Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Palm Beach to Islamorada

So far, we have spent two weeks in the sunshine of North Palm Beach, Florida. Now, I know that this was one of the coldest winters in recent memory for some of you, and I know that the snow was deep, the slush messy and the sleet, stinging. But we finally found warmth in southern Florida. However, southern Florida wasn’t our goal. We are headed to Key West – another couple of hundred miles south. This entry briefly discusses or stay at North Palm, then gets a little more interesting as we talk about our trip south through Miami and the Keys.

The reason we stopped in Palm Beach in the first place was to get two things fixed (again), our heads and our air conditioners. In both cases, we found people in Palm Beach who are excellent repair-people for the systems we have. Beard Marine does good work on our air conditioners and our water maker. (I should note that “Shiver-Me-Timbers,” a company in the Chesapeake is also very good on marine air conditioning.) Marine Plumbing Services is the other company and is recommended by Raritan (the manufacturer of our heads) as the best in the area – and they are.

We have four air conditioners: one for salon (living room), one for the aft cabin (our bedroom), one for the galley and one for the two guest cabins. We replaced the aft cabin air conditioner this summer while we were in the Chesapeake. We discovered on the way down the ICW that our salon and our galley air conditioners weren’t working properly when we tried to use the heat to warm up the boat. (A marine air conditioner operates in a fashion similar to a heat pump in that it both cools and heats.) We decided to have the salon unit replaced in Palm Springs and wait until the summer to replace the galley one. Anyway, Beard ordered a new unit and replaced it while we were in the marina at North Palm.

Our heads were a different story. The forward head is old and needs to be replaced. The aft head works like it should. The middle head works at about 75% efficiency if we add enough salt (it is a long story for which you will have to go back to the blog entry where I explained the chemistry behind our Raritan MSD I (Marine Sanitation Device) heads). I have said for a long time that something is wrong with the electrodes in the system of the middle head, but none of our various plumbers have believed me. They insisted   that the inside of our system just needed to be cleaned. I have cleaned it several times with specially-made solvent that costs nearly $100 per gallon! Well, when one of the technicians tested our head he realized that we needed more than a cleaning, that something was wrong with the electrodes!!!!! Once again, my diagnostic skills shine through – even though my repair abilities remain near zero.

Repairs and sunshine are only part of the story. We also went to one of our favorite boat stores, Boat Owners Warehouse, and spent a ton of money; we connected with our friends Sharon and Andy aboard Finally Fun (oh, by the way, if anyone is interested in buying a 49’ DeFever Cockpit Motor Yacht, Finally Fun is for sale); I got in several 15-milish bike rides, some to Singer Island and some to Juno Beach; we met Jerry and Susan aboard their boat Ho Hum and we met friends of ours from our last visit to the Bahamas – Kathy and Martin. All in all, we like Palm Beach and are returning on our way back north.

I do have to tell one more story. While in North Palm, we decided it was, once again, time to change oil. Now, most of you know that, for us, changing oil isn’t a simple task. Each of our engines carries five gallons of oil and the only way we currently have to take it out of the engine is to suck it out of the dip-stick tube one gallon at a time. Yes, we have a tool built for the purpose, but it is still a long and messy process. Well, after we had sucked the oil out of one engine, we were ready to change the oil filter. I tried to take it off with my hands, but that didn’t work. So, I got out my strap wrench – which always works – but it still wouldn’t come off. Then the darn strap wrench broke. Hmmm. That means we had a problem. The last time the oil was changed, I had it done by the Boatyard-whose-name-will-not-be-mentioned. Apparently they had not put on the filters finger tight – as everyone knows they should have – and instead used some sort of wrench to put them on. Well, after breaking the strap wrench, I went out to find another – on my bicycle, of course. None at West Marine. None at Harbor Freight (a tool company). So I went back to the boat until I figured there was only one way I was going to get the filter off. I drilled a hole in the damn thing. Actually, since the larger drill bit wouldn’t punch through, I had to drill three, increasingly larger holes. Then I put in my biggest and strongest screwdriver into the hole and by putting my considerable weight behind the screwdriver handle, I felt it budge. Then it budged some more. Eventually, I managed to get the filter off. Yes, I was covered with oil. Yes, I was cursing the*&^%  technician who must have used some sort of wrench to tighten the filter. But I had achieved victory! I had beaten the filter!!!

