"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 26 -29 -- Four More Lay Days in Marathon -- Zero Miles

Here is a view, looking east toward the mooring field in Marathon from ILENE.
LOTS of masts. and more beyond them. A few of the boaters are at the marina's dock, a seawall.
And the marina's inner dinghy dock with lots of room. They have as much room again at the outer dinghy docks to the right at the rear end of the photo.  And they have "project rooms" where you can sew sails, varnish your oars, etc.

We had a very pleasant day with Bev, who was introduced to us by my friend, Hugh. She picked us up in her truck and drove us back to her beautiful home on Duck Key, about twelve nautical miles back east from here. Bev served us a lunch, let us do laundry and take showers, took me to Home Depot and Lene to Publix and then we had happy hour and dinner with her at the Sunset Grill, at the western end of Marathon, with great sunsets, before driving us back to our dink. It was a very full afternoon, on a day when the wind had moderated somewhat so we were not afraid to leave ILENE unattended. Bev lost her husband, suddenly, less than two years ago. They were boaters so she knows how to treat cruisers. She has five lovely grandkids in MA and in MO, where she will be moving back to soon. Bev is a pretty woman but sadly declined the offer to appear in this blog. Duck Key is an upscale residential community on an island south of Route 1, with mostly waterfront homes on the canals that run through the island. Shopping is a ten mile drive to Marathon. Sadly, we may never see you again Bev, but if you ever come to NYC and we are home, there is a berth for you.

These manatees come to the dock where there is a fresh water hose. But we are not supposed to feed them water because it encourages them to come in too close where they get hurt by propeller blades. You can see a white scar on momma's back (upper left). She is ten feet long! They are vegetarians and will not intentionally harm a human. Sort of a weird cross between a walrus' head, a whale's body and a beaver's tail.

While at Home Depot, with a lot of help from a very knowledegable staffer, I bought all of the parts (except nuts, bolts, washers and sealant -- which I had) to install the aft, 360 degree white running light atop a length of PVC pipe.
The problem was that the base of the light had only a threaded hole for a six mm bolt. I needed to create a stub to stick into the PVC. About two hours of work the next morning in the wind sheltered inner dinghy dock area, and it is done. Until now we had to hold the white light on the top of one of our heads, which gets tiring on the arms after a while. And while I was at it, after looking at MANY other dinks at the dock, I tied a thin short line around the base of the dink's red and green bow light, with the other end secured in the boat. So when, the section cup fails, as it will, the $35 light will fall into the boat rather than into the sea.

Then we met Alex, proprietor of SeaTek. He had come recommended by John and Marcia of s/v Remora. A very pleasant and efficient young man with a beard who lives aboard his boat, anchored here. He advised us to visit Marquesas Key on our way to the Tortugas, and stay in an unmarked place where the water is deep enough. He is also an intelligent and inexpensive marine electrician. He came to our boat, fixed a lot of things electrical and ordered the "combiner" we need to solve our battery charging problem which he will install when we stop here on our way north. I had caused one problem when I installed the batteries: I crossed two black cables causing the Link interface to confuse the two batteries. Another problem was a fuse that took ten seconds to replace. He pointed out a poor crimp which I fixed after he left. I took the aft part of the boat apart before he got here to save time and was very pleased with how much he got accomplished in one $70 hour.

An afternoon of shuffleboard followed by Lene watching her TV shows on the Marina's wifi while I visited the Marathon YC, where, as Harlem members we are welcome to dine. They have 300 members, mostly power boats, and only 20 slips -- no moorings. Most of the members keep their boats at back yard docks in the canals. A rather unforgettable, except for presentation, dinner at Marathon Steak and Lobster rounded out our visit here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Good Book for Sailors

I promised you no more book reviews in 2014; but the new year is in full swing.  This book was given to me at least several months before we left NY in early October by Judy, a dear friend of mine and Lene's, who sailed with us for a few days in the Turks and Caicos in early 2012. Her book group read it and liked it even though they are not sailors; sailors will appreciate it more.

It is about three generations of the Scottish Stevenson family. Robert Louis Stevenson would have been the fourth had he not forsaken engineering for literature to the great disappointment of his family and with a personal sense of shame. The three generations built most of the lighthouses of Scotland and supervised their operation.

Two threads are woven through the book. One is the biographical -- the marriages, births, deaths and personalities of the men, mostly the men, and their wives-- a personal story. The other and vastly larger part tells the story of how they built the lighthouses, against all sorts of obstacles.

Both parts were interesting, though the later was far more interesting to me. Much of the personal part relates to the efforts of fathers to induce their children to follow their footsteps into the family engineering business. Robert Louis's father was himself drawn to literature but was forced to abandon it to study engineering, which he then tried to force his son into.  The fathers drove themselves very hard and demanded as much from subordinates and their children. Except for the first generation, the men suffered from weak health, which was exacerbated by long days of strenuous physical activity in cold wet places.

There is a skeleton family tree which is incomplete, in the sense that the text names various members of the family who are described on the tree merely as part of, e.g.,  "two daughters."

