Sunday, March 24, 2019

2019: Miami and Fort Lauderdale area

Depart: North Key Largo (Pumpkin Key) Anchorage 9:30
Arrive: Pompano Beach 6:15
Distance: 60 nm
ICW MM 1120 – 1055

The chart showed us anchored in the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Reserve beside Pumpkin Key. We anchored here in 2016 when we positioned ourselves to cross to the Bahamas. When we left here today to head towards Miami / Fort Lauderdale, we entered new boating territory.

Clark preparing to wash the anchor as it is brought up.

We left the Faro Blanco Resort when we did because of the number of fast boats coming into the marina and requiring every possible slip. As we entered the Miami area, at least 40 of those fast boats zoomed by us. Vroom! Vroom! Vroom! It almost felt like we were under attack!

On the extreme other end of the spectrum, a short time later we came upon a number of sailboats (very silent) with spinnakers up to grab the wind.

Having not traveled this way in the past, it was interesting to get our first glimpse of Miami.

Miami ahead

Off to one side we could see a helicopter hovering over a boat. We had winds of about 20 knots, and it was surprising to see how steady the pilot held that copter over that boat. After watching the action for a while, we decided the coast guard was performing practice drills.

Zooming in and looking closely one can see the line
coming down from the helicopter to the small boat below

As we entered the Miami area, we saw a couple of cruise ships.

Miami: Cruise Ships in port

Miami: Hard Rock Cafe on waterfront

We received many warnings from fellow boaters about the number of bridges we would encounter traveling through this area. Clark was determined to wait for as few as possible. With the multitude of bridges we came past, we only required four to be opened for us and only waited for three of them due to timing issues with scheduled openings and our arrival times.

Miami: First of many bridges to come

Lucky on this one! It stands open to boat traffic.

Miami: More bridges ahead

One of the bridges we approached had no depth board to give us a “warm, fuzzy” feeling about clearance. Clark asked the bridge tender who said, “No, captain, I do not know the depth information.” My gut said we were good, and we decided to go for it. We needed around 22 feet clearance as we still had the mast and antennas up. When we exited the other side of the bridge, we saw the ruler on that side said 26 feet. It would certainly have been nice to know that ahead of time.

The most hair-raising experience came when Clark insisted we could make it under the Broad Causeway Bridge. With the solar panels on top of our hardtop, we need just over 17 feet of clearance after lowering all antennas and the radar mast. The meter board on the side of the bridge read 16.5 feet clearance at the side of the bridge. The center typically has additional space – anywhere from 2 to 4 additional feet of clearance.

Once again, Clark sighted the clearance over the top of the boat while I piloted. The difference today from our recent seven-mile bridge escapade was that today the current was with us taking us into the bridge. A decision to abort meant a quick shift into reverse and a push on the throttle to get out of there.

As we approached the bridge, Clark said, “I think we can do it.” “I think” was not nearly definitive enough to instill confidence. At any moment, I expected him to say, “Abort!”  He never said another word! We kept going and as we reached the bridge, I instinctively ducked as I anticipated the impact of hitting the bridge.

Thankfully, we passed under the bridge without a collision. Even so, my heart was in my throat and my heart rate had sky-rocketed. Clark came back to the helm beaming, “We had 9 inches to spare!” I replied, “Well, why didn’t you say so before!” “Oh”, he said, “I thought I did!”

I told him I ducked by reflex action. He said he ducked because if he hadn’t, standing on the chairback, the bridge would have hit him in the head! I wanted to hit him in the head! I guess that was my aerobic exercise for the day.

Miami had more to offer than just bridges. We saw ...

Miami: "Mega-Yachts"

Beautiful sailboat

Coconuts floating by
making us think they are fish traps
(We saw more coconuts floating by than I could possibly count.)

"Danger Shoal"
Just don't go on the wrong side of that warning sign!

Typical Miami scenery

and then a beautiful hacienda-style home appeared

Moving through the water, we exited Miami and entered Fort Lauderdale without seeing any noticeable boundary between the two cities. In Fort Lauderdale, we again saw cruise ships.

Fort Lauderdale: Cruise Ships at port

Fort Lauderdale: scene along the waterway

Mega- yacht
Note the dinghy embedded in the side of the yacht
is about the same size as the boat passing by the side of the yacht.

