December 29, 2006 - Stuart, Florida
As we prepare to leave Stuart with the morning tide, it seems impossible to go without reflecting on the incredible hospitality we've enjoyed here. For the record, it should be noted that although we had never met Barbara and Bruce Osborn before, they opened their amazing poolside home to us, let us keep the boat at their dock while we visited Annie's family in Mississippi, introduced us to lots of fascinating people, fed us constantly, and entertained us with stories, books, and dancing guinea pigs on the Internet.

Although we've visited places of great beauty and historical interest, the best part of this cruise has been the welcome we've received from genuinely nice folks like Barbara and Bruce. Randall and Jo Ann Blackwood in Huntsville, Shirley and David Pleace in Beaufort, Godwin and Sylvia Jones on the Chesapeake, Lewis and Kim Adler in New Jersey, and of course Rhonda and Janet in Rhode Island are just some of the people who, perhaps against their better judgment, gave us free reign of their homes, vehicles, and lives while we visited. And of course there were many others (I'm leaving out family members, not because they don't count, but because I'm starting to feel like I'm making a speech at the Academy Awards).

Leaving the dock or a good anchorage is always hard for me. As much as I enjoy the adventure of new places, there's comfort in staying put in a known, safe environment. As we venture back out into the world of actual cruising--or at least as close to that as this crew gets--I suspect we'll remember the kindness that people have shown us as the very best part of our continuing adventures.

group photo sunset cruise

Photos: (1) Bruce and Barbara on the left, Curt and Teri to right. (2) Several of us, including Karen shown here, enjoyed a great sunset cruise on Icarus, Curt's beautiful Beneteau 36.

December 31, 2006 - Lake Worth (Palm Beach), Florida
It was hard to leave the dock at Barbara and Bruce's house...literally! Although we timed our departure for 7:00 AM, the top of the high tide, I had filled up the water tanks and we were still dragging in the mud. With Bruce and Annie pushing and the throttle to the stops, we finally backed off, leaving Ishi sitting there five feet from the dock. They had been using our boat to get to their own, which was also aground most of the time. We are hopeful they were able to move their boat closer after we left.

The run down the ICW from the St. Lucie inlet, along Jupiter Island, was a pretty one, with mangroves lining the channel. We were tempted to join the dozen boats anchored at Peck Lake and walk over to the beach, but pressed on. The Jupiter inlet provided some entertainment as we went aground twice trying to get past it (we simply needed to swing wide around the red nun at the intersection). After racing to get through a series of bridges, we arrived at Lake Worth near Palm Beach. We'd planned to anchor near Peanut Island, but decided to go into the Lake Worth anchorage instead.

For the first time in many months, we launched the Marlin, the Walker Bay 8 that we carry on the foredeck. I'd lost the dagger board off Mayaguana but fashioned a plywood replacement while in Mississippi, and it worked fine as Laura and I sailed around the anchorage. We had read that the town might try to collect a fee for anchoring, but there's been no sign of it so far. Perhaps we're still just on edge after the reception we received in Ft. Pierce, but seeing canals and inlets along the ICW roped off with "private property" signs (a practice of dubious legality) made us wonder how welcome cruising boats are along this part of the coast.

We will probably stay in this area until the seas along the coast are settled for a trip towards Miami. Just for fun I started counting the bridges between here and Miami on the ICW, but I lost track somewhere in the thirties.

Lake Worth Dinghy Dock Tofu Turkey

Photos: (1) The dinghy dock in Lake Worth is this beach, with posts and cables for locking your dinghy. It's just a short walk from here to shopping and restaurants. (2) After months of stalking, we finally cornered a wild Tofurkey at Publix. Gourmet, meatless, and delicious--serves and delights four! They also had Presidente beer on sale here. It was the best Publix ever!

January 2, 2007 - Singer Island (Palm Beach), Florida
Yesterday morning we moved about three miles south to an anchorage closer to the inlet. We're sheltered from the east by Singer Island and from the west by a causeway with a county park on it, but unfortunately we're open to the ICW and get some wake action there. We dinghied over to the boat ramp at the park and tied up at a dock that had signs warning against staying longer than ten minutes. Perhaps that's for the busy season, since the dock was deserted and no one bothered us. There is a nice little playground there, with a life-guarded beach underneath the high-rise bridge. Later we took the dinghy over to Peanut Island, an 97 acre artificial island that is now a very nice park, with beaches, a campground, and a very cool snorkeling lagoon. President Kennedy used to have a bunker on the island back in the Cold War days in case he needed to hide while vacationing in Palm Beach, but it was closed (perhaps that's normal for a bunker).

