Turtle rehab, Florida Keys style.

It’s Wednesday morning here in Marathon and, not surprisingly, it’s plenty warm and sunny.  It seems that the unseasonably cool weather that we were facing a few weeks ago has given way to tropical temperatures and I have to say that it’s not hard to take for us snowbirds.

Even though we are now beginning to sweat a bit about our plans to get Pandora north to North Carolina where she will stay while she’s on the market,  we are feeling pretty dug in here in the Keys.  I can’t say that I prefer it to the Bahamas as it just isn’t the crystal clear perfect blue water that we love.  However, it is good to be in easy touch with family.

Our boys are both pretty busy with Christopher headed of to San Francisco for a few months as he works on starting a business and Rob, on top of a grueling work travel schedule, is planning a wedding. And anyone who’s planned one, knows that they tend to take a life of their own.

On top of that, my mother has been in the hospital and we decided to move her into a more permanent nursing home from her assisted living apartment.    One way or the other, there’s plenty going on so it’s good to be within easy, and affordable, cell range, something that’s  we never have in the Bahamas.

So, our thoughts turn north even though we have nearly 6 weeks till our April 15th deadline when we have to head off to a friend’s son’s wedding.  One way or the other, lots of fun stuff to plan for and around.  And, on top of it all we will have to catch a weather window  soon to get back to the Ft Lauderdale area and north to the Carolinas, about 800 miles north from Marathon.

So, enough about what’s happening next, how about yesterday?

Yesterday we saw turtles, lots of turtles.  It was great.  We visited the Turtle Hospital, a short walk from the City Marina and got a tour from one of the staff.  This “hospital” is a sanctuary for seaturtles that have been injured in some way, by boat strikes, cold water standings or other problems.  They do what they can to rehabilitate injured animals and, if possible, return them to the wild.

It’s a fascinating place and it’s clear that the staff is dedicated to doing what they can to protect marine turtles of all kind.   Interestingly, there are only five species of marine turtles worldwide, something that I had never thought about it but assumed that there were many more.

I won’t go into too much detail except to say that it was a fascinating tour which included a lecture as well as an opportunity to see and even feed live turtles.

By far the most abundant type in the wild is the Green Turtle and there were plenty of them to see.  They are called “green” as their meat is that color.  They are vegetarians and we each were given an opportunity to feed them lettuce and green pepper.  They were quite beautiful.   We have seen many of these while sailing but it was great to see them up close.It was also interesting to see the color variation, even among the same species.   Some were not as brightly colored.Most were more juvenile, less than two feet long but there was one hatchling there.  Very cute.  It seems that some turtles hatch on the beaches and get confused by lights from shore and end up walking toward land instead of heading out to sea.  Baby turtles spend their youth in the “Sargasso sea” about 6o miles east of Florida and don’t come back into coastal waters until they are larger and can defend themselves.  As you can imagine, the fatality rate of tiny hatchlings making their way from the beach and 60 miles out to sea is very high.

There was a pretty good group on the tour and we were each able to feed the turtles, who loved that, as we surrounded one of the tanks.  Here’s Brenda doing her part with enthusiastic turtles each trying to get their fair share. The markings on their heads and shells is quite beautiful.It was also interesting to see some of the very large iquanas that lived on the property.  This guy was clearly a dominant male and seemed pretty sure of himself.They do great work at the “hospital” and are doing a good job of getting the word out to visitors about saving these wonderful creatures. 

Speaking of “locals”, I have mentioned the number of cruisers that hang out here in Marathon.  How about this shot of the dinghy dock, one of two at the city marina.  This will give you a pretty good idea of just how many cruisers are here.  And, this is only one of the docks and these are only the dinks that are ashore at any given time.  It’s amazing just how many boats there are, and they never leave.

Interestingly, I got a call from a friend last evening, as Brenda and I were watching the sunset, who wanted to tell me that while we were good friends he wasn’t thinking good thoughts about me at that particular moment as he slogged his way through an ice storm on his way home from work.

Nope, no ice here except in my G&T but I guess I’ll leave it at that as I have some errands to run and want to be sure that I am able to get a spot on the dock without pushing aside one of those pesky dinks.   Just like the “turtle hospital” this place is looking a lot like “senior rehab” for all of us “snowbirds”.

GOMEX, been there and back.

