Tag Archives: Miami

Stuart to Miami

After weeks of preparations, and a summer and fall of repairs and new purchases for the boat, this past week we had a weather window to get to Miami. Our wonderful dockmates helped us release the lines on Wednesday, November 9, and we were on our way…….until we reached the 65 ft Roosevelt Bridge next to our marina. The tide had been higher than normal, so we waited until mid tide and still barely made it under the bridge. Our mast is 63 ft (cut down from 68 ft so we could go under the ICW bridges) and the clearance sign said 64 ft, however we have instruments on top of the mast so we knew it would be close. For the first time our antenna dragged across the underside of a 65 ft bridge.

img_1458

After that we had an uneventful motor to Lake Worth. We rarely had to slow down for bridge openings. Some are on the hour and half hour and others are on demand, but we seemed to time it perfectly. We anchored near the Lake Worth Inlet and took Sailor for his first dinghy ride of the season over to Peanut Island.

dscf3116

dscf3109

dscf3112

The next morning we left the Lake Worth Inlet and turned south towards Ft. Lauderdale. The seas were calmer than predicted, in fact there weren’t even white caps. We made good time and went under the 2:00 opening of the 17th St Causeway Bridge. This was the roughest part of the cruise so far with a number of powerboats racing by us in the inlet. We have stayed at the New River City Marina many times and they know us so the dockmaster gave us a slip before the first bridge. There are numerous bridges on the New River and they are closed between 7:30 am and 9 am on weekdays, therefore we would need to leave before 7:30 or after 9 am to get under the bridges and to the inlet. We had two surprises on our way out to the ocean. First, turning towards the bridge from the New River, we suddenly ran over something and heard it banging under our port hull. Assuming is was a log or some other debris, Mark backed up but we couldn’t seem to lose it. Then a fire boat came by and they told us we had run over a buoy. Oops!! It was small, close to the water level and Mark didn’t notice it. I was inside at the time. Backing up further, the buoy popped up and we continued on to the bridge. At the 9:00 opening of the 17th St Causeway Bridge, we went under and turned into the Port Everglades Inlet. Oops again. A cruise ship was returning to her slip by the bridge and was taking up most of the channel. We had to turn around and pull over so she could get by us. Then we entered the inlet and for once no powerboats raced by to wake us. We turned south towards Miami and had a pleasant smooth motorsail again. 

img_1471

img_1476

Coming into the Miami Inlet is much easier than Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. That is probably because Miami is a busy commercial harbor and numerous cruise ships are close by. We rarely see any boats speeding into the harbor. Our first stop after going under the Rickenbacker Causeway into Biscayne Bay was at Crandon Park Marina to get fuel. The older gentleman who has always been there in past years wasn’t working and the young man taking his place didn’t seem too enthusiastic. We had to call the marina to get him to come outside and catch our lines. While Mark was filling four jerry jugs with diesel after filling both tanks, the young man told us he was going back inside to eat his lunch and we could call when we were finished. When I went to the office to pay the bill, I handed him a tip and suddenly he seemed more interested in helping us with the lines as we left.

As we approached the Dinner Key Mooring Field in Biscayne Bay, we called and got a ball assignment. They said to grab ball 170 and gave us directions to where it was. We went up and down the rows and there was no ball 170, so  we called the office and the worker again gave us directions. After looking for 15 minutes we called again and this time someone from the mooring field was there and told us that ball had been “deactivated” and assigned us another one. 

We have spent three days here, walking around Coconut Grove and visiting the dog park, which is very nice. There is astroturf and recycled tires are used for the paths. Sailor has gotten a lot of exercise each day and should be ready now for beach runs.

Today my son Peter arrived and he’ll be joining us as we make our way through the Bahamas to Georgetown. 

I enjoyed my last frappuccino at Starbucks until we return to Florida at the end of May. Well maybe I’ll have one in Nassau. We made final visits to the local grocery stores, Milam’s Market and Fresh Market, mostly for fresh fruits and vegetables plus a few items we forgot to purchase during our provisioning shopping trips in Stuart. 

The forecast for the crossing on Monday is 1-3 ft seas and light and variable wind. If that turns out to be correct, we will have a pleasant motorsail to Bimini. There has been almost a week of mild weather but of course it can’t continue. A front will be passing through Florida and the Bahamas In a few days.  We will not be able to make it all the way to the Exumas without an extended stay somewhere. If we have two more good days we’ll get to Nassau. Otherwise we’ll stay in Bimini rather than going on to Chub Cay or Frazier’s Hog Cay in the Berries where there is nothing to do on shore. In fact, Chub Cay is a private island and we can’t even take Sailor to the beaches. 

