After a fabulous day sail from Bimini I was soon negotiating the bridges and various forms of water transport from kayaks to super yachts, and decided on one of the anchorages I had previously identified…just north of Las Olas Boulevard bridge.
The Feature Image above is my view from the boat at anchor in the Middle River near to Las Olas Boulevard bridge.
My first full day in Florida was dedicated to visiting US Customs to clear in to the USA, which I did but in all was very time consuming. On my second day I left the anchorage and headed up the New River through four bridges to Cooley’s Landing marina which will be my home for a month.
It was great to be back at Cooley’s Landing marina…the New River is busy with all sorts of water craft from kayaks and paddle boards to tiki bars and superyachts, and it is the start of the Riverwalk which is perfect for the start of my morning run. I have a list of jobs to do and things to buy for me and the boat. It is ridiculously expensive to import anything into the Bahamas and so I had simple things like running shoes to buy to organising a boat lift out to do the usual maintenance jobs. I soon made some friends on other boats in the marina, and got the bike out for some leisure rides down to the beach and visiting stores around Fort Lauderdale. But then….less than a week after arriving I had my bike stolen off the boat in the early hours of the morning. I heard a noise but in the seconds it took to rush out on deck the thief had proved to be faster than me! A friend took me around a few pawn shops to look for my bike and to see if anything was of interest to me, but found nothing. So I bought a new bike (and a new combination lock) from Citizen Bikes in Dania Beach, and it is proving to be a great bike.
The winter weather here in South Florida is just fabulous, and with fairly relaxed covid restrictions and outdoor seating, it has been possible to meet a great crowd of sailors at a local yacht club, find a few craft beer bars and riverside restaurants with new friends, watch a movie in an old church and listen to a Rod Stewart tribute act at a big birthday party…the photograph alongside was taken inside the Savor Cinema which started out its life as a church built in 1926. In fact I’ve been having such a good time I’ve booked a second month! My vague plan to sail over to Cuba has been ditched as there are still covid restrictions that affect travel around Cuba. So I will sail the south coast of Cuba next year and enjoy more of Florida this year. Once I leave Fort Lauderdale I will head down to Key West and then sail across to Mexico….but that will be another post!
So I have a new list of things to do including my eldest son visiting from New York, spending a few days in Miami, and my new yoga classes at Tarpon River Brewery…what a perfect combination!
In my second month at Cooley’s Landing marina I completed many boat jobs such as engine service, life raft service and sail cleaning and repairs, and I gave my old dinghy away and bought a used but almost new West Marine dinghy. My old US friend, Dennis came over from the Bahamas and stayed with me before heading north to Maine, and at the same time Florent & Chloé, the French boat hitchhikers arrived in Florida and stayed with me overnight while cycling down to Key West. A few days later my eldest son, Alec flew down from New York to stay for six days. Some days he had to work but we had the evenings to explore Fort Lauderdale and a couple of days free…one of which we went down to Miami. Alec has been offered a promotion to go work in the London office, and so we’re both leaving the US during May! Then my friend, Lucy from New York came down to Florida with her old university friend. Both had been working from home, in New York and Colombus, Ohio, and decided that working in Florida was warmer, and with less coronavirus restrictions. The photograph on the right is just one of the many colourful lifeguard huts at Miami Beach.
I also had an unexpected visitor when an iguana managed to get on the boat and masterfully evade capture! Eventually I managed to capture Iggy in a blanket and off he/she/they swam ashore.
I took a heavy fall on an early morning run down to the beach and the injuries curtailed my running and yoga activities for a while. Then I started running again too soon and picked up a dose of man flu! It must be an age thing because while here I celebrated my 67th birthday! Again I went down to Miami Beach to celebrate with my Florida sailing friend, Sheila. I had pre-purchased a new iPhone 12 to be picked up at the Miami Beach Apple store. A week later I also bought a new MacBook Air as my old MacBook Pro was now so slow.
