Water heater stopped working. Went down below and photo’d make & model and googled the manual. Followed the troubleshooting protocol and fixed it. The electric water heater is assisted, if the port engine is running, by a heat exchanger running hot engine water thru the water heater coils. That part of the system is closed and, I think, was low on antifreeze fluid when I headed here from Key Largo resulting in an internal tripped circuit breaker. Ten minute fix and all is well.
Not a 10 minute fix however is the clothes dryer which stopped working Monday. I think the belt on the drum broke. The dryer is a tight fit inside a cabinet above the washer. I won’t have the strength etc to remove it either to fix or replace so I have a repair person coming. Since the cabinet is furniture quality, I did the disassembly of all the face trim and of the disappearing accordion sliding doors. Not being mechanical etc., I was amazed at the design and build intricacies of the cabinetry. A jigsaw puzzle made to be taken apart. It needs removal for access and I don’t want some appliance repair person using a screwdriver and hammer to pry things apart. The repairman, unfortunately, ruptured his appendix and was EMS’d to Miami. Hopefully it’ll be fixed early next week and even more hopefully, I’ll remember how it all thet trim goes back together😄.
Today, Friday 1/10/20, I had lunch with a couple of boaters who started cruising at about the same time I did. I first met them 4-5 weeks ago at the Bill Bird Marina in Miami. That’s the marina about which I wrote unfavorably – nice facility but horrid or maybe I should say non existent management. When I tried to dock there in very high winds there were no dockhands. I didn’t pay that much attention at the time, being busy to not be blown into the neighboring boat and trying to avoid fouling my props with marina lines floating in the water, but there was a fellow boater on the dock trying to catch our lines to no avail. Later in that day or the next, the female side stopped at the boat and visited a while. Turned out they were heading to the Keys as well.
They headed out of Miami somewhat weeks before I did but messaged me a few times via NEBO about their route and progress. NEBO is the tracking program I use to keep visual track of my journey, it’s individual legs and statistics. It’s the program that provides the maps that I use for most of my posts. NEBO also shows the current locations and status of boats that are subscribed to it and it has a feature wherein you can message back and forth between boats – a handy feature to ask a fellow boater who is a day or so ahead how they got through a shallow area or what an upcoming Marina is like.
So anyway they also ended up in Marathon for two weeks in a marina about a mile or so away and today we got together for lunch. For someone like me, not too social, I enjoyed it and had a little opportunity to practice my social skills. Turns out that prior to buying their boat a year ago, they also spent a lot of time RVing. They do live in the Southern CA area. They had been planning to leave today for Key West for a couple of weeks but the high winds we’ve been having caused them to extend a day or two. They’ve been enjoying Marathon so much that when they’re done in KW, they are heading back to Marathon and have booked a week or maybe two at the same marina I’m at.
It has been very windy and that is predicted to be the case for the next week. Steady winds of 20-25 mph out of the east and constant small craft warnings. I’ve started the process of taking care of my eyes/cataracts and hope I can have both done while I’m here. Also will see a doctor next week. My prescriptions have run out and the prescribing doctor, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, won’t renew unless he has another billing opportunity/sees me. So the concierge here at the resort is getting me a appt next week and I can get a full set of new prescriptions.
Today 3 more boats arrived at the marina one of which is another looper boat. There are now 8 Americas Great Loop boats in the marina, far more than I’ve seen in one marina at once so far. Temp is back up to 80+ and wind today was below 12 mph – a marked improvement.
Woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. Had stayed the night at the Pilot House Marina in Key Largo. It is located on ‘Lake Largo‘, a small interior lake, actually a basin, about 1/2 mile inland from the Atlantic. Their ocean canal entry is about the narrowest I’ve seen. I wasn’t really sure it was an entry, just looked like a small gap in the shoreline. Crowd sourced navigation notes warn of shallows, of rocks, of blind turns (radio your presence to possible oncoming traffic) etc. Coming in was the slowest I’ve ever run the boat mostly in neutral and coasting with an occasional engaging of the starboard or port transmission for steerage and minimal speed. Crew was positioned on the bow as a lookout and headsets used to warn me of the rock ledges on the sides. Did I say the channel was narrow ~ about 2 boat widths?