To further complicate our cruise to the Bahamas, we have been getting email updates on a Tropical LO forming in the Caribbean. This could possibly develop into a hurricane over the next few weeks. Hurricane season isn’t finished until the end of November, but since they are rare in November, our insurance policy allows us to leave our marina in Stuart after November 1. We will watch this system closely and make sure we are in a safe place if it becomes a hurricane in the Bahamas.

Preparing for Bahamas Cruising Season 5

Our usual cruising schedule is to leave Stuart after Thanksgiving, head south to Miami stopping in Lake Worth and Ft. Lauderdale, and wait at Dinner Key Mooring Field to cross the Atlantic to Bimini. Invariably we get stuck in Miami waiting for weeks to cross with favorable weather conditions and have never made it to the Bahamas before January 1. This year we are leaving in November and hope to have better results.

Once we are back in Stuart at the dock in June, we are no longer spending our days sailing, moving from island to island, anchoring, enjoying the beaches of the Bahamas and connecting with cruiser friends old and new. Very quickly we get back into our land mode and the boat becomes a floating condo tied to a dock. No longer do we have to depend on our diesel Onan Generator, gas Honda Generator, solar panels, and wind generator for power. Since we are plugged into shore power at the dock, we can once again freely use the microwave/convection oven, blow dryer, curling iron, toaster, coffee grinder, air conditioner, have unlimited TV watching, and use everything else that has to be plugged in without using up the power stored in the batteries. We could and sometimes do use all of these appliances while cruising, but the generator must be running for anything that creates heat. We don’t have to make reverse osmosis water while at the dock, and have unlimited city water to fill our tanks with a hose, wash the boat, take longer showers and give Sailor much needed baths. We have fast free wifi at our marina so we don’t have to pay for the more expensive data in the Bahamas or use much of our Sprint and AT&T data. A pumpout boat comes to us once a week to empty the holding tanks for free. In Georgetown we pay between $20 and $30 per pumpout and that is the only place we visit that has a pumpout boat. We get our car out of storage and have all the stores and shopping we need within a few miles of the marina rather than going to mostly small stores with limited and expensive food items in the Bahamas. Ordering by mail becomes possible again and our Amazon Prime purchases start arriving at the marina before we do. We can have items sent to the Bahamas, but shipping is very expensive and we pay a high customs fee based on the cost of the item. Yoga studio classes and water aerobics are back on my schedule, and instead of walking Sailor on sandy beaches, Mark and Sailor are strolling on the streets and in nearby parks in Stuart. Mark makes the dreaded “to do list” but doesn’t feel rushed to complete it quickly. Our marina is 10 minutes from the ocean so Sailor still gets to visit beaches, just not twice a day, every day. He has lots of Goldendoodle friends in the area and we get together occasionally for beach romps. Luckily, Stuart is a very dog friendly area.

img_5213

img_1281 img_1283 img_1287

We quickly fall into new patterns and forget about boat chores for awhile. However, soon the lists start to be checked off and there are always repairs to make and new things to buy. This year our radar unit had to be replaced, new shower and sink faucets were purchased and installed, as wells as zincs, a gear box for the anchor windlass, and 200 feet of new anchor chain. Our Honda generator needed to be repaired, we had to buy a new jib sail, and the list went on. However, just as Mark would start on a new project, something else had to be fixed, like a bilge pump suddenly wasn’t working so that went to the top of the list. Parts are much easier to get here by mail or in stores, so we try to bring extras of everything we use or might need to repair along the way. At the top of this list are parts for the watermaker since almost every year some part fails.