More irritating to me, the sketch map of Scotland at the front shows the names of some of the cities, islands, firths and lighthouses, but is terribly incomplete. The lack of a proper map in a book that is about locations was the major obstacle to my enjoyment of the book. The author refers to so many places, possibly presuming that only persons who are quite familiar with Scottish geography would read her book. The Stevenson family also designed much of the "new city" of their home, Edinburgh. I tried to use Google Earth to figure out which roads were joined with others. Subsequent changes to the landscape are what I blame for my inability to complete that task. There are sixteen plates showing the most famous lights and portraits of the Stevensons, but none of Edinburgh. Bathurst is very able to draw pictures with words, but maps would be so much better.

Bathurst also mentions big events in Scottish history with which I had not even the vaguest idea. Jacobites were Scottish revolutionaries, and "The Clearances" was the process by which the landed gentry forced the "highland" Celtic peasants off the land to make more money from sheep. This contributed to the Scottish Potato Famine. Some of the "crofters" went to the "lowlands", areas in the southern and eastern parts of Scotland, others to America. But all this I learned from Google after Bathurst merely mentioned the terms.

Another minor defect in the book is the absence of any footnotes to support the statements made. I would like to know if a given statement about a person is the author's conclusion from one or more documented episodes, from her reading of his letters or journals, or based on a secondary source: either a biographer or a newspaper. I am used to David McCulloch and Dorris Kearnes Goodwin, who give you the source of every statement in their books. It is not that I want to read all of those footnotes, but one feels more comfortable knowing that they are there. Ms. Bathurst does include a bibliography and she seems quite knowledgeable and won my trust after a while.

Most of the chapter titles are the names of the most famous of the lighthouses, each more challenging to build than the last, by which successive generations of  Stevensons made their reputations. Bathurst makes the point that each lighthouse needs to be designed to fit the requirements of its site, not aesthetically (though that was true too) but from the viewpoint of the engineering involved, especially the base on which it was to be built. Earlier lighthouses had been knocked down by the waves.

There were also political battles to be won, by the Scottish Lighthouse Board against British control, and by the builders against the wreckers who made their living from salvage and accurately perceived that the lighthouses would diminish their livelihood. Religious people argued that God had put the shoals where he did, and if he had wanted to, he would have put lighthouses there too. How can one argue with such a person.

Bell Rock, the Stevensons' first, was built on a rock that was underwater at high tide. So work could only be done there, until the tower was partly built:  at high tide, in daylight, in the summer and in good weather. Not many hours of work per year.

The process of building the lights seemed to me like a scaling of Everest, where one has to establish a series of base camps leading to the final assault. In the case of lighthouses, these were to locate a quarry, create a remote land base where the materials could be assembled, acquire a ship to convey them to the rock, and then create: a landing place, a smaller temporary structure in which the workmen could live, the ring cut in the rock for a foundation, the foundation, the tower and finally the light at its top, before hiring and training the keepers.  And in some locations  during big storms, the waves threw tons of salt water over the top of and  into uncompleted lights and tore away blocks of granite weighing several tons.

The story also tells of the advances in lighting technology during the years, from a coal fire on a hilltop to candles with parabolic mirror reflectors behind them, to early glass lens concentrators, to Fresnel lenses.  And fuels advanced from whale oil to paraffin and even, after the Stevensons, electric bulbs, and the automation of the lights with consequent elimination of the keepers.

Bathurst includes other advances in safety at sea such as lifesaving organizations with boats, life vests, Plimsoll lines (to prevent overloading), licensing in an attempt to require competence and, in an epilogue after the Stevensons era, radio, GPS, and EPIRB. Bathurst notes the Volvo phenomenon -- as safety and navigation equipment improves, recreational boaters take greater chances, like Volvo drivers who drive faster because they are lulled into a false sense of safety by the safety built into their vehicles. A cautionary advice to all sailors.

My enjoyment of the book was enhanced by two others I have read. The first half of Robert Louis Stevensen's "Kidnapped" is in essence a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Scotland, punctuated by a shipwreck, which, took place on the Isle of Erran, near the site of Skerryvore, the largest, tallest Scottish light.
The wreck was before the light was built. I added the route of the hero of "Kidnapped" to the crude map in my book. The second was Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around The World, reviewed in this blog, which included a gift of books from Robert Louis Stevenson's widow to Captain Slocum.

The first in the line of Stevensons began as a metal worker who invented polished curved mirrors to concentrate light. He built lighthouses to provide a market for his polished mirrors. He was self taught and valued education and the dynasty grew up coincident with the development of engineering as a profession. He considered himself inferior because of his lack of a classical education.
Here is Robert Louis, painted by his friend, John Singer Sargent, obtained in August 2015 at a show at the Met Museum of  Art.

Many people love lighthouses as works of beauty. Our Maine trip in 2013 has pictures of many of them. And one underestimates the value of lighthouses to navigation if one thinks them as useful only at night. As God led the Children of Israel through the desert for 40 years (Exodus 13) by manifesting himself as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night, lighthouses guide mariners by their light by night and their bulk by day.        A good read.

