When we pass through drawbridges, we talk to the bridge tenders on the VHF radio. We ask them to open for us, and we thank them after we pass through. We wave at them, and they wave at us. The drivers in cars don’t hardly even know the bridge tenders are there. Most are friendly, and some come out of their control rooms to wave. They all wish us a good day.
When we anchored in Miami Beach, we had the Miami skyline behind us. You can see the cranes adding more and more to the city every day. Did you know that Miami was incorporated in 1896 with a population of 300? It is only 11 years older than Kingsport.
This huge staghorn fern was growing on tree along Alton Road. It encircles the tree. I think it is really neat. Do you?
We were in a slip at Crandon Park Marina doing repairs when this mother manatee and child floated by. She is big… maybe 1000 lb and 8 feet long. There are scars on her back and tail where she has been hit by boat propellers. Manatees are too slow to get out of the way.
This is our engine. The round thing at the top right is the compressor for our refrigeration. It is what failed and kept us in Miami. To the right of it is a brass hand pump that sucks water out of the bottom of our icebox. It too is new. Bill broke the old one right after he replaced the compressor.
Greetings from the Crandon Park Marina on Key Biscayne. Irish Eyes has now been in the Miami area for almost three weeks. Up to now it’s been warm, windy, and sunny, but Thursday morning it was 56 degrees when we woke up. Brrrrr. We have had some mechanical problems which have kept us from leaving for the Bahamas.
We left Vero Beach early on February 20. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the weather was getting warmer and warmer as we headed south. Monday was Presidents’ Day, and we worried that there would be lots of small boat traffic darting this way and that, but few people seemed to be out. By 4 that afternoon we were peacefully anchored in Hobe Sound, behind Jupiter Island and its golf courses. From that point south there were 36 drawbridges before Miami, six of them before the next good place to anchor in North Palm Beach. It broke Bill’s heart to stop so early, but if we had pressed on and had any delays at the bridges, we would have gotten to Palm Beach in the dark. Besides, the early stop meant early cocktails. Hooray!
Tuesday was a long and boring day going through the bridges. Sometimes, we had to wait as much as an hour for a bridge to open. By 5 o’clock we were in Boca Raton. There, between the Palmetto Park Bridge and the Camino Real Bridge, is a wide spot east of the ICW called Lake Boca Raton. I had a hard time thinking of it as a lake. It was small, and most of it was too shallow for us. But, we found a suitable spot just off the waterway and happily anchored among several other cruising boats. Wednesday dawned with rain and wind; it was not good traveling weather. With no deadlines, we stayed put. It rained 1.3 inches, and the wind blew 20 knots with frequent gusts up to 30 knots. Bill did some indoor boat projects while I knitted and read. I liked taking the day off. It was dry and cozy inside the boat, and it was a welcome break from the bridge marathon. By 4pm the cold front had passed, the wind stopped blowing, and sky cleared.
We were up and away early Thursday. There were still bridges ahead, and just north of Miami was Baker’s Haulover, a shallow spot scheduled to be dredged later in the spring. We got there at low tide, and the TowBoatUS and SeaTow boats both were circling like vultures. We were more than a little worried. Although at times we only had inches of water below our keel, we luckily never touched the bottom. The drawbridges were not a problem either, except for Miami’s 79th Street Bridge. We called the bridge tender twice on the VHF radio without getting a response. After 15 or 20 minutes, the bridge tender came outside his ‘house’ and looked around for awhile, then he went back and called us on the radio asking if we wanted an opening. He must have been taking a nap when we first arrived. After passing through his bridge and traveling a mile or more, we looked back and his bridge was still in the up position. Four lanes of traffic were still stopped. Maybe the guy just quit and went home, who knows.
By suppertime we were safely anchored in Biscayne Bay near the Miami Beach Mt. Sinai Hospital. Our friends on Dot’s Way were anchored nearby as well as a large motor yacht, Rockstar. Whew. We had cleared the first big hurdle of our journey.
Next, we needed to fix a couple of things that had raised their heads on the way down. First up was the inflatable dinghy and its new outboard motor. When going fast on a plane, the outboard propeller would suck air, the engine would speed up, and the dinghy would slow down. That cycle would be repeated over and over. Calls to the shop that sold us the engine and to the dinghy manufacturer gave us three possible fixes. We could saw a notch in the dinghy transom to lower the engine thus putting the propeller deeper in the water. We could pump up the inflatable dinghy really, really hard thinking that the heavier new engine needed a harder dinghy to support its weight. Or, we could buy a pair of hydrofoil fins and bolt them to the engine anti-cavitation plate to make the plate bigger and keep air from being sucked into the propeller. Cutting the dinghy transom just seemed too drastic. Pumping the dinghy up hard seemed easy at first, but the foot pump was in the bottom of the port cockpit locker and too hard (?) for Bill to bother to dig out. Buying hydrofoil fins and bolting them to the engine appealed to Bill. He could buy them at West Marine, and he never passes up a chance to go shopping at West Marine. Off we went on the MetroBus, MetroMover, and finally MetroRail. Bill got to visit his favorite store (and buy a few things he didn’t need), and I (that is we) had a nice lunch at a Coconut Grove restaurant. Back at the boat, pumping up the dinghy fixed the problem, and later attaching the hydrofoil fins to the outboard helped the dinghy get up on a plane faster.
