April 17-20, 2017: Offshore from Fernandina Beach, FL, to Beaufort, SC, to Charleston, SC

We left Fernandina Beach on April 17, 2017.  The overnight offshore passage from Fernandina Beach to Beaufort couldn’t have been more different from the last one we undertook (Miami to Vero Beach).  The winds were very light (0-10 knots), the seas were low (1-2 foot waves), and the wave period was long.  That made for some comfy motorsailing with the main only.

It was wonderful and relaxing to be back offshore and out of the ICW madness.  There wasn’t much to see other than the hypnotic motion of the waves and the sun sparkling off of the water.

DSCF4013

Before dark we put a reef in the main and rolled out the staysail.  We needed to slow down, so we cut the engine entirely and sailed for four or five hours.  Even with the light winds, we were going 3.5 to 4 knots; we must have been in some kind of favorable current, because we never would have speeds like that with such light winds.

While sailing offshore is more relaxing in many ways from travelling the ICW, there is still the press of a schedule, at least the way we are doing it in overnight hops.  If we were going multiple days, the schedule wouldn’t come into play as much.  Out of caution and prudence, we don’t like to enter inlets in the dark.  If we are making great speed offshore, sometimes we need to slow down so that we can hit the inlet at the right time.  This was such a case; we were going way under our normal speed so that we could hit Port Royal Inlet at first light.

I know I rave about night sailing, but there is something magical about silently cutting through the black waves, the hundreds of stars shining overhead, the moon rising bloody orange and then eventually setting bright white.  It’s like existing outside of time somehow.  When the sun finally rises, it’s like checking back into reality.

When we passed the Tybee Inlet near Savannah, we saw many huge container ships staging to enter the inlet.  Because we have AIS, we can get quite a bit of information about each ship (as they can about us).  The nice thing is that when we call them on the radio, they are always professional and treat us as equals even though their lifeboats are larger than our vessel.

We came back inshore at the Port Royal Inlet and took a slip at the Port Royal Landing Marina.  We hadn’t been in a marina in months, and the luxury of being able to just step off the boat onto a dock was dizzying.  And fresh water, all the fresh water we could want! The marina itself was everything we had hoped for.  The transient dock is a long face pier; it is floating concrete and looks brand new.  The showers and heads were spotless, the staff was exceptionally helpful, and there’s even a courtesy car. And did I mention the limitless fresh water? Oh, and the endless electricity because we could plug in at the dock? I think I turned every light on down below just because I could.

We borrowed the courtesy car to take our jerry cans to a gas station for filling.  The marina’s fuel dock is down due to hurricane damage.  We also went to a hardware store and ate lunch at Agave, a Mexican restaurant.  After some much needed showers, we took a nap (which was almost more needed than the showers).  We would come back to Port Royal Landing Marina in a heartbeat.

These two days were 27 ¾ hours for 121.8 nm.

After an essentially 24-hour stay at Port Royal Landing Marina, we left at noon on April 19, 2017, to do another offshore leg, this time to Charleston.  It would have made more navigation sense to simply do a two-day offshore passage from Fernandina Beach to Charleston, but our marina reservation in Charleston didn’t begin until April 20.  We had a heck of a time getting the reservation at all, as it is concurrently Charleston Race Week and an in-water boat show.

The winds were freakishly light on this passage, averaging between 5 and 10 knots.  The seas ranged from glassy swells to maybe one foot.  We raised the main basically to act as an air brake to keep us from swinging back and forth in the swells, but that was all it was doing.  Before dark we put a reef in the main and rolled out the staysail.

Our overnight passage was uneventful weather-wise but jam-packed with other ships.  We were travelling through a busy shipping corridor, and the AIS was constantly lighting up with large cargo vessels.  There were also a number of large fishing boats out, some of which did not have AIS.  Fishing boats make me nervous because they are dragging large nets, and it’s important to stay away from those.  At night, depth perception is less reliable, so it’s a little nerve wracking.

