Day 1 and 2: Marathon to Matecumbe Key:
There are two routes boats can travel between the Keys and Miami. The Intercostal Route which travels through the bays and sounds is too shallow for our draft. Boats drawing more than 4 1/2 feet need to use the Hawk Channel. With our 5 foot draft, we must take this outside route which is on the ocean side of the Keys. This course guarantees 9 foot depths at mean low water. Unfortunately, our selection of anchorages and marinas is much more limited on this route than that of the ICW.
It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon as we exit Boot Key Harbor and Marathon. We are not alone today as there are boats of all shapes and sizes enjoying the nice calm seas. Idyll Time is happy to be underway once again with the clear turquoise water lapping at her hull. With Alizann on our stern, we throttle back to a slow 7 knots savoring the time we have out on the water. We have a short travel day of only 33 miles, so there is no need to rush.
Reaching the Channel 5 Bridge, we follow the marked channel into Florida Bay. Our anchorage for the next few days is a few miles north on the western side of Matecumbe Key. We drop the hook in six feet of water on the outside of Matecumbe Bight. Alizann anchors just behind us.
With clear shallow waters, Jeff and Marty are both soon overboard scrubbing the bottoms of each boat. It has been over a year since our bottom has been cleaned and using scuba gear, it takes Jeff over an hour to clean the hull. Dinner tonight is aboard Alizann. Suzanne made a wonderful Indian chicken curry.
Time Out is launched the following morning for a breakfast run through the narrow mangrove channel to Robbie’s, a local fishing camp overlooking the bay. After breakfast, the four of us take the dinghy for a two mile ride to Indian Key Historic State Park. Indian Key has a colorful past. Indians lived on the island for several thousand years before Spanish explorers arrived. It the 1830’s, this small key became the county seat of Dade County. Jacob Houseman, a boat and salvage wrecker, turned Indian Key into a thriving sea port with 49-50 permanent inhabitants along with a hotel, post office, and general store. Early one morning in 1840 during the Second Seminole War, Indians attacked the island . Most of the inhabitants managed to escape although most of the structures on the island were destroyed. It has remained uninhabited since the early part of this century.
Returning to the anchorage, it is time to part company with Alizann. A weather window has opened up for them to cross over to the Bahamas. It sad to see our traveling companions for the past three weeks depart. We will miss them but know our paths will cross once again this fall.
While exploring some of the canals this afternoon, we stumbled upon a lobster/ crab dock called Mr. Lobster. There were quite a few local fishing boats offloading their catch. Fresh lobster and stone crab for dinner? An easy decision and we are soon back aboard IT with our catch.
Total Miles Today: 33
Total Miles Year to Date: 783
Day 3 Matecumbe to Rodriques Key:
We’ve watched some great sunrises and sunsets here at Matecumbe Bight. While riding the stationary bike this morning on the top deck, I was rewarded with another wonderful sunrise. The beautiful scenery seems to ease the pain of 40 minutes on the bike. We could easily spend a few more days here but it’s time to move on as we have a perfect weather window for our next anchorage as we work our way north.
It’s another beautiful day for a boat ride as we weave our way through the maze of crab traps in Florida Bay. Leaving the anchorage at high tide, we still have only 6 -7 foot depths. With less than a foot under our keel, we slowly motor under the Channel 5 Bridge and are soon back out into the deeper waters of the Hawk Channel. With seas less than one foot, we see quite a few sailboats making the trip north. It is another short day of 34 miles to Rodriguez Key, our anchorage for the evening. This spot is pretty exposed to winds and seas but the forecast is for light winds so we should be just fine. You would not want to be here in anything over 10 knot winds. We drop the hook in nine feet and settle in for the day.
Jeff spends the afternoon diving around the boat in search of lobster. He did find some small ones but not big enough to keep. They get to live for another day. M/V Bayou, a 125 ft yacht, pulled into the anchorage this afternoon. IT is in good company. No fish or lobsters for dinner tonight, it’s hamburgers on the grill.
Total Miles Today: 34
Total Miles This Year: 817
Day 4: Rodrigues Key:
One of the hardest things about living on a boat is getting exercise. We have all sorts of exercise video tapes, weights, and a stationary trainer for our bike. The motivation is the hard part. I have to say I wasn’t motivated at all today when I drug myself upstairs for my morning bike ride. But the cool breeze, beautiful clear water, and dolphins fishing all around the boat quickly took my mind off the bike and made the time spent exercising enjoyable.
With exceptional calm weather forecast for the next few days, we decided to spend one more day here at Rodregues. It’s not that the anchorage is all that great, and it provides almost no wind protection. Our reason for staying is the lure of some deep sea fishing just outside the reef.