It’s Tuesday morning and we are back in Marathon and, believe it or not, we’re finally on a city mooring.  When we arrived here about 10 days ago, we were 32 on the waiting list and spent about a week anchored and tied to trees in the mangroves.  It was plenty buggy but quite scenic.   “Look Brenda (slap) at that pelican (slap).  No wait, see that fish (slap) jumping?”

So, a few days ago we decided that we’d had enough of “mangrove Marathon” and sailed 30 miles north to the southern tip of the Everglades.  The run north took us under the center span of the seven mile bridge, part of route 1 that connects Miami with Key West.

Recall that this highway, railroad actually, was originally built by Henry Flagler as a rail link to Key West from Miami and opened in 1912.  It didn’t last long as sections of it were wiped out by a hurricane not too many years later.  A highway was built along side of the then closed railway and now serves as the only road in and out of the keys.

You can see that the modern road runs right next to the railroad bridge and power lines.   Once we crossed under the bridge, we crossed from the Atlantic Side to the Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX).  Pretty neat.  Now I can say that I have “done GOMEX”.  Have you?It’s impressive to see how good the Flagler sections still look after 100 years.   Some sections have been converted into fishing piers but many parts are just sitting there crumbling after years of neglect.There are plenty of seabirds in residence like this pelican that was perched on a piling of the bridge as we passed through the bridge.  Well, he was perched a moment ago.We had a really nice sail for the nearly 30 miles between the bridge and our anchorage for the night.  The clouds in the distance were beautiful. I tried my hand at a panorama but it was tough holding the camera steady enough from a moving boat.  Note the wavy horizon.  An amazingly dramatic view with no land in sight in any direction.The water was extremely shallow as we crossed through this part of the Gulf of Mexico and I never saw depths that were greater than about 18 feet.  It is pretty unusual to be 12 miles from shore and see water depths in the single digits but that’s what the Keys are all about.  Really, really shallow.    And, oddly, as we got closer to the shore in the Everglades, the water was very murky with less than a foot of visibility.   Not my first choice.  In fact, the water in the keys is not nearly as clear as the Bahamas that is known as having some of the clearest waters in the world.

When we arrived at our destination we had to anchor about a half mile from shore as it was so shallow near the beach.    Actually, as we rounded the point on our final approach, we ran aground under full sail in water that should have been plenty deep.  We were sailing at about 6.5 knots and came to a sudden and complete stop on a sand bank.  It was a very soft landing so no harm done except to my ego.  Fortunately, there was plenty of wind to heel us over , reduce our draft and allow me to back us off with the engine.  Oops.

Anyway, after that little delay, we worked our way a bit further and anchored about a half mile off from the beach, which made us feel like we were pretty exposed.   By the time we got settled it was just in time to watch a beautiful sunset.   Alas, no “green flash” but impressive never the less.The next morning we headed to the beach.  The cruising guide said that this was a very good shelling beach and “they weren’t lying” but also cautioned about keeping pets away from alligators that frequent the area.  As you can imagine, this put Brenda off of her game pretty well.  However, the opportunity to shells overwhelmed her fear of being eaten alive by a huge lizard so off-a-shelling we went.    It was great, the shelling, not the alligators, and after an hour or so of picking our way along the shore the next morning we collected about 100 shells, including some types that we had never seen anywhere else.  What a haul.  It was a very remote area and clearly there are very few visitors as the number of shells would suggest. 

Oh yeah, not an alligator to be had.

Anyway, here we are back in Marathon and on our mooring just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset.   And now, I can cross GOMEX off of my “bucket list”, even if I don’t have one.  GOMEX, check.Today, if I ever finish this post, we are off to a “turtle hospital”, a spot where injured sea turtles are nursed back to health and returned to the ocean.  That should be fun.  I LOVE TURTLES! 

That’s it.  Post done.

Turtle time…

Marathon: Yes, we are still here as is most everyone else.

It’s Friday morning and we have been in Marathon for a week.    Amazingly, even though they have some 250 moorings in the harbor we have still not made it onto one of them.   When we got here we were something like 32 on the waiting list and as of yesterday we were, I think, number nine.  

Most interesting is that there were about a dozen empty moorings when we went ashore yesterday morning and I was told that some folks rent one for the entire season just so that there will be one for them when they return after sailing elsewhere.  I certainly understand that if you are willing to shell out the $$ for the season that you should get a mooring.  Somehow it seems wrong to have moorings sit open for days or weeks at a time when there is such a long waiting list.

I wouldn’t normally mind being at anchor but having to tie up in the mangroves makes for some pretty hot and buggy nights.  The bug coils that we are using in the cockpit are working pretty well but it is quite hot in the evenings when the breeze drops it gets a bit close.