Like our passage from Fernandina to Beaufort, the challenge lay not in maximizing speed but in making sure we would arrive at our destination at the right time.  It can be a complicated dance, and these were the parameters we had:

  • We had to leave Port Royal Landing Marina by a certain time because the incoming day’s boats were starting to arrive.  Our departure time was earlier than we would have preferred.
  • We wanted to enter Charleston Harbor in daylight.
  • Our slip in Charleston wouldn’t become available until noon.
  • The current was at maximum strength at noon.
  • We wanted to be there no later than noon in order to take advantage of empty spaces along the dock, thus making our docking experience easier.  The later the day gets, the more crowded the dock gets.
  • The boats surrounding our spot on the megadock are VERY large and VERY expensive.

Given our total distance and those parameters, we calculated the speed we should travel.  Sounds easy.  Ahh, but there’s more.  We can raise a sail to make our ride more comfortable, but when you raise the sail, that increases speed.  Given the fluid (pardon the pun) nature of the wind and water, we are never travelling exactly at the “correct” speed.  So for the whole voyage we are constantly managing the boat’s speed.  It’s a challenge.  But when all was said and done, we arrived within five minutes of our target time and as the dockhand was driving up in his golf cart to assist.  Boom shaka laka!

Entering Charleston Harbor this time was a much different experience than when we entered it in mid-January.  That time the entire harbor was socked in with thick fog; this time it was crystal clear, and we got to see the city and its many sights.

DSCF4017

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

We took a spot at the Charleston City Marina megadock and are tucked underneath—literally—an enormous sailing vessel named Athena.  Her bowsprit covers probably 10 feet of our boat.  Kestrel isn’t a huge boat to start off with, but we feel positively puny now! We plan on staying in Charleston into next week to wait for a good weather window for our next offshore jump.

These two days were 23 ¼ hours for 87.1 nm.

 

Posted in FL, Marinas, Offshore, SC

April 15-16, 2017: St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach, FL

We left St. Augustine on April 15 for a short trip to an anchorage off of Pine Island.  While it only took us a couple of hours to get there, we were treating it as an investment in the next day, which was to be long.

We had never been to this anchorage area before and were quite pleased with it.  It is easy off and on to the ICW, was calm and quiet, and had great holding.  There is a noticeable current running through the area, but despite the fact that the boat switched directions, we never really felt the current.  The anchorage is ringed by marsh grass and trees, and we saw many snowy egrets.

DSCF3964

We anchored in 10.4 feet of water and shared the anchorage with three other boats by the time darkness fell.

This day was 2 ½ hours for 12.1 nm.

On April 16, we left our anchorage at Pine Island and headed up the ICW to Fernandina Beach.  The Fernandina Harbor Marina took a real hit from Hurricane Matthew, but at this point in their repairs, they have 12 mooring balls available.  We called first thing in the morning to reserve a ball; the marina accepts same-day reservations only for the mooring balls.

We certainly had no shortage of stimulus as the day wore on.  First of all, it was Easter Sunday.  Second, it was a beautifully sunny day.  Third, it’s the ICW near heavily-populated areas.  Add those together, and you get ten million motorboats and jet skis flying up and down the channel at top speed.

This stretch of the ICW is bordered by interesting houses, some fancy, some not.  We saw two of our favorite statues at two different houses:  Ronald McDonald and The Hamburglar.

DSCF3968a   DSCF3972a

Why put those in your backyard? Who knows.  All I know is that I look for them and give thanks that there are wacky people like this left in the world.

 

 

Later we saw a homeowner standing on his dock, spraying down into the water with his garden hose.  It looked quite odd.  As we got closer, we could see that he was hosing down a manatee’s back.  The manatee then stuck his head out of the water so that the man could hose down his face.  This went on for minutes as we passed by.  It was too cute.  Spa day for the manatee, I guess.

We also saw dolphins all day.  The highlight for me was seeing a pod with a cow and calf.  There is nothing—and I do mean nothing—cuter than a dolphin baby.  I’m a sucker for puppies and foals, but dolphin calves are so cute they make me want to scream.

