And there we sat…..

13 January  – Miami – Key Largo, Florida (finally)

Once we arrived in Miami the winds kicked up and didn’t make the prospect of an outside passage to Key Largo particularly desirable.  And so we waited.

After a week exploring Coconut Grove (Miami), Florida we were ready to move, and finally decided to take the “inside” route.  We had not given this route much serious consideration earlier because it was known to be quite shallow in spots and we just didn’t want to have to deal with continually watching our depth and dodging all the crab/lobster pots we had been warned of.

But as the forecasted winds continued to howl, we untied the dock lines and continued our way further south inside on what is still the ICW.

P1030244We set out at first light.  The wind was blowing 20 on the nose coming out of Dinner Key Channel and continued blowing on the beam as we made our way down the choppy Biscayne Bay.

P1030246Once we got into the channel we were more protected by land and the day was really quite pleasant as we meandered past the mangroves.

It felt good to be on the move again.P1030247

This section of the ICW is not as full of passing boats as the northern sections.  Most other boats were courteous, passing at a distance or at slow speed with the exception of two cigarette boats that felt the need to pass us while approaching a narrow mangrove channel near a bridge and going what seemed to be 60 miles per hour.  There was no harm or foul, just a bit of disruption tot he otherwise peaceful day and a reminder that we are indeed in south Florida.

We tied up at one of the only two marinas on the bayside of Key Largo that has enough depth, the Anchorage Resort and Marina.  This is a funky little marina associated with a timeshare/hotel with good concrete docks, swimming pool and jacuzzi and lovely clean showers.

A tiki bar was a dinghy ride away across the ICW, but believe it or not we didn’t go.  We decided to enjoy a quiet evening aboard with cheese and crackers as we plan to get up early tomorrow for a longer day to Marathon.

How SLOW Can We Go?

5 & 6 January, 2017 – Fort Pierce – Key Largo Miami

p1030223We welcomed our friend Ron on board on Monday and together started planning for our transit from Fort Pierce to Key West.

Looking at the weather, figuring an average boat speed of 5.5 knots per hour we waited an extra day due to forecast wind and rain and planned to depart Fort Pierce on Thursday, 5 January around 10am and arrive in Key Largo the next afternoon on Friday.  We would go off shore to Miami, not wanting to arrive at the sea buoy any earlier than 6:30am so we would have enough light to navigate Hawk Channel to Key Largo.

p1030224We left Fort Pierce and when we cleared the channel we turned the boat into the wind and raised the sail.  We really didn’t expect enough wind to sail, but figured motor sailing would give us a bit more speed.


We were pleasantly surprised when the wind picked up.  With 10 knots of wind on the beam we rolled out the genoa, turned off the engine and enjoyed the quiet of sailing!  Dreamtime sails well on this tack and we found our selves moving along at 6 knots per hour.img_0424

All good things must come to an end, and after a few hours of sailing the wind dropped, as did our speed, so we rolled in the genoa and motor sailed the rest of the way.

The Gulf Stream is a 62 mile (100 kilometres) wide very strong (maximum speed of 5.6 MPH/ 9 KPH) northerly flowing current that runs along the coast.  NOAA weather forecasts also include the Naval Oceanographic Office notices of how close to land to expect the Gulf Stream, this varies by day and location.  For this stretch the Gulf Stream was forecast to be 4 miles/6.5 kilometres off the coast at one point.  We are heading south and we know we don’t want to find ourselves in the Gulf Stream so our passage was charted to be closer to land than we usually go and planned to be between 2 and 3 miles (3.2-4.8 kilometres) off the coast.

p1030227As the sun set we were making good time and exceeding our necessary 5.5 knots per hour average.  As we were passing Palm Beach our speed suddenly started to drop, and drop and drop some more.  At one point in the middle of the night we were barely making 2 knots of forward progress with the engine running over 2100 RPMs.  Our knot log indicated that it thought we were going 6 or 7 knots per hour but our actual speed was only 2.5 thereabouts.  This means we had a current of around 4.5 knots coming against us.

Seeing a large cargo ship moving closer to shore, we followed suit and at one point were less than 1.5 miles off the coast.  We gained a bit of speed, but not much.  In all the research we have done, we have never heard about this phenomenon in this stretch of Florida.  Was it the effects of the Gulf Stream spreading over its reported edge, was it the Florida Current or was it something else?  Any ideas anyone?

It was frustrating and a bit worrisome at the same time, but there was nothing we really could do except keep moving forward, albeit very slowly.

With 3 people on board we scheduled 2 hour watches with 4 hours off between.  Bob slept in the cockpit to be available if Ron or Christina needed him, which unfortunately they both did at one point or another disturbing his precious hours of sleep.  Christina first because she saw a cargo ship on radar and AIS with a closest point of approach being an uncomfortable half mile.  This was uncomfortable because she couldn’t quite find it on the water until it was very close, she woke Bob up to let him know.  A problem with being so close to shore is that the lights from the land are very bright, making it more difficult to pick out shapes and lights from that direction.  It wasn’t until the ship was close that we were able to make out its dark outline, steaming light and green starboard light.  This light configuration confirmed it was coming from land and going out to sea and was on track to pass astern of us, so we were never in any danger, and just another lesson.

