Miami, Florida and Passage to Charleston

28th May - 12th June 2004


Arriving in Miami's busy port was quite a culture shock after the tranquility of the Keys!    We'd been told that the Government Cut, the port where the cruise ships dock, was closed to general traffic due to the recent Homeland Security programme.  This would add a few miles to our trip into the anchorage.  As we entered the Port of Miami, the two sailboats in front of us passed straight through the Government Cut, so we tagged along behind without any problems.   Obviously the channel had been reopened.    

We made our way around to the anchorage, which is in an area of man-made islands with many luxury homes, located between the South Beach area and downtown Miami.   It was an amazing spot in which to be anchored, right in the heart of things and we sat for quite some time with our sundowners, just watching the world go by!


Downtown Miami's Waterfront


Next day we set off to explore the South Beach area and were able to tie up the dinghy conveniently close to a bus stop on the route of the free electric bus.   We'd expected beach life to be quite exotic but hadn't realised that on Memorial weekend, South Beach is the venue for an annual Hip-Hop festival.    The seafront was packed with revellers, customised cars, goodwill ambassadors, police, beach police, state police, fire-department and lifeguards.  We felt both scruffy and overdressed at the same time, as the latest ladies fashion seemed to be having underwear (usually of the thong type), which was longer than your skirt.   The guys were dressed in tent-sized white T-shirts, shorts which started below the underwear but reached right to the ankles!


Phil making new friends at the Hip-Hop Festival!



Despite all the activity of the festival we were able to get a glimpse of "normal" South Beach life, people roller-blading, skateboarding, riding around on weird electric two wheeled contraptions and playing volleyball.   The Art-Deco buildings of the area provided a very attractive backdrop.


"Normal" South Beach Scene.

Our next adventure was to find our way up the Miami River in our dinghy to visit our old friends the Cole family formerly of "Sea Eagle" but now living aboard their beautiful new Aluminium Ketch "Red Flash".   Their marina was about four miles from our anchorage up the busy river, which was a very active port area.    We wound our way past the skyscrapers of downtown, under 13 bridges, past ships, tug boats, fishing boat and pleasure boats and beneath the main flight path of Miami's huge international airport.   It was a very interesting trip!

Scenes from the Miami River.

It was great to catch up with our old friends again after more than a year.    Cole and Natasha proudly gave us a tour of their beautiful new boat.  After seeing Chrissy, Micheal and Asia's collection of medieval weapons, we promised to behave ourselves!   Cole really helped us out, chauffering us to the Shopping Mall, Supermarket, Chandleries, FedEx depot miles away and the movies.  In return we were able to help him prepare Sea Eagle for a sale survey.    

Chrissy, Micheal and Asia model their medieval costumes.


While Cole and Phil were busy working on jobs on Sea Eagle, Christine & Natasha managed to sneak out for a girls day out.   After wearing themselves out window shopping and trying on outfits, it was time to choose a place for lunch.   After an hour of checking the menus of every restaurant in Lincoln Avenue, they found a place with a charming Bulgarian waitress, which gave Natasha an opportunity to speak Russian, so our minds were made up.   Natasha tried to give Christine a lesson in Russian during lunch but by the end all she could remember was the word for chocolate cake, so we ordered some for dessert!  After lunch we shopped the windows of the jewelry stores and enquired about the cost of a couple of items.   When we heard the cost of the ring we were looking at was $750, "was that more than you wanted to pay?"   "Yes, just a little", we replied and despite being offered a discount of $50, we decided to "think about it for a while".    It was a fun day.



When we'd been in Miami for over a week, we had the feeling that hurricane season was rapidly approaching.   Thunderstorms were becoming more and more frequent and we felt it was time to wrench ourselves away from our friends in Miami and start heading north.   Our insurance policy only covers damage by named tropical storms if we are north of 35 degrees north, that meant we had less than a month to head to Cape Hatteras, about 600 miles north.   After studying the charts of the Intracostal Waterway from Miami north and seeing the number of bridges we'd need to negotiate, we decided to make a longer passage offshore, which would get us north far more quickly.  Initially we planned to visit Savannah in Georgia but when we rang up City Hall to check the state of the city dock, we were told that the river would be closed by the Secret Service when we planned to arrive, for a G8 summit being held nearby.    So, we decided to pass Georgia by, hoping we'd get another chance to see it later and head directly offshore to Charleston in South Carolina.    From Miami we'd be able to sail in the Gulf Stream, which would give us an extra few knots of speed.


After fuelling at the Miami Beach Marina, (about 50 times dearer than we'd last paid in Venezuela!), we headed out to sea.    We motored north-east for a while until we hit the Gulf Stream and then started to make rapid progress north and travel under sail.

Our first night at sea was scary, we were surrounded by lightning storms for several hours and worried about getting struck, but were lucky.   As a precaution the PC, spare VHF and GPS were secured in the oven.   We hadn't lost our marbles, friends on Aliesha who did get struck by lightning had told us the electrics they'd put in the oven were all that survived the strike.   We did remember to remove the electronics before cooking anything!


Christine's favourite building in downtown Miami.

The next night was even scarier.   Phil was on watch and tracking a squall which seemed to be passing us by.   Suddenly it changed course and hit us.   It caught us unprepared and when we tried to reef the genoa, the reefing line became jammed, so we couldn't reef the sail.   As we'd been travelling downwind, the genoa was poled out, with the main right out on the opposite side of the boat.   As the squall hit, the wind flipped around on the beam and picked up dramatically.   With our genoa stuck and the main fixed on the wrong side of the boat, we were heeling right over, the end of the pole was even in the water.    We had to let our genoa fly, so it flapped frantically in the strong wind but had no power in it.    The spray hood was down as we struggled to free the main, to spill the wind, the rain was so heavy it was as though someone was directing a firehose right in the cockpit.   We struggled to get the boat back under control in the strong wind and driving rain.   It was terrifying and we feared we'd loose both sails.   Once the squall moved on we took stock of the damage and realised how lucky we were.   The sacrificial strip on the genoa, which protects the rolled sail from the UV light, was in tatters mostly due to the fact that it needed restitching anyway.   The two sheets or ropes attached to the foot of the sail, which had been flying around wildly in the wind, had tangled themselves together in a huge ball of rope, which took about half an hour to untangle and the deck car on one side was broken.  However, once we untangled the mess and were able to pull the sail back out, the only damage to the sail was a small tear at the top and one of the strengthening pieces needed restitching.   The mainsail was undamaged but we had to replace four of the plastic sliders which hold it in the track on the mast.   Another casualty was the wooden gallows which support the boom when we're not sailing.   The aluminium legs, which weren't very well made but we'd never got around to improving, snapped when Phil rested on it to try and tidy the mainsail.  All in all we were very lucky and it was a sobering lesson in the force of the weather on the East Coast of the United States!

Next night our challenge was to try and exit the Gulf Stream.   It may not sound too tricky but when we tried to sail west, to get out of the fast moving current and head towards Charleston, the current just kept on pushing us north.   In the end we had to use the motor as well to get enough power to escape the clutches of the current!

It was a tiring trip and the entrance to Charleston was quite stressful too.   All the ships which had been anchored as we approached during the night, decided to head up the narrow channel at the same time as us!   We were happy to arrive in the anchorage and hear a friendly voice on the VHF, it was Mark from Pegasus, who we'd last seen in Haiti.   He showed us a spot where they'd been anchored previously.  We arranged to meet up later,  dropped our hook and then went to bed for the afternoon to try and catch up on some sleep after two days and three nights at sea.

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