Thursday, May 22, 2014

A plan emerges

We are anchored at the Miami Marine Stadium, on Virginia Key (map).  We've anchored here before, on our first training cruise, so it is somewhat familiar territory.  We would not otherwise have stopped here, being only a few miles from where we started yesterday in Miami Beach, but we needed to get gasoline for our tender at the nearby Rickenbacker Marina (named for the causeway connecting Virginia Key to the mainland, in turn named after the famous aviator).  There were no fuel docks anywhere near our last digs, and we won't come across any for the next several days, either.

Speaking of our last digs, we went to the Lido restaurant at The Standard hotel on Belle Isle for dinner Tuesday night.  We shared four appetizers between us (no entrees) and had one drink apiece and the tab was nearly a C-note.  The food was OK but definitely not worth that kind of money -- typical for Miami Beach.  We went there simply because they had their own dock.  Only after tying up did we learn that it's $1.50 per foot to dock just to eat at the restaurant (although, apparently, pool passes are also available).  We told them our tender was ten feet, but no charge showed up on the bill and we were not inclined to point out the oversight.  I remember eating at the rooftop pool bar at The Standard in downtown LA years ago and things were similarly spendy.

Yesterday we weighed anchor for the short cruise here, which involved one bridge opening (at the Venetian Causeway), crossing the main ship channel, and transiting the south ship channel almost to the mouth of the Miami River.  Traversing a major port like this is always interesting to us, and we enjoyed seeing the bustling port operations as we glided over the gorgeous blue waters.  We did have to thread our way around a dredge that was working the main channel.

After we dropped the hook here we splashed the tender for the aforementioned gas run.  While we were out and about, we actually had to dodge out of the way as a seaplane came in for a landing -- it landed perhaps a hundred yards from us.  We also scoped out the two restaurants ashore that we can reach from here, the Rusty Pelican and Whiskey Joe's.  Neither called to us strongly enough to keep us here another night.

That same seaplane taking off, as seen from our aft deck this morning.

As Louise has already mentioned, the view of the Miami skyline is spectacular from here, and the city lights at night are a particular attraction.  Being here only a short time, we anchored close to the western end of the lagoon, just east of the little palm-covered island at the entrance, and right at sunset two other boats came and anchored right next to us just for the evening view.  One was quite large, a 60-something Hampton with seven or eight folks aboard.  Both boats left later in the evening, and we again had this end of the stadium to ourselves.

Shortly after those boats anchored, a group of three teens or early 20-somethings left the palm island, where they had spent a couple of hours, in a ratty canoe.  They were horsing around and managed to capsize the canoe halfway between us and the shore.  They asked for help, but our tender was on deck by this time, and before I could get it in the water they had managed to swim ashore dragging the flooded canoe with them.

This place is actually part of the city of Miami, but it might as well be a hundred miles away.  There are no services here except for the aforementioned marina and pair of restaurants, with the bulk of Virginia Key being covered in mangrove forest.  The biggest thing on the island is the wastewater treatment plant, but there is also the Miami Seaquarium and both a university outpost as well as a marine vocational high school.  A public beach fronts the ocean, once the only beach in the county accessible to people of color. The marine stadium itself has been condemned for years, with the lagoon now serving mostly as a popular anchorage as well as a practice ground for rowing, sailing, and water skiing.

Until this morning we had been ruminating about exactly where we would head next.  Having ruled out the Bahamas for the short term, on account of our ailing cat George, we'd been thinking about heading further south, perhaps to the Keys.  In the interim, however, the calendar has caught up to us.

We want to be in New York in August, and that's a trip from here of at least two months.  If we are not headed north by mid-June, we won't make it.  We want to start sooner rather than later, so that we are not feeling schedule pressure along the way.  A good stake in the sand is to plan to actually have the boat in Palm Beach for my next eye doctor appointment there, scheduled for June 3rd.

That still gives us ten days to cruise south, but even the accessible parts of Key Largo are a hundred miles from here, a two day run each way down the Hawk Channel with only one reasonable anchorage in the middle.  Blasting 200 miles round trip (and burning 125 gallons of diesel at $3.50 per gallon) just to spend five days in Key Largo does not appeal to us, and so we've decided instead to just cruise Biscayne Bay for a few more days before heading back north.

Once we are ready will will head outside via the Biscayne Channel and make our first hop back to Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), where we should arrive just at the end of the holiday weekend.  We'll take care of a couple of errands there before continuing north up the ICW, a two-day or so run to Palm Beach along a section we have not yet done.  We'll spend a day or two there while I take care of what I hope is my last eye appointment for several more months.

From Palm Beach we will hop back up to Stuart and spend a few days with our friends, who are still there working on commissioning their new boat.  We'll take care of some more errands and get some provisioning done for the trip north.

From Stuart we will hustle back up the east coast, mostly on the outside.  We've done most of the passable inlets along this route already, so we will have a bit more confidence this time.  When we arrive at Hampton Roads we will make a decision about taking the inside route up Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, or continuing outside in the North Atlantic to New Jersey.  The New Jersey ICW is too shallow for us, but I expect we can make stops in Atlantic City and Manasquan before heading to New York Harbor.

Depending on when we arrive there, we'll cruise up the Hudson as far as time permits before heading east through New York City and into Long Island Sound.  From there the picture gets fuzzy, but we will work our way back south into the Chesapeake in September, perhaps visiting Washington, DC befor stopping back at the yard in Deltaville for some follow-up work.

At least, that's the plan right now.  Boats have a way of making their own plans, though, so we shall remain flexible.

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