When Mark replaced the radar unit, he first went up to take the old one down, lowered it in a bag to me and then came down. After resting, he went up again to install the new one which I raised in a bag to him. Thankfully when he came down and turned the radar on at the nav station instrument panel it worked! He went up in a bosun’s chair, with two lines tied to it. I brought him up using an electric winch, first raising one line, locking it, and then raising the other, reversing the process on the way down. The winch is controlled by foot pedals so it takes no strength on my part. We went very slowly and it’s as safe as we can make it, but very tiring for Mark to keep his legs wrapped around the mast. It’s not a job he enjoys.
img_1433 img_1437

One of the greatest things about cruising is the friends we have made. We always make it a point to meet sailors on other Lagoon 420’s and share new items to buy or ways to improve things on the boat. We have gotten many suggestions from friends Karen and Matt on SV Where 2, including the Amazon link for wonderful new shower heads and sink faucets. 

img_1453

We got a nice break from the Florida summer heat when we drove to Duluth, Minnesota in July for a class reunion. Actually our classmates turn 70 this year so it was a birthday party. Taking advantage of the fact that a group of us who have been close friends since elementary school were all there, we took a road trip up the north shore of Lake Superior and spent several days together in Grand Marais, Minnesota. We had a fantastic time sharing memories and making new ones. There is nothing more special regarding friendships, in my opinion, than the ones from childhood. I would say we are all looking pretty good as we reach 70 years old. The first photo was taken in Grand Marais and the second at one friend’s house in Duluth. The eight of us have stayed in constant contact for over 50 years, first with snail mail “chain” letters where we each added our letter to the rest and sent the fat envelope on to the next person who replaced her letter with a new one, and now we communicate via email, regularly updating the group with our latest news. This was the first time in many years we were all together in one place.

img_2153

img_2160

While in Duluth we stayed at a Sheraton Hotel with a gorgeous view of Lake Superior. They allow, and in fact welcome, dogs up to 80 pounds. I could stare for hours out at the lake watching the big ships come through the canal in the the harbor and smaller boats sailing and motoring near shore. We were able to stroll along the Lakewalk and stop at the beautiful parks along the way, including the Rose Garden pictured below. Duluth has changed a great deal since we left it in the late 60’s and has become a popular tourist destination. The lake views were all from our hotel room.

img_1376 img_1345

img_1365img_1374img_1394img_1367img_1323

img_1329

The months ticked by and soon it was September and then October. As we were going along crossing things off our lists, Hurricane Matthew formed. Until the day he arrived in southeast Florida, we were predicted to be exactly where he would make landfall with CAT 3 or higher winds and a storm surge, in the so called “cone of uncertainty.” At the last minute Matthew turned slightly east and we only got tropical storm force wind. We had no damage from the hurricane, however while putting the dodger (aka windshield) back on after the storm passed, the wind caught one panel and it fell to the deck and cracked. Fortunately we had the dodger made here in Stuart, so they were able to quickly replace that one panel for a mere $600.

img_2302

As the hurricane approached Florida, days and days of preparations began, including moving the boat to a more protected floating dock at the marina, removing everything from the deck and putting it inside the boat (including sails and two kayaks), and adding additional lines from the boat to the dock as well as more fenders to protect us from banging on the dock. The day before the hurricane hit Florida, we left the marina and stayed with friends Marilyn and Rich, who live nearby in Port St. Lucie. We were very grateful for their hospitality. Their Goldendoodle Tater and Sailor, who share the same father, had fun playing together and we all slept through the hurricane.

img_2303

We then began the task of putting everything back where it was previously kept. One advantage, however, was it became an opportunity to give everything on the outside a good washing. All around the marina, most boats were being cleaned, not from the hurricane effects, but due to the relative ease of cleaning when there was nothing that had to be moved. 

As we were taking down the jib for the hurricane, we discovered it needed a few repairs and brought it to Mack Sails in Stuart. Surprise, surprise, we were told it was not worth repairing and we needed to buy a new one, which we did after the hurricane passed. In the photo below, Mark is attaching the new sail.

img_1443

img_1441

As soon as everything was put back, it was time to start preparing to leave. A big part of that is provisioning for a seven month cruise. Spreadsheets are made after determining what we need. For several weeks, I went shopping almost daily, bringing back bags full of provisions and then storing them. It’s not just food that has to be purchased and stored. We also buy paper products, toiletry items, cleaning supplies, office supplies and of course replacements for the many systems on the boat.  If we use it, we buy plenty to take with us.  Many items can be bought on Amazon or by mail order. Naturally this year I made sure I had plenty of hot chocolate and Sailor had abundant treats since we ran out of both of these last year. We get a new courtesy flag for the Bahamas every year, and we also had to get new paper charts for the Bahamas since ours were from 2008 and several revisions have been made since then. Of course we have a chart plotter with digital charts for the areas we travel in, but the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas are not available for our navigation system in digital format. Courtesy flags are not well made and rarely last a season so we have started buying two of the “premium” courtesy flags and are then able to have a flag flying for six months that isn’t shredded by the wind. We always bring an extra US flag too so we can replace it if it tears. This summer we bought an inflatable stand-up paddle board (iSUP) to add to our two kayaks for water exploring.  Sailor will now enjoy going with us on the iSUP. OK, I know the photo is sideways, but I can’t rotate it and we have deflated the board for storage so until we are in the water, this is the only one I have. Note the “pup deck” at the front for Sailor’s traction.

