February 13, 2015

South Florida Charm

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing 

as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin

Weather is a funny thing.  This woman called wind can be relentless and she can change speed and/or direction multiple times in any day. I am learning that she does not always pay attention to the forecast you thought you could rely on.  Currents too are very unforgiving and the daily temperature just doesn't give a hoot what we prefer.  I always liked the saying, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it…. "

You would never know it by looking out over a peaceful Biscayne Bay pictured above that just 24 hours ago this whole area was getting pounded by 35 knot winds from a winter cold front.  Just last night the simple task of getting one's self from the dinghy and into the boat was like a acrobatic act teetering on the boat ladder of a bucking bronco that I affectionately call Glory Days. Do it while carrying two bags of groceries and the feat is magnified even more… sometimes it's just time to collapse on board and give thanks that it went well and no groceries or lives were lost in the process.

There comes a time when using good judgement is not only prudent but could make the difference in a fun trip or a serious fate. Granted, nothing is more invigorating than succeeded in a new risk… and generally, I like the odds, but I always try to consciously play it safe, remain calm, don't overreact, keep a steady watch on the forecast and try to stay prepared for the next unexpected thingamadoodle that comes along…. then and only then, you might come out ok.

My friend, Sherry, recently joined me for an enjoyable stay aboard Glory Days. We kept a busy schedule and were hosted by my favorite frisky couple Craig and Linda who live on the ICW in Fort Lauderdale.  It was a convenient anchorage in Sunrise Lake, an easy dinghy ride to their home from the boat.


I'm gonna work backwards here…. Just two days ago Sherry and I crossed over Biscayne Bay from No Name Harbor, to set anchor here at Dinner Key…. But that was preceded with a week of sailing and exploring some of the local spots in and around Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and the Upper Keys… So working backwards, the next pics below are scenes from our two days anchored at Elliot Key and Adams Key, the first keys in the long string of islands that make up the Florida Keys...

A dinghy ride thru the mangroves is always somewhat mystical…

There was a perfect moon all week…. 
Mr. Moon seems to be imitating the sun here.

Take a papaya and add a little banana, yogurt, and granola and you have my now famous papaya split… breakfast of champions.

Yes, I hate it too when people post food pics… 
but it was too pretty not to.

Angels peeking down...
The Elliot Key Anchorage at the blue dot… There is an inlet between Elliot Key and Sands Key, but not for the faint at heart… currents too strong to tackle, but interesting to view.

For me, fishing is sort of like playing the lottery.  Although I never play the lottery, I do fish frequently. And like the Lottery, the chances are one in a zillion you win the prize…  but if you don't buy a ticket, or you don't 
put your hook in the water, you have absolutely no chance at all…. half the fun is trying… tho I'm ready for my odds to improve in the fishing arena… I thought buying a legitimate license would improve my odds… time will tell.

 Snake demo at the park… easy girl.
This was a lovely anchorage on the lee side of Rubicon Key…. I call it the calm before the storm.
I led a yoga class for one on this pier…. I could've sat here all day…just staring out.

The previous day's anchorage was a tight little harbor on Key Biscayne called No Name harbor… It's part of Bill Baggs State park… it's a lovely setting with lots of other cruisers anchored here… it's a popular jump off point for departing to the Bahamas

Protection on all four sides at this No Name Harbor anchorage makes it a popular spot ...

The trek across Biscayne Bay from No Name Harbor was a mere 5 mile jaunt, but it turned out to be a real heck of a sleigh ride as the winds of 20-25 knots blew us here in no time under a main sail that I should have reefed before departing.   Thankfully, I was able to spill the wind by releasing the main sheet out a good bit, with no thought of adding a 2nd sail at all…

It's far easier to remove reefs from a sail while under way than it is to put reefs in a sail while on rough seas and high winds… I should have known better, but in retrospect it turned out fine and it was one jolly of a ride across the bay under one sail and no engine needed.

We were racing along at a good speed of 6.5 knots when we came into the path of a local regatta of small boats all intent on harnessing the most out of this strong northerly. I veered her south a bit and avoid the thick traffic of sailboat racers smelling the finish line as seen below… we crossed just below their finish line… 

Here's some scenes from the regatta we passed.

There are over 200 mooring balls for boaters to rent at Dinner Key. It's a boating mecca situated in the artsy community known as Coconut Grove…. Mooring balls are rented here for $22/day, and all 200 mooring balls were taken…  Glory Days was added to the waiting list for a mooring ball and we were forced to drop anchor on this windy day just outside the mooring field …. 

