After we got back on board from our Whistler, B.C. trip we spent several days laying copper in the storage space under the cockpit for the ground plane for our Single Side Band radio and a trip up the mast to fit a small cheek block for the antenna hoist. We also anxiously watched the weather for a suitable window to get to Key West where we were meeting Judy’s son Patrick. Days of south east winds did not help so we decided to go south for some way on the ICW to Venice which has one of the few entrances on the West Coast that is easy to get out. Finally left after lunch on March 6 for Longbeach. An interesting anchorage behind Longboat Key, difficult to get into as there is a new sand bank that we found once again with the bottom of the keel. Fortunately a local laser sailor gave us directions for the new channel and we anchored with several other yachts just off the beach.
Next day we left for Venice where we arrived at the Crow’s Nest Marina at 1415. We had ‘help’ to dock so Judy threw a spring line and asked to make it fast. I did the usual drive forward against the spring to bring the boat alongside and realized too late that the spring was not made fast! The other help grabbed the bow line and the net result was that the bow pulpit was driven into a post and the top section bent about 45 degrees down and the bow light broken. Obviously a major problem as we planned to leave next day for an overnight and did not have navigation lights. After some phone calls we were able to locate a mobile welder who did stainless steel welding and by late afternoon the pulpit was fixed. Judy vows to always jump off with the spring line and handle it herself in the future as this is the second time it has happened.
The forecast for the next day was for strong north winds dying late in the afternoon then going to light variable overnight and back to north 10 15 knots on the next day. By 1600 the wind had dropped as predicted so we left through the Venice Entrance and out to the Gulf of Mexico. That night the light variable winds did not appear and we raced on with north winds behind us and just the main up at an average of 6.3 knots. Difficult conditions as the wind vane self steering did not work well at this angle so we ended up hand steering the whole trip. Judy had trouble holding the course in the strong winds so Brian was at the helm most of the time. Wind was 25 knots plus and seas 6 -8 feet. Our 24 hour run from Venice was 151.1 miles. As we approached Key West late in the second afternoon we ran into a torrential rain storm for over an hour with higher seas that pushed us over 10 knots at times as we surfed the waves. Fortunately it passed about 30 minutes before we got to the channel entrance but by now it was dark and we had to pick our way in through the marks. At least they were all lit, unlike our arrival in Bradenton so we finally got on anchor at 2215 in the bight at Fleming Key. This turned out to be a much nicer anchorage than Wisteria Island with less traffic and current. Our log showed 181 miles in 30 hours a fast run for us.
Patrick arrived safely the next day and it was a pleasure to have his company aboard. We spent the Friday and Saturday playing tourist and introducing Patrick to some of the Key West oddities as well as mojitos which are a Cuban rum drink with lots of rum and a little sugar, fresh mint and soda water. We all had a great time. We took a train around the Island and walked to the southernmost spot of the United States. Patrick was interested in a sail trip so we left Sunday for Marathon. Unfortunately the wind gods were asleep and we finished up motoring the whole trip but Patrick got to drive the boat and, unfortunately, also got an overdose of sun. We had a relaxed evening at the Dockside bar & grill. Monday we rented a car and drove him back to Key West airport for his flight back to Chicago. We miss him and hope his very red face soon returns to normal. We spent five more days in Marathon generally relaxing and meeting new people. Marathon has a “Cruisers Net’ which is a morning radio session where people can make announcements etc. We proposed a DVD swap and had a little interest and managed to swap three DVD’s for ones we had not seen. We also met another couple Frank and Joanne on Fantasy Island through the net and agreed to travel together to Miami. They have recently been to the Western Caribbean so we were interested to get their impressions and advice. The night before we left we had a rain storm come through with high winds and lightning that had us standing an anchor watch for the first time. We had no problems but several boats dragged and one unoccupied boat crashed into a powerboat and caused some damage.
Next morning was fine and we had a great motor sail to Rodriquez Key. This was our fish day! The catch was two 18inch Spanish mackerel and a 25inch Gag Grouper. The other interesting event was being literally caught with our pants down be the Coast Guard. Brian was working on eliminating his tan lines and Judy was in the head when a Coast Guard small boat roared up and asked to board us for a safety inspection. When Judy came up she was surprised to see Brian speaking to the port side of the boat. She thought he had gone crazy but soon saw the Coast Guard alongside. After a quick scrabble for pants two Coasties came aboard and checked us out. We passed without problems having had a Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection in November 2004. That evening we had cocktails aboard Fantasy Island and an early night as we planned an early start for Miami.
0630 found us pulling up the anchor and we motor sailed until 1100 when the wind filled in enough to sail on to Miami. We were able to keep the sails up through the Biscayne Channel and all the way up to the turning basin at the end of the main channel. Frank and Joanne had recommended an anchorage south of the Venetian Causeway near South Beach so we followed them in. A great location with a small island for the dogs to get ashore and a dingy ride up a canal to the north end of South Beach. That night we were treated to a free fireworks display from the Miami area.
Judy had been to South Beach before but it was new to Brian so we spent time looking at all the art deco buildings and just generally absorbing the atmosphere. We also visited the Holocaust Memorial there which we found both uplifting and interesting but at the same time disturbing. The main memorial is a huge hand reaching up with people attached that are obviously in anguish and malnourished. Around the outside is a wall with names of many of the victims that have been submitted by family members in the USA. Monday night we took a long dingy ride with Frank and Joanne to the Miami Marina and Monty’s Raw Bar for Happy Hour and their Stone Crab claws. A great dinner was had by all.
We left Miami on March 22 in company with Fantasy Island for Fort Lauderdale. Good winds but lumpy seas had us motor sailing with all sails up all the way into Port Everglade. We were fortunate to get a mooring ball at Las Olas Marina. Last time we were here they were full and it is ‘first come, first served’. Las Olas is a great spot with easy access to bus routes and great facilities. We met Tom Neale off Chez Nous on the dockside. Tom used to write the “On Watch” column for Cruising World and a monthly bulletin “Cruising Coast and Islands” and has been cruising for more than ten years. Brian obviously is now a suspicious character. Not only were we boarded by the Coast Guard earlier this month but after going to the Broward Public Library and checking our e-mail were suddenly surrounded by four men as we exited the computer center into the main library lobby. One flashed a US Marshall credential and asked for Brian’s ID. After looking at his driver’s license it was handed back and the four departed as quickly as they came. Who knows what that was all about!
Frank and Joanne pick us up the next day and took us to the circus! This is apparently a Fort Lauderdale tradition and is a small one ring circus at a huge flea market. Admission was only $1 and the show was about one hour with acrobats, jugglers, trapeze artists and aerial ballet. The only animal performance was four elephants and Judy got to ride one after the performance.
After three days at Fort Lauderdale we took off for Vero Beach, again going outside overnight. We had planned an 1100 departure and average speed of 5 knots to arrive off Fort Pierce inlet just after dawn. Once we were outside the Port Everglades inlet we found better wind conditions than were forecast and for the first seven hours we averaged 7 knots. Much too fast so we had to reef the main and wrap up the jib to slow us down or we would have arrived four hours too early and have to heave too or sail in circles until dawn. The slow down worked and we arrived off Fort Pierce at 0630 and arrived at Vero Beach at 0930.
We crashed early that night and woke refreshed the next morning. Vero Beach has a reputation for people staying here a long time so we entered ‘cruising mode’ and decided to stop a week and catch up in more mundane things like taxes and maintenance. Fishing is good here and we have had a snook and a spotted sea trout for dinner one night caught right off the boat.
And so March ends with us still on a mooring ball at Vero Beach with 3938 miles under the keel.
Brian & Judy