Another Mega yacht

Fort Lauderdale: "River Queen" Tour boat

Fort Lauderdale: "River Queen" Tour boat

As we followed the ICW through Fort Lauderdale, we entered an area with a maze of canals.

Which way do we go???

Clark made a sharp, U-turn around the red/green marker on the chart, traveled a very short distance, and said, "Whoops! I went the wrong way at that marker." In the midst of all the confusion, he made an 180-degree turn to set us on the correct path. With no other incidents, we made it through Fort Lauderdale and into Pompano Beach where we stayed the night.

Depart: Pompano Beach 10:15
Arrive: Jensen Beach Anchorage (Port St. Lucie) 7:00
Distance: 69 nm
ICW MM 105 to 982

Clark checked the off-shore conditions and decided to avoid bridges today and go “on the outside” in the Atlantic Ocean. Many of my boating friends say they prefer the inside, ICW, route because they are uncomfortable offshore. With the way Clark likes to “play chicken” with bridges, waves offshore seem like a safe alternative to me.

We had a chilly night on the boat last night. I checked at 7:00 and then at 8:00 and the temperature had dropped by one degree. I figured we were in for a cold day on the ocean, so I decided to dress on the warm side. I pulled out a sweater and wore my jacket.

We got a late start today. Before getting underway, we had some miscellaneous chores to take care of. Having been cold last night while trying to sleep, I put a blanket on the bed to be warmer tonight. We finally started on our way at 10:15. We had one bridge to wait for and then we headed out into the ocean.

Lighthouse at Pompano Beach
before passing through the inlet to the ocean

Lighthouse at Pompano Beach
after passing through the inlet to the ocean

View of Pompano Beach from the ocean

Clark said the reports he read said the wave action would settle down after 11:00, but at 11:00 and long after, we heard “small craft advisory” warnings, and the wave action actually grew worse instead of better. We started out with the waves at 2-to-4 feet. They grew to swells of 4-to5 feet as the day wore on.

The waves did not really bother me so much as the cold wind in my face and, later in the day, the salt spray coming over the boat and hitting us on the flybridge. Plain and simple, the conditions proved to be miserable. I added a fleece to my layers of clothes for warmth.

As we traveled along the coast, we could hear the boat traffic on the ICW calling for bridge openings regularly and were happy that we were not sitting and waiting with them. With a "small craft advisory" in effect, we certainly understood their choice to stay inside. We certainly did not see a lot of other traffic on the ocean. 

At one point I looked out the front of the boat and saw something in the water. "What is that!?"

The brown blob turned out to be a sea turtle
that, for once, did not dive before Clark got to the camera

We also passed a tug on our way.

Green Tug out on the ocean

Of the few things we saw on today's travels, a large black blob in the water confused us a bit. It was directly on our course line but too far away to identify.

What is that black thing floating in the water ahead of us??

It turned out to be a barge of some sort attached to a mooring ball floating in the ocean. We had passed one of these mooring balls a short while earlier. It looked like a big, yellow oil drum floating in the middle of no where.

We reached the inlet at Port St. Lucie around 5:30 or so. As we made our way inland, we rode the swells of the ocean. Since we are unfamiliar with this inlet, and having seen many cautions on Active Captain, we took it easy coming in. When we finally got behind the breakwater, the waves settled down. For the first time all day, I felt warm and had to start stripping off my coat, fleece, and my sweater to feel comfortable in the hot sun.

Clark had a particular anchorage in mind, so we headed there only to find “no room at the inn”. The anchorage was full of sailboats. We left there to try another one about 5 or 6 miles away where we found plenty of other boats but also plenty of room to drop our anchor.

Scene at Port St. Lucie, FL

I like to use my electric appliances whenever possible. On the trip from the first anchorage to the second, I quickly cooked food for dinner to avoid using amp hours after we turned off the engines. Timing worked out very well, and we had dinner ready to eat at 7:00 when we finally declared ourselves settled for the night.

Bridge near Jensen Beach
where we anchored for the night

Sunset as seen from our anchorage at Jensen Beach

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2019: Underway and Heading to NJ

3/16/2019 - Clark's Birthday Dinner

Our reservation to stay at Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club was through 3/15. That was until Clark remembered he could have a free dinner at the Lighthouse Grill if he stayed until after his birthday. I made reservations earlier in the week for four people, though at that time I did not know who else would be able to join us. Fortunately, when I asked Dorothy and Clayton on "Flight", they said they were available.

