March 1-14, 2010 - Cruising Log for S/V Freedom - a Gemini 105 - Jim and Deb Faughn

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 Mar 1 - We headed out to Lignumvitae Key Saturday. However, I had just posted about 40 pictures so yesterday I didn't post. I'm getting lazy!

We pulled the anchors and motored against the wind over to Lignamvitae in time for the 10 a.m. tour.

Lignumvitae started thousands of years ago as a coral reef and then came the deposits of soil followed by seeds. Although Lignamvitae trees are found elsewhere in the world, this happens to be a place that they also hang out and grow 365 days a year. After docking, you walk down the dock and see up the path the Matheson House which was built in 1919 and is now home to the park rangers display and where they collect the whopping $1 per person for the one hour tour. What a great value!

You can see part of the house and some of the plantings below and below right you can see a section of the Lignamvitae tree. This is one of the strongest woods and weighs in at 80 pounds per square foot and at that weight it sinks if put in water.


On the old water tower, a pair of Osprey's have made a pretty impressive nest and this is their 7th year for bringing up offspring. The ranger told us that when they decide the fledglings are ready, they just leave and in essence say either put up or shut up. They also told us that there are some pretty good crashes as the birds learn to fly.

In the pictures below, you can see some of the cutaways of many of the tree's that live on the island, a picture of Fred holding one of the night sticks made of Lignumvitae wood.

One of the most interesting things that I saw was that for a long period of time they used Lignumvitae wood for bearings for propeller shafts. According to the park ranger the liberty ships during WWII all had Lignumvitae bearings along with some of the first nuclear sub's.

Below that you can see some of the rooms of the house along with the furnishings.

I just had to get a picture of this pasta maker since I had a stainless steel one in St. Louis but this one appeared to have a roller made of Lignumvitae wood.

In the kitchen there were two hand pumps. No, they weren't hot and cold. Instead, they were fresh water and sea water.

Below right is a picture of a Lignumvitae tree that is about 30 years old and is in perfect growing conditions. Usually they grow under a canopy which the rangers call a hammock.

To the right is the Matheson House and a number of things were of interest to me. First was they did build it up for hurricane surge protection. How did they figure that out and then in the 50's-80's the people building in the Key's constructed them right at ground height? Don't you think we would learn?

Also, the gutters are copper and in the back you could see the copper pipes leading to the above ground cistern that held the rainwater collected from the roof. That was the water that provided them survival.

Below you can see a few pictures showing some of the plantings in the area. They have declared this a botanical park so they have tried to eradicate things that are not natural to the area.

The only place you can walk on the island are on the paths that the Matheson's created. These were originally 16 feet wide but now are about 6. The rangers aren't really allowed to leave the path and need special permission to cut anything that isn't blocking the path.

The root structure to the left is an example of how the trees try to get support since they live on a rock. The roots spread out and if a hurricane comes by and knocks them over they still have about a 60 percent chance of still living. You can see in the picture to the lower left and example of a tree that was knocked over and then started growing all over again vertically.

The picture to the lower right is of a poison wood tree.

Poison wood sounds bad and it is. Evidently it gives you a reaction similar to poison oak and poison ivy. The effect is accumulative and they even cancel tours if it rains because the poison drips from the leaves.

Speaking of leaves, you can see a picture of one below and you will notice that they have a yellow ring around their edge.

Below right is a shell of a snail which lives on the trees and this is believed to be the only place this version of snails lives.

As we walked along the path the ranger explained that this is as close to what the Florida Keys looked like before mankind began their natural exploitation.

We then came upon another Lignumvitae tree which was estimated to be 150 years old and it is to the lower left. Walking further we came upon the "Champion Lignumvitae" which in this case is the oldest living Lignumvitae tree in the country and perhaps the world. The tree below is estimated to be 1,500 years old and is just barely alive. A few years ago it took almost an act of congress to allow them to cut off the chokers so that this tree could continue living. You can see many of the dead areas but you can also see the small green leaves on the top that says it is still alive.

And then we returned to the start of the tour. Back where the palm trees were planted and the cannons which were found off the beach were in proud placement.

It was a pretty good tour for a buck!

Then we went back, anchored and waited out another front. These fronts are starting to get old!

Today after the winds died some, we took a 2 1/2 mile dinghy trip back in and saw the end of the USA/Canada hockey game. In addition we saw the "famed" limo on the water which was next to a pirate ship kind of thing.