So I woke stressed about exiting in the morning. As it was, leaving was to be late in order to wait for the incoming tide. I just couldn’t get back to sleep. Actually the marina, the basin and on site restaurant we’re very nice. Left about 10:30 am and with my lookout and tracing yesterday’s tracks on the chartplotter, I made my way back to the Atlantic without incident. The ocean was a bit bumpier than yesterday with waves running 1 and 2 feet. Winds increased through the afternoon and my course plotted last evening was to be just short of 60 nautical miles. A long distance but with higher speeds in the ocean, it should be a 3 hour day. WRONG!
As I passed south of Key Largo and on to Tavenier and then Islamorada, there were many patches of crab pots and in the sunny shimmering waves, they were very very difficult to see. Passing Islamorada and nearing Marathon, the patches of crab pots morphed into a sea of them. It didn’t seem to matter at what depth of water I ran. It’s both crab and lobster season down here. Lines of white pots running this way with lines of red ones intersecting and running that way. In between would be lines of impossible to see black or blue pots and then there’s the lines of green ones. Since were running out of colors, this red line is marked with TWO red floats instead of one at each location. Literally, there were times where I had to change directions 3 times in the space of 1.5 or 2 boat lengths. It became a slow and stressful and tiring day. But finally around 4:30 pm I arrived at my ‘home’ for the next couple of months. And a nice home it is going to be.
As there won’t be travel the next few weeks, upcoming blog posts will be fewer and more in line with ore typical sightseeing.
New Yers Eve Day brought a new (almost) experience.
Some 40-45 yrs ago I thought nothing of heading out on our 30’ sport fisher onto rough Lake Mich in 5’ and greater waves. I remember wavesbreaking on the foredeck and washing up and over the flybridge and even, once, washing the chairs in the rear cockpit right out of the boat (crossing the Grand Traverse Bay from Charlevoix to Northport). Or in that same time frame, heading out of the fairly treacherous St Lucie Channel in Stuart, FL miles out into the Atlantic to fish In a 22’ SeaRay (also had break over the boat).
Years have passed and with them, bravado. The big waters now make me nervous. So today, for the first time in decades and For the first time with Last Resort I ventured into the Atlantic. I came close north of Jekyll Island a couple of months ago when I crossed St Andrews Sound and probably came within a 10th of a mile from exiting the Sound and entering the ocean. If you read my last post I’ve been watching for a weather window to run from Miami to Key Largo and on to my winter destination, Marathon Fl. The inside route via the ICW is a shallow shallow slow route. Reports are in some areas that there are so many crab pots that you can almost walk on water. The outside, ocean, route adds maybe 10 miles or so but is in deeper water, no crab pots and double or more speed.
As reported in my prior post, I planned on leaving yesterday (Mon) but cancelled when I saw how much better of a travel day today and tomorrow would be. It was worth the extra days wait. After a brief light early morning fog, the grey skies turned a cloudless blue. Humidity dropped significantly, temps were in the mid to upper 70s and winds diminished to about 7mph. And so, after waiting for a foot of incoming tide to raise the boat off the bottom, I left Pelican Harbor Marina, my home for the past 8 days, headed for the police dock to the house with the green awning and into the main channel. Five bridges later, two of which required an opening (40 min of total wait) I entered Government Cut towards the Ocean. Govt Cut is the channel for all the cruise ships out of Miami but none were in port today. Out of Govt Cut I entered the ocean for the first time this trip and in decades.
The waves for the entire leg were 1’ and less. For the most part I ran between 3 to 5 miles offshore. Not that much to see but a much speedier trip than I’m used to.
Friday, 12/20/19 I was unable to extend my slip for more nights at the marina in Ft Lauderdale but did find availability for 2 nights at Bill Bird Marina, part of the Miami-Dade park system, 14 nm south. Am guessing I’ll be able to extend beyond the two nights due to the holidays and weather. The weather continues to be poor with the forecast showing the next weather window on Christmas Day and the day after. So lines were untied and Last Resort headed out into the heavy winds. Only 5 bridges and 3 openings encountered.
