Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Everything Is Better in the Keys!!

After yet another hassle with the yard last Friday, we finally splashed Gypsies (for anyone thinking of using Seminole Marine I'd suggest giving it another thought...) and got back on the waterway! Gypsies looks so good with her freshly painted bottom and polished bow!!!
Man did it feel great to be back on the water - the boat kitties were especially happy to get out of all that dirt and noise! We had a truly bizarre experience in the northern section of Lake Worth - we were just meandering along not bothering anyone when off in the distance we saw this boat heading towards us shooting out a rooster tail larger then anything we've ever seen.
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's...
No more than 30 seconds later we were buzzed by this boat so close that we took some of its spray up on the fly bridge - think Top Gun when Maverick buzzed the airport tower!
Miss Geico in Lake Worth
In shock and disbelief we watched as the same boat got to the end of the lake, turned around and headed right back at us - it had to be going well over 100 miles an hour in a channel that was no wider than maybe 50 or so feet!!! Not once, not twice but four times this boat screamed by us sending spray up at us each time and causing near heart failure - if whoever was driving had lost control we all would have died with the idiot!!!! With our stabilizers we weren't waked too badly although several smaller boats got the full treatment as we watched in amazement as they rocked unsteadily from side to side. Turns out it was a race boat named Miss Geico out practicing - huh???? When he was done, the driver climbed out of the cockpit and you could see the heat fumes pouring off the boat.
Heat Waves Coming from the Engines
I just have to think that there's a better place for this group to play speed racer than a narrow channel in the ICW!!!!

We pushed on into Lake Worth where we had checked back into the US in June after crossing back from the Bahamas - I remember what a culture shock it was then after being in the Exumas for several months to see so much humanity (too many buildings, too many boats, too many upscale mcmansions, and yes too many people!!!)
Lake Worth is a very weird place full of interesting dichotomies - against a backdrop of gorgeous, sprawling homes and marinas full of mega million dollar yachts are dead aboards (rather than live aboard boats) sinking in the harbor,
funky water shacks
and rusted out barges!! Luckily this time we didn't have to stop!! We kept going through more bridges (get used to it, you're in FL we told ourselves!) and after a relatively short day, we dropped anchor in Lantana where we were serenaded by the band playing at a local waterfront joint (they weren't even half bad!!!)

We had hoped to head out into the ocean the next day so we didn't have to deal with the 50 million or so bridges that cross the southern FL section of the ICW or have to deal with the crazies that inhabit Fort Lauderdale and Miami but of course Mother Nature simply laughed at our plans! The winds kicked up that night and by morning not only were they howling but the seas were atrocious and the clouds were ominous leading us to believe that torrential rain was not far behind. Instead of pushing on down the ICW we decided to hang out at our anchorage for a day - the weather forecast for the next day looked pretty good holding out the hope of an outside passage where we could fish for mahi. As we sat on board cuddling with the kitties listening to the rain and winds howl, we saw a blue Sea Ray swing by Gypsies awfully close - OK strange, but then it circled back around and we heard "Doug, Tammy is that you?" No lie - it was friends of ours from Chick's Marina in Kennebunkport!!!! They are keeping their boat in Vero for the winter and had just gotten it down to FL and were on their way back up from Lauderdale when they saw what they thought was our boat - can you say small world!!! You just can't make this stuff up!!! Hopefully we will see them down in the Keys this winter!!!

The next morning we awoke to better weather however Mother Nature had once again laughed at us - I think she heard me telling Bootsie that we were going fishing for mahi and when she saw the abject desire on Bootsie's face (Boots is a mahi fiend!!!), good ole MN saw yet another way to screw with us. She kicked the seas up to the point that we were forced to take the inside route - luckily we had some shrimp in the freezer which I took out for dinner so I was able to somewhat appease the Bootser although she still hasn't completely forgiven us for the lack of her favorite treat!! Thanks again MN!!! MN packed a double wallop that day since if we wanted to make tracks south, we also had to brave the south FL ICW and on a Sunday no less when every numnuts out there with a go fast would be laying in wait for us!!! And did I mention the 50 million bridges - OK we only had to go through 28, 12 of which had to open for us, but when you are only going 50 or so miles, that's a heck of a lot of pain and agony!!!
The First of Many Bridges

After feeding the girls some guilt induced treats and taking our chill pills, we headed out around 6:30 am on our long slow trek - this was our first and hopefully last transit of this section of ICW (looking back on it I think I'd wait a week for good weather to be able to go out into the ocean!! - this section makes a lobotomy sound like more fun!!) Seriously though - we did get a few chuckles along the way - we waved at the Blues Brothers up on a balcony,
saw some pretty outrageous Christmas decorations both on boats
and along waterfront homes,
passed some really funny signs
I Don't Think I have a Tape Measure that Long
and outrageous mansions,
and saw all kinds of boats (and boaters) ranging from one guy rowing upstream
to banana boat water taxis,
hugely decorated party boats,
New Orleans style water wheel boats,
pirate boats and let's not forget about all the gynormous yachts - I've never seen so many huge mega yachts in my life - who has all that money???
A 130 Foot Phallic Symbol!
We even passed the Bahia Mar, home of the legendary Travis McGee's Busted Flush (for all of you John MacDonald fans!)
We passed the cruise ship terminals in Fort Lauderdale and Miami without being arrested
The Fort Lauderdale Cruise Ship Inletand made it through all those bridges largely unscathed - so we cussed a little and cursed out some blow baggers without radios along the way - so sue us!

