Right- On May 14th we crossed back to the US of A. This started out as a somewhat rolly ride, but cleared relatively quickly into a pleasant 8ish hour sail. We began the crossing at Cat Island, Bimini.
We entered Miami through Government Cut and anchored off Fisher Island. This was basically a wide and barely deep enough spot in a bay across from where they load cargo ships. We checked in to the US on the app in this location and then went around the corner to Virginia Key. This was a pretty anchorage in front of a long beach, but it was very populated. The beach was busy and there was a lot of boat traffic. There was commotion at night as well as traffic from the nearby road. After setting the anchor, we took Meg and went looking for a place to eat, American Food! Jennifer found Salt and we headed to the U of Miami nearby. There was a dock there, but a guard for the school said we couldn’t tie up there. There was another short boardwalk that they suggested we use, so we did so. The food there was terrific and we met the head of security. Evidently he had seen us pull up and had contacted the guard on duty that there were 2 families looking for a place to tie up. He said they get some people that aren’t there for the restaurant or any good thing and they run them off. He was afraid we might be run off. We received great service and had an exceptional time here. We were feeling pretty good about being on American soil, again.
We were able to take the dogs to shore, although we chose to do so after dark when the beach had cleared out. We had to row from the swim buoy’s also, so it just was better this way. There was an ice cream truck and food tent as well, serving Latin food. The Sivori’s and Matthew and I shared a Lyft to Target the next day. Matthew was soooo happy to see a “real” store again! He bought several gifts for family, in anticipation of going home in a few days.
From Miami we went south to Elliot Key. This was a short trip, about 3 hours. We spent one night here. When we anchored and went to bed, there were four boats, including us. When we awoke, there was approximately 500 boats. We headed further south the next day towards Key Largo. We anchored one night at North Key Largo, near Turkey Point. We took a quick ride on Meg through the mangroves, it was nice to be off the boat for awhile. Then onto the Anchorage Resort marina the 20th. We had a bridge to go under that was immediately adjacent to the marina, extremely shallow depths (the only place we touched bottom, the whole trip) and a bit of a current. It took 2 attempts to get into our slip, but it was reasonable smooth, anyway. Do you know what the best benefit of a marina is??? AIR CONDITIONING! Unlimited power means our AC runs nonsop! We had a full day there before we headed to Tampa and enjoyed the pool and our first meal from McDonalds since December!
We stayed in a motel the night of the 21st after driving our rental car to Tampa (5 hour drive) and Matthew and I were at the airport at 0500. We shed some tears, but had a good flight. He slept most of the way. When we deplaned, dad was sitting at the gate. I ran Matthew over to the exit doors and tearfully hugged and waved goodbye to him. Jamie had brought Helena and that was a great diversion for him.
Dad, Mike and I drove back to Key Largo that night. We stopped first along the way to pick up some folding bikes Mike had found and bought on Facebook. Then we found a sushi restaurant that was amazing! I think I ate my weight in sushi! We got home at 11pm.
Thursday, we ran around Key Largo a bit and went to marine thrift stores and gift shops. We met Brad and Shelby from SV Falkor, which was in the slip to our port side (left as you look forward). They are a young couple and she had just turned 28 the day before. They have 3 rescue dogs on board, so we were all immediate friends! They live aboard their Spindrift 43 pilot house sailboat in Miami. She is a beautiful and unique boat. When we went to town, we gave them a ride as we still had our rental car. It was fun! For giving them a ride, they blessed us with a colorful tiki that now sits below our dodger. Jennifer had given me an ankle bracelet that day and dad had brought me a tshirt from Mom. I was feeling pretty special. Jennifer had recently given me a necklace of hers with a Walt Whitman quote:
“Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find”
We agreed that as she already had this necklace when she began her trip, it was just one more piece of evidence that we were meant to travel together and become life long friends. I will always cherish this necklace!
That night, Jennifer, Wyatt, Shelby and I stayed up until midnight painting the wood that Jennifer and I had collected in our travels. The guys talked and we were creative. I love the pieces we made and the time spent together!
We were off to Elliot Key the next day. We hoped that because of some weather coming in we would be in a less busy sight. Not so…. So, the next night we went back south to Card Sound. We anchored off some mangrove creeks. We had drinks and played cards on Falkor that night. Dad was worn out and stayed home. We had taken a dinghy ride through the mangroves for a few hours and enjoyed the change in scenery. The temperatures were gradually becoming warmer and we especially appreciate a breeze when at anchor. That morning we had seen dolphins playing between the 3 boats. Shelby and Brad had also seen a couple of nurse sharks, but we missed those. Shelby coined us the Pirate Brigade! I loved having the 3 boats and new friends nearby. We all played around one more day, then on Monday headed back to Miami. Falkor went to their home port and we dropped the hook back at Virginia Key. After everyone settled we met up for a farewell meal at Whiskey Joes across the road. We dinghy’d over then after Brad and Shelby took me to the grocery store for a few last minute provisions. What a sweet couple they are! More new life long friends! What could be better?
