tour boats, river taxis, and other cruisers parade by, while watching the nearby bridge going up and down, and listening to a jazz guitarist singer at the Downtowner Saloon on the promenade by our side. It’s kinda like anchoring a boat on Fifth Avenue right in the thick of things.

An Arts Festival was taking plae just across the dock. Sorry, but I just had to take a photo of this dog lover. Her face was tighter than a drum, but her plastic surgeon had not yet mastered love handles. I gotta get more exercise!

Today it’s raining cats and dogs, as the weatherman predicted. So we saw Avatar this afternoon at the nearby IMAX. WOW! The special effects were awesome in 3D, especially on a five story tall screen. Perhaps our ticket purchase will push it over the top to the highest grossing movie ever.

Tomorrow we’ll move MicMac closer to the inlet to the Hyatt’s Pier 66 Marina, hoping for an early morning departure to the ocean on Wednesday—unless the weatherman lied. Laundry duty should keep me busy tomorrow.