Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sailing With The Dolphins

It's been a great past couple of days. We finally left Cocunut Grove after getting an overdose of Art, rain and winds. We even squeezed in a train ride back up to Miami to walk around the Boat Show and do some shopping. Even small on the dirt adventures like riding a train makes for a fun diversion.

The trip out of Coconut Grove south was a superb day. We left the mooring bright and early and headed out the skinny channel into the center of Biscayne Bay. Turning south we raised the sails in a perfect wind just enough off the nose and went 25 miles on a port tack to reach our destination for the night, Pumpkin Key in the Card Sound. It was our best day yet especially because I got Pearl moving and beat two other sailboats that were headed in the same direction. I didn't know Pearl had it in her! I took credit for beating two of them but Gayleen wouldn't let me take credit for the other 3 because they were at anchor. Yes, I was trimming the sails and acting like a racer although Pearl is far from a Ferrari. In fact she is like racing a Mack truck. On the trip, we really appreciated how she stays very level compared to the newer, light production sailboats out there that we were considering in our purchase decision. We definitely thought our ride would be more comfortable than theirs the way they were heeling over and bouncing off every small wave that came by.

Pumpkin Key is a small Island that is private but you can chose any side you want to anchor in and stay out of the wind. With a light easterly wind that night we chose the west side and had a view of not only the island but we also felt like we were in the expanse of the Card Sound.

We almost wanted to stay at Pumpkin Key another day but though it best to continue South. We left mid morning in a light air and just put up the Genoa heading almost down wind with a plan on just moving slow with the light wind to see how far we would get. After about an hour we had some exciting visitors! A herd of dolphins decided to join us. I told Gayleen I though it was called a pod of dolphins but I guess in the part of Connecticut she grew up in they would call it a herd. There were about 10 of them and they played in our bow and swan circles around us.

They swam and played along side us for about 30 minutes until we had to motor through a short channel to enter the next bay. Unfortunately, our new friends disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared earlier.

There is never a dull moment with Gayleen on board. When we need entertainment she is always ready to step up and provide some. Today she insisted on fishing as we sailed slowly south. I told her that I needed some help to jibe so she showed me that her many talents include multi-tasking at the helm. This looked scarey but she pulled it as she always does, with style.


Once we had jibed she returned to her normal fishing position ready to land the big one.

Unfortunately her luck wasn't as good as her form, and its microwave hot dogs again for dinner tonight.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pole Dancing and the Arts

Now that I have your attention, I will get to the the pole dancing later in this post.

We left the nice relaxing anchorage near South Beach on Monday to venture south into Biscayne Bay. Biscayne Bay is shallow, about 10 - 15 feet deep but very wide and open. It was a perfect place to do some sailing and Pearl proved to be up to it. Just outside of where we were anchored was the Port of Miami basin where the large cruise ships depart and return to. They also do full 180 degree turns there which we could see over the trees from our anchorage. Even if you have been on one of these ships you really don't get the full view of how large they are until you are up close and personal with them on the water.

We motored a few miles under a couple of bridges and finally made our way into the wide part of Biscayne Bay. We raised the sails, turned off the engine and were sailing silently along enjoying the scenery and watching the other sailboats. Pearl certainly isn't a racing machine but she sails smoothly and firm even in the light conditions that day. Gayleen, of course, went forward to supervise and make sure I didn't get that big white thing between her and the sun.

After a nice day on the Bay we made our way down the long narrow channel into Coconut Grove, Florida and the Coconut Grove Sailing Club had a mooring waiting for us. Once again we took advantage of long hot showers and laundry facilities. You really develop an appreciation for the modern conveniences of a house when you have to go without for a while.

We are finding that as we move slowly south, our intentions of staying for a day someplace end up stretching for several days and we are still here in Coconut Grove. The town is fun with an area called Coco Walk that is several blocks of unique shops and restaurants. There is lots to do and lots to see. We have lots of time so why rush?

