Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miami Vices

Jan 29-30
The last three nights we have been anchored at Dinner Key, which is the largest marina in Miami and I think in all of Florida. It’s big. The anchorage is huge as well with lots of boats here with liveaboards. And judging by the stuff growing on them they’ve been here quite a while. We are able to dinghy to shore and access some stores in walking distance and hop on various transit in this area of Miami called Coconut Grove. The other day Christopher was waiting on shore while I messed around with something at the dinghy dock. When I returned he was talking to a gentleman who asked if he could offer Christopher a drink from a fresh coconut. The man then cut open the end, cleaned out the hole and gave it to Christopher. “Mmmm, tasty good!” was his response. He and I split it and we were surprised how much was in it. It took a while to drink the whole thing. The gentleman then opened one for himself before heading off to try to make a few dollars helping someone with their boat. This was one of the friendliest homeless people we have met.

We’ve been taking this time to get some shopping done, do laundry and get to know the area. Of course one of the benefits of this spot is that the way to get downtown is by rail! And the local area bus is only $0.25. Can’t beat that! We also picked up a new mode of transport – an inflatable kayak. This will help us be more flexible so that one of us can leave the boat to go ashore without leaving the others stranded out there. It will also be a great way to get a different kind of exercise going. Our main destination today was the Museum of History of Southern Florida in Downtown Miami. It was very interesting especially after being here for a couple of weeks now. Some of the exhibits were interactive like the puzzle on the wall Christopher is working on in the picture. As we cruised back to Tiffany Rose this afternoon we were treated to dozens of expert windsurfers tacking back and forth around us. They were headed in from Biscayne Bay from a large international race. This week we have seen tons of different small sailboats headed out to race. It is a week of the Olympic Class Regatta. A number of boats are here from Canada. We haven’t met any of the racers but we met one set of parents here from Nova Scotia whose son is in on the team. They are anchored in their boat a few hundred meters from us. This really is a hot spot for sailing. We hope to get out on the Bay some more and enjoy these crystal clear waters. Tonight we are being tossed around as the boat creeks and groans on her anchor under the erratic pressures of a strong northern wind bringing another cold front in.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two glorious days of sailing on Biscayne Bay, Jan 26-27

Yesterday we did end up hiking down the key to the beach on Key Biscayne. This beach is different than the others we’ve visited on our way south. Most have had a fairly boisterous surf. This beach had gentle waves coming in and it felt like you could walk forever out into the Atlantic and only be in water up to your knees. It was a very Christopher friendly beach.
Late afternoon we continued our hike into the village of Key Biscayne, a very pretty village. At the grocery store we ran into some boaters who keep their boat year-round at the marina and they offered to drive us back. A much appreciated offer as by then we had walked close to 5 km. and were looking for the bus schedule to figure out when we’d get back to Tiffany Rose.
Monday morning we left the mooring ball, and after pumping out and filling up with water at the marina dock, we headed south on Biscayne Bay. We headed out the Cape Florida Channel then turned around and came back into the bay by the Biscayne Channel passing Stiltsville which is a row of house high up on pilings in the bay (see picture). We put the sails up, turned the motor off and headed south.
It was great weather, much warmer than our sail last Thursday and we enjoyed sailing on a beam reach all the way to Elliot Key - part of Biscayne National Park. It is too shallow close to the key so we anchored a fair distance out in the Bay. Another Canadian boat was anchoring at the same time we were. With binoculars we couldn’t see who they were but they radioed us to see how deep the water was where we were and it turned out to be Sharon and Richard (from near Orangeville) who we’d met on the bus on Saturday. The world continues to get smaller. The water was super clear there and Dave snorkeled in to explore the bottom.
It was a windy night so it sort of felt like sleeping in a swinging hammock. This morning we put the motor on the dinghy and went over to Sharon and Richard’s boat Lucky for coffee and to hear their stories. They’ve been sailing the south for many years so it was good to get their perspectives on places they’ve been.
Then we were back to Tiffany Rose, got everything ship shape, and set off north again. The wind was friskier today than yesterday, it felt a little warmer and we had a great sail back up to Key Biscayne. It was quite exhilarating! Even though we anchored just off the western shore instead of returning to Crandon Park, Christopher recognized the area from yesterday, enough to say “Home Sweet Home” as we were pulling into the anchorage.
We are really enjoying this area south of Miami and are torn between wanting to go explore all of the Keys and wanting to make the trip across the stream to the Bahamas. Experienced cruisers tell us “it’s better in the Bahamas” but this is all so new to us that we are just thrilled to be doing what we are doing. So we continue to listen to the weather and make our travel plans one day at a time.

