Thursday, May 1, 2014

Busy week

We are back at anchor in the Middle River, a bit further upriver from our last anchorage, at the junction with the "Rio Barcelona," one of the aforementioned canals (map).  To our south and west is Aqua Vista island, and to the northwest is Sunrise Key, both residential waterfront developments with very expensive houses, many fronted by even more expensive yachts.  Just north of us is a peninsula containing more high-end waterfront residential lots, but we can see the Galleria Mall and some commercial development beyond them.  We still have a view of the ICW to the east, but we are far enough from it that we seldom feel the wakes. That's our view from the foredeck, above.

We arrived here Monday morning after a brief cruise from our digs at the Las Olas city marina, where we were quartered on F-dock south of the bridge (map).  On our way south we cleared the bridge just by lowering our SSB antennas, but coming the other way it was nearly high tide and we had to request an opening, so we had a nice cruise south past Bahia Mar and back while we waited.

Vector at Las Olas Marina, snapped from the water taxi.  Venetian condos in the background.

We spent four nights at Las Olas, occasioned mostly by our very first "visitors," not counting random cruisers, boat show attendees, or our friends Martin and Steph (whom, it could be argued, are people we visited, rather than the other way around, while they ready their new boat).  Those visitors happened to be Louise's dad and stepmom, who were on their way from California to a trans-Atlantic cruise originating here in Fort Lauderdale.

We've made a standing offer to all our family and many of our friends to come visit us on the boat.  Understandably, no one until now has taken us up on it, owing, we presume, to geographic constraints.  My family is mostly in New Jersey and New York, with a small smattering in California, while Louise's family, as well as the vast majority of our friends, are in California.  A visit to the boat for most would require an airplane flight or at the very least a long drive.

I had really wanted to get the boat to New York last season, but the four-month stint in the boatyard, twice what we had hoped, ate away too much of the season, so the farthest north we reached was Baltimore.  That's a long and somewhat unpleasant drive from New York, so we were not surprised that no one wanted to come down.  Our California friends who want to see us on the boat are mostly content to wait until we get the boat to San Francisco, however, long that may take (the one set of friends who come east each year were in New York while the boat was still in the yard).

So when Jerry and Kay let us know they'd be embarking in Fort Lauderdale, we suggested they extend their trip by a few days and come see the boat -- briefly, as Kay is allergic to our cats.  We did not really know where we'd be, but we knew we'd at least be as close as Stuart, less than a two hour drive north.  As Martin and Steph's schedule evolved, we decided we could get a small head start on them and cruise down here to explore the southern end of the state, making it easy for us to meet up here.

We had a very nice visit, which included a rental car for the three days we were docked.  That let us get some needed shopping and errands in, which included a follow-up visit to the Viking life raft center in Miami, to pick up the old consumables from our re-certified raft that they had forgotten to send up with it.  As long as we were going to Miami, we decided to drag them along and make a day of it, driving back through Miami Beach and north along the barrier islands -- the Florida Riviera, as it were.  We cut back inland at Dania Beach, the last ICW crossing before Port Everglades.

In addition to being a pleasant day for all of us (well, other than the industrial stop at Viking), this gave us the chance to scope out the ICW between here and there.  We've done a good part of that before, on our very first training charter, which left from Dania Beach and went as far south as Boca Chita Key.  I mentioned that cruise here, but apparently never followed through on my promise to write it up later.  Ironically, we had planned to stop in Stuart at Trawler Fest later that month, a stop which was scrapped in favor of attending the presidential inauguration instead.

Driving north along the beach we passed what's left of "motel row" in Sunny Isles, where I stayed with my dad in the late 60s after my very first airplane flight.  We also went out on one of those deep-sea fishing charters that may well have been my first boat ride, and I remember the skipper briefly letting me take the helm up on the flying bridge, perhaps where I got the boat bug.  Fond memories; the Sahara, where we stayed, still stands, now a time-share condo complex.

