The Voyage of FORTY TWO – Florida

And so a new year has begun – where did 2004 go to? In honor of the occasion we decided to stay a few days at Vero Beach. The mooring balls were cheap and there were lots of people to meet. One of the first people we ran into were Scott and Mary Lynn off Zingaro II. We had last seen them in Goderich, Ontario on our way down Lake Huron! Vero Beach is a great stop over place. They have a free shuttle bus service from the marina to downtown and you can change and get another free bus out to Wal*Mart. A very popular service with all the cruisers. We also took the opportunity to get the bikes out and ride around to the beach and spend some hours working on our tans. The dingy dock is up a small basin off the moorings and one morning we were treated to a pod of dolphins feeding in the basin. What a spectacular show they put on for us.

Max and Lily especially enjoyed this port because of the many dogs there. One day while in the dingy going ashore they both started “announcing”. They never do this when meeting other dogs but the dingy coming along side had another Beagle aboard. Dan “Danforth” like the anchor is a three year old male Beagle. He too immediately recognized the present company. They had a great time together. Most dogs in the cruising community are labs, Jack Russell terriers, yorkies, westies and the occasional “mixed” breed. Although Max once had a huge crush on “Milo” a Jack Russell terrier he spotted on a boat while we cruised the North Channel and searched for long after we moved on, his greatest joy is seeing another Beagle. Max also took an involuntary swim one morning getting into the dingy

But all good things come to an end and we need to keep going to be able to leave Forty Two in Bradenton and meet our family obligations in February. Just after 0800 on January 6 we took off again. We decided to stop at Peck Lake, a small anchorage off the ICW. Skipper Bob’s instructions were to turn at G19 and take a course of 60M towards a structure on the beach. Well, we tried! Obviously the hurricane has moved the shoal as we came to a sudden stop! Tried again at a different angle and aground once more. Fortunately a cruiser on a catamaran saw our attempts and radioed instructions to find the narrow channel into the anchorage. Finally got the hook down at 1530. The anchorage is just behind a barrier island and we were able to walk the dogs ashore and over to the Atlantic side – all of 200 yards from the anchorage beach. Put the fishing lines over in the evening and caught two hardhead catfish so fresh fish were on the menu that night.

From Peck Lake we traveled to Lantana to a small anchorage just behind the bascule bridge there. Two firsts that day – our first Manatee in Hobe Sound and we passed the 3000 mile mark just before Lantana. Lantana appears to be a small town with a lot of powerboats, many set up for offshore fishing.

Next morning we left for the 30 mile run to Fort Lauderdale which has 14 opening bridges, many of which open to a fixed schedule. We were very fortunate with a good tide push and a dose of luck and only missed one bridge that we had to wait about for 20 minutes to the next opening. This section of the ICW is heavily patrolled by marine police boats and we saw one ticketing two PWC’s probably for excessive wake in a no wake zone. As we get further south the vegetation becomes more tropical and we pulled our first coconut out of the water with the fish net. At Fort Lauderdale we tied up in the New River Docks, part of the Fort Lauderdale town dock system. We were on a wall with easy access to downtown, water and power for 90cents a foot with a 25% discount for three or more days – we stayed three. Caught up with Ted off Mahalo who lives there and kindly provided transport for shopping. Ted is one of the many great friendships we have established through our involvement with SSCA. Fort Lauderdale has some great marine hardware stores so we decided to get new lights for the salon and vee berth. The old lights were really showing their age and not really good for working or reading at night. Monday we visited the Seven Seas Cruising Association home base and met the staff and saw the library and chart room facilities. It is a great place to visit, Lynne and Joyce made us feel right at home. There are many books, charts, and internet access to peruse. The notice board had ads for used equipment, as a result we are now the owners of an ICOM 710 single side band radio which when we get it installed will give us on board e-mail and weather fax capabilities as well as world wide radio communications.

