Day 9. Monday March 1.
Monday arrived and we were free from the threat of weekend Miami boaters! Paul had a look at the weather for a run outside as we really wanted to avoid all of the drawbridges between Fort Lauderdale and our final destination of No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne. Unfortunately it was calling for a combined swell and wave height of five to six feet. So while it would have been safe, inside was more comfortable for today.
While Sian took Bella for her morning walk among the moored mega yachts Paul got out the cruising guide and got on the web site and documented all of the bridges we needed to get through. In total there were 14 bridges. Given our air draft of around 21 feet with the antennas down we had two bridges that we definitely required an opening, two that were suspect, and the rest should be OK. The issue was that none of the bridges were open on request – all were either on the hour and half hour, or 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. So we needed to time our run so that we weren’t floating around in tight quarters, waiting for an opening.
We ran for the whole day at well below cruise speed. It was very rare that we were not in a Idle Speed, No Wake or Slow Speed, Minimum Wake zone.
I was interesting though to see the Miami skyline approaching. And to see the idle Cruise ships tied up at the cruise terminals. The marinas full of mega yachts were also something to see! Dozens, if not hundreds of them!
One thing that we found odd was that the Coast Guard were still transmitting the exact same missing plane message that we had heard on Thursday with with no indication that it was from days ago.
We managed to time most of the bridges with only a few minutes to wait – until we got to Miami. There we found that the West 79th Street bridge and the Venetian West Bridge, which were only 4 miles apart. were both on the hour and half hour. This would have worked out fine if we could go at our usual cruise speed of 8 knots, but the whole area was a slow speed zone, with plenty of police boats around. So we had to wait for just under a half hour north of the Venetian bridge waiting for the opening.
After leaving Miami we entered the wide-open Biscayne Bay and headed for No Name Harbor. This is a small man-made harbor on the south end of Biscayne Key with room for about two dozen boats. It was originally supposed to be a residential neighborhood with a harbor, but the development fell through. The development never had a name, hence the name of the harbor! Now the area is a state park with walking trails and the Cape Florida Light House.
There is a bulkhead around the harbor which was fine for getting Bella ashore at high tide, but when we went around 4;30 it was low and Paul had to lift her and physically throw her up on the dock!
This evening we tried to go without AC but it got too warm so we started the generator and put the AC on in our cabin and in the salon for Bella.
Day 10. Tuesday March 2.
Today was shaping up to be hot so we got everyone ashore early for a two and a half mile walk along the trails and past the Cape Florida Lighthouse. When we got back someone had grabbed a copy of the harbor rules and left them on our dinghy – showing that running generators in the anchorage was prohibited. Seems we had someone anchored in the harbor who was conflict averse!
We had a lazy day at anchor. The only chore that got completed was putting the registration numbers and registration decal on the new dinghy! However No Name Harbor is a very interesting place to sit at anchor as dozens of boats of all shapes and sizes come in. Some to anchor for lunch and disappear again. Some to tie up at the sea wall and stay, and some to arrive very late with running lights showing the way. There was a good mixture of monohull and multihull sailing boats, trawlers, Miami Vice type go-fasts, and express cruisers.
An hour before sunset we took Bella for a walk and then sat at The Cleat MIA bar at the entrance to the harbor and had sundowners as we watched, what else, the sun go down!
Day 11 . Wednesday March 3.
Well this was one of “those” days! You know, the day you had planned where everything was going to be awesome and it went to hell in a hand basket?
Our plan was to run from No Name Harbor to the anchorage off Elliott Key. Spend two nights there before heading off to our next stop in Islamorada. It was only a short two hour cruise south, so we eased into the day.
Paul checked the weather. It showed 15-17 knot winds from the west. That would be directly into the anchorage but he felt it was a moderate breeze and nothing that would bother us on Sonas. Hmmmmm.
We got into the anchorage with a really nice wave action. We had to anchor about a half mile from the Ranger Station as it is quite shallow inshore from there. The wind gauge showed a steady blow at 26-27 knots! We soon learned that the fetch from the west, all the way from Turkey Point 8 miles away, resulted in steady three to four foot waves, with a five thrown in now and then! We were only anchored in 7.5 feet so the shallow depth didn’t help. Once the anchor was down Sonas settled bow into the waves and was comfortable. If it was just the two of us on board we would be quite OK sitting there.
BUT, we have Bella, and her expectation was, once the anchor was down, she gets to go ashore!
So we had lunch, and waited to see if the bay would calm down. It didn’t. So we decided to launch the dinghy and take the pooch ashore. We managed to get the boat launched and all of us on board the bouncing dinghy – everyone with PFDs on! And the waterproof and floating VHF radio we had recently bought! Going ashore was relatively easy as Paul kept the dinghy speed aligned with the waves, which were surfing us on shore.