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 22- 26 -- Five Lay Days in Marathon -- Zero Miles

Mike and Bev are in the Marathon Community Theater -- operating since 1944!  Well, they have only been in it for seven years; he is an actor and she is lighting crew. We went to their production of "Harvey". Actually, they drove us there. They had to be there early which gave us time for pre-theater dinner at the nearby Cracked Conch Cafe. I pigged out on conch chowder, conch fingers and key lime pie -- and a local beer! If you are going to eat native, go all the way. (ful disclosure: the conch comes in from Turks and Caicos and most key limes are not grown in the Keys.)
Other friends drove us to the local Publix, a little over a mile away, at which we stocked up on everything except Boars Head cold cuts; they sell -- for $3 less per pound than anywhere else -- at the nearby liquor store/deli, where we stocked up. Cab ride back: $4.00
We volunteered to help kids make "projects" out of materials donated by Home Depot, as part of a Family Fun Day at the adjacent municipal park, but the event was cancelled due to adverse weather. It didn't actually rain but threatened and there was a strong wind. We had a mango pancake breakfast on ILENE with Marsha and John, of the Saga 43, "Remora".
Nice folks and we compared our boats; theirs is six years younger and some improvements were made but other good features had been discontinued. They are from Houston and had sailed across the Gulf.
Around noon, the wind came up very strong and our anchor dragged -- a very bad thing in this crowd. We would have gone aground or crashed into other boats (even floating at one knot, ten tons can do a lot of damage to both boats). Luckily we saw it, got the engine and windlass on and Lene steered, I picked up the anchor and we moved to a slightly better location where we dropped again, let out more scope and held while the boat hunted back and forth, getting close, fifty feet, from "Selkie",
an aluminum hull from Cork, Ireland. Selkie's captain came over in his dink and we invited his son and daughter, age six and ten (and their parents) over later, to play with our felines.
We were more lucky than a nearby boat, behind us -- facing the wrong way and heeled over -- that dragged into the sandy mud.
 Fortunately, they were afloat again the next morning. We would like to be on a mooring which is more secure against dragging, but no one is leaving until a weather window opens up for the Bahamas.
The daily radio net on VHF channel 68 creates a community among the boaters. It has a section called "Activities": movies,  theater, daily specials at restaurants, archery lessons, bible study, astronomy, meetings on human trafficking, passages to the Bahamas, etc. get announced. I asked whether anyone else sailing with cats wanted to  get together to share stories. But we had to leave our radio and did not get the replies, if any, which were to be shared on Channel 69 after the net. But next day s/v "Mardi Gras", from St. Louis, MO, with Barry and Linda aboard, hailed us while leaving Marathon by yelling, and gave us their phone number, so we could later exchange cat stories. Their stories were about Pearl's swim one night when she got distracted while chasing a moth, and the crazy obscure hidden places in Mardi Gras  in which Pearl was able to trap herself. Similar to our cats' adventures with variations. Their blog is sailmardigras.blogspot.com. We may see them in Key West or the Tortugas.
Our new pencil holder arrived and is installed. Lene hadn't liked the idea until now. I had thought this would be useful for several
years, to avoid having to open the hinged top of the desk and look under it for a pencil but didn't get one until now.
The movie "Red Dot On The Ocean" a documentary about Matt Rutherford, was shown on a sheet hung at the outdoor Tiki Lounge, next to the main marina building one evening. Matt, who had a troubled past with school, family, substances and the law, sailed an old Vega 27 -- a 27 foot boat -- around the Americas, departing from Little Creek Virginia and returning back there 309 days later, including west through the northwest passage above Canada to the Pacific and around Cape Horn -- (1) alone, (2) without stopping or going ashore and (3) on a short budget. He was met twice by other boats who brought him food and a replacement hand powered water maker. He had essentially no spare parts, sails, etc, and when he got back the boat was filthy and almost everything was broken, except his spirits. The film was highlighted by the presence of its director and producer,
Amy, from "Mary T", on a mooring. Needless to say this movie was appreciated by the audience, including us. Free admission! A real treat.
Technically, we are in Boot Key Harbor, formed by Marathon to the north (on which Route 1, the black line, runs), Boot Key to the South and Vaca Key to the east. We entered between the two red dots in the upper left (The upper one is a green buoy) and motored 1.2 miles east to between R"16" and R"18", shown just below the word "MARATHON."  From here it is a .6 mile dinghy ride, first continuing west and then north to the the land jutting south from Marathon by the buoy "5B". The greenish spot extending just below 5B called PA is a shoaly sea grass area, too shallow for even the dink. Thus, the harbor has room for expansion if people have the money to spend and the Corps of Engineers would permit this large squarish area, perhaps 200 yards on each side, to be dredged.
One morning we dinked through Sisters Creek which is the other entrance to the harbor, for dinghys and boats of up to four feet draft, to visit Sombrero Beach. The Creek is shown on the southern part of the chart and separates Boot key from Vaca Key. The water at the beach was warm enough for barefoot wading but  the air was cool enough for the sweatshirt. When I was in Key West for antisubmarine training in the fall of 1965, the type of seaweed that lines the shore here was made wet by daily rain and rotted in the intense heat, giving off a sulfurous gas that peeled the paint from people's houses! No such problem here.
The municipal marina is next to the city park where they have tennis courts and shuffleboard courts and equipment and probably lots of other things, available for rent, if you can call it that, because they are free.

