Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring Cruise to Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay March 2017

Our plan, after the St. Patrick's Day HISC Cruise, then to head down to Biscayne Bay in company of Bill & Colleen of Duet.

Friday March 17th. 

St. Pat's Day Cruise

We hosted St. Pat’s Day cruise in 2016 and it was a bunch of fun, so there was no hesitation to volunteer to be host for 2017. Eileen Winchell suggested that I reach out to some of the newer members to be cohosts, so I contacted Gary & Joan Noto (LayLa) and also spoke with Michael & Katie Sparks (they have been unable to host and event yet.) Both quickly joined the host team and we planned the event communicating via emails and chats at the club general meetings. Michael had to pull out due to business demands, it happens, and I’m sure they will volunteer for another event soon (ask them!) . Jeff & Joan Keiser (Affection) jumped into to the void, the addition of Affection (big boat) was very welcome.

Peggy & I motored Eximius down the New River and up the Intracoastal to Sunrise Bay to anchor. I had contacted the Coral Ridge Yacht Club to ask if we could use their dingy dock in case any of our members wanted to join us by car. They were fine with that as long as we did not park in their lot, very understandable. We should ask the CRYC for each event, but we should also consider advising our members not to park in the CRYC parking lot. Bob & Pat Schuldenfrei drove down from Palm Beach and parked in the Galleria parking lot—10mins from the CRYC! So perhaps members should consider using Uber to drop off and pick up from the yacht club.

Diversion was already at anchor in Sunrise bay when we arrived, Bob was on his own this trip (I still owe Joyce a bottle of Olive Oil from a previous trip when I ran out while cooking breakfast!)

LayLa turned up at Sunrise Bay Friday evening and rafted with us. They came armed with the victuals for the Sunday Breakfast and plenty of Spuds for the St. Pat’s dinner aboard. Affection turned up, as planned, Saturday morning and joined the raft up. Gary & myself dinked over to each boat and attached a Scavenger Hunt clue to the outside of the boats and advised them that the hunt would start at the Hosts at 3pm (lesson #1—hand them a flyer with the times) 

By 3pm we had 11 boats at anchor and their crews started to arrive at the host boats. Each had to dink over to the other boats, note the boat name and clue for the Anagram that had the clue of ‘Cheerful Sailor’. 

Some of them motored, some got dragged, but Rob from Always rowed the course. Rob got back in 2nd or 3rd place and they also got the Anagram—’Jolly Jack Tar’ (google it!) 

At 5pm, everyone came over to the host boats, bringing food, drinks and good cheer. We had to split the food between two boats there was so much! We had about 30 people aboard our boats and most of the food quickly disappeared. After dinner, we held the Trivia Contest. Not much interest was shown by the teams sat on LayLa and Affection, not until they realized that the prize for a correct team answer was a miniature bottle of Rum. Then everyone got in on the act. 

The Best St. Pat’s outfit contest was awesome! Members really went to town. Sully & Lorrene took the best dressed couple award and Kendal Marcelle took the best dressed individual award. Finally we had the Original Limerick contest, and this year everyone got the idea. They had to recite their own original limerick, not one found on the internet. Hector came in 3rd with a technical recitation. Jeff Miskin 2nd with his baudy (who would have thought) limerick, and Pat Schuldenfrei came in at #1 with her Limerick about the tale of her squirrel infested sails. Sully, Jeff and several others took the microphone (virtual) and the stage to render their comedic tales that had us all in fits of laughter.

As dusk moved on, everyone returned to their boats, we could hear laughter coming from several well into the night. It seemed that everyone had a good time. Sunday Morning and members started to arrive at the host boats for Bagels & cheese & Coffee (and hot chocolate— #2 lesson, that’s a must for next year) . Because we were leaving for Biscayne bay for a week long cruise, we had to break up the party at 9am. But our anchor was crossed with the other boats in the raft up. Hector & Jeff Keiser dinked out and hauled up the macramé of anchor lines to free ours. Then we said our goodbyes and backed out from the raft up and headed South. 

What a great weekend! Thanks everyone for taking part, getting in the mood and making the event. Especial thanks to Joan & Gary on Layla, let’s do it again. And to Affection, Jeff put a lot of effort into hosting. The beer was great!

Sunday March 19th. 

After backing away from the St. Patrick's Day Cruise host raftup, we motored down to Port Everglades. As we approached 17th Street bridge, we could see this tall ship in front of us.

We had our sails up before we got out of the turning channel and they filled as we turned South towards Miami. Wind was pretty much from the West, so we had a nice beam reach all the way south.
There's a southbound current close to the shore, normally we can gain an extra 1/2 knot by keeping with 1 to 1.5 nm from shore. Seems we did because we hit 8.3 knots GPS and reached Miami Government Cut earlier than expected.

