From beautiful Cumberland Island, Georgia, we
could see Florida just across the river. Where this part of Georgia was
gorgeous, wild, and unspoiled, just across the border Florida belched
smoke and stinky fumes from the many factories. Yuck! We stopped in the
first town, Fernandina Beach, for groceries, and were under whelmed.
However, we were thrilled about the weather. It seemed as though when we
crossed the Florida border, we entered summer. Suddenly it was 80
degrees and sunny. Woo-hoo!!!!!!!
We traveled down to St. Augustine, where we
planned to meet up with Taku for Thanksgiving. St. Augustine was a pretty
town, with lots of Colonial and Spanish architecture. You had to pay to
use the dinghy dock at the marina, but the fee included showers,
so that was okay after all! The waterfront of the town, and the ornate
bridge we anchored next to, were all decorated in white lights for the
But the anchorage was tight, and there was that
darn wind/current issue here as well. Several nights were sleepless as
we worried about boats that had anchored close by. Thanksgiving was-
well- memorable! First thing, while I was in the middle of prepping the
turkey (you know, poultry grease all over my hands, couldn't touch
anything!) we ran out of water. We had a dilemma. If we pulled up the
anchor to motor over to the marina to fill the tanks, we were sure to
lose our spot in the crowded anchorage. We had not bought any jerry jugs
yet. We had no water. Neil finally managed to borrow some collapsible
camping jugs from Taku, and spent an hour plowing into the wind and
current, ferrying water from the marina docks to Zora's tank. The kids
(Liv and Martha from Taku) were getting quite antsy by then, so
everybody but me went in town to explore the Spanish fort. I was doing
the cooking, on both Taku and Zora since my oven wasn't big enough for
everything! I'd dinghy back and forth to baste the turkey, check the
pies, etc. Of course, I had trouble with both ovens going out in the
midst of baking (it was VERY windy).... But finally, whew! everything
was finished. Thanksgiving dinner was a bit late, but lots of fun. Liv
and Martha made a printed menu, and served as hostesses. They even
serenaded us with songs! We had a lot to be thankful for.
Next stop was Daytona Beach, where we spent the
morning of my birthday visiting the farmer's market. We got a late
start, and had a very strong wind on the nose, as we crept along in the
narrow dredged channel at the edge of wide open Mosquito Lagoon. It was
getting very rough, windy (and the wind was right on our nose!), and rainy, with no available anchorages until
Titusville. It began to get dark, and finally the long straight channel
turned enough to allow us to roll out a bit of sail and pick up a little
speed. It was challenging, sailing along in choppy seas and gusty winds
in the very narrow bouyed channel in the middle of a wide, shallow bay.
I had to keep looking back over my shoulder at the bouy behind us to use
as a range, since the wind and current were relentlessly pushing us out
of the invisible dredged channel and onto the shoals. But we needed to arrive before dark, as the bouys were, mostly, unlit.
We made it to the anchorage just as darkness fell.... a hectic day to
say the least! Despite all this, Neil managed to cook up a great
birthday dinner complete with brownies for dessert!
We'd planned to leave to boat in Titusville for
our visit inland to my grandparents' house, but when we got there we
didn't feel comfortable with it. So after a couple of days we continued
south to Cocoa Beach. As luck would have it, anchored there was another
Mariner 39, Columbine, who we'd had email contact with before. Tony and
Sandy were planning to stay there for a long time, and generously agreed
to keep and eye on Zora while we were gone. That made us feel ever so
much more comfortable about leaving her! So we set out two anchors, made
sure that the newly installed solar panels were working, and headed
inland in a rental car.
We picked up my Mom at the Orlando airport, and
all drove west to Homosassa to visit Nana and Bob. We had a lovely,
relaxing visit with them, and on the way back my mom took us to Disneyworld
for our Christmas present. Liv was in heaven! (and we had
fun on the rides, too!) Neil and Olivia even braved Splash Mountain:
Liv stood on her tip-toes to meet the height
requirement for the race cars, and got to drive her own car! You can
read her account here.