It was a great bird-watching day as well.  I saw my usuals:  osprey, brown pelicans, great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, and laughing gulls.  But this day we also saw white pelicans and, for the first time, swallow tailed kites.  I get a kick out of identifying birds, but the gulls and terns are very difficult for me to discern.  I’m going to have to buy an identification book for them.

The only hairy part of the day was going under the San Pablo Atlantic Blvd. Bridge.  It’s a fixed bridge that is notorious for the fast current that runs beneath it, particularly at max flood.  I’ll give you one guess when we hit it.  The current was so strong beneath the bridge that there were standing waves, whitecaps and all.  We also had a 3.3 knot opposing current.  The Captain lined Kestrel up, murmured endearments to her, and in we went.  Now I know how clothes in a washing machine feel! We made it through rattled but unscathed and kept motoring up to the Fernandina Harbor Marina moorings.

The moorings were all full when we arrived, with the exception of one left for us.  Thank goodness we made a reservation! We hadn’t been to this field before.  It was certainly easy to navigate in and out of, but it is also right next to a large manufacturing plant of some sort.  The air smelled strongly of plywood; it wasn’t a gross smell, but it wasn’t great either.  But for a one-night stop, that field fit the bill.

This day was 10 hours for 42.6 nm.

Posted in Anchorages, FL, ICW, Moorings

April 10-14, 2017: St. Augustine, FL

We spent five nights on a mooring at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina.  The moorings were full pretty much the whole time we were here.  Since it’s later in the spring, the tourist traffic has picked up dramatically, and the town is bursting at the seams.

Whenever we go to a mooring field, we’re always wondering the condition of the mooring ball and whether it will hold us.  Any concerns we might have had here were allayed when the Spirit of South Carolina took a ball near us.  She is a 140 foot long sailing schooner of the type built during the 1800s.

DSCF3939a

It was built by two Charleston businessmen and is used primarily for youth educational programs in sailing, SC history, and the low country ecosystem.  She is based out of Charleston Maritime Center in Charleston Harbor.  This week there was a Boy Scout troop aboard.  It refreshes your faith in humanity seeing those kids having a great time and working as crew; it will have a positive impact on their lives forever.

Since we had already “touristed” ourselves thoroughly here on the way south, we took it easy while we were here this time.  We walked about 2 miles to the shopping center with a Winn Dixie and West Marine to do some shopping.  The West Marine is mid-sized, and the Winn Dixie is huge.  We also ate lunch there at Yummy Wok, which was a fantastic little take-out Chinese place.  Chinese place:  check.

One of the neat things about walking everywhere is that fun opportunities arise unexpectedly.  Walking 2 miles to the grocery store isn’t always fun, but this time, we passed a wonderful farmstand with absolutely gorgeous fruits and vegetables.  The owner kept cutting slices of fruits as samples to entice the shoppers, and the peaches and watermelons were to die for, and we left full.  I got 3 pounds of tomatoes for $2.50.  My absolute favorite sandwich is tomato with Duke’s mayonnaise (it has to be Duke’s) and salt and pepper on squishy white bread.  Heaven! Had we been driving, we probably wouldn’t have stopped because the parking was tight.

DSCF3944a

Another neat sight that is best drunk in while walking.  This bus was covered with sweetness and wonderful thoughts.

We ate lunch one day and dinner another day at Borrillo’s, which is a terrific pizza place on San Marco Avenue.  It’s a little bit of a walk from the marina but well worth it.  It’s in “uptown,” whereas the tourist side is “downtown.”  The prices are cheap, the quality is high, and the portions are humungous.  Pizza:  check.

We didn’t just shop and eat, though.  This time we went to the pubic library, which is great.  It has lots of seating at tables, plenty of outlets, and smoking fast wifi.  We spent the afternoon there working on routes, downloading movies, and checking the internet.  There’s a huge park outside with an honest-to-goodness working calliope.  I wanted to ride, but it felt a little creepy because I’d be the only adult with a bunch of kids.   The library is also a hike, about 2 miles, but an easy walk along sidewalks.

