Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Key West at last - a Key West Bight Marina at our usual dock - E14


We’re in the same slip we’ve had for the last 13 years 

It’s our 13th year down to Key West for the winter. We have the same dock with the same problems, namely that you have to get off over the bow. They have plans to install a half walkway out from the dock but who knows when that will happen? For now, it’s over the bow again. 

Western Union still has not returned to its namesake slip - now a shrimp boat is there

Nothing much as changed at Key West as far as we’ve seen so far. We had dinner at Schooners Wharf to celebrate our arrival but then it’s back to our regular fare. 

Schooner Wharf is as good as ever - nothing but sky over us (no roof).

For now, the weather could not be any better with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 60s at night along with light winds. We will branch out tomorrow to see what has changed, if anything. Meanwhile, Ann bought a life vest for Hoolie that allows me to pick him up like a sack of potatoes using a strap over his back. He hangs free while I hoist him over the bow. So far, it has worked out fine although Hoolie wasn’t too fond of seeing nothing but water below him during part of the hoist. 

Time to start our exercise regime on Wednesday. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Marathon - at a dock

A sunrise, not a sunset for a change - that’s the Gulf Stream out there.

 We had a 50 mile journey ahead of us so we got up early (for us… ) and headed out at 7:00 am. Ann took a photo of a great sunrise. The clouds seem to congregate over the Gulf Stream which results in lots of color in sunrises. 

Much of the fun of cruising is in meeting great people along the way

The ride was terrible! We had not all that much wind (15 kts) but it hit us broadside and with 2 to 3 ft waves from the same direction. The boat bounced up and down, side to side - just a miserable ride. Eventually, eventually, we reached Safe Harbor Marathon marina and took a floating dock. We’ve had our fill of trying to find an anchoring spot in the crowded field closer in. There were 18 boats anchored to the west of Boot Key, not in Boot Key harbor. I don’t remember so many boats outside.  Can’t imagine how crowded it must be inside, and I don’t want to find out.

Note the long floating docks! Very nice.

Several of our neighbors stopped by for a chat. One couple had just left Key West. It’s less than today’s run, about 40 miles instead of the 50 we traveled today. It’s supposed to be less windy too but that’s mostly just reading tea leaves - there’s certainly no science to it when the results proved to be so variable (do I sound bitter?) 

Oh well, sure looking forward to Key West and our first night out at Schooner’s Wharf. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Key Largo - Last Day


This guy came into the dock this afternoon. I wonder if he goes out into the ocean?

Lots of housekeeping today to get ready for our final leg to Key West. They have good laundry service here so we took advantage of that. No matter how high the wind blows in the Keys, it’s protected where we’re at but it’s time to move on. 

I returned the car to Enterprise which on Sunday involves a hike from the Enterprise office down the road back to the marina, about a mile or a little less. We celebrated our last day in Key Largo with another diner at Skipper’s Dockside, a place we’ve come to enjoy. The food is good and reasonably priced, less expensive than some of the other nearby restaurants which is somewhat surprising since it’s attached to the Marina Del Mar resort. 

One last look at the African Queen - powered by an outboard now

The dockhand said that they’ve seen crocodiles at times in the canal by the marina. They can exist in salt water (that’s where “crocodiles tears” come from, they are getting rid of the salt in their diet) where alligators cannot. They been known to catch pelicans off docks. 

We plan on leaving early, it’s a 50 mile sail to Marathon and we’re hoping for mild weather. It’s really been windy the last four days!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Key Largo - We explore more


Maybe I’ll get a bike?!

Today we went south to Robbie’s of Islamorada, a real tourist trap if ever there was one in the Keys. It was a nice ride in good weather so what the heck. Their big attraction other than all the beach stuff they had for sale were the live tarpons. However, it turned out that they wanted to charge $2.50 just to walk about 50 ft out onto the pier to see them. You can see tarpons in Key West Bight Marina for free, I wasn’t about top pay $5 for the privilege for both of us. 

A view of Fleetwing from across the canal, ready to go Monday

So we walked around and looked in the shops. Ann discovered photo prints made with silver halide paper. They are more vivid than prints on metal, much more. We’re definitely going to look into do that with some of our photos! The colors really stand out.

After a drive back to Fleetwing, we just enjoyed the rest of the day in the cockpit, very restful. We are biding time until Monday morning when we move again on the way to Key West.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Key Largo - We Explore


Nice Docks, easy on and off if you can get a bulkhead

The first order of business was to pick up our rental car from Enterprise at 10:00 am and then find the nearest supermarket for groceries. We used to go to Publix for groceries but we now favor Winn Dixie. They are less expensive than Publix and have just as good produce and other goods. 