A decent marina built by politicians with public funds. Unfortunately it’s also managed by bureaucrats as well. On approach, about a mile+ out, I hailed the marina probably a dozen or more times over a half hour on both the hailing channel 16 and their published working channel 68 seeking entry instructions, slip assignment and to request dock hand help with lines in the extreme winds. No response. Made several calls on my cell and the calls went to voice mail. Left messages for my requests and asked for a return phone call. No return phone call.
Finally entered the marina basin and circled, while calling and hailing, the dockmaster office. Still nothing. Saw no one on the docks. After 20 minutes circling and trying to get their attention, I did a temporary tie on the face dock . Did the long walk to the Dockmaster office. There was a receptionist at the phone desk and a uniformed lady (Dockmaster) leaning on the desk counter, both deep in personal conversation. Remembering that I still hadn’t checked in and that I’d most likely be asking to extend, I put on my most cordial voice. I did explain that there had been ‘issues’ whereupon she explained they were short handed by 6 people and THEY HAD BOTH BEEN TO LUNCH! I did pleasantly remind her that they had voice mail messages from me from over an hour before and here they were chatting when I walked in and showing my phone while maintaining my most cordial voice, noted my phone was not yet ringing with a call back..
They told me what slip I was to go to but they have no marina map for me to look at. I said I’d be doing a stern in and asked which side of the boat I should pre set lines and fenders. Extremely windy, good current and I wanted to be prepared ahead of time. With the high winds, I wanted to have the finger pier to leeward so the wind would blow me into the pier rather than into the boat next to me. They absolutely had no clue whether I needed to set up for a starboard or port tie and no clue which side of the slip would have the finger pier. So much for being a dockMASTER. So I did the extra 1/2 mile walk to see where the slip was etc and then went to the boat to set up.
Bringing the boat to the slip, I discover that it’s too narrow (about 6” on either side) plus on the outside piling there was a nest (like 3) of lines hanging well down in the water. The wind was bringing their bitter ends near the surface and my approach, in reverse, roiled the water more actually floating the lines midway into the well. No dockmaster, no dock hands! It’s not only a bad thing to foul a line in your prop costing you a diver’s time, it’s a very dangerous one. A heavy line in a prop will stall an engine which you don’t want to have happen in close quarters and heavy wind. Your neighbor doesn’t want your heavy boat hitting his.
I made about 10 tries, with one taking out a small corner of my swim platform on the piling, and gave up. In dead calm, I could have threaded that needle. Rarely do I need even a second pass and this was the first time to concede defeat. Not helpful not having someone on the dock to catch and quickly tie off a line or two. So I headed back to the prior spot on the face dock, tied up again and called the dockmaster and told her where I was tied. Turned out the big boat that is in this face dock slip is actually in a yard somewhere for some repairs and I’m welcome to stay in this very easy slip Friday and Saturday night. Running a marina full of expensive boats with staff that doesn’t care to learn the basics of the Marina property they supervise and with a lack of manpower to operate safely, is inexcusable. But it’s government🤬
The short trip on a grey day was not without interest though. More lavish mansions after lavish mansions, more obscene yachts after obscene yachts. And through Port of the Everglades, dozens of cruise ships being loaded and unloaded.
Sunday was still a crummy day with very heavy winds straight out of the East. Made for a rolly time in the slip. I found out that the occupant of this slip is not coming back till Monday morning so I can stay another night. The dockmaster says there are no more slips. I think there are and it’s just poor management. There are numerous gaps between boats on the face dock – gaps paced out at 200-250’. Based on power pedestal placement the gaps are meant to be occupied by multiple vessels and the smaller 3/4” size of the dock lines indicate occupancy by 50-70’ vessel which would mean even if the boat returned, there would still be something like 150’ Of available space with power. I just don’t think government mgt has the experience or incentive to run a tight ship and maximize the utility of the marina. But it’s their enterprise, not mine. Hoping that Monday morning finds some relief in wind strength and direction and that I can find some space elsewhere. At least if I have to anchor out, it won’t be a weekend in a busy metropolitan boating city.