Readers may recall my friend Hugh, from my navy days, who sailed with me with his grandson, Levi, in Boston Harbor in early August 2013 and who visited us with Levi in NY in 2014. Learning that we were to be in Marathon through this blog, he put me in touch with his Machetonim (Yiddish word to describe one's child's in-laws), Beverly, who lives here. We contacted her but our first proposed meeting had to be cancelled by us due to excessive wind making the dink ride uncomfortable, and to be here in case of dragging.
We have spent two, non-consecutive days aboard here due to high winds. In the later, our extra scope and the shifting direction of the wind put us in the channel and we were directed to move and did so, to a new spot about .2 miles further from the marina. Our plan calls for us to stay here a few more days.
When I drove to and from Key West in 1965, the keys were largely unpopulated, just a few bars and low budget motels is all I recall. The place has filled in with the rest of Florida.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 21 -- Rodriguez Key to Marathon -- 49.1 Miles

Sunrise at Rodriguez was with glassy water.
Lene took the next one without my knowledge. My left foot is holding the thin green rubber hose in place so it doesn't kink. My right foot is on the "UP" button of the windlass. The hose is squirting salt water on the anchor chain as it comes up to wash off sand, mud and rust.

This big ugly storm was east of us but once we rounded Rodriguez, we headed west, away from it.
The wind came up at 10:30 and we put up sails, but except for the next half hour, they were not strong enough to sail without the engine. We had shifted to our second fuel tank last night after running since Titusville on the first tank. We will fill both tanks before leaving Marathon.

Hawk channel has many small round crab trap floats. Not as many as Maine has lobster pots, but enough that one has to keep a careful watch to avoid hitting them. I guess the crabs like to live in water that is 20 - 25 feet deep, where we like to sail, because that is where the traps are. I have been told that the crabs, whose legs folks like to eat, have an unusual ability -- to regenerate lost limbs. So the watermen pull off one claw and throw the critters back into the sea to live another day and grow another claw.

We passed the 65 foot high Channel Five Bridge, under which we could have passed to the Gulf of Mexico side of the Keys, but for the fact that once we get there, the water gets too shallow for us. You can see the former low bridge, removed at the highest spans. And a crab pot is in the photo, the white dot.

Marathon's municipal Marina has dockage for perhaps 20 boats and 260 moorings. But that is not enough, because we were placed as number 14 on their waiting list and told where we could anchor in the harbor. There was a low bascule bridge across the harbor that we had prepared to hail, but the bascule center span of that bridge has been taken down since our chart was printed. I'm not really happy with the crowded nature of the anchorage area, and we may decide to go outside the harbor and anchor west of the island where there is lots of room for a longer scope, if stronger winds come.

We registered and paid for dinghy dock privileges for a week and got a paper wrist band that we attached to the dink showing that we have paid (to be credited against mooring fees is we get a mooring, pro rata for the number of days in each status). We unloaded garbage, bought and mailed a postcard to my grand daughter, got some Benadryl for Lene's sun rash, learned where to fill our propane tank, filled four of our one gallon bottles of drinking water ($.05 per gallon), and did three loads of laundry.  

We met Katrina, from Annapolis, on the dock. She is aboard an Island Packet, "Sea Monkey" with her son for a week while her husband is doing his reserve duty. And while dinking back to ILENE we saw another Saga 43, "Remora," our first this trip, and introduced ourselves to the owners. More, later.

We have heard so much about this place from Dean and Susan of Autumn Born. They, as do many others, like to stay here for months. With a waiting period for a mooring, it pays to stay rather than give up your mooring to move on. A mooring rental of $300 per month is easy on the budget. This is not St. Maarten where egomaniacal big spending boaters go seemingly for the primary purpose of being seen by others. This is more a harbor for older and smaller boats. It has a "homey" feel to it. We will learn a lot more in the morning when the boaters all talk on a net on VHF 68 at 9 am.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 20 -- Pumpkin Key to Rodriguez Key -- 27.7 miles

It worked like clockwork. The alarm got us up at 6:30 and after coffee we were underway at 6:50 and Angelfish, which we feared, was easy; no soundings of less than 8.2 feet. We were through it by 7:50.
The tide flowed strongly against us in the Creek, with surface eddys swirling, as in the East River back home, and the wind in our faces, both of which slowed us down, which is good if you fear a grounding. So you can chalk us up in the group that holds that Angelfish is doable in a 5' 8" draft hull. (High tide was at 8:10.)

Once out in Hawk Channel the depths were in the teens and we ran under Genoa alone at speeds of up to 7.5 knots with the wind a bit forward of the port beam. Yes, we actually got to sail!!!  Yesterday and today we were greeted by dolphins again after a long absence from them in Dade County. Hawk Channel is wide and marked by buoys.

We were anchored behind Rodriguez Key by 11:30 am.  The key is a big uninhabited, wooded oval l.8 miles long and 1/4 mile wide, which lays east to west. It is a nature preserve, girded by mangroves, with no apparent means to reach it by land, sea or air. On its north side, between it and Key Largo there is room for a hundred boats to anchor in 7 to 9 feet of water. We were the only boat here when we arrived, later joined by eight others. The winds were from the SE and hence the key provided little protection from them or the waves they kick up, but mild winds were predicted for the evening and night.