Claryton and Dorothy - "Flight"
Ev and Birthday Boy, Clark - "Sunset Delight"

Ev and Clark at his birthday celebration dinner
with  Faro Blanco Lighthouse in background

After a scrumptious dinner, Clayton drove us to Sweet Savannah's for an after-dinner ice cream treat. When we got back to the marina, Clayton and Dorothy came on our boat and gave us the "inside scoop" on places to go as we head towards Miami and Fort Lauderdale for the first time ever.

We had a lovely evening together.

3/17/2019 - St. Patrick's Day

I totally forgot that today was St Patrick's Day but was promptly reminded almost as soon as I got off the boat. Ann from "Morning Star" took one look at me and said, "Girl - go find some green"! She was wearing an emerald green shirt that said "Keys Me! I'm Irish". I saw a number of those same shirts today. I went back to my boat and put on the green shirt I had on yesterday (see picture above).

Faith and Jim, on the other hand, went all out for the day. Jim wore his Shenanigan's shirt, and Faith wore a light-up headdress. They used the free cab service offered and spent the afternoon celebrating the day at the Overseas Pub.

Faith and Jim - "Third Degree"
with Clark

Sandy on "L'Attitude Adjustment" offered to take me to the food store in preparation for leaving to travel soon, and I jumped at the opportunity to get my last-minute supplies. Besides Publix, I convinced her to take me to West Marine and Home Depot. She even made an extra stop for me at the Dollar Store.

Shortly after I staggered onto the boat with my heavy bags of grocery and supplies, and before I could get my frozen food into the freezer, Kevin and Sandy, "Koastal Karma", stopped by to ask if we wanted to join them at the restaurant for cocktails.

Clark and I suggested that we meet them at the lighthouse (not the grill) at 5:00 for docktails instead. They readily agreed to that saying they had docktail supplies with them. I swear they should carry a card that says "Have Docktails, Will Travel"! They are always prepared - not just with drinks but they even had an amazing crab dip with them to share!

Kevin and Sandy are one of the first loopers we met before any of us were loopers. We attended the 2014 AGLCA Rendezvous and met them there - we had one very big thing in common - we owned Mainship 350s! Clearly we were meant to be friends!

Kevin and Sandy make Black  Fin Marina their home in the winter. We have managed to spend some amount of time with them each of the last three winters, and they are always a lot of fun to be with. They were shocked this year to find out that the people sitting next to them at docktails are the parents of the folks that own / run the Hurricane Restaurant at the Black Fin Marina. That was good for a bit of conversation!

Kevin and Sandy - "Koastal Karma"

Sandy - "L'Attitude Adjustment"
Harold and Kay - "IDGARA" (parents of Hurricane owners)

3/18/2019 - Boat Chores Monday

Since we are leaving as soon as the weather permits, most likely Wednesday, we decided to do some cleanup work on the boat before we get underway. Clark spent time waxing the boat, and I cleaned sticky, black goo off the power line and the hose. I used Zep Citrus Hand Cleaner to clean them, and it worked amazingly well.

As I sat on the dock scrubbing, I got quite a few comments. A couple of people said they needed to clean their's. One person asked what I was using and took a picture of the product to text to his son at the store. If everyone acts on it, pretty soon Faro Blanco will have the cleanest power cords in Marathon!

One-by-one, we got to see just about every member of the Wilson family as they walked behind our boat. They have been waiting for some engine repairs to be completed, and that was happening today. As soon as the repairs were done, they planned to leave for Key West before the nasty weather, predicted for tomorrow, held them in Marathon any longer.

Finally, around noon, we heard their repairs were completed, and they would be on their way. Clark grabbed a picture as they exited the marina.

Wilson Family sans Nina
Leaving Faro Blanco on "La Cigale"
(Nina got to drive their car to Key West)

Clark and I got our chores done and headed over for docktails at 5:00. When we got there, Clark spotted a rainbow in the distance. Uh-oh! That storm they predicted must be on its way! Already the winds had picked up.

On Saturday, Clark's birthday, when we were at the Lighthouse Grill for dinner, a wedding was happening at Faro Blanco. We heard from the boaters that went to docktails that night that it was quite an affair. Even from the restaurant, we could see that a sailboat was part of the ceremony. We later learned that the sailboat brought the groom to the wedding!

