Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Phoneless in Biscayne

Chris here... today was a nice day, mostly.

Yesterday we did our "passage prep". Kristen scrubbed the boat, we tied down the dinghy and all on-deck paraphernalia, we wrapped up a couple of small projects, we programmed our course and reviewed our charts and generally got ready to head out. Leaving a marina after being there for an extended period of time is always a chore -

We waited at Cooley's Landing Marina in Ft. Lauderdale for the current to go slack - it runs at 2-3kts normally and you're beam to it in your slip. For those of you that haven't driven a boat, think about trying to pull out of your protected garage with hurricane force winds as soon as you get outside. Strong currents will push you around very quickly, and we were right next to a drawbridge - a sailboat's nightmare. Anyway, the current switched at around 9:45am and we pulled in our land based ties (i.e. docklines) and headed out. Since we almost ran into the large-ish Jungle Queen tour boat the last time, we made sure we updated our position over the radio for the world to hear. This worked out well, since we ended up meeting the Jungle Queen AGAIN in the same exact spot, but we communicated this time and it all worked out.

Getting out of Lauderdale was pretty easy. We headed down the New River (where our marina was) until we got to the ICW, and then turned right, went a few miles, went under one more drawbridge and then made our way out to the ocean at the Port Everglades inlet. Traffic was minimal as we were leaving on a weekday as opposed to a weekend. On the weekends you can almost walk across the river from boat to boat.

Once out on the ocean, the wind was fairly sedate at 5-10kts from the east, and the waves were pretty small - 2 to 3 feet. It was soooooo nice to be on open water again after all of our trips down the ICW. We quickly raised our sails, turned on course to the south and headed to Key Biscayne. The winch I repaired the other day worked better than it ever has, so I think I'm going to pull them all apart and regrease them over the next few days.

Unfortunately, the wind was somewhat light so we ended up motorsailing our way down. The distance to the marina we were heading to was close to 40 miles, and they closed at 5pm, so if we didn't make haste we would get stuck trying to find someplace to anchor in the dark. Of course, as usual, the wind picked up to 10-15 about 30 minutes before we arrived at the the Key Biscayne channel. With the new windspeed, we could sail pretty fast - it would have been nice to have it all day. Oh well.

About 2 minutes before we arrived at the channel, we took a small rogue wave (maybe 8 feet or so) over the side of our boat. Unfortunately, it swamped our cockpit. Why unfortunately? Because our cockpit had my cell phone, camera, the kid's Nintendo DS and a bunch of books and charts in it. So far, my camera seems to be the only electronic device that is still functioning. My phone is dead as is the DS. Well, we were heading to the Bahamas anyway, and my phone won't work there, so I'm just phoneless a little bit sooner. We still have Kristen's cellphone. The Nintendo had an extended warranty on it, so hopefully we'll be able to get that swapped out.

As we got closer to Biscayne we watched the water change color from deep blue to dark green to light green. After passing Miami, we could start discerning different depths based on the water color. This is what boating is like down here. The water gets so clear you can see the bottom. I don't know which one I like better - being in 8 feet of water (we need 6) and not being able to see bottom, or being in 8 feet of water and being able to see the bottom and thinking you're about to ground the boat. I don't get a choice though - this is the way it is, but it certainly is beautiful!

While Kristen went below to try to salvage our waterlogged equipment, I turned us into the wind just outside the channel to pull in the genoa (forward sail). As much as I wanted to have a larger 50-60' boat for this trip (for the space), having a 40' boat is wonderful as I can singlehand it for the most part. It's easier to drop the mainsail with two people, so I waited for Kristen to come back up and then we dropped the sail. I turned into the Biscayne channel and headed to our destination - Crandon Park Marina, at the northern tip of Key Biscayne. Because of how shallow the water around the keys gets, we had to pass all of Biscayne, run the channel along the whole southern section and then come all the way back to the north end, but on the west side of the Key. This totalled about 5 nautical miles. The charts showed many areas of 6 foot depths, but we never saw any, and we came in during dead low tide. I don't know if it was a fluke, or if the sands have just shifted. We should have seen them if they were there.

We carefully navigated down the channel, through both marked and unmarked sections. We had the opportunity to pass No Name Harbor and take a quick peek in. It looks pretty nice, and we'll be heading over there in a couple of days. No Name is much closer to the ocean, so we can cut an hour or more off our time when we cross to the Bahamas.

We arrived at Crandon Park Marina at about 4:30 and pulled up to the fuel dock. As we were pulling up, a dinghy flew by with the people yelling "Hello Pelican!". It turns out that it was a couple we have met in both Vero Beach and in Ft. Lauderdale. The cruising community is VERY small, and we keep bumping into people we've met along the way. It's very cool. I never quite believed it when I read about it in other blogs, but you really do see the same people over and over again, and it's wonderful.

We fueled up on diesel, and filled our spare jerrycans with both diesel and gas. While Kristen took care of that, I checked in at the marina. Unfortunately, they didn't have any moorings available for us, but they did have a slip and they have a BoatUS discount, so we got 25% off the $1.25/ft charge. It all helps.

We pulled into our slip with an uneventful docking maneuver (I like uneventful docking maneuvers - docking is often like crash landing) and tied up. The slips are nice - they are floating docks, unlike the ones in Lauderdale, so we don't have to worry about climbing up 2 feet during low tide. They planned on reconstructing the marina about 3 years ago, but never finished, so there are no showers and the only bathrooms are public ones. It's a good thing we have decent facilities on Pelican, but it's nice to use the showers at marinas when possible.

After docking, we decided to get off Pelican and took a mile or so long walk along the trails in Crandon Park. The kids went swimming for a short time at a beach down the way, and then we headed back and had a late dinner. Kristen and the kids passed out fairly quickly, and I'm well on my way.

I'm signing up with Chris Parker, a weather router, to help us determine the best time to cross to the Bahamas. It's not necessary, but these guys know everything there is to know about how to make comfortable passages in the Bahamas. We can talk to him via our SSB (single sideband radio - like a Ham radio) during our whole time in the Bahamas to help us make the appropriate decision. At $295 for a year, it's a cheap security blanket, and after all the times we've been caught in quick developing fronts, I've realized you can never have too much access to weather expertise. Chris Parker comes highly recommended, so we'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow we're heading to Target to get the kid's Nintendo replaced, and then we'll be looking to get the heck out of here and finally make it to the Bahamas.

Pictures soon!

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