Saturday, January 9, 2021

Say goodbye to Hollywood

We are under way southbound in the Hawk Channel, visually indistinguishable from the Atlantic Ocean, bound for the Florida Keys. To our starboard is Elliott Key, and to port is open water, interrupted periodically by lights marking the reefs.

We ended up spending a full four nights in Hollywood. It felt reasonably safe to be there, with Broward county being only a little higher in infection rates than Palm Beach, a spread-out environment, and plenty of outdoor eateries with good spacing and safe practices. The weather was perfect and we went ashore nightly for dinner.

The broadwalk [sic] was moderately busy, and the beach had a fair number of sunbathers, swimmers, and even beach volleyball players. The city has allowed the broadwalk eateries to push their seating further out, which, in places, has pedestrians spilling into the bike lane, contributing to an illusion that things are as busy as normal.

That illusion is shattered, however, when walking past the enormous Margaritaville Resort. Most of the hotel windows are dark, the tiki bar fronting the broadwalk is shuttered, the ground-level pool is closed, and only the second-floor Landshark Bar and Grill seems to be open for service. Likewise the historic Hollywood Beach Resort, which has often seemed to us like the inspiration for the Tower of Terror ride at Disney, is even more crypt-like now.

Most of the restaurants on the broadwalk proper are open for business, and we enjoyed meals at our old favorites Sapore di Mare and The Taco Joint. We were able to tie the tender up at Five o'clock Somewhere, the ICW-frontage bar for Margaritaville, which is also shuttered. Our final evening we tried the award-winning burgers next door at local institution Le Tub.

A quiet part of the broadwalk at night. I was trying to capture the holiday lights.

We had nightly companionship from a lonely drum fish, who at one point was so close it sounded like someone was banging on the keel with a mallet. It was otherwise quiet at our end of the lake, and I spent the days getting some work done around the boat and trying to clean up a bit from the last big project push.

Knowing we were headed for the keys, and also that we did not want to risk going ashore anywhere in Dade county, we opted to avail ourselves of the last accessible Walmart to stock up on a few provisions. That involves a tender ride down to our secret landing in Hallandale Beach, just a few hundred feet from the store. We loaded up a backpack and a large shopping bag, plus I carried a gallon jug of motor oil in each hand on our way back to the dinghy.

I'm sure I don't need to remind everyone that there was an armed insurrection at the US Capitol while we were in Hollywood. But the initial reports coming in on-line sent me to the television, and I fired up our gyro-stabilized satellite dish for the first time in weeks. This normally sounds like aliens landing on the roof, but all we got was silence after switching it on.

A quick investigation revealed it was tripping its DC power breaker shortly after being turned on. We shut it down and found instead a couple of over-the-air TV news stations for the duration, and the following morning I dragged out the collapsible ladder and ascended the mast to have a look. The problem, or at least a side-effect of it, was immediately apparent once I got the EMI cover off the board - a blown capacitor which had exploded quite violently.

I won't bore you with a lot of technical details here, other than to say that I'm going to try to source a replacement capacitor, and if that alone does not fix the dish, the whole thing is getting scrapped. And I am hoping to do this within the next week or so, because there is no point in continuing to pay monthly for a TV service we can't tune. The positioner board is on my workbench, and the ladder folded up on deck.

Guts of the sat dome. My screwdriver is just holding wires out of the way. Blown cap is just below the two empty Molex connectors.

As a side note here I will mention that this is an older system, which came with the boat. It can only tune DirecTV, and only the old SD channels. For that privilege we pay around $1,300 a year, and that's the cheapest package available. All so that we can get news, weather, and occasional entertainment only when we are offshore more than about a dozen miles, in the Bahamas, or in a handful of inland locations where there is simply no cellular Internet. When in cell coverage in US waters, we use our unlimited Internet service to get news, weather, and entertainment.

If the dish can't be salvaged, we will simply turn off the service. We have no interest in spending money and labor on replacing it with a more modern system, one that could perhaps receive HD channels, or use a different service such as Dish. We would, instead, put the money from the subscription into a streaming service and pay-as-you-go Iridium bandwidth for offshore news and weather.

Our final night in Hollywood, we came back from dinner to find the low battery light on, started the gen, and within two minutes had to shut it down because Louise could hear there was no water flow. Fortunately we shut it down before it shut off automatically due to overheating; that shortened the amount of time I spent in my skivvies hovering over the engine replacing the impeller. Actually replacing the impeller now takes me less than one minute, but draining the coolant, opening the heat exchanger to remove all the old impeller shards, and refilling the coolant takes anywhere from five to fifteen, depending on how hot everything is.