We are still here today due to a couple of days of heavy rain and a strong windy front coming in tonight. Yes, its supposed to get down to the 30's in temperature tonight so once again it's time to dig out those winter clothes we still have on board. The benefit of staying for the weekend is that we got to experience the Coconut Grove Arts Festival that is going on through the long weekend just next to where we are moored. In fact, the Coconut Grove Sailing Club is inside the gates so we get to attend for free. There are more artists displaying their paintings, sculptures, photos etc. that I have ever seen in one place. If you have a passion for art this should be on your list to visit. Gayleen loves her latin music so we spent time next to the stage watching and listening to the live music.

After the front moves through either tomorrow or Monday morning we will leave this fun spot and head south to Pumpkin Key which puts us far from the city life and we hope in clear snorkeling water.

We don't have a television and tend to go to sleep with the sunset and wake with the sunrise. You know you have been on a boat too long when you find that some of the simpler things entertain you the most. This week it was "Taz the Pole Dancer." Taz is one of our crew who usually hides in a dark hole asleep all day but as soon as the sun goes down comes out wide awake and ready to cause trouble. This week she was showing off her pole dancing skills on the carpet covered section of mast that goes through our salon area onto the bottom of the boat. We adopted her from a shelter when she was young so we don't know her heritage but evidently she has some skills we didn't realize she had, climbing the pole and then spinning around it until she comes to a rest on the floor. Taz in action....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How To Do Miami On The Cheap - adopt a derelict boat

We have enjoyed our stay in Miami and will start South into Biscayne Bay in the morning. We missed watching one of the biggest snowstorms in a long time back home in Boston but we are not going to miss the shoveling and after effects. We hope our friends up North are enjoying the winter wonderland.

One observation that made an impression on us in Miami was the quantity of derelict boats anchored throughout the harbors. Several years ago the Florida government passed a law that allows you to anchor anywhere in Florida waters for the most part as long as you are not in the main channel. There used to be bans as well as restrictions on how long you could stay at many places from what we understand. This is great news for us as we can anchor and stay almost anywhere the depth will allow. The downside seems to be that many have taken advantage of this to anchor boats they no longer want and just leave. Interspersed with all the nice boats are many derelict boats leaving an eyesore scattered about. Here are just a few we passed as we drove the dinghy to shore.

Now, if you wanted a cheap place to stay in Miami just find yourself a dinghy or hitch a ride from someone at the dinghy dock and adopt one of these little beauties. The view is great and it comes with the wonderful smell of salt air and ..... the price is right! Just make sure there aren't already other squatters on board as is the case with many of these lost hulls. First come first served.

One last note: Another cruising couple anchored next to us last night and stopped by to say hello this morning. They bought their boat 3 months ago and just came up from the Keys. We were exchanging stories about what we find important to us in this new lifestyle. They explained how they spent 3 weeks when they bought their boat researching and picking out the perfect microwave. Then, once they were on board for a month they realized they didn't use it and all it did was take up counter space so they gave it away. We just smiled and laughed. I didn't have the heart to tell them that without a microwave I might starve to death as Gayleen is the self appointed Microwave Queen. Yes, tonight is microwaved hot dog night with microwaved spinach in a pouch..yum.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

BUSTED!!! in Ft Lauderdale so we escaped to Miami

Time to catch up as time seems to fly by as we enjoy each and every day. Yes, you read it right. We were BUSTED by the Ft Lauderdale Police. We got pulled over for speeding on the way to check out an anchorage in the dinghy! My first mistake was trying to explain to the cop that I was just slowing down because the sign said so, then he insisted that I slowed because I saw him. Seeing his reaction it was time to play dumb newbie boater and ask him why the sign said water skiers can go 35 mph. "I am confused sir.". He then recited the exact words on the sign and explained that if Gayleen was to jump over and let me pull her on a rope behind the dinghy I could go 35 mph. If she's in the boat then I have to be putting along at a no wake speed. I just said thank you even though none of it makes sense. He was pretty cool given that we didn't have the registration with us either and he took more of an education approach and taught us about the signs and answered a lot of questions we had about motoring and anchoring always asking what else we wanted to know while he was there. He also brought us tied to him to the anchorage we wanted to check out and let us know the depth there. Now for the funny part ... here we are tied to a Police boat with its blue lights flashing and a sailboat comes cruising by and yells "Bruce!". It was our new friends Tom and Nancy that we left a few days earlier up in Palm Beach. Double BUSTED!! After a written warning and a good education from a nice Law Enforcement Officer we were on our way back to Pearl.

