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Miami Beach

Travelogue - March 1, 2011
I put a lot into it, and when I am done playing,
I plan on going undercover and then being the sheriff
or chief of police somewhere, either Miami or Orlando,
I don't know yet.
- Shaquille O'Neal

Leaving Vero Beach

We ripped ourselves away from "Velcro" Beach. It had to be done. Below right, Sea Gator looked radiant in the sunset the evening before our departure.

Happy as a clam at Vero Beach That night we worked late to prep Sea Gator. I was in the galley below when I heard a strange drumming sound. We looked all around... the sound was somehow familiar... we ran outside...

Goldie was doing laps on the bimini. Nearly 20' above the water, playing trampoline on the taut Sumbrella, dashing fore and aft, pouncing and hopping. She heard me call and charged to the edge to peer down at us - her ears silhouetted sharply against the stars - then she leapt across to the boat deck where I reached up to gather her to me. She was giggling.

Thus our last evening at Vero was punctuated by a cat's joyful antics. It's the first time she's been up there in two years, and it's a good sign that the weather is getting warmer and the water is calmer. Time to head south.


The next few days would be challenging to the fitness-inclined, in part because we adhere to a smug policy to remain aboard the boat after anchoring until the tide has turned at least once, to be sure our anchor is set as securely as possible. Also, in many cases there is simply nowhere convenient to go ashore, or nowhere to go once you get there. So we would not be departing the boat for several days.

Note of interest: the Intracoastal Waterway is charted by the statute mile - which is more convenient than using latitude and longitude for every point of interest. Florida's East Coast section of the AICW (Atlantic ICW) begins at the Florida/Georgia border, at mile 712. The Vero Beach City Marina lies at statute mile 952, the Port of Miami is near mile 1090, Marathon lies at 1190 in the Middle Keys, and the route ends at Key West near mile 1240. These notations will all come in very handy as we head south.

Vero Beach to Jupiter Island

Hobe Sound anchorage Tuesday, February 22, 2011. 7:30 a.m. we cast off our mooring and wound south in the Indian River. Just inside the St. Lucie Inlet we attempted the famous Manatee Pocket anchorage, but we found that the north anchorage is blockaded for a dredge operation, and there wasn't enough room or depth in the south pocket for Rick's comfort.

We headed back out to the ICW and continued south. The Waterway here is quite pretty. The banks of Jupiter Island, the barrier island to the east, are lined with nice homes or undisturbed mangroves and there are manatee signs everywhere (although the manatees have yet to present themselves).

Happily, we had an uneventful cruise, and by 3:00 we set the hook near the undeveloped westerly banks of Hobe Sound, statute mile 1000, right. By land we are just north of West Palm Beach. We settled in to Work and did get quite a bit done, although the wake of passing boats was distressing at times.

However, the wake-generating boat traffic died down at dusk and the waters were calm. It was restful, so we rested.

West Palm Beach

Nice homes, West Palm Beach Wednesday, February 23, 2011. 7:30 a.m. we hauled anchor and were on the move again. Starting early is good - it enables us to avoid the late sleepers of the day-boat traffic.

We soon had a decision to make: to head out to the Atlantic through Lake Worth Inlet and travel "outside" down to Miami. Or to stay "inside" and cruise the ICW in all its slow-speed restrictions and bridge openings and traffic.

We decided to stay inside. The weather forecast for the Atlantic did not bode well for a pleasant eight-hour-plus passage that day. Besides, who knows when or if we'll come this way again? We may as well experience it all...

We passed through West Palm Beach. I say that as if it made any difference to us. It did not. We really didn't see any "towns": just the enormous yachts, huge homes, lush golf courses, and native parks which happened to line the waterway and which - although certainly nice enough, photo above right - were indistinguishable from one another to our uneducated eye.

Elegant bridge This passage marked our introduction to the series of bridges crossing from the mainland to the populated barrier islands. See a particularly nice specimen, photo left.

ICW bridges, their minimum heights and opening schedules, can be researched in many places. I found an updated (January 2011) schedule at Offshore Marine's Yacht Delivery USA website. So we were able to time some of our runs.