img_2974

We have three queen size bed cabins and one is devoted to food storage when we cruise. Everything is placed in plastic containers, labeled and stacked. Catamarans are known for their storage, so cabinets are full as are the storage areas under the salon couch and bench. The bookshelves Mark built in the office became a pantry after we bought Kindles and gave away most of our books. We have deep storage lockers on the foredeck and under beds there is more space for storage. Under one bed we have four large bags of dog food, many cases of Coke for Mark and other miscellaneous items. Of course the freezer is full as are our two refrigerators, one in the cockpit and one in the galley. Before we leave Miami, we’ll get fresh fruit and vegetables and again when we stop in Nassau we’ll restock what we need at a fantastic, but expensive, Fresh Food Market. The next good grocery store we will be near is when we reach Georgetown. The grocery stores in the small islands of the Exumas are usually a few shelves in someone’s house. They are stocked once a week when the supply boat arrives from Nassau with items from the States. 

img_1450 img_1449 img_1448

The storage locker below is one of several on the foredeck. It is just under five feet deep and is full of paper products which are ridiculously expensive in the Bahamas. Yes, we probably buy more than we need and it does add a lot of weight to the boat. Just today someone watched me bringing supplies aboard and said, “They do have groceries in the Bahamas you know.” Yes, I know that, but what if I want a certain brand of peanut butter and don’t want to pay twice the price I got it for at Sam’s, Walmart, or Target or it isn’t even available where there is limited stock? What if I need rechargeable batteries and can’t find them in the Bahamas? What if I use a certain brand of face lotion and I can’t get it there? A one gallon container of Rotella engine oil is $12.97 at Walmart and $53 at a NAPA store in Georgetown. However, in most cases it’s really not about money. It’s about choice, and we choose to eat and use the brands we like. The fact that we save money is an added benefit. The fact that we have a boat with a lot of storage available makes it possible.

img_1454

Another thing we have to provision for is our meds. Mark takes several prescriptions and I am on thyroid medication. Luckily, I can buy a three month supply, without using insurance, for $10 at Walmart and they have no problem if I get six months for $20 or even a year at a time, as long as it is on the prescription. Mark, on the other hand, has a huge problem getting what the insurance companies call a “three month vacation waiver.” It’s fine with the doctor and OK with the pharmacy but it is pulling teeth to get the insurance approval. In the end, after weeks of sending in forms, numerous phone calls, and much waiting, he gets them. This year it was particularly difficult. It’s hard to explain to someone that you don’t have a cruise ship itinerary to send them, or a receipt for a tour in Europe to prove you are going to be out of the country. They don’t understand that we can’t go to a pharmacy when we cruise, although there is one in Georgetown and also in Spanish Wells. One year I ran out of thyroid medication and purchased some at the pharmacy in Spanish Wells. I recall it was quite a bit more expensive, although that may not be true in all cases. After calling every day for over a week, and spending four hours on the phone last Friday, today Mark finally got a call saying his Medicare provider had approved it. That’s fine, but we had actually planned on leaving yesterday and this afternoon our car is going into storage. So at 2:30 today he picked up the last of his meds and now has a seven month supply. 

img_1456

As we do all of this, we are also watching the weather. We subscribe to marine weatherman Chris Parker and get daily email updates on sea conditions in the US and Bahamas. We can also listen to his morning weather reports for the US, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, broadcast on SSB and webcast. Our route when we leave takes us from Stuart to Lake Worth on the ICW. Then we have two days on the ocean, first to Ft. Lauderdale and then on to Miami. This means we have to wait for two days where the ocean is fairly calm and wind is in a favorable direction for sailing or at least not on the nose. Once we arrive in Miami the wait begins again for “crossing weather.” Chris Parker has reliable stats and recommendations for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. It is about 50 miles on the ocean from Miami to Bimini where we check into the Bahamas. The route is complicated by passing through the Gulf Stream where seas can be huge if the wind is from the north and meets the Gulf Stream which is a strong current flowing north up the US East Coast. There are many weather sites we can check but invariably our best source is Chris Parker’s crossing forecast. It usually takes us about eight hours of motorsailing to get from Miami to Bimini.

