We move slowly south on Biscayne Bay, sometimes pulling our anchor only to move five miles south to an area that we think may be more favourable to shelter us from the persistent 20 knot winds from the East or sometimes just to get a change from the neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood just outside Hurricane Harbour is a wee bit upscale at one point as there is a 110 foot Vicem yacht anchored near us. They have a crew of six aboard and there’s a big group of guests having fun, using an assortment of kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and other water toys. At sunset Blair plays his pipes and immediately after, two of the guests race over and invite us aboard this huge yacht for drinks and appetizers. They (or I should say their crew) roll out the red carpet for us as we join the crowd on the back sundeck. The stewardess offers appetizers of beef carpaccio but when I said no thanks, they immediately assume I am a vegetarian and hurry back with a vegetable antipasto platter. They insist we stay for dinner and served steak, roasted baby potatoes, asparagus and Caesar salad. The stewardess makes me a special plate minus the steak. No helping to clear the table afterwards as our plates are whisked away when empty and wine glasses refreshed whenever they fall slightly below half. Blair brings his pipes over and gives a them a demo of how they work and plays a few tunes which are a big hit. It was a fun evening and, after a tour of the yacht, we dinghy back to Strathspey very aware of how the other half (or maybe the other 1%) lives. As we head out into the dark toward Strathspey, they call out ‘Come over for breakfast tomorrow!’. Haha, we think that may be the wine talking but it’s a pretty generous offer nonetheless. The next day we’re busy on Strathspey, making water, reading, swimming etc and around 11 am, two of the guests ride over on a jet ski with breakfast for us. Perhaps we looked destitute compared to their big yacht but, more likely, they just really liked those bagpipes and were just really generous people. Have bagpipes, will travel!
We spend a few hours each day and run our reverse osmosis water maker. It’s not like watching a pot boil as we are usually lounging in the cockpit, reading or swimming most mornings. This task has become a regular part of our day as all the research tells us that to keep your water maker in top form you need to run it once a day. All this fresh water isn’t hard to get rid of either. We can rinse the salt water off us after a swim, hose down the cockpit, and wash dishes without the usually worry about water conservation. We can even use the excess water to quickly hose off salt accumulated on Strathspey’s decks. Such luxury…..
It’s a relaxing time here. Both Blair and I are reading books that can keep us from looking up for hours. Blair’s reading Homo Deus and I’m engrossed in The Little Paris Bookshop. This is a book I’m not quite willing to pass on just yet as I’m sure I will read it again, more slowly, more thoughtfully – one of those books that I will keep on my shelves for a long while. The sun shines constantly these days. The air temps are 27-28 Celsius and the water temp around 25 C. We’ve found a nice anchorage for swimming and hanging about so our days are lazy and relaxing as the month of February stretches out ahead of us. There’s a manatee in this anchorage that keeps us company, surfacing with a slight splash that catches our attention, especially after sunset. We can hear him out there periodically throughout the night. There is also a small group of dolphins that visit every morning as the tide changes. Both the manatee and the dolphins sigh loudly as they break the surface and then just as quickly they’re gone with an arch of their backs. So graceful.
We dinghy to No Name Harbor and lock our dinghy to the concrete wall there and walk through the state park to the ocean. The beach here runs from Cape Florida all the way up to the Miami inlet and it’s wonderful to stretch our legs after being on board Strathspey for this length of time. The ocean waves are fairly big most days because of the persistently high East winds and the beach is so littered with Man of War jellyfish that most often we walk with our eyes to the ground so as to avoid stepping on them.
We head out into the ocean via the Biscayne Bay channel and we sail by Stiltsville. This is a group of buildings anchored on concrete piers driven into the ocean bed in the middle of the channel. It’s quite shallow where these structures stand (2-3 feet) but it’s odd to see them out here in the middle of nowhere. A Google search tells us that these 7 or 8 buildings are all that’s left of a much larger group of men’s clubs and gambling houses that did a roaring business back in the 40’s and 50’s. Apparently the law enforcement didn’t pay too much attention to anything that was happening out in Stiltsville so it was a really popular party place for the Miami crowd. Hurricane Donna, sometime in the 1960’s, destroyed most of the houses out there and now the remaining few are owned by the Cape Florida State Park.
One morning we wake up to a flat calm, not a ripple on the water surface and not a breath of wind. As I do my yoga practice on Strathspey’s bow, I see two boats in the anchorage quietly haul up their anchors and slowly make a 180 turn to leave. Weather guy, Chris Parker, has finally given a 2-star rating for a Gulf Stream crossing. It’s only a 2-star because boats must motor all the way but the winds are less than 10 knots on the nose and the seas 1-2 feet. February 16th and finally a good window! We won’t be taking this window as we have a haul out booked in Ft Pierce in less than a month. Our sail drive needs a new seal between the engine and the sail drive so we’re handing that job over to Whiticar Marine as well as some deck and hull work.
The water on this side of the Gulf Stream is the same Bahamian turquoise as on the other side of the Stream but it’s silty so the visibility isn’t as wonderful and when we swim we can’t see the sea bottom even though it’s only 7 or 8 feet deep. We’ve had a string of unusually calm days though and one morning as I am swimming I see a really big fish underneath Strathspey. It looks huge to me (like shark huge) and my heart leaps and I quickly swim over to our stern swim platform, ready to scramble up the ladder. The fish ignores me and actually remains fixed under the boat. I briefly consider that this big fish enjoys the relative coolness of Strathspey’s shadow but then sheepishly realize that what I’ve seen is actually Strathspey’s keel, not a shark. It is the first time I’ve seen the keel in this silty water.
For the first time in weeks we wake up to a cloudy sky and then by 9:30 it’s raining. Blair’s happy because this rain means Strathspey’s decks are rinsed clean. I’m happy because it’s Monday and the weekend party boats that swarmed us yesterday have all gone home and this anchorage is quiet once again. Biscayne Bay is a popular area for boaters because it is shallow and relatively calm so we’re seeing quite a few more boats these days, both motor and sail. If you’ve ever been amazed (annoyed!) at the number of people texting and driving a car, then you’d be doubly so looking at all the people texting at the wheel of their boats. It’s more the rule than the exception to see these captains texting rather than focussing on driving. There have been a few times I wanted to sound a blast on our air horn to alert an oncoming boat on a definite collision course with us. Idiot! Put down the cell phone! On a quieter note, there’s a children’s sailing school near this anchorage and on the weekend they are all out in force in their Optimist dinghies, sailing up and down the bay. I think there’s a lot more fun than skill with these 8-10 year olds as, during their so-called races, some are sitting on the bow with their legs hanging over into the water, some nonchalantly unpacking their lunches and trading sandwiches back and forth and some of the older ones are holding their boats together for a good old gossip session.
Early one week Brooklyn surprises us with a really quick three-day visit which was wonderful. We ate excellent meals, swam, walked on the beach, went for dinghy rides and really packed a lot of activity into this short visit. It was just what I needed because I’d really been missing both her and Sandy this season. It was just what she needed too; three days of warmth and sun after a long Ottawa winter. Her visit reminds us that spring is just around the corner and we begin to look for good weather to start the trip north to haul out. It’s time.