As long as we were already at the marina, with Louise's folks a short walk across the street at a nearby hotel, we elected to take the Water Taxi downtown, affording us another opportunity to scope out some of the waterways ahead of time.  The inbound trip was well narrated, with the skipper pointing out many of the megayachts along the route and their history, as well as some of the more prominent properties along the waterway.  We had a nice lunch downtown, but the outbound crew did not provide any narration.  Still, I got to see how difficult it will be to get Vector up the New River to the other city docks, right downtown.  Those docks are less expensive than Las Olas, but, more importantly, they will let us get a fuel delivery there by tanker truck, which is a much better rate (~$3.65/gal) than either the marinas (~$4.75) or the roaming fuel barge (~$3.95).

When we are ready to fuel (either on this visit or on our way north on the rebound trip), we'll take a couple of nights there at the downtown docks, and have the truck fuel us on the way out.  That will give us the chance to stroll along Las Olas street downtown, with its myriad shops and restaurants.  It will also allow us to walk a few blocks to our reciprocal club here in Fort Lauderdale for a nice dinner high above the city.  There is one tricky narrow turn on the river, known as Tarpon Bend, between here and there, but if the Jungle Queen can make it, then so can we.

Las Olas marina (as well as the downtown city docks) has pumpouts at each slip, and after dropping Jerry and Kay at the cruise terminal, returning the rental car, and having a nice dinner along Fort Lauderdale Beach, we emptied our tanks Sunday night in preparation for a Monday morning departure.  That gives us nearly two weeks of anchoring before we again need to find a pumpout or else clear the three mile limit.

George relaxes on the flybridge at Las Olas marina.

We chose to come back here to the Middle River because we knew there was a nice, free dinghy landing at the George English Park just upriver.  That was important, because Tuesday I had a follow-up eye doctor appointment in Palm Beach.  I had originally planned to drop a scooter off while we were at Las Olas and ride up there along the beach route, which is 35mph the whole way.  But Louise found us a rental car for $19 just a few blocks from English Park, so we kept the scooters on deck and did that instead.  (There was no way I was going to pay for another two nights at a marina and keep a rental car for another two days just for one doctor appointment.)

The doctor's office was very accommodating in letting me move my morning appointment to the afternoon so we could also have dinner with Martin and Steph, who drove down from Stuart, and CJ and Margie who drove up from Delray Beach.  Martin brought me two packages that we had sent to their apartment after we left Stuart, and we all had a very nice dinner.

We returned to English Park around 9pm loaded with supplies, including two new deck chairs, that we had picked up in Palm Beach between the doctor's office and dinner.  The deck chairs, from Home Depot, were a bonus enabled by the fact that Enterprise Car Rental upgraded us to a nice SUV after they botched our pickup, leaving us waiting in the park for a full hour.

As I walked down the dock with a pair of chairs over my head, my heart sank as I saw the tender had been messed with.  The canvas cover over the console had been removed and the GPS was missing from the mount, all the compartments were open, and our stuff was everywhere.  Louise left me on the dock to deal with the mess while she moved the car from the park to an on-street space across the street.

Whenever we leave it, we always lock the dinghy to the dock with a strong cable, and the motor is locked to the hull.  Among other things, this keep mischievous kids from casting off the lines and setting the boat free.  So at least the important items, the boat itself and the outboard motor, were in place.  I had also installed a lock on the "glove box" where we keep the registration papers and a couple of cheap hand tools, and that compartment was not breached.

Clearly the miscreants found nothing at all of value.  Even the GPS, an ancient Garmin, was still aboard -- it had simply been broken off the mount and left dangling from its cable.  I can't be 100% sure nothing is missing, but I found most of the loose items from the other compartments strewn around the boat.  I'm trying to imagine what they thought they might find -- drugs, cash, iPhones, high-end stereos?  The sorts of things that one would expect to find -- life jackets, paddles, foot pump, anchor, anchor chain, even the starting battery, were all untouched.

