Friday, February 16, 2024


We are under way across the Strait of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Bimini, Bahamas. We're having a bumpy ride, but we opted to soldier through it rather than miss the window, for which we've been waiting quite some time. It has once again been a full two weeks since I posted here, so there is a bit to catch up.

Sunrise over the Cape Florida Channel, Cape, and lighthouse as we left this morning.

When last I posted, we had the rest of a weekend in West Palm. Friday evening we had dinner plans with Karen and Ben, but they alerted us that one of the other participants in Ben's conference had tested positive for COVID. We opted to keep our plans, but take an airy outside table at Kabuki in town. Saturday we were on our own and we finally tried out Spruzzo, the poolside rooftop restaurant at The Ben hotel. Gong Saturday proved to be a mistake, as there was loud DJ music at the bar, but the food was decent and the view spectacular, across the ICW and the island to the ocean beyond the historic Breakers resort.

As chic as we ever get. Dinner on the rooftop of The Ben.

Louise found a canine companion in the lobby.

Sunday we had planned to have Ben and Karen aboard, and we had spotted them one of our numerous COVID test kits when we saw them Friday. We expected it to be rainy, and to snatch them from shore in a dry spell and just hang out aboard until the rain cleared at dinner time. But Sunday morning we awoke to a tornado warning, and we had an all-out scramble to secure the boat for high winds. We vacillated quite a bit on whether it was wise to bring guests aboard given the conditions.

Historic giant Kapok tree on my walk on the Palm Beach side.

Reports of actual tornado touchdowns elsewhere in the state sealed the deal, and we reluctantly waved off what was to be a two-night visit. While we knew the storm might well pass completely without incident, we couldn't very well ask them to hang around ashore all day after checking out of their hotel room.

Vector as seen from tony Palm Beach, with West Palm in the background.

As it happened, the storm was mostly a non-event in Palm Beach. We got a lot of wind and a lot of rain, and we spent some nervous moments in the pilothouse watching for anyone who might drag into us (two boats elsewhere in the anchorage did, indeed, drag), but the storm otherwise passed without incident, and we were even able to go back ashore at dinner time for a final evening on the patio at Lynora's.

This is just a tiny section of the anchorage, as seen from the Royal Park Bridge.

Monday we stuck to our plan and weighed anchor for the slog down the ICW to Fort Lauderdale. We've gotten timing all the drawbridges down to a science, but even still it's a chaotic dance involving putt-putting for some of the legs and racing at top speed for others. In consideration of our now non-existent guests we had extended our reservation at the Coral Ridge Yacht Club to include Monday night, and we were tied up just after 4pm (map). With the club closed Mondays and Tuesdays, we walked the 3/4 mile to Serafina, one of our favorite Italian joints. We noticed on the way that the nearest 7-11 (with Amazon locker) has been razed for new development. We made a quick provisioning stop at Publix on the way home.

We just caught the last of this fiery sunset on our walk to dinner.

Tuesday morning, about the time our guests would have been leaving for the Brightline train back to their car in West Palm Beach, we got a message from Ben that he had tested positive. As disappointed as we had been to wave off Sunday morning, that turned out to have been quite fortuitous. We shared some tips from our experience when we had it, and it appears that by isolating sooner than we did, Karen managed to escape infection. Their life is back to normal now, and we hope to find another time and place to connect to make up the time.

Our gas station.

We had all day Tuesday to ourselves at the dock. The Anchor Petroleum fuel truck arrived a little after 11am and we spent just under an hour bunkering a full 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Louise got every last bit of laundry in the house done while we had unlimited water and power, and she reports that the washer is filling with water so fast now that she felt like the proverbial frog that had been in boiling water, lulled into believing the previous glacial fill rate was normal. We also offloaded my scooter for a jaunt down to the local Magnum Energy distributor, who claimed to have a used inverter in stock.

This large hose and special nozzle delivers 25 gallons per minute.

The inverter turned out to be a 2020 model, allaying fears I had that it might be old enough to be on the verge of the same failure as our 2013 model. They are a full repair facility and they agreed to power it up and let me throw my own oscilloscope on the output, in addition to the shop 'scope already connected. Observing a clean output, I made the purchase and strapped it down to the back seat, thanking my lucky stars that they just happened to have a nice take-out just when we hit town.

Scope trace of the replacement inverter. Much cleaner than the one it replaced; scroll back one post to see that trace.

Replacing the inverter requires that we either be on shore or generator power, and thinking this would be our final marina night in the US, after a nice dinner at nearby Verino's, I decided to just hammer it out that evening. The hardest part of the project was hefting the 65-pound unit up onto its shelf, and then fiddling to get the blind mounting bolts along the back side in place. I am happy to report the new unit is working fine, and we no longer have any issues with our induction cooktop or our electric blanket, which we hope not to need again any time soon. In the course of working on the inverter, I discovered its external battery monitor module had also failed, so I ordered a replacement to an Amazon locker at our next stop.

One for the bus conversion crowd, my old homies. This converted GMC was parked under cover in Hollywood.