We were here so early that I wondered if one could tie up a dinghy on Key Largo (Spanish for Long Island?), a mile away. Yes, but only by the payment of $20! My curiosity to explore a bit of Key Largo was not that strong. We also thought to play with the SUP which has not been used since we rented it back in Miami Beach. But the day was not pleasant, cool, grey over head and showers predicted, so we did not do that either. And not many chores -- a low tie of the genoa to its roller furler was redone, as was the lower tie of Old Glory to her staff. The hose from the gas tank to the outboard now works again. I am so lazy these days. reading, writing and laying around. Is it possible that I'm slowing down?

Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19 -- Coconut Grove to Pumpkin Key -- 24.8 Miles

We had first feline drama last night: It was dark. I opened the cafe doors of the companionway to let the cats in but Alfie didn't come. So flashlight in hand I walked around the deck, opened the stack pack (a favorite Alfie hiding place by day) and checked atop the canvas, under the helm seat and in the dink. No Alfie. But then we heard the first of her cries and they were from behind the boat. So I swept the water with our strong flashlight, but no Alfie. Time for the 2,000,000 candle power floodlight, but we had trouble hooking it up to the cigarette lighter socket and stretching out the cord. Time to lower the dink and search for Alfie in the water behind the boat (where the current would be taking her. But her cry was not the powerful piercing "I'm in trouble" scream, but rather her petulant mewl. Lowering the dink takes me five minutes -- I've timed myself -- perhaps longer in the dark. Lene has now started whimpering and I asked her to please stop because such is not useful.
Before actually completing the lowering we found her. With the possible fuel flow problem that morning, I had advised Lene to take the hand held VHF radio that morning: "Just in case -- so you can call for help if you need it". It was in the little compartment in the bow of the dink created by an aft opening hinged padded seat there. I had forgotten to take it out when hauling the dink up that evening and the lifting lines run across the opening edge of the seat, making it hard to lift the seat once the dink is raised.
But I had gotten the seat up enough to reach in with my hand and retrieve the radio, for use the next day. And the seat was left raised -- just enough for Alfie to squeeze herself in. But with lower footing on the inside of the cabinet, she was not strong enough to get herself out, without help. She craves small spaces. What a relief!

Today we were underway for about five hours and I looked forward to a good sail because except for two dredged and charted channels, one a quarter mile long and the other a mile or so, the water was open. Shallow at 8 to 11 feet, but open. But though I put up sails as soon as we cleared the Dinner Key Channel, the wind did not cooperate, until the last half hour, a time when one is always eager to get the passage done. The wind was from behind us and too light to move the boat at a reasonable speed.

Pumpkin Key is a roundish lump of an island on the ICW side of the Keys, just off the northeast end of Key Largo. No services or shore activities, just a hangout place for boaters on the go.
 There are about ten boats here, mostly power, with plenty of swinging room. The water is ten feet deep all around, and we have 60 feet of snubbed chain out and do not expect heavy wind tonight. All of the boats are on the south side (lee side) of the island; the other side becomes the anchorage if the winds come from the South.
The Keys are stretched out in a mostly east-west direction with just a bit of southing as you head west for Key West. There are two routes to Key West from Miami: one way is the ICW route which is north of the Keys, in the Gulf of Mexico. It has many marinas but is quite shallow, too shallow for us after this point. The alternative is called the Hawk Channel which runs south of the Keys in the Caribbean/Atlantic. It is called a channel because there is an off shore underwater coral reef running parallel to the Keys. Hawk Channel is deep enough and wide, ideal for sailing, if the wind cooperates, but has few marinas or anchorages along the way. From here we expect and hope to be mostly separated from the wake-making power boats which prefer the ICW route.
There are several passages by which one can switch between ICW and Hawk. Our plan for tomorrow, subject to weather, is to go through Angelfish Creek and the Hawk Channel to Rodriquez Key, off the other end of Key Largo  -- before reaching Marathon, which is a rest station for cruisers, the next day. The only potential problem is that some books and folks say that Angelfish Creek is too shallow for ILENE's 5' 8" draft. Others say we can make it if we go shortly before the high tide, which is scheduled for 8:10 a.m. tomorrow. And the entrance to the Creek is only about a mile away -- I already have it loaded in as our next waypoint. So we plan to leave at daybreak. And we will check in and let you know how it went, in our next post -- either from Rodriguez or Marathon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 16 to 18 -- Three More Lay Days in Coconut Grove -- Zero Miles

Yes we have been stuck in the Miami area for quite a while -- we got to Miami Beach on January 2 -- not that we're complaining. It has been quite pleasant with many friends and family. The day we had to leave the Coral Reef YC because our dock space had been reserved by others, we were informed that we did not have to leave until 4:30. So we took public transport back into the city to visit the Miami History Museum. They had a special exhibit on the Beatles that Lene loved. They had a room showcasing the many cultures that have contributed to the city including this art piece representing the Haitian influence,
and an actual tiny triangular boat, more of a raft, on which seven souls escaped from Cuba. I learned that before Government Cut was cut, Biscanye Bay had no access to the sea except for small craft, and that Key West had been the seat of government of southern Florida, with a courthouse and customs and salvage operations. A delicious and quite fulfilling lunch at El Cacique, a store front looking Cuban place with a big coffee shop style restaurant behind. Clean, fast, tasty and I had yuca and plantanos as sides.  And $22.95 for both of us before the tip. They have been here for almost 30 years in the heart of downtown and now I know why. Our short haul from dock back to anchor was uneventful.
The next day, Lene and I separated. Lene took in American Sniper, which I would not enjoy -- the genre, and I took public transit to Miami Beach to attend part of its Art Deco Festival.
I took in  a youth band's concert of, good mostly Latin jazz