On the way back to the boat we saw a great moon rise and the picture absolutely does not do it justice. We were simply bouncing around too much to get a good picture in the dinghy. Sorry but you get the idea. Beautiful.

Tomorrow we are off about 20 miles for another shore excursion and then anchoring to wait out yet another front. Then we will be heading back to Key Largo to explore that area.

 Mar 2 - We arrived in Key Largo yesterday at about 11:30 am and pulled up next to a Warham cat that had a person aboard to see where we could land a dinghy. It simply wasn't too clear from the explanation in Skipper Bob's but he pointed it out. If you go east, up the Key's, from the sailing club about a half mile you will see this thatched roof in front of a yellow house. There is a passage through the rocks taking you to a dead end road. You can see below you will be welcomed on the right by a statue. Keep your eyes on the destination.


Just to the left in front of you is a road that dead ends and it appears there is a small launch ramp here. We tied up and locked to a tree and then went up the road to Highway 1. Our destination was to see the boat used in the movie the African Queen.

You can see some of the pictures below and one of the cool things was the engine with the exposed crank and oilers. Evidently this boat has been all over the world but I don't think it was under it's own steam power.

It also appeared that it needed just a bit of maintenance too.


Then we headed down the dock and found where Gilligan and the Skipper had gone back in business aboard the newer version of the H.M.S. Minnow. This boat was being overseen by your requisite pelican.

We continued down the dock and met a couple who had purchased a 40' Island Packet and into the conversation I told him how to fix his starting problem which I figured out all Yanmar's have because of corrosion in the wires. Since I fixed two this summer, then he was happy to learn that he can get this fixed without spending a fortune. Instead about 100 bucks for wire and connectors.

We then headed off for our anchorage we would be using for the next front. By the way, these fronts are starting to get OLD!

We passed another osprey nest built on one of the navigation aids.

Then at about mile 1139 in Tarpon Basin, I stopped a dinghy and asked them where they were going ashore. You can see a picture of the white triangle roofs to the right and that is now a park where they allow dinghy's to tie up. I was told it was only 3 blocks to a Publix and the holding was good in Tarpon Basin since this couple had just gone through 36 knot winds in one of the fronts we had also been through. I believe this was a great find and will put it in my list of dinghy docks for the Key's. Next trip we are in this area, we will use it and hopefully get a better feeling about Key Largo.

Then we went into Blackwater Sound only to find a schooner giving sunset cruises.

I just love schooners.

As we were almost to Gilbert's and the new highway 1 bridge we saw this Gemini that is probably a good fixer upper. I'm not sure what it looks like on the inside but my bet is similar to the outside.


Below right is Gilbert's again, a place you can dinghy into if you buy something from them.

 Mar 7 - We anchored after passing Gilberts thinking we would be there for 2 days. As it ended up, the front passed with a bunch of wind, some rain, and just more cold. I know you are tired of me saying this but we are tired of fronts. So, after a day of anchoring in the middle of nowhere, we left and motored into the wind all day and anchored at Dinner Key. The holding wasn't great so Fred stayed on his boat and we stayed on our own. Deb and I had some chores to do on shore so we decided to pick up one of the new mooring balls, $18 per day from the city, and use this opportunity to do laundry, get parts I need for the boat, pick up propane, get pumped out, get water, and wash the boat while at anchor and given some extra time hopefully see some good architecture.  

The new city mooring field is run by Dinner Key Marina. They have showers which weren't new but were very clean along with 4 washers and dryers which worked fine but will not be enough if they actually fill up this mooring field. The people in the office were VERY helpful and made it easy to get started quickly.

The picture to the lower left is the entrance to the marina complex and it also shows another mooring field which is run by a Yacht Club. They are $20 per night and don't have washers and dryers but they have showers and also you get to use their club when you use their moorings. However, they are close together and it was forecast to be cold so we knew we would need to run the generator and heater just for our own comfort. We went with the city's mooring this time.

The picture to the lower right shows some of the boats in marina.

And to the left are even more.

In the picture to the lower left you can see the blimp running around which isn't something we see everyday.

Then to the lower right is a picture of the sailing clubs moorings.

Deb and I walked about 10 or so blocks to the Home Depot for some stuff I needed and then on to a hardware store, another 5 blocks, and then back to the marina. All we saw were boxes that are called houses. I was actually disappointed. So, I asked where all the good (expensive) houses were. Then the next morning after riding 3 miles each way for a propane fill, I went riding again to see some homes that are supposed to be unique.