The bird sanctuary had spacious cages for recovering birds

At 11:00 on a Thursday morning, there were less than 10 shoppers in the store. It was well stocked and we got everything on our list. We are now good for the next two weeks when we finally get to Key West. 

We do enjoy fish sandwiches

In the afternoon, it was off to the bird sanctuary which specializes in the rescue of birds that come to grief one way or another (hit by car, shot at, etc.) They specialize in getting the birds back into the wild after an accident but occasionally the birds can’t make the leap to getting back to where they were. In that case, they stay at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives. They are well cared for in large caged areas. 

For our evening entertainment, we ate out at Skipper’s Dockside which is just down the dock walk from us. We both had great fish sandwiches and a nice night out. We will attempt a repeat on Saturday.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Key Largo - at a dock at Marina Del Mar


Contrary to expectations, we do occasionally move on early in the morning - when needed

We had 50 miles to go so it was time to get an early start but it was still after the sun rose. There was no wind and no wave action. We took the inside route south and passed over into the ocean through Angelfish Creek. 

Marina Del Mar is a wonderful resort - that also has a marina. If you’re in the marina, you have the full run of the resort such as the swimming pool and free breakfasts

It has a reputation of being shallow but we saw 5.6 MLLW on the ocean side which was shallower than on the bay side. With our 4’ 9” keel, we could have gone at low tide. Likewise for the entrance to Key Largo. We saw 5.3 MLLW at the entrance even though the chats show 3 ft. We’ve been in and out of Key Largo now five times and never saw less than 5.3 MLLW at the entrance. Once inside, it’s 15 to 20 ft deep. 

We will pick up a car rental on Friday, get groceries, explore the area, and go out for dinner that night. The next three days are non travel days for us with high winds of 18 to 25 kts. We will stay put until Monday when the winds abate.Then it’s Marathon and Key West next. At least it’s warm now!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Marine Stadium in Miami - at anchor


They like to lie in the sun in the afternoon

We enjoyed a very peaceful night. It’s noisier on the weekends but during the week it’s fine. Of course, it helps that I sleep well on the weekends too, I just take my hearing aid out - ha! When approaching the harbor, it would appear at first glance that there’s no room with dozens and dozens of boats already anchored. However, Marine Stadium is a very large anchorage and there’s always room, especially farther in where we go. We never anchor near the entrance. 

Many shells went by of all types

Hoolie has a nearby spot for pet relief, very convenient. In the afternoon, we took a ride around the anchorage. The sport here is to see how many iguanas you can see sunning themselves in the trees. We can usually see a dozen but today we saw only one. 

Yet another sunset, nice

The anchorage is also the home of rowing clubs featuring two man, four man, six man, and war canoes. They were even out after dark with their shell all lit up with running lights. There was one guy out on a board fitted with an electric hydrofoil. He looked strange skooting around with the board out of the water with a thin metal piece connected to the hydrofoil in the water below. 

The view of Miami from Marine Stadium

One of the attractions of the anchorage is the view of Miami at night, spectacular. We will be leaving first thing in the morning for Key Largo for four days to wait for better weather due on Monday for our run to Marathon. One can hope. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Marine Stadium in Miami - at anchor


The Julie Tuttle bridge - It doesn’t look imposing but when you’re 55.3 ft and the bridge is only 56 ft, you pay attention.

The trip to Marine Stadium was only 25 miles but there were many bridges. The reason we had not taken the route before was due to the Julia Tuttle bridge with a clearance of 56 ft. We top out at 55.3 ft and I had thought it was a little too close. However, with unfavorable winds for the next two days and the resulting prospect of sitting in Ft Lauderdale to wait for better weather for a trip down the coast - we thought the trip down the ICW to Miami held promise. 

Hoolie’s favorite ride

With some research, we learned that many boats with a mast height similar to ours made the trip successfully. As insurance, we picked a day when there was a drain tide to ensure we would have enough clearance even if that meant waiting a couple of hours for the lowest of the low tide. 

As things turned out, we reached the Julia Tuttle bridge with 1 ft of tide and saw the height board at 56 ft. Since we were certain of our mast height at 55.3 feet and we had heard from others that the boards were accurate - we proceeded through without incident. 

We always have nice sunsets in Marine Stadium - it’s a quiet night too

If you were to look into Marine Stadium as you approached the area, you would think there was no room. There are boats everywhere! From experience, we knew that looks were deceiving and motored to the far northeastern end of the anchorage. We found a good spot with plenty of room, put out all our 3/8 inch BBB chain (90 ft) and could probably withstand anything short of a hurricane with the resulting 10:1 scope. 