We had a very nice visit with our son Rob who visited for two days after a business trip to Miami.  It was a lot of fun.  We drove down to Key West and had a nice lunch and walked around the town.

There are some lovely old buildings in town.   I expect that Henry Flagler, who built the rail link from Miami to Key West in the “teens” had a hand in this one.  Very well preserved.Nice shot of father, moi, and son.About a month ago we had a “mishap” with the dink and tore a hole on the bow.  While I had put a patch on it “in the field”, I wasn’t confident that the repair was going to hold for the long term.   Luckily, there was an inflatable repair shop locally and they even provided pick-up and drop-off at a boat ramp downtown.   Well, all’s well now and the repair looks great. And what a grand “relaunching” it was.  Almost as good as new.  The dink, that is.

While we were waiting for the dink to be repaired, we had a long lunch at this lovely beach resort.   What a nice spot.Finally, I haven’t talked about this for a while but we have been showing Pandora to a few prospective buyers over the last weeks and we received our first offer a few days ago.  As is so often the case, we weren’t too happy with the offer and countered but the buyer bolted.  Oh well.  Better luck next time. 

So, what next for Pandora and our travels?  Well, the next weather window looks like it will come early in the week so perhaps we’ll make a run for Bimini.

Perhaps we’ll clear the waiting list for a mooring when we leave?   They say that timing is everything and as it takes so long to make it onto a mooring perhaps that explains why so many NEVER LEAVE.   They simply don’t want to lose their spot.

 

 

Bahamas bound. Really?

It’s Monday morning here in Marathon and we just enjoyed a lovely sunrise over the Mangroves.    The view is very peaceful and welcomed after what seems like weeks of heavy winds.  The good news is that the view is beautiful but with the calm winds comes no-see-ums.  However, we have found that those bug coils, sort of like incense, seem to work quite well at keeping them at bay.  

The silence here is absolute which is so different from what we have woken up to in the middle of the night with the wind humming in the rigging and the boat working back and forth on her anchor.

“Bob, the title.  What’s this about us going to the Bahamas after writing so much about the Keys”?  Well, the forecast for the next week seems to suggest that perhaps the pattern of cold fronts rolling down from the north might be interrupted which will make a run to the Bahamas quite pleasant.  Besides, the number of spots to anchor in the Keys is so limited that we aren’t inclined to stick around here for the rest of the winter.

Speaking of the “rest of the winter”, we have to be in Ft Pierce FL around April 15th and while it’s not quite March, we do feel like our trip this winter is about over.  That’s funny because if we were in CT we’d be moaning that winter will never end.  I guess that life aboard in warmer climes in the winter is a bit different than in the frozen north.  Based on some of the comments I have gotten from our “icebound friends”, who are not at all sympathetic about our “wind trials”, I suppose that it’s all about your point of view.

Yesterday was the first really warm, no make that hot, day we have had in weeks and it was pleasant to spend the day out shopping and enjoying a leisurely lunch at a local seafood place, clearly a favorite of the locals.   Perched right on the side of the Post Road (yes, that’s the same “Post Road” that runs all the way from New England), it was a divy sort of seafood spot with a tacky fountain in the back courtyard.   Compared to the sameness of the fast food places that line most highways, it was very refreshing in a shabby sort of way.

Speaking of local color, when Brenda and I docked our dink yesterday to do our errands, we happened upon this juvenile pelican.  I guess that he/she hasn’t been hassled much as he didn’t seem to concerned about his “Kodak moment”.   However, it was pretty clear when he telegraphed “that’s close enough bud”.  Pretty amusing.A few days ago the strong winds shifted from the north to east which meant that things floating by in the nearby Gulf Stream were blown ashore and into the creek that we are anchored in.  So, when I went up on deck yesterday morning the area was dotted with Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.  These beautiful but deadly creatures couldn’t have been too happy to be in confined muddy waters.   I was fascinated by them and took time in the dink to photograph a few. 

Their “sail” is a sort of bladder filled with air and as the wind blows, they move across the water.  Unlike most “jellies” these guys can travel many miles with the wind.  The blue tentacles are deadly and pity the unwary that touch their “business end”.   I understand that they still pack quite a punch even when washed up on the beach.So, I looked but didn’t touch, advice that is so often good for life in general.