From Fort Lauderdale we have to go outside to Miami because one bridge does not have enough clearance. We left early in the morning and got outside to find north east and east winds about 15 knots. Forty Two just loved these conditions and we romped along at 7.5 to 8 knots with occasional faster speeds. . What a joy it was to have the sails up and no engine running! We spotted Timpe Teh a ketch we had met in Lantana, and talked with them on the radio as we went by. Judy was at the helm and passed them in four minutes instead of the thirty minutes Brian had predicted. Shortly after we heard Forty Two, Forty Two, this is Sabbatical. Sabbatical had come through the Erie Canal with us, and the last time we had seen Mike was in Annapolis. He was headed north back to Fort Lauderdale from Miami so we had a long chat on the VHF catching up with each other. Put the fishing line out and pulled in an Atlantic Mackerel. Very dark oily flesh that we tried to have for dinner but did not enjoy. Next time we will smoke this and see how that goes. We were in Miami Harbor by 1230 and decided to continue on to Key Biscayne where we anchored of the west side of the island. Water is clear and Brian swam to check the underside of the boat. Found that we had obviously caught a plastic bag with the prop and still had some residue interfering with the blades. A little pulling and tugging got it all out and the prop clean.

Spent three days at anchor in Key Biscayne supposedly off the area where Richard Nixon had his house, although it is apparently no longer there. Fished one afternoon and caught two small yellowtail snapper and one other that we think was a striped sea perch. All went into the pan that night. Friday’s weather forecast was for heavy rain and strong winds in the afternoon and we did not think the anchorage would be good in those conditions so we left for No Name Harbor, just 2 ½ miles down Key Biscayne. This is a great little hole with uniform 10 foot depths and room for about 12 – 15 boats and protected from all directions. It is in a Florida State Park with easy access ashore for the dogs. Greatest surprise was finding Adrianna II anchored there. Herb and Adrienne and their two daughters Anna and Sophie were part of the Erie Canal Yacht Club and we had not seen them since Waterford on the Hudson River. They joined us for cocktails and an evening of playing catch up. They had been in No Name Harbor for some time waiting on a favorable weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Pulled the bikes off so we now have easy transport into Key Biscayne about 1 ½ miles away. Saturday we took the lighthouse tour of Cape Florida lighthouse. Very interesting up the top as we were able to see the channel we have to take to get out from Biscayne Bay to Hawk Channel to go down to the keys and how shallow the water is each side of the channel. There is a small restaurant at the harbor and we have been getting morning fixes of Café Cubano – espresso on speed!

Finally the weather cooperated and we left No Name Harbor on the morning of Jan 20 for Caesar Creek. This is a small anchorage about 2 miles off the Hawks Channel up a wining narrow channel but very well marked. That is until you get to the anchorage where there are no marks. So we felt our way in very slowly with Judy spotting at the bow. Just as she called out that she could see the bottom we stopped aground once more! This was our most serious grounding as although the bottom was soft we could not get off in reverse. We put the dingy in the water and pulled out the stern anchor in an attempt to pull the stern off at an angle but that failed as well. Finally we attached the anchor rode to the main halyard and pulled the mast down to reduce the angle and she slid off the bank. Had to buoy the anchor rode and pick it up later when we were finally anchored. Nice spot in the lee of a National Park at Adams Key which gave us easy access for getting the dogs ashore.

Next day we set out for Tavernier Key, a small anchorage off the Hawk Channel. Had a great sail and got there early in the afternoon so decided to go on a further fifteen miles to Indian Key. The guide books said there were five free mooring balls installed by the Florida Park Service. When we got there we found there were only three and all were occupied so we anchored off. The water was crystal clear and we could see down some 10 – 15 feet. Indian Key was once a thriving village of some 50 people engaged in the ‘salvage’ trade collecting salvage from boats wrecked on the coral reefs. There was some suggestion that they might have assisted in the wrecks by luring boats ashore. The island was abandoned in the 1830’s after the Seminole Indian Wars.

Left Indian Key for Marathon at 0815 in beautiful sunshine and no wind. Motored all the way and worked seriously on our tans. The harbor at Marathon is called Boot Key Harbor and is essentially landlocked except for two entrances at each end. It is a favorite destination for cruisers traveling south and we estimate that there are some 300 yachts anchored here. Took some time to find a spot and we are currently in 7.5 feet just off the main channel with two anchors out to reduce our swing.