Sunday night brought a tornado watch for the entire night. My phone screeched me awake at 3 am broadcasting a flood alert. 4” of rain reported and 45 mph winds. But I’m already in my ark and tied and blown/pinned securely to the faced dock so it was back to sleep. Weather had marginally improved in the morning so I called the dockmaster office (it’s nearly a half mile walk) to see if there was a possibility of extending another night. Surprise! No one answered the phone and as of this writing, 4 hours later, my voice mail has not been returned. Winds were down to 11 mph and sun alternated with fog.
Found another Miami-Dade Park system marina 4-5 miles further south. Called and they had slippage for tonight (Mon) and Tues and indicated I could extend over Christmas if desired. So after the fog finally lifted for good, I started south down Biscayne Bay to Pelican Island Marina. It is built on a spoil island. Negatives are that there are no ATONs (Aids To Navigation) like signs and bouys to use to navigate from the main channel to the marina and the Bay is shallow – out of the main Bay channel there’s only a foot beneath my keel. Official navigation help was
“between the bridge and the first channel marker, you will see a house on the mainland West Bank. The house has a green awning. Looking the other way you should be able to make out a beige/cream colored building on the east bank. When between the two, turn left/towards the mid point of a police boat dock in front of the beige building and follow in a line from the awning to that mid point. When you get to the dock, take a hard turn to port and aim for and alongside the marina bulkhead in front of you.” (Note – the awning was not a bright Caribbean green but undistinguishable Forest Green)
Five-ten grand less spent on their beautiful two story dockmaster quarters complete with large 50 person capacity conference room and spent instead on 4 private channel markers might have been a better decision but I guess it’s close enough for government work. I arrived, pumped out, fueled up, got my slip assignment and after plowing mud with my props, found my slip and got settled for at least two nights. It’s actually very nice here, very “Florida-ish” complete with a big sandy beach and picnic tables and the marina has a very helpful staff and very wind protected slips so this should be a relaxing stay.
Christmas Eve day. Slept in and that was wonderful. A beautiful blue sky, mid 70’s day! Put in a order via Instacart to Publix for normal provisioning as well as for preparing nice Christmas and New Years Day dinners, carted it a hundred or so feet to the boat and stowed it. Enough work for the day! Wishing a Blessed Christmas to everyone.
Christmas Day was another clear blue sky day and I extended my stay here for another night. The Bay seemed as quiet as a mouse. Took a nice little walk along their beach. Got the grill out in anticipation of grilled steaks. Gotta be flexible when boating. Not enough propane left to even heat the grill. So into the freezer go the steaks and out of the freezer and into the Instant Pot goes the New Years Day roast. EZ PEAZY. New to-do list item – propane fill.
Thursday 12/26. Alarm set. Up for an early start. Oops. Yesterday was a holiday and I didn’t check the weather forecast. Though protected in this slip, it seems weather around me has deteriorated. Small craft warnings both off shore and in shore. Waves to be 7-9’ off shore (there goes taking the shorter quicker ocean route) and 4-6’ inshore route through big Biscayne Bay. And it looks similar now for a couple of days. No rush, still have a week to run the 100 or so miles to Marathon.
In case you’re interested, for weather, I use the weather forecasts as shown on TV for a macro view but very inadequate for marine forecasts. VHF Channels 1,2, and 3 are NOAA weather channels on my marine radios and they provide more marine specific info, but again a ‘big’ picture. I also have a half dozen weather apps and the one I use most is “WINDY”. Since I’m not going to travel today, I’ll use a bit of time to show what I see this morning on Windy.
So that’s why, even though there’s no rocking and rolling in the slip, today is an in-port day. And it’s looking like it may stay that way for another few days. And the fact that the current municipal Marina is only $1.50 per foot per night vs $3.50 in Key Largo has nothing at all to do with waiting out the weather here vs there😎. Ended up staying through the weekend hoping for a Monday departure. Well, a Monday departure has morphed into Tuesday, Happy New Years Eve.