I found that the US Olympic Sailing Team trains here on Biscayne bay. Pretty cool actually. We are sailing on the waters of champions.

Then it was on to the bike ride. Right off the bat, I was struck by the fact that almost every home had an electric gate to keep out the lowly people such as me I guess. Gates are everywhere.

There is even some construction going on but not too much.

The landscaping is very impressive and really like the way some people have used the landscaping to accent the homes.

Of course I was a Miami Vice fan so the modern homes, such as the one below, always tweak my interest. I also like the art which was displayed in the perfect spot in this home below.

Then there are more homes built on coral up and away from the surges from hurricanes.

Of course there were more gates and more and more beautiful homes.

We aren't in the art deco district so we left for Miami Beach where we were going to anchor and do some more tourist activities.

 Of course we are going to move so the wind must be right on the nose. This will change someday. We motored up towards Miami and through our first Miami bridge which had lines hanging into the water. I saw a monohull make it through with the Coast Guard boat patrolling so I knew I could make it too. I'm not sure what was going on but they were announcing that construction was being done in the area so the cables must be associated with the construction.  

 On our port side we were welcomed to Miami by a pretty big conch horn and a guy blowing the horn. I'm happy that this wasn't an automated statue with the horn going off every minute or two.

Then we passed Government Cut which was closed and guarded today. They close the cut every time there are cruise ships docked. Then across government cut you can see the seaplane base along with a couple of seaplanes on shore.

Finally we passed the police station at Venetian causeway and took a left then right into Sunset Lake. We anchored and will be here for 4-5 days hoping the winds cooperate for a crossing late this week or soon after. This anchorage is beautiful and we will have pictures in a day or two.

Take care and thanks to those who are bugging me to update more. I was just working and having fun too. More later.

 Mar 8 - Yesterday, Fred and I took a dinghy trip. We both took our own dinghy's since it is always fun to go play with a small boat in a very expensive location. There is a route that takes you through canals then down Miami Beach and back through some more canals to our boat. The trip is about 4-5 miles and it sounded like something fun to do.

One of the items we wanted to also do is a mundane thing of dumping our trash which you can see in the front of my dinghy.

You can see below there are some more very nice houses in the area. This won't be the last one you will see. MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of bucks are spent on waterfront homes here.

For the cruisers or want to be cruisers following us I'll also show you some pictures of dinghy places in the pictures. The one to the lower right is at the end of a road here in sunset lake and this is one place you can tie-up, lock, and then get on and off your dinghy.


Another "small" home that is just the right size for the couple who doesn't want to see each other.

There is also they guy who runs around on his boat picking up junk. I'm not sure how he can pay for the gas but his boat is obviously named appropriately.

Then there is the home that must have been caught up in the economic recession. I'll bet there are a few law suits on this one. Would you like a modern home that only needs finishing?

I did like this palm tree and the way it hung out over the water.

Then below is another place for a dinghy stop. The people who run this dry cleaners evidently let you tie up behind it on the canal. It is only a short walk to a Publix from here.

Then to the lower right is the launch ramp at the police station. Even though there are signs that say only 20 min docking, it appears the dinghy's are staying longer. The good thing is that you can pick up water and get rid of your trash here. I never feel bad about getting rid of trash at a public facility since I'm buying all the stuff at the grocery stores and paying taxes while I'm in the town. I kind of feel like my tax dollars pay for the service. Maybe a good rationalization but everyone needs a good rationalization every day or so.

Then another dinghy dock at the first canal south of the bridge by the police station. This one is where you want to park to catch a bus or go to Lincoln Mall.

And then another dinghy place on the canal that is directly across the street from a different Publix. This is a great location for someone wanting to do major provisioning because you don't have to carry your stuff so far.

We then continued down the canal on our trip. Little did we know that at the end of the canal, it was blocked. Evidently they are working on some of the underneath structures of the bridges and they have down their environmental containment systems. So we can't get by this way, we have to turn around and head the other direction.

We came back towards our boats down a different canal and popped out right at our anchorage. You can see Freedom below anchored on the left and Fred's Nordic Tug, Northstar, anchored on the right.

One of the coolest things I saw was this tree house that was probably built by a contractor verses the kids. Deb wanted to see if they would rent it to us. What a view it could have especially with bigger windows.

And more homes.

Then below you will see the two boats in front of what is obviously a large estate.

