Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Key Largo to Islamorada

We left Key Largo late in the morning to take advantage of high tide through Dusenbury Creek and Grouper Creek. These two creeks are kind of scary as they don't show much water depth on our charts. It turned out that we should have been more concerned with all the Memorial Day power boat idiots. No matter how little room there is these captains revel in showing off how fast they can pass a sailboat and then turn their heads as they pass to see how big of wake they managed to throw our way. There are some courteous ones, but there are far more jerks. One power boat passed us in the tiny creek so fast and close they managed to push their wake up and over Island Tyme's deck.

Stormwatch band was awesome!
Recycled scuba tank
Lorelei's dock
Sunset at Loreleis
Funky boat in small marina behind Lorelei's Restaurant

Once we dropped our anchors in the bay by Islamorada we agreed not to sail again until the Memorial Day throng had left. We spent Saturday through Monday in Islamorada checking out the Lorelei Bar and Restaurant, live music, two local breweries and a bus trip to West Marine in Key Largo. What a fun and relaxing stay it was. We spent far too much money at Lorelei, but those Bushwackers, Key Lime Coladas and Mango Dacquaris were to hard to resist!

Islamorada is probably the last place in the Keys that we will step ashore. One stop for an overnight anchorage outside Grassy Key will be the end of the Keys for this season. After Grassy Key we sail north to Shark River in the Florida Everglades. Cross your fingers for some favorable winds.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Key Biscayne to Key Largo

Gilbert's Resort

After a good night's sleep we needed to move our boats based on the weather forecast. Strong southerly winds with ugly thunderstorms is not the kind of forecast any sailor wants to see. We picked an anchorage at Jew Point near Key Largo as it offered good protection from south and southwest winds. Of course that meant we wAnd ould be sailing directly into the south winds which meant motoring for 25 miles.

As we left our anchorage by No Name Harbor we passed Stiltsville. It sure looks strange to see homes built on pilings out in the middle of a bay. This portion of our route allowed us to put up our sails and fly along in the 15 knot winds. As soon as we turned south, directly into the wind, the fun came to an end. Putt, putt, putt. Mike is really tired of that sound.

Mangroves near Jew Point

We arrived at Jew Point and let out 100' of chain in anticipation of the strong winds to come the next two days. Between rain storms we went for a dinghy ride in the mangrove lined creeks. There wasn't much animal life, but the scenery was beautiful. Brenda loved seeing the mangrove roots grabbing anything solid in the water as they did their job of building bases and filtering water.

Mangrove roots working away

Once the thunderstorms passed through after a couple of days we were finally able to pick up our anchors and get moving south again. Wrinkles was down to 1-2 days of diesel, so we headed toward an anchorage just 11 miles away off Gilbert's Resort where there was a fuel dock. We had tried to top off in Bimini, but the island was out of diesel. Putt, putt, putt right into the wind.

Don and Mike took all their diesel jugs in the dinghies to the fuel dock. Upon returning to the boats they found both Brenda and Gail sweltering in the heat. The breeze had stopped and the temperature was at 88 degrees, Real Feel of 111 degrees. We quickly cleaned up and headed to Gilbert's Resort for some well deserved cold beverages.

Cool derelict sailboat
Gilbert's Resort

Gilbert's Resort had live entertainment, cold drinks and some tasty food. We truly enjoyed ourselves listening to the music in the shade by a big fan. Mike bought a bag of ice to take back to the boat which is a true treat. Unfortunately when we got back to Wrinkles we realized the bag of ice was still on the dock melting away. Then we remembered that we had also forgotten our leftovers on the table. Geez, what happened to our short term memory?

Don realizing he forgot the kill switch key

The next day we planned to pass along the shallowest stretch of the ICW. None of us was looking forward to that.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Crossing Back To Florida From Bimini

Brenda getting one last shelling walk in.

The time had finally come for us to let go of the docklines and cross the Gulf Stream from Bimini back to Florida. We celebrated one last time at the Thirsty Turtle with pizza and drinks. We were joined by Don and Gail (Island Tyme), Rick and Candice (Wings) and Billy and Kathleen (Efandee). We made plans for a 6 a.m. departure anticipating low winds and 2-3' seas. The early departure gave us 14 hours of daylight to cross over to either Key Biscayne or Miami. We (Wrinkles and Island Tyme) hoped to be able to reach No Name Harbor (Key Biscayne area), but it all depended upon the speed of the Gulf Stream current.

Island Tyme under full sail crossing the Gulf Stream

The winds were a gentle 7 knots from the south and the waves flowing north in the current were just what we expected. We motorsailed all day averaging just 4.8 knots. That current can really slow a boat down as our compass was usually 25 degrees different than our GPS heading. There were lots of monster commercial ships going north and south which we kept close tabs on. We only had to maneuver a couple of times to make sure we weren't going to get run over. The sun was shining and the boats were both happily sailing along.

