Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday March 22, 2010 

The weekend party on Monument Island. The locals didn’t invite Bill.

 The Miami skyline as we were leaving. In a few days the scenery will be different.

A conch horn blowing statue. A monument to all conch horn blowers everywhere. 

 Weech’s Bimini Dock. Home for a few days.

We finally made it to the Bahamas! We are tied to the dock at Weech’s Marina in Bimini. The water is beautiful, and it is finally warm, around 80°.

Our trip down the ICW in Florida was a long-motoring-waiting-for-34-bridges-to-open kind of trip. Every day the temperature was warmer, so like snakes we shed our clothes layer after layer.

We anchored one night in the Matanzas River south of St Augustine. In the morning we left, and I was steering. I was following the markers, about 50 ft from a green buoy, and should have been in the middle of the channel, but ooops, we bumped the bottom and stuck. The depth sounder showed 5 feet, but the boat was in the channel and there should have been 12! It took several tries to get off the bottom and several more ooopses, but we finally found deep water near the starboard side bank where both our paper and electronic charts showed shallow water. A week or so later we found several websites with tales of boats being stuck in the same place. We feel so proud… we did not have to call a towboat like the others.

In Vero Beach I noticed that our oil pressure gauge read no pressure (like almost 0) although the alarm had not yet sounded. I told Bill, and he shut the engine off and checked the oil. Although low, there was still oil in the engine. Whew. Bill looked back at his log and realized the engine had been using much more oil than usual since the last oil change. We hadn’t noticed any strange engine noises or clouds of exhaust, but we decided when we got to Miami we would go to the local Yanmar dealer, Anchor Marine, and have a mechanic look at the engine.

Bill called Anchor Marine while we were motoring through Miami. He talked to the Service Manager who asked if the engine started easily (yes), was it making funny noises (no), or emitting embarrassing clouds of smoke (no). His advice was to buy some oil and go to the Bahamas. No matter what might be wrong, the fix would be the same: overhaul or replace the engine. Since that would take a couple of weeks and $$$$, we decided to follow the guy’s advice. Also, Anchor Marine is a working boatyard in a pretty poor neighborhood on the Miami River and not the sort of place where you go on long quiet solitary walks. I could envision several weeks confined to my bunk staying out of the mechanic’s way while he worked making a greasy mess of my home. We bought 10 gallons of oil.

We did a little celebration jig and continued toward the Venetian Causeway anchoring where we did last year. The wind changed direction during the night making the spot rough, so we moved to the other side of the causeway to discover lots of anchored boats. We picked a spot and dropped our hook. The Venetian Causeway connects Miami and Miami Beach. From where we anchored it was just a short dinghy ride into the city of Miami Beach.

Miami Beach has two nearby Publix grocery stores. One is an old, ethnic one and the other a newer, larger one with lots of variety. In the old one lots of stuff was kosher. They also had several brands of guava paste. I am not at all sure what you do with guava paste, but it did look interesting. I shopped in the newer store. It was more like home. Bill bought oil at Advance Auto.

Near where we anchored, was a small manmade island with a 110 ft high white monument to Henry Flagler, the original Florida land developer, thus the island’s name - Monument Island. Since we were there on Saturday, we got to see the big weekend party on Monument Island. There were Miami Vice type boats, jet skis, loud music, booze, and girls with skimpy bikinis. Bill watched through binoculars wishing someone would invite him over. That evening the City of Miami had a wonderful fireworks display. From where we were anchored we could see the whole Miami skyline silhouetted against the lit up sky; a perfect view. But, we don’t know what was being celebrated.

On Sunday we decided to walk down Lincoln Road, which is a pedestrian mall, to the beach. It was warm and the beach was full. Lincoln Road has lots of shops, mostly shoes and sunglasses, with a restaurant every few feet. We stopped at an outdoor pizza place for a pizza and a beer or two. The people-watching was the most fun. People of every shape, size, color, and manner of dress were out strolling. Having a leashed dog with you seemed to be a near universal requirement for admission. We had fun watching.

With all the anchored boats at Miami Beach, some of the ladies who had wintered there started a cruisers’ radio net. They announced every morning what social events were planned for the day. We went to a pot luck supper in the local park and a cocktail party on Monument Island. Our Monument Island party was during the week, and our group had the place all to ourselves. It was fun to make new friends and hear what other boaters are doing. Several of the ones in Miami Beach had been there all winter. The weather had been cold and windy. Some, like us were waiting for good weather to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Others had given up on crossing and are just going to stay in Miami before heading back north. Some boats have insurance that requires the boat to be north of Savannah or some other point by June 1 to avoid hurricanes. We are lucky that we don’t have to worry about that.

Friday, March 19, we moved (along with about 17 other boats) from Miami Beach to Key Biscayne. The weather forecast for Saturday was good for the run to the Bahamas. After we got to Key Biscayne, Bill made one last dinghy trip to shore mailing a form to the IRS requesting an extension to file our 2009 income tax after we get back.

We had a beautiful sunset; Bill and several others blew their conch shell horns, and we went to bed early. We decided to get up at 3am to leave. Bill set the alarm on his radio for 3, only he also mistakenly set the timer to go off every 180 minutes. It did not make for a restful night. We were anchor up and underway by 3:45 in complete blackness. I didn’t like moving the boat in shallow water close to shore in the dark, and I really didn’t like motoring among the other anchored boats. I could see all kinds of things that weren’t there in the dark. The landing lights of an airplane at 10,000 feet ten miles away became the imagined anchor light of a boat 50 feet away, and I turned to avoid it. Ships miles away looked like they were nearby. We motored all the way to Bimini with the wind straight on our nose and with 4 ft swells rolling the boat. Every few yards we saw a Portuguese Man of War. The first one I saw I thought was some sort of balloon. Good thing we didn’t want to swim! Once across the Gulf Stream the swell and rolling went away. We arrived in Bimini at about 2pm, docked at Weech’s Bimini Dock, and cleared customs and immigration. I slept well that night. Even the live band at the bar did not keep me awake.

We are spending a couple of days here enjoying the stationary first hot showers since Myrtle Beach and waiting for a cold front to pass us by before we continue on to Nassau and the Exumas.

Hope Spring arrives soon for you all.

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