Went to my bunk last night thinking that I could probably sleep in. Today (Weds) was forecasted to be thunderstorms all day with winds of 10-20 mph out of the north. But I set my alarm for 7 am and later changed it to 7:30am so I could get up and have a “look see” before heading back down for more shuteye. Well, there were grey skies but no rain and no wind. Radar projections showed no rain in the 3 hr projection and so I left heading south towards Ft Lauderdale.
It turned out to be a long long day. The ICW here is truly a concrete canyon. Covered 41 nm today with 17 bridges. About half of those were low enough that it required opening and only one of thos was an ‘open on request”. The balance opened on a schedule such as on the hour and half hour or 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. Most, practically all, of the run is “no wake” with good sections of “idle speed”. Makes it hard to ‘time the bridges’ so there were numerous times of holding position in front of a bridge waiting for the witching hour. These bridges do no open even a minute early. So the 41nm took 7 hours.
It was not a great day for pictures – too gloomy. Nonetheless while waiting for a bridge, I did get a pic of Mar a Lago on the day our President was impeached😖.
I looked hard to see if the Donald or Melania were on the shore waving to have one of his first supporters come on over for lunch. No such luck.
Some observations though. Along the entire 41 mile route I have never seen so many Trump 2020 flags – many huge. Apparently there are a lot of folks who like this economy and want it to continue. Another observation – this is a rich country. Literally 1000’s of multi million $ homes and most appear to be second (or more) homes (not yet opened up for the season). I wonder how many billions or maybe trillions of residential real estate I passed today. And the there are the yachts – what can I say?
Thursday also was a FL east coast balmy, blustery and mostly rainy day. Under a gale warning all day though I don’t think the winds ever reached that velocity. Predictions for the next week indicate lower rain possibilities but continuing strong winds. Will have to figure something out as this slip is spoken for Friday afternoon and on.
Walked across a block, across A1A, Thursday evening for dinner at Bubba Gump. Disappointing both as to menu selection (I was looking for more shrimp dishes) and food prep. I settled on the Lt Dan platter of baby backs and skewered shrimp. Ribs were fine but the shrimp were split/butterflied with the shells still on and overdone. The flesh was like rubber and it was actually not possible to peel the shell off. You needed to gnaw it like corn on the cob. Gary Sinese, you need to reclaim your stage name. Bubba Gump, you are a shrimp place ~ learn how to prepare your signature dishes! On the other hand, BGump is located on the beach and though dark, the lights and crashing surf made for a pleasant evening.
An early (ish) morning departure. Today, Monday, will be a complete ICW run with lots of bridges. In fact, the entire run from South of Jupiter through Miami will be bridge city with many requiring openings. The barrier islands along this route are highly developed with luxury homes and high rises and local government can’t get away with bridges every 20 or more miles so the bridges are frequent. Further, with that many bridges, the government budget can’t afford very many 65’ clearance high bridges so most are in the 14’ – 25’ clearance range and open on the 1/2 and 1 hour. I require 21.5’ clearance so there will be lots of bridge opening timing or waiting for the bridges to open.
Remember well the route from Jensen Beach south to Jupiter. Some 40-45 yrs ago I was down here with the 22’ Sea Ray and with Sharon and the girls we did that route as a day trip. It was quite the adventure for us then. The water color at the Jupiter Inlet is incredible and inspiring.
It was a fairly windy day and generally overcast and with the bridges, a nearly 6 hour transit ending with a nice slip at Riviera Beach Marina. I like their system. Made reservations while on the way (it’s busy down here) and they confirm the ressie with a text which includes a diagram of the marina and directional arrows to your assigned slip. Very helpful. The city has done a great job of developing their waterfront including a nice restaurant within a very easy stroll.
The wind really picked up straight out of the south all day Tuesday, so I elected to stay here another night. No need to be in a rush as I have 2 weeks to get to Marathon.