Between Stuart's St. Lucie Inlet and Miami's Government Cut there are 38 bridges, not counting high rise fixed bridges. Sea Gator can clear any bridge over 20' without requesting an opening (by a whisker); we had to wait for a total of eleven bridges ranging in height from 9' to 15' closed.

On this day we requested openings at three of the day's 11 bridges. Stopping for bridges involves watching the clock to determine whether we might make the next scheduled opening, then radio'ing the bridge tender when near enough to request the opening. Bridge tenders admonished negligent captains to always radio in intentions to pass through, as they claim not to know whether you're idling around for no apparent reason enjoying the sights, or waiting for the bridge.

Beautiful yacht The "idling around" includes holding the boat in place against current, wind and wake, and avoiding other waiting boats (something Rick is more skilled at than some other boats waiting with us). Then proceeding through once the bridge is opened, being aware of frisky currents sometimes whipping beneath the abutments. No problems for Rick.

We were waiting for the bridge near this boat, right, for a long time. Long enough to enjoy how pretty she is, and to try not to think about how expensive it would be if we drifted into her. But we didn't, so her dollar value remains a mystery.

Just before 2:30 we set the hook just south of the Lantana Bridge, statute mile 1031. We settled in and tried to Work. At this I failed, as the wake from passing boat traffic was too disruptive. Goldie and I lay down for a nap (mostly Goldie), then when traffic eased off later in the day I did get a lot done (Goldie did not).

Ft. Lauderdale - "Yachting Capital of the World"

Hollywood Beach ICW Thursday, February 24, 2011. 7:30 a.m. and on the move again. The only other boats joining us at that hour were bait boats, loading up to sell their catch to fishermen.

We wanted an early start as we had heard that the boat traffic through the Ft. Lauderdale area can be ferocious and ill-mannered. Besides which, the ICW continues its passage between concrete sea walls, photo right, so you get hit by the initial wake of passing boats and then by the reflection of their wake as it bounces back off the walls, repeatedly.

We did experience that bounce-back a couple times and once it knocked me off my feet as it's very unpredictable. All was well though, we had battened down the boat securely so nothing was damaged, including persons and felines.

Ft. Lauderdale home and runabout On this run we had to stop for six of the 14 bridges. Photo above right, a much bigger boat passes through as the bridge opens.

Ft. Lauderdale bills itself as "The Yachting Capital of the World." Well, they certainly have their share of beautiful HUGE yachts.

And huge houses.

Right, see some of both.

The Contagious Nature of Yard Ornaments

Our elevated position on the flybridge afforded a privileged vantage point - right into people's back yards. Folks wouldn't necessarily want to leave their yards so exposed, but while we were motoring along there was not much else to do except gawk at the landscaping work.

We were careful to avoid glancing in the windows; however some folks of a certain persuasion would have no trouble doing so.

Throughout the day we observed the interesting phenomenon of contagion. For example, if one yard featured beautiful accent pieces ("Wow, Rick look at those cobalt-blue pots on the terrace, Julie B. would love those") then it was a sure bet that the next three or four in line would ALSO feature cheaper versions of the same pieces. Hmmm... They were like a virus, spreading from one neighbor to the next. Maybe at night.

Las Olas Bridge mooring field The same went for certain types of decorative statuary. Somebody in Ft. Lauderdale is making a killing off faux classic Grecian figures. The majority of statues represent naked teenagers, so I suspect the "classic" motif merely provides a thin veneer of respectability to disguise one's cheap thrills from one's neighbors. Just the opinion of someone cruising by and peering into yards.

We did see several sites which were elegant and understated, in which the designers' hand was subtle but sure.

Seriously, the things I could do with a bazillion dollars that would actually make the world a BETTER place. Well, it's not about me.

But still, one more thing about me: In my view the most poignant outdoor rooms were those which clearly cost a fortune (for good or ill) but, just as clearly, were never used by a living soul. So my very favorites were those places which were obviously heavily used or even abused, over- or under-decorated, but in any case loved and appreciated. The furnishings were less important than sincerity.

