Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #44 Moon Over Miami

A week in Marathon has come and gone. The weather has been decidedly warmer and more tropical than it was further north, so we’ve really enjoyed the change. We didn’t escape yet another cold front, however, so sweat suits were in order for a couple of days. Today the sky is cloudless and the winds are turning to the southeast. Over the next few days we have a good weather window to head north to Miami.

We have some mixed feelings about leaving here. Boot Key Harbor is a real cruiser’s haven, because of both the protection and the ambience. The daily cruiser’s net on VHF 68 at 9:00 AM is a boon to getting to know the neighbors and getting help with any need. Publix, the post office, a liquor store, K-Mart, propane refill, and any number of other services are all within a short walk from the dinghy dock at the City Marina, and West Marine has its own dinghy dock just off the harbor. It would be easy to spend weeks or months here, as many cruisers do. Another attraction for us has been the friendship we’ve developed with Paul and Gail of s/v Puffin. Their cruise is taking them south to Key West and the Dry Tortugas, and their invitation to join them was appealing.

But another friendship is part of what draws us north. Greg and Carla oversaw Magic’s end-of-charter refurbishment in Tortola at the same time we were there for Caloosa Spirit’s. We spent several months together commiserating and rejoicing a couple of years ago. When we sailed Caloosa Spirit back to the States, they remained in the Caribbean cruising the island chain through the Leewards and Windwards. Sadly, Hurricane Ivan claimed Magic for his own when he trampled and devastated Grenada last September. So Greg and Carla are now boat-shopping and will be at the Miami Boat Show to explore options. We joyfully anticipate meeting them there and catching up on each other’s lives. Besides, we miss being boat show regulars, so we’re eagerly looking forward to the fun of seeing what’s new. We’re definitely not in the market for a new boat, though. We’re still very pleased with Caloosa Spirit.

We spent part of the afternoon today getting up the Danforth anchor so that we have only one anchor to deal with tomorrow. It didn’t come up easily. Probably a good thing, since it did most of the holding through the 25-30 knot winds of the front. Jim was able to pull up the rope and chain into the dinghy, but he had to power the dinghy several times to break the anchor out of the “concrete” bottom. The Danforth and dinghy are now stowed on the stern arch, and all is ready for the 46-mile passage tomorrow. We’ll leave the harbor at first light.

So there was no candlelight dinner, candy box, or flowers, but it sure beat spending Valentine’s Day in bed with the flu up north. NOAA’s southeasterly winds at 10-15 knots turned out to be easterlies at 15-20, so we beat and/or motor-sailed on our northeasterly track all day. And the 1-2 ft. seas didn’t appear until the end of the day; we saw 3-4 ft. for most of the day. But the sun was out all day, the sea was a beautiful aqua color, and the anchorage here at Rodriguez Key is calm and quiet, with crystal-clear water. It’s enough for a happy Valentine’s Day.

We’re learning that NOAA tends to be a day late (we don’t know about the dollar short). Today we got the winds that were predicted for yesterday. That was perfectly okay with us, because we got a great sail from Rodriguez Key (just off Key Largo) to Key Biscayne (just off Miami). Today was how cruising should be most of the time. We’re in another quiet and serene anchorage just off Biscayne Bay for the night.

They can’t all be perfect days, I guess. This one certainly wasn’t. Our plan for this morning was to leave the anchorage early, go to a nearby marina for a pump-out, and get into the anchorage near the boat show in downtown Miami by noon. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. The nearby marina didn’t answer any radio calls and wasn’t really so nearby. Then, after spending 30+ minutes getting there, their pump-out was broken—so they said, anyway. We suspected that they just didn’t want to ask the boat that was tied up in front of the pump-out station to move. We tried a radio call to another marina to check on the status of their pump-out station, and again got no response. Fortunately, a fellow cruiser on the radio reminded us of a free pump-out station in No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. Yesterday we passed that anchorage by, because we didn’t want to pay the anchoring fee there. We then remembered having seen the pump-out station when we were in there about a year and a half ago, so we backtracked to get there. Upon finding that two boats were moored in front of the pump-out station, we asked one boat to move, and they kindly obliged. Then the pump-out didn’t work! We waited at least another half hour for someone to come and fix it, and were just about ready to find someplace else when the mechanic showed up. He did actually get it working sufficiently for us to pump out both of our holding tanks. The real salt in the wound was finding out that we probably wouldn’t have had to pay to anchor there last night. By the time we left No Name Harbor it was 12:30, and we still had an hour and a half of motoring up Biscayne Bay and the ICW to get to the Venetian Causeway anchorage. The anchorage wasn’t as overcrowded as we feared, and we did find a fairly good spot. We’ll have a lengthy dinghy ride to get to part of the boat show. I say “part” because the show is spread over several different venues, and the venue with the sailboats is charging $10 for four hours for dinghy dockage. So we’ll dinghy in the other direction to the convention center, where all the exhibits are, and take the shuttle from there. This show doesn’t seem as convenient as the others we’ve been to, but hopefully it will be just as much fun. After today, we’re ready for some fun.