When we left Cocoa, we got caught in a squall and
ducked into Dragon Point at the bottom of Merritt Island. Boaters,
beware! There's something in the water just off the point, in the middle
of the "channel"... on the way out the next morning, about 30'
off the day marker, we crunched pretty hard. We think it must have been
a sunken boat, since it was right where there was supposed to be deep
water. We'd seen tons of sunken boats: masts sticking up right in the
middle of anchorages and boats washed ashore. A very sad sight.
The rest of Florida has been something of a blur.
It seems all the same, with countless bridges, motorboats throwing big
wakes, and condos ashore. We kept wanting to go "outside" but
the weather didn't cooperate. Next time, though, I think we'll go
outside if at all possible....
Lake Worth was a fun stop in many ways though. We
got to visit with Neil's cousin Michael and his family, who were extremely
helpful in collecting packages mailed for Christmas from distant
relatives, and loading us up with fishing gear for the Bahamas! We also
re-connected with Taku and Alohomora, as well as met some new friends
with kids. Liv was quite happy! We were able to borrow cars from
friends and get many pre-Bahamas errands done, and Daisy went to the vet
to be spayed. At one point we went all the way down to Fort Lauderdale to
have our cockpit measured for the new bimini (shade awning). We anchored
in something called "Lettuce Lake", nothing more than a
hundred-yard wide notch cut out of the side of the straight, manmade
ditch that the ICW is here. It was weird to be anchored in everyone's
backyard (see picture) but we were able to dinghy ashore to a park and
cross the street to the endless oceanside beach for a lovely swim.
We had decided to go back up to Lake Worth for the
week, and did not relish another day of endless ICW bridges, so we went
"outside" to head north. It was a little rough leaving the
Hillsboro Inlet (poor Liv got sick) but we had a terrific race up the
coast in the deep blue gulfstream waters. We hooked a VERY large fish
(Wahoo? Marlin?) who broke the line and danced on his tail for a minute
or two, angrily trying to dislodge the lure. After that we managed to
catch a small mackerel, which we had for dinner that night back in Lake
Worth. Unfortunately, when it was time to head south to Fort Lauderdale
again, the wind was blowing from the south, so we slogged down the ICW
"inside" once again. In that one day I steered us though 20
drawbridges and many more fixed bridges. Ugh!
Fort Lauderdale has a big sign on the ICW
proclaiming it the "Yachting Capitol of the World" but they
don't mean yachts like us. It is chock-full of gigantic luxury motor
yachts, and we little guys are obviously not wanted at all. There is a
24-hour-per YEAR limit to anchoring within the city limits. We anchored
the first night in Lake Sylvia, feeling our way in and following the
directions in our cruising guide until, "CRUNCH". We hit hard.
But we finally got in and anchored in plenty of water. The next day, we'd
generously been offered the use of a dock that was supposed to have 6'
of water alongside. Unfortunately, as we learned just after the canvas
maker had finished installing our new bimini, there was more like 3 1/2
feet at low tide!!!! We were stuck until the next daytime high tide, the
following noon. It was rather creepy to see so much bottom paint
showing. Suffice it to say, we did not enjoy our visit to Fort
Lauderdale much at all, and were glad to leave the next day!