Now consider that this was Sunday afternoon! NUTS! We had to stay out of the main channel because the Coast Guard had restricted access as there were 3 cruise ships in port. So we took the lesser channel that passes South of the Main Channel.  That channel was crazy! And according to folks that frequent that area, it's Sunday madness. Dozens of Jet Skis, Dozens of Motor Vessels that don't seem to understand that scorching past a sail boat causing a huge wake can cause a lot of damage.
We had to follow the channel markers that are clearly identified on our GPS, as well as our backup of Navionics and Google Maps (the pic is a screenshot from google maps). Then once we were able to turn south into the ICW, we headed down to pass under Rickenbacker causeway. Duet had caught up with us before we turned towards the bridge and we let them pass (not that we had the option, they are much faster than us under power) so that they could lead the way to Hurricane Harbor.

We have never been to this area before, just south to No Name Harbor years ago, but not the little bit further North. I think the area is nicknamed Nixons (not be confused with Nixons on Bimini)

The wind was from the West and blowing in the high teens. We tried to come alongside Duet but it was not a good idea. After bumping hulls we decided to just anchor off and dink over.

Despite the bumpy weather, we slept pretty good that first night, no anchor alarms until early morning when the wind shifted to the North. I had set the anchor drag alarm to double my rode length but had not set the GPS at the anchor point, and it was pretty skinny water too. The alarm was expected.

Monday March 20th

Much calmer in the morning, we dinked over to Duet and discussed our plans for Bimini. We also setup for a day sail down to ICW Mile Marker 1100 and back just for fun. And you know what they say when two boats are going to the same place at the same time... 

Duet pulled anchor ahead of us and were on the course before we had our sails up. But I knew that our boat would sail closer to the wind than their Catamaran, So I used that to our advantage. Duet had rounded the virtual mark about 10 minutes before us, but the haul back would be to our advantage. So once around the mark, I turned us to head up close but not pinch and we worked our way ahead of Duet, She had to tack a couple of times and ended up well westward of the finish while we close hauled much nearer. 
I kept a watch on Duet. Peggy asked when we were going to go about to head back to the finish  anchorage. I replied that we would turn the moment we saw Duet turn or sooner if I felt we could nail the mark. Once our GPS indicated 120 degrees off course for the mark, I turned Eximius to the South West and eased the sheets, we ploughed that course! Holding off Duet with ease. An exhilarating sail.

Once back at anchor, we pulled out our prepared meal of Chicken Cacciatore, a bottle of wine and headed over to Duet. What a great couple Bill & Colleen. we always enjoy sharing stories with them and the Lobster King has many.

Tuesday March 21st

We were happy to have a day off, so Bill & Colleen headed out to Fowey Rock to look for bugs. I got on with a couple of boat projects, like: Replace the incorrectly wired aft berth 12v outlet with the proper wires and wire in the 40Watt inverter that I had installed but not yet wired into the boat system.
Bill called us when he was returning through Stiltsvill and we agreed with Duet to move further South to Elliott Key, a favored hang out for us after 10 years of heading there on JD our boat before Eximius.

We were underway, sails up within 10 minutes and caught up with Duet as she came out of the Stiltsvill channel. As we sailed south, Duet kept closing on our course, which was odd, then I guessed that he was going to pass by the East channel from the Feather Banks, but we had to take the main channel due to our 5' 7"draft. So then I turned and went behind him. Bill called on the phone asking what we were doing. When I explained he indicated that he was talking about anchoring further North than Elliott key harbor and I thought that was too skinny for us. I checked the charts and recalled the anchorage we had used last year off of Boca Chita Key, so I turned for that and Bill followed. He found a preferred anchorage and we anchored about 100 yards apart. (we were kinda shy about going along side his boat after the bump on Sunday) 

Dinner time we dinked over taking with us Wine and Shrimp & New potatoes. 

We're pretty good at planning our food for our sailing adventures. During the weeks leading up to the cruises, we'll cook double and use the Vacuum pack device to seal and then freeze the meal. In prep for the trip down with Duet, we made a couple of meals for 4 and vacupacked those. 

This night we took the shrimp, it was uncooked, vacupacked with a knob of butter and some herbs, so by the time it was ready to take over to Duet, it had defrosted and the shrimp were well marinated.
Duet has a really nice -BQ with a hot plate, ideal for cooking Lobster and Shrimp and the Spuds. Delicious. Throw that in with some lobster and a nice bowl of salad and we have a dinner fit for royalty.

Before heading back to our boat, we had agreed that the weather was turning nasty on Thursday, so an early return to Fort Lauderdale might be wise. It was!

Wednesday March 22nd.

After and early, lite breakfast, we prepared to head back, Duet pulled anchor ahead of us and was on her way while I was still acting as a manual windlass pulling in the 80' of chain and anchor.
Once the anchor was up, Peggy turned us to follow Duet out of the Anchorage under motor and then North just keeping clear of the shallows as we approached the Stiltsvill in Biscayne Channel.