We got ashore to the Ranger Station to find that it was abandoned with not a soul to be seen and everything locked up. We suspect they did not expect anyone ashore due to the forecast! We tied up at the ranger dock and Bella immediately jumped off. It was then that we realized that we hadn’t brought her leash or any poop bags. We were NOT going back!
We had an extra length of rope on board so tied that to her collar and Sian found a plastic bag near one of the BBQ pits, so poop collection was back under control!
So off we set on one of the trails, and then realized that, even though we had read that Elliott Key was rife with mosquitos, we had not sprayed! 45 minutes later we emerged from the trail back at the dock with dozens of bites apiece! Sian was especially disappointed as usually when she has Paul with her the bugs attack him and leave her alone. We guessed that there were enough mosquitos to go around!
We got back on the dinghy and now had to pound the half mile back to Sonas directly into the wave action. By the time we got back on board all three were saturated. The wind was supposed to pick up and continue like this all night. Bella still needed her evening walk and another one first thing in the morning. On the way back Sian looked at Paul and said “when we get onboard we are going to have a “DISCUSSION” about what we do next.
Within five minutes of getting back on board the engines were started and we headed back to No Name Harbor to ride out the weather. We really need to start training Bella to go on the boat!
When we got into the harbor we were pleased to find that there was plenty of space for us to anchor, but with the gusting winds it took three or four anchoring attempts until we could get ourselves somewhere where we felt comfortable that we would not swing into another boat’s water – especially with Sonas’ large windage.
When we took Bella ashore she tried the high jump, leaping from the dinghy to the top of the sea wall and missed! Paul was able to grab the handle on her life jacket and drag her back onto the boat. Then he helped her up!
With the anchor down, Paul with a cold beer, Bella with an evening walk, and Sian with a hot shower all seemed to be good in the cruising world yet again!
Until Paul went up top and put the steak on the grill. When he went to turn it over a gust hit the grill mat tossing the hot fat over Paul and the boat deck. A small blister on a finger and ankle. and one totally ruined t-shirt!
It was a DAY!
Day 12. Thursday March 4.
We spent a day in No Name basically just hanging out, talking to other doggie owners and watching the comings and goings in the harbor. We did contemplate running back down to Elliott Kay and anchoring for the night to get a head start on our run to Islamorada but decided we had enough of Elliott and No Name was much more interesting. The only chore that was completed was maintaining the generators batteries. The genset had an “episode” where it struggled to start so Paul took the box covers off the batteries, checked the connections and topped up with distilled water. It started on demand since. No idea what the issue was but we may look into it more when we get back home.
This evening brought a light breeze so we launched the drone at sunset and took some video of the anchorage and setting sun.
Day 13. Friday March 5.
On Friday, day 13, we set off for Islamorada. Paul had checked out the charts well before we left Jacksonville and we knew this was going to be an experience! There are two choices when leaving No Name, turn to the East and go out towards sea through Cape Florida Channel, or head off down the Intracoastal, to the west of the Keys. The first, leading to Hawks channel is wide and deep. The latter is narrow and shallow – VERY shallow. With MLW (Median Low Water) along the whole route in the six to eight foot range. And we draw five feet!
We wanted to go inside because our next stop was Islamorada and the better, more accessible marinas were on the western side of the keys. We had booked into Plantation Yacht Harbor. Initially we had booked for three days, but there was a blow comin in with wind in the mid-thirties, we we upped the reservation to seven days.
It took us seven half hours to run the 59 statute miles to Islamorada. It was a pretty tiring day and we needed to stay totally focused on the depth and the charts. We averaged 2.5 to 3 feet under the keel the whole way, getting to 0.6 feet under the keel on one section. Pretty much everytime we looked back we could see our wake churning up the soft sand. The controlled depth into our marina was five feet – which is what we draw, so we took it real easy and made it in OK.
After closing the engines we both sat quietly in the cockpit enjoying a cold beer.
The marina is owned by the city of Islamorada and is part of a park which includes an Olympic sized swimming pool, tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, small sandy beach AND…… a dog park! So we marched Bella off to the park where she ran and wrestled with a growing number of other pooches. There were small water baths there for the dogs so by the time dogs got wet and rolled in the clay Bella was covered in mud. So back on Sonas she had another Aveeno bath on the swim platform.
This evening we walked to a small seafood place called Twisted Shrimp and had some shrimp and fish.
Day 14. Saturday March 6.
We spent a very pleasant day in Islamorada. The folks who liveaboard here are very welcoming and pleasant. The marina staff are also welcoming and professional. We had a relaxing time doing some boat chores – cleaning mostly.
Bella had a couple of visits to the dog park, and we enjoyed sunset cocktails on the flybridge. It was shaping up to be a very relaxing, albeit windy, week in Islamorada!
But… there are probably worse places to be “stuck!”