Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012
Disney must own Florida.  A surprising number of the draw bridges in Florida have this sort of Neuschwanstein lookalike architecture.

It was time to leave Miami and go to Key Biscayne to spend the night before leaving for the Bahamas.  This was the “Red sky at night” the evening before we left Miami.

The sunset at Key Biscayne was again a good red one.  We would leave in the early morning hours to cross the Gulf Stream for Bimini.

We stopped at Weech’s Bimini Dock to clear in through Customs and Immigrations in Alice Town, but windy weather has kept us there.

We are in a marina enjoying 75°, sunny Bimini.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that is blowing a stink today, has been for the last five days, and will continue to blow for the next few days.  Chris Parker (the short wave weather guru) has called the cold front that just passed through and the high winds we have now “the weather event of the winter.”  I wish it would go away so we could leave.
Bill and I spent the Presidents’ Day weekend anchored in Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida.  We shopped at the nearby Publix replenishing our food.  Of course, Bill made a trip to the local West Marine store.  I thought he could smell them out, but this time he failed.  He walked a mile north on US 1 to the spot where the store was last year only to find that they had moved to a new location one and a half miles south.  He ended up walking a total of 3 miles to buy his things.  Bill finished installing his new short wave radio while I unpacked my spring clothes.

On Presidents’ Day we took our dinghy to a nearby spot on the shore where it would be just a short walk to the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.  We found a place to land the dinghy among the mangroves along the shoulder of the road leading to the park.  The bottom there was rock where it was rock and mud where it was mud… hard, sharp, marl limestone and black, deep, gooshy, sticky, nasty mud almost to the shore, if you can call a jungle of mangrove bushes and roots a shore.  We tied the dinghy to a downed tree then walked through the mangrove muck, through the woods, and down the sidewalk along highway A1A to the park.  We walked out to the beach, got our feet wet, then bought a Diet Coke and two packages of chips for lunch.  The Florida sun was quickly changing our pale winter skins to a brilliant pink color, so we headed back to the dinghy.  Unfortunately, the tide had gone out while we were gone and our dinghy was 30 yards from the water.  The rocks meant we had to pick the dinghy up rather than slide it along, and the mud meant I often had no place to stand without my feet sinking out of sight and the mud stealing my shoes.  I am not a fan of yucky, gross, possibly snake filled mud especially when it is spread all over me and our dinghy.  Bill and I were not speaking to each other when Robert and Susan Banks on Impetuous III invited us over for drinks and snacks.  That let us end the day in a good mood – and speaking to each another again.

On Tuesday, February 21 we left Lake Worth and headed for South Miami Beach.  This two day stretch had twenty-seven drawbridges, most of which opened on restricted schedules.  In the built up areas the concrete sea walls made the ICW a wake reflecting canal.  On previous trips we have had to wait at every bridge and have been rocked terribly by passing motor boats, but this year’s trip was fairly easy.  Halfway through, we anchored in Lake Boca Raton well before 5pm.  The second day, one bridge closed in our face as we approached it, but two others were graciously held open for us long after they should have closed.  We anchored in the evening just south of Belle Isle in South Miami Beach.  I felt like we had cleared a major hurdle when we arrived at South Beach. We were almost to the Bahamas.

After we put the outboard motor on the dinghy, we spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday doing laundry, shipping our winter clothes to Julia, getting water, filling the fuel tank, and buying the electronic bits Bill needed to hook the shortwave radio to the computer.  We walked around town doing some serious people watching and having lunch; one day on Lincoln Road and another at Mango’s Tropical Café in the Art Deco district.  A cold front went by on Saturday night increasing the wind speed a bit.  Robert and Susan on Impetuous III arrived in South Beach a day after us.  Sunday morning they had to re-anchor when they found themselves too close to another boat.  They hosted a Bloody Mary party to celebrate the successful re-anchoring.  Anything for a party, right?

Monday we stayed on Irish Eyes doing chores, reading, and knitting (my favorite).  On Tuesday we began the provisioning for the next few months.  The drill went like this:  Bill dropped me off at the Police Station Dock.  I walked to the more distant but larger Publix.  Bill took the dinghy up the Collins Canal to the smaller Publix which is just across the street from the dinghy landing spot.  He bought all the heavier Cokes and beer he could carry on our hand truck, took them to Irish Eyes, came back to the Police Dock, and walked to the larger Publix to help me carry the things I had bought the four blocks back to the dinghy.  We brought my purchases back to Irish Eyes, put everything away, and repeated it all over again.  It took us two days of this routine before we were ready to go.