Las Olas Bridge Mooring Field

Finally we edged in to the mooring field at Ft. Lauderdale Municipal Marina at Las Olas Bridge, statute mile 1064, and yes, I had to hail them on the VHF radio. It was a tongue-twister. We were lucky to get a mooring as they are first-come first-served, and one boat pulled in ahead of us and two more came in right behind. Full house, above right, looking down on the moorings from the Las Olas Bridge. There is Sea Gator, in the center of the field, boldly head on.

The marina office was so spacious it reminded me of a small airport terminal, but it was clean and nice and so were the employees.

Pat at Ft. Lauderdale beach We followed the young man's directions down Las Olas Boulevard and emerged at Ft. Lauderdale Beach and the beautiful Atlantic.

Here we are, on the mostly deserted beach - as you can see, dark clouds are moving in! When a few drops hit the sidewalk people scattered. Fortunately the rain didn't amount to much.

After a speed-walk for exercise Rick selected a nice outdoor restaurant from which we could watch the street traffic.

We also observed a row of freighters anchored offshore which, we speculated, were awaiting their turn for loading or off-loading in the nearby Port Everglades. One ship attracted Rick's attention as he thought the pilothouse was on the wrong end. We mused, fruitlessly as it turned out, as freighters are not our forte.

Back at the marina we took showers in the nice facility and then, at the dinghy dock on our way out, we met Gil and Brenda of M/V Suits Us, the trawler at the bottom left of the Las Olas mooring photo, above. We enjoyed visiting with them and their guests from back home; we agreed to keep an eye out for each other in Marathon.

Ft. Lauderdale to Miami

Friday, February 25, 2011. 7:00 a.m. we cast off. We were determined to beat the crazy boat traffic through the concrete-lined "Condo Canyon", by golly.

Norweigan cruise ship Within an hour we traversed Port Everglades - an enormous commercial port where rusty freighters from around the world come to load and offload, and where cruise ship passengers embark via shiny fluorescent-lit terminals, right.

Just beyond the turning basin several dozen boats were gathered idly in the channel, all hulls lined with fenders. We wondered what was going on. Of course my first thought was "Is there trouble?" Well, no, because the freighter ahead of us proceeded through at speed, as did a large sport fisherman in its wake.

Soon Rick decided to his satisfaction that all the boats were waiting for bait boats to come alongside, hence the fenders. But as we drew near we saw that these were very large boats and elegant yachts. So he revised his theory to include, maybe, waiting for a fuel barge?

We edged around and between the idling yachts, and when a brief lull broke the din of overhead jets and cranes and wind I yelled across "What are you all doing here?"

Yacht transport under ballast, Port Everglades Two uniformed crewmen called from the pilothouse of a beautiful sleek sea-going yacht: "We are waiting to load on the transport" and they pointed to what we had thought was the frame of a bizarrely misplaced derrick, photo left.


We immediately realized that we were looking at a yacht transport vessel under ballast. Seriously, pay attention, this is so cool.

See the topsides of the strange "freighter" we'd puzzled over the previous evening: the twin towers aft (on the left of the photo) white with orange trim, and the orange railings running forward on both sides, to the white pilothouse forward (on the right of the photo). Don't be confused by the yellow and white buildings and cranes ashore in the background.

Yacht transport is an awesome undertaking! You can learn all about it and even see a video at DYT Dockwise Yacht Transport, but in the meantime here is the condensed version:

Yacht transport dumping ballast A yacht transport is an enormous open-decked freighter which can sink itself until only the superstructure and pilothouse are visible (as above) then the "passenger" vessels motor aboard under their own power (DYT photo, right).

Vessels are then secured with many lines and their hulls are supported by many structures both portable and welded to the freighter's deck, and all installed underwater by divers.

Then the ballast water is pumped out, the ship rises and the transport heads out to "dream destinations" (below left, photo courtesy DYT). It is all quite logical and tremendously cool.

"Where are you going?" I called to the next sailboat captain. She answered, "St. Thomas."

Yacht transport underway Hours later, Rick was still laughing about it. "I can't believe we thought all those fancy yachts were idling around waiting for bait. Like, they were going to sit there for two hours to buy a bucket o' shrimp..."

