Friday, January 31, 2014

Key West - Barry Cuda night

BO's Fish Wagon is still there - or mostly anyway, it's composed of many parts
Even in paradise you have to deal with the local cable company if you want TV while here (e.g., Super Bowl, Olympics, etc.) They could give lessons to Cablevision on how to be a bad provider and terrible customer service. But enough of that, dealing with such entities when the weather outside is in the 70's doesn't elicit much sympathy from those less blessed with warmth.

Barry Cuda in full form, notice the size of the piano he wheels around town
Key West is Ann's favorite place for hair styling so she took advantage of that opportunity today while I ran back and forth to Comcast (no more details in this blog!)  Back to the boat for relaxation and then on to BO's Fish Wagon for dinner and to listen to Barry Cuda play the piano. It's the one he wheels down the streets of Key West between gigs. You can see how big it is in the photo, somehow he manages.

Ann's new haircut
We also met the McKeevers, they joined us at BO's Fish Wagon for some catching up. We'll get together later this week or next, after all, we're on island time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Key West - Get a car, provision, collapse

The bands are still going strong at Schooner Wharf!
Key West is an expensive place to rent a car. There are a multitude of "add ons", fees the local government think the tourists will willing pay. It all amounts to about a 30 % add on to the base price. Nevertheless, we have a car for the next week and today we visited Publix for provisions. It's a great supermarket but one of the unsung specials that you cannot get anywhere else is their can of cashews, their own brand labeled jumbo and they are bigger and with less breakage than any other I've ever had. So if you're ever in a Publix, pick up a can of their store brand cashews.

Notice at Schooner Wharf there is no roof, and the floor is gravel
So after a few stops looking for a casserole dish, we finally did our thing at Publix and headed home, after about two hours. Of course the dock cart was missing (it was there yesterday when I didn't need it) so off loading was a chore but finally everything got onboard.

You know it's cool when Schooner Wharf has up all their weather curtains, complete with a door
We still haven't toured Key West yet, one of the purposes to renting a car. On Friday Ann gets her hair done (Key West has outstanding hair stylists - just imagine the reason why...) and I get a visit from Comcast for cable. There is no over-the-air TV here, it's cable or no TV at all. So i should be able to watch the Super Bowl and perhaps some Olympics.

Key West is seeing a building boom, here's the scene behind Schooner Wharf
Today was raining and cool, in the 60's all day. The locals were dressed for winter! Only a very few boats of the charter fleet went out today, showers were rolling in all day long. Friday is warmer with a high of 76 and then on Saturday the sun is scheduled to return along with dry weather. Talking to some of the locals on the dock, it's been a cool, rainy season so far. We're all looking forward to warmer weather.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Key West - Distances

Want to know how far from home - just look at the arrows
 Another busy day doing laundry and odds and ends from West Marine and the Ace hardware store. I had to replace the brackets that I broke on the dinghy from swinging the motor from side to side. The brackets accepted the rod from the all around white navigation light which is required everywhere but especially at Marathon where the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) has a training base. For the same reason we also have a fire extinguisher and horn for the dinghy as well as red and green running lights up front. Hopefully, that's enough.

I even found Hartford, CT - where my son and his family live
The Key West weather continues to be perfect but we're due for more wind on Thursday with the high still in the 70's. We rented a car for a week to provision and see what's changed around here in the last year. They are building heavily in back of Schooner Wharf, looks like condos but we're not sure yet. The old aquarium that sat vacant for several years is also under renovation so it looks like things are looking up for Key West, at least by the Bight.

All this activity is really tiring out Hoolie!
The sights and sounds of Key West are still mesmerizing to us. It's just a constant hubbub of activity and fun to watch from the back of our boat. We'll visit the nearest Publix on Thursday in our rental car and restock the freezer, it's just about empty. On Friday we'll start enjoying the music scene with a visit to B.O.'s Fishwagon and Barry Cuda on the piano, one of our favorite musicians. Time to have fun.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Key West - At E14 dock, our old favorite

Wow, relaxation sets in, the good times start, it is so easy to like Key West - looking off the back of our boat.
Key West is our turnaround point, our reward for all the late hours spent at work, the dinners that had to be reheated, the lost weekends when work took first priority...  It is a world apart from all other places along the ICW, there's nothing like it. We have a slip that most people would not enjoy. You exit off the bow of the boat, hanging on the to jib to steady yourself. I dropped the anchor and placed a plywood board where the anchor was to provide foot support traversing the bow to dock and vice versa. For us it provides a level of security and privacy as opposed to the docks where the boat is along side the dock, people walk by at all hours. We like it and it's always empty when we arrive.