while I laid on my back on the grass under a big coconut palm.
Then I met up with Jerry and Louise, listened to Alina Celeste sing.  So sweet was her voice and the folk-like songs she sang for children with no sexuality, no high amplification and no hype. I'll take her over Lady Gaga, any day.
Lunch at Jerry's favorite Cuban beachfront restaurant and lots of people watching -- of people who had come to be watched. Ocean Drive, from 5th to 13th Streets, with lots of art deco architecture, was closed to vehicular traffic except for a huge antique car parade that passed us. The ocean side of the street was lined with vendors booths the whole way. It started to get more crowded as the day wore on and the festival was scheduled to run to 11p.m. We took the bus back to Jerry and Louise's apartment and after resting had a big home made salad and I slept there, my first night ashore since October 7. Lene, on the other hand, the one who calls herself "not a sailor" less and less these days, took the dink back to our boat, fed herself and slept aboard without me. Her first time. And in the morning, when she had to take the dink the .9 miles back to the dinghy dock, the gas line sprung a leak which, with phone advice from me, she was able to fix. Did I mention how proud of her I am?
On our last day here I was picked up by Rhonda, the one who had dinner with us at Monty's,
Lene, Janet and Rhonda
at Jerry and Louise's apartment. We picked up Lene and went to the Beaux Arts Festival at the Coral Springs campus of University of Miami, where we met up with Janet and Ed, and Janet's brother Neal and his wife Sandy, who spend their winters down here.
I saw a lot of nice art and I only had time to visit less than half of the booths.

This construction of two types of wood was my favorite, based on the artist's pencil drawing of a lovers' embrace, shown in the photo. Knees, arms and torsos are visible. I also talked with an artist from Blue Hill, Maine and one who had watercolored in Frenchboro Maine.

Tomorrow morning we're off -- for Key West and beyond!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January 11 - 15 -- Five More Lay Days in Coconut Grove -- 1.5 Miles

We spent four nights at a dock of the Coral Reef YC, after one more rough night on anchor in the John Brennan Channel way off from the Dinner Key Marina. We did not even go ashore the day after the botanical garden trip, because it was so rough. This Google Earth picture shows both locations and the route between them, which is not charted, in the northern half of its brief 1.5 miles. (The dinghy dock is clearly visible in the extreme lower left and the well marked Dinner Key Channel -- through which we entered and will leave -- runs in from below the yellow humanoid figure in the upper right, slightly downward to the left, between two islands. The chart does not indicate and I am not sure which of the islands shown is actually Dinner Key.)
 The white dots, right side lower central are moored boats. They are rather orderly, like grave stones, because mooring fields are generally laid out in an orderly manner. We were anchored to the right of them, off the picture, in the anchorage area, where such orderliness does not exist. Our first anchoring attempt (not enough water) was among the white dots at the extreme lower right corner. The dark blue between these two fields of dots is the John Brennan Channel. To got to the Coral Reef YC we motored (1) to the  left through that well marked channel, (2) south of the lower end of the berm that runs sort of vertically past the end of the seven docks of the Dinner Key YC, (3) turned left to pass between the ends of those docks and the island running to the upper right, and (4) hugging the ends of the smaller docks, toward the upper left where we (5)entered and tied on, facing the shore, between the two shoreward docks extending downward from the "E" shaped dock in the extreme upper left.
 After bringing ILENE to the dock we went to the movies seeing Big Eyes (about an female artist who painted children with emotive big eyes and her emotionally abusive husband) and Inherent Vice (which provided a vehicle for actors to act as trashy people doing trashy things which signified nothing and was a waste of time). And we stopped at Fresh Market for take out food to eat at home, i.e., aboard.
We learned the local mass transit system and used it to visit local cultural attractions. This included the rather new, large and very elegant Perez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM).
The 249 bus took us from two blocks from the YC, about a mile, to the Coconut Grove light rail elevated system station which in turn took us to the People Mover, a free elevated loop in the central downtown area, which left us a block from the museum, of which the Miamians are quite proud, having spent $200 million on its construction in prime real estate next to the new concert hall and the new science museum under construction.
Lene hooked up with the same Rhonda who we had dined with on our first night in Miami Beach and three other women. She viewed the art and had lunch with them. I explored the art myself. It rained a lot early in the day but we had our foulies and did not get very wet. Most of the artists were not known to me and most had some Miami or south Florida connection by birth, education, work, residence or death.They had a large collection of pop art, by name brand artists: Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc. which Lene liked. This seemed old to me. These two works, one inside and one out, are based on geodesic domes.

My favorite was this painting, approximately 5 by 8 feet by my guess, by an African artist. Three zig zag lines, two starting in the upper right and one from the top toward the left define the spaces that are painted in. And the bottom represents more, little triangles that I saw as water in this landscape, though the plackard said it could be a TV static pattern. I spent quite a few minutes intrigued by this one.
Another day we visited Viscaya, the seaside mansion of John Deering of John Deere fame, another Breakers-like home of the rich. This one was built during the portion of WWI before the US went "over there" to end it. Deering was a bachelor and imported fountains and whole rooms of walls and furniture from Europe. Quite lovely actually. The big change here in the last century was the erection of a glass roof to cover and hence seal off the central courtyard onto which all rooms of all three floors open -- to keep out the salt air and rain. This, of course, also necessitated air conditioning. And the gardens are not what they once were. I love these marble floors of theseaside and land entryways:

The gardens are nothing to sneeze at either, and here is one of the fountains with "merboys"  --mermaids with boys instead of girls.