Exploring Key Biscayne and Miami

Friday to Sunday, January 23 – 25th, 2009

On Friday morning, we phoned Crandon Park on Key Biscayne and found that they had a mooring ball available so we pulled up the anchor and headed south of the city to Key Biscayne. We had heard that the beach there was nice but also that you could easily bus into downtown from there.
We found the mooring ball field at Crandon to be very different from the one at Vero beach. Most of the boats moored here seem to be local and of the 60 moorings here we are one of only maybe three boats that have people on them. The sunsets as we look out over Biscayne Bay are spectacular.
Friday afternoon we explored Crandon Park and the beach possibilities. Saturday we took the bus into the big city. On the bus we met a couple, Sharon and Richard, from just south of Orangeville who are here on a boat as well. Once there we found there is a free monorail that takes you around the downtown. That was a fun trip for Christopher. He was able to stand at the front of the car and video as we toured around high up on the rail. We got off at the Bayside Park where we could watch boats coming in, and enjoy a somewhat carnival like atmosphere with live music, kiddie rides etc. There is a marathon happening there today so there was a lot of event preparation going on.
Today we have set aside as our beach day, so we’ll pack up, row the dinghy to shore and hike on down there.

So…..we do have a sailboat after all! To Miami Jan 22

We’ve enjoyed our trip on the Intracoastal Waterway - the 1065 miles since Norfolk, but the one thing most sailboat cruisers will tell you is the most frustrating is the amount of motoring you do. Recently ‘sailing’ has meant that maybe we rolled the jib out for a bit to help the motor along but that motor has been a constant companion ( and we’re glad it is too, don’t want to offend our reliable friend.)
So this morning we headed down the New River in Fort Lauderdale (before the Jungle Queen started her day) looking forward to letting Tiffany Rose stretch her sails on an ocean run down to Miami. Of course, we couldn’t leave the harbour without a little excitement. Just before we headed out the inlet at Port Everglades, we turned into the wind to put the mainsail up. We are well aware that you can’t go near a cruise ship while it’s moving and we had noticed one but it was sitting at the dock. No sooner had Dave gone up to the mast and I had start pulling on the halyard did the ship let off one big whistle. We thought we could finish what we were doing because it only takes a minute but there was the Sheriff boat racing toward us and yelling to get out of the way and go back up the channel right now, toward the bridge we had just come through. So there we were motoring around in circles by the bridge with an ‘almost up’ baggy sail. The ship was away from dock and out the inlet in no time though, and we continued on.
We got out passed the markers in the inlet, turned south,, unfurled the jib and……..turned the motor off! Ahhhhhh! Finally! (Not that we don’t like the motor, our reliable friend, just thought it would enjoy the free ride as well.) The day was beautiful, sunny although a bit chilly, the wind was from the west and the waves were small. We were able to sail on a reach the whole way. We felt like we arrived at Miami sooner than we were ready to. Dave and I would take turns at the helm as we approached the Government Cut at Miami, for ‘just another couple of minutes before we head in’. Then another couple, then another. Finally we turned the motor on (did I mention it is our reliable friend?) and brought the sails in and motored in toward the city. We planned to anchor in the shelter of some islands between the MacArthur and Venetian Causeways. When we got to the spot we had in mind we were surprised and pleased to see Myosotis, the boat we had rafted with at Vero Beach already there.
We have no internet connection as I’m writing this. When we do manage to post it we hope we can add some pictures and maybe a video too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Downtown in the "Venice" of America Jan 18-21