Just a moment ago I went up on deck to check something and saw this beautiful spotted eagle ray gliding Pandora.  What a beautiful and graceful creature. They get huge, over 8′ across, but this little fella was just 2′ of so.  Just amazing. Today I will be going to a meeting at the city marina where folks planning to cross to the Bahamas will compare notes.  I expect that this will be very well attended as it has been so long since a good “window” has been available for crossing and many cruisers are itching to get underway.    Actually, in our experience, most crossing opportunities tend to be measured in hours and not days as seems to be the case this week so I expect that many boats will clear out and make a dash across “the stream”.

When I downloaded the “gribs” this morning, they show that we should expect light winds and pretty settled conditions for much of the week so perhaps after Rob leaves on Thursday morning we can begin making our run to Bimini.

So, after months of “We’re going to the Bahamas, we’re not going to the Bahamas.  No wait, we are going to the Bahamas, maybe.”, I guess that we are, well at least for now.  We will just have to wait a bit longer and see what the weather brings.

For now, the one thing that’s certain is that it’s time to make some coffee.

Marathon, home of the Bahamas wannabees

It’s Saturday morning and we are anchored in a mangrove creek off of Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, in the Florida Keys.  The weather for the last few weeks has been pretty crazy, like the weather up north, but in a Florida Keys sort of way.

That is to say that it’s been unseasonably cold, try 40s in the morning and 60s during the day.  However, before you start yelling “Bob, you are such a weenie, try Zero degrees and see how you like it.”, remember that while we are blessed with heat aboard Pandora, we are really exposed to the weather and….well, just trust me, it’s pretty cold out on the water and way colder than we were expecting.

Anyway, think what you will, but to be less than 100 miles from Cuba and feeling the 40s is not typical.  Regrettably, it’s just not tropical at all.

Our two day run down here from Miami was quite a snorter.    The wind was on the beam and solidly in the 20s with gusts into the low 30s.   Yes, that’s a lot of wind but Pandora handled it pretty well with just the jib.  For much of the time we were booking along at 7-8 knots, a pretty respectable speed with just a small jib up.   Our route took us down the Hawk Channel , which runs down the ocean side of the keys and is protected by a long barrier reef to keep out the ocean swells.   I can’t say that I enjoyed sailing hard for two days but we got here and to wait for more settled weather would have kept us in Miami for another week, which we didn’t want to do.

Marathon is the best harbor in the Keys (actually, it’s the only protected one) and it’s the spot where many cruisers spend their winters and some wait for a “weather window” to head out to the Bahamas.  The city has put in about 250 moorings so the harbor is completely full with very little anchoring room available.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to pay the $20 per day fee, less if you book for a week or month, but EVERY mooring is occupied and there’s a waiting list with 30 ahead of us so our only option was to head into the mangroves and anchor there along with others in the same predicament until a mooring spot opens up for us.   And, I have heard from some folks who spent two weeks here and only a dozen boats left during that time. I have to say that’s not encouraging.

As an interesting aside, Marathon is the home to “radio Cuba” that has been operated by the Uncle Sam since the 60s, broadcasting “news” to Cuba.  There are three enormous radio antennas nearby blasting their signal to Cuba only to be “jammed” by our buddy Fidel.  We broadcast, they jam and that’s the way it’s been for some 50 years.  Such is the subtle thinking of government. The signal is so strong that the LED lights in our cabin have been flickering, even if they are turned off, and our inverter has even been turning itself on all by itself because of the strong radio signals.  I have also noticed that my SSB long range radio has terrible reception as the signal from the antennas just overwhelms it.  There is so much power from the station that the signal bleeds over onto the SSB frequencies and I can hear the station itself on Pandora.   Bummer that I don’t speak Spanish.

This is an interesting place, that’s for sure.  They even have a Home Depot.

And being in the mangroves is fine, while there is wind.  The mangroves are very pretty but when the wind drops, watch out, as the no-see-ums come out for blood.  Fortunately, or not, the wind has been honking so bugs haven’t been a problem.  Oddly, while the moorings are only $20 a day, you actually have to pay $22 a day to dock your dink at the city marina if you don’t take a mooring.  I guess that’s to keep out the derelict boats that hang around in the few anchoring spots and mess up the harbor.

While it’s been pretty cold for the last week, it looks like we are heading into a warm spell which will be great as our son Rob is going to visit us for a few days on Tuesday.   We are also going to visit our friends Port and Cathy at their home nearby.  That will be fun.