Miami skyline

Five full days of exploring boat show exhibits was more than we’ve ever done before, so today we enjoyed taking it easy. The Miami International Boat Show was worth the effort, however, especially the time we got to spend with Greg and Carla. We met up with them on the first day and managed to visit with them frequently, especially over meals. We certainly don’t envy them the decisions they’re faced with—fixing up Magic in Trinidad, buying a boat in the U.S., buying a boat in the BVI or elsewhere in the Caribbean, buying a condo, or any combination thereof. Their heads must be swimming, but they’re holding up remarkably well. We admire their endurance and their faith in the future.

For us the boat show was enjoyable and expensive. We managed to find bargains on several items we needed—charts, cruising guides, line hangers, a new mattress—and also on something we’ve wanted for some time—folding bicycles. It was something of an impulse buy with a much lower price, but not when we consider the number of times we’ve coveted the bikes that other cruisers have been able to use to travel distances that have been somewhat hard on our feet. We expect to be able to use them to do a fair amount of touring and shopping on our cruise north through the coming spring and summer. Today we spent some time getting them set up for use and stowed on deck. Caloosa Spirit looks increasingly like a live-aboard cruising boat.

The other major expense was a new mattress for our bed in the forward cabin. Sometime within a year after Caloosa Spirit was built Catalina started putting real inner-spring mattresses in their boats, rather than the glorified berth cushion that we’ve been sleeping on. After 7+ years—2 of which have seen daily use—we knew that the cushion wouldn’t last much longer. Since the mattress that we want is made in Ft. Lauderdale, we decided that it would be smart to purchase it while we’re in the vicinity. We still can’t believe what we’re spending for it, but we realize that, like the stove and the heads, it’s something that will be used every day to give us some quality of life, so skimping didn’t seem prudent. Hopefully, someone will be out this week to measure the bunk area for the custom shape.

Other benefits of the boat show included consultations on the additional refrigeration system we want, our watermaker, radar that we hope to add next fall, and seeing what’s new on the Catalina 42mkII. It felt good to be boat show junkies again.

Lots of things need cleaning and organizing, but we decided to take the bikes out for a spin. Actually, Jim needed to go find a different type of alternator belt anyway, so we put the bikes to good use. They ride very easily, and we’re very pleased with them. The only down-side was the traffic in the Miami Beach area—both cars and pedestrians. I guess we’ll get used to it. There does seem to be quite a number of stores and services here within easy walking or biking distance.

The full moon over the water was dazzling tonight. I always like gazing at the moon, because it makes me feel closer to Mom and the kids. I know that they can look up at the same moon at the same time, and the moon sort of ties us together. Providing the clouds don’t interfere, that is.

After a couple of days of being on the boat, we needed a change of scene today. So we went grocery shopping. Whoo-whoo! Fortunately, the Publix is very convenient, since we can park our dinghy just across the street. Publix provides a long cable for the dinghies to lock to. We wanted to be well-stocked for the front that’s been toying with us since Thursday, and that’s supposed to be around for a couple more days. We’re actually looking forward to getting some rain, because we still have salt on the deck and dodger from sailing up here over a week ago. The boat needs a good wash-down from a heavy shower.

In one way this anchorage reminds us of St. Thomas. From our boat we can see all the cruise ships that dock at Government Cut (sometimes as many as five), and then head out to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. It’s fascinating to see some of the same ships that we saw down there.

We felt fortunate to find that Miami Beach has a UCC church within walking distance of dinghy dockage. Miami Beach Community Church is even an ONA church. So this morning, despite the overcast skies and threat of rain, we made the trek to the 10:30 worship service. Our good fortune only went that far. The service was more disappointing than uplifting. For an Open & Affirming church it seemed pretty closed to us. Lack of inclusive language, the New King James Bible in the pews, a Southern Baptist-type service, and a pietistic sermon were all things we were definitely not looking for. The music was well done but soulless. So we crossed another UCC church off our list. We’ll keep looking as we continue to travel, but FCC in Indy leaves big footprints to fill. Our pastor teased us that we would be bored in our cruising retirement, but maybe he was talking about the churches we would find. It really leaves a gaping hole, but we’ll keep searching! Maybe there is some kind of message/mission in all this. I’m [Jim] reading Harvey Cox’s When Jesus Came To Harvard. I highly recommend it and think it would be a good choice for the FCC’s Faith & Reason Class, although I am not even a quarter of the way into it.

Before we returned to the boat we took the opportunity to walk around the Holocaust Memorial that we had walked by several times during the boat show. The sculptures are stunning, to put it mildly. The centerpiece is a hand (complete with a brand on the arm) rising above the agonized and tortured bodies supporting it. Such poignant imagery. Wall plaques tell the story of the Holocaust (with photographs), and display the names of many of the victims. It is a very impressive memorial that really brings home the scope of such an atrocity that we pray we’ll never again witness in human history.

Holocaust Memorial

Returning from church we found that the winds have increased to 15-20 knots, which makes the harbor waters rough for the dinghy. It was a wet ride back. Incidentally, we did get some rain last night, and the salt seems to be gone from the topsides.

The measurements for the new mattress have been taken, so after doing laundry and a little more grocery shopping, we’ll be ready to leave Miami Beach. I’m ready to leave the concrete jungle behind and get back to some nature.

Before leaving Miami Beach I wanted to take a bike excursion on Collins Ave. I remember walking down Collins Ave. with my mom when I was about 6 or 7, and looking wide-eyed at all the glitz and glamour. I was hoping to reconnect with that memory, but… What’s that saying about not going home—or somewhere else—again? Either we were on the wrong part of Collins Ave., the buildings were all different, or my memory is faulty, but I didn’t see anything today that evoked any nostalgia. One hotel after another was interesting for only a short time. We did have a nice bike ride, though. We were able to ride along a beach walk for a number of blocks, and the beach was quite lovely—and very crowded (but not in the water). We also had a delicious lunch in a sidewalk café on Collins Ave.

Miami Beach

Incidentally, the Cuban influence in Miami is still highly evident and very hospitable. Unlike some earlier experiences with southeast Florida, here in Miami we have found everyone we’ve met to be friendly, courteous, and helpful. Language has been no barrier, although I sorely wish I could speak Spanish. We would return to Miami with no reservations about the reception we might receive from the residents.

Tomorrow we expect to return to Key Biscayne to wait there for weather to head north to Ft. Lauderdale. There we will take delivery on our new mattress and visit with Jim’s sister, Ann, before heading further north. We hope the wind and weather will cooperate with our time frame.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

P. S. Don’t forget to look up Alice’s book, Reaching a Far Horizon, at www.lulu.com!

Posted Saturday March 5, 2005

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  1. Hi there:

    Stumbled across your teriffic Web site while checking up on a few Florida links. I work for Fodor’s Travel Guides, published by Random House, and I’m an editor of one of our Florida guides.

    I like your coverage of your ports of call—entertaining, well-written, and right on the money. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take off on a boat and cruise around Florida one day, too—I grew up in FLorida (St. Pete), but I am stuck in NYC since it is where publishing is based. But my mind is never far from the Gulf coast that you captured so well in your log.

    Anyway, best of luck in your travels—-and be safe!

    Dave Downing
    Fodor’s Travel Publications
    Dave Downing    03/09/2005 08:02 AM    #
  2. Hi there:

    Stumbled across your teriffic Web site while checking up on a few Florida links. I work for Fodor’s Travel Guides, published by Random House, and I’m an editor of one of our Florida guides.

    I like your coverage of your ports of call. It was entertaining, well-written, and right on the money. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take off on a boat and cruise around Florida one day, too. I grew up in FLorida (St. Pete), but I am stuck in NYC since it is where publishing is based. But my mind is never far from the Gulf coast that you captured so well in your log.

    Anyway, best of luck in your travels—-and be safe!

    Dave Downing
    Fodor’s Travel Publications
    Dave Downing    03/09/2005 08:04 AM    #