Here are some pics I took of the marina where I’m staying. There are also a couple of stock photos
Weds., January 1, 2020
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.
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.
Friday, 11/15/19. Today was another soggy day! I could have split today’s days leg over a couple days but just wanted to get it over with. Even ran into maybe a mile or so of good (actually bad) fog but the instruments made it easy to follow the channel. My destination, Fort Pierce, will be “home” for a few weeks.
Today’s leg was just under 63 nm completed in a little less than 6 hrs. I am docked in a slip at another condo project private marina. I visited this marina by car a year ago. At that time there was a very nice 50’ Novatec for sale which I really wanted to see. I spent three days trying to arrange it through Curtis Stokes brokerage but apparently they had something better to do that week than to sell a boat. Back then, I drove into the marina parking lot and walked the dock multiple times each day before finally giving up. By the time folks got around to actually show the boat I was in Myrtle Beach looking at a different boat. So now I’m back – but by boat, my boat.
Monday I had the boat hauled out of the water and blocked on dry land at Cracker Boy Boat Yard. Cracker Boy is a DIY facility where they provide the haul out, optional bottom pressure wash and space for the boat to be blocked while being worked on. The space includes a power pedestal so the boat fridges etc can continue to operate. Unfortunately the heat and air conditioning need raw water to function so they are not operational. For work you don’t want to do yourself, that’s me, the yard is semi ringed by small bldgs etc of independent contractors who you can independently hire or you can also hire tradesmen from anywhere.
To be free of having to accept whoever and whatever a marina sends/says is great and while a typical marina may discourage you from direct supervision (‘insurance prohibits customers past this line’ type of thing) the DIY yard is the opposite – in fact you can live, cook, sleep on the boat, if you wish, so long as you can climb the ladder up to the boat. I could and I did. The yard does keep a list of contractors by trade that they’ve found to be responsive and responsible – really nice if you are unfamiliar with the area.
After hauling, I was pleased to see that the bottom was quite clean and did not even require pressure washing. Based on the diver’s report back in June/July of a badly scratched bottom, I was expecting that the bottom might need repainting ($$$) while hoping maybe I could get away with just touch up. No painting was required!
The hull and topsides were severely oxidized and there were some areas that were marked up from docks. There are also some areas of fiberglass cracks at stress points (some cleats), some age related minute spider cracks and a couple of pitted areas. Water can intrude at these places and water under the fiberglass is a severe enemy. Some prior repair had been done without proper bonding and was chipping and flaking off. Some prior ‘repaired’ areas had paint that was not matched well and had lots of orange peel. So I hired a company that does fiberglass work and detailing. The glass work will be fixed. The boat will be compounded from top to the waterline, from front to back, first with a cutting compound followed by a second round of a more medium grit and a third round of a fine polishing grit before then being completely waxed. The crew started the morning following the haul out and has been there from 7am to 4-5pm, 6 days a week for nearly 3 weeks. Most days it was two men and some days 3. What a difference it makes to have the boat detailed.
I also had Island Electronics (the company that installed the new electronics last May) install a new through hull depth finder transducer since the boat was now out of the water. The boat has never had a thru hull finder before. Until now, the transducer was located physically inside the hull and ‘shot’ energy through the hull. I was nervous watching them drill a 3” round hole in the bottom of the boat for this new transducer to go in and physically have contact with the water. Supposed to be more reliable and accurate. I was also 2 software releases behind on the chartplotter so after updating, they calibrated the transducer to display depth under keel.
Also done while out of the water was replacing all the external sacrificial zincs (will replace the engine, tranny and genny zincs when in Marathon), rebedding a 6’ section of run rail and some other small items. Both props were a bit loose and the port side had lost the cotter pin behind the jam nut. So both props were tightened down etc.. And while staying aboard but not having to travel, I sanded down and refinished some pilot house interior woodwork.
Staying aboard In an active boat yard was interesting. Boats of all sizes and styles being hauled and others launched everyday.