We will spend the next two days here and then move on to Key Largo on Thursday for four more days to let the high winds pass. A two day calm period is forecast and we will take advantage of it to reach Key West on 1/31/2023. It will be a few days after our reservations of 1/28 but that’s cruising - you don’t argue with the weather gods. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Ft Lauderdale - at the Las Olas mooring field


The Las Olas mooring field is very convenient and reasonable at $35/night

From Delray Beach south to Ft Lauderdale, the bridges are all timed for 7 kts. We were able to make every bridge without waiting. It was as if the bridges weren’t there. It was a Monday down the canyon so it was fine, a few boats but not the wild going on’s you see on the weekend. 

Unfinished business - the dinghy dock. They have a ramp but some work has to be done to stabilized the dock and attached the ramp to land. They said by March, probably. 

We arrived at the Las Olas mooring field and found five moorings empty. Even at 6:30, there were still two moorings available. The procedure is to pick up any free mooring and then call the office at 954-828-5423 and they will take your information and send you an invoice to fill out via email for you to return. You can pay by check or credit card or go to their main office and pay in person. 

Near low tide, there is a mini beach in one corner of the anchorage - with sand

The moorings look fine but the dinghy dock is not yet attached to the mainland. In fact, there’s no convenient way to get to land. For those with pets, you have to tie up to the bulkhead and hoist your dog ashore. It’s not bad at high tide but at low tide, it can be difficult. 

We happened to come in at low tide and at that time, there’s a sandy beach visible in the northwest corner of the anchorage - it’s where I took Hoolie in the afternoon. Later that night, I did the hoisting job. 

We are headed to Marine Stadium on Tuesday and I’ll take photos of the low clearance bridge, the Julia Tuttle bridge, for future reference. It will be our first trip through that area and I’ll add that leg to the Bob423 track from Titusville. Then it will be two days at Marine Stadium before the next weather window opens up to go down the Keys. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Delray Beach City Marina - at a dock


Florida is in bloom!

This place is a real gem. We did laundry at the free washer and dryer, used the free pumpout, took on free water, refilled my ice bucket with free ice, and washed down Fleetwing. It was a busy day but we’re ready for the leg to Key West now. 

The beach is only four blocks away

Meanwhile, the area is nicely landscaped and the beach is only four blocks away. I took a walk over and with the warm day in the 70s, it was packed. There are tons of shops and several large hotels nearby as well as many, many places to dine. It would be easy to spend a week here. 

We also had a visit from this fellow

The docks are only available when the owner of the dock is away. In this tight market for docks, every dock is already rented for the year but the marina will rent out docks when the owner is away on a trip. We were able to stay the extra day since no one was due back on Sunday. 

By staying two days, we were able to avoid the canyon on a weekend, always a plus. We hope to pick up a mooring at Las OIas on Monday in preparation for a trip down the ICW to Miami and marine stadium where we will bide out time for good weather to move farther west down the Keys. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Delray Beach City Marina - at a dock


First rate docks! 

So here’s the question. How much does it cost in a high rent district (Delray Beach) for a dock with the follow amenities after payment for the dock?

  • Laundry
  • Ice
  • Pumpout
  • 30 amp service
  • Concrete, 46 ft floating docks
  • Water
  • Toilet and tiled showers
The answer is $0. All of the above was included in my $65.20 dockage fee (including all taxes). The fee is a flat rate for 30 to 55 foot boats. The docks are brand new floating concrete docks, each with a ramp to land for easy access. What a deal! One of the locals on a boat at the marina acted as the marina dockhand  to help you in.

The shower facilities are the best I’ve seen, all tiled

We went bow in and for a view of the passing traffic. The marina is near the bridge so all the boats went by at idle speed. The beach is four blocks away but there’s a restaurant just up towards the bridge, less than a block away, right downtown with many shops and places to eat. 

The grounds were nicely done too

On Sunday, we’re headed south to Ft Lauderdale and hopefully, a mooring at Las Olas. We plan on spending a few days before heading on to Key West. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Riviera Beach at Lake Worth Inlet - at a dock


We are getting into big time pelican country

There was no future in waiting for the Donald Ross bridge to be repaired. The delays were endless so we decided to go out St Lucie Inlet and back in using the Lake Worth Inlet at Riviera Beach. Our starting point was the Jensen Beach mooring field which was only five miles or so from St Lucie. 