A large stone Venetian barge (a place for guests to recline at ease) was built on a sandbank to protect Vizcaya's sea entrance, with me at the extreme left and the towers over Government Cut barely visible on the horizon in the between. A bird walked by unconcerned with his proximity to humans.
One evening some young men strolled past our boat and started up a conversation because they recognized ILENE. Russ and Tom had sailed with my late son-in-law, Julien, and sung his praises and those of my daughter who they asked me to convey their good wishes. Small world.
We spent a pleasant afternoon lounging at the YC's underutilized swimming pool and, after some wine aboard, had a nice dinner at the Yacht Club with Jerry and Louise, who came over from Miami Beach and took us to Publix afterwards so Lene could get some products that the very nearby Fresh Foods does not stock, e.g. frozen blueberries and sugarless peanut butter. We lucked out that this was an all you can eat pasta plus night for only $17.00.  I have yet to learn how to avoid over stuffing myself at such affairs, though. The eighteen percent service charge is added to the bill automatically. This club has lots of helpful friendly staff to serve its 800 members, most of who do not keep boats here. It has fixed concrete piers against which we put up the fender board. The docks are busy by day with contractors and many people in suits apparently use the club day and night as a venue to do business. The only drawback is that on sunny days numerous black birds sit in the rigging and emit the remains of their fruit based diet, staining the deck. I washed it off over and over and will use bleach on the remaining stubborn though by now faint stains.
Another evening we were visited by Janet (who had taken us to the Chihuly exhibit) and another member of Lene's grade school posse, also named Rhonda. Rhonda was in town from New York to visit her Mom. After wine and cheese and a tour of the boat, I had, among other things, a single stone crab leg, my first, a delicacy here, and not as good as other seafood to my taste. This was at the well known but not excessively expensive (except for stone crab legs) Monte's, on the water, less than a quarter mile away. Photo to be added. Janet and ?Ed may drive down to Marathon to visit us there, and perhaps to fish, though access to the boat on anchor or mooring will be more difficult for Janet than dockside. Also, yesterday's news about Cuba has started us thinking about getting the charts and cruising guides we will need for such a visit, though our insurer, Pantaenius, has not yet come around on this issue. They have several weeks to do so. Life is very very good.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 10 -- From South Belle Isle Anchorage to Anchorage off Dinner Key -- 9.4 miles

Not many miles today and not much wind at first. Only about half of the distance was in open water after the bridges and before the Dinner Key Channel entrance. In short, while we could have put up a sail, I did not.
We passed five behemoth cruise ships viewed from the Miami end of its Main Channel and some racing boats. Well to be accurate, the latter passed us -- at screaming high speeds. There were two regattas in Biscayne Bay. It is not deep but deep enough -- for a large part of its wide open area.
We went all the way in through the channel to the marina area, protected by a barrier island, south inside that island and then back part way out in John Brennan Channel, which is too shallow at its entrance for us, but wide enough beyond the marked sides of the channel to serve as the anchoring area. But most of that area is now filled with moorings. We looked for an anchoring spot. Our first two drops were south of this channel. The first of them put us too close to another boat; its master came on deck and looked worried. So up anchor and then down again, thirty yards away, no problem. But let's check the tides. We had 7.5 feet of water but oops, it's high tide now and we will have only 5.5 feet six hours from now at low -- not enough. So the windlass got another workout and we went over to the north side and further out from shore and found a good spot in 8.5 feet and the anchor got set hard and firm with 50 feet of snubbed chain. By now it was afternoon and the wind was stronger. We had a date to meet another of Lene's
grade school chums, Janet, and her husband, Ed, who live in western Miami.
The dink ride was a longh one, .93 miles, and a rough one, with the waves -- and rougher on the way back in the dark. I got a bit wet from spray on the way in and Lene got even more of this on the way back.
By the way, here is our 10.5 feet long rented SUP lashed to the lifeline stanchions; too rough to try it today. And Lene does not have the official uniform for female SUPers yet: a bikini.
Ed and Janet drove us to the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. This is a large well run place, temporarily enhanced by many large Chihuly blown glass sculptures which take special significance from comparison to the shapes of the fauna in which they are placed. Thus spiky glass amid cacti, a technicolor eucalyptus tree with a mammoth arrangement of many blown glass tubular shapes mounted on a spiky frame and glass lillies with the real thing:

We took a free 45 minute trolley ride narrated by our docent, a very knowledgeable retired botanist.