 They were named Utopia II and Utopia III. I was wondering if they were His and Her's yachts?

 We passed a number of homes which must have been stopped from the recession and this one appears to be a design that wasn't to my specification but was for someone. They just didn't have the money to finish it. Perhaps that is a result of the credit crisis over in Saudi.

And yet another home which we thought might have Indian inspiration. Not my style again but obviously done well and who can argue with a person with their own stone boat house.


 We made the turn onto Miami Beach after watching the rowing teams working out. These were the girl teams and my thought was the guys either went earlier or will go later.

Below you can get an idea of the massiveness of Miami Beach and the entire philosophy they have, which is not unlike many ocean communities - Put up a high rise and take away the view. Well I guess the people in the high rise get the view.


 I also ran upon this wonderful example of a Gemini 3000. It had been repainted, the teak was redone, and all electronics were updated. With all the solar panels on top, I think they either have or are planning to do some cruising.

I always was envious of the underneath clearance on the 3000's. After this model, Tony decided to lower the clearance under the table and it was probably to create additional room inside along with keeping the center of gravity low. I still wish he would keep the clearance and increase the width of the boat but again, that would change the entire philosophy of a very successful boat.

I guess there are entrepreneurs everywhere. This one below is a floating billboard. Just think, you can advertise here for only $29 per hour and get 2 days free.

And finally, another Miami Vice home which I always enjoy. Face it, I'm just a Miami Vice or Dan Tanner type of guy who wants an open design. I just have to remember that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. Well, maybe nerf stones.

We are getting ready to head off and catch a bus to Bayside. More pictures tomorrow.


 Mar 10 - We are just hanging out at anchor and in came a pretty nice boat. Alright, a VERY nice boat. The Captain and his mate were at the helm and aft were the owner and his wife, best babe or ???? The reality was they were just out for an evening cruise no different than us except they were paying a couple of people to drive them around and my bet would be they had a chef below cooking a wonderful seared salmon with a lemon wine caper sauce along with parsley 'd potato's and fresh green beans with almonds which had followed a ceaser's salad and ending in a wonderfully simple vanilla ice cream desert with perhaps a few blue berry's sprinkled on top. Hungry??? I am and I just ate.

Of course I'm just thinking about what it might be to be on the back of that boat and then, I think I just created the next menu on our boat without paying for the captain, first mate, and of course the chef. Maybe I'll have a picture of that meal in a week or so.


 Yesterday we headed out on a bus trip to Miami. To the left is Gale and Maureen from the Gemini 105Mc Blue Heron, then it is Deb and Fred who is getting a great hug from the photographer's wife. We are heading for a trip from Miami Beach over to Miami and Bayside Marina. Why? It is simple. Every time Deb and I went on a cruise we would end up either before or after the cruise at Bayside and look down on the marina talking about the day we would drop out and go cruising. Of course at the time it was a dream and we hoped but didn't really know if it would ever come true. Years and years we went on that 4 day or 7 day discounted cruise and came back to dream looking at the boats.

Today we came back to celebrate the fact that we are still out and still loving looking at boats and creating dreams about our future.

So here is another view of the marina and a great news event for cruisers. We found a new dinghy dock! Hooray!

As you come into the marina you turn to the left and head towards the Hard Rock and you will see the finger pier below. You can use this dock for 3 hours for free. That's it but if we would have known it, we would have probably taken a 3 mile dinghy ride just for the fun of it. Afterall, the wind was down and who else has the guts to show up at this kind of marina with a Port-a-boat? That is a real question isn't it. Well next time we will show up and enjoy the experience from the time we leave the boat until we return. Miami by dinghy.

Deb went shopping with Gale and Maureen and Fred and I went on a walking trip through Miami. We found a number of interesting places and then we stumbled on this renovation of the Olympia with the box office out front.
Today we took a Miami Beach local bus to the southern most part of Miami beach. There we found a bunch of examples of the art deco district along with a number of "statement" buildings. One of my favorites is below left but then again I did love the 1940 buick sitting outside of the Park Central Hotel.

So much that I got a close-up. What you may not be able to see is the mannequin sitting inside with the cigarette in his mouth. Pretty much an perfect example of the cool guy in the 50's.

Then more examples of the interesting architecture.

It gave us something to talk about because what causes city's to adopt there own style? Chicago is a steel and glass city, Miami Beach is known for the art deco, and of course Charleston, SC is a beautiful example of an adaption of porches such that the breeze cools the home without air conditioning. As I said, each town has it's own character and examining them brings something to my soul.
 And it continues.