I got to see boats being literally totally being rebuilt while others had just the bottoms painted. Watched props being taken off, new shafts installed and the yard crane taking an engine out through the cabin door while another boat receives a new engine being dropped in via the cockpit.
When Last Resort is returned to water, it’ll be time to change the engine and transmission fluid and filters. Intend to do that in Marathon and without a mechanic for the first time.
I also took a dreaded (I hate flying – the 2nd best place to get sick right after a hospital) flight north to cold northern VA for Thanksgiving with daughter Vic, Jon and grandkids. Enjoyed the holiday and of course Thanksgiving dinner, thank you. Grandkids arrived from southern VA, Oklahoma and Minnesota. And then, after a 3 am Saturday wake up, it was over and I joined a multitude on the flights back home to the boat. The airports were sure busy Saturday and I was happy to get back to a holiday-quiet boatyard. And yes, I’ve had a horrid head/chest cold ever since I got back.
The crew finished their detailing on Friday (12/6/19) afternoon but the yard’s scheduling for splashing boats was already full for Saturday so I did some reprovisioning in anticipation of a Monday morning splash. The weather has warmed back up a bit so the last couple of nights have been more comfortable for sleeping. I think there were 4 or 5 straight nights of temps in the low 40s and without heat, it was a bit chilly sleeping. Guess the head cold I got should not be surprising.
Saturday night, feeling crappy, I headed to my bunk early only to hear loud noises shortly after. Very unusual as the yard is like a morgue at night. As far as I can tell, I and the guy next to me are the only two who stay on their boat – he’s been here 70 days rebuilding his bow pulpit and will also be relaunched on Monday. So I got in my sweats and went out on my bow. There were dozens of cars in the lot and young rag muffins running all over – even using the big straps on the boat hoist as swings. Doesn’t today’s generation have any sense of control over their kids? Let me answer that. There was a car parked in the narrow passage between my boat and the boat on the other side of me (where you see the scaffolding in the first repair picture above). There were kids running and playing ‘tag’ under our boats. Then another carload came and tried to park their car in the same narrow passageway.
Ever the ogre and not thinking anyone of those folks could begin to pay for the damage they could do if they only hit one of the blocks holding the boats up, I told them to move. The guy got very argumentative and I thank his wife for calming him down and convincing him to park elsewhere. Not sure where security disappeared to.
So my neighbor and I were on our respective bows and he told me that the Fort Pierce Christmas Boat Parade was supposed to come into the basin between Cracker Boy and the very busy Harbortown Restaurant across the basin. I abandoned my plan for an early shuteye, opened up a seat on the flybridge and awaited the festivities.
Am guessing, but perhaps the story got around down by the dock edge because maybe a half hour into the wait, 4 kids came near the boat and called up to me that they and their parents were going to go get some meatball subs and would I like to join them. I didn’t but appreciated the gesture.
The parade consisted of about a dozen or so boats most of which were modestly decorated. One of the better boats was probably 24-26’ with a sleigh fashioned in the stern and white reindeer rising up over the bow. The captain, I think, had imbibed a bit for he seemed rather reckless in crowded quarters on a dark nite. The star of the show was a three story tug boat that was festooned with lights and music (and loud horn). I enjoyed watching it and getting some pics from my perch on the flybridge. It was fun and the yard returned to solitude within 15 minutes of the parade ending.
One last surprise while here was that my niece from MI came down to her place in Nettles Island, about 15 miles south on the Intracoastal, and called today so got to have lunch and a nice visit along the Fort Pierce inlet. Thanks Joan!
Monday 12/9/19, a beautiful cloudless day, the boat was splashed at 11 am. It was so nice to be back in the water and, since the weather is warming up again, it is good to be able to open the through hull to the air conditioning water pump so as to have AC or heat for the first time in 3 weeks.
Took all of two or three minutes after touching the water to being underway to the Harbor Isles Condominium’s marina for a few days to wait out some weather and to put the boat back together for travel before resuming the southward trek.
And so, after a month in Ft Pierce, I headed out on a boat with all nicks and blemishes freshly repaired on a shiny clean boat.