Several hours afterwards, still well before sunrise, Ron was on watch.  He kept an eye on a cruise ship as it was preparing to cross our path to enter Fort Lauderdale harbor.  He checked AIS to see the closest point of approach would be a mile, no problem.  But then that distance kept getting shorter and shorter and shorter until it was showing the closest point would be less than a hundred feet in 10 minutes.  Ron decided to wake up Bob to inform him of this upcoming close encounter.  Bob, groggy from sleep was a bit confused thinking the ship Ron was reacting to was the same ship that we had been following before he went to sleep.  It took a few tries before Ron was able to convey to Bob that no, this is a different ship and we are going to come very close to it.  They finally figured out that the cruise ship had slowed way down and thus we were now in an almost collision course.

At about this time, they heard the call over the radio “Dreamtime, Dreamtime, Dreamtime this is Caribbean Princess – we picked up our pilot and are ready to continue into Fort Lauderdale may we have the channel?”  Bob answered affirmative telling the cruise ship we would pass astern.  The cruise ship acknowledged and confirmed he expected us to pass astern and  was preparing to make way again.  Bob altered our course to steer behind the ship and when we were about a quarter mile away the ship took off and was already far down the channel.

Yes, we like our AIS for these situations where we can see them and they can see us and we can calmly call each other by name rather than the more vague and potentially confusing alternative of “southbound sailboat to our starboard approaching Fort Lauderdale…”

p1030232We continued on toward Miami.  Although there were times when we felt like we had cleared the adverse current, picking up speed to 6 knots, we would unfortunately find it again and slow down to 4.5.

img_0429We didn’t reach the Miami sea buoy until 9:30 – 3 hours later than planned.  With another 48 miles ahead of us to get to Key Largo, and not knowing if another mystery current would slow us down, we didn’t think we could make it to Key Largo in daylight.  New plan – we started calling around to find a marina in Miami.

img_0430This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but after 5 calls, we found a marina with a slip available, and another marina with a fuel dock.

We entered the port of Miami with the famous South Beach on starboard, rejoined the ICW  and navigated Biscayne Bay to Dinner Key Channel.


The basin was very congested with moorings and anchored boats.  With more phone calls, because no marina in this area seems to use the radio, we eventually found our way to the fuel dock and then on to our marina for the night.

p1030236As we prepared to enter our slip at Bayshore Landing Marina we found our slip occupied by a large manatee which the dock master tried to shoo out so we could tie up without incident.p1030241p1030242

We were thrilled to find the Tiki Bar less than 25 yards feet from our slip.  Happy Hour here we come!

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…..and more

Happy New Year in Fort Pierce, Florida

img_0422We have been enjoying relaxing in Fort Pierce, but are both getting a bit antsy to start moving south again.

img_0423For the first time we will have a 3rd crew member when our good friend Ron joins us tomorrow for the next leg of our journey.

We confronted the challenge of transforming the aft cabin from storage garage to comfortable quarters.  There is no photographic evidence of this undertaking, but trust us, we were questioning whether it would actually be possible.  (The bigger challenge is when we have to convert this cabin from quarters for one to quarters for two when Ron’s wife Sandy joins us mid month. But, we will deal with that later.)

We plan to depart Fort Pierce and make our way down to Key West this week.  There are a few different options for this journey and we wrote out 4 different potential itineraries with multiple sub-plans within each.  Christina was in planning heaven!

Once we make it to Miami, all plans converge.  We looked at weather forecasts and distances to figure out what may work best.

Plan A – we could go inside on the ICW to Fort Lauderdale then pop out to the ocean to get to Miami (we have to go outside on the ocean because there is a bridge between Fort Lauderdale and Miami that our mast probably won’t fit under) – this would take 4 days.  Marinas were called to be sure there was slip availability.

Plan B – we could go inside on the ICW to Lake Worth and then pop out to the ocean to either Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Key Largo.

Plan C – we could go outside to Lake Worth and then inside to Fort Lauderdale

Plan D – we could do an overnight passage from Fort Pierce to Key Largo (160 miles and 27 hours)

If we were to do either Plan A or Plan C we would encounter no less than 16 opening bridges in the last 2 days.  Most of the bridge openings are timed and some are timed for faster boats and we wouldn’t be able to always make the sequential openings so that could mean that we would have a distance we could easily cover in 20 minutes (but not the 15 for the bridge opening) and have to wait for over a half hour for the next opening.  Neither of us thought those would be fun days.

We are both hoping Plan D will work out.  Bob got busy charting the route and setting up way points for the passage.

We are keeping our fingers crossed.  img_0420