After that, we were on our way south once again.

The Beach at Hollywood, FL
We decided to spend our first night in Fort Lauderdale, kind of a boater’s Mecca. This is where many of the boat system manufacturers have their headquarters, so I thought maybe we could stay there for a couple of days and go to some of the boat stores. To get there, we traveled outside, in the Atlantic Ocean, so we could miss the fourteen bridges at which we would have had to stop had we used the ICW. We reentered the Waterway at what is called Port Everglades, the port at Fort Lauderdale, where we were immediately met by a tanker traveling out of the port. We decided to let this enormous vessel have most of the channel while we only took a portion on the north side. Everything worked out all right.

Although we wanted to stay in Lauderdale proper, we couldn’t find a decent marina in the city, so we looked a little further south and found one in Hollywood, Florida. When we arrived, the weather was very nice. The next day, however, it rained like the dickens – and it rained nearly all day long – so we didn’t get to do anything we had planned in or near Fort Lauderdale. The following day, the day we had intended to leave, the wind picked up and we decided to stay in place for the day. To understand exactly why we decided not to depart, you have to understand something about this particular marina.

Though the fairways (the space between two lines of boats) were a little narrow, we made it in without any problems. But when we got in and were tied up, we started looking around. In addition to the fairly narrow fairways, the finger piers were VERY short (20’?) so, unless we backed into the slip, we would literally not have been able to get off the boat. Moreover, the piers were made of concrete and the concrete did not have adequate protection around it. I guess no one told the builders that when fiberglass and concrete run into one another, it doesn’t end well for the fiberglass. If that wasn’t enough, any boat over 40 feet could not tie up to the forward pilings properly and would stick into the fairway. In short, this marina was designed for boats 40’ and less in length, but now was docking boats 50 feet plus – including us!

Another picture of the beach
at Hollywood, FL
I described the marina in detail so you can understand why we decided to stay two additional days. The wind was blowing steadily at 20 MPH and was gusting to 25. We had a couple of extra days built into our schedule, so we decided that rather than face some nasty seas and an even nastier marina, we would stay another day. The next day (day number two), it was still blowing. I wanted to leave, I even took in the water hose, but in the end, I didn’t want the wind to take hold of the boat and run me into some of the others. I know, I know, it sounds like I was a bit of a chicken, and I was. But there is a saying that goes something like this: “A good captain can get out of any scrapes he gets into. A great captain doesn’t get into any scrapes.” In the marina case, I like to believe I was behaving like a great captain. Of course, an even greater captain wouldn’t have been in that marina in the first place.

I was a good thing we decided to stay because our friends John and Kat were in the area on their RV. They came over to visit and we all had a great time. Though day number two was windy, it was also sunny, so we decided to take advantage of the weather and head out to the beach. It was a three mile walk, but we made it without any problems. It wasn’t like the beaches of the Bahamas, but it was a beach and there were lots of Floridians enjoying the surf and taking advantage of the sun. We strolled on the beach for a bit, then turned around and started our three mile trek back to the boat.

The next morning the wind had died down and off we went. The wait had been worth it, as the wind was only about 10 MPH and we maneuvered out of the marina without a problem.
The Urban Canyon that is the ICW between Lauderdale and Miami

Traveling the ICW from Fort Lauderdale to Miami is an experience. When you traverse the waterway in parts of the Carolinas, for example, you feel as if you are in virgin countryside as you don’t see anyone for miles and miles. Or that you are in truly rural America as you cruise through thousands of acres of abandon cotton and rice fields. South Florida is exactly the opposite. There are places where you feel as if you are in an urban canyon with huge apartment buildings and skyscrapers on either side of the waterway. In other places you cruise down the ICW with McMansions on either side. It is particularly fun to see, among these enormous houses, a small one-story pink house that certainly predates the mansions, and must be owned by someone who held out against what were doubtless pricey offers for their property. Cool!