We spent several extra days in Ft Lauderdale to enjoy the beach as well as get some things I ordered online that I had delivered to my friend Brian's place in Boca Raton. Brian brought his brother Kevin for a visit on Pearl. They are both very nice people and we enjoyed the conversation and having them aboard. Before we moved to a mooring ball at the Las Olas Marina we did get to enjoy some more tourist shows next to our boat at our previous anchorage in Lake Sylvia. Check out this water powered jet pack.

The guys who ran the attraction had a lot of fun doing spins and pseudo flips but the tourists did everything they could to keep from doing faceplants and trying to get their feet out of the water. All I could picture was one of the tourists going face first into our hull.

Although the Las Olas Mooring balls were right next to the drawbridge and traffic it did provide a safe calm place 3 blocks from the ocean with lots to look at all day and evening.

There is never a dull moment when it comes to the boat and it's systems. In preparation for the trip to Miami I went down my checklist. When I got to checking the transmission fluid level I went to screw the dipstick back in and the plastic cap cracked. So much for leaving that day. Several phone calls and a 18 mile bike ride I was back with a new dipstick. I love bike riding but 16 miles on the first shot after sitting on a boat for several weeks was invigorating to say the least. At least I found this is a common problem with this dipstick so I didn't feel too bad. The supplier trained me on the proper twisting action and said I should be good for another 2 1/2 years with the new one.

Yesterday we said farewell to Ft Lauderdale and made our way south to Miami baby! I about threw Gayleen overboard because she kept asking where the Miami Dolphins were. Sometimes this boat just isn't big enough. Just before we went under the MacArthur Bridge in the Miami harbor a couple of Miami Dolphins popped up beside us and she was finally silenced.

Besides being a beautiful day we had some excitement. Just as we started motoring into the Miami channel there was a loud bang aboard Pearl. I thought it was down below but Gayleen thought it was above deck. Then Gayleen looked to the stern to see our dinghy bow hanging down precariously from the davits that support it. One of the shackles on the block and tackle that's used to raise it broke and if it wasn't for the spring line and breast line holding it up we would have had a more difficult situation at hand. I did a few monkey bar gymnastics with some rope on the davits and secured the bow enough so that we could make our way into the Miami Harbor. Fortunately there were no big boat wakes to contend with and we made it in with the dinghy intact..... Just another normal day in paradise.

We found a great little anchorage nestled between Hibiscus and Palm Islands not too far from Miami Beach or the mainland. I am always amazed at the crowd mentality when it comes to anchorages. There must be safety in numbers because everyone seems to anchor where all the other boats are crammed in and they miss the nicer hidden away spots or they drop anchor in very deep water. There is an internet site called Active Captain where people share their comments about various anchorages they were at. This has been one of the best resources for inside knowledge along with some great suggestions along the way from the previous owners of Pearl who seem to know all the best spots to anchor safely and go ashore for supplies.

If there is one piece of advice I would give anyone looking to do this type of an adventure it is to make sure you choose a boat that has a 5 foot draft. We find that the choices of anchorages when you are 5 feet or less is orders of magnitude greater. We have met many cruisers that are limited in where they can anchor because they draw 6 feet or more in depth.

For those of you that just loved my last anchorage video, here is another outstanding video tour of the place we call home at the moment.

After doing a few repairs we took the dinghy (slowly even in the water ski zone) for a ride to the Miami Beach side to do some exploring. As we ventured up the canal Gayleen saw these huge Iguanas just perched in a tree hanging over the canal..amazing! (sorry for the's kind of hard to drive a dinghy and take zoomed in pictures at the same time) See if you can find all three.

Lastly, adding to the category of just when I have seen it all, we passed by this boat today with a motorcycle on board. Don't get any ideas bikes allowed on Pearl so leave yours home when you come to visit.

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