DSCF3946

We also did boat work like refilling our diesel jerry jugs and changing the oil and all filters.  The marina has an oil recycling tank, which is great.  We make it a point to dispose of our oil properly, and we are so grateful when it’s easily done.

Our plan is to leave tomorrow for an anchorage about 14 miles north near Pine Island.  That will be a really short day, but it sets us up for a long leg to Fernandina Beach the next day.  Then the plan is to hop offshore overnight to Beaufort, SC.

We wanted to just keep going, bypassing Beaufort and heading to Charleston instead, but that didn’t work out.  We haven’t found any decent anchorages in Charleston, and the marinas are all booked solid due to race week and a boat show.  We managed to get a reservation at Charleston City Marina for late next week.  Bypassing Beaufort and going straight to Charleston would work with the weather, but we’d have no place to go once we got there.  Rats!

We’re eager to get out of the ICW and see some open water again.

Posted in FL, Moorings

April 7-10, 2017: Vero Beach to St. Augustine, FL

We left Vero Beach on April 7, 2017, and had an uneventful day motoring up the ICW to an anchorage in Melbourne, FL.  We have been travelling offshore for so long now that we had to get used to the ICW again.  There is a consistent stream of northbound traffic, and the VHF radio is alive with constant chatter between boats.

DSCF3875

Ahh yes, back to the ICW bridges.

It was sunny but in the mid- to high 60’s, and I ended up putting on a hat and gloves to keep warm.  The breeze off the water can really chill you after a few hours, and I’d rather just avoid getting cold altogether.  The wind was blowing 15+ knots on the nose (of course), and we were taking quite a bit of misty spray.  We had an opposing current until we made it through the Sebastian Inlet area; once through there, our speed picked up.

We anchored just north of Melbourne Bridge in 10.4 feet of water.  We had anchored in this spot on the way south and really liked it.  There are a number of crab pots to dodge, but other than that, it’s a nice anchorage.  We were all alone that night and enjoyed the solitude of anchoring out.  The moorings at Vero Beach are terrific, but we have missed the freedom of anchoring out.

This day was 7 ¾ hours for 30.7 nm.

On April 8, 2017, we motored up the ICW from the Melbourne Bridge to Titusville.  We put the enclosure up in the cockpit to cut some of the wind chill, and that made our journey more pleasant.  The winds were light, and the sun was out.  But the day was excrutiatingly boring, as only a day on the ICW can be.

DSCF3886

Gotta appreciate the humor.

We caught a mooring at the Titusville Municipal Marina.  There are anchoring opportunities nearby, but the moorings are comfortably spaced and inexpensive ($19.26 with BoatUS discount).  We draw 5’ when heavily loaded with fuel and water, so we caught a mooring ball on the outside of the field on the river side where the water is deeper.

This day was 7 ½ hours for 34.8 nm.

On April 9, 2017, we motored up the ICW from Titusville to Daytona Beach.  We continued our place in the parade of northbound boats, and at this point, I feel like we know many of them.  The weather was gorgeously sunny and a tad warmer.  The winds were light.

We had tons of wildlife sightings throughout the day, including dolphin that stuck their faces out of the water to peer up at the boat.  I know they aren’t really smiling at me, but it makes me laugh with pleasure anyway.  As we transited the Haulover Canal, I finally saw manatee.  That area is known for having a large manatee population, but I didn’t see any when we went through earlier this year.  It was exciting to see them, even though they were basically just brown blobs surfacing and then receding.

 

DSCF3881The Haulover Canal has a bascule bridge with one span permanently raised.  The canal is quite narrow and has been choked with motorboats each time we’ve been through.  This view of the boat in from of us gives you an idea of how little room there is to maneuver.