On the way south from Miami, we had intended to travel to a nice little anchorage on Biscay Bay. On the way down, however, we heard that we would be crossing wakes with our friends Tom and Cristina, aboard their boat Tadhana. As we looked at the charts we realized that if we traveled a bit further we could make it to Tarpon basin, where they planned to anchor. So, what the hell. … We met them there and had a great chat. Tom has spent much of his life managing boatyards and he had some great advice for me as we discussed painting Traveling Soul, which by the way, ain’t gonna happen (at an estimate of $61,000).
The Miami skyline

After Tarpon Bay we decided to anchor at Islamorada, near the location of the semi-famous Lorelei Restaurant. Anchoring was easy, deploying the dinghy was a piece of cake, but starting the outboard was not. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that the darn thing would not start. We re-hoisted the dinghy and by the time we did, the heavens opened up. I mean it rained so hard that we could not see the other boats in the anchorage.  Maybe it was a blessing that we couldn’t get it started, otherwise we might have been caught in the rain.

That night it started blowing. By 0100 it was windy enough for me to move from the bed to the pilothouse so I could make sure the anchor didn’t drag. Everything worked as it was supposed to; Big Bertha held, the boat didn’t move, the anchor alarms all did what they were supposed to do and all was right with the world.
The blips are other boats in the
anchorage -- as seen from the radar

You can see the path the boat
followed during the night
The next day we were off to Marathon, another cruiser’s Mecca. But for that story, you’ll have to stay tuned.

ANN’S NOTES:  We have had a busy time on the boat…Michael has explained most of our activities …however I do get to fill in just a little in this blog.

While in Palm Beach, as I was walking down the dock I noticed the name of a boat that I knew. The boat’s name is August Sun, she has teal colored sail covers, she flies a US flag, a Texas flag and an Australian flag…there are not many boats that have that many flags in that order…SO…to me that meant that Kathy and Martin were in the same marina !!!  We met this wonderful couple the first time in Green Turtle Cay, in the Abacos, and again in Marsh Harbor. That is when Kathy and I became good friends, we shared taxi rides to the grocery store and she was a lot a fun just to hang out with. They have two Boston Terriers, so I had some pet time with them.  Kathy is still a working member of society and Martin is a Marine Engineer that is retired…but not really… because he is in such high demand that he takes on jobs that he can charge whatever he wants and the company will pay for his service.  Anyway…Kathy hired a Captain to help bring the boat back to Florida from the Bahamas…because Martin was working and the weather window would close quickly. I was so excited to see Kathy, we got in some good conversations and some shopping time. Martin arrived a few days later and we got to spend an evening with him also. They may still be in Palm Beach when we go back in a few weeks, that would be nice.

When we were in that horrible marina in Fort Lauderdale we had another visitor from our past travels. Our friend and travel companion John Cairns, from our very first trip to the Bahamas, was close by in his RV. If you go back to our older blogs you can read all about John, he is a great friend and we have managed to stay in touch, even when we both move around a lot. He is now married to Kate. When we first meet her, she was his long time girlfriend from Venezuela. They are both so very happy, her English has improved and she loves to chat, I adore her accent.

And now for a very short wildlife count:

Wednesday 4 Feb 2015

·         Flying fish while cruising the Atlantic

Sunday 7 Feb 2015

·         2 Single dolphins, one of which played a long time on our Port side

·         1 Pod of 2 dolphins playing in our bow wake

·         1 pod of 5 dolphins

·         One osprey  in a large nest on a channel marker

Thank you for following us.

Traveling Soul…OUT