Screenshot of Navionics Chart  - North end of Biscayne Bay

Seeing the homes on stilts never gets old, but the channel is nothing much to shout about. Very well marked and it takes a turn to the South East as it reaches the Ocean.

Bill had suggested that we head out into the Gulfstream which is about 2miles of the coast near Miami, so we headed NorthWest once out of the channel. There's a bit of a southerly current close to Miami, but almost like magic, as we reached 2 miles off the Port entrance, we noticed the expected increase in speed and then turned North for home.

Duet was well ahead of us, they make at least a knot faster than us under motor, so by this time they were a couple or miles ahead of us. Otto, our Auto Pilot was behaving really well, we're getting used to letting him steer the boat while we can relax a bit while keeping an eye out for other boats. And there were plenty out there. So every now and then we had to tap the Auto Pilot controller course buttons to turn out of the way, but it was a pretty cool ride all the way up. We disengaged Otto as we got into sight of the Port Everglades inlet about 3 miles ahead to Port. 
There's a string of mooring balls running parallel to coast south of the Port, I guess it's a popular hang out for small power boats, but only a couple were occupied today.

We had motored with our Main up and made good time, but we had a time restriction window that meant we had to pass under the 17th Street Causeway Bridge by 15:00 otherwise we would not be able to get past all of the bridges on the New River before they closed at 4pm. We passed under the bridge at 15:20 and so we headed around the bend to Lake Sylvia.

The lake was pretty packed! It's a popular anchorage for folks waiting to cross over to the Bahamas or returning and taking a break before heading up the ICW. Today there were a couple of training boats with crews getting checked out as part of their Yacht Masters certification, they dropped anchor, hung around for a while, pulled it back up and went around the lake and anchored again.

We found a good spot and dug our anchor deep, the lake is well known for it's weird flows. We have been there in the past with a bunch of other boats and all of us facing different directions, even those that were almost next to us.

After the motor up from the Bay, we planned to just hang out and relax, it's what we do at the end of a days sailing (or motoring). Like many of the others in the Lake, we watched carefully as other boats came in looking to anchor. 
One large motor yacht came in and dropped his anchor ahead of us. His bow was probably 10' off the water compared to our 4', that meant he would need to let out more anchor rode than us. As he backed upon his anchor to dig it in, I stood looking very concerned, with my radio in hand and my Bosuns Call on it's chain around my neck. He got the message without me saying a word "You're too freaking Close" so he pulled anchor and moved to another part of the lake.
Later several other sail boats came into the lake, there were a lot of Canadian boats. I got to chat briefly with them when they asked if the holding was ok. They anchored a nice distance so all was good with the world.

We had our Dink on the deck and the outboard on the motor mount port side of the cockpit. The cockpit table was up and we had enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine and a chicken dinner. Loafing in the cockpit, I saw another catamaran entering the lake, looked familiar - It was Duet!
Turns out that we had lost site of them earlier not realizing that they had headed in towards Dania Beach and went for a dive and they decided to hang out in Lake Sylvia - Small world.

Thursday March 23rd.

The bridges on the New River close to marine traffic from 06:30 till 09:00 on weekdays to accommodate the rush hour road traffic. And we needed to be back at the dock by 10:00 to avoid low tide. So we left Lake Sylvia around 08:30 and got to the first bridge - 3rd Avenue Bridge - at 09:10 and made an easy pass, but the Bridge Tender at Andrews Avenue Bridge advised us that the railroad bridge was down, he would open when the rail bridge opened.
I called the FEC bridge tender and was advised they would open in a couple of minutes. Good timing! So no need to tie up and wait, we just held station which was pretty easy as the river was flowing towards us (and low tide!)
As passed the two bridges we heard a call for Eximius, but couldn't make out the caller. I responded that this was Eximius and then we heard 7th Avenue Bridge calling to let us know the bridge was open and if we could get there he would wait for us. Acknowledge and shifted into max speed. We swung around Sailboat bend and he was still open. As we passed beneath the bridge I thanked him on the Radio. These bridge tenders do a great job, and do their best to ease passage down the river whenever they can.

As we approached our dock on the Port side, Peggy asked which Piling I wanted to reach for. We agreed on the 2nd piling. Pegs approached the dock at about 25° and as our bow neared the dock she put Eximius in Reverse. The boat stopped, the stern walked over to Port - PERFECT! That's the way to do it. I was so impressed that I nearly fell into the water! ha! Rule! Get fully onto the dock before congratulating the helm on a nice landing! 😎

Wrap up

I'm really pleased the way we team up to get the boat secured to the dock, food off loaded, electrics hooked up, deck scrubbed down, truck loaded and take a breath before we leave the dock and head home. It sure makes for a stressless end to a great trip, shorter than planned, but still a great trip.
Hopefully we'll get to meet up with Duet on future trips.

See you on the Water.


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