Notice the bow exit, a little step depending upon the tides. I carry Hoolie over the bow, he hasn't figured out how to negotiate the bow yet
So we sit in the cockpit and watch the goings on in the marina. All the dinghy traffic passes right by our aft end, fine with us, it provides an neverending sight and opportunities for comments on seamanship. The ones who have  been here the longest usually don't have a cover for their motor, I guess to expedite working on it when it quits.

Getting back to Key West. I had forgotten how special a place it was but the magic worked itself again this afternoon. It is so relaxing to just sit in the cockpit and watch the passing scenery. The temperature is perfect at 75, not too cold, not too hot, with a low in the high 60's tonight. What a place!

We will be here for at least a month. I'll restart my exercise program and Ann her walking and then we'll spend some serious time reacquainting ourselves with the attractions of Key West. The McKeevers are already here and in full swing. They're attending two appearances tonight of their favorite musician, Fiona.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Newfound Harbor - at anchor

Our morning sunrise, just magical on the water
We were so used to getting up early for our long runs that we awakened early this morning too and saw a beautiful sunrise as a reward. The anchorage continues to be flat calm, very nice at night.

Picnic Island, close to everything
Ann painted most of the day with her pastels and I did battle with Comcast in trying to get cable installed for our month's stay in Key West, all to no avail. Oh well, we have plenty of DVD's to enjoy. Picnic Island where we take Hoolie for pet relief was occupied all day and tonight too. The weather is so warm here that there are many that come to the island to just hang out. It's still 74 outside at 8:00 pm in a cloudless sky. The stars are out and it helps that the moon is not up so the sky is very dark and the stars stand out. 

Obviously, a nice place for a picnic!
The island I take Hoolie to is used by the locals for a dog park. The dogs run free and for the most part, they are well behaved. Hoolie doesn't care all that much for the other dogs, he just wants to run at full speed as long as he can. When he's unrestrained, he's a blur. However, tonight a group had a bonfire going and there were several dogs not so friendly. We made landfall anyway and Hoolie did his  business without incident. 

And, we watched the sunset, a complete day
Back on the boat, it's as still as being on land, no movement at all. It's less than 30 miles to Key West from here so we'll have a lazy morning and arrive in time for our usual welcoming Cuban sandwich at Cuban Coffee Queen, we're looking forward to that! The McKeevers are already here and enjoying the music, we'll try to join them soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Newfound Harbor - at anchor by Picnic Island

Tavernier entrance - Tension rises when you see an on-coming boat!
We wanted to leave with a good, high tide since the entrance is rather shallow although we could have made it out at almost low tide. There's less tension with a little tide though. As stated earlier, it's rather narrow on the way out (see photo) but there's barely enough room for two boats to pass if you're careful. We made it over the bar with a foot to spare (which was the tide height) and headed out to Marathon.

The island has a resident, he's  been hear several years on a tied up "boat"
On the way we started thinking about all the problems we've been hearing about the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) enforcement of arcane rules that nobody ever heard of like dinghies must have an anchor light even though they're tied to the mother ship with a 10 ft line which is properly lighted.  Also, there have been night boardings for some type of inspection, waking people up and rousting them out of  bed. I sent an email to the head of the harbor asking about current conditions but never got a reply. With that we decided to skip Marathon and anchor out (for free!) at Newbound Harbor, about two hours further down the line.

Nevertheless, it's a nice, sandy island - Hoolie likes it!
It is a completely still night, no wind, no lights anywhere and we have a nearby, sandy island to take Hoolie ashore. It's all we really need. We'll spend Monday night here too and then head for Key West on Tuesday and our dock there for the month of February, nice!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tavernier - at a dock at Blue Waters Marina

The turning bay at Tavernier
We started out right when we wanted to, at 7:15 and headed south for the nearest fuel dock. We arrived just as they opened for the day at 8:00 am and was out of there by 8:15, a real pit stop for us. We had 50 miles to go and didn't want to waste any time.