Sort of a nice sunset

As I approached the inlet, I was overtaken by a fishing boat, the kind with a dozen fishermen on each railing with poles. The captain was obviously very familiar with the inlet and probably went out at least twice a day so I followed him as he headed east. I noticed that he took several very wide turns so I took them too. The least I saw was 11.4 MLLW and I constructed a GPX route that followed my track (which followed HIS track). So anyone wishing to exit via the St Lucie Inlet has access to the deepest route courtesy of a local fishing boat.

Getting a dock this time of the year is a challenge. We found one at Riviera Beach but only after calling every marina there. On the next day, we had wanted to get to Ft Lauderdale but after calling every marina in town, we found no slips available - and these are not cheap slips! Boaters remain undeterred by the slowing economy, high prices for diesel, or anything else that may try to slow them down in boating. 

Starting at Ft Lauderdale and calling marinas going north, we finally found one dock open at Delray Beach which we grabbed immediately. From there, we plan on arriving at Ft Lauderdale early in the day in the hopes of getting a mooring at Las Olas for a couple of days. Time to relax.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Jensen Beach Mooring Field - On a mooring

Nice condos at Loggerhead Marina at Vero Beach, $235/night is the cheapest overnight stay in a condo

 Our plan is to stage for a passage going out St Lucie Friday morning and coming back in at Lake Worth. We saw the Jensen Beach mooring field as a good staging point since it’s only 5 NM from St Lucie. The forecast is for 5 to 10 kts of wind out of th west and 2 ft rollers out of the northeast. With that forecast, we’re good to go on Friday morning.

There have been several boats going out the St Lucie inlet over the past week and none reported less than 10 ft of water in a well marked channel. The trip down the coast is only 21 NM and we have a slip reserved at day’s end. 

A view of the bridge at Jensen Beach. The bridge provides good protetion from the north but the wind is from the south tonight although it’s only at 7 kts.

After that, we have to decide where we plan on winding up Saturday. The weekend is not a good day to travel the ICW down to Miami but we have little choice. Once in Miami, we’ will hang out at Marine Stadium and wait for good weather for the run to Key West. At least we’ve regained warm weather with highs in the 70s now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Vero Beach at Loggerhead Marina


Just as we left Titusville, we were treated to a SpaceX launch just as the sun rose.

It was time to go. The Donald Ross bridge has no projected repair date. With that exciting news, we decided to leave Titusville with the intention of taking the St Lucie Inlet out to the Lake Worth Inlet in order to bypass the defective bridge. Who knows when it will be fixed??

Hoolie likes the docks here. He an get on and off by himself. 

At least today the weather was fine with little wind and warm temps. We started out with the intention of arriving at Loggerhead around 4:00 but yet another bridge problem got in the way. It seems that there are some days when the NASAA Causeway bridge does not have to open (all day!) due to construction of the new high rise bridge (65 ft clearance). The bridge tender made an exception for us and we only had to wait 45 minutes before the opening but we lost our 4:00 pm arrival time at Loggerhead, oh well.

On Thursday, we’re headed for the Jensen Beach mooring field to stage for next day’s journey out the St Lucie Inlet. It’s supposed to be a calm day but you never know with the ocean. Our plans beyond Friday are unclear, it depends n the weather and the status of bridges;. One can hope. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Titusville - Nature Walks in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge


Riot of color

Although we often go through Black Point drive to see the wildlife, there are many other places to see nearby. We took the walk through the Oak and Palm Hammock Trails. It’s relatively short, less than a mile but it’s an interesting walk.

Hoolie is smelling everywhere - such an adventure for a dog

To Hoolie, it’s a smorgoborg of smells. He can’t help himself with all the smells. It’s a part of nature we can never appreciate like a dog. To us, it’s a visual delight with the shades of green, the play of light - just a lot of fun. 

We will be leaving Titusville at 7:00 am on Wednesday morning with the destination of the Loggerhead marina at Vero Beach. It will take all day, arriving in Vero Beach around 4:00 to 4:30. Then we have to decide whether we believe the Donald Ross bridge will be open or not on Friday. If we think it will be, then we’ll move on to our Hobe Sound anchorage. If not, then it’s an anchorage nearby the St Lucie Inlet in preparation for a trip outside to Lake Worth. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Titusville - Black Point Drive


You can just see part of one eye and an ear peeking out in the center of the photo, he’s eying me!

Every so often we take a drive through the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge which usually includes Black Point drive. The birds were out in droves today, more so than many of the days we passed through. I met  one lady who was a local that had a spot where you could see a Great Horned Owl nest. The spot from the road was only about five feet wide, any farther to the right or left would not let you see the nest. She knew exactly where to stand. I planted myself there and took the top photo. You can see the owl peeking out behind a branch. You can just see part of one eye and an ear. 