We spent most of today cleaning up on the boat, then went back to the playground where Laura played for a couple of hours. Annie and I talked about our plans. In an exciting new development, we have decided to try to return to Exumas in the Bahamas rather than just hanging around Florida for the next three months. The islands are just a couple of days away and it seems only in keeping with the logic of our cruise that we should go back now when we have the chance. As my friend Jim Bowman likes to say, tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. There's lots to do to get ready: massive provisioning, reactivate the satellite phone, get our latest Coast Guard documentation mailed to us, develop a strategy for the crossing. Our plan is still to be back in Tennessee by June, but this gives us something exciting to do in the meantime.


Photo: Laura and friends on the playground at Phil Foster Park.

January 3, 2007 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Our day started with rough seas just outside the Lake Worth inlet. Laura, who as usual had declared, "I love waves!" as she bounced up and down in the v-berth, soon changed her tune. Although she had moved to the aft cabin for a smoother ride, the seas caught up with her. I always feel guilty when Laura gets seasick, but I can only hope that when all is measured the good times will outweigh the bad.

Last night we were concerned about how we could possibly get the necessary tasks done to make us self-sufficient for a couple of months in the islands. We Americans are used to jumping into the car and zooming over to BigboxMart whenever we discover we lack the smallest item. There are no Walmarts in the Bahamas (this may be one of the reasons people like to go there) so one must plan ahead. We needed to do some major provisioning, but how? It looked like we were headed for an expensive night in a marina plus cab fare, but David Hurd came to our rescue. David, who we met in Newport thanks to Janet and Rhonda, has a condo in Ft. Lauderdale and managed to create enough dock space for us there, while providing transportation to the store and bank. Meanwhile, our friend Shirley in Chattanooga was making much-needed bank deposits and mailing our Coast Guard documentation to us.

Despite the rough start, it was a good sail down to Ft. Lauderdale. We sailed half the distance and motorsailed the rest through the beautiful blue abyss. This is what the boat was made to do. The sun came out, Laura felt better, and it was a great day to be a sailor.

Annie with laundry Rodger on dock Hatteras at dock

Photos: (1) Annie must love doing laundry. She was in such a hurry to get back to it that she would only pose for two pictures instead of the dozens I requested. (2) Glad I took this one; I knew I would need a vertical shot to go with Annie and the laundry. (3) This big Hatteras was kind enough to move back a few feet so we could squeeze in beside it at the condo docks.

January 5, 2007 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
We're on our third and last night here at the 15th Avenue condo docks, the perfect place for us to provision and plan for the Bahamas. With David's help we've accomplished everything on Annie's long list. Tonight we had a special treat when we joined David, his friend Lisa, and Jack from Dionysus for a huge Mexican meal at a nearby restaurant. It's been a long time since I had a Margarita.

I am starting to feel like a real cruiser again (even more sleepy and lazy than usual) because I'm getting up before the sun comes up to catch Chris Parker's weather forecasts on the SSB radio. Annie and I pored over the charts and guidebooks for hours last night, trying to figure out how to get to the Exumas quickly given the forecast for the next week. It would be possible to go straight to Chub Cay and try to beat a cold front that's scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but we're not that desperate yet. It's been great here at the dock to have fast Internet so we can overload ourselves with information. After lots of angst over the cost, we reactivated the Globalstar phone so we can continue updating the log, receiving e-mail, and have emergency communications should we need it [Postscript: Big Mistake! Globalstar had become useless. See my rant].

Our plan is to go outside tomorrow to Miami and Biscayne Bay. If the forecast is wrong and seas are up, we could take the ICW down--there are only eight bridges left! I think we'll head for No Name Harbor and see if there are any boats there waiting to cross. We'd like to have a buddy boat, if possible. Even with the sat phone, EPIRB, and SSB, it's safer and usually more fun to have some company.