With the scooter on the ground, I made a quick trip Wednesday morning to the nearest Total Wine & More to stock up on beer, but they did not have the same selection as their larger store further south. I cleaned them out on a couple of labels, and we decked the scooter when I returned. We dropped lines before checkout and went all of about five hundred yards to the nearby anchorage (map). We tendered right back to the club in the evening for dinner at the bar, since they had been closed during our dock stay.

This rather showy home is along Sunrise lake. The flame-like art in the center of the lower level is animated. The whole interior was lit up like this the entire time we were there; I think the place is still under construction and the electricians are testing.

There at anchor I was able to tackle the last hurdle to going offshore, the watermaker. The valve I needed to complete the project had arrived at the Yacht Club even before we did, and I spent a couple of hours disassembling all the intake plumbing, replacing the valve, and putting it all back together with fresh fittings and tape. That eliminated all the air leaks and a test run in the anchorage had it all working well enough for the Bahamas. We had to cut the test run short because it made enough water to overflow our freshly filled tank.

Sunset from our table at Coconuts.

We spent a second night there in Sunrise Bay so we could tender to one of our favorites, Coconuts, for a final dinner in Fort Lauderdale, and the next morning we weighed anchor for the two-hour run to a more comfortable anchorage in Hollywood, with access to a Walmart for the next stage of our final provisioning. We were astonished to find the formerly overcrowded North Lake anchorage completely empty; the city has started enforcing a 45-day anchoring limit, which cleared out all the squatters. We dropped the hook in our usual spot in South Lake (map), on high alert for overzealous law enforcement.

North Lake, Hollywood, looking from the slot back toward the waterfront restaurants on the ICW. There is but a single boat at anchor; formerly it was wall-to-wall.

I normally tender to our "secret" dinghy landing in Hallendale, which requires some gymnastics to disembark the tender, by myself. This time we had enough on the Walmart list that we went together, with our little wagon to schlep it all back. We made a quick stop at the CVS to exchange CO2 canisters for our SodaStream before loading up on three months of mostly dry goods at the Walmart.

Hallendale has a large Jewish community so I figured the local bagels would be pretty good. They were.

I had a stag excursion to the same landing the following day, to pick up our mail from a UPS Access Point (in an iPhone repair joint; easier than anticipated), drop off outgoing mail at Office Depot, get my Amazon order including the battery monitor for the inverter, and scope out the grocery store. On the way home I had to use the fuel reserve, so the next day involved a trip to the gas dock at the Hollywood Marina.

Always great people-watching on the Hollywood Broadwalk. This is from our table at Sapore di Mare.

A cover band was playing our kind of music at the Hollywood band shell.

All told we spent three nights in Hollywood, eating at GiGi's (good but spendy, as usual) with its own dock, old standby Sapore de Mare on the Broadwalk, which involved stealthy docking, and 5 O'Clock Somewhere, which is really not worthwhile but has a dock, and we were desperate for a place not full of fans for the big game.

At Jimmy's place, 5 O'Clock Somewhere.

From there we had planned to continue south to Maule Lake, where we thought we could get easy access to a Winn-Dixie for the rest of the fresh groceries. But a possible weather window had opened for a single day on Tuesday, and we realized we could not get all the errands done and still make it to a jumping-off point in time. On a lark I called the Lauderdale Yacht Club, who did not have room for us earlier, to see if they had a berth for Monday night. Much to my surprise, they had an opening.

The Grand Lady of Hollywood, the historic Hollywood Beach Resort, which reminds us in color and font of the Hollywood Tower of Terror ride, has been dying since we first started coming here. The city finally declared it unsafe and shuttered it.

That made Monday a mad scramble, as we weighed anchor early for a favorable tide at the otherwise shallow yacht club channel, and made our way back to Fort Lauderdale. We deployed both scooters as soon as we were secured alongside (map), and began a whirlwind of divide-and-conquer provisioning. I loaded up on meat at Winn-Dixie while Louise tackled the produce, frozen, and dry items at Publix. I had to drop the meat at home and come back to help her at Publix because it was too much for one scooter.

Hollywood beach and its adjoining Broadwalk are always vibrant.

While she got everything stowed and did yet more laundry, I made the beer run down to the larger Total Wine & More. Again she met me, after a stop for a haircut, to help retrieve the haul, too much for one scoot. We now have 212 servings (12 or 16oz cans or bottles) of beer aboard; not really enough for the three month cruise, but it will help.

The first of three layers of beer in the midships bilge.

It was late in the afternoon before I was ready to do the final load, 14 gallons of gasoline in Jerry cans for the tender, and then deck the scooters for an early departure, where we expected to plow the mud out of the marina at low tide. But a quick re-check of the weather revealed that the window had evaporated, with the next earliest opportunity today. It was a bit of a relief, actually, because by this time we were exhausted.

And the top layer, secured with paracord.

