Cruising and planning in pencil

The weather is warm and sunny most days but the wind, she blows. We heel at dock even in this protected marina. We have four fenders positioned between Strathspey and the dock and two of them are squished almost flat from the strength of the wind pressing us against the dock. We lower our courtesy flags because their constant thrumming against the stays keep me awake at night and threaten to shred the flags to ribbons.

Piping at Old Port Cove

Piping at Old Port Cove

The extended time at a marina allows us to find and fix any issues in the various systems aboard Strathspey. Our friends and family worry that all we’re doing is repairs down here in the south but it’s a whole other aspect of cruising that only other cruisers can appreciate. When you live on your sailboat 24/7 you become atuned to every little nuance of your boat’s behaviour. You hear a persistent rattle that may turn out to be a faulty set screw on the Bimini frame or it may be a critical piece of your steering that has come loose over time. You feel a slight hesitation when you put the boat in reverse that may be just strong current rushing by or it may be something wrapped around your propeller or, worse, a loose linkage. You smell a hint of diesel fume that may be from a passing boat or it just may be your engine needing attention. Although you most often will regret it, you can sometimes ignore performance that is less than 100% but Blair (being Blair) doesn’t. He’s on holidays and has the time and some of his best memories aboard Strathspey are when we’ve successfully troubleshooted a problem and implemented a fix. Finding problems are the lows of cruising; fixing them successfully are the highs. So, yes, we’re working on Strathspey every day….sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes the whole day. But it’s good work, it’s mostly satisfying and, best of all, it keeps Strathspey in top notch condition; one of the prettiest girls at the dance.

We rent a car and drive up to Cocoa Beach one day to view a boat that our Ottawa friends are interested in. It’s a fun day, vicariously spending other people’s money! On the way back to Strathspey, we stop in for lunch at the Riverside Cafe in Vero Beach where I have my favourite blackened fish tacos and Blair has Red Snapper with tropical fruit salsa and yellow rice.

Wind speed at our dock

Wind speed at our dock

Now, there is a good window to sail further south. We prepare to leave Old Port Cove Marina and it seems that we really need to get our ‘house’ in order. When I say ‘house’, I mean house. For the past little while we’ve not been aboard a sailboat because Strathspey has morphed into a floating house and if we head out as is, there will be all manner of flotsam and jetsam strewn about the boat. We put the laptops away, along with all the books and charts littering our chart table and settee. All the shoes and sandals that have made their way out of their hidey holes are stuffed back in. The toiletries that have migrated out of the cupboards and shelves are swept up and stored securely. We disassemble the doghouse (enclosure) and pack away the cockpit cushions and pillows. Blair threads our foresail lines through the genoa cars and back to our winches. I set our binoculars in their usual place on the steering pedestle and reconnect our RAM VHF microphone in the cockpit. Blair fills our water tanks and coils up the hose and our electrical cable and stows them in the starboard locker. I pay our bill at the marina office (ouch!). It’s time, feels good. Strathspey’s a sailing boat again!

Approaching Miami

Approaching Miami

We sail from Lake Worth down to Miami in 15 knots of wind but as we get further along the coast the seas are sloppy and coming on both our bow and our beam. Strathspey has a lurching gait through these waves and I feel queasy all day and have to focus on the horizon at all times. As we make the turn into Miami, Blair pulls in our foresail but the furling line ‘malfunctions’ and so he goes forward to the bow to try to fix the problem. The waves are bigger now because the tide is flowing out of the inlet so it’s a scary thing to have him up on the bow as it plunges up and down through the waves. We end up sailing into the inlet, surfing down waves and rocking from side to side. My queasiness definitely gets worse. Once we are in the shelter of the inlet break wall, we can pull in the foresail but we don’t reach calm water for another 10 minutes as we have a strong current against us. The sun is setting as we motor slowly through Miami harbour and it’s after sunset when we make our way into our anchorage south of the Rickenbacker bridge that leads to Key Biscayne. It was a long day, a challenging day and Strathspey’s decks are sticky and greasy with salt. Blair and I are no better but after nice hot showers and dinner in our cockpit our perspective changes. We’re just that much further south, that much warmer.

Miami skyline viewed from our cockpit

Miami skyline viewed from our cockpit

One afternoon we take a really long dinghy ride north of our anchorage. We have read that there are new anchoring bylaws that stipulate no anchoring north or south of the Venetian Causeway in South beach and we want to check it out. The bylaws are directed at all the derelict boats that litter the south Florida waterways. People actually live in these boats – they live rent-free in the heart of one of the most expensive areas of Miami where real estate prices are beyond most of us. Many of these boats are eyesores to the surrounding property owners, with their decks cluttered with all their worldly possessions; much like the hobos you see pushing their ladened shopping carts around. In some areas these boats have been sitting for years and have shaggy fringes of algae and other growth along their waterlines.

Despite these bylaws, we see lots of boats anchored in and around the causeway. Perhaps the bylaws get enforced periodically and everyone moves and then, over time, they start creeping back in. We do note, however, that Sunset Lake, one of our favourite anchorages in the South Beach area, is empty. This is a lake about the size of the Parliament Hill lawn surrounded by multi-million dollar homes so we think that whenever a boat dares to anchor in Sunset Lake, there are immediate calls to the Governor and lots of hoohaa raised.

It’s downright hot here in Biscayne Bay. We swim for the first time on this trip and the forecast for the next week is for sunny days and 26-27 Celsius. We’re going to explore the keys in Biscayne Bay and further south for the next while and hopefully do lots of swimming and just generally relaxing. Aboard Strathspey this season we’ve been doing lots of that plan in pencil stuff, as my friend Karen calls it. The strong Easterly Tradewinds that conspired to prevent any good weather windows to cross the Gulfstream are keeping us in Florida this season. The Keys are an area that we’ve not ever been to, either by car or boat, so we look forward to exploring here.

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