We plot a course through the shallows of Molasses Reef out into the Atlantic Gulf Stream. With our trolling rods set in the holders on the back deck, we head due west into 400 feet of water. The next four hours are spent searching for the elusive Fish. With not a single bite, we change tactics and try some bottom fishing. Spotting several mooring balls along an area designated as a fish haven, we decide to latch on to one and try our luck. The charts say there are two wrecks 100 ft. below these balls. We spend a couple of hours here washing our bait. We know there are fish here as we watch two local’s free diving with a spear gun. They land a five foot wahoo.
Spending all day and traveling 41 miles while fishing, we return to Rodregues empty handed. You can’t say we didn’t try.
Total Miles Today: 41
Total Miles This Year: 858
Day 5: Rodregues Key to Key Biscayne:
The weather forecast for today is light winds and seas two foot or less. You don’t get days like this very often so we decide to take advantage of the calm seas bypassing the Hawk Channel and heading off shore for some more fishing while working our way north to Key Biscayne. In order to reach the Gulf Stream, we must cross the shallow reef than runs just outside the Hawk Channel. We slowly pick our way through the reef trying to stay in at least 8 feet of water. It is a little disconcerting as we travel over coral heads just a few feet below the hull. With the incredible visibility, the reefs always seem shallower than they really are. Reaching the deeper deep blue waters, we set out our lines . The next six hours are spent trolling just outside the reef in 100-200 foot waters. Our path takes us just outside several different reefs where the water shallows to less than 10 feet. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has installed mooring buoys at many of these reefs. The areas inside these markers are off limits to fishing but look like great places to dive and snorkel.
We fish all day using every lure that we own but still not the first bite. We saw lots of other boats out fishing and it didn’t look like they were catching anything either. Oh well, we still had a great time.
Nearing Biscayne Bay, we give up on the fishing and pull in the rods. The Miami skyline has appeared in the distance and we are starting to see some big freighters out on the ocean.The winds have picked up and the seas are starting to get lumpy. We enter the Biscayne Bay Channel with the “Stiltsville” houses just to our port. These structures got their start in the 1930’s as a bait shop on the bay. In the 50’s and 60’s, they were popular gathering places for boaters. Today there are seven of these historic houses left and are now part of Biscayne National Park.
The Cape Florida Lighthouse is our landmark as we follow the Cape Florida Channel into our anchorage. About 1/2 mile ahead of us, we watch a sailboat run hard aground. They appeared to make their turn at the wrong set of markers and were soon up on a three foot shoal. I don’t know what they were thinking.
Our planned anchorage was inside ” No Name Harbor”. Yes, that is the harbors’s name. The entrance is narrow and we can see lots of boats inside. Not knowing how crowded the harbor is, we decide to anchor outside along with several other sailboats. We will explore the harbor tomorrow.
Total Miles Traveled Today: 59
Total Miles This Year: 917
Day 6,7, and 8: Key Biscayne:
We started out the morning with a dinghy ride to check out No Name Harbor and the state park. It is a cute little anchorage but to small for us with all the other boats. There are probably 15 other boats here now. We could probably squeeze in but it would be tight and being a weekend I am sure it will get even more crowded. Sebastian especially enjoys our walk out to the lighthouse. Being cooped up on the boat for the last several days, he has lots of energy.
Back aboard Idyll Time we decide to move to a more protected anchorage. Our current anchorage is pretty exposed to the winds. Plus there is lots of boat traffic through here and these big boats don’t slow down. We are getting rocked pretty bad. Just around the corner is the Key Biscayne Yacht Club and we can anchor just outside their breakwater. Being members of the Chattanooga Yacht Club, we have reciprocal privileges with them. It looks like our best place to hide out for the weekend.
We anchor just outside the yacht club breakwater with the Miami skyline off our stern and multimillion dollar homes a few hundred feet from the boat along the Key Biscayne shoreline. A quick call to the yacht club and we are granted use of their dinghy dock and facilities. We enjoy a great lunch at the yacht club restaurant while savoring the views of Key Biscayne Bay.
Back aboard IT, we are amazed as boats begin arriving in mass to the anchorage. We were warned that this is a popular party spot on the weekend with a knee deep sandbar extending almost a mile out into the bay. By Friday evening, it seems as if every boat in Miami is here. We easily count over 200 boats, most overloaded and scantily clad. Luckily, we are anchored closer to the yacht club and away from the center of activity.
With all the weekend boat traffic, we are getting rocked pretty bad here in the anchorage. These guys don’t slow down when they go by and throw some big wakes. It is the perfect time to try out our new flopper stopper. This two piece hinged metal door attaches to our side cleat and is lowered 10 feet below the surface. It provides upward resistance as the boat rocks from side to side thus minimizing the severity of the roll. After Jeff lowers the flopper stopper into the water, our roll is greatly reduced. We are happy with this addition to Idyll Time.