We eventually spotted the high rise buildings of Miami off to the west which truly signaled the end of the Bahamas portion of this trip. The winds picking up to 10-12 knots helped improve our progress. We motored into Key Biscayne and found spots to drop our anchors just outside No Name Harbor. That was as pleasant a crossing as we could have hoped for. We were pleased to have arrived by 4:45 p.m. allowing us time to report to the U.S. coast Guard that we had arrived. We had signed up for the Local Boater Option which allowed us to call in rather than report in person. Well, at least that is the way it is supposed to work. Brenda called in and listened to the automated phone message telling her to select "Local Boater Option participant without a float plan". She selected that option and then was rudely treated by the officer who answered. He claimed she hadn't announced we were Local Boater Option participants even though she did give him Mike's LBO number. The officer refused to take the information and told us we had 24 hours to report in person and then he hung up. Welcome back to the USA.

Anchorage near No Name Harbor


We called in again and got a different officer who very politely reopened our file and simply typed in our LBO numbers and said "You are all set. Have a nice day." We wonder what kind of a bad day that first officer was having. OK, a cold drink, a little food and off to bed.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Enjoying Bimini

Wrinkles behind Island Tyme

We arrived at Bimini Sands Marina in South Bimini on Thursday after an 8 hour sail. We like this marina better than the ones on North Bimini because it offers more protection from the current and it has floating docks. In addition it has bathrooms with showers (good but not great), laundry room (currently out of order), restaurant (not open til summer), Ship's Store (not open but being stocked), fuel dock (it works), swimming pool by office (very nice), infinity pool with bar/food service (awesome) and a beach. We keep saying this place has all the pieces and the location to be one hopping place. As it is, not so much. They have just received new management so maybe they will start taking steps to perk it back up.

For our needs, the place is fine. Our boats are safe and we enjoy the pools. We can walk about 1/3 mile to the ferry dock and get a ride to North Bimini for $2 each. The ride is only a few minutes long and then you have all of the shops, bars and beaches within walking distance. Oh, can't forget that Charlie's Bread is within walking distance as well. That is VERY important. The one negative is the blasted no-see-ums or sand flies as the locals call them. Each dawn and dusk they come out and attack. Regular screens do not stop them as they simply crawl right through the openings. We have added some tulle fabric to some of our screens which is a fine enough mesh to stop the little monsters. People use bug spray, Skin-So -Soft, etc. to ward them off, but nothing works for more than a very short time. The best defense is loose fitting clothes, strong wind or a fan.

We have enjoyed the infinity pool and the regular pool already as well as one trip to North Bimini. Yes, we bought two loaves of Charlie's bread on board. One Bimini bread and one coconut bread. Mike made Brenda Bimini bread French toast for her Mother's Day breakfast. Mike also cooked up some Blue Runner using a Long John Silver's type recipe to make fish bites as an appetizer for sundowners with Island Tyme. Yummm. We spend our time reading, doing boat projects, walking the docks looking at all the fish (Mike is constantly telling Brenda to be careful as this is where she broke her arm) and just enjoying our lives.

Fish Bites

We have been watching the weather for a window to cross back over the Gulf Stream. We aren't sure if we want a window to open or not. We enjoy it here.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Back In Bimini

Wrinkles and Island Tyme

After spending a very calm night on Mackie Shoal we awoke by 6 a.m. to be ready for another long day of motorsailing. The forecast was for very light winds which of course meant relying on the motor yet again. It is ironic that we got tired of hiding from the high winds in the Exumas only to be met with a total lack of wind as we motored west. By 7 a.m. we were cruising along with just the genoa and the staysail up which provided us with a little boost. The water was so calm we watched the bottom go by as clearly as if we were snorkeling. We could see starfish, bowl coral and several kinds of fish. Mike and Gail both had lines out, but the barracudas that are in the shallow waters bit through the steel leaders. Guess we'll have to grill the fish from last night.

Wrinkles getting a much needed cleaning.

After 6-7 hours we started hailing Bimini Sands Marina on the VHF in an effort to secure boat slips. We tried numerous times on channel 16 and 68 without getting any response. We decided to just sail into the marina and flag someone down. We entered ahead of Island Tyme and tried unsuccessfully to get the employees' attention. We circled a couple times waving at the dock people who just ignored us. We decided to pull into a slip where Mike would drive the boat up to the dock and then jump out to catch the lines which Brenda would throw with her one good arm. Someone to catch our lines would certainly have been appreciated. No stress here!