With more moderate weather forecast for the coming week, it’s quite possible that many folks will clear out of the harbor and make a run for the Bahamas which will free up some moorings, 31 I hope.

The creek that we are anchored in is used by local fishing boats that take it out to the ocean to fish so we have to be sure and stay out of the channel.   This means that we dropped our anchor and run lines and tie them to the mangrove trunks.  This is actually easier than it sounds and once we are firmly tied to the mangrove trees and anchored, we just winch ourselves into position.  It’s pretty neat and allows for many boats to be tied up along the mangroves in a tidy row.  Here’s what Pandora looks like in her spot.  As you can see, it’s not a long trip for the bugs to visit Pandora for a snack. Wind or not, as I write this  I can’t help feeling like I am being bitten.  As it’s still windy and the boat is all closed up, it must be my imagination.  Itch, itch, scratch…  I won’t think about that for now.

How about a panorama in the early morning light?  Anyway, there is also a very healthy local manatee population.  This fellow had to have been a good ten feet long going nowhere in a hurry. So, for now, here we are snuggled against the mangroves thinking about the no-see-ums while they wait for a lull in the wind to come over to Pandora for dinner.

Let’s hope that lots of boats head over to the Bahamas soon as I know that’s where they wannabee. 

 

 

 

 

 

Home has cold, we have wind. Wind is better than cold!

It’s Thursday morning and it’s blowing like stink here in Key Largo.   The GRIB files that we download each day that provide predictions on wind were right on when they said that it would be fairly peaceful overnight but that the wind would abruptly pipe up to the high 20s around 04:00 today.  It did.  Long term forecasts of wind aren’t of much value but when you get within 24-48 hours they are pretty accurate. 

We have decided to stick here for a few more hours and see if things moderate a bit but as we’d like to be in Marathon by Friday evening as the wind will then clock to the east which will make it quite uncomfortable for any areas exposed from that direction, which this entire area is.

Yesterday we had a very nice run down from No Name harbor near Miami as the wind was quite variable going from the high teens to the mid 20s but as it was never forward of the beam, we were able to make good time under jib or genoa alone.

Today we are hoping that things will calm down a bit mid morning so we can head out for the 40 mile run to Marathon.  Having said that, we really don’t particularly want to sail in winds piping up to the low 30s.  That would be annoying.

When we were leaving Miami a few days ago, Brenda snapped some great photos of the skyline as we motored away.  It’s amazing to see this many buildings crammed into such a small space and that there is enough money in the world to pay for them.  Pretty dramatic view.In lower Biscayne Bay there are still a few homes in what is known as “stiltsville”, a collection of rough homes, some from the 1930s, on, no surprise “stilts”.   There used to be many more but only those “grandfathered” are there now.  It seems that if they are badly damaged in a storm, they can’t be rebuilt.  They look so remote out on the horizon.  They have an interesting and very colorful history as described hereAs we made our way the 45 miles to Key Largo we were passed by a number of large motoryachts, probably on their way Key West.  One in particular was a standout, this lovely old Trumpy.  Very elegant.I have to say that it was pretty tough to get our anchor to hold yesterday when we arrived here in Key Largo.  Our plan was to anchor just outside of the harbor entrance in the lee of the island.  As the bottom here is all covered with grass, we had a tough time getting our Rockna anchor to penetrate the bottom and hold well. 

After a few tries, we found a sand patch and dropped the hook there.  While we were able to get the anchor to stick the first time, it wasn’t in enough to make me confortable knowing that the wind was going to pipe up today.  The last thing I wanted to have happen would be to drag in the middle of the night.  Well, it did get plenty windy and it held.  It just shows that properly backing down on the anchor to be sure that it’s secure is a good habit to get into.

After anchoring we decided to head ashore for dinner and on the way we spied non-other than the African Queen, the boat from the movie of the same name.  She was out on an evening tour with some paying passengers.  I had heard that she was in Key Largo but wasn’t expecting to see her first hand.  She looks as shabby now as she did in the movie.  Pretty neat, never the less.Well, it’s about time to get going on our way to Marathon.   If it proves to be too annoying with the wind we will stop part way and continue the rest of the way on Saturday.   I have heard that the mooring field in Marathon has been very busy so it’s possible that with this nasty wind that we won’t be able to get a spot and will have to anchor nearby.  I guess we will have to see.

Wind or not, I am pleased to have too much wind and temperatures in the 50s instead of single digit temperatures and snow.  Besides, cold or not, there are palm trees to remind me that this is supposed to be tropical even if it isn’t right now.

