Monday, April 1, 2013

This was one of the stones in the Key West cemetery.  They say she was a hypochondriac.  I wonder.

Most cruise ships are just cruise ships, but Club Med 2 has sails (even if they seem a bit small for the ship).

Welcome to South Beach. 

We took a dinghy tour through the South Beach canals looking at the houses and the boats tied up out front.  It doesn't look too shabby does it?

Happy April Fool’s Day from South Beach, Miami, Florida.  Bill and I have been here for a week seeing the sights and getting ready for our trip to the Bahamas.

One of the last things we did in Key West was take a tour of President Harry Truman’s Little White House.  It was a nice place.  The house was not large, four bedrooms, and looked like a pleasant 1950’s summer home.  I think we saw all the sights in Key West, but mostly we saw lots of people --- lots and lots of partying people.

We left Key West on Tuesday, March 19 early in the morning.  After motoring out the channel, we unfurled our sails and headed east through the keys to Marathon.  The wind was predicted to be 5-10 knots, but that was wrong.  It was 20.  The sky was overcast, and we had a very light, intermittent rain along with the 20 knot breeze.  We flew along for a while, but the wind died as the sky cleared.  The last 2 hours of our 10 hour trip were spent motoring.  We arrived at Marathon just as the marina was closing, but we were in time to be assigned a mooring ball.  Even with everyone on the nearby boats watching and the tension high, picking up the pennant on the mooring ball was child’s play with the mooring ball grabbing hook Bill made for me.

The mooring field at Marathon is in Boot Key Harbor.  It is a huge and well run operation.  There are 200+ mooring balls.  Some cruisers spend the entire winter in Boot Key Harbor.  They have showers, a laundromat, water, fuel, and as best we could find, the only dinghy dock in the harbor.  In the town of Marathon are grocery stores, Kmart, Home Depot, and a West Marine (without a dinghy dock).  The boaters in the harbor have a morning cruiser’s radio net.  It is where one can hear all the local boater news.  Some folks have been in the place too long and have begun to care about trivial stuff, really trivial stuff.  We listened to a half hour radio discussion of the merits of various shopping carts, hand trucks, and trolleys that could be used to wheel groceries the mile from Publix to the marina.  Everyone had a different opinion.  It just went on and on and on…  I did laundry (hopefully washing our long underwear for the last time) while Bill walked all over town.  Our dinghy had developed a small leak in the floor, and Bill was looking for the perfect glue to repair the dinghy.  We went to two pot luck Happy Hours and met some great folks (who did not discuss shopping carts).

On Saturday, March 23 it was time to head on.  We motored out of Boot Key Harbor and then sailed east to Rodriguez Key near Key Largo.  The sun was shining and the water pretty.  We had one of those perfect sailing days.  We anchored just a bit before the sun set behind Rodriguez Key.

The next day we were up and away before 8 o’clock as the sail to South Beach would be fairly long.  The wind was strong, 20-25 knots with gusts to 28 knots.  We raised only the reefed main and sometimes even that was too much.  The wind changed directions in the afternoon causing the main to jibe breaking a main sheet block.  That meant the sail unintentionally went from one side of the boat to the other making a big racket.  The sail ended up plastered against the rigging until we could replace the broken block.  The wind kept picking up.  We were a couple of miles away from the Miami Harbor entrance when we heard over the VHF radio that the nice, wide Government Cut main channel was closed because there were two cruise ships there.  That wasn't a problem; we would just go up the smaller parallel channel on the other side of Dodge Island.  Just as we were approaching the jetties at the harbor entrance, a cruise ship was leaving.  Captain Bill was still sailing full speed.  I suggested we start the motor, and we did.  The wind was blowing at about 25 knots straight in our faces after we turned between the jetties and into the entrance channel.  There was a second cruise ship, then a car ferry, then other sail boats, then a tour boat, then a tug with a fuel barge strapped to its hip, and everywhere were jet skis, sport fish, and Donzi boats going in both directions.  Let me tell you about just one of the jet skis; two young males on a red one.  They stopped right in front of the second cruise ship.  One of the males hopped in the water.  The other male jumped in the water.  I thought there was something wrong with the jet ski and they were going to push it out of the way of the approaching cruise ship.  I worried the guys would push the jet ski either in front of us or into our side.  Then both males got out of the water and started doing flips back into the water!  They were swimming in front of a moving cruise ship!  Ever heard of survival of the fittest?  I literally could not watch, so I can’t tell you what happened.

We got our sail down, and continued along the channel.  The wind was howling, and the waves from Biscayne Bay and the wakes from all the boats bounced off both the concrete walls and the docked container ships.  The place was a total washing machine.  We made it to the end of the Dodge Island Cut only to discover that the Miami Ultra Music Festival was in full swing at Bay Front Park.  The music was deafening, we could not hear our radio, and a police boat with flashing blue lights was minding the dozens and dozens of boats filled with party-goers anchored or slowly motoring around in the channel.  We had to weave our way through the chaos.  Irish Eyes is not fast and does not make changes in direction quickly, but we managed to find a way through the fleet.  After passing under an open railroad bridge and two fixed highway bridges, we turned right into the relatively calm waters between the McArthur and the Venetian Causeways.  The wind was still blowing hard from the northeast, so we elected to anchor in the clam lee of Hibiscus Island.  It was a double rum ration night.

We have been busy both sightseeing and provisioning (that is a fancy nautical term for buying food and other things) for our trip to the Bahamas.  Of course we have been to West Marine, but we have also checked out a traditional marine chandlery, Crook & Crook, a hardwood lumber yard, Shell Lumber, and a used sailboat junk store, Sailorman.  We've ridden the buses  trains, and the Metromover on trips to both in Miami and Ft Lauderdale.  Bill has used the dinghy to haul fuel, water, cokes, and beer out to the boat.  I've been grocery shopping and have once again done the laundry.  Our winter clothes have been packed and shipped to our daughter Ann’s house.  We've eaten in restaurants and done some serious people watching.  Bill bought a couple of used books at the Out of the Closet Thrift Store.  South Beach has been a good place to stock the boat and have a little fun, too.

We’ll leave for Bimini tomorrow morning if the weather cooperates.

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