We originally “planned” to leave Stuart on November 3. Insurance requires us to stay here until November 1. However, last week passed with no weather window to leave. We are hoping to head south on Wednesday, November 9. Thursday and Friday are predicted to have relatively calm seas and we won’t be headed into the wind. The wind is from the north but it is “light and variable” by the end of the week. Inclement conditions are returning over the weekend when a front passes through Florida, so we will be in Miami for at least a few days, possibly more. Last year we spent three weeks in Miami on a mooring ball waiting to cross. As they say, “Cruising plans are written in sand at high tide.” Another one is, “The most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule.” 

To follow our cruising route, there is a link in the menu at the top of our website page. It is under “Location” and called  “Spot Tracking.” Whenever we are moving it is turned on, updating our position every ten minutes. I tend to post photos and updates more often to my Facebook page than to this website and there is a link to that at the top of the right column on the Seas the Day website. 

We plan to leave Sunset Bay midmorning on Wednesday (tomorrow) and take the ICW to Lake Worth/Palm Beach. It’s an easy motor with quite a few bridges that have to open for us, but all timed well. We have reservations at a marina in Ft. Lauderdale for Thursday and Friday night, in case we want to wait until Saturday to go on to Miami. 

Finally, we miss many things about living in the US when we are gone. In particular, there is one thing I can’t provision for and can’t purchase anywhere we visit, other than Nassau. Goodbye, Starbucks. See you in June! (I actually have a picture of a frappuccino in my car cup holder but it appears most photos I take with my iPhone are sideways when I upload them to this website. A sideways photo of Sailor on an iSUP is OK, but a sideways photo of a frappuccino just isn’t right.)

Waiting for a Window in Miami

On December 10, 2015, we arrived in Miami and picked up a mooring ball at Dinner Key Marina and Mooring Field.  Expecting it to be a few days’ wait before a favorable weather window to leave for the Bahamas, we settled in. When it was time to take Sailor ashore that afternoon Mark climbed into the dinghy and oops……..”Something on your boat is broken….you just don’t know it yet.” Before we left Stuart, Mark transferred the outboard motor from our old dinghy to our new one. While doing so, the motor tipped and some fuel got into it. Mark assumed he could fix it when we got to Miami. He couldn’t. It always happens when we are ready to leave that something important breaks. We ordered a new outboard motor and missed the window to cross to Bimini.

Three weeks later as we listened to Chris Parker’s morning weather report we confirmed that we could finally leave Miami and cross to the Bahamas. Chris Parker is the marine weatherman we subscribe to who sends us daily email marine forecasts and broadcasts a morning weather report starting at 0630 on computers and tablets (for subscribers) and SSB radio for subscribers and anyone else who wants to listen. Since we subscribe, i.e. pay him money, we can ask a question about our particular route. We did that on December 30 and he replied that Friday, January 1, would be the best day to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini. We knew the weather would be comfortable for crossing the Gulf Stream on January 1, having listened to his forecasts the previous days and weeks and read his emails in which he recommends crossing weather windows as well as conditions in all parts of the Bahamas. What we learned from him on December 30 was that we would have to stay in Bimini for at least a week. We generally like to stay a night at Bimini, go to the Berries the next day, then Nassau, and then to the Exumas which is our destination for most of our winter/spring cruise. We can make it to the Berries on Saturday, but Sunday’s weather is not good for getting to Nassau. In fact, a gale force weather system is arriving in the Bahamas on Sunday and Chris Parker advised no travel for anyone from Bimini to the Exumas until at least Friday, January 8. 

