As week three came to a close, we enjoyed our time exploring the North Miami Shores area as well as the visit to the Miami aquarium with an early dinner in Little Havana. Saturday morning we departed Pelican Harbor Marina City Docks and began our cruise to Biscayne Bay to the Dinner Key mooring field in Coconut Grove. It was a short trip of just over 14 statute miles but very scenic and exciting as we navigated through the Port of Miami area. There was not the amount of traffic operating as compared to Port Everglades that day, and we quickly navigated through without delay.
Dinner Key has 225 mooring balls available at a reasonable rate which includes amenities such as a dinghy dock, showers, laundry, with wifi in the lobby area. The field had a few cruisers moored on lines, but it was mostly sailboats, many of which were waiting for the wind to abate so they could cross over to the Bahamas. As we approached we knew we were going to have our hands full of trying to hook the eyelet and thread our line through and safely moor. The wind was a steady 20 mph gusting 30mph. It took Jean and me five attempts to navigate the moored boats, cope with the wind gusts, and dodge a sailboat race and their support craft that were using the mooring field approach path as a shortcut. The night on the mooring ball was one of the longest nights I have had while in the loop. Wind and waves made this choice of overnight a sleepless one, not because of the fear of pulling loose and drifting, but of the noise and commotion of the waves pounding the stern, which of course consists of our new swim platform and dinghy! The boat was bathed and crusted in salt by morning. No more open mooring fields when high winds are forecasted, only marina tie-ups or snug little hidy holes from now on for us.
And at the crack of dawn when there was light to navigate by, we untethered ourselves and headed out of Biscayne Bay into Card Sound and found a great little hidy hole called Pumpkin Creek. Just off of the sound entrance to Angelfish Creek, there is a small cut that has plenty of water and wind protection. We threw out two anchors, dinghied around to see the local area and then slept like babies through the night.
The next morning we pulled our two anchors and began a slow cruise of 21 miles to the bay side of upper Key Largo. The winds had not wound up yet, and with a few showers that helped clean the boat of salt, we made our way to our next anchorage in Tarpon Basin.
Tarpon Basin is a good place to anchor out and enjoy the scenery. The dinghy allowed us to motor in and visit Key Largo and Uber down to Tavernier for a Rotary Lunch. The Lunch was fun and was held at Craig’s restaurant. Afterward the meeting, a man asked to speak with us and told us a story of when he was in college he captained the 72′ “Coastal Queen” around the loop. She is an older ship with beautiful, graceful lines. When we asked him how long it took, Jean and I smiled when he grinned and said that it took four years to complete. I could see where you might not want the adventure ever to end.
From Tarpon Basin we cruised to Islamorada and tied up at Islamorada Yacht Basin alongside Lorelei’s bar and grill. It was a small basin completely protected from the wind, and we spent a few quiet down days. When in a marina, the boating life is not that dissimilar to living in an apartment complex, of course, you are on a boat and floating, but your neighbors are very close, and curiosity, questions, and conversation are constant. It is a tight community, and you make friends quickly with invitations to visit from all over the eastern seaboard. Jean and I used our bikes to explore some of the local out of the way places and witnessed the destruction Irma caused this small community. The rebuilding and starting over is everywhere you look. The scrapped empty lots are the worst.
As a side trip, Jean and I dinghied to Lignumvitae Key to explore the botanical gardens. Lignumvitae is Latin for “tree of life” and has a very interesting history. You can get to the key only by boat and once we arrived we could see that Irma once again had taken a toll. The public dock was in disrepair and hazardous. Jean and I tied up to the one remaining piling and took a quick stroll around the house and some outposts. Rain approaching from the southeast threatened our ride home so we left before we could enjoy a tour by a ranger. Maybe next time.
Our cruise from Islamorada to Marathon was windy but beautiful. I use both paper and
electronic charts as we navigate from one place to another. The names of passes, channels and cuts, are always interesting to me. As we navigated from Islamorada to Marathon we passed by, over, or around, places such as; Bowlegs Cut, Old Dan Bank, Old Sweat Bank, Rachel’s Bank, and Washerwoman Bank. I love the names and I am sure there are many interesting and colorful stories on how they came to be. Once we arrived at Marathon, we stayed at Faro Blanco (The White Lighthouse) overnight. We fueled and visited the local West Marine for supplies. Jean and I tied up in Marathon last year and we re-visited a small restaurant called Burdines. We enjoyed a couple of sandwiches and a rainstorm as well as a beautiful rainbow afterward. As we walked to dinner, we were able to witness some of the devastations that Irma brought to Marathon. One of the boatyards in Boot Key was used as a boat graveyard. It was very sad to see the floating homes of people so damaged that their owners were left homeless. One of the boats had a gaping hole in the aft cabin section, and you could see the clothes still hanging in the closet.
From Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon, we cruised to Mozer Channel and headed outside to the Atlantic, turned right and followed Hawk Channel down to Key West. Our destination is Stock Island Village Marina where we will winter until early March.