Yesterday morning before departure I had to drop an eBay sale in the mail, and I went ashore at the nearest mailbox. It turns out all the mailboxes in Hollywood have been secured to only open about an inch, and neither the Hollywood Beach Resort nor the Hollywood Marina, where I stopped for gas, would mail my package for me. I ended up running all the way down to Hallandale Beach again, where the post office is walking distance from the secret landing. It also has a parcel drop inside a 24-hour lobby, good to know.

New York Times Covid map. Miami-Dade is very dark.

We weighed anchor at lunch time and made our way south through Aventura, Sunny Isles, and Miami. We seldom come through here without stopping, either at Maule Lake or Miami Beach, often for several days. But the Dade county Covid numbers are through the roof, and we decided we would just not risk going ashore in the county for any reason. That made for a frustrating day with bridge timing, having to putt along at 1100 rpm for a half hour to slow for one bridge, and then run up to 2200 rpm for a half hour to catch the next one.

We made it into Biscayne Bay, rounded the western corner of Key Biscayne, and dropped the hook in the busy anchorage (map) outside of the even busier No Name Harbor. In the harbor is a nice Cuban restaurant, The Boaters Grill, where we had lunch a decade ago on our training cruise, and now there is another counter restaurant with plenty of nice open-air seating at the basin, too. But we remained true to our convictions of not landing in Dade, and we had a nice dinner aboard.

Before I wrap up the post, I will mention the bow thruster, which I've brought up a couple of times recently. It's still broken, with the replacement ready to install on my bench. After the yards in Palm Beach county told me it would be weeks before we could get in, we considered contacting yards in the Fort Lauderdale area, of which there are many.

Most of the yards are up the New River, which is old hat to us now, but is a dicey proposition without a working thruster. The river is narrow and busy, with numerous drawbridges that require station-keeping. For this reason, all the big girls -- yachts longer than about 90' or so -- get towed up and down the river, with one towboat in front and one astern. The going rate for that is $1,000 per trip.

Dinner sunset from our anchorage off No Name.

There are a few yards between Lauderdale and Hollywood, and long-time readers may remember we had to stop at one (which we will never use again) to replace a broken seacock. I could have called a few of those yards to see if one could get us out long enough to replace the drive leg.

In the end, we decided that now is not the time to do this work. Case numbers are rocketing skyward from the unconstrained behavior of many over the holidays. We expect this to continue from New Years celebrations until at least the middle of January if not longer. And boatyards are excellent breeding grounds, with dozens of workers having to work in close proximity to one another, contractors, and sometimes customers.

Other than docking in marinas, or navigating very tight fairways and channels, running the boat without the thruster is just no big deal. We're not doing a lot of docking these days anyway, so living without the thruster for another few weeks is not much of a hardship. We'll try to find face docks to take on water, and we'll continue to run offshore to discharge waste. If there is someplace we really need to dock, we'll time it for slack water and minimal wind and I will do it the old-fashioned way.

Tonight we'll be anchored off Rodriguez Key, near Key Largo. We have a nice pork tenderloin for the grill, and we'll enjoy our first night in the keys surrounded by turquoise water. Tomorrow's leg will take us to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, where we hope to catch up with long-time good friends Julie and Glen, who are taking some time there in advance of doing the Great Loop this season.


  1. Just curious if you have a desire for vaccination, and if so, how/who will you go to to get a Covid 19 vaccination? How do you handle medical needs like pneumonia/flu/Covid 19 shots with your nomadic lifestyle?

    1. We pay for private health insurance. It's a Blue Cross affiliate so the coverage is good nationwide. It's a high-deductible plan, so unless something serious happens, we pay for most coverage out-of-pocket. But certain prophylactic treatments like, for example, flu shots, are fully covered. I believe the Covid vaccine will be the same. As Floridians, we would also be entitled to any state vaccination program, so long as we are still here in the state when we become eligible (we're almost at the very end of the line for that). And, yes, we will most certainly get vaccinated at the earliest possible opportunity, no matter the cost.

  2. Your list of "good" yards must be vanishingly small. I can't remember a haul out where you had any work done where you were really happy. Metal Shark, maybe, was at least OK.

    1. We're still searching for the mythical "good" yard. None has yet done everything correctly, on time, and within estimates. Some are worse than others, though, and the yard I referenced in this post insisted that their guy had to do the work, and then I just barely caught him before he used the wrong adhesive to install the part. We try not to return to yards that make such egregious mistakes.


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