And then dinner at the Peacock Inn by Cocowalk.  A lovely day, but a roughly windblown night on anchor. After one more night out here we will be at the Coral Reef Yacht Club, which required an email from the Harlem YC Secretary to admit us. Thanks again Ellen,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 3 - 9 -- SEVEN Lay days in Miami B each -- Zero Miles

Miami, including the separately incorporated city of Miami Beach, is the largest city on our trip, by far. It is very much like New York, except for the temperature. Chock a block high rises, crowded urban density, traffic and parking problems, construction blocking streets frequently, lots of high income and low income people, lots of culture and a heavy Hispanic and Jewish component of the population. And while there are lots of old folks like us
down here, there are also a lot of young people in Miami Beach. Possibly the similarities are because so many retired New Yorkers have moved here -- also a lot of Canadians.
What made our stay so special -- and so long -- was the hospitality of our friends, Jerry and Louise. We swam in the surf and the pool of their condo. Those are kite board sails not gargantuan seagulls
We did our laundry there, took several showers and were ferried everywhere by auto. We had one dinner at their home, one with them and their friends, Harvey and Phyllis, at a new eclectic restaurant on Indian Creek Road at 27th Street.
From the left: Harvey, Phyllis, Jerry, Lene and Louise
and were invited with them to a lovely party of about forty people in another apartment in their building. We also had pizza with them one night and burgers at the highly rated B&B restaurant near us, which took two hours! So thge place is not highly rated by us.
They introduced us to stand up paddleboarding (SUP), which Lene frequently malaprops as "waterboarding;" Vive le difference! This was at Oleta State Park, several miles north of the city. Lene proved adept at this new (for us) sport. I'm a slower learner. I had no problem climbing up onto the board, raising myself to my hands and knees and then to an erect position. But each of the ten times I did this, after a few strokes with the long paddle, I tilted it and fell off. Next time, I'm told, I should keep my feet closer to the center of the board rather than toward its sides. And there will be a next time because we have rented an inflatable board (lashed to the starboard rails) and paddle until we get back here in about six weeks on the way home. Pictures of it, on board ILENE and in use, will be shown in next post. Jerry and Louise are also avid cyclists and Jerry is to lead his bike club on a 26 mile bike tour from Coconut Grove soon. One afternoon I rode shotgun with him in their car, calling out the 45 turns to be made during this bike trip.
Our anchorage was very close, walking distance, to many of the attractions of the downtown area in addition to both Publix and Fresh Market, a gas station, Chase Bank, dry cleaners and many restaurants.  The sights we visited were the dramatic Holocaust Memorial
and the Miami Beach Botanical Garden

 (very small but well done with about fifteen stops where you hear a recorded explanation about the fauna at that location on your cell phone).
Lene with giant banyon

We also saw The New World Symphony's hall, where they show movies for free on the huge white wall to people like us who sat on the lawn in front with a terrific audio system, and Lincoln Road Mall, a street closed to vehicular traffic and filled with shops and restaurants. We had lunh at Yuca, (Young Urban Cuban America). We are urban and American so meet only half the requirements, but they let us in and the food was good, including. for me, a  Media Noche sandwich which though called "midnight" they served for lunch.
The movie, shown for free en plein air on the large exterior wall, was "Hole In The Head", a Frank Sinatra comedy of the late 50's, which seemed uniquely appropriate to the setting because Frank played a down and out widowed playboy hotel owner in Miami Beach with a young son. The titles were aerial shots of the beach with banners towed by those beach banner planes spelling out such things as "Directed by FRANK CAPRA." It was not a great movie, saved by the performances of Edward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter, but the experience was terrific.
At the near end of Lincoln Road, which is only about five blocks long, is a eighteen screen movie house in which we saw Unbroken, Top Five and Selma; a movie binge after a long drought along the way.
Boat chores accomplished during our stay here included sewing the sides of the zipper at the top of the stack pack to the sides of the bag. The stitches got torn out when I forget to fully open the zipper and raised the main with the electric winch; it is so strong that the sail's leach pulled the stitches out, which is not god for the sail either!
I also had to take out the interior panels of the big lazarete to locate and fix the fresh water plumbing which is hidden behind the largest and lowest such panel. We noticed that the fresh water pump did not shut off after the faucet was shut off (because, due to the leak, pressure never built up) and Lene heard a flow of water after we turned that pump off. Yes, one of the short pieces of hose that I had attached last winter had come off, so the pump was pumping our fresh water into the bilge. I added a second hose clamp to each end of that two inch long piece of rubber hose and put back all the wood panels with the eighteen screws.
While the title of this post says we traversed zero miles, we actually did motor about 2.5 miles, from one side of Belle Island to the other.
First we went west along the north side of the the Venetian Causeway (the road connecting the row of six man made islands across the center of the chart) to its low opening bridge, at its Miami (left side) end, and then back east along the causeway's southern side to the Miami Beach end (right side). We started a bit northeast of Belle Island, the easternmost of the string of man made islands that the causeway connects, to end up just south of Belle Island, just .4 miles away. We passed the Flagler monument, on the tiny island to the northwest of the blue (shallow spot in the middle of the right side of the chart.
Before the move we were about 100 yards west of the police dinghy dock (just below the small rectangle in the upper right) and afterwards we were almost half a mile south west. The reason for this change of venue was the weather.  The original anchorage was crowded making it difficult to put out enough chain to feel secure without bumping into nearby boats when swinging on the anchors. And with predicted winds gusting to 30 knots from the north, this problem would have gotten worse. On the south side, there is a lot more room between the boats and we were in the lee of the island which protected us from the strong winds.
Next stop: Dinner Key, known as Coconut Grove to land people, less than ten miles away.