Ahh yes, and bring it with them so they'll be ready to wet their lines the minute they hit the cerulean waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands - in late March.

We are hillbillies.

Condo Canyon

I'm very glad we make an early start AND move only on weekdays, because we enjoyed a very pleasant day. And we had to pause for only two of the ten bridges.

Condo Canyon Soon the river banks changed. Single-family homes gave way to the fun and funky one- and two-story commercial districts of Hollywood Beach, which gradually morphed into tall condos. Then suddenly we were in the high rise district, weaving the waterway between towering concrete, steel and glass, right.

It was a distinct change of scenery from the undisturbed shores we generally prefer, and it was actually very fun. We know it would have been far different and very unpleasant if we had traversed this section on a busy weekend afternoon. As it was we enjoyed the scenery.

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale there was a brief lull as we motored past the Bay Harbour Islands and the bay with its shallow waters and undisturbed banks. Later we heard via VHF that a dredge was heading for the Baker's Haulover Inlet, so that shallow area should be an easier traverse in the future.

Miami skyline As we neared the next urban center boat traffic increased. Small dayboats and sport fishing boats skimmed fast, rushing past the "SLOW - No Wake" signs.

Towering condos balanced tiptoe on little tiny islands, left. Planes roared overhead.

We had reached Miami.

Venetian Causeway Anchorage

Safe: surrounded by the mainland and downtown Miami on the west, the causeway and Government Cut inlet to the south, and lavish private islands on the east and north.

Miami sunset We set our anchor between Hibiscus Island and Palm Island and settled in. Statute mile 1089.

Here is Rick's photo of our first Miami sunset. Perhaps you can discern the cruise ships (there were five) docked in Government Cut, lower left, and scores of sailboats moored in the midground. There was plenty of boat traffic, but surprisingly it was not too bumpy.

Rick would persist in calling this the "Venusian" causeway anchorage. I stopped correcting him when we saw some of the other-worldly folks on the beach, but that's another story.

A Weekend in Miami Beach

Saturday, February 26, 2011. Alert: Wyoming hillbillies at large on the streets of South Beach!

Miami Beach walk Rick's cousin Marc had warned us that Miami is a fancy place so, even though we were heading for Miami Beach and not downtown, we took the hint to kick it up a notch. Rick donned a clean tee-shirt and I applied lipstick and we figured we were ready to rub sweaty elbows with the beautiful people.

Heading for a popular dinghy parking (adjacent to a Publix grocery store) we piloted Bump Head smoothly across the Bay and down an odiferous canal punctuated with discarded shopping carts. We chained him alongside a concrete wall and stepped daintily through the dog shit to the roadway. Pretty high brow stuff so far.

We speed-walked along urban streets that were just awakening, to a very nice pedestrian mall - Lincoln Road - where we turned east toward the Beach. We slowed to a meander, enjoying the quiet and admiring the shops. The first really engaging sight was a handsome City bicycle cop sporting a pressed white shirt and gleaming coal black dreadlocks flowing halfway down his back. No, it was not Shaq undercover.

South Beach deco We continued east until we encountered the Atlantic Ocean and there we turned south. Immediately we were drawn to a wide, winding walkway through Lummus Park, above right. Lush plantings screened the street noise; shade trees were protected from trampling by an elevated edge that served as a perfectly proportioned seating wall.

Seated here and there along the wall were barkers muttering under their breath, selling water and scalping tickets for the Food Network's South Beach Wine & Food Festival. At $250 a pop, we made no plans to attend.

The walkway was really nicely done and it transported huge crowds successfully. We were swept up in the current.

Through the trees we caught tantalizing glimpses of the fabulous Art Deco buildings of South Beach, above left.

The majority of Ocean Drive's historic buildings have been restored to their former glory, and even from across the Park we could see that most feature broad porches with restaurants at the sidewalk level, and hotel rooms above. The streets vibrated with cheerful people all fully engaged in the day.

