Sunday, December 29, 2013

Miami South Beach

When we arrived in Miami we had not really planned to stop there and thought we might spend a day of 2 as we were passing but were keen to get to the Florida Keys, funny that we ended up spending almost 3 weeks there! 

What changed our mind? Well we liked South Beach, the anchorage was good and protected, it was easy to dingy ashore, there are lots of amenities in easy walking distance and we didn’t have the weather to move on. 

Magnum at anchor with downtown Miami and cruiseships in the background

During our first day ashore we ventured along Lincoln Avenue which is the main shopping street, we headed out to the beach and along Ocean Drive to admire the Art Deco district and tried to see as much as possible, as we still thought we would only have a day or 2 there, during our stay we visited these areas on many occasions. 

Miami Beach
Amanda with Ocean Drive in background
Highlights of our stay were:

We hired a convertible Mustang, it seemed like the thing to do and was pretty cheap so we just had to.  We drove out to the Everglades and jumped on an airboat, this was great fun, it almost like and an amusement park ride he went so fast through the very shallow water.  I was a bit dubious as to whether we would see Alligators but we did and they came up really close to the boat, obviously as intrigued as we were.

Alligator over to say hello

They were big!

Mark in the Everglades

 We also lots of different birds which were also just as keen to see us.

Birdy sat next to us on boat

Great Egret hiding in bushes

Terrapin on treetruck

Vulture looming over us

Pretty birdy

We even got to hold an alligator.

Mark and his mate the alligator

Amanda liking her new friend
Then with the wind in our hair we drove out towards the Keys and although we really enjoyed the drive we were a bit disappointed with the Keys, we had expected them to be palm fridge islands joined by great bridges but in reality for the first 80+ miles the main road is lined with hotels, restaurants and other tourist traps, you do hop between islands but the scenery is not very pretty.  We did reach Boot Key and crossed over the 7 miles bridge which was quite cool but as we were still hoping to spend a few weeks in the Keys and we were running out of time we didn’t drive to Key West.

Mark driving in the Keys

Amanda with the windswept look

Cool car and cool dude - as they would say in the States

Our disappointment also influenced our decision to stay in Miami, we enjoyed just exploring.  The Britto gallery/shop on Lincoln Avenue was cool to visit, Romero Britto is a Brazilian artist who is based out of Miami, he had commissioned artwork all over the world and been involved is some amazing events like the Olympics and the World Cup, with portraits of many famous people including Princess Di, Prince William and Kate, Madonna. -

Running and walking South beach, we had a few morning runs out to the beach or along the Venetian causeway.  The Venetian Causeway is a string of small islands that run from downtown Miami across to Miami Beach, they are joined by a string of ornate bridges and are residential areas that overlook the Bay on either wide.

Venetian causeway bridge - opening for the boat traffic
 Along south beach there is a walkway that stretches all the way to north beach and down along Ocean drive to the south, it is filled with runners and walkers in the morning.

The beautiful South Beach

Amanda on the windy beach
The sunset over Miami downtown were also quite amazing, we liked to settle down with a glass dark and stormy and watch the sun go down and the lights appear, our favourite entertainment after dark was the dancing lady that appeared in lights on the InterContinental building.

Sun setting over downtown Miami

Magnum just as the sun goes down
One of the best things about Miami Beach is the people watching, there are some amazing sights, whether this is Mark admiring the women in the shortest of short shorts you can imagine, or a man almost old enough to be our dad roller blading along south beach, or a blacked out Hummer cruising along Ocean drive with its music pumping or the guys working out in the park on Ocean Drive or one of the many beautiful Ferraris we saw everyday  or a drag queen singing here heart and stopping traffic on Ocean Drive, it all kept you amused.  We said we had never seen as many Ferraris and boob jobs anywhere else on our travels.

One of the many Ferraris 
We almost moved on just before Christmas when we thought we might have a small weather window, we left the anchorage at the crack of dawn made it out to the Governors channel which is the main exit from Miami, we had a slight detour due to the excessive security around the cruiseship and not being able to use this route but we still managed to poke or noses out of the harbour with the wind howling in towards u.  We knew it might be a little windy but had hoped it would not be on the nose, with a 50 mile sail a head we decided to turn around and head back.  Exhausted and deflated we anchored for a couple of hours to see if the wind would swing or drop but it didn’t, so we headed back to the anchorage, which was full of the what were now the usual depth and bridge challenges, with the added excitement of a flying boat landing just in front of us!