Palm trees everywhere
There were small craft advisors out yesterday but today was supposed to have much less wind. As we exited Miami out the Florida Passage, the waves did build up some (wind against current) but when we turned the corner we put out the headsail and headed south at 8.0 kts (with the aid of the iron genny, not enough wind and we had far to go). We also had to arrive with a favorable tide which peaked at 3:15 since the entrance was a little shallow at 4.6 ft at low tide. Nevertheless, we made good time and arrived around 3:30 with plenty of tide in our favor. In this area of the Keys the water is so clear you can easily see the bottom and it looks more shallow than it actually is due to the clarity.

Nice dockwalk
Once inside the entrance, it is very narrow, barely enough room for one boat but we did pass two boats going the other way and somehow found more room than was apparent. You would like to take photos at a time like that but the captain was rather busy.

Now we're peacefully docked, the night is clear, the stars are out, the air is warm, what more to want? We're finally in the tropics!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Marine Stadium at Miami - Last day

Several iguanas were sunning themselves on the north side of the anchorage
The winds whipped up as predicted into the 20's so we continued to sit out the weather in Marine Stadium. However, the next four days are supposed to be ideal for traveling south and we plan on taking advantage of the weather window. On Saturday we're aiming for Tavernier, the halfway point between Marine Stadium and Marathon. It's a little over 50 miles so we'll head out at first light. Unfortunately, we have to take on fuel first so that will involve a stop of about an hour to do that. If all goes according to plan (!) we'll be in Tavernier by 4:00 pm.

One last sunset at Marine Stadium
It was windy but warm in the cockpit with the full sun so Ann did some more work on her pastel while I was down in the cabin doing boat stuff. In the afternoon we took a ride around the perimeter of the anchorage on the north side. There's lots of wildlife in the area. We spotted ospreys, iguanas, heron and, of course, the ever present vultures.

One last view of Miami at night from Marine Stadium
Coming back to the boat, we did our usual thing with wine while watching the sunset. We never get tired of doing that, every sunset is different. And then, of course, the lights came out again on the Miami skyline, just stunning. The wind has quieted down as predicted now in the anchorage so we're looking forward to finally moving again Saturday morning. It will be a long run with the 50 mile trip and on top of that we have to refuel first so it will be a long day.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Marine Stadium near Miami - nice day, waiting for a windy Friday

They are just so beautiful to watch!
Although today was relatively calm it wasn't a day to leave given that Friday still will see winds of 20 to 25 kts. Since the trip to Marathon is a two day event for us, that's too much. We want two days of calm for our legs to Marathon. So far, Saturday and Sunday still look good for that.

Typical of Florida, a dry stack marina by the anchorage
Meanwhile, it's more boat work. I installed head monitoring sensors and a readout at the nav station. Not very sexy but believe me it's a requirement on a cruising boat! I also installed another light for the galley to make preparing dinner easier, I'm all for doing anything to ease the preparation of meals! Lastly, I updated our wall album with all the kid's latest photos. I have more to dos tomorrow.

I'm a sucker for a good sunset - sitting on the back of the boat watching the sun go down, sipping wine, hard to beat!
The area is still alive with competitors practicing from all over the world. In addition to the USA, I saw sailboats from Italy and Sweden and a few other places I didn't recognize. They were mostly the two man sailboats but also the shells and war canoes. It's a very active community.

We'll watch the wind pipe up tonight and then, hopefully, die off by midnight on Friday for a calmer Saturday for our run south.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marine Stadium at Miami - Waiting for weather

He was aimed right at us! What a strange sight!
The front came through around 3:00 am Wednesday morning with 20 plus wind gusts. We were secure but you could hear the wind blow through the rigging. We need a two day window to reach Marathon and although Thursday could be a good day, Friday is another 20 to 25 kts wind day, not good. So we sat at anchor and did things we would have done if at home.

Hoolie was entranced too
Ann spent most of the day with pastels in the cockpit. With the full sun, it was summertime there. I was down below downloading the latest version of Quicken which has built in obsolescence (the links for downloading transaction data from banks expire every three years) which requires purchasing the latest version, now Quicken 2014. At least you can buy the program from and download it right to your computer.

Michael Taylor
We met an old friend in the anchorage today, Michael Taylor. He's of indeterminate (old) age and sails by himself on a 30 ft catamaran built during WWII (or before). He's originally from England so we had tea in the afternoon on his boat. Ann invited him over for dinner tonight and we had a nice round of conversation about his experiences during WWII and the following years. It was an interesting evening. He sure liked Ann's cooking!