The view of the Miami skyline from this site was awesome, but my attention was more focused on making sure we were tight on the hook, and making sure chafe guards were in place for the anchor line… It's gonna be like riding a hobby horse tonight I feel.

It turned out to be an uncomfortable anchorage due to the intense northerlies…. hang on and wait it out.  

The next day we did manage to dinghy into town to explore the area and have a nice dinner… Interesting little community here…. Returning to the anchorage in the heavy wind that night proved to be one of those times you won't forget for a while …  the idea of getting swamped by a wave in the dinghy is never a good thought … So we sucked it up, braved the wind,  spit the salt spray back to Neptune, secured our life jackets, and whispered prayers before leaving the dinghy dock… and what do you know? We made it. 

This is the marina at Dinner Key at Coconut Grove, which is still part of Miami.  

This is a 48' aluminum sloop owned by a French man I met named Michel.  He and his nephew has just completed a successful 4 day passage from Guatemala to Key West… He was a gentle soul, full of knowledge, and our paths crossed again as you will see below...

Unfortunately the next two nights in Dinner Key would not be good nights for sleeping, this one.   You take the good with the bad sometimes.  But the important thing is we were dry and safe and continued to grin giddily about it all. All night long the boat bobbed like a cork in a toilet and sleep came in short cycles at best.  I made sure to set the anchor drag alarm for 50' in case we started to drag, or lord forbid,  became detached from the anchor

Our peaceful stay at Elliott Key and Adams Key the two nights previous turned out to be the calm before the storm and a distant memory as we dealt with the foul weather.  

As a mariner, you do your best to read the weather and you must be willing to delay your plans in order to depart in more favorable conditions, especially high wind… No matter how much you study and prepare, eventually you get caught in a bit of weather snafu and you just have to learn to deal with it. Sometimes I make the right decisions, sometimes I don't.

Prior to this stop in Coconut Grove, we had spent one night anchored right in the heart of downtown Miami just for kicks… a night walk into the South Beach district is always fun and eye opening to a south Georgia boy like me.

Sun sets behind skyscrapers on this calm night in Miami, Feb. 2, 2015
Some cruisers I meet seem to poo poo the thought of staying in Miami… but personally I enjoyed the urban anchorage… I think of it as a contrast in cultures having come from such a remote anchorage at Adams Key to a truly urban sprawl like Miami… each have their own beauty.

…. even in the daytime...
… or nighttime...

Today's blog post titled "South Florida Charm" began in Fort Lauderdale as I alluded to at the beginning… so in the spirit of working backwards, we now find ourselves back to the beginning, in Fort Lauderdale...Below are some photos from our 3 days in Fort Lauderdale hanging with our friends there…
On the first Sunday of each month, you can attend the free jazz/blues fest on the waterfront in downtown Lauderdale… the music was great and the folks were living it up on a sunny Sunday in February 

Lucy here says It's always a good idea to keep the stanchions polished and free of rust.  I agree.

My friends Craig and Linda have a nice condo on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Here is a view of their canal that I entered with my dinghy each day to visit them… Craig and I picked up where we left off last tear with our music jamming…

Well folks, that brings us right back to where we started at the cusp of another little adventure wrapped in kindness, love hope, and service.

After 10 days Sherry flew back to Atlanta, and I spent another day at Dinner Key where I attended the Sunday afternoon cruisers pot luck as seen below… Yummy food and the camaraderie of meeting a new group of strangers all bound by a common thread… or many common threads for that matter.

And alas, by towing his dinghy back, I was able to return the favor to the Frenchman, Michel, who gave Sherry a ride to the airport… It all seems to work out perfectly in the world of cruising… just when you need a friend, they appear.  And just when you have something to offer, the need arises for another… it all balances out so perfectly… 

You will hear more about this unique phenomenon in the next post where I encountered my first true "drama" along the way… stay tuned! (Obviously, I lived to tell about it… coming up!)

Onward to the Keys now!

I would eat this… why wont the fish?  Soon I will find that weak link in the fish chain and I will reel him in…. I'll even let him go !


  1. Always fun to read your blog! We're still on board in Honolulu and will return 3/10. Blowing like stink out today at 30-35K. I went sailing with some new newbies on their Slocum 42 cutter yesterday. Great boat. At 14 tons, the cutter handled 20-25k in 8' seas with ease. Always fun to sail another different boat. The run to Diamond Head and back was exhilarating.

  2. It was a wonderful 10 days but your blog left out some of the funniest moments! I can't wait to return to Glory Days for more adventures with the best captain I know...well I actually don't know any others but if I did, you'd still be the best;-)