 Then there are more.

I found the building below interesting with the statement walls that made this more than a box. And of course below right is the perfect chairs to place in front of an art deco home.

 And another one.

 We ended Tuesday with a first ever cruiser pot luck in Miami Beach. A lady who started a net a couple of days ago on channel 72 at 8:30 and one of the first things that was organized is a pot luck. We found out about it by stopping by a boat that had a hailing port of Sydney Australia. That was fun and it made us remember our friends Ross and Karen who are also from Australia.

Everyone had a great time and we met a bunch of people but most importantly we met some people who had cruised down through the Caribbean and back inspiring us to make that trip next winter. All I can do is hope but the bottom line is that right now it is looking pretty good so far.

So what's next? It looks like we are heading to Lincoln Mall tonight for more pictures and people watching. Afterall, the people here sure dress different than cruisers do - they spend money on them and send them to the cleaners. I can't wait.


Who knows if this schedule will work or not but we will probably be heading to Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday before the next front. Then we have some spares to pick up at the largest West Marine in the world, I think. On Sunday we will probably head up to Lake Worth and on Monday we have found a new place for Jimmy Buffett's vacation. He gets to go to a bird sitter which is a vet and only specializes in birds. It sounds great for him and is somewhat reasonable unless you really think we should have him for breakfast. We just can't even though my friend Paul keeps thinking he may be very tasty. We have to come back through Lake Worth to check back into the country anyway and since we won't have to rent a car twice the price works out the same as if we left him in Key West. So all we need after that is a good weather window on Tuesday or a few days later. We are going to go over to West End and check in just because we have never been there. Remember, this is our cruise of going places we haven't been. Then it will be on to the Abaco's with much worse wi-fi because we will not be using our Verizon Broadband card. I'm warning you in advance. That is our loose schedule but we recognize it won't happen and flexibility is in our future as it has been in our past. See you later.

 Mar 11 - Yesterday afternoon we headed in on the dinghy's and our destination was Lincoln Mall. This is one of the wonderful places in Miami Beach where you have what seems like thousands of restaurants with outside seating. The shops are more than expensive and it seems that this is the place to be seen (not by us), walk your dog, ride your skateboard, window shop, buy a piece of art, or perhaps watch people.

As you can see by the pictures, they have closed a road and the "mall" extends down the middle of the previous street and it seems like things just get more and more active as the evening progresses.


After stopping at one of the places on the mall, where Deb and I split a roast beef sandwich with one little piece of roast beef, a bunch of bread, and some chips my stomach hurt because it was the worst sandwich I have had in over a year. The place was called Finnagan's so if you are ever on the mall, you are forewarned.

We then headed for 1627 Collins Ave where it was supposed to be the Best Pizza on South Beach. We kind of cheated because Fred stopped there a few days ago and said it was great pizza. I was ready for something that would be better than good and I wasn't disappointed. First thing that happened was we heard the guy at the counter telling a customer that he really didn't want to order a small pizza because if he ordered 2 slices it was cheaper and you would get more pizza. I thought, now you don't hear that everyday so I was already impressed. We ended up ordering our slice of pizza, and one slice was enough for both Deb and I. The slices are huge and range from $4 for cheese to 5.50 for the works. Drinks aren't over priced and they are throwing the pizza right there as you watch.

This is the size of one of the giant pizzas they cut the slices from. Huge and you can see Deb and Fred are impressed.

On top of watching the pizza's head in and out of the oven not to mention the entertainment of watching them make up pizza's they also have two large screen T.V.'s and they play concert video's on the screens. When we were in there Journey was on the screen and now I remember why I liked Journey. Great "pipes" on the singer plus some very good guitar work too.

We had fun, had a great slice of "pie." and were ready to walk back through Lincoln Mall.

As the night goes on, the street venders and performers come out. To the left you can see I almost caught this statue performer who was all dressed in white carrying her box to stand on. It was starting to look like Mallory Square in Key West before we headed out of there.

We had a great time.

This morning it is very overcast and we will be pulling the anchor somewhere around 9:30 once the traffic clears and the bridges will open on a more reasonable schedule for us. It is a short trip but still will take half a day. Hopefully we only encounter rain and not the possible thunderstorms.

More later.

 Mar 12 - Yesterday we motored up the intercoastal with the many bridges. It was