26 January, 2012

Three Days Off

Position: N 25 47.344   W 080 09.419
Location: Miami, FL

When you live aboard a boat and are anchored somewhere warm and beautiful like southern Florida, it can be difficult to arrange some time off.  Every once in a while we just have to take a break from the hectic cycle of reading, relaxing in the sun, walking and shopping ashore, doing the occasional boat job, and almost nightly happy hours with friends.  It's a tough life and we've found the only way we can make time for some R&R is by being both patient and persistent. 
On Monday, with the wind predicted to be easterly and relatively light, we decided it was time.  It's only about 4 miles to the top of Biscayne Bay, so we headed down there to go sailing for a few days.  The warm weather, clear blue skies, and 9 – 15 knots on the beam all conspired to give us a beautiful sail down the bay.  Several other cruising sailboats and the Rolex Miami OCR regatta gave us lots to look at. 

The Miami OCR has “529 sailors from 41 countries on 354 boats competing in 10 Olympic classes and 3 Paralympic classes”.  We had to tack around a couple of the race courses (there were a lot of them out there) giving us the opportunity for some real close-up views of the action.  Very exciting and really, really cool.  Here's a link to more info about the regatta: http://rmocr.ussailing.org/

By 3pm we had dropped the anchor 2/3 of a mile east of Elliot Key, part of the Biscayne National Park system.  The wind had died down to almost nothing so the anchorage was comfortable even though we were so far out.  The day ended with a refreshing swim in the clear water and a romantic dinner in the cockpit watching the glorious sun setting with the tall buildings of Miami just peeking up over the horizon.

Rachel's waaaay out there

The second day (Tuesday) we were up and at 'em fairly early, taking the dinghy ashore to Elliot Key.  We love parks as the trails we usually find are a great way for us to get some much needed exercise.  The Elliot Key trails took us out to the ocean side and a lovely boardwalk, then back through the forest to the Bay side in a big circle.  We were the only visitors on the island the entire time we were there and saw many zebra longwing butterflies, dragonflies, lizards and a tiny snake.   There was some trash along the trail so we volunteered to go around again and pick it up as we went along.  The rangers really seemed to appreciate our help.

We got back to the boat in time for lunch then hauled anchor for another perfect sail back up the Bay.  We took turns reading and driving the boat, having another relaxing, sunny, and engine-less day.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (wow that's a mouthful) is at the southern end of Key Biscayne.  There's a very protected basin named No Name Harbor where many sailors anchor while awaiting a weather window to the Bahamas.  We cruised slowly through the anchorage but decided it was a bit crowded for our taste.  So we dropped the hook just outside the harbor and enjoyed another perfect evening with a beautiful sunset.

We had a more leisurely morning on Wednesday, then dinghied ashore for more walking.  The state park has several trails and a big lighthouse so off we went exploring.  Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed for tours but we wandered around the grounds and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Apparently Key Biscayne was a major jumping off point for the Underground Railway during the civil war with escaped slaves making their way to the Bahamas.  We decided to come back again on a day when we CAN tour the lighthouse.

After lunch we sailed back up to Miami, once again dodging the races.  We got to see some close-up action with the 49er fleet.  These high performance boats have two crew, trapezes, lots of high-tech sail area, and are very exciting to watch.  Here's a link to a photo: http://www.sailing.org/images/galleries/10_MOCR_49er_Burling.jpg., better than any phote we would take!!  All that excitement made us even more glad that we were on vacation on Rachel, not racing, taking it easy, and letting them pass us. 

We're feeling rested and relaxed after our 3 days off, and are ready to dive back into laundry and boat jobs and more reading and …

Until next time...

22 January, 2012

Little Havana

 Position: N 25 47.344 W 080 09.419
Location: Miami, FL

A couple of days ago we purchased four day passes to the Miami transit system. Two for us and two for our friends Bob & Cheryl on “New Passage”. At $5 each, these passes are a bargain as they cover both transportation and entertainment in the form of bus and train rides around the area.

This morning we head over to Miami Beach and leave our dinghys locked to the wall of the canal. We get on a bus that takes us to the Omni Center. From there we hop the MetroMover (an elevated electric monorail train) to the Government Center. We then get another bus that takes us to Little Havana. We get off at 27th Avenue and walk the 27 blocks down Calle Ocho (8th Street) to 1st Avenue.

