SO MUCH HAPPENS IN A WEEK. 3.4.2018

We got up to leave Bimini and were surprised to find out that Breeze On was going to make the passage with us. George was not feeling well and they decided that medical care in the US was a better option than flying to Nassau, and traveling together would enable us to keep an eye out for them. The wind was light and on the stern the entire way, so it ended up being a motor sail – ironically sort of how we started the Bahamas leg of our journey. The trip was very uneventful. We were in the Gulf Stream current most of the way across and it added at least a half knot to our speed most of the way. We arrived in Ft Lauderdale, as planned, even though we set our course for Miami, to compensate for the northerly push of the Stream. This is what we counted on and it worked perfectly.

Breeze On opted for a marina close to the inlet and we pushed on (through one more bridge) to the city operated marina of Las Olas. This marina had been recommended and was reasonably priced. Other than the one night when they had to fix the plumbing and there were no showers/restrooms we enjoyed our stay there.

Houses on the new river, Ft Lauderdale.

As soon as we were tied up, we identified people we had in common with our dock neighbors aboard Ahava. It turns out Robert grew up just a few blocks away from our friend Ira Davis. We shared stories and boating experiences with Robert and Susie – thanks for the Florida tips!

Robert Kramer and Susie Saxl

We spent three nights in Ft Lauderdale. We rented a car the first full day and went to West Marine, Publix, Best Buy and the airport to clear back into the USA (customs and immigration). It was a shopping overload but something we enjoyed, having not had the opportunity to shop like this during the two months we were in the Bahamas. The Ft. Lauderdale beach was packed as was the street along the beach – so many people, loud music – what a change!

It wasn’t until day two that we realized I had forgotten the computer bag and charger in Bimini. Since I could only use WIFI in the office at the Bimini Sands Marina, I took the computer in the bag every day to the office to connect. The last day we were there, I updated the blog and finished doing so on a chair right outside the office so the dockhand could leave at 6:00 pm. When I walked out of the office to continue typing I left he bag inside!!! So, we had to buy a new charger. Thankfully they found the bag in the office and a friend of Brian, who works for the condo part of the resort, is bringing the bag to Punta Gorda. We will pick it up from him once we are there. What a relief and thank you!

Day two, we cleaned the boat and did laundry. Since we had to pay for water in the Bahamas, and in Florida the water was included with the dock, we did not spare any water when rinsing things off. It felt good to wash the rugs and do ALL of the laundry.

Day three – we realized that we had a short weather window before there were going to be strong northerly winds. So, at 10:00 am we decided to leave and head for Marathon Key – our spring board to the west coast of Florida. We quickly reviewed the charts and picked out two anchorages that would divide the trip nicely into three days of sailing. We agreed to bypass Miami and the tens of bridges we would have to negotiate, and go out on the Atlantic – returning to the Intracoastal via Biscayne Bay. The Port of Ft Lauderdale is a mecca for cruise ships. In fact on our way in, I counted 12 ships from all different cruise lines docked in the harbor.

We topped off our diesel and off we went. We usually don’t start off mid-day but we knew that we had to have some miles under the keel on Wednesday if we were going to make it to Marathon before the upcoming blow. So we took the 11:30 17th street bridge opening and we were off.

We had an uneventful motor sail down the coast and right about dusk we anchored along with 11 other boats just outside No Name Anchorage. There is a park here but we were using the anchorage just as a sleeping spot and didn’t go in to investigate the park. The motor was off the dinghy and sitting on the stern rail from the Gulf Stream crossing and we had not yet put it back on. Bob blew the conch horn to honor the sunset, we had a great dinner and then we headed for bed – we were exhausted and knew we had to get up early.

The next morning we got up at 5:30 am so that we could leave just as the sun was rising. We knew we had to make tracks (or wakes). Her Diamond motor sailed all day, avoiding fish traps the last two hours of the trip and we anchored just under the Channel Five Bridge on the Atlantic side. The forecast was for the wind to shift out of the north during the night and this was one of the only spots we could find that would give us some protection from northerly winds. It was a few miles off our track but we knew that the added protection from the land around the bridge was worth it for a peaceful night sleep. There was one catamaran also anchored there.

Next morning – we let ourselves sleep in until 7:00 am, had a leisurely breakfast and then headed for Marathon Key and Harbor Cay Marina – a very small private yacht club. Bob had found this marina with the help of Active Captain, a crowd sourced cruising guide that we have been using since we started the trip. Active Captain describes Harbor Cay as a hidden gem because of the friendly people and good location, and we agree. I kind of had to talk our way in as they usually only rent to transient dockers for a month at a time – and we only wanted to stay a few nights. The club needed the money because a number of their boats were destroyed in the hurricane so they are sitting with empty docks. He must have heard some desperation in my voice – although we did have a reservation for another dock on the Atlantic side. Since we were coming down the gulf side, a marina on the Gulf meant a shorter trip for us and there aren’t many marinas on this side of the Keys in Marathon. We arrived to find three people standing on the dock ready to catch our lines and greet us. Soon after we docked, a large power boat came in right across from us with Susie and Chris aboard. They are renting the space for the winter and seemed like kindred spirits – although they are on a POWER boat. Happy hour was at the tiki hut at the dock – we knew this was a good choice in marinas even though the northerly winds would mean a bit of rock and roll.

Bob had read that we could take a bus into Key West – about 48 miles from the marina – for $1 each way, senior rate - Susie confirmed this, so we decided since we were going to be at the marina at least until sometime on Monday, we would take a side trip to Key West. We loved it!! We took the Conch Train tour of the city, toured Truman’s winter White House, walked Duval Street and Mallory Square.

Truman's winter white house - The Little White House

Jim Keating, Chris, Max and Lindsey Smith and the Maloneys.

We met up with some old friends of my brother’s from law school in Toledo for a beer, and later in the afternoon had jokes, half price drinks and appetizers and a group sing along at The Boat House.

Allenicks at the Boat House

Street performer on Malory Square

One of the best parts of the trip were the characters we encountered on the bus on the way back to Marathon, which left Key West at 7:45 pm and didn’t get back to Marathon till 9:45 pm. The bus driver, a short woman my age, had full command of the bus which included:

  1. Smelly fishing bait that she ordered off the bus and then proceeded to spray Lysol in the air conditioning vents.

  2. People sleeping on the bus that she woke up so that they wouldn’t miss their stop.

  3. Stopping the bus so someone, who clearly was off his medication, could get off and use the restrooms

  4. A tall passenger who she instructed over the PA to get his feet off her furniture.

  5. Stopping the bus for us at the gas station opposite the street we needed, even though there wasn’t a bus stop.

The start of Highway One - most often sign stolem

This woman had the patience of a saint and I told her so. All of this contributed to a wonderful day! One more thought about Marathon Key. When we came down this way by car about 30 years ago I was not impressed, as all you see along Highway One are restaurants, gas stations, trailer parks and T-shirt shops. What we didn’t know was right off the main road are these little islands of paradise like Harbor Cay Marina.

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