Plane had just landed on the water just in front of us
Although a significant time in Miami doing ordinary things, going to the supermarket, going to the laundry, Amanda hunting down yet another random hairdressers, going to the library, watching the little parakeets flying noisily around the town and searching high and low for decent internet so we can call home but it was a great place to do this.

Mark at the custom made dingy dock just outside the supermarket

Little parakeets

Our final day in Miami was Christmas Day and we had a lovely time.  Very odd as nowhere seemed Christmasy, the main shopping street was packed with people going about there normal everyday shopping. All the bars and restaurants were open and packed with people, we managed to find a restaurant on Ocean Drive at the Victory Hotel and had a lovely meal, if a little odd.  Not ever had Mahi Mahi for Christmas but it was delicious and we followed it with Key Lime Pie, yummy, it seemed a fitting meal for the location.

Christmas Day - even managed to wear a dress

Mark made a special effort and put on a shirt for our Christmas dinner, but it was novel to still be wearing shorts

Hollywood to Venetian Causeway, Miami - One final ICW day!

We were up and off the following morning and now we were on the outskirts of Miami so the scenery was mainly hotels and apartment blocks, not the best but still interesting to see something different.  This should have been a stress free day but we still have a number of bridges to go through and a very shallow patch at Haulover Beach, we knew we had to hit this at high water as people with 4.5ft draft had gone aground here and we were hoping to sneak through with 7ft!  Thankfully we crept through, Amanda was on the bow directing where she could see the change in the water colour and we did touch the bottom but thankfully we ploughed through, phew another sigh of relief.

The sun is out as we motor away from Hollywood

Miami beach in the distance to the east

Miami downtown in the distance

Passing by the Venetian Causeway bridges on route to anchorage

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lake Worth to Hollywood - Back into the Atlantic

After spending day after day motoring along the ICW we were really keen to actually be out in the big sea again and this was the best option to get to Fort Lauderdale.  As was now normal we were up and leaving as the sun came up.

Up with the birds again as we leave Lake Worth
We had to motor for an hour to the inlet and then we were out to sea, as we looked out onto the horizon we could see the storm clouds but were lucky that we were skirting the rain.

Squall on the horizon
The sea was a little bumpy as we headed out but really quite lovely conditions with the wind on the beam. As the squall passed us the wind died and then within minutes returned on the nose! So we had 15- 20 knots on the nose in shallow seas, not the best conditions for out first sail back out at sea but they weren’t bad and it should have been easy.  Unfortunately Amanda started to feel unwell and although not sick she was not enjoying the sail.  Mot of here day was spent in her new position of laying on the cockpit floor so she did not have to brace herself and wasn’t sick, she only moved to tack which we had to do regularly.

We had to stay reasonable close to shore to avoid getting into the Gulf Stream, so we would tack inshore and when we reached around 10 metres of water we would tack back out to sea, dodging the fishing boats along the way.  We knew the Gulf Stream would run close to this shore but were not sure how close we were getting until we saw a sail boat doing the same as us rapidly getting pushed north as they headed further off shore.

The coastline where is quite built up with huge hotels and really is not the prettiest but the beach is long and sandy and does look quite inviting.  We also spent the day watching the Blimp flying along this coastline.

Shoreline of Fort Lauderdale

Blimp flying over Fort Lauderdale
As we entered Port Everglade, the swell pushed us along but before long we were in flat calm water and Amanda was able to move again!  With the extra miles we had to sail due to the tacking, it was getting dark but we still had miles to make to get to an anchorage but our luck was in we made 3 bridges which were all just scheduled to open.  The ICW scenery had significantly changed here, as we passed the port there was a super yacht with a sailboat bigger than Magnum strapped onboard and a helicopter!