When we went for our walk around the marina, we headed over to the much-smaller-than-before-Hurricane-Irma segment of beach where they hold wedding ceremonies. We heard there was a sand sculpture there left over from the wedding. Winds continued to pick up as the storm approached.

Strong winds at the marina
Tahitian-looking Sand Sculpture
left over from Saturday's wedding
For Tara and Ryan obviously

3/19/2019 - Tea and Cake Party

We woke this morning to the promised high winds and pelting rain. With no desire to go out and about, we sat around in the boat. Clark read some newspapers, and I read my latest novel. Since I knew docktails would not happen today, I decided that, with us all "trapped" on our boats, I should invite a small number of folks to come sit on our boat with us to have tea and cake instead.

Sadly, my photographer forgot to do his job. Our little party consisted of ...

   Sandy, Bill, and Lucas (visiting from Sweden) - M/V "L'Attitude Adjustment"
   Kenny and Jeanne - M/V "Daybreak"
   AC and Jim - M/V "Hour Plan"
   Carey and Robert - S/V "Paradyme"

Carey and Robert are new boating friends that Clark and I met just this year. They have a sailboat (S/V) and are from Canada. The others are good friends on motor vessels (M/V) from previous trips south.

Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun peeked out before our party began at 3:00. We had just enough room in the salon for us all to sit around the table and chat. In addition to cake, we served Tillamook ice cream. It was a big hit! The party broke up at 5:00, and since we had just eaten cake, Clark and I decided to walk around the marina to say goodbye to folks before we leave in the morning.

3/20/2019 - Goodbye Marathon
Depart:  Marathon 9:20
Arrive: Anchorage near Pumpkin Key 5:30
Distance: 65 Statute / 59 Nautical Miles 
(ICW MM 1185 to MM 1120)

Although the winds continued to blow this morning, and other boaters thought for sure we would postpone departure, Clark and I pulled in our lines as planned to head towards home via Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We had a small crowd wishing us well and helping us with lines. Even Maxx the dog from "Flight" came to say goodbye!

Overall the trip was uneventful and rather boring with an occasional crab trap popping up unexpectedly. Clark says boring is good. Eventually, I needed tea to just stay awake!

We did have a bit of unnecessary excitement at the beginning of our voyage when we could not find Clark's prescription sunglasses anywhere on board. I looked in all the usual places including under furniture and in tote bags and pockets. It looked grim.

I took the helm, and Clark went to take a look. He looked in one place that I never thought of - the engine room. Unfortunately, he came back empty-handed. So, what happened to them? Did he leave them in the men's room at the marina?? I texted Jim on "Hour Plan" to take a look next time he took a walk in that direction. Then I decided I better check out the engine room for myself.

I hardly had the door open to the engine room, and I saw Clark's glasses sitting right there in plain sight on the starboard engine. When I picked them up, they were warm to the touch from the engine heat. We had only been running a very short time. I wondered what kind of molten mess they would look like if they sat on the hot engine all day long!? I quickly texted Jim back to say "forget about looking for them".

After that, we had a rather uneventful trip.

Water so blue - I thought we were in the Bahamas today!

Dolphins playing in our wake!

I missed some dolphins that came to visit earlier when I was scouring the boat for Clark's glasses, so I was happy to see these guys come to play. Later, I saw a dolphin jump at least two feet in the air as he played by the boat. I was busy cooking dinner as we moved along. By the time I had my cell phone in hand to take a picture, he had moved on.

We went from open water to cuts through mangroves back to open water on today's ride. At one point, as we followed the markers, it looked like we would navigate right into the side of an island. Then, low and behold, a cut-through appeared.

Cut through mangroves

Route 1 Bridge near Key Largo
(Resort near bridge with beach, pool, and Tiki hut-style buildings)

Wrecked ship across the way - almost looks like a pirate ship

Since I cooked while underway, putting dinner on the table after we dropped anchor was a non-time-consuming affair. I cook while underway to use electricity while it is being generated by the engine, so we do not have to run the generator later. It works quite well.  As we ate dinner, we got quite a nice light show including clouds, the sun, and even the moon.

Sun behind the cloud shining both up and down!

What do you see in this picture? 
I love to use my imagination with clouds.

Clark said the clouds tonight were full of animals!
I see a "dog baying at the moon" in this cloud formation.

And here is the almost-full moon that was out by 7:30
to get included in the sunset photos!