On the way down to Marathon we saw our first two turtles and then an Eagle Ray that came out of the water twice in front of us. We are stopping in Marathon for a few days to let a cold front go through that is bringing 25 – 30 knot winds. On schedule the front came through and swung us so that we were pushed onto a shallow bank and finished up sitting at a 5o angle for several hours. We had two anchors out but one was at the wrong angle so we laid a third anchor that had us laying better once the tide came in and released us from the bank. Then we found the anchor we wanted to pull up was stuck fast on the bottom in about 8 feet of water. After many attempts with the dingy Brian finally had to dive on the anchor and pull it free from what felt like a metal cable.

Had dinner out the last night in Marathon at Sombrero Dockside – the local yachties hangout – where the Tuesday night special was $1 tacos and $2 Supremes so we splurged that night and worked our way through two tacos and one supreme each! Marathon is a very eclectic harbor. Some people have lived on their boats for twenty years or more. You will see boats that have not been moved for the same amount of time. They also have been added onto with parts of other boats and anything that can be hauled out to them. It results in what looks like a houseboat erected on a sailboat. This will soon change due to the plans for construction of a mooring field after which anchoring will be prohibited. Also Sombrero Dockside is being converted to a condominium dock, so fewer slips will be available for transients.

January 26 the weather was great for a run further down the Keys and we planned for a stop at Newfound Harbor. Unfortunately, although the chart shows 7 feet at the entrance we were unable to find the way in and finally gave up and continued on for Key West where we arrived at 1715 and anchored just in time for the sunset show. On the way dawn after Newfound Harbor we caught out first Wahoo, about 24 inches long. One fillet made more than a meal for us both and the other was smoked for later consumption.

We anchored about 1/4 mile from downtown Key West and have access to a dingy dock in the Key West Bight Marina. First day we hiked miles around the town seeing Hemingway’s House, the southernmost point of the USA and other tourist attractions. Picked up our mail and got to pay some bills. Brian found a building supply yard that had copper roof flashing in 16 inch width so he bought a 50 foot roll. Carrying that back to the dingy was an experience! This will be laid inside the boat mostly under the cockpit to form what is known as a counterpoise for the SSB antenna system. Once that is laid we can build the antenna and start to learn the whole business of long distance communications.

Friday night and Saturday another ridge of high pressure came through the area with east winds of 25 – 30 knots which coupled with the strong tides gave our anchor another good test. We are in 15 feet of water with 100 feet of chain out! Saturday produced a good blow with lots of motion from waves and powerboat wash so we stayed aboard most of the day, except to run the dogs ashore and lay a second anchor. The anchorage is just off Wisteria Island which appears to be home to about 15 people camped out there. We met Tony on the beach the first day and he asked for a lift to the town for himself and his friend Bob. Seems to be like a hippie commune of people who live by their wits. Tony is selling sun visors with “Captain Morgan for President” embroidered on them; Bob makes jewelry to sell on the street. Every so often we see others go by in an amazing assortment of dinghies or canoes.

Sunday we toured a local craft fair and on to Truman’s Little White House. This is part of an old naval station that is now really upscale housing but the Little White Hose remains as an historic building. Eisenhower, Kennedy and Clinton used it and Colin Powell used it last year hosting peace talks.

One of the great features of this anchorage is that we are right in line for the Key West sunsets! Several have been brilliant with an orange orb dipping down to the horizon, followed by a light show or oranges, reds, mauve and violets. Several evenings we have just sat in the cockpit and watched the sun go down. Must paint one soon.

For the last day of January we booked an afternoon snorkel trip out to the reefs south of Key West. This was Judy’s first real experience with diving and she got hooked! So now we are considering taking SCUBA classes in March when we return. Saw lots of fish, including a three foot Barracuda and mostly brain and fan corals. Visibility was great for the first dive, but not as good on the second.

And so six months after leaving Illinois we have 3223 miles under the keel. We have built some wonderful memories and new friends in the cruising world while enjoying wonderful sunsets in new ports. Arriving is not the end but the beginning of new experiences.

Check out the rest of our photos here

Fair winds,

Brian & Judy