Birds of a feather , flock together… 

The air was still so there were great reflections off the water. As always, there were plenty of ducks. They seemed to gather together more so than the other birds. 

Some interesting reflections
We now plan to leave Titusville on Wednesday morning. If the Donald Ross bridge is not operational, then we’ll go outside along the coast to bypass the bridge. It’s been down since 1/6, a very long time to have the ICW blocked for sailboat traffic, over 105 boats are waiting for the repair of the bridge.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Titusville - We see a Falcon Heavy launch


The right vapor trail is on the way up. The right trail is at a higher altitude and farther down range,
above the setting sun so it’s white in color.

It was the first Falcon Heavy launch in several years. It consists of three Falcon rockets tied together. It’s the biggest operational rocket in the world. Today it was used to launch a secret spy satellite into a geosynchronous orbit. It was scheduled for Saturday but it was delayed a day.

The weather was ideal with a full sun and calm winds. It left on time and put on a spectacular show. The sun was near the horizon and it illuminated the vapor trail a deep red. As the rocket reached a higher altitude, the vapor trail was better illuminated and appeared whiter.

Look at the two dots in the upper right corner - that’s the two side boosters coming back to land

In the last photo, you can see the two side boosters returning to Earth for a touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center. The middle rocket will be lost since all of its fuel will be consumed in reaching the high orbit required of a geosynchronous satellite. 

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for news on the Donald Ross bridge. The repair part was due in over the weekend and I’ll call first thing Monday to find out if it came in or not. Delays, delays. We seemed to always have something to keep us from getting to Key West on schedule. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Titusville - SpaceX heavy delayed until Sunday

Not especially active - kind of standing around

 We were all set to watch a SpaceX heavy launch but it has been delayed until Sunday night. It’s the the most powerful operational rocket in the world and consists of three SpaceX regular rockets tied together. The outer two will return and land at the Kennedy Space Center in tandem. We’ll look forward to the launch Sunday.

A face only a mother could love

The local birds are taking the cold weather in stride, it’s due to reach 34F tonight! After that it gradually warms up over the next week all the way to 81F on Thursday. So the birds are still  active, just not as active as usual - these are tropical birds. 

The Ibis are out too

Meanwhile, I continue getting Fleetwing ready for the trip to Key West. I think I have the Genset problem solved by cleaning all the cable contact points between the battery and the Genset. I was losing a lot in the many connections. The acid test will be when we try to start it on a cold morning.

The Donald Ross bridge is still not repaired and probability won’t be until the end of next week. We are up to 85 boats waiting for the bridge to reopen for marine traffic.  I’m posting the status every day for my 18,000 member Facebook group. Meanwhile, we wait. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Titusville - Red Sky At morning…

Red Sky at Morning, Sailors take warning

 Red sky at morning, sailors take warning… We've all heard that refrain but this morning it was true. We had a cold front come through at 7:30 so I rushed out to get Hoolie ashore before the rain and saw the red southern sky, a very bright red. The wind howled but the rain held off just long enough for Hoolie to do his business. 

A pretty rainbow

On the way back to the boat, we saw a rainbow highlighted by the red sky. Sure enough, in a few minutes the rains came down. The lows for the next few days will be in the low 40s and/or high 30s but since this is Florida, it will only last two or three days. Later in the week, it's due to rise into the upper 70s and even reach 81 on Thursday. 

The big news on the ICW continues to be the Donald Ross bridge. It's broken in the down position which means we can't go through the bridge, it's an effective blockage to all traffic that's taller than 35 feet. There are about 73 boats waiting for the bridge to be repaired. The boats are scattered up and down the ICW on both sides of the bridge. When it will be repaired - nobody knows. With that bit of news, we're sitting tight here in Titusville for a while. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Titusville - The ICW is Constipated


The egret owns this spot. He’s here everyday looking for his next meal

The Donald Ross bridge south of Jupiter Inlet has gone kaput. In order for a sailboat to pass through, the bridge has to be raised and that has not been possible since the weekend. There are hundreds of boats north of the bridge that are headed south for warmer weather and need to pass through the bridge. They are all waiting in various marinas, anchorages, or moorings. 

This seems like an expensive way to provide shade. I’ve never seen anything like it elsewhere.

I talked to the engineering group responsible for fixing the bridge and they do not sound encouraging on a quick repair. Now the word is, “Some time next week, we’ll know more”. I’ll call my contact again Friday around 11:30 to see if there’s any new news. 

In the meantime, it’s wonderfully warm weather here but the weekend is predicted to be much, much colder with another front coming through. We’re sitting and waiting, trying to decide what to do next week when we’re due to leave to go south. Every year, it always seem to be something to keep you on your toes.