While in Miami we made good use of the time. Each day Sailor got to go to a fantastic dog park in Coconut Grove. It has astroturf instead of grass and the walkways are recycled tires, so even when it rains there is no mud. On the short walk to the park we would stop at Starbucks. Several blocks past the dog park there is a Home Depot and also a very nice IGA store named Milans. We did some additional provisioning there, mostly for fresh fruits and vegetables since our pantry shelves on Seas the Day have enough food to open a store of our own. We also did some shopping at Home Depot and of course West Marine, also within walking distance.

dogpark

Unfortunately for the entire three weeks we were on mooring ball 157, the weather was very windy which made the water in Key Biscayne where the mooring field is located extremely  rough. Some days the large water taxi shuttle couldn’t come out to pick up people who didn’t want to go ashore in their own dinghies. This was a problem for us because for the first week we were there we had no dinghy motor. Even on a calm day, it would be a long row into the marina but impossible with the waves crashing through the mooring field. We got accustomed to rocking and rolling on the boat. Frequently we heard loud noises as waves pounded the hulls, sounding almost like we had been hit by another boat or large floating object. Sailor was particularly upset and wanted to spend almost all of the time while on the boat in a bed with one of us next to him. We read numerous books on our Kindles while we took turns in bed with Sailor. There was not a break in these weather conditions the entire time we were there. Once we got our new dinghy motor, we stopped using the water taxi and got used to getting wet going ashore and coming back to the boat. It was easier than waiting for the taxi which runs on the hour and sometimes cancels pickups midday or starts late due to the wind and water  conditions. One time Mark and Sailor got caught ashore when that happened and had to pay someone from a kayak rental company at the marina to take them back to the boat.

IMG_0632

IMG_0664

All was going well while we waited for good crossing weather until three days before we were going to leave. I went into the freezer, which is full of six months of frozen food, and noticed that some of the food was thawing! A quick check confirmed that indeed the freezer temperature was going down. We transferred most of the food into several large insulated  cooler bags we use for shopping and also into a large cooler. We moved the meat into the small freezers in our two refrigerators and put some of the food in the refrigerator sections. Since this happened in the early afternoon, we were able to purchase large bags of ice for each cooler and put several bags in the freezer where we left some food thus keeping everything cold overnight. Our freezer is made by Vitrifrigo and luckily for us their headquarters are an hour away in Ft. Lauderdale. They gave us the phone numbers of three repairmen we could call and we were able to get someone out to the boat the next morning at 10 am. They didn’t even make us come to the dock, but rode out in our dinghy with their tools. The two repairmen who came checked everything and couldn’t find a problem until they discovered a great deal of dust where Mark hadn’t been able to reach when he cleaned it before we left Stuart. With their industrial strength blower, it all came out and the freezer temperature dropped immediately. Luckily cleaning people don’t charge $140 to come out to dust one item. For us, it was worth every penny to save many hundreds of dollars worth of frozen food.

With the freezer working, we hoped that was the end of the problems. On a boat, the repairs and maintenance are constant. Over the past few months we have replaced the dinghy, the outboard motor for the dinghy, the two trampolines on the foredeck, two of the four air conditioning units, the water maker pump, the two small seats at the front of the hulls on the foredeck (originally made of wood for some stupid reason and obviously were doomed to rot), the chart plotter, the radar unit, and numerous other small items. Because of these major expenses we didn’t get the one item we were determined to buy after our freezer went out for a day last winter in Georgetown, Bahamas, and we needed to store the frozen food. A neighbor in the Hole 2 mooring field loaned us their Engel 12V freezer which can also be used as a refrigerator with a different setting. That time the problem was caused because ice had formed over a thermostat and once thawed all was well. We could have used an Engel this time, but it remains in the Amazon.com cart where it is “saved for later.” Since it is about $900 it will be there for awhile.

While it seems like we might have had a miserable time in Miami, we didn’t. We never expect to get there and leave immediately and having rough water and repairs are all part of cruising. Below are two photos from the deck of Seas the Day. The first was on Christmas night with a full moon above Biscayne Bay. The second is our boat under one of many beautiful sunsets, taken by our boat buddies on the next mooring ball, Renaissance II. 

IMG_0670

12466289_1017699708250414_5170739595671647286_o

After one last trip to Milan’s for fresh food, another to the nearby Fresh Market for their homemade cookies, a visit to the marina laundry, a stop at the fuel dock to top off the tanks, a last time at Blanche Dog Park for Sailor, followed by a bath at a hose at the marina, and one last frappuccino, we settled down to get a good night’s sleep before leaving for Bimini on January 1, 2016, hoping the midnight fireworks wouldn’t be too loud. They weren’t and at daylight January 1, we released mooring ball 157 and headed east.

Cruising Season Eight Begins

After a few delays for weather we finally left Sunset Bay Marina on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. We had a great group helping us get off the dock and as much as we want to get to the Bahamas we will miss our friends in Stuart.