It seems that the ICW has two faces:  soul-crushingly boring or terrifyingly busy.  This day was the terrifying variety, as it was a weekend day with gorgeous weather.  The boat traffic was insane, particularly the damnable jet skis and the small motorboats driven by maroons, as Bugs Bunny would say.  It got manic in New Smyrna, and I had to give the five-blast airhorn warning on two separate occasions.

We had an anchorage picked out in Daytona Beach near the Seabreeze Bridge, but friends J and C on m/v Seamark were anchoring south of the (now defunct) Memorial Bridge.  Once they got there, they radioed us with depths and condition, and we decided to join them.  We anchored off of the red 44 in 11 feet of water.  There are some boats on moorings in that location, but there is room for anchored boats as well.  By the end of the night, there were eight or nine anchored boats, and it was a good anchorage for us.

This day was 9 ½ hours for 41.3 nm.

On April 10, 2017, we motored up the ICW from Daytona Beach to St. Augustine.  It was another beautiful day, and we were again in a pack of northbound boats.  The current was kind to us, and once we got past the Matanzas Inlet, the current from the St. Augustine Inlet sucked us along.

This leg of the trip has a few problem shoaling areas, particularly where water from the Matanzas Inlet joins the ICW at mile marker 792.5.  There is a sharp turn with four green marks, and when we were going south, notes on Active Captain had us hugging the red side tightly, which feels like it puts you practically on shore.  We knew that there was dredging going on between mile markers 792 and 795, and we were worried that we’d have to dodge dredges through that narrow channel.

This is where the miracle of the cruising community comes in.  Other cruising sailboats were radioing conditions back to those of us that were behind them.  Fortunately, the dredges weren’t running on that day.  We ended up leading another sailboat, s/v Northern Goose, through that tricky spot as they draw 7 feet.  We were able to give them depths on our track as we went through, and that made their trip a little less hair-raising.

Everyone says it, but it’s true:  the cruising community is tight-knit and incredibly generous with help, encouragement, and information.  We’ve seen time and time again how cruisers help one another without hesitation and how quickly friendships are formed.  It’s a wonderful world to be in.

Fortunately we had made reservations for a mooring at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, as the field was slam full when we arrived.  We got a ball mid-way down the south field, so our dinghy ride isn’t too long.  We’re too far out for a decent wifi connection, but hey, you can’t have everything.

This day was 9 ¼ hours for 47.3 nm.

Posted in Anchorages, FL, ICW, Moorings

Vero Beach, March 27-April 6, 2017

We ended up staying in Vero Beach from March 27-April 6, 2017.  As one of our friends put it, we got “velcroed” but good.   We were on a mooring ball at the farthest north end of the field, and it was completely quiet and peaceful; the no see-ums could get bad at dusk, but that small inconvenience was worth the beauty.  One morning we woke up and had two great horned owls sitting on our spreader, hooting away.  The folks on the boat moored next to us had a pit bull named Tugboat, and he was an incredibly entertaining neighbor.  Old Mr. Tuggy Tuggerson came out to see us every time we dinghied by, and you could just see him measuring the distance between our two vessels to see if he could jump.

We got many boat projects accomplished and took time to play as well.  We rented a car from Enterprise for a surprisingly low cost and absolutely drove the wheels off of it.

Our dear liveaboard friends M & J drove down and met us for the afternoon.  They brought their dog Scout, who is possibly the sweetest creature ever to walk the earth.  She’s never met a stranger.  It was wonderful catching up with all three of them.

We found a Columbia outlet store, which was right on time because our clothes are really taking a beating from laundromats, hard wear, and hard work.  Of course we also ate our way through town:  donuts (Tasty-O), Mexican (Ay Jalisco), and Nino’s Café (pizza).  I can highly recommend all three.

IMG_0819a

 

For those confused by the food ordering process, Tasty-O posted this handy instructional guide.