We were almost home free when we passed Baker's Haulover Inlet heading for Key Biscayne where we saw a real rock star-like sand bar party!
Unfortunately unbeknownst to us, the sandbar continued out into the channel from both directions and before we knew it we were in 5 feet of water (we take 5.3 feet) - yup new paint job and all, we were on the hard once again although not in a good way!!! Luckily Tow Boat US was sitting there watching us at the inlet and was over to us in seconds with an apology that he should have called us to warn us that one of the channel markers was off station because someone had just hit it - ya think that would have been a good idea junior???? Although to be fair, I'm not sure it would have mattered - the whole channel was shoaled over (beware anyone who transits this area with a draft of over 5 feet!!!!) He pulled us off and all we could think of were visions of our nice new paint job flying off with each blast of sand as we scraped over the bar...UGH!!!

After dealing with 3 more bridges (of course the one we needed opened was on a shift change so there we sat amidst all the cruise ships waiting for what seemed like hours (after 10 hours and 25 bridges it sure seemed to take that long!!!)), we finally got out into the blessed openness of Biscayne Bay. We dropped anchor outside of Hurricane Harbor since the winds were out of the east to pick up some protection and proceeded to skip the post anchoring beer and go right for the hard stuff - sundowner G&Ts - we'd EARNED them!!!! As if to pay us back for f_cking with us earlier and forcing us to live through such a day, MN provided a spectacular sunset (as if she knows exactly how far she can push you before she relents and throws you a bone!!)
Miami Skyline from Our Anchorage in Biscayne Bay

Yesterday we were off again at first light - we were off to the KEYS - yippee!!! The sunrise was spectacular lighting up the sky over Miami and Key Biscayne with gorgeous shades of pinks, purples, oranges and reds - it seemed to know today was going to be a happy day!!!
When we came out the channel into the ocean we realized that it had been just about 6 months since we had last seen open water - the girls remembered too as their home started to move around - a lot!!
Our Last Sight of the Florida Mainland!
Heading Out to Sea
It was fairly lumpy for the first couple hours as we had to head into some good size seas until we got far enough south to pick up the protection of the outer reef. But what a glorious day - or so we thought until a fast moving squall came up on us from behind and kicked us in the rear!
The Squall Moves In
and Passes By
Luckily it soon passed and we were back to enjoying the open ocean, the tangy smell of the sea, the aqua green waters (what an awesome change from those brown tinged waters of the ICW) and the lazily floating sea turtles that inhabit this section of paradise.
Gotta Love that Aqua Water
We cranked up our ipod playing everything Scott Kirby has ever recorded and then moved on to some Kenny and Jimmy so life was good!!! Everything really is better in the Keys and it was as if all the trials and tribulations of the day before had vanished in the breeze! We were in the Keys again!!!!
Doug Enjoying the Keys

Of course MN wasn't done with us (will she ever be?) for as we came close to Indian Key where we planned to pick up a mooring ball for the night, the winds started to pick up as did the seas! We grabbed a mooring pennant and got tied up but given the increasing seas and winds (which of course were not in the forecast!) and the frayed condition of the pennant, we decided to boogie south to try and find a more protected spot. We made haste for the Channel Five bridge to cross under Route 1 and headed into Florida Bay to hopefully find some land to duck behind to block out those SE winds and seas. As we were dodging the million crab pots we were reminded of the lobster pot slalom dance you have to do in Maine only at least up there the pots have brightly colored long sticks on them so you have a fighting chance to see them - down here not so much! But we managed to avoid them as the winds clocked around to the NE - UGH seriously what did we ever do to MN? We finally found a relatively crab pot free circle of water off the coast of Lower Matecumbe Key which at least blocked the worst of the seas although the wind continued to howl well into the night.

We had planned on BFF steaks to celebrate our arrival in the Keys but the howling winds made grilling them topsides an unlikely prospect (unless we wanted to eat at midnight since our grill is very susceptible to wind). Not to be thwarted I figured out a way to make beef burgundy so we sat with a great bottle of red wine (thanks Ray!) and fat juicy steaks smothered in a red wine mushroom sauce and had a great night!!! After all, we're back in the Keys and everything's better down here!!!! Instead of blowing on down to our winter home in Key West, we are going to hang here for a day, drop the dink and explore some of Florida Bay and then hit Marathon tomorrow for an evening of revelry!!! Ah I love it down here!!!!

Click here to see our location at Lower Matecumbe Key.

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