Look closely there is a sailboat in the side and helicopter under a cover on the rear deck - bit odd as you can see bits of the cruise ship in the distance.
There was also a main road running down our port side with hotels, shops and the occasional bar and restaurant overlooking the ICW.  We reached the anchorage which was a sheltered deep pool surrounded by houses where we anchored with a few other boats.  Long eventful and slightly frustrating day, we were glad to be here.

Pretty end to a long day

Lake Worth  - Final Farewells

Lake Worth in a major stopping point for cruisers heading to the Bahamas as from the  outlet here you can make a good day crossing and be in the Bahamas.  It is a lso a reasonable place to pick up provisions and do those final jobs.  That evening Jay on Kenlanu also arrived in Lake Worth and we had another one of Jays’ delicious meals and enjoyed his hospitality.

Next day we made the most of the shore amenities but mainly spent our morning making friends with a French Canadian couple, Jean and Danielle were on there first trip to the Bahamas and we are sure they are going to have a fantastic time as they were great fun.  That night we had one final farewell drink with Jay as he is now Bahamas bound. 

ICW Day 7, Hobe Sound to Lake Worth - the day of slow bridges

We were up before the sun and under pressure to make it to Lake Worth close to high water as we knew there was a shallow patch we needed to clear.  As we left Hobe Sound we admired some of the beautiful houses which lined the shore. 

Pretty much all of the bridges we had to pass through were requested opening which was good but the final 2 were scheduled and we either had to motor flat out to reach them or slow down to wait for the next one, our cruising speed never seemed to meet the average speed which was used for calculating the bridge opening.  This often lead to us being nosy at the surrounding properties and boats but mainly we stressed about if we would go aground at the shallow patch, thankfully we made it over and arrived safe into Lake Worth.

Huge house!

Another huge house just next,door

ICW Day 6, Vero Beach to Hobe Sound - A day of changing plans

We left Vero Beach in a flurry of activity, with it being Thanksgiving the previous week and then the bad weather boats had not been moving far but with light winds forecast for the next few days boats seemed to be heading south.

We planned to have a short day and stop about 12 miles south at Fort Pierce, we needed to visit the Chandlery but on route Mark looked at the currents at the inlet and perhaps we did not want to go outside the next day, mmmmmmmm what to do?  So we dropped anchor and Mark headed ashore whilst Amanda looked at where we could anchor if we continued along the ICW.  Mark hurried back and yes we were off again.  Every stretch of the ICW seems relatively simply but when you look closer, there a various obstacles whether this is shoaling in various places in the channel or there are bridges that open at particularly time or there is shallow water so we need to make sure we have the right tide.  So before every hop we have a reasonable amount of planning to make sure we can make progress safely.

Although there were dolphins, pelicans and other wildlife and boats along the way we both felt like the day dragged but we pushed on.  

There was various dredging activity in this area, can’t say I would be too keen to live in this house.

It was touch and go whether we would reach the anchorage in the light, as we passed our first option in plenty of light we decided to keep on going, as we reached the second close to sunset we knew it wasn’t an option as just not enough room but entering Hobe Sound at sunset was beautiful.

Hobe Sound at sun down
We carried on, the light started to fade but thankfully we anchored just as we lost light.  The winds had been light all day so we had little sailing which was frustrating but great at the end of the day when you drop the anchor and need to sleep.

Great views at the end of a long day

Thursday, December 19, 2013

ICW Day 5, Melbourne to Vero Beach - Poor stumpy dolphin

Thankfully the night before the wind did finally dropped off as we did, it seemed that our new bed time was somewhere between 8.30-9pm as we were so tired and the early mornings were a challenge! Not sure we had slept past 6.30am for weeks which is good if you want to be awake to see the sunrise.

So engine on and back into the ICW channel, this part of the passage is along a wide river where we are stuck in the middle with not much to see, the shore is quite built up but so far a way that you don’t see much.  As the river narrows lots of Condo (apartments to us Brits) appear, these often have docks which are mainly occupied with small to medium sized fishing/sports power boats.  Being the day after Thanksgiving early on there are very few boats, we assume people are sleeping off the previous days celebrations but the number of boats started to increase.  One of these boats was “Proud Mary”, Mary and Barry we met at New Smyrna Beach a few days early, huge 60ft+ powerboat, funny as they pass us all tucked up in the warm, the weather had improved slightly from the full thermals the day before but was still chilly.

