December 2004 – We are
finally, ready for our maiden voyage. Not all the jobs are finished and
probably never will be. If we were to wait to complete everything, we would
never be ready to leave. We are a little behind schedule with our first trip
now planned to the Florida Keys for Christmas instead of the Bahamas.
Simon (“The Younger”) joins us and on 17th
December we leave Summerfield's for the slightly scary trip down the New
River. This river meanders past some very exclusive properties and some very
expensive mega yachts and through central Fort Lauderdale with a number of
opening bridges. Some will open on radio request, some are timed, so it can
be a slow journey. There is also a strong tidal current, narrow sections and
a great deal of traffic, mostly comprising the movement of these
multi-million dollar mega yachts. This was slightly nerve wracking but
otherwise a very interesting journey. We sneaked in behind one very large
mega yacht, preferring him to be ahead of us rather than behind us for this
journey. We had one situation where a bridge could not be open as there was
emergency traffic on the road due to an accident elsewhere so we had to
maintain our position in the current and wind. We have one engine to achieve
this. The mega yacht in had at least two plus bow and stern thrusters. He
made it look so easy.
Then there was the moment when the mega
yacht called us on the radio to warn us “There is some bozo coming up river
in a hip-to-hip towing situation and he is bouncing off other boats!” We did
our best to hide behind said mega yacht and watch this fiasco develop.
Fortunately he missed both the mega yacht and Dream On but hit a few moored
boats in the process.
As the New River opens into the
Intra-coastal Waterway, (ICW), we turned South towards Miami. Here the ICW
goes straight through Port Everglades where we are dwarfed by enormous
cruise liners. At this stage it also pours with rain, so the rest of the day
is an uncomfortable wet, cold ride as far as Hollywood just North of Miami.
We arrive in Hollywood Marina in time to join other cruisers for their
Christmas pot luck. Geoff & Simon are very happy to see turkey in copious
Hollywood to Miami down the ICW. A very careful voyage watching channel
markers, depths, other traffic and bridge openings very closely. We stayed
overnight at Palm Bay Club and Marina
north Miami where Adam and girlfriend Louise join us.
Miami to Biscayne
Bay. Stayed overnight in Dinner Key Marina close to Coconut Grove, South of
Miami. This is a very trendy restaurant & shopping area.
Dinner Key across Biscayne Bay to No Name
Harbor ready for an early departure the next day to Key Largo. There was no
space to anchor in No Name, so we anchored outside.
Adam turns out to be the electronics whiz
kid and fixes all the electronics and radios that we had not yet managed to
Harbor to Rodriguez Key, Key Largo - So
far we have only motored as it is not safe to sail in the ICW. This is our
first opportunity to sail. With 20 knots of wind from the South East we
raised the Main and Genoa and motor-sailed, (to
charge batteries) the 58 miles to Key Largo. Due to the depth of our keel we
cannot take the inside route north of the Keys, so followed the Hawk Channel
south of the Keys between the islands and the main reef.
Rodriguez Key to Bahia Honda –
Gusts of wind to 25 knots on our tail and a following swell gave us an
uncomfortable and cold 42 mile run, but Bahia Honda could be a pleasant
anchorage in better weather, provided one doesn’t object to being anchored
right beside Federal Highway #1, THE road into the Keys.
Bahia Honda to Key West - Another cold and rough ride, arriving in Key West
in fog, which cleared in time to see our way in past the cruise liners and
find an anchoring ground. None of the anchorages at Key West are good and
non provide real weather protection.
We enjoy our Christmas
in Key West despite our very unprotected anchorage with winds up to 33 knots
and a rough ride at anchor. Overnight anchor watches were necessary for two
nights in case the anchors dragged or in case any other boats dragged and
came our way.
We see our first manatee in
Key West. Despite being fairly
shy and endangered, this manatee was just resting on the bottom of the
marina by the waterfront.
Christmas lunch comprises Conch Fritters,
Mussels, Oysters, Shrimps, Tuna and Steak on the water front in
Key West. Not a turkey in sight!
26th December - Adam and Louise
leave Key West by Greyhound bus to Miami to fly back to UK.
28th December - Simon was still
with us and we left Key West bound for New Found
Harbour close to Big Pine Key. The wind was North East, right on the bow, so no
sailing. Hawk Channel is strewn with lobster pot buoys. These are totally
incompatible with boat propellers, so some parts of the Hawk Channel are a
real slalom to avoid them. New Found Harbour was extremely shallow in
parts, so some careful navigation and a very close watch on the depth
sounder were essential. We are very impressed with the new Chartplotter.
Always within a couple of metres of our actual position.
Big Pine Key to Boot
Key Harbor between Key Vaca and
Boot Key. After entering through a narrow channel between mangroves, then
under a lifting bridge, the large natural harbour opens. The book says that
anchoring is chaotic and if you find a space there is usually a reason. It
is either too shallow or there is a wreck! However, we found a good spot,
put out 2 anchors as the Christmas winds are still blowing, with gusts up to
30th January - Simon leaves by Greyhound bus from Marathon to Miami to return to the UK. We
decide to stay in Boot Key
Harbor, Marathon for a while to finish a
few unfinished jobs. The town or Marathon is close by and is good for
provisioning, parts, hardware and expertise. Anchoring is free! The weather
is improving but the winds result in some wet dinghy rides for supplies.
Otherwise not a bad place to hang out. Very laid back.