At last a decent sunset
We continue to watch the weather, we're experts at doing that! When the time comes, we'll immediately head out, most likely Saturday as it appears now.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Marine Stadium in Miami - at anchor with sailing school

Team USA practicing
As usual here, there are lots of Olympic type sailing boats, the small two man type. Today we saw mostly the USA two man sailboats that were out practicing with an accompanying instructor in an inflatable taking video. We were being used as a turning buoy and they whizzed by inches from our dinghy but they always missed us!

How's one of these for the Hudson River!
The most unusual sailboat were the one man types that raised up on hydrofoils as they gained speed. It's really weird seeing a sailboat levitate with only a thin support beam connecting it to the water! They can really make good time!

Here's a closeup as he rounded our dinghy
We're continuing to look at the weather and it appears that the cold front that's hitting the northeast will coast down here dipping our temperatures into the 60's and causing high winds and generally miserable weather for going anywhere. If the predictions hold up it looks like we'll be here until Saturday before we can continue onward towards Marathon. We're aiming for 1/28 for our arrival date in Key West, a Tuesday, and we're still on target for that but it's iffy. We won't go in bad weather, stay tuned.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Marine Stadium at Miami - at anchor

Miami skyline during the day from Marine Stadium anchorage
The cruise down the coast today was picture perfect, at least for us. The ocean was like a lake, about a 10 kt wind out of the west which was just enough to steady us but not enough to produce any chop. We left Ft Lauderdale around 7:30 and arrived at our anchorage by 12:45. The Coast Guard had been known to close Government Cut, the entrance to Miami, at times when large cruise ships leave or enter but we made it okay. There was a closing shortly after we got in. I suppose you just go around in circles until the Coast Guard decides to reopen the inlet? We've never ran into this situation at any other inlet, just Miami.

The girls like their pink sails!
The anchorage can accommodate an armada in comfort but there are more boats here than we've ever seen. We anchored at our usual spot in the northeast corner, away from everyone else. The weather does not look good over the next few days. It's looks to be a stretch to reach Key West  by January 28th, our scheduled arrival date. There are strong winds out of the north due the rest of the week. As one member of my Beneteau 423 forum stated when asked how the boat handled in rough weather, "The boat did fine, it's the crew that had problems!" So we'll wait for better weather before going on south.

Miami skyline at night from Marine Stadium
With that, it's nice and calm here and we're anchored securely, no winds are going to move us! We'll wait and watch the weather forecasts  before going on. It looks like the weekend is the first window now.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ft Lauderdale - at a mooring

Ah, Ft Lauderdale and warm weather!
Finally it is getting warm! We left Boynton Beach this morning with temperatures in the 50's, that's cold for Florida! However, we had a full sun and with our cockpit enclosure, it warmed up nicely to an extent that we had to open the curtains to get rid of the excess heat, it felt good. Today, Sunday, was the day of 15 bridges. They are all spaced and timed so you don't have to slow down or wait for them to open but we did run into one bridge that was inoperable for awhile. We had to tie up to a park bulkhead for 1/2 hour waiting for them to fix it. Eventually, the mechanics arrived and we made it through.

Downtown was bumper to bumper
The trip down through the "canyon" wasn't nearly as bad as we expected, there wasn't that much traffic. At one point we actually got stopped for speeding!! We were tooling along at 6.5 knots and a police boat with flashing blue lights pulled up along side and said to back off to 1000 rpm. For us that's about 3 kts, way too slow to make the next bridge in time. He didn't give us a ticket, just a warning so after he continued on north, we increased our speed just enough to make the bridge. Seriously, we were not putting out any wake, I think it was a slow morning and we were the only boat out that early, what else to do?

Hoolie never fails to attract a few admirers
We're now in the Ft Lauderdale mooring field, right in the middle of downtown, close enough to walk to the beach, which of course we did! Even in the middle of winter the place was packed. The beach was not as crowded as during spring break but there were plenty of bikinis out.

