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Miami, FL, Part II: Final Preparations And A Scary New Year's Drift

Updated: Aug 25, 2019

Miami Yacht Club to Dinner Key Marina, Miami, FL //


Once settled in Miami, we took Sparidae up the Miami River to have it hauled for the survey which we had scheduled on Wednesday, December 19. We passed with flying colors. We were happy to hear from our surveyor that Sparidae, in its 40 years of life, was in better than average shape, a good qualification to have.

We motored back the same day to the Miami Yacht Club anchorage which we made our home base for almost a month — aside from Naomi and Paul’s house which they kindly opened to us for doing things like laundry, getting showers and having packages delivered (you guys are the best!). With the survey out of the way, we officially celebrated our arrival to Miami with a get together aboard with some good old friends that lived in the area: David Enrique, Paul and Sasha. We lit the BBQ, grilled burgers and drank some delicious Concrete Beach Brewery beers (thanks David Enrique for the introduction!) overlooking the Miami skyline from early afternoon til the late evening.

Over the holidays, in between some beach time around Miami Beach and strolls down Lincoln Road, we began tackling our list of projects and crossing off our Christmas wish list — which you guessed it, involved a lot of boat related items. We rented a ZipCar the day after Christmas and headed to Fort Lauderdale to hit some of the sailing shops we had wanted to visit. Particularly, we were looking for charts for the Caribbean, spare parts to carry with us through our travels, and other parts for our boat projects. We visited Sailorman, Bluewater Charts, and of course, West Marine. There we ended up biting the bullet and got ourselves the second biggest ticket item on our Christmas wish list, a brand new Rocna anchor! (the first being a Garmin InReach Explorer, which Mamá Cynthia and Papá Paulino generously gifted us — that’s how you’re able to track us live now!). We had been discussing whether we should be getting one for quite some time now. After reading review after review, and hearing from fellow sailors themselves how amazing it is at holding, we thought it would be crucial for our Caribbean travels. And it is true what everyone has said, we have slept soundly ever since making the switch — it digs in well, and very quickly!

Aside from what ended up being one expensive day trip, it was not unusual to see us renting city bikes, calling Uber’s, or just plainly walking over the McArthur Causeway from the Miami Yacht Club to get to the Ace Hardware and Advance Auto Parts to get other supplies to supplement our ongoing boat projects. On this front, Tom was able to install a secondary emergency bilge pump (per our surveyors recommendation) so that in case our smaller 500 gallon/hour bilge pump failed, we had a larger capacity 2000 gallons/hour. With that, he also wired a bilge pump alarm and an additional 12-volt socket (cigarette lighter) as an additional charger inside the cabin. We had also been reading about collecting rainwater in the Bahamas as tap water is difficult to come by or just comes at a cost. Tom put together a filter assembly composed of PVC pipes, valves and flexible hose (based on ‘A Practical Sailor’ article) on our starboard side drains to be able to divert rain water into our tank. Finally, back to more wiring, our lights on the left side of the boat had stopped working one day somewhere in the ICW. Tom discovered some of the original wiring had to be cut out and replaced as it had corroded.

Coming up on December 30th, we celebrated my birthday at the beach followed by a sumptuous spa day at the Fontainebleau (thanks, sis!), a delicious dinner at 27 Restaurant after chillin’ with some cocktails at Broken Shaker. But not all was bliss in Miami... On to New Year’s Eve we ended up saving a derelict sailboat drifting by (just half hour before midnight) from hitting ours or other boats in the anchorage field by the Miami Yacht Club. On our little dinghy and with a two-horsepower engine, we were able to grab onto a line of said sailboat and somehow bring it close enough to tie it off our stern. After calling the harbor police and ignoring their suggestion on letting the boat drift (???!!!), Tom got back on the dinghy while I got on the deck of the sailboat so that I could throw a Danforth anchor that (miraculously!) was sitting on the bow of the boat. Mind you, this boat had no proper railings (they were all crushed or missing at the bow), so I was kneeling, almost sitting, on the deck full of bird poop (there’s no beating around the bush on that one), trying to get the anchor ready to throw it overboard hoping the boat would hold. Tom in the meantime was trying to pull the boat away from the other boats nearby, but was unsuccessful given the little power he had along with the the natural wind and current and weight of the boat. We had to make a quick decision and I threw the anchor off the bow before getting too close to the other anchored sailboats. After a couple of very quite and observant minutes we sang victory as we saw the boat holding. Such a close call. Tom picked me up and we rang the New Years back on Sparidae over a bottle of white wine. We almost opened the champagne, but we’re saving that for our arrival to Puerto Rico.

The next morning I was due for a little interlude (off our current sailing interlude, that is) and traveled to Puerto Rico to visit with family. While we initially thought we might have been able to get to PR somewhere in mid January, reality (and the weather) quickly set in soon after we departed Boston, putting our desired arrival time in Puerto Rico in question. Being a hop, skip and a jump away from home while in Miami, I was feeling antsy about not being able to see my parents, siblings and nephews after the New Year, specially with my sister traveling all the way from France. But it all worked out as a birthday gift of sorts and the five days spent at home were invigorating to say the least. Tom was also able to use this time fruitfully back in Miami to complete some of the other smaller tasks on our list of projects which included installing new fender boards for tying up our extra diesel and water canisters and getting to varnish the combing boards and side trims on the cabin top. Sparidae got prettied up for her upcoming debut in international waters.

After my return on January 5, 2019 we were on ‘go mode’ and started to provision heavily while looking for weather windows for a crossing to The Bahamas. By mid-week we had resolved that a crossing was possible over the following weekend. We found a window where there were no winds with north components (that includes Northeast through Northwest) as it makes for a nasty passage with the Gulf Stream current running North. The only outlier was the sea state which had being building during the week but was to subside over the weekend.

With the winds forecasted to veer from the Southeast to Southwest, Sunday was looking like The Day. We headed to Dinner Key on Friday, January 12 and grabbed a mooring at Dinner Key Marina. A little change of scenery, but a little too exposed for our liking. However, it made for a great cruiser friendly area from which we were able to finalize our provisioning and have a last farewell dinner at a Cuban joint up by Calle Ocho followed by cocktails and live music at Ball and Chain with friends Maricarmen and Paul. Paul, incidentally, was to join us on the Gulf Stream crossing, initially to Bimini. Having sailed to Bermuda with his uncle in years past, we had been entertaining the idea of him joining us should the dates work out with his work schedule since he was so conveniently located in Miami.

With all the excitement, nervousness and all the feelings in between that come with getting ready for The Big Passage, on Saturday afternoon, Tom, Paul and I departed Dinner Key Marina and headed towards No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, our departure point for our crossing to Bimini, The Bahamas.

Last sail in Miami, FL

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