To the Keys. On our way.

It’s Wednesday morning and we are anchored in No Name harbor, less than ten miles south of Miami.  This little harbor gives new meaning to “tight” anchoring.   The harbor is bordered on the south by bulkheads and on the north by mangroves but at only 1000’ long by 500’ wide, the harbor is a very small space to fit into.  And, imagine 25 boats, some 65’ long anchored “cheek to jowl” in that small a place. 

Yesterday when we arrived there was BARELY enough space for us to drop the hook and when we settled in we were less than a boat length from boats on either side.  We were particularly close to a large motor yacht and when we shifted to port and he to starboard in the wind, we could have passed a bit of Grey Poupon between the boats on a boat hook.  That’s pretty close and a bit too tight for us.   So, we moved, but only about 15’ and reset our hook.   A little better but not great.

So, after that was done I jumped in the dink and introduced myself to a family on a nearby sailboat from Germany.  No, they didn’t sail from there but they do spend the winters here aboard with their three kids.  Nice group and their English was quite good.  Much better than my German as the only German that I know is what I heard on “Hogan’s Hero’s” when I was a kid, which is to say nothing at all.

Anyway, we had a nice talk and in particular we compared notes on the weather, which was going to be very different today than yesterday as the wind was forecasted to shift from the south to the NW and get quite strong.    Their plans were to take them to Ft Lauderdale, about 40 miles north of here.

As luck would have it, after we talked, they decided that they would leave the harbor and sail north immediately to avoid being stuck here for days till the wind shifted to the south again.

Voila, I had more room to anchor so even before they cleared the harbor we upped our anchor again and moved into their spot.   There you go, enough room to spread out and all it took was “convincing” a boat with five Germans aboard to leave so I could move into their spot.

Well, that’s not exactly how I had planned it but it worked out.

So, now it’s early morning and the wind has indeed shifted from the south to the north but it’s still very light.  Later this morning it’s supposed to increase to the teens and then on Thursday into the high 20s so we had better get going.  I’d prefer not to sail in wind in the high 20s but that’s what we’ll do as the next shift will be to the south and going against that will be really unpleasant.

Besides, we really want to get to Marathon and spend some time relaxing so off we go.

I understand that this harbor tends to get really packed with boats waiting for favorable winds to head out to the Bahamas which is what seems to be the case right now.  I expect that most folks will stay here till the wind shifts back to the south and then there will be a mass exodus as opportunities to cross the Gulf Stream easily are not all that common.

I was particularly struck by one little oyster boat that is anchored near us.  Interestingly, she’s from Mystic CT.   Actually, Anne looks pretty familiar and I expect that I have seen her in the Mystic area in the past.  I’d love to learn more about her history.Of course, we had a lovely sunset but then you’ve probably seen a few of those posted here.  Too many?  Oh well, I like them so you’ll see many more I in coming posts. Well, it’s time to make the coffee and get going before the wind picks up too much.  Off we go to Key Largo and Marathon.  Wish us a good passage. 

Miami Beach: Been there, done that…

It’s Tuesday morning and we are thinking hard about leaving Miami after a week. We went to the Miami Boat Show a few times and have walked and walked, all over South Beach.  We’ve done plenty here, had a great time and are now looking forward to heading south to the Keys.

Even though we are in the heart of Miami, each sunrise is a treat.  Here’s the “sunrise of the day” for today.Nice spot.

Actually, there are lots of nice spots here in Florida and as some prefer the views from land and some from on the water, there has been considerable debate over the last few years regarding anchoring rights in Florida waters.   Or, to put it another way, “I have paid millions for my home and I don’t want to look at your pathetic little boat anchored out in front of my home.”

Cruisers, like us, value the ability to put down the hook and spend time in an area without having to go into an expensive marina, where even a single night can cost upwards of $100 to $150 for a boat the size of Pandora.  And, it’s pretty clear that the towns and cities feel the same way as there is almost always good access and docks provided by the city for boaters to use to get ashore.

There are generally many spots available to anchor and cruisers value the ability to pick a spot, drop the hook and enjoy some shore time.   However, in some areas owners, particularly those who’s homes are valued in the many millions, are pretty sensitive about anyone marring their “multi-million dollar view”.

It isn’t surprising that folks that have that much money are used to getting their way and where you can and can’t anchor has become a very sensitive topic over the last few years.