Impetuous III’s crew had been working hard too.  An evening on the town was in order.  We all boarded the South Beach local bus, dropped a quarter each in the till, and rode out to the Art Deco District.  It was Happy Hour everywhere.  The sidewalk was covered with the outdoor tables from all the restaurants along Ocean Avenue.  The staff at each restaurant tried to get us to stop, but we were bound for Mango’s Tropical Café with its live music, dancers, booze, and food.  All four of us had a blast. The music was good, the dancers even better.  We each had our two-for-one Happy Hour drinks plus one more before deciding it was time for us to go.  If we had stayed any longer a two drinks an hour minimum would apply… too much for these old sailors.

We walked down Washington Avenue window shopping the tattoo parlors and stopping to check out the restaurants and bright lights along Espanola Way.  We were a little hungry and stopped for some pizza before catching the return bus.  After the short dinghy ride back to our boats, we were sound asleep by 10pm.  It was a lovely old folks evening.
The weather forecast for Thursday sounded just about perfect for crossing the Gulf Stream.  A quick trip into town for forgotten items and we were ready to bring the dinghy on board and move out to our departure point south of Key Biscayne.  The trip was pretty, but we had lots more boat traffic than we would have expected for a weekday afternoon.  One last task remained.  In the middle of Biscayne Bay we steered Irish Eyes around in slow circles as the electronic compass recalibrated itself.   I’m sure we looked a little odd to the passing boats.

The anchorage near the National Park at Key Biscayne was very quiet compared to the hubbub of South Beach.  The sunset was beautiful.  Impetuous III anchored near us after stopping along the way for fuel and water.  It was early to bed because we had to be up soon.

On Thursday, March 1 we were awake at 3 am and away in the moonless dark by 4.  Later when the sun came up in the Gulf Stream it was clear, not too windy, and the waves were about 2 feet in height.  It was a nice day to motorsail to Bimini.  We arrived in Alice Town and tied up to Weech’s Bimini Dock just before 3pm.  Bill headed to Customs and Immigration, cleared us in, and replaced our yellow quarantine flag with a Bahamas courtesy ensign.  Impetuous came into Weech’s behind us, cleared in, and the celebration began.  It was another early night for all of us.

The weather forecast on Saturday informed us that a serious weather event was to unfold during the next week.  The wind was expected to blow at about 25-30 knots all week.  In spite of Bill’s reluctance, we decided we were better off tied to Weech’s dock then trying to find a place to hide at anchor from the near gale force winds from the northeast.  We took a walk around town, bought some bread and ran into the lobsterman.  We bought a dozen lobster tails.  Late in the afternoon I made the trip to the liquor store for rum.  A Canadian boat with Pierre and Renee aboard came into Weech’s as well as an American boat with its single hander Gill.  We all had a Rum Punch or two aboard Impetuous.  Robert and Susan later joined us on Irish Eyes for lobster, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and Susan’s homemade bread.  Yummy.

Sunday the cold front passed over us at 2pm.  It got dark and cloudy, and it rained some.  The wind blew first from the south, and then from the north.  When the wind changed, the temperature dropped almost instantly from 85 to 75.  Susan was the clear winner of the afternoon’s fishing tournament catching a blue runner and a lizard fish.  The others didn’t catch a thing.  Bill and Robert isolated Robert’s leaking water heater.  Monday was sunny and cool with a still strong but decreasing wind.  We walked the beach a bit and had a hamburger at CJ’s. Somehow a hamburger and fries eaten in the shade of a casuarina pine with a beach view tastes better.  The boats at Weech’s Dock had a community happy hour sheltered from the wind on the patio.  In spite of the weather it was a very good day in paradise.

This morning the wind was really howling.  It was warming up but windy. Did I say it was windy?  The Bahamas Met Office weather forecast didn’t have its usual small craft caution or a small craft advisory; it said, “Operators of small craft should remain in port.”  We took that advice.  We may get away from Bimini on Friday, or on Saturday, or…  We shall see.  We are in the Bahamas.

Stay safe and happy!

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