One of the neatest things about Vero Beach is its location on “the Treasure Coast,” a stretch of Florida coastline where a large Spanish treasure fleet sank in 1715.  We visited the McLarty Treasure Museum, which was the best $2 admission we’ve ever spent.  The museum is run by the state of Florida and is filled with interesting exhibits regarding the 1715 Plate Fleet.  Since we had a car, we spent four days metal detecting on various beaches.  We didn’t find any silver or gold or jewelry, but we did find coins, a butter knife, a set of keys, and an AA chip.  We performed quite a bit of beach cleanup, collecting bottle caps and pull tabs as we found them.

DSCF3856

Bonsteel Beach, one of the areas we detected.  It was wonderfully deserted.

While we were at the marina, full scale replicas of the Pinta and Santa Maria (of Christopher Columbus fame) arrived.  They were offering tours, and it was so cool to see how small the boats really were.  All of the food was stored below decks, and the crew slept on the decks.  Those were some tough, tough people.

IMG_0807

The Pinta (left) and Santa Maria (right).

We finally had to tear ourselves away, and on April 7, we departed for an anchorage in Melbourne, FL.

 

Posted in FL, Moorings

March 26-27, 2017: Key Biscayne Offshore to Vero Beach

On March 26, 2017, we left on an overnight offshore passage from Key Biscayne to Vero Beach.  The forecast was for 10-15 knot winds and 2-3 foot seas.  This is ideal weather for us, as Kestrel is a heavy boat that doesn’t really pick up speed until we have at least 12 knot winds.

We left Key Biscayne through the Florida Cut, which parallels the Stiltville Channel but reduces some mileage.  We avoided Government Cut through Miami as once through that circus was enough for us.  We started out motorsailing with one reef in the main and one reef in the genoa.  It soon became clear that every weather forecast we read—and we read quite a few—was dead wrong.  It ended up being a challenging trip but very satisfying once it was over.

For our entire offshore leg from Key Biscayne to Ft. Pierce Inlet, the winds were in the high teens, gusting 20+ knots, and pretty much directly on the nose.  Kestrel does not point high and doesn’t like being close hauled, and the hours of sail tending and hand steering to keep the sails filled was tiring for both of us.  But we cut the engine and sailed essentially all day, which is always exhilarating.  The work was well worth it, and we continue to stretch our skills.  The day was beautiful, with lots of sun and bright blue skies.

We stayed in the Gulf Stream from Miami to Lake Worth, and that gave us a nice speed boost.  It also gave us 4-6 foot breaking waves with frequent 8-footers thrown in for good measure.  We had an easterly wind with a northerly component, and having the wind contrary to the north-going Gulf Stream made for some tall seas.  Going closer to the coast did not reduce the wave height or period but did cut our speed almost in half.

It was far too rough to go below and prepare meals, even with my galley belt attached to the stove to help keep me in one spot.  We ended up living off of granola, cheese and crackers, coffee, and cold drinks snatched from the fridge.  I learned a good lesson, which was have food prepared even if the weather is forecast to be mild.

Before dark we put two reefs in the main, furled the genoa, and rolled out the staysail.  This kept the boat balanced but kept sail handling to a minimum in the dark.  It was a new moon, so it was pitch dark.  We timed our entry into the Ft. Pierce Inlet at daybreak and had an uneventful trip up the ICW to Vero Beach.  After the 20+ hours of pounding up to that point, motoring up the ICW was like sitting on a conveyor belt.

DSCF3839

Sunrise after a night at sea is always invigorating.  Here the sun rises behind a typical Gulf Stream squall.

We got a mooring ball at the Vero Beach City Marina, our old stomping grounds.  While this was a tough trip, it was one we’re glad to have undertaken in those conditions.

This passage was 28 hours for 136 nm.

Posted in FL, Offshore

March 20-25, 2017: Key Biscayne, FL

On March 19 we sailed from Marathon to Rodriguez Key (8 1/4 hrs, 45.7 nm), anchored overnight, and then sailed from Rodriguez Key to an anchorage in Key Biscayne Bight (10 3/4 hrs, 48.7 nm).  This is where we anchored when we were on our way down the Keys, and we really like it.