Well, it seems that we have anchored, here in Sunset Lake, at what some might describe as“ground zero” in the ongoing debate on anchoring rights.  The current rules, well there aren’t many rules, is that we can anchor anywhere we want provided we don’t damage property.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there are several property owners in this particular harbor that have decided to make their own rules.  I have already mentioned the guy that anchored 25 little boats in front of his home.   It seems that this guy has a friend that feels as strongly as he does about keeping the “riffraff “ out of his line of sight.

The other night we were anchored, as we are now, in the middle of the harbor and a boat from Canada came in and anchored between us and shore.  A short time later the home owner that was nearest the Canadian boat came out and started screaming obscenities that if he didn’t pick up his anchor and move that he would “sink your F*&^%$G boat”.  This went on for several minutes until the boat picked up anchor and moved away.

The fact is that it is legal for us to anchor here but there seems to be a few bad apple home owners that don’t want the law to stand in their way of making a scene.  It was very unfortunate to have a nice evening violated by screaming.   I guess if you are paying more than $80,000 a year in property taxes and that’s what it is, I looked it up, you feel like you own the world.

For the record, I called the police and reported what happened.   They were sympathetic, indicated that I wasn’t the first to call and promised to send out an officer to check in on the homeowner.

Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see how things develop over the next few years and I am hopeful that anchoring rights won’t be eroded too much.

So, for now, we are enjoying time in this lovely little harbor, nasty neighbors or not.

It seems that other locals enjoy this spot too as there is a constant parade of boats cruising through to enjoy the sights.   This Trumpy came in yesterday, circled the harbor, and headed back out.  She was a real head turner.   Keeping something like this in good shape is a major commitment.So, our plan is to leave here later today and head down to a little harbor appropriately named “no name harbor”, just south of Miami.  Then, on Wednesday we’ll make the two day run to Marathon, in the Keys, where we plan on spending a week or so.

Our son Rob has business in Miami next week and will be visiting us while he’s here, which will be fun.

It’s going to be very windy over the next week so hopefully we will have an easy run south.  The nasty weather that has been slamming the Northeast this winter translates into very windy conditions down here.  They say that when the northern states have tough winter it blows hard down here.   So far, that’s what’s happening.

Yes, we feel like we have “done Miami Beach” and are ready to move on and are looking forward to exploring the Keys.

It’s Friday the 13th. Is today my lucky day?

It’s Friday morning the 13th of February.  I have never been much for superstition but perhaps it would be best if I avoid walking under ladders, spooking black cats or whatever the “fear du jour” of the day might be.   Actually, I feel pretty lucky, the 13th or not, as I look out at the scene surrounding us in this lovely little harbor.  Yes, it’s plenty populated, with homes in every direction but the view of the city skyline in the distance is amazing.  This was the view that we enjoyed to the west as the sun set last evening.  Yesterday we walked a long way, exploring the area, about 6 miles according to Brenda’s pedometer. By the time we got back to Pandora, I have to say that our “dogs” were barking.  Today, perhaps a few less steps.

Our goal yesterday was to explore the South Beach historic district with it’s distinctive Art Deco architecture.  Even the local Gap store has to comply.  You won’t see another store from this chain housed in this style elsewhere.It’s pretty clear that if you want to live in South Beach, you have to do whatever you need to do to fit in.  And, that probably means not wearing much clothing.  Here, if you want to look the part, you might want to consider a string thong bikini and stiletto high heals.  For the guys, body building or “surfing” around on a long skate board is a must.  We enjoyed watching some of the local color on the beach, that’s for sure.  Love those well formed “pecks”.  It was pretty easy to identify the locals from the, well, folks like us.   However, I think we look pretty good for a couple of “older” folks taking time to soak in the scene.  Right?The view from our perch was perfect for surveying the local scene.  And speaking of locals, how about a Lemur from Madascar?  Now, that’s not something you see every day.   Not to worry, he wears a diaper.  No Lemur Poo on you.   And, for a modest “donation” you can even get up close and personal. Real close. There was a terrific brick path that ran for several miles along the beach.With great views of the open air sidewalk restaurants.  The subtropical climate of Miami makes for some really interesting plants and flowers.  This one looks like it’s growing out of a palm tree but these 4″ flowers haug down from a tree over a sidewalk. There are also orchids growing on trees.  After years of growing them in a greenhouse, seeing them in outdoors is a real treat.  And, even in the middle of the city, the herons feel right at home poaching a snack out of the Koi pond. We capped off our day with a late snack at a very fancy hotel.  This was the view from our table of the pool area.  Pretty swank. Forgive me but I must share a photo of the lovely dish we ordered, beautifully presented. Yum…  Low carb of course.All and all, a lovely day.  Actually, some might agree that “lucky” would be pretty descriptive.