That day was another of endless hurrying to make
the scheduled bridge openings, or waiting for the next one if we arrived
too late.... we finally arrived at the very top of Biscayne Bay, and the
water suddenly turned a milky turquoise blue: an extraordinary color! We
picked our way off the channel and into the anchorage at Oleta River
State Park, a truly lovely anchorage. It's scenic and extremely
well-protected (happily, since it blew hard for several days) but
unfortunately the grocery stores are quite a hike. Liv and I found some
strange pine-like branches and fashioned a Christmas wreath for the bow
pulpit with a red bow of spinnaker cloth:
After several days relative isolation at Oleta, we
made the short 10-mile jump down to Miami Beach. Wow! City life, what a
big change! Although I must admit we're getting a little sick of it now,
we found we enjoyed Miami Beach a lot. It has a very interesting mix of
people: old Jewish ladies and hip young fashionistas and Cubans and
other South Americans, and of course, gays. The anchorage is right at
the end of a long walking/shopping street called Lincoln Road, where the
people-watching is out of this world. We arrived a few days before
Christmas, and although the street was crowded with shoppers and there
were token Christmas Tree decorations around, instead of Christmas music
there was Cuban music blaring from the stores! There's a 25-cent shuttle
bus that takes you almost everywhere you need to go ( to the Post
Office, thankfully, since we've already been there probably 15 times
attempting to collect packages!) The ocean beach is close by, and most
blocks have an Argentine or Cuban grocery store with homemade empanadas
for $1.50, and thick Cuban coffee. The architecture is also quite
wonderful: a lot of the extreme art deco remains, much has been
restored, and new buildings are built in styles that complement the old.
The architecture, like the clothing and shoes worn by the locals, is
very "over the top". Not the trickled-down stuff that we see
in most of America, where a radical idea is toned down and tamed; here
people seem to do just as they like. Fashion-wise, Miami Beach is the
first place I have been where people actually walk down the street (in
broad daylight) wearing the super-crazy runway haute couture
clothing you see in Vogue magazine.
Long before South Beach was developed, there was
an avocado plantation here. The owners dredged a long canal almost all
the way through the island to get their crop to market. This is Collins
Canal, and to this day it bisects Miami Beach, right in the middle of
the city. This is where the cruisers bring their dinghies ( but make
sure you lock up everything very well!!). You can tie up off Alton
Street for the hardware store, or right across the street from the
Publix grocery store! Talk about convenient! We love this Publix. All
the other Publix we've been to have been big strip-mall modern stores.
This one is in an art deco building; they even changed the font on their
name to match the architecture. Cool, huh? Inside, we found great
goodies for provisioning for the Bahamas: canned Danish hams and Spanish
chorizo sausages requiring no refrigeration, wonderful fruit juices
imported from South America, Mexican Nestle Crema... here is a picture:
The anchorage here is O.K. We're tucked up next to
a man-made island full of high-rise buildings. Sometimes it offers great
protection, but sometimes when the wind blows hard (and it blew hard for
an entire week!!) they create williwaws, or strong downward gusts at
opposing directions to the rest of the wind. Powerboats also roar past
creating huge wakes, but then again we get to witness gorgeous sunsets
over the skyline of Miami, off the west. We can't really complain! We do
make sure to raise the dinghy a foot or so off the water with a halyard
every night, though. We heard from another cruiser that last month, 30
dinghies were stolen. The group of thieves had a guy in the water
to cut the painters of dinghies trailed off the stern. He also had
bolt-cutters, so even if the dinghy was locked to the boat, he cut it.
The dinghies then drifted back from the boats, and were collected by the
other guys in a motorboat. Apparently one sailor tried to retrieve a
dinghy and was threatened with a gun! Also apparently, the police were
called, and we have seen no similar trouble since we arrived almost 2
When we arrived here, we remembered that Richard
and Billy, the previous owners of our boat, had a winter place here. We
called information and found a number and left a message. An hour later they
called back: they were in Miami! We invited them over to see Zora,
and we had a lovely visit. The next night they took us out for a
fantastic Italian dinner on Lincoln Road, as a "bon voyage."
It was great to see them and we're happy they got to see the boat all
fixed up and off on her next adventure. Thanks, Richard and Billy!