IMG_0529

FullSizeRender 13

We were worried about getting under the 65 ft. Roosevelt Bridge as we exited Sunset Bay because due to all the rain, tides are extremely high. Our mast is 63 ft plus the instruments at the top and we did get under without touching. The next day we weren’t so fortunate. 

IMG_0534

IMG_0536

We had a pleasant motor on the ICW to North Palm Beach and stayed at the North Palm Beach Marina. As usual lately, it rained part of the day. Still this was the best weather in awhile and there was a train of boats traveling down the ICW. We were in a group of eight each time we waited for a bridge opening but after we arrived in North Palm Beach we watched many more boats passing by to get into marinas or anchorages in the area and no doubt continue south the next day or perhaps head east to the Abaco Islands.

IMG_0543

IMG_0545

IMG_0564

The next morning, an hour after high tide, we approached the Riviera Beach Bridge and saw the board showed 62 1/2 ft clearance. We decided to wait as we watched the board. An hour and a half later the clearance was just a little over 63 ft and we decided to go……very slowly. As we started under the bridge our antenna started to drag on the bridge bottom. It has never done that before, but we continued and made it under with the antenna dragging the whole way. No pictures here as we were both watching the mast very closely.

We exited the Lake Worth Inlet to the ocean and turned south to Ft. Lauderdale. Even though there weren’t even white caps, the seas were rough and confused (coming from all directions). Sailor is a fair weather sailor and always lets me know he wants to get into the bed by going down the steps to the companionway and staring at me until I come.
IMG_0546

IMG_1806

We were very happy to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and motor up the New River to tie up at the New River City Marina along the Riverwalk. We walked across the bridge and had dinner at Briney’s Irish Pub and got a good night’s sleep.IMG_2659

Thursday we left under the 17th Street Causeway bridge opening and again turned south to Miami. This was a pleasant, calm motorsail and we arrived on ball 157 at Dinner Key Mooring Field after filling up with fuel at Crandon Park Marina for the trip to the Bahamas.
IMG_0583

As mentioned in the previous post, cruising plans are written in sand. The next good weather window to go to Bimini is next week and that’s when we hoped to cross. That was the plan. However, Mark had to work on the dinghy motor because when he moved it to the new dinghy before we left Stuart it tipped and oil got in it. Despite his best efforts to repair it, the motor is dead and we have to buy a new one. Mark was able to find exactly what we wanted in the Miami area, but it has to be ordered and won’t get here until next Wednesday or Thursday. The good news is we found out before we left, although we could have purchased a good outboard motor in Nassau. Also, this is a nice place to stay. One year we spent most of the winter on a mooring ball at Dinner Key when we were waiting for the boat to be converted to twin diesels from an electric hybrid system. There is a Fresh Market a few blocks away, lots of great restaurants, the best dog park we’ve ever seen nearby, and the marina has been updated with a new three story building and all new facilities inside. Also, there is a water taxi shuttle that comes to pick us up and drop us off from 0800 to 1700 so we don’t need our dinghy while we are here unless we want to be off the boat after 5 pm. This is good for us because until next Thursday we can’t use our dinghy. We could row in but being on Biscayne Bay, the waters are rarely calm and there is almost always a brisk wind. 

The shopping and eating area of The Grove has many choices. We headed straight for this one. Once we are in the Bahamas, Nassau is our last chance to go to a Starbucks.

image

Below is a photo of Blanche Dog Park in Coconut Grove, a six block walk for us. The astroturf and recycled tire walkways make this the perfect dog park because even though it rained the morning this picture was taken, no dogs got muddy!

dogpark

image

Chris Parker, the marine weatherman whose forecasts we subscribe to, says next Tuesday and possibly Wednesday are good days to cross to the Bahamas and there might be one more opportunity before Christmas on December 24. I suspect we’ll be celebrating Christmas in Miami. Nothing new here. No matter how early we start, we have never made it to the Bahamas before New Years’ Eve. Weather and boat repairs always hamper our plans. One year we were almost to Bimini and our previous hybrid propulsion  system failed. We had to be towed back to Ft. Lauderdale and we made a successful run to Bimini a few weeks later. We’ve talked to a number of other cruisers who are here at Dinner Key waiting to go someplace. Almost every person has either said they aren’t quite sure where they are going or not quite sure when.  We know there are many people who would like to have this “problem” and we realize how blessed we are.