The next morning we headed north for West Palm. As we headed out of Government Cut, the waves were bottlenecking into the channel. We estimate the waves to have been about 6 foot and very close together. Voyager plowed through them, burying her bow in the water several times. It was a relief to turn north once out, and get out of that! We were able to catch the edge of the Gulf Stream and made decent time. We were making high 9’s (9+knots) and were happy with that. We anchored near the Palm Beach Sailing Club where we had been in March, so we could take the dogs to the dog park. The next morning we were headed north again after fueling up at the Riveria Marina fuel dock.
Missing this crew like crazy!
We weren’t sure if we would pull an overnighter or not when we left, but we did, indeed. The gulf stream kept us at around 11knots and we were screaming along! Typically, if only under sail with 12 or more knots we can expect around 7 knots of speed, so this was amazing. We arrived at the Conch House Marina in St Augustine at about 4 pm on May 30th. There was a brisk current and the wind, which had been minimal all day picked up as we approached. The marina was somewhat narrow between docks and I had trouble lining up to the slip we were directed to go into. As I started in, the wind and current took Voyager back. I then narrowly missing a few other boats, swung around, doing a 360 and we pulled in to a slip across from where we were supposed to be. It was embarrassing and humiliating and I was so glad no one got the footage (that I know of). The dock hands were great and made light of the whole thing. Mike said he thought the Lord was keeping us humble as we were feeling like we had this whole sailing thing down. He’s probably right. I tend to get a little too big for my britches and this brought me down a notch.
We weren’t sure how long we would stay, but planned on leaving Saturday if Rocky was able to haul us out on Sunday. Well, turns out St Augustine is a pretty great place to explore! Mike and I finally tried out our new bikes, riding to the Sailors Exchange (we had driven there from St Mary’s in Feburary). This is a marine style thrift store that has absolutely anything you can imagine for a boat. We then got a Lyft to Mojo’s BBQ and had a late lunch with Ventolines Crew. Oh. My. Word. This place is amazing. The food was delicious. We split the “whole hog” between the 3 of us and still had food left over. And the price was reasonable. We walked around a little after. Dad sat and enjoyed a beer while Mike and I walked around the outside of the fort, Castillo de San Marcos. We really had no idea of the history of this great town and were fascinated! So, we spent an extra day and took the trolley on the tour and were able to see a few more points of interest. The architecture of the Flagler College, formerly the Ponce De Leon hotel is gorgeous. We missed the guided tour, but will do it the next time we are in town. We also saw a bit of the Governor’s House and then the Lightener Museum. This is unlike any museum we have been to. Apparently, Lightener, from Chicago, would buy up estates after the stock market crash in the 30’s. This led to his being the owner of an especially eclectic collection of “stuff”. He bought the Alcaraz Hotel for $150,000 to house his collection. When this was a hotel, it was unique in that it had the largest indoor swimming pool of the time and this pool had 2 upper, balcony style levels, including a ballroom where Henry Flagler would have orchestra’s play while swimmers enjoyed the pool. There was also a steam room and various bathing apparatus for his clienteles every whim and well being. The architecture here is also lovely. This was the second hotel built by Henry Flagler after bringing his wife to St Augustine for a healthier environment and finding transportation and accommodation lacking. Henry Flagler, if you aren’t aware, was the partner of John D. Rockefeller in the creation of Standard Oil. Rockefeller had stated that Flagler was the one with the ideas. Well, he saw a need in St Augustine and not only built a railroad from Jacksonville to Miami, but a hospital, churches, the 2 resort style hotels and several other beneficial businesses. He bought a 3rd hotel, the Casa Monica from a friend who had built it, then realized it wasn’t going to turn a profit. Flagler was there, checkbook in hand thereby owning the 3 largest resort hotels all within one block of each other. He was quite a man! This is an era of wealthy living that will never be repeated. It was grand and high end and sparkly and excessive in a way I don’t think we have seen since and won’t see again. We truly enjoyed our time in St. Augustine and plan to return and spend more time, there.
Trying out the new bike
The Old Drug Store
Old City Walls
Tiny Baby Lizard saved from the pool by Jennifer