Florida coast, Palm Beach & Miami to Key West
We motored all of the next day (20th Jan) under grey skies and anchored in Palm Beach mid afternoon. Once again, we weren’t inspired to take the long dinghy ride to local facilities which seemed to be some distance away. There was little to see from the boat except for the houses of the rich at the water’s edge, as usual preventing any strolling along the sea shore.
On Wednesday, 21st January we set off early for Miami and motored most of the way on our first really hot day since the previous summer. We motored down the unprepossessing, overdeveloped, Florida coastline and eventually had some gentle sailing for the last 2 hours into Miami harbour. We passed Miami Beach with its different coloured lifeguard stations and then the busy port with huge barges and container ships being unloaded. We tied up in the cheapest marina at Bayside in a not very attractive corner of the harbour and later walked through the tacky local touristy shops and restaurants to find somewhere to eat. It was not a great introduction to Miami, but we hadn’t had any great expectations for the place so weren’t disappointed!
Our final passage in the US was an overnighter down to Key West and we had a glorious sail all the way in consistent trade winds. The boat speed hit 9-10 kts for quite a bit of the time although contrary currents slowed our real progress. It was still a fast passage however and an easy night with 2 extra crew meaning short watches and more sleep in between. We sailed down the line of Keys and would have visited Key Largo if it had had the depth for us. The water temp was now 25°C and there were frigate birds overhead – almost back in the Tropics.
We planned on 2 nights in Key West, the southernmost place in the US, but the marina was full at first so we were directed over to the anchorage opposite. We anchored, then moved to allow more room between us and a grumpy neighbour and anchored again, making sure we were well dug in as usual. After a late breakfast and showers all round, we had a slow, damp dinghy ride ashore to explore the island’s “delights”. We booked our slip in the marina for the next day, had a cold beer and then wandered around the main streets. These were very busy with tourists and full of unappealing shops and eateries, but the side streets did have some pretty clapboard houses with lush, shady greenery, banyan trees, palms and bamboo etc and an altogether more peaceful feel. Cruise ships dock here most days so much is geared to them and overall we were rather disappointed with the place. We had lunch in “Hog’s Breath Saloon” and then visited the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. This was set up to house the incredible finds salvaged from an 18th century Spanish treasure ship found by Mr Fisher in 1985 after a more than 20 year search of the seabed. The haul was valued at over 200million dollars and included thousands of silver ingot bars, some substantial solid gold chains and emerald jewels and the more everyday objects of sailing life at the time. On the way back to the dinghy we sampled the local key lime ice cream (very good) and with the heat and palms it did feel as though we were back in the Caribbean, though in a rather brash, touristy version.
Late afternoon we headed back out to Goldcrest in our dinghy and all four of us searched for her amongst the anchored boats ahead. SHE WASN’T THERE. One of a sailor’s nightmares had come true, our boat had gone. We didn’t know what to think as we returned to shore and skipper enquired in the marina if anyone knew anything. After some very anxious minutes, we found out that our anchor had dragged whilst we were away (it had never done that before even in wild winds) and someone had called the coastguard. A local salvage guy then got to the boat before it had moved more than a few metres and towed it around the corner of the island to another mooring field some distance away. We had a very long and gloomy dinghy ride to be reunited with our home and then contemplated what it meant in terms of another insurance claim, large deductible etc. We have subsequently been told that other boats have gone adrift there in circumstances which some have found suspicious. In our case we had apparently “dragged anchor” in the same direction we had dug it in as hard as we always do – none of us can work out how that can happen. All we know for sure is that we now have very few good memories of our time in America, apart from the kindness of most of its inhabitants, and we couldn’t wait to leave its waters. The following morning we moved into the marina and then spent most of the day preparing to leave. We had to check out at the airport which involved a taxi ride there and a slow bus back via a last supermarket shop. We saw more of the island that way and none of it was attractive. Many “alternative folk” make it to the end of the line here and then live a very laid back life, so up-market it isn’t!