Boca Chita Key, FL, to Gun Cay, The Bahamas

Boca Chita Key, FL

Monday, December 29, 2003

We spent this day doing nothing much constructive … reading, writing, walking, etc.  We decided that it’s been long enough in Boca Chita and that we need to do a bit more provisioning and top off fuel and water.  We called Doc No More and they invited us to join them and their fiends on Sea Lion for New Year’s Eve.  They’re anchored near Venetian Causeway in Miami Harbor so we’ll join them, there, tomorrow.  By now, Boca Chita was packed full of boats all ready to celebrate the new year.

Boca Chita Key to Venetian Causeway, South Beach, Miami, FL

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Leaving Boca Chita Key, we had a nice sail north and headed for Crandon Park Marina, at the northern tip of Key Biscayne for fuel and water.  This large marina is a city facility with services and moorings.  It seemed nice and may be a place to stay some time in the future.

Continuing north, we anchored with Doc No More, Sea Lion and several other boats between San Marino and Delido Islands.  These islands appear to be old dredging spoils, the result of creating a modern harbor for Miami.  Connected by bridges, the dozen or so such islands make for many protected anchorages surrounded by multi-million dollar homes.  There is good dinghy access to South Beach for shopping via an old canal that runs right through town.  There is even a tie-up directly across the street from a Publix grocery store, a coveted convenience!

That evening we were invited to join Roger & Elaine aboard their friends, Bill & Jeanette Deale’s boat, Sea Lion, for cocktails.  The weather was warm and balmy.

Venetian Causeway, South Beach, Miami, FL

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Another beautiful day!  First order of the day was provisioning.  We boarded the dinghy and headed for the canal and Publix.  More “New York” you could hardly imagine.  The crowded aisles, the accents and the displays of Kosher foods were unexpected at first.  However, this is where many of New York’s wealthy retired folks spend their winters and the store reflects the population.

We bought much more than Bill thought would fit on the boat, much less the dinghy, for the bumpy, mile-plus ride back to the boat.  We made it, though, and everything eventually found a home.  The things we’re collecting, now, are those we’ll find difficult or expensive to purchase in the Bahamas.

Then, we went back, this time to shop the Lincoln Street Mall.  The mall is a closed-off street lined with upscale shops, sidewalk restaurants and beautiful people posing and getting prepared for New Year’s Eve.  We, eventually, found Epicure, a food store Sandy had read about that may have some of the special foods she needs for her diet.  Epicure is small, really, and doesn’t carry the foods Sandy sought.  It was worth a look, however, despite the frenzied holiday crowd.  All the food was premium stuff.  Picture clerks heaping steamed colossal shrimp, two to three per pound, that retailed for $47/lb, into packages for clients to carry off to their New Year’s parties!

We returned to the boat and cleaned up for the New Year’s party aboard Doc No More.  We took Sandy’s homemade chocolate torte (made with soy beans and stenciled Happy New Year in confectioner’s sugar), marinated chicken, salad and stuff for drinks.  Libations, followed by mushroom soup, libations, followed by salad, libations, followed by grilled flank steak & chicken, asparagus, tomato & zucchini pie, libations, followed by chocolate torte and then more libations?! Oh, and lots of talk.  The appointed hour ticked off and we all sang and hugged.  Miami treated us to a spectacular fireworks display off the stern and we danced to Doc No More’s considerable CD collection.  We had a great evening and did significant damage to Roger & Elaine’s considerable wine collection.  Note:  Catamarans aft decks make great party platforms!

"The Boys" on New Years Eve
“The Boys” on New Years Eve
... and "The Grils"
… and “The Girls”

Venetian Causeway to No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Now is the time we need to wait, seriously, for our weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  The holidays are over.  We had a great time but now we want to get to our objective.  Unfortunately, the wind pattern has been consistently brisk out of the east and that’s the direction we have to travel.  That means we’ll likely have to motor the whole way to Nassau, more than 150 miles.  It’s not an unusual situation this time of year, but we’d hoped for something we could sail.  Chris Parker’s daily weather forecast e-mails for the area have been recommending motoring on days when the easterly winds are at least light and the waves on the Gulf Stream are relatively small.

The best place to wait is near the southern tip of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs State Park’s anchorage called No Name Harbor.  It is only about nine miles from Venetian Causeway.

We motorsailed the short distance (80° and sunny) and found a nice, but crowded anchorage.  There was no problem finding a place to anchor, however, and we did so.  Exploring the park, we found that the rest rooms had faucets we could use to top off our  water tanks if we needed to but that we’d have to use our collapsible jerry jugs to transport the water.  In the anchorage, also, was a trawler named Hoya with a hailing port of Rock Hall, MD.  We talked to the folks and they keep the boat in Osprey Point marina.