I'm glad we locked up what we did, and we'll call it a lesson learned.  I will be installing padlock hasps on the anchor locker and under-seat compartment.  I will also through-bolt the GPS mount into the console, so that it can't be removed without tools and an opportunity of five or ten minutes or so.  In the meantime, no harm done, and we left the tender in the same spot yesterday all morning without incident.

The late start Tuesday due to the late pickup meant we missed some of the shopping we intended to do, so yesterday morning's project was to grab the rental car and head west to the giant outlet mall.  I buy most of my pants from the Lee/Wrangler/Timber Creek outlet store (AKA VF Outlet) and this is the nearest we will come to one for quite some time.  The mall is enormous, but we did not have time to explore it with the rental car due back at 1pm.

Between moving the boat twice, a family visit, and the whole rental car/eye doctor/shopping extravaganza, it has been a very busy week.  Today we are having a day of downtime, although we will probably dinghy someplace for dinner later.  Monday night I grilled steaks aboard, running the electric grill on battery power for the first time, and last night we had the leftovers as steak salad.

Louise is using the downtime to try her hand at something new: quilting. Steph is an advanced quilter; so much so that their boat Blossom has a room specifically designed to accommodate her hobby, with a built in sewing machine and special fabric storage cubbies. She made us a beautiful quilt as a boat-warming gift. The two ladies visited several quilt-specific stores while we were in Stuart and Louise caught the bug. Here is her first project, about half finished: pillow covers in a Bargello design to match Steph's gift.

We are still waiting to hear more from Martin and Steph on the expected completion schedule of their boat.  They have put a stake in the sand, though, with mutual friends Jeff and Pam coming out from California for a visit/cruise aboard starting May 23rd.  So we are taking that as a possible launch date for a cruise to the Bahamas, possibly departing from Palm Beach.

With a full three weeks between now and then, we will most likely cruise south to Miami and perhaps on to the northern keys before heading back up to Palm Beach to meet them.  That said, a lot can happen in three weeks, and we need to stay flexible in the event their commissioning project hits a hiccup.  We'll revisit the schedule when we are in Biscayne Bay and have a better idea where they are at.

Now that Thursday is upon us, we've decided to just spend the weekend right here in this anchorage.  Driving the boat around the ICW or up the New River on a weekend is not my idea of relaxation -- the waterways are crazy busy here on the weekends when the weather is nice.  We're getting WiFi here from a nearby hotel, there is convenient dinghy dock access, and we have a million-dollar view surrounded by extremely well-kept properties.  Come Monday, we will see whether we head up the New River for a few days, or south towards Miami.


  1. Hi
    I was wondering do you get off road diesel “Red” to use in the boat?


    1. Marine diesel fuel is, indeed, red, as no "highway tax" has been paid. But don't be fooled -- diesel is much cheaper at the pump, highway tax included, at almost any truck stop than it is out here on the water. That's partly due to volume -- truck stops move a lot more diesel per week than even the busiest marine fuel dock -- but it is more due to the law of supply and demand. The market will "bear" a much higher price on the water.

      The red dye, of course, is meaningless on the boat. We can just as easily burn road diesel if we had any way to get it.

  2. First saw your MH at the Grand Canyon. Then found your blog. We live in Hollywood, FL just south of Fort Lauderdale. While here a dinghy ride up the New River maybe with lunch at the Downtowner (I think it's at the 6th ave bridge.) Dine at Pier 66 or 15th Street Fisheries. S Florida is a great place to winter. Enjoy.

    Bob, Vicki & Lilly

    1. Thanks for your comments. Pier 66 is, unfortunately, closed for renovations at the moment. That includes the entire marina as well as both restaurants. We'll eat at the Downtowner when we dock at the city docks. 15th St Fisheries is just a bit too touristy for us, but we may end up there as one of the few places with a dighy dock. Our favorite local joint with a free dock is Coconuts, between the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Venetian. We've been eating there for years, since we first started coming to Trawler Fest shows at Bahia Mar.

  3. Happy Anniversary, Sean and Louise!

    Pat and Nancy

    It's out 29th! ;)


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