We ended up staying in Key Biscayne a little longer than planned as we had some strong winds move in, closing an offshore weather window for a few days.  We had two days of strong northeasterly winds, but our anchorage provided enough protection to keep boat life pleasant.

There are three primary anchorage areas off of Key Biscayne, going from north to south:  the Bight (where we are), Hurricane Harbor, and No Name Harbor.  No Name Harbor is at the southern tip of the key and is contained within Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  We dinghied down to No Name Harbor to visit the park and found an absolute gem.

No Name Harbor itself is pretty tiny.  There were many sailboats and power boats anchored inside the harbor and a few outside the harbor in Biscayne Bay.  Things looked a little tight for me inside the harbor, and if we anchored at the southern end of Key Biscayne, I’d chose the anchorage outside of No Name Harbor itself.

DSCF3795

The harbor has a sturdy concrete seawall ringing it with many cleats and ladders; the sea wall was about four feet tall from the waterline.  Boats can tie up to the seawall, and there is a section marked “for dinghies only” although we saw them on all sections of the wall.  Dockage for any boat is $8 per day or $20 for overnight anchorage, and payment is on the honor system at a kiosk.

The park is 494 acres at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, with shoreline on both the Atlantic ocean and Biscayne Bay.  One of the things that we found most interesting about the park was its flora.  In 1992, Hurricane Andrew uprooted a forest of non-native Australian pine trees and left the park nearly treeless.  Some forward thinkers took the opportunity to reinstall only native plants, and the park is now a truly native ecosystem.  There are both sandy walking trails and asphalt biking trails all through the park.

DSCF3802

A view of the anchorage outside of No Name Harbor from a walking trail within the park.

Under the trees it is cool and shady, and the rich smell of heat and decomposition makes it feel intensely tropical.

DSCF3826

We saw many iguanas within the park, skittering around in the lower growth.

We walked the trails and then climbed the 109 steps to the top of the Cape Florida lighthouse.  It dates from 1825 and offers an amazing view of the key.

DSCF3806

After seeing so many lighthouses up north, it’s strange to see one framed in palm trees.

DSCF3820

A view of the southern tip of Key Biscayne from the top of the lighthouse.  

After sweating it up walking the trails and touring the lighthouse, we walked over to the beach and did some snorkeling.  The beach was pristine white sand and is noted as being one of the top 10 beaches in the United States.  I don’t know who rates them, but I’d say it was a very nice beach.  Although there are no reefs in the area, there are beds of sea grass to examine for smaller critters.  We had a fun time snorkeling and diving to the bottom to look at shells.

DSCF3817

Another aerial view thanks to the lighthouse.

The next day we again dinghied to No Name Harbor and then walked into town.  The entire town has an upscale tropical vacation feel; there are orderly palm trees planted in the median and many gated homes and condos.  We saw a clothing store that offered “fashion under $100,” which I suppose is the local equivalent of the Dollar Store.

There is a system of trails, bike paths, and paved sidewalks that run the length of the key called the Rickenbacker Trail, so the walking is safe and easy.  Crandon Blvd. on Key Biscayne offers most everything that a cruiser needs, all within a 2 mile walking distance of No Name Harbor:  a Winn Dixie grocery store, an Ace hardware store, a CVS pharmacy, a library with free wifi (no library card required), a post office, and restaurants galore.  The only thing I didn’t see was a laundromat, but I wasn’t really looking.  There are bus stops on practically every corner.  The Winn Dixie was large and very well stocked.  We got a few provisions and then had a great lunch at Sir Pizza.

The Captain and I both agree that this is a great stop.  This anchorage is quiet, even with the partying on The Sandbar.  There is plenty of room for boats, and the holding seems to be great even in 25 knot winds.  On a calm day we would be comfortable dinghying the 3 ½ miles across Biscayne Bay to Dinner Key.

But as much as we like it here, it’s time to keep going north.  Tomorrow we plan to head offshore overnight to the Ft. Pierce inlet and then through the ICW to Vero Beach.

Posted in Anchorages, FL