Our second problem was the VHF radio. On the boat the VHF is like the telephone. We use it daily, not only to talk to other boats, listen to the weather forecasts, and call marinas, but we also use it like an old party line telephone to listen in on our neighbor’s conversations. That’s really important, right? Anyway, last year we were disappointed in the radio’s range, so in the fall during our annual haul out, Bill had the cable to the antenna replaced. That made things worse, not better. He suspected the yard had done a poor job of soldering the connectors on the ends of the wire. He wanted to solder the connectors himself. There are four of them; one at the radio, two at the bottom of the mast, and a final one at the very top of the mast. Bill bought a super-duper, hotter-than-hot soldering gun for the job and did the first three by himself. Now, the last one; that one was a problem. It was at the top of the mast, almost 50 feet in the air, and I had to pull Bill, his tools, and an extension cord up there. Yuck. Well, I did it. Bill re-soldered the connector. The radio became much better.
After supper Saturday night Bill was washing the dishes, and we were running the engine to cool the frig and charge the batteries. Bill said, “I smell something burning.” Living in a plastic and wood boat with 50 gallons of diesel oil, five gallons of gasoline, and 40 pounds of propane, that was not what I wanted to hear. Both of us immediately began looking for the fire. It turned out that the electric clutch on the refrigeration compressor that is mounted on the engine had shorted out and burned up. A fuse blew and stopped the smoke, but we no longer had our best way of keeping the freezer and refrigerator cold. We could still run the engine with its alternator to make 12v electricity, change the 12v into 125v with our inverter, and use that electricity to run the much smaller cooling system that we use when we have normal electricity in marinas.
Bill decided that night that, if he had the right tools, he could replace the burned up clutch himself. Sunday, he went to Advance Auto, bought some tools, and set to work. Everything was going well until there was a loud bang, and oil and Freon blew out of the compressor. Somehow, he had damaged a seal causing all the refrigerator gas to leak out. Now, the whole compressor was trash, and all our Freon was gone. Bill found the business card of the local refrigeration technician who repaired the system in 2011 and gave him a call Monday morning. They talked, he agreed to do the work, and Bill gave him the part number for the compressor on the phone and by email. We heard from him one more time, but not again. After ten days Bill got aggravated enough to order a new compressor on ebay, to order a vacuum pump from Amazon, and buy Freon and a gauge set from Advance Auto to do the repairs himself. We moved the boat to the Crandon Park Marina so we would have electricity for the vacuum pump, and in two days Bill had everything running again.
During our refrigeration troubles, we had a lovely surprise. Our friends Sondra and Tom Price, who used to live in Kingsport, were vacationing in Florida. They drove to Miami Beach, and Bill and I met them at Books and Books on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in South Beach for lunch. It was really great to see them.
One of the perks of being in Miami Beach with refrigeration problems, was the chance to try different restaurants. For our last Sunday lunch in South Beach, we went to a fried chicken place called Yardbird. It was not your regular KYC sort of place. We had a starter of deviled eggs topped with fish roe, followed by a platter of fried chicken served with cheese waffles and watermelon. There was a spicy hot sauce for the chicken and a bourbon-maple syrup for the waffles. Dessert was bacon doughnuts with butterscotch sauce. It was a different and memorable meal.
It was time to start getting ready to cross to the Bahamas. As Bill was finishing up on the refrigeration, I caught up on the laundry. Since we were in a marina, it was an easy walk down the dock and across the parking lot to the washing machine and dryer and where I did everything alone. It was so much easier than loading everything in the dinghy, leaving the anchored boat and going ashore, carrying all the clothes and things to the laundromat, dealing with other people doing their laundry, then toting everything back to Irish Eyes. Thursday was the first grocery store perishables run. We took the bus to the Winn Dixie here in Key Biscayne. Bill went to the hardware store while I shopped, and we returned on the bus. There is still more food to buy, water tanks to fill, and things to do before we can leave. I just hope nothing else breaks.
The five-day forecast this morning showed calmer winds with good weather for crossing the Gulf Stream early next week, and we hope to use it.
As it says on my tee shirt, "Life is good".