Thankfully our docking went very smoothly. Mike ran up to the marina office as Island Tyme continued to do circles in the basin. It was hard to believe no one was paying any attention to us. When Mike got to the office the woman said, "Oh, we are having radio problems." She said to talk to the dock master whose was actually right outside pumping fuel. He had been right outside watching us do circles and waving our arms. I asked where he wanted us to dock and he said, "Right over where you are is OK."

Mike hustled back and told Don and Gail to pick any slip near us. They did a great job of bringing Island Tyme into the slip where we grabbed and secured their lines. Whew! Glad that is over with.

We secured our boats, showered and then walked over to the Thirsty Turtle for their awesome pizza. The waitress/bartender was about as interested in helping us as our dock master, but the food was terrific. Now that we are here we will explore Bimini some more and eat as much of Charlie's bread as we can. When a solid weather window opens up we will cross back over the Gulf Stream to Florida. What an adventure we are having.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

One Of The Most Magical Evenings Of Our Lives

Wrinkles at Mackie Shoal

Enroute from Chubb Cay, Berry Islands to Bimini we arrived at Mackie Shoal after a long 10 hour motorsail. We caught a Spanish Mackeral along the way which Mike cleaned as we made our way to the anchorage. If you aren't a sailor you have probably never heard of Mackie Shoal. It is simply a low water area between the Berry Islands and Bimini that boaters use as an overnight rest stop. The water is only 6 to 12' deep there which makes it a nice spot to drop your anchor in settled weather. Otherwise the sail from Chubb Cay to Bimini is about an 18 hour crossing for slow sailboats like ours.


Island Tyme

We dropped our anchors and made plans for a fish dinner aboard Wrinkles at 6:30 p.m. We picked up Don and Gail and ferried them over to Wrinkles. We grilled the Spanish Mackeral along with Spanish Rice and Green Bean casserole for a very memorable dinner. The sunset was amazing as there is no land within 30 miles offering a 360 degree horizon. We ate our awesome meals and watched an incredible sunset followed by an equally amazing full moon rising.


As Mike dinghied Don and Gail back to Island Tyme they marveled at the moon's reflection of their boat's image on the water. It was a truly magical evening that few people have had the privilege of experiencing.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Nassau, New Providence

Sunset at West Bay, New Providence


After spending a wonderful day at the beach eating wonderful food and just being beach bums we made plans to go into downtown Nassau for a day. We decided the next morning would work just fine.

Along with Don and Gail we dinghied ashore and beached the Ernie T. The four of us dragged the dinghy well above the high water line and then used a cable to lock it to a post. We anticipated a 2 mile hike to the nearest bus stop, but a kind local offered all four of us a ride to the stop. Sweet!

We boarded the bus near Lyford Cay and were treated to a very scenic tour of the northern coastline. Once we arrived in Nassau we went directly to a BTC store to get Brenda's phone working again. As soon as that was accomplished we strolled to the Bearded Clam restaurant. The beers were cold and the Bahama Mama drinks were tasty. We each had great meals and the lively little spot entertained us. Gail loves to interact with anyone within talking distance. She was having a grand time getting people laughing and smiling. What a great lunch.

We needed to buy a replacement handheld VHF as ours had failed its first swimming lesson. It had snagged on a towel that Mike was retrieving from the dinghy (back in Highbourne) and flipped right into the water. It was not a good swimmer. Don and Mike took a "roadie" beer and headed off in search of a new VHF. The girls said they would love to stay right where they were until we returned. The boys jumped into a taxi and quickly found a marine supply store. They had two handheld VHF models to choose from and the decision was easy to make. One model boasted "Designed To Float", so that one won.

We returned to find the girls laughing and having a ball. They were pretty disappointed we came back so quickly. They were hoping to have a couple more hours at the Bearded Clam. We paid our bills and headed off to find the Watling Rum Distillery. After a scenic stroll we entered the old plantation building that is used for the distillery tours. The tour was almost laughable as it took 7 minutes and the tour guide's words were almost all unintelligible. We did hear him say "All right" about 100 times.

Watling Distillery
Steps to plantation building
Watling sampling room


We each purchased a bottle of the very good Amber rum and then tried a few of their mixed drinks. Gail of course ended up dancing with one of the bartenders. Eventually we wandered out and hiked along the interesting roads on our way back to the bus stop. We hopped the return bus and enjoyed another scenic ride. The 12B bus route takes you all the way across the island to Lyford Cay for $2.50 If you ask the driver he will take you the final couple of miles to Jaws Beach for an additional $2.50. After getting dropped off at the beach we boarded the Ernie T and got pretty well soaked as the incoming waves were breaking pretty good.

The next morning we planned to sail the 25 miles up to Chubb Cay, Berry Islands. We'll see how that goes.