After being advised by the police that we could not anchor more than a day anywhere in the city limits we upped our anchor in the morning and said goodbye to the Middle River and hello to the New River. This is the main river that goes through the heart of the city and is lined with canals. We wanted to stay a bit longer here so we opted for a marina. To our delight the city marina on the New River was only 90 cents a foot with our BoatUS discount. That came out to be less than the mooring ball at the other marina. The trick was getting there. The marina was a ways up the river and as we started up we realized it was not a casual ride up the river. It is narrow, very winding, and has a swift current as the tides turn. But most concerning was the mega yacht traffic. After all this is the yachting capital of the world and there is no short supply a crazy sized craft. Our 34’ is very tiny here. As we made our way along these larger-than-life boats would be coming downstram towards us taking up most of the space. My grip on the wheel would tighten in proportion to the proximity of the others and it would go into full iron grip at some wild corners. These guys take the corners in a skidding manoever throwing their stern over to our side. We would watch as they would maddly spin their steering wheels compensating for the sliding motion, while I would feel my lips dry and crack as I held our course. And then we had to wait for bridge to open with the tourboat “Jungle Queen” breathing down our back. We heard it coming on the radio and when we turned to look, we had to look up. Gulp – get the bridge open please! As soon as we popped though the bridge we slid over to the wall and tied up at our docking spot. Phew! You can see in the picture the scale of Tiffany Rose, the little sailboat tied up to the right of the bridge, and the other boats of larger proportions. This unplanned stop has proven to be a very good one. We are right downtown tied up along the beautiful Riverwalk - a redbrick landscaped pathway along the river. Nearby is the upscale Las Olas blvd with all its glamour, a short shuttle ride to the beach, a short walk to the grocery store and best of all a train track within sight! In our four days here we’ve taken advantage of it all. We even went out to a night spot with live music, beer and chocolate milk for Christopher. He was groovin’ with the tunes when they played good ones! We’ve also taken this time to stockpile some food should we decide to cross to the Bahamas soon. Not sure if we will since there are other places we want to go as well, but it is good to be ready.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ft Lauderdale - where we learned to go to sea! Jan 16

As expected the trip into Ft Lauderdale was bridge after bridge. We felt lucky as a couple of attendants held them for a minute or so for us, which prevented a half hour of circling and waiting each time. And since the weather wasn’t great and it was a weekday there wasn’t a lot of traffic to bounce us around between the concrete walls. Christopher had the job of working out the math to determine the number of bridges left a we progressed. Lots of equations to figure. We ended up anchoring in the Middle River in the city surrounded by fancy homes with moored mega yachts. The most interesting thing for us here is that just up stream a few metres is the BlueWater Sailing School where Shirley and I took our course last January – exactly a year ago to the day. It was a bit surreal to stand there beside the boat we took our course on, when we were just learning how to do this stuff, and here we are a year later having travelled over 1,900 water miles to get here. We even had the opportunity to meet with Captain Ted Wheeler, our course instructor – he’s in the picture with us. I guess he did a good job ‘cause here we are! On the way back to our boat the police boat came by to inform us that the city has a 24 hr anchoring limit, which means we are already over the limit and will have to go elsewhere tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Beyond Vero Beach

We cut ties early in the morning with Bill and Jeannette on Myosotis – our rafted buddies on the mooring ball. Here is a picture Jeannette took of us “dancing in the moonlight”!
After a cleansing pump out of the holding tanks and a refill of the water tanks we started back doen the Indian River. Christopher was excited to be on the go again and with the straightforward route and a fair wind we let out the our forsail and motor sailed happily along. Felt good to have wind in the sail for the first time in ’09 and it helped keep our speed up. We expected to have many boats on the water but we didn’t see many at all.
Our destination was an anchorage in Manatee Pocket near Stuart, Fl. This is a well protected area lined with marinas and huge sport fishing boats. We can feel the cold front coming in. Going down to about 50 degrees F tonight. Brrrrr.