South Beach Another half-mile stroll and the walkway whipped us out onto the sands of the Atlantic. It was still mid-morning, and the beach was already packed with people enjoying the sunshine and bravely splashing in the water. They had probably been experiencing the same weather patterns that we had, so this was only their second nice weekend on the beach. Everyone was taking advantage of the opportunity to get out and about.

We were way over-dressed in our full coverage SPF shirts and hats. At least we weren't wearing overalls and boots and John Deere caps.

We walked in the sand to the far end of the beach at the Government Cut jetty (in the distance, photo above right) where we turned west up the inlet and followed a wide promenade along the seawall, below left.

Promonade at Government Cut Inlet The border of the walk was at seating height on the water side, and streamlined steel towers punctuating the walk bore uplights in their bases. It was a stately blend of plantings and hardscape in this urban setting, echoing some of the same intelligent and attractive features as the heavily-used walkway through Lummus Park. We followed the promenade back to Ocean Drive, completing the loop.

Walking on the inland side of the main street was very slow going as all pedestrians wove between tables and harried waitpersons sideswiped passersby at each shady sidewalk cafe. Interaction is the point of the street cafe and it was delightful.

Additional impediments were the beautiful young women hustling patrons for the restaurants ("Won't-you-join-us-for-lunch-seafood-homemade-pasta-two-for-one-mojitos...") but they left off immediately when one politely declined.

Fashion alert: footwear for the fabulous in South Beach was flats - thongs or strappy sandals - with attached boot tops. You zip in and out at the heel. Here's a sample, below left.

We eventually chose a cafe fronting the Beacon Hotel (built in 1937, renovated from 2004-2009). The Place restaurant exceeded our hopes for an authentic "pressed Cuban sandwich". The lobby of the restored Beacon Hotel was dazzling, below right.

Fashion footwear Beacon Hotel lobby After lunch we retraced our steps up Lincoln, which was now crammed with afternoon browsers.

Suddenly, like a grey-bearded Moses parting the waters, a roller-blader cut through the crowd. We all leapt out of the way and turned to glare - at which time it was observed that the old loon sported only a narrow tiger-print thong bracketed by a pair of fleshy white butt cheeks. Glares turned to grins and people just shook their heads. I caught the eye of a bemused local who sighed: "Welcome to Miami Beach."

Bump Head was still present and waiting patiently in his grimy little canal, so we did a quick spin through the grocery store and then loaded our goods aboard.

To top off the day and its myriad experiences, the trip back across the Bay was now a thrill ride with conflicting wind and current, enhanced by jet skis and fast boats zipping and throwing wakes every which way. I donned my PFD for the ride, it was that rough.

We were glad to get home to Goldie and to rest quietly in our cool stateroom until traffic and wake died down near dark.

South Beach Art Deco

Breakwater Hotel Sunday, February 27, 2011. We made a beeline to the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive) in plenty of time to join the daily 10:30 a.m. Official Art Deco Tour.

The Miami Design Preservation League was founded by one determined woman in 1976 despite the opposition of a City government dreaming of sterile high-rise beach properties. The small but determined MDPL immediately inventoried 1,500 significant buildings in South Beach, worked to have the entire Miami Beach Architectural District listed on the National Register in 1979 (as the nation's first 20th century historic district) and inspired restoration of many of the buildings. Their ongoing mission is to advocate for sensible development in Miami Beach, preserving the human scale of the neighborhood.

Tom at Miami Beach Post Office Notably, the district is not strictly a museum piece. When infill or replacement is unavoidable, architects are invited to create buildings which represent current trends so that a continuum of architectural styles will be represented. It's a brilliant approach.

Well. Our group of 20 or so eager tourists was led by Tom Mooney (left), a City Planner volunteering his time on a Sunday. He shared a brief history of the area and the preservation efforts, then as we moved from building to building he described key features of the architectural styles represented. He kindly kept us to the shade as much as possible as we covered a dozen city blocks in 90 minutes.

Tom intelligently answered every question posed to him, and deftly deflected a local who wanted to lead the tour himself. Everyone, including the initiated civilians represented by Rick, was drawn in.

The Carlyle

We cannot recommend this tour highly enough. Even if you are not an architecture or design or history or preservation buff, it will greatly broaden your appreciate of the town. If you are ever in Miami Beach do not miss the MDPL tour!