Waiting for Weather in Miami

Monday, as soon as the riggers left, we left Ft. Lauderdale and turned south towards Miami. We tried a new anchorage this year in a small lake near South Beach named Sunset Lake. It is a beautiful area, but a few years ago one of the home owners did not like boats anchored in front of their house. To keep the boats away, they purchased about 20+ small sailboats and anchored them directly in front of their house, blocking regular boats from coming near them. The little boats even have anchor lights. The photo is a little blurry because I had to zoom in from a distance.

image

We spent Christmas Eve and Day on Sunset Lake.  Fresh Market was nearby and we shopped for food with friends Cathie and Tom on Interlude. We enjoyed a delicious but easy meal. It was only a few blocks to the shopping area, and naturally there were Starbucks on every corner so I got my last frappuccino before we left Florida. Below are several Christmas photos. Our one year old Christmas cactus bloomed in spite of us not following the watering and light instructions.

imageimageWe had planned on leaving for Bimini on Sunday, motoring over to get fuel and stage the boats near the channel by No Name Harbor on Saturday, but when we woke up Saturday morning the weather seemed perfect for a crossing. The winds were SE at 15 kts. We would be motoring into the wind and probably couldn’t sail, but the seas would be calm. We stopped to get fuel and then at 1050 entered the channel to leave Miami. Normally we leave at daybreak, so we figured we would be arriving in Bimini in the dark. As we went past the Miami skyline, Sailor checked out the buildings and probably hoped for calm seas.

image

We’re Blue But Happy and Ready to Leave

The numerous delays we’ve had have been annoying, but Mark has managed to finish up lots of small projects.  Yesterday he installed LED lights in the cockpit which we can switch from white to blue. They give a nice ambiance to the sitting area and if we need more light we can lower the hanging lamp to see what we are doing on the table, such as playing Mexican Train.  In this photo the hanging lamp is on a hook on the bimini where we keep it when we are sailing or the boat is rocking too much. We have two recessed lights in the roof and are going to add two more. One will go directly over the grill and the other will be centered between the two posts.

image

Yesterday, the Spectra service rep came and repaired our watermater.  We needed a new pump and had paid for it to be shipped overnight from California.  Mark could have installed it, but was unable to order it himself. Now we are ready to go and can leave during the next good weather window, which should be Monday or Tuesday.

image

Today we plan to do some last minute provisioning and celebrate by going out to lunch at one of the many restaurants in Coconut Grove.  Most have outside seating which means we can take Sailor with us.  We don’t quite trust him alone on the boat while we are out in the water.  He stayed on the deck in Stuart at the dock for hours at a time when we were gone and never tried to get off the boat.  However, he has discovered the thrill of dinghy rides and just might decide to dive in and swim after us if we leave without him.  He doesn’t like to swim yet, but being with us in the dinghy might outweigh that fear until he is a little older. As you can see below, he is getting fairly bold.  I suppose soon he’ll be using this window as a door since he can already get halfway in.

image

The sunsets are usually lovely in Miami, and last night’s was typical.

image

This morning dozens of sailboats are going out the channel onto Biscayne Bay for races.  Sailor finds this interesting but prefers to view it from the comfort of his own deck.

image

Seasonal Locations

We are using the SPOT satellite system to show where we are located.  This is the link that brings up a map and marks our exact location.  When we are on the move, SPOT tracks our progress, updating our position every ten minutes until we reach our destination for the day.  
IMG_0966
From June through November we are on Dock A at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, FL.  We love this town and the marina.  The people are very friendly and everything we need is within five miles, without ever going on an Interstate. We feel like we are living in a condo on (and in) the water when we are in Stuart.

IMG_0715

From December through the end of May we are cruising in The Bahamas.  We leave Stuart, make stops in Palm Beach and sometimes Ft. Lauderdale, then we wait in Miami for good crossing weather.  We check in at Bimini and from there continue to the Exumas, stopping at various small islands on our way south.  We sail north in the spring through Eleuthera to Spanish Wells and back to Stuart.  In the photo above we were enjoying sundowners at Bimini Sands Resort and Marina in Bimini with a large group of cruisers.  We were all stuck there for over three weeks in January, 2013, waiting for safe sailing weather so we could leave for the Exumas. We made many good friends while in Bimini, including Tom and Cathie Dunn (SV Interlude) sitting on the far right.  We spent a good part of the season as boat buddies.