Sandy walked to the beach to explore while Bill ate lunch at the restaurant on the premises.  It was extremely crowded because another restaurant burned that very day and this was the overflow crowd.  It was a beautiful night on the anchor.

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL

Friday, January 2, 2004

Another warm, sunny day!  Late this morning, Sea Lion arrived with the intent of staying a couple of days and then proceeding to the Florida Keys.  They told us that acquaintances of theirs aboard Airborne were anchored outside the harbor waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas and would be interested in finding a buddy boat for the crossing.  Major & Rose Weber, owners of Airborne, stopped by later and we agreed that we’d like to cross with them.  Their boat, a 38’ C&C Landfall should make similar speed and they have the same crossing route in mind.  We all agreed to meet that evening aboard Sea Lion for cocktails.

We never got around to working on the toe rail varnish so we spent much of the afternoon attending to that little chore.  Bill sanded and varnished the toe rail from the dinghy while Sandy applied another coat to the hand rail and the eyebrow trim.  The park is a great area to walk and Sandy’s knee is finally looking a bit better, so after teak, she took another walk.

That evening we had the promised cocktails aboard Sea Lion.  We got along very well with Major and Rose, compared crossing weather information and discussed when we’d likely be able to cross. The next day or two didn’t look too promising so we agreed to wait and watch the predictions.  Also, we agreed to meet Bill & Jeanette for breakfast at the restaurant the following morning.

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL

Saturday, January 3, 2004

This morning, anther warm, sunny one, we took separate walks … Sandy around the park while Bill explored the road to town and shopping.  Returning to the harbor, we met Bill & Jeanette and had a decent, restaurant breakfast.

Afterwards, Sandy accompanied the Sea Lion crew to the Winn Dixie in town for some last minute provisioning while Bill returned to the boat to do some writing and maintenance chores.  That evening we agreed on a light dinner and cocktails for us, Sea Lion and Airborne aboard Whistwind.  Jeanette brought a delicious, homemade clam chowder while we provided a salad and Airborne brought a delicious fresh fruit salad.  We really are eating very good on this trip!

We all agreed that we’d been in No Name Harbor long enough and that tomorrow didn’t look too promising for a crossing.  Therefore, we’d all head south into the Keys, tomorrow, Sea Lion heading, eventually, for Marathon, while the rest of us would head to the Angelfish Creek area to await better crossing weather.

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne to Gun Cay, The Bahamas

Sunday, January 4, 2004

The day dawned bright and sunny with promisingly light winds … not too bad for a crossing.  After a quick radio call to Airborne and reading, and choosing to believe the optimistic side of Chris Parker’s somewhat pessimistic forecast, we agreed to give it a try.  We all left about the same time, heading past the southern end of Key Biscayne.  Sea Lion headed south.  We headed east.

Airborne Under Power
Airborne Under Power

Well, it turned out that Chris Parker’s pessimism was on target but you have to understand a bit about the dynamics of the Gulf Stream and slow boats to appreciate the problem.  The 15-20 knot headwinds stirred up a four to six foot chop.  That’s not pleasant, but it’s also not a serious problem.  It does, however, slow the boat down to about 4½  knots instead of the usual six.  With a crossing distance of about 45 miles to Gun Cay, it would take about 11 hours to get there.  However, the Gulf Stream runs north at a bit over two knots.  This we have to counteract by heading somewhat south to counteract the sideways motion of the stream.  Unfortunately, with the boat’s speed reduced by the wave action, we had to head even farther south, slowing our actual headway to more like 3½  knots.  Headway was slow and the motion was not pleasant.

We persevered.  There were only a couple of problems.  At one point the drive belt on our autopilot broke.  It was old and owed us nothing and only took a few minutes to locate and install a spare.  But it makes you realize that you don’t really want to be tied to the helm on a day like this.  At another point, we had drifted north of the course we wanted to follow to Gun Cay.  Heading on a more southerly course, we were able to set the jib to increase speed.  During that time the engine sound changed … we had lost cooling water flow to the engine!  We DID NOT want to be without an engine and would have to turn back if we couldn’t solve the problem.  Bill did a quick check of components and found nothing amiss.  It turned out that, with the angle of heel with the sail up, the cooling water intake was out of the water.  Furling the sail, we restarted the engine and were relieved to see the water flow restored.

It was a long day.  And, we were surprised at how few boats we saw on the water!  The nearly full moon rose in a cloudless sky.  The sun set.  And, on we went.  FINALLY, we saw the lights at Gun and Cat Cays and found an anchorage in the lee of the island.  The good news?  The moon was so bright and the water so clear that we could see the bottom in twelve feet of water as we chose a place to drop the anchor!

There was considerable surge in the anchorage so the boat rolled quite a bit but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying a celebratory cocktail and a nice salad before falling sound asleep!  The Bahamas at last!