So, today?  Off to the boat show.  Yes, I am feeling pretty lucky these days, Friday the 13th and all. 

Ft Lauderdale and Miami where “mine is bigger than yours”.

It’s Thursday morning and we are anchored in a nice little harbor in Miami Beach off of Biscane Bay.  On Tuesday we sailed down the short 20 miles from Ft Lauderdale on a screaming reach in, at times, a little too screaming as it was very windy.  While the wind peaked at 30kts in gusts, the seas were pretty flat as the wind was coming off from shore and we weren’t far from the beach.  It was a fun run but I have to admit that in the big gusts it was a bit much.  However, Pandora topped out at nearly ten kts at times and rarely saw under 7kts on the entire run.

As I have mentioned in some recent posts, this area of FL is known as the “gold coast” and there is no doubt that the area lives up to it’s name.  Everywhere you look it’s clear that there is tremendous competition to prove that you are the biggest dog on the block.  Whether it’s your home on the water, your megayacht, or both, EVERYONE is working hard to make a statement that they have done well for themselves.  However, some have clearly done “weller” than others.

How about Kismet?  This boat, er… ship, is owned by Shahid Khan, a self made man from Pakistan.  It seems that he has built a huge company Flex-N-Gate selling, among other things, and I would imagine that it’s a really-really lot of things, all of the bumpers on every Toyota, both cars and trucks, sold in the US.  He is worth something like 3.2 billion.  His 300+’ yacht was only launched in 2014 and is clearly the “queen of the fleet” in Ft Lauderdale.   Check out this link to the charter site.  Be sure to look at the slideshow.  If you wish, you can charter her for about $1,600,000 per week and I doubt that fuel is included.  However, the 18 crew are and there is plenty of space for your 12 guests.  Shahid has done well for himself.  Would you buy a car bumper from this guy?  I guess you already have.Oh yeah, he also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars pro football team, a UK soccer team and the private jets to get himself to the games.

Even if you aren’t rich enough to own sports teams, you can always get one of these.  This nifty little deal will make you feel on top of the world but be sure to wear your helmet.  It’s a sort of “jet ski” with a “jet”.   See the guy standing on the water?Yes, that’s pretty neat but then things get even more interesting. If you have the nerve you can do blink-of-a-eye “vertigo inducing” fast flips, again and again.  Way too athletic for me.  I am guessing that the “pilot” isn’t in his “upper mid 50s” like moi.One way or the other, there is plenty going on in these parts.

On our last night in Ft Lauderdale, we were treated to a beautiful rainbow.  What a sight.  After the “flipper guy” this seemed more like our speed.As we sailed the short distance to Miami I was struck by the amazing array of high rise buildings that line every inch of the beaches.   Let’s hope that a really big hurricane doesn’t hit this area any time soon and wash all of this nice stuff into the water.

Speaking of water, you can walk along the beach in Miami along a really nice promenade and we did.   I guess that they know better than to build boardwalks here as they so often get washed away in storms.  We happened on a lovely hotel on the beach, the National Hotel.  We loved the lap pool and have decided to have a long lunch at the restaurant overlooking this view on Valentine’s Day.   We thought that lunch would be better than dinner as schlepping back to Pandora in our little rubber dink in the dark might not be the best way to cap off a nice day.

Walking around Miami Beach is a nice way to pass the time.  We particularly liked seeing the sights along Lincoln Avenue with all of the outdoor cafes. Just about everywhere you turn the landscaping is beautiful.  We did our best to peak into the private homes we walked by.  How about this beautiful landscaping?However, where there is money, there will be some that feel that they should be master of all that they survey and Miami has it’s fair share of folks that feel that way.  A particular standout is a property owner on the shores of the harbor that we are anchored in.  It seems that he isn’t happy about his “million dollar view” being maligned by nasty cruising yachts so he has anchored 25 little plastic sailboats in his part of the harbor to keep the “nasties” like us out of his view. So, now he has a view of a bunch of little crappy boats covered with seagull droppings.  How scenic.  I suppose that he feels he has won in his own little way.  No accounting for taste but hey, he’s arrived and he can at least say “my fleet of little nasty sailboats and seagull droppings is bigger than yours”.  Yes, it is…