Troy and I headed south towards the Keys after leaving Little Shark River. We were ready for the clear waters the Keys are known for. We got that…we also got crab traps. EVERYWHERE! Brightly colored traps, striped traps, black traps, faded traps: you name it, we saw it. The closer we were to arriving in the Keys, the more crab traps we encountered. Up until we dropped the hook in Matecumbe Bight (Islamorada), we were dodging and weaving around an endless expanse of them. Luckily with careful spotting, we didn’t snag any in our prop. We spent three nights in Islamorada, in Florida Bay. There was no place to land the dinghy and go ashore, but we did get the opportunity to explore the nearby canals. Much of our time was spent planning our next stop, which meant heading out into the Atlantic!
It felt like a victory when we passed by the old Flagler Bridge and underneath A1A. We were officially in the Atlantic Ocean! On our way along the outside of the Keys, the color of the ocean changed. There was a distinct difference between the water “back under the bridge” and what we now sailed in. The water changed from sea green to a deep blue turquoise. We also noticed that rather than cutting through chop, the waves were much more like swells that we glided up and over easily.
We headed North towards Key Largo and anchored alongside Rodriguez Key with a few other boats. As the sun was closer to setting, more and more boats arrived. By the time we headed to bed, over a dozen boats filled the anchorage. Everyone except us left the following morning…maybe they had had enough of the rocking from the Atlantic waves. We had a mission: fill water, diesel, and gas cans. Unfortunately, there was nothing incredibly close; so we dinghied over to Pilot House Marina. Thirty-five minutes later and soaked from the rough ride in, we entered the canal to the marina. It was quite something to see: damage from Hurricane Irma. Caved in sea walls, warped metal boat lifts, and debris lined the canal. A bright spot though, at the entrance, rebuilding. Several men working to rebuild what appeared to be an island resort. The harbormaster at Pilot House Marina and Restaurant told us about their experience. Water, knee-deep, filled the restaurant during and after the storm. You couldn’t tell however, they were open for business, seating guests at their glass-bottomed bar and gassing up boats. Since we had a place to land the dinghy (for free!), Troy decided to stock up on a few engine and maintenance items from Napa. I also stocked up at a Farmer’s Market…lettuce, apples, onions, peppers, limes, squash…you name it, we bought it!
The next day, we were on our way North again, heading to Biscayne Bay near Miami. We were seeking out protection from a week of strong eastern winds in the forecast. Elliot Key would give us that protection, while also getting us a step closer to our jumping off point to Bimini. This turned into our longest stop: 8 nights. The east winds came…days and days of 20+ knot winds. We made the best of it! We found a beach that we had to ourselves (until the weekend arrived when the mega yachts and powerboats crowded the key like a parking lot). The dogs loved running up and down the beach, playing in the water. Ginnie wore her sandy-self out: endless games of fetch (ball or stick) and dunking her head in the water. Bella preferred to sit in the sand mostly…until she decided once to trot off towards the mangroves…and didn’t stop…until Troy caught up with her, eventually. She stayed on the leash after that episode!
Monday morning, after several days of conferring with our weather sources, including PassageWeather, we were off to No Name Harbor. There we would prepare for our Gulf Stream crossing to Bimini on Wednesday or Thursday. We are learning that weather is the sole dictator of any move we make: go or stay, inside route or outside route, sail or motor, etc. etc. Within a couple of hours, the weather had also changed a bit for Tuesday…that would now be our day to cross. But wait…by then, we only had approximately eight hours to make vet appointments for all three animals, shop for provisions, visit the bank, and ready the boat. My head was spinning just reading my to-do list! And let’s not forget that we’re in a city we’ve never been to…without a car! As soon as we anchored outside of No Name Harbor, Troy and I split up. I’d head off to shop for provisions and run errands, while he’d ready the boat. Thank goodness for Uber! After a few hours, Troy met me to load the groceries into the dinghy and head back to Salty Tails. It was after 3:00 and we had an appointment with the vet at 5:00. So, back on the dinghy we went…now with two people, two dogs, and a cat (who surprisingly wasn’t putting up too much of a fight). Thankfully, the Uber driver didn’t mind pets (thanks to a generous tip)…and Ginnie didn’t mind the car ride! All went well at the vet: we now had the 48-hour health certificates required by Bahamas Customs and Immigration. In trying to save a few bucks, we opted to walk back to No Name Harbor, two miles away. You can probably imagine some of the expressions we got walking two dogs and carrying Chase in his cat carrier…we surely looked out of place!
We finally returned, tying the dinghy off to the stern of the boat as the sun was setting over Biscayne Bay. We were totally exhausted. We were ready to cross. We had read, planned, and dreamed of this day for so long. Tomorrow we were crossing over to Bimini! Our Bahamas adventure was about to start!