As Christmas eve grew nearer, Liv started fretting
about our Christmas tree. My mom had cut a little tree from the woods
near her house in Maine, and sent it down. But the Post Office could not
find it. On Christmas Eve we tried one last time, and when the ladies at
the counter shook their heads, Liv burst into tears. I had brought along
a small tinsel tree as a back-up, but Liv was dead-set against it. It
had to be a REAL tree. As we walked back to the dinghy, we passed a
florist shop with some pine branches in a bucket by the door, and
hatched a plan. Liv picked out the 2 tallest branches, and back on the
boat Neil made a stand by screwing a juice bottle to an extra locker
lid. We wired the branches together and braced them in the bottle, and
weighted the plywood lid with dive weights. When we were done, it looked
just like a little tree! Liv was thrilled: whew!!
Liv made a gorgeous "Indian" star for
the top of the tree, with holes punched in it. We put several of the
tree lights inside the star and it glowed beautifully. She also made
paper snowflakes to decorate the cabin, and she made seashell ornaments
with a little bit of drill help from her dad. The tree was gorgeous! We
made paella for dinner and read "Twas the Night Before
Christmas" before bed. It was a warm and sunny Christmas, with a
Here are some pictures of Daisy, Neil and Liv
enjoying some of their gifts....
We had all the fixings for a traditional Christmas
dinner with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding..... but it was just too
darn hot for that kind of food!!!! It appealed to none of us, so
Christmas dinner was a low-key affair of grilled chicken on salad (which
did satisfy us!) and key lime pie for dessert. The next day, though, the
hot calm weather disappeared, and it blew hard and (relatively) chilly.
A perfect day for roast beef!
Now that Christmas was over, we wanted to gather
up a few last supplies and get to the Bahamas. But the weather did not
cooperate. Every day the weather report called for "East/Northeast
winds 20-25 knots" for several days into the future. Since the Gulf
Stream (which you need to cross to get to the islands) runs SW-NE at a
fast clip, when the wind direction opposes it creates very large choppy
waves. At the least, it is incredibly uncomfortable, at the worst (such
as in 25 kt winds) it can be very dangerous. We needed to wait until the
wind was between SE-W.
At first we were not worried. All December, the
"northers" had been blowing through every 4 or 5 days, and the
winds would cycle around predictably. During that time you only had to
wait a few days at most for a "weather window" to cross to the
Bahamas. But not now. The high affecting our weather was stalled in the
Atlantic to the NE of us, not moving. And so neither did our weather
change. Liv was not too concerned, since she had the girls from Oreneta
(a 27-foot Albin Vega from Toronto with 4 people aboard!) to play with.
But we were getting really antsy to go!
We've been filling our time with small projects,
though. I've been provisioning. I'm filling every spare inch of space
with food and paper goods. Apparently such items are either impossible
to find or incredibly costly where we're going. I'm hoping that, aside
from some fresh produce we'll hopefully be able to buy, and fresh
seafood we will hopefully catch, we'll be able to live off our stored
food for quite some time. I certainly hope so, or else this trip is
going to be a lot shorter than we'd hoped. We'd hoped to be able to live
on $750/mo. So far, in the USA, we've been closer to $1000/mo, and that
doesn't even include the $700 or so of provisions we have aboard.
Granted, we've been on the ICW, so our fuel costs are not representative
of normal cruising, but still!!!! It worries me. I don't want to go back
home early!! Anyway..... some pix of our provisioning!
New Years Eve we were too tired to stay awake, but
were awoken anyway by the nearby revelers and the fireworks over Miami,
so that was just fine. On Sunday we had a fantastic visit with our
friends Fran and Tony (of Seamuffin)
who were down from Maine visiting relatives. They took us to a sumptuous
Mexican lunch and stayed aboard that night. It was SUCH a great visit.
We hope to see them out here cruising very soon....
It now looks like we have a "window" to
cross on Thursday. Hooray!!!! So today we'll do laundry and try one last
time at the Post office for the mail package mailed long before
Christmas (!). Tomorrow morning we'll visit Publix for last-minute fresh
produce, stop by a marina for fuel and water, then find a spot to anchor
as near the inlet as possible. We'll spend the evening stowing
everything aboard for sea, and go to bed early with our alarms set for 5
AM!!!! How exciting, we're finally leaving America!
Some last pictures from Miami: