Wednesday, June 17, 2009

En route: Marathon to Ft. Lauderdale

We left Marathon on Thursday morning (May 28) for Rodriguez Key, 43nm away. Rodriguez Key is 5 miles from Key Largo and some great dive spots in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (now that's a mouthful). Since you aren't allowed to anchor in Key Largo Sound, Rodriguez Key makes a good stopover. We'd originally planned to dive Molasses Reef on Friday, dive French Reef on Saturday morning, and then sail the 25 miles up to Caesar Creek Saturday afternoon. After an overnight in Key Biscayne, that would put us in Ft. Lauderdale by Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided we were in too much of a hurry. We had dark skies between Marathon and Rodriguez, and the heavy thunderstorms joined us soon after we anchored. For once, the weather websites were all correct - heavy t-storms, strong winds, and high seas for the next couple of days. As much as we wanted to get to Ft. Lauderdale and see Stacy's college friend, we didn't want to make a stupid move weather-wise, and didn't want to give up on our scuba plans. Instead, we hunkered down in our anchorage for two extra days and got out to Molasses Reef on Sunday morning. The diving was fantastic! We dove the western side of the reef first, then moved the boat to a deeper area and did a second dive after lunch and tank refills. The corals were beautiful, and we saw tons of sea life on the second dive: a green moray eel in a rock under our mooring line, a stingray, lobsters, a shark (not a nurse, but not sure what it was), huge barracudas, squid, and the usual suspects of brightly colored fish (tangs, parrots, Sargent majors, etc.). We heard thunder between dives, but the storms left us alone long enough to enjoy our dives and get back to Rodriguez Key in calm seas. What a perfect day! We took a bunch of underwater shots, but haven't uploaded them yet (the camera is still in its underwater housing). For now, we'll include a shot from a friend's saltwater tank. :-)

The underwater pics are now at:

Monday morning we decided to skip French Reef and Caesar Creek and go straight for Key Biscayne (south of Miami). We had such a fantastic dive on Sunday that we figured it would be hard to beat it, plus we wanted to take advantage of what seemed like a good weather window. We left Rodriguez Key at 8am for the 45nm trip to No Name Harbor on the south end of Key Biscayne. We hit a few good storms on route to Miami, and even had to drop speed and motor at 1kt near Caesar Creek when Rene began seeing lightning bolts straight ahead of us. We hovered in a small bay for an hour before continuing on, and arrived in No Name Harbor early that evening.

No Name Harbor is a popular anchorage for cruisers going to the Bahamas while waiting for weather window. It's part of a state park that has a small harbor surrounded by mangroves, a concession stand, and a dinghy landing. It's certainly not a big place, and we can't imagine what it must look like when it's full of cruisers waiting for their weather window. There were only three of us anchored in the harbor on Monday night, and even that felt a bit tight. While the harbor was well-protected and calm, we had a big problem with some tiny pests: "no-see-ums" are little gnats that are even smaller than the grates in our bug screens. The little monsters came straight into the cabin and ate us alive overnight. It's not like a mosquito where you hear them coming - you just feel a little annoying pinch and it's all over. Worse, they don't leave any evidence of biting you at first (other than baggy eyes from no sleep); it takes 2-3 days for the red spots to show up, and then you look like you have the chicken pox. We even tried spraying ourselves, our bedding, and our bug screen with Deep Woods Off, but that didn't seem to make a difference. If anyone knows of a trick to avoid these things, please let us know!

Tuesday morning we happily left No Name Harbor and the bugs behind. We passed by the Key Biscayne lighthouse and sailed alongside downtown Miami and Miami Beach. It was about 30 miles from Key Biscayne to Ft. Lauderdale, and there were hotels, condos, and mansions along the entire stretch of land. It was an easy trip except for a surprise off of Miami Beach. We were motor-sailing along with the forecasted 7-10kt winds when we took a 20kt gust. The boat heeled over enough that the engine died (fuel bubble or out of fuel?), and from there we were fully sailing with 20+ knot winds. An hour or two later, the winds died and we were back to 7kts...go figure. Fortunately it really must've been a bubble in the fuel line or something, because the engine started again as soon as we were level again. Once the excitement was over, we had a leisurely sail (okay, motor-sail) the rest of the way. We entered the Port Everglades channel just after lunch and made our way up the ICW to our marina. Details to follow in the Ft. Lauderdale chapter of our blog!

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