Thursday we were up with the sun and headed on through areas lined with excessive opulence contrasted with wildlife sanctuary zones, often across the waterway from each other. As we approach the more southern areas the number of bridges increases. These bridges often require a bit of fancy dancing and timing. Some are restricted and open at set intervals, others open when asked, politely of course. This combined with brisk winds, significant currents and boats that can leave ocean size wakes make waiting and jockying around the bridges a mouth drying challenge. And these things all open at different speeds. We had a near infraction of the mast cracking type when I approached the opening spans a little too soon, anticipating that they were opening faster and I started to let the river’s speed take us through. With our eyes wide open and shut tight at the same time we squeeked through the very centre. And this is the warm up for our thrust into Fort Lauderdale which amplifies this by having concrete walls lining the channel to happily bounce the waves back and forth creating a kind of perpetual wake machine. Woo-hoo! Tonight we dropped anchor at Lantana, south of Palm Beach. Couldn’t get a good enough internet connection here. I was out in the dark dangling our connector right off the bow to grab an airwave or two and got enough to send grandma and grandpa a quick note to let them know where we were. Then the wind would shift…

Monday, January 12, 2009

They call it Velcro Beach

Monday, January 12, 2009

We had heard that some people call Vero Beach Velcro Beach because people arrive and don't leave. When we arrived on Thursday our plan was to leave on Saturday. Well, it's Monday and here we are! With the free bus service, beach etc it is very easy to stay. We also have tried twice to view trains that we can hear from our mooring. The bus transfer station is right at the track crossing and also has a nice park/playground. In our two ventures we have been unsuccessful at tracking down a live train, so we will have to be satisified to hearing their calls off in the wilderness. We had our first overboard casualty the other day. As Dave was getting into the dinghy he had the handheld VHF radio clipped to his belt. One wrong move and splish-splash there it goes. We tried to retrieve it with the big magmet but there is not enough metal in it. We were in a hurry to get to the beach to snorkel so didn't dive in (is that ironic?). Later at the West Marine store we cashed in a pile of coupons and ended up paying only $2.00 for the same radio. Not bad. Lesson learned. Dave tried diving for it later because he found out the warranty may cover submersion damage. Our location had shifted a bit so no luck.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reef-er Madness Jan 9

Today was the day to see what this place Vero Beach was all about. There is a bus service that will take to all over – for free! How about that?! But today we bypassed this great service and walked the mile or so to the beach. It was a fine looking beach but the wind had a chill in it. From up on a boardwalk we noticed that the turquoise water was interrupted by darker bands. When we asked about that at the lifeguard station he explained that this is an area of coral reefs – cool. Just then we saw a manatee swimming in the surf close to shore. One of the off duty lifeguards bolted in with his mask and fins trying to get a manatee ride but it eluded him. We couldn’t miss out on this first chance to snorkel so I ran all the way back to the marina, hopped in the dinghy and brought back our stuff. We spent the rest of the afternoon hovering around the coral looking at the life there. It was quite wavy and Christopher’s ever developing capacity to hold his breath at the right time prevented him from coming all the way out. He came out part way and got his face in the water for a look a couple of times. Not sure what he saw in those moments but he hasn’t stopped talking about seeing the bottom of the ocean just like in the book he received from his