Walking down Calle Ocho we are treated to the varied and wonderful smells of Cuban cooking and the rhythmic and melodic strains of Cuban music pouring out of the shops. Most of the signs are in Spanish, with the occasional English translation alongside. Electronics, grocery, and clothing stores, pawn shops, instant check cashing establishments, and myriad restaurants all conspire to remind us of our time in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Everyone speaks Spanish and some also speak English.

As we pass one shop, Julie notices some women's underpants with extra “bum padding” on display. We assume these are used the same way a padded bra is, except they make for a rounder, “perkier” bottom. Or perhaps they make long bus or train rides a bit more comfortable. Or perhaps they're for transvestites who desire a more “womanly” figure. Whatever their purpose, we are intrigued. Not intrigued enough to go inside and inquire or snap a photo, however, but intrigued, nonetheless. They become a topic of discussion for several blocks.

A short while later we find ourselves at the Maximo Gomez Park and Domino Club. The park consists of a covered pavilion containing many tables and chairs. Most tables are set up for dominos, but some are being used for chess, too. Lively games are taking place and there seem to be spectators at nearly every table. In retrospect, we wish we had asked if we could sit in on a game. Ah well there's always another day and another $5 bus ticket.

All the time we've been walking, we've been keeping an eye out for a reportedly fantastic restaurant we've heard about. We understand that it's inside a grocery store, is somewhere around 13th Avenue, and one of the two or three words in the name starts with an “S”. Then we spot it right on the corner of Calle Ocho and 13th Ave – “El Nuevo Siglo” (The New Century).

On entering, we find a comprehensive grocery store complete with butcher shop and bakery along the back wall, and a lunch counter with a few tables down one side. The smells coming from that side of the store are divine and we are inexorably drawn to the only empty table available. We look at the menu on the chalkboards and realize that, as the only gringos in here, we may be in over our heads. Then a very nice bilingual man appears with some menus in English and we get down to business. He describes each of the available dishes in delicious detail and we make agonizing decisions about which of these gems to try. He even brings over a sample of the “tasajo” for us all to test. Sublime. The orders are placed and we sit and chat amongst ourselves as our food is being prepared.

Julie and Mark split an order of “ternilla” ($7 - literally translated as “gristle”, but nothing like gristle in reality), a sort of beef pot roast w/ delicious gravy, and an order of “costilla puerco” ($6 - grilled pork ribs), also excellent. We also share yucca, fried plantains, bread, and black beans, and rice. These have got to be some of the best black beans we've ever had. Bob & Cheryl split an order of the “tasajo” ($10 – shredded marinated dried beef in a marvelous sauce) and an order of the “ternilla”. We all stuff ourselves full but not so full that we can't select a few awesome pastries to take home us from the bakery. As we roll out the door and continue our walk we all agree that this is some of the best Cuban food we've ever had.

12 January, 2012


We just heard from Julie's attorney that her citizenship application was approved.  We do not have any paperwork as yet but are thrilled and wanted to share.

Dancing with joy in Miami,

03 January, 2012


Position: N 27 09.212 W 080 11.715
Location: Manatee Pocket, FL

Hey! This waiting game is not as bad as we thought it might be! We've just spent 4 days anchored in Manatee Pocket, Port Salerno, near Stuart, Florida. There are a few other cruising boats here who we did not really know before. We've made new friends, had a dinghy raft-up happy hour, on New Years Eve, had friends over for dinner, and been to friends boats for dinner. We rigged Belle, our dinghy, to sail and spent 2 days sailing around the anchorage. There's an awesome little Mexican grocery, vegetable stand and restaurant close by..... and best of all we don't have to rush off to be anywhere.

Sailing our Trinka "Belle"

Julie's naturalization is still in limbo and we've resigned ourselves to be patient. We're still confident it will all work out fine, we just don't know when. That being the case, we've resigned ourselves to hanging around Florida for the time being. It's giving us the opportunity to explore places we usually rush by in our quest to get further South, and it's nice to not have a destination or an agenda. Sort of like being on island time w/o the islands....

The last cold front brought us temperatures in the low 40s and upper 30s – pretty darned cold for our thin blood! The story of our voyage south from the Chesapeake – hang out somewhere until it gets too cold, then move further South hoping to get warm again. We'll be heading out again as soon as it warms up enough to be out in the wind.

Chillin' and chilly