Nighttime at the mooring field
Since the weather forecast is good, we'll leave Monday morning for Miami and Marine Stadium and even warmer weather! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hypoluxo - last day at a dock

The ever present pelicans - they are well fed
We left home and forgot to take our photo calendar with us, the one that we designed on the CVS website with all the family pictures. It's hanging faithfully on the kitchen wall. Oh well, it'll be there when we return in late May but we sure would have liked to have it on our boat. Wait a minute, it's in digital form on the CVS website and there are CVS stores all over the place. So I placed another order for the family calendar and arranged for it to be printed at the nearest CVS. We went over this morning to pick it up and now we have our family calendar on Fleeting. Isn't the digital age wonderful...

Notice the absence of an "ICW Mustache" - two coats of wax on the hull solves that problem
We provisioned today and had dinner over at Joe's condo for a nice, evening meal with lots of catching up on local news. Joe is getting along fine and very active, we enjoyed the visit. We're off Sunday morning for Ft Lauderdale and 15 bridges! This section is also known as "the canyon" which resembles the East River of New York City with concrete bulkheads along both sides of the channel. As those who have traversed the East River know, the bulkheads are great at reflecting waves from passing boats so you get a very confused wave pattern that takes a long time to die off with lots of tossing about of your boat. The wise advice is never to traverse this area on a weekend. However, we're still due to do just that on Sunday, it's getting late and we want warmer weather! So we'll brave the boat traffic and the 15 bridges to hopefully make Ft Lauderdale by late afternoon. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

At Hypoluxo - at a dock

Typical "gate house" along the ICW on Jupiter Island (main house further back)
It was a very quiet night but was it ever cold in the morning, around 40 just before the sun came up. So I "volunteered" to jump out of a warm bunk and start the genset followed by turning on the main A/C (to heat), the aft A/C (to heat), the main cabin ceramic heater, the forward cabin small heater, the switch to heat the hot water for showers and, of course, our heated mattress cover. Out of the 6kw capacity of our genset, we were using 4.5 kw. After about 1/2 hour, everything was cozy. We like comfort.

They do like their boats here - that's signed artwork
Today was the first of two bridge days. There were 11 bridges on the way to Hypoluxo close to where Joe Mastri has a condo in Boynton Beach. Most unfortunately, current was against us all day. It didn't matter if we were north of an inlet or south of the same inlet, the current was always opposing (for the scientifically minded, we happened to hit high tide just as we crossed the inlet leading to the opposing currents on both side of the inlet). With an opposing 1 to 1.5 kt current, we were missing bridge openings by about 5 minutes even though we were motoring at 8 kts. So instead of arriving at Joe's place by 1:30 it was closer to 4:00 before we finally docked.

We're at the Palm Beach Yachting Center which is mostly a small boat marina. Small but not inexpensive! They take fishing in a big way here and some of the boats are a work of art. They only have two transients slips and they don't take reservations but we had no trouble getting in.

Joe Mastri came by to pick us up at 5:00 for a trip over to his place for dinner and trading of the latest news. Hoolie was very glad to see Joe since he always get multiple treats whenever he's around, the dog learns fast when it comes to food! We'll spend one more day here provisioning and visiting with Joe before we leave for Ft Lauderdale on Sunday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hobe Sound - at anchor

Hoolie's beach  by the anchorage
The forecast was for 20 to 30- kt winds out of the northwest but grib only predicted 20 kts tops. We've learned to trust more to grib than to the NOAA or Coast Guard forecasts. The Coast Guard forecasts seem to be tailored to make their job easier by keeps as many people off the water as possible (don't say we didn't warn you...) We followed grib and left Vero around 8:30 with an 18 kt wind behind us which was fine. You don't want to head into a 20 kt wind but having it behind you is no problem.

Nice neighborhood 
We had our normal 7.3 kts of speed, the prop was the problem after all and with it now clean, we made good time. It seems that almost all of the power boats are going the same speed as us. We were followed by a 62 ft powerboat most of the way. It's expensive to motor much faster than 7 kts!

A magical night
Grib said the winds would abate by late afternoon so we planned on anchoring in our traditional spot in Hobe Sound after briefly considering what appeared to be a more protected anchorage. It's now almost 8:00 and the wind has died to less than 5 kts but the temperature is falling fast, under 60 already. It's headed for a low of 40 tonight.

A hand-held shot of the moon off the back of the boat
On the way back to the boat after taking Hoolie into shore I saw the moonrise, what a sight! With the perfectly dark night and still waters, the sight was incredible! We're headed for Joe Mastri's place on Fridy at Boynton Beach for two days. We'll just hang out and have a good time with Joe.