I hadn’t realised that the many local boatyards were getting busy because people could see an end to the coronavirus restrictions and wanted their boats prepared for the sailing season, and it proved impossible to book my preferred boatyard within a sensible timescale and then difficult to find a boatyard to suit me….many Florida yards do not allow you to live onboard in the yard nor do your own work. Eventually, I found a boatyard further up the New River which was close to small hotels for me to use during my stay. But it is now early May and I need to move south quickly! I’ve been here so long that I met my Swiss sailing friends, Reto & Stefanie and their new baby, Gwendolyn Sea as they passed through Fort Lauderdale airport en route back to the Bahamas and then met them again as they sailed back across to Fort Lauderdale on their way north.
All boat works were successfully completed and I needed just a couple more days in Cooley’s Landing marina to get myself and the boat shipshape and ready to move on. My crew, Sheila joined me and we motored out of the New River and then south down the Inter Coastal Waterway to Loggerheads marina in Hollywood Beach. Here I was able to meet New London, Connecticut friends, Derek & Grace on yacht Maria Diem before they head back north and I head south. The final day in Hollywood was primarily to clear out of Fort Lauderdale Customs & Immigration before heading south, and it was so quick and easy that we spent the afternoon walking Hollywood Boardwalk. The following day we left Loggerheads marina under wind, rain and cloud although it cleared up through the day as we motored along the Intra Coastal Waterway past Miami and down to Key Biscayne. After six hours we anchored in No Name Harbor and planned to stay about five days through some heavy weather. Key Biscayne was my final US destination in 2020 as I prepared to sail across to Bimini in the Bahamas. Today, the world is very different and this time I will sail south to Key West and onwards to Mexico…but that will be a later post! No Name Harbor has a new sunset bar which makes the place even nicer than last year. We met Shari & Robin who I met in the Bahamas last year…they were on Yacht Wild Goat which is now on the land in Florida until the Covid restrictions are lifted, and meanwhile they are travelling the USA in a van! We also were able to watch the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at 9am while sat at a bar in Winn-Dixie supermarket.
The strong winds eventually died down and we left No Name Harbor as the the sun was rising and sailed south all day down the Hawks Channel at speeds hitting seven knots until we reached Rodriguez Key, a small island near to Key Largo. Again we were up and on the move as the sun rose next morning and yet again sailed all day down to Boot Key, near to Marathon. There are few anchorages in the Hawks Channel and so our daily mileage was dictated by decent overnight stops. Boot Key is at the start of the famous Seven Mile Bridge. It was so easy getting away from Boot Key anchorage to head further south in lighter winds to Key West where we arrived in the City Marina at 5pm… which gave us time to visit the Southernmost Point before watching the famous sunset from Mallory Square.
Key West is such a cool place with a fabulous history…we visited the Government of the Conch Republic which was born in 1982 in response to the United States Border Patrol setting up a border roadblock of the Florida Keys. Since the United States insisted on treating the Keys like a foreign country, Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow seceded from the union and declared war! On 23 April 1982 the Conch Republic flag was raised over city hall and the schooner Western Union enters the harbor and attacked the US Coast Guard Cutter Diligence with water balloons, conch fritters and stale Cuban bread. The Diligence fought back with water hoses and thus commenced the Great Battle of the Conch Republic. Mayor Wardlow surrendered and demanded foreign aid from the United States (which still hasn’t been received). The roadblock was quietly lifted and the glorious Conch Republic was born! At this point I am flying the courtesy flag of the Conch Republic and have applied for a Conch Republic passport and I recognise that the Conch Republic is a Sovereign State of Mind.
We also visited Hemingway House, the famous Green Parrot bar at Mile Zero, the cemetery which has a gruesome history, the Smallest Bar in Key West and Sloppy Joe’s bar (where I gleefully watched Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final). Duval Street is the main drag and most streets are full of pastel coloured conch style buildings. We also went on a late night Ghost & Gravestone tour.
Then all of a sudden were full of water and diesel, provisioned, cleared out of Key West and the United States, and heading out of Key West Bight marina on our way to Mexico!