On to Vero Beach

For the first time in 2009 we woke up in the dark to be ready to cast off at sunrise. With goodbye waves to the marina and manatees and a couple of folks who were up early as well we tip toed out through the shallow Eau Gallie channel. A perfect day to head off. Light winds and full sun. The engine was purring (as if a diesel can purr) and we gradually got into the swing of being mindful of the markers while keeping an eye on the depth sounder. As the morning went on the broad expanse of the Indian River Lagoon transformed into a beautiful winding waterway edged with mangroves and spectacular home properties while dolphins danced in the sparkles. Just after lunch we pulled into the channel for the Vero Beach City marina and hooked on to a mooring ball there. Actually we hooked on to another boat. This is a very popular spot and the substantial mooring area seems to be always full. So we are sharing a mooring with Jenette and Bill on Myosotis. We have never rafted up like this before and when we arrived they were away from their boat. So we gingerly and nervously pulled up beside their boat and got a line or two attached. Then we spent the next while figuring out how to properly attach ourselves. We did the best we could and then went out to explore the area. When we returned Bill and Jennette were there to great us and they had wisely adjusted the lines and fenders to make the situation more secure for us both. That evening we found ourselves dancing on the foredeck to the sound of live music be plunked away at a neighbouring boat. No internet access here so we scramble around with the laptop to find a connection somewhere.It will be sporadic.

Finally leaving Eau Gallie Jan 8

Since we had paid for our dock up until January 9th we spent that time taking advantage of our location and people there. Mr. Manatee let us take a better picture of him. We rented a car one day and had a fabulous hot day at the beach. The breakers were coming in with gusto and we quickly threw our bodies into them. I find that my streamlined hairline allows me to cut through the water very nicely allowing for superb body surfing. Christopher found the waves a bit overwhelming but he was brave at jumping in them if they didn’t crash up to his face. During these days we also got some final preparations done to get out on the water again – first time in a month. It was amazing how anxious we were about leaving the dock. A couple of the live aboard boaters sat down with us to share their knowledge about going further south. These guys have really been around out there so it was fun and insightful to hear what they had to share. Now we are excited to move on. Before we left we also got to re-meet some of the others from a couple of boats who had headed home for the holidays. It almost seemed like we were greeting old friends when really we had only known them for a day or so. Wonder if we’ll see them again in our travels.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

There and Back Again

Another great on-time flight and poof! we are back in the sun and warmth being rocked gently to sleep aboard Tiffany Rose. It was a relief to step aboard and see that everything was in order after leaving the boat alone for two weeks. We had a rental car from the airport and took advantage of it to stock up on groceries. Before we turned it in the next morning we headed to the beach. It was sunny and warm and fairly busy with people getting in their last holiday frolic before heading back to colder zones for work or school. We will spend most of the week here partly working on things to get ready to head further south and to just relax while the weather is this good. We got lucky on one of our repairs. Back in November our auto pilot stopped working. When we figured out which part was at fault the company told us they no longer make or service this model - sorry. The best option seemed to be to rip out the whole thing and put in a new one for $1,600 and lots of work. Luckily while at home over the holidays I searched out a compatible part on EBAY for $200 and ordered it. And like magic it was here at the marina waiting when we arrived. After a bit of fanagaling and borrowing a large hole saw from someone who lives aboard here, this compatible control head was installed and working. Good to have an expensive and long job turn into a less expensive and easier job. Hope it lasts!
We are also revamping our 'stored away" stuff. We are taking the risk of taking out all our summer wear and putting away most of our cold weather things....hope it lasts!

There's no place like home for the holidays

We had a great flight home. Christopher was very excited since it was his first time on an airplane - and he let everyone he saw along the way know. We were lucky with our flight arriving on time which was followed the next day by a big storm and tons of flight cancellations everywhere. It was great to see all the family and in a short time it seemed like we had never left. Funny how three intense months can dissolve in a flash. It didn't seem like our bodies were ready though as we wimpered a bit at the toboggan hill with a stiff cold wind. Grandma and Grandpa were wonderful to have us stay with them for the visit. The two weeks home were quite a whirlwind with doctor appointments, visiting our tenants at our house, getting Christmas shopping in, having Christmas, recovering a bit, then New Years. So after a number of snows and thaws it is time to fly back south to our floating home to begin part ll of our journey.