The day again was made much more enjoyable by the dolphins and some even joined us for a while, one particularly one was huge and obviously enjoyed getting close to the boats as his fin had been damaged – poor thing but still looked like he was having a lovely time.

Poor stumpy dolphin but didn't stop him swimming along with us
As we approached Vero beach it was still early but bigger/quicker boats than us are starting to build up behind us and we are lucky to call in just before them and get ourselves a buoy.

Vero Beach - Canadian hospitality

Vero Beach has a good sailing community, lots of the people that you meet heading south on the ICW mention Vero beach and are planning extend stay.  So what is so great about Vero Beach? The main draw seems to be the easy access to the facilities in town as there is a free bus that runs from the marina, into the town and there you can get various connections to delights such as Wal-Mart, West Marine (the chandlery), DIY stores, etc.  So we joined the cruising community on the morning bus and headed out, can’t say this was very exciting.

At Vero Beach you are not able to anchor but have to use a buoy and many of these take multiple boats and we were lucky to have lovely neighbours of Kathy and Darius who are a Canadian couple who are headed to the Bahamas.  That evening they kindly invited us onboard for drinks along with some Canadian friends.  As they were all experienced with the ICW and the Bahamas trip it was nice to here there various stories and recommendations.

Kathy and Darius
Unfortunately the next day brought torrential rain, we had a morning run out to the beach which as really lovely and had hoped to return in the afternoon but the rain prevent this but we took advantage on the marina internet but it was a shame that we did not get to do more as our stay was only short.

ICW Day 4 - New Smyrna Beach - Melbourne - Thanksgiving onboard

We woke to a very cold morning, it was 2 degrees Celcius as we crept out the marina at sun rise.  You could see the cold mist blowing across the water, we both looked like we could hardly move with so many clothes on including our ski jackets, gloves and hat.  The good news was we had wind from the north which although brought the cold would help us make miles.

The sun coming up as we left the marina

Very chilly day
We quickly had the kettle on for tea and breakfast on the way.  Within the hour we had seen our first even Manatee, every since arriving in Florida we have been desperate to see one and today was the day.  Over the next few hours we saw probably around 50.  It was only a brief glimpse as the poke their noses out of the water to breath and then you might see their back and tail as they dive back down.  Funny that they all seemed to be heading north, mainly in pairs but on one occasion 8 surfaced, it was very exciting and typically just as Amanda put the camera down, so there are no photos.

As the wind continued from the north it was still chilly, we were able to put up some of our cockpit cover to offer a little protection and finally we were able to start to thaw out!

We had to pass through Mosquito Lagoon which is a wind open expanse where you have to stick to a very narrow dredged channel, this take concentration as you are constantly looking for you next green or red marker and checking the depth.

Mosquito lagoon
As had become a regular occurrence on the ICW in Florida we were treated to seeing the dolphins and the pelicans.

Dolphins playing around behind the boat

Pelican mid flight
From the lagoon you pass through a channel into the Indian River, here the island that runs to the Port side of the boat and protects you from the Ocean is where Cape Canaveral is; we were quite excited passing under NASA Bridge and knowing we were so close to the Kennedy Space station.

We are actually sailing (well motor sailing) towards the bridge

Another one done
Today was Thanksgiving so it was a shame that we were making progress rather than sharing the festivities with some lovely Americans but with the weather so unpredictable we didn’t have much choice.  We passed under 2 bridges where we had to request an operator to open for us and we did make sure that we wished him a Happy Thanksgiving, can’t be nice working but I am sure he was on overtime and at least he was tucked up in the warm.

We pushed on as far as we could worrying a little about where we were going to get shelter, there forecasted north easterly wind was still northerly which meant it was whistling down the ICW and with little water outside of the channel we had to careful.  We finally hopped in behind a bridge at Melbourne, we were unable to get far enough in to get complete shelter and with 20 knots still blowing it was bumpy but we were so tired after setting off at first light and just getting in before dark we didn’t care!