We opted to leave the gasoline and loading the scooters as a project for the morning, and instead rode over to old standby Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza for dinner. We were disappointed to learn that they no longer had the Fuhgeddaboudit Red Ale previously made for Anthony's by Fort Lauderdale's own Funky Buddha Brewery. The pizza was decent and they have a great salad.

Some of the largest private yachts in the world dock in Fort Lauderdale. Here Victorious is just leaving the dock, while another yacht her size is waiting in the turning basin to take her place.

Tuesday we got our gasoline, loaded the scooters, and then stayed for lunch as this very nice club, since, once again, they had been closed the day before. We left with plenty of water on a falling tide, although we had been well aground through the two low tides during our stay.

I really like the effect when these condo towers across the ICW in Sunny Isles Beach reflect the colors of the sunset. They are rather mundane glass towers most of the time.

The view of the same sunset in the other direction, over Marina Palms.

With the new departure being Friday, we once again headed south toward Cape Florida for a better starting point, stopping at our usual spot in Maule Lake (map). That proved to be a good choice, because when we went to drop the anchor, the roller was cattywampus with one bolt missing. We were able to just drift in the enormous lake while I dealt with it, and I ordered some spare bolts for overnight delivery to the nearby Amazon locker. Having had a big lunch at the club, we just had a light snack on board for dinner.

From parts of the wildlife refuge that is the Oleta River, you can't see any modern infrastructure at all, and you could mistake it for the heart of rural Florida rather than the middle of North Miami.

Wednesday I tendered to the dock at the Oleta State Park to walk to the locker for my bolts, then had a scenic cruise down the river to the ICW to see what had changed at the mall. I was disappointed to learn that all the ladders have been removed from the restaurant docks, and more than half the dock is now condemned. That makes it essentially impossible to get ashore there by tender, changing this from an excellent "errand" stop to almost a "no-errand" stop. Also, it appears many of the squatters who've been chased out of Hollywood and Miami Beach have taken up residence in the lake, which we used to have mostly to ourselves.

The ICW dock at Duffy's in the Intracoastal Mall. With no ladders, the dock is really unreachable from our dinghy.

With the restaurant docks unusable, we ended up having Valentine's Day dinner at the Blue Marlin, a fish shack/burger joint at the Oleta Park dock that, albeit historic, is utterly without charm. We learned it has just changed hands and they are re-working the menu. They did have great fries. Any port in a storm, and we did not want to walk the half mile to US-1 for a better option.

Valentine's dinner at Oleta State Park. Plastic cups and paper plates.

Yesterday we weighed anchor to have a high tide at the shallow stretch near Haulover Inlet, which had us fighting the current most of the day. It was the first day of the Miami Boat Show, and things were a little chaotic as we passed the show docks near the Venetian Causeway. Rather than anchor off No-Name harbor, the closest spot for the morning departure, we opted to stop two miles short at Nixon's old helipad (map) so we could tender to the Key Biscayne Yacht Club for one final first-world restaurant meal.

My attempt to capture the chaos of the Miami Boat Show without being able to leave the helm in the busiest part of the waterway.

Things are just a little calmer at the superyacht portion of the show (VIP pass required) on the Dodge Island side.

This morning we weighed anchor at first light to have a favorable tide leaving the Cape Florida Channel. Things were very lumpy after we crossed the bar, and early in the crossing I ended up "tacking" back and forth a bit to avoid taking the waves on the nose. Things have improved steadily but slowly throughout the day and we are on a direct course now. Our Starlink was offline for a couple of hours but we are now back in coverage, and should make the harbor around 3pm or so.

A little better view of this morning's sunrise after we departed the inlet.

Update: We are anchored in a borrow pit off Resorts World Bimini Bay (map). It's a calm, protected spot, far from the chaos of Alice Town. I had hoped to get this post up before we arrived to the harbor, but even with eight hours under way, I was busy enough with the helm and navigation that I just could not do it. Once focused on the entrance channel, there was no time until now, in the calm of the evening.

Vector at anchor as seen from the Key Biscayne Yacht Club just before sunset.

Sunset from our table on the patio.

I had done the Customs paperwork ahead of time online, and once we had the hook down we dropped the tender and I rode the two miles back to the Big Game Club with the forms and our passports in hand. It was a fifteen minute ride each way and I spent another half hour or so between Customs and Immigration, but we're now all cleared in and have lowered the "Q" flag and hoisted the Bahamian courtesy flag. Once that was all done, we tendered over to Resorts World for dinner in their, ahem, Asian-themed restaurant. Everything was just as we remember from four full years ago, when the spring breakers took over the place just as the pandemic was starting.

Miami skyline at night from our anchorage off Key Biscayne.

Now that we're fed and partly rested, we're contemplating our next move. It's either an overnight passage (sketchy in the Bahamas) or a two-day passage with an exposed anchorage on the bank (possibly miserable) to get anywhere from here.


  1. Great story. I hope you have a great trip through the Bahamas.

  2. I always enjoy your posts.
    I am surprised you're allowed to stock up and bring so much food/beer into the Bahamas. They must not be as picky as other countries are. (?)
    Safe travels!


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