Rant du Jour

Having spent the last year advocating (successfully, hallelujiah) for preservation of the one small unique building in our valley, I am staggered by the gargantuan task that this inexperienced group of volunteers faced on Miami's South Beach. They were successful! But apparently it's still an uphill battle and to this day citizens are asked to remain vigilant and involved lest demolition and big box hotels sprout overnight.

Today, as throngs of people flock to the unique district and gaze amazed and spend money hand-over-fist at hotels and restaurants and shops; as full color coffee-table books featuring the district are published in multiple languages; as crowds throng the annual Art Deco Weekend each January; as the first World Congress on Art Deco brought scholars from around the globe - seriously, who still does not get it? Who does not get that these buildings are SO much more cool than Any High Rise Beach City USA? Seriously.

Rick tried to explain that the problem is the result of thinking from the wallet, and that putting millions into rehabbing a building or a neighborhood is less appealing to the bottom line than building a self-serving monument a' la Donald Trump. I have witnessed that and I do understand it, but nevertheless I believe that good will eventually prevail.

Antiques and Collectibles Show

Glass at the antique mall It's a good thing I'm already well supplied with vintage glassware and jewelry, because the Lincoln pedestrian mall had been converted overnight into a huge open air market. There were many pretty baubles to catch a pirate's eye, right.

Rick waited patiently and it didn't take me long to realize that I have all I can handle as it is (sigh). We moved along to our next destination.

Miami Botanic Garden

Vista, Miami Beach Botanical Garden It was a short walk to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. This urban oasis is next door to the Convention Center, just a few blocks up the canal from Bump Head.

The garden is a sweet place - easy to access, easy to negotiate, and quite lovely.

The staff tended a successful butterfly garden, an herb garden, a Japanese garden, and native plant area. If ever I'm disappointed with such places it's often due to a lack of clear identification of the plants with easy-to-read labels, and so it was here.

But that didn't lessen our appreciation of the oasis for its own sake. While the foliage could not block the sounds of traffic, the fountains and the birdsong and the wind in leaves were restful. Staff and caterers were preparing for a wedding on the grounds and I'm sure it would be a beautiful evening for the lucky couple.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial, colonnade Abutting the Botanic Garden on the opposite side of the block is Miami Beach's Holocaust Memorial.

The park consists of a stark stone plaza, encircling a reflecting pond and sculpture. Sweeping behind the pond is a shaded colonnade, right, lined with slabs of black granite.

On one side, the slabs are etched with photos and text telling the story of the pre-war and wartime catastrophe in Europe. With simplicity, the text illustrates that the holocaust decimated not only family lineages and individual lives, but also centuries of art and history - an entire enriching culture that was taken from us all.

From the colonnade one proceeds down a sloping cave-like ramp lined with the names of the death camps. The ramp carries one to the center of the Park and an enormous bronze hand reaching to the sky, covered in the life-sized figures of writhing humans.

Holocaust Memorial, sculpture Whereas grainy historic photos show victims' faces indistinctly, numb with shock or resignation, the sculpture depicted in life size each and every individual, man woman child and infant, contorted in anguish. We were literally face to face with grief in the present tense.

Around the colonnade the row of black granite continued, each slab filled to capacity with small engraving - the names of victims. Particularly wrenching were the lists of individuals together all with the same last name, representing entire families wiped out.

Row after row after row after row, slab after slab after slab after slab covered in names, right there in black and white. 110 slabs are completely filled and several dozen more slabs are blank, waiting for names to be submitted by relatives or historians (you can find the submittal form at the Memorial site online, along with additional photos and an interview with the architect/sculptor).

Rick and I held each other's hands tightly when we left.

Ever Southward

We've had a LOT more fun here than we anticipated. Miami Beach is a great place - hopefully next time we'll be able to visit downtown. But now it's time to move on.

The forecast looks good for Tuesday, February 28, so we'll move on. We want to be secure for the blustery winter front predicted through end of the week and on into the weekend. Again.

Take care, everybody! Stay warm, and hold hands...

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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