Day 9 and 10: key Biscayne to Ft. Lauderdale:
Monday morning finds us retracing our steps out the Cape Florida Channel into the deeper Atlantic. The seas are forecast to be 2 feet so we opt for the outside run to Ft. Lauderdale. We could take the ICW from here but there would be lots of boat traffic and over a dozen bridges to have open. We always prefer to run outside in the ocean over the ICW when conditions allow. In addition to wave height, we also must take into account inlet conditions. Some inlets have constant shoaling and are not recommended. Today we will be going in Port Everglades inlet which is a busy ship channel. Depth will not be a problem going in this inlet. Ship traffic could be.
The boat traffic picks up exponentially as we reach Government Cut, the Miami Ship Channel. Cruise ships and freighters are lined up outside the channel waiting for their turn to enter. Dodging them, we continue a few miles further north to the Port Everglades Inlet and Ft. Lauderdale. Just as we reach the buoys for our turn into the inlet, a big freighter is on her way out. We quickly make a u turn and do circles until she is out. Once inside the inlet, we have boats going every which way. And I don’t mean small boats, these are 100 ft. plus yachts. Ft. Lauderdale is known as the “Yachting capital of the world” with more boats here than any other port in Florida. Luckily, we have only a few miles travel to the Lauderdale Yacht Club which is our home for the next two days. The dock master directs us into their long face dock along one of the canals where he is waiting to welcome us to the club.
Our stay at the Lauderdale Yacht Club is very pleasant. Jeff enjoys use of their Olympic size pool each day while I take advantage of their gym.
Our main reason for stopping in Ft. Lauderdale is to have some work done on our get home system. We discovered earlier this year that a return hydraulic hose was never installed on the pump. The manufacturer, ABT/TRAC, was very responsive and even though the boat is now 8 years old, they did all the work at no charge. They have been a first class act to work with. With that repaired, we can continue our migration north.
Total Miles Today: 39
Total Miles This Year:956
Day 11: Ft. Lauderdale to Lake Worth:
Our plans again changed this morning. We were going to spend the day here in Ft. Lauderdale exploring the city but while checking the weather we see another front heading our way. The sea state is good for an outside run today but tomorrow is another story. Not wanting to travel the next leg inside on the ICW, we change plans and start preparing the boat for departure.
The waterway is again very congested with Water Taxis and Yachts, one after another. Our timing to the inlet couldn’t be worse. The container ship, Overseas Houston, is just outside and beginning to make her approach into the harbor. We scurry as fast as possible out the inlet reaching the breakers just as the pilot boats begin escorting the ship in. The seas are lumpy with some five foot swells but Idyll Time handles them with ease.
With our fishing reels mounted in the rod holders on the back deck, we try our luck once again for the elusive fish. Working our way along the ledge in 200 ft waters we troll for the next four hours again without the first bite. Reaching the Lake Worth Inlet, we reluctantly pull in the lures for another time.
Total Miles Today: 56
Total Miles This Year: 1012
Day 12: Lake Worth to Stuart:
We are back in the land of bridges and skinny water as our travel today takes us on the inside ICW. The seas are building out in the Atlantic plus the Stuart inlet is not one of the best to enter so we opt for the ICW today. Thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon so we decide to get an early start. Problem is this will put us at several shallow spots during low tide. Ugh!
Jeff lowers our wind generator and VHF antennas just before leaving the anchorage. We have 11 bridges today but with everything lowered we should be able to get under most of them without waiting on an opening.
Being low tide, we have no problem squeezing under the bridges with a few feet to spare. Our first caution area is where the ICW crosses Jupiter Inlet. We give the red markers a wide berth here as instructed in the Active Captain reports by other boaters and never see less than six feet. Travel today is pretty straight forward and easy.
We do have lots of Manatee Zones which require us to travel at a no wake speed. The requirements here are a little strange. Boats over 35 feet must travel at a no wake speed where boats under 35 feet can go 25 MPH. Does a manatee know the difference between large and small boats? At other times we have seen different speeds for boats in the channel vs. outside the channel. Does a manatee know where the channel is?
The time goes quickly as we marvel over the grand mansions one after another all with their manicured lawns.
All eyes are on deck as we reach the Junction of the ICW and St. Lucie inlet. This area, known as the crossroads, is notoriously bad for shoaling. Dredging was done in 2013 and there are lots of buoys to guide us through this problem area. We never see less than 8 feet and can now relax as the St. Lucie River is wide and deep. Our home for the next month, Sunset Bay Marina, is just beyond the Roosevelt Bridge, our only opening needed for today. It feels as if we are bringing Idyll Time home as she spent her first six months in Stuart while she was being commissioned in 2006. Krogen’s headquarters are here in Stuart and many Krogen owners spend their winters here. Sunset Bay Marina is ground zero for Krogens and we look forward to catching up with old friends. Idyll Time will spend the next month here while getting some maintenance work done.
Total Miles Today: 35
Total Miles This Year: 1047