Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Miami Beach, baby

We are anchored in Biscayne Bay, just west of the southernmost "Sunset" island, north of the Venetian Causeway (map).  This part of Biscayne Bay seems hardly part of the bay at all, hemmed in on three sides by man-made "dredge spoil" islands.  The large, skinny island to our north supports only the Julia Tuttle (I-195) causeway, whereas the Venetian Islands to our south and the Sunset Islands to our east are chock-full of very expensive homes, condos, and resorts. "Inside" (no water frontage) properties start around $2M, and waterfront homes at $10M or so, with the sky as the limit.

We have the same multi-million-dollar view for free, with pale green water and the glimmering lights of the Miami skyline in the evening.  There are also a fair number of spots to land the dinghy nearby, so we also have access to the same restaurants and shopping opportunities.  The Sunset Harbor Yacht Club is nearby, should we need a dock at $4 per foot, plus electricity.  I'm pretty sure I can run the generator and water-maker full-time, if need be, and still not spend $225 a day.  Of course, that rate includes access to the pool...

We arrived yesterday afternoon, after a very pleasant cruise from Hollywood.  Our plan, however, had actually been to come down Sunday, local water traffic notwithstanding (we often stay put on the weekends just to avoid it).  Sunday morning I transferred fuel to the day tank, fired up all the electronics, and walked through most of the pre-departure checklist before a Coast Guard radio announcement stopped us in our tracks.  It seems the Broad Causeway bascule bridge was stuck in the closed position, with no prognosis for repair.

It took us a while to dig up an actual phone number for the bridge tender, and a call revealed in somewhat broken English that the bridge had suffered some kind of electrical failure around 2:30 in the morning, and that they were working on it and hoped to have it operational sometime later in the day.  I called back roughly every hour and a half or so, but the bridge was not operational until nearly 3pm, by which time we decided it was really too late to get under way.  We had talked throughout the day about weighing anchor and moving a few miles south, closer to the stuck bridge, but decided it was really not worth it and we just stayed put another night.

While we were in Hollywood we ended up trying two of the waterfront restaurants across the ICW:  GG's, a white tablecloth affair, and Capone's Flicker Lite, a local dive with decent grub.  Both establishments had dockage more suitable for vessels much larger than our tender, and in each case we had to pull up to the lone ladder extending down to the waterline; at high tide we could well have tied Vector up.  We used the opportunity to walk along the beach boardwalk and check out the local convenience store which also fronts the ICW.

Saturday we took a somewhat longer dinghy ride to Walmart in Hallandale Beach.  Long-time readers may remember that we once parked the bus at this store, before the city put a stop to that practice.  We ended up landing the dinghy west of the store, in a canal that now mostly houses a brand new city marina.  The nearly empty marina would not let us tie up, even for a fee, so we tied to a fence next to an empty lot.  In hindsight it would have been quicker and easier to tie to the ICW wall just east of the store.  We also used the opportunity to sound out the narrow canal entrance to Golden Isles Lake.  That was a much more protected anchorage, with just one boat when we looked, but we did not want to risk transiting the unknown canal depths when we arrived Thursday.  It turned out to be no problem for Vector, and we'll keep this nice anchorage in mind for our next visit.

Yesterday morning we weighed anchor around 10am for the four hour cruise to Miami Beach.  We left on a rising tide, which put the current against us most of the way to Haulover Inlet.  That put us at the tenuous Broad Causeway bridge too late for one opening, and too early for the next.  Now with considerable current behind me, I had to circle several times in the narrow fairway while we waited, and then squeak the boat through a very narrow opening, as the east bascule span remained closed for maintenance.  We made it without further drama.  This area, by the way, had the clearest water we've seen in quite some time, an aqua blue with a view of the shallower underwater features.

South of Broad Causeway there is a choice of routes.  The ICW runs down the western side of the bay, but there is also a route down the eastern edge, along the north Miami Beach shoreline.  We opted to stay on the ICW, but, in hindsight, the eastern route would have been more interesting.  We had planned to cut back across north of the Tuttle Causeway, in the 20'+ depths of the dredge line that was used to form it.  But there was some sort of barge operation with hundreds of yards of what looked like spill booms out, and we were concerned we could not get through, so instead we proceeded past the causeway and turned west just north of the Venetian Islands.  Fortunately it was high tide at this point, so the 7' depths at points along this route were much less of a concern.

I had my sights set on an anchorage just south of here, protected nearly all the way around, but it was chock-a-block full of sailboats.  Several sported no mast at all, and it would appear that many of these boats are full-time residents.  A handful might fit the category of "unsightly," which might explain why a resident in a high-end home along Sunset Lake, just east of here, has anchored his own fleet of three dozen plastic day-sailers across the entire lake in front of his home, effectively preventing anyone else from anchoring there.

We tied up last night at the spiffy new dinghy dock on the Collins canal across from the Publix store, had a nice dinner at the casual Masters Italian Restaurant, and stocked up on some much-need fresh food at the Publix.  Tonight we will dinghy over to the Standard Hotel on Belle Isle for dinner, and I expect tomorrow we will continue south, across the ship channel into even more beautiful water in the more southern portion of the bay.

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