January 7, 2007 - Miami, Florida
For a harbor without a name, this one must be pretty famous. No Name Harbor is a zoo on the weekends. The harbor is about two acres of water surrounded by Bill Baggs State Park on a peninsula just south of the bright lights of Miami. When we arrived yesterday afternoon after a nice trip motoring down from Ft. Lauderdale on the outside (this after fueling up with 14 gallons on diesel), we became one of a half dozen sailboats anchored here. There were dozens of powerboats of all sizes anchored and tied to the wall, and it seemed that every one was playing a different style of loud music. The one closest to us on the wall was playing 70's dance tunes, with girls dancing non-stop on the rear deck. Today I took the dinghy out into Biscayne Bay and just happened to be following a sportfishing boat with a young lady dancing on the foredeck as they headed out to sea. Was she, as it appeared to me, dancing topless? It seemed to rude to get out the binoculars to be sure, but either way, ya gotta love Miami.

The antics of the boats trying to anchor here are also entertaining. I watched a poor fellow drop his hook three times just a few feet in front of a big trawler, as if he was trying to anchor right on top of the bigger boat, while the trawler owner stood at his bow trying to wave him off. This morning a powerboat snagged our anchor chain (apparently he was driving around the harbor with his anchor still hanging in the water) and spun his all around. I came within inches of being chopped into pieces by a small boat's propellor while snorkeling to change a shaft zinc and check our fault for being crazy enough to get in the water here. However, a lot of people swim. As I said, it's a zoo, but we had a good time at the beach (where Laura got to go swimming for the first time in four months) and play on the playground. There is a fee for anchoring ($15/night, honor system) but that gets you full use of the park including trash disposal, and there is a free pump-out.

We've got the alarm set for 4:30 AM so we can get an early start for Bimini, not much more than forty miles away on the other side of the Gulf Stream. I have reservations at Blue Water Marina there ($30/night with power, $40/with). We asked around the harbor and didn't find a buddy boat, but later a single-hander named John from a Valiant 40 called Chance came over and may be going with us in the morning.

Stiltsville House>

Photo: One of the seven remaining houses in "Stiltsville" out in Biscayne Bay, with the towers of Miami Beach in the background. The Biscayne Channel, which we took in to the Bay, goes right by this famous community. Supposedly built in the prohibition era, these houses miles from dry land are slowly disappearing as a result of hurricanes and restrictions on repair.

January 8, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
After the chaos of No Name Harbor, it's wonderful to be in the laid-back town of Bimini. We had a pleasant crossing today, with the anchor up at 5:00 AM and the boat out the Biscayne Channel into deep water by 6:15 AM. We never heard back from John on Chance and his boat was dark when we left the harbor so we assumed he decided to stay put with his friends on Cutty Wren. We motor-sailed halfway across the Gulf Stream and then sailed the second half on a close reach in about two foot seas. We noticed a couple of sailboats converging as we neared Bimini and as it turned out five boats arrived at about the same time. We floundered around looking for the new entrance channel, while Merlin and Pryde went in the old channel. The new channel is directly off the Bimini Sands Marina and marked with mid-sized nuns and cans that weren't particularly visible at a distance. Just head for the reddish condos at Bimini Sands on South Bimini and you'll see them. In the past the channel into Bimini was known to be shallow but we never saw less then ten feet of water in the new approach.

It was well into the afternoon by the time I had cleared Customs and Immigration, but we had time for a trip to the beach. Last year we checked in at Cat Cay, which had a well protected marina but little for us to do during the time we were stuck there waiting for weather. There's one restaurant on Cat but the rest of the island, including the beaches, is off-limits. Bimini is a much better place to be stuck, with lots of beaches, shops, and things to see. That's good, because we will probably be here for a while since there is rough weather forecast.

Coming back to the Bahamas was an expense and a complication in the larger scheme of our return to Tennessee. Watching Laura play in the surf today at a postcard beach made it all seem worthwhile.

Wreck on Bimini Laura and Mom enter the wreck

Photos: (1) This wreck is near the entrance to Bimini Harbor. That is, I mean the wreck in the background, not Annie. Not that Annie is a wreck! But I digress...the important thing is that moments after this photograph was taken, a crab attacked us and my brand new polarized shades were washed away by a rogue wave. Consternation! (2) Wreck diving can be dangerous! Fortunately, this one is out of the water, so even novices can make a safe penetration.

January 9, 2007 - Bimini, Bahamas
A busy, busy day started at 8:30 AM with the Cruizeheimer Net. We did some actual work today (okay, Annie did most or all of it) when we did laundry. Later we went to the beach and flew our kites. In the evening about a dozen cruisers enjoyed a happy hour at the marina, including the crews of Dues Paid, Hairball, Merlin, Walkabout, Pryde, and other boats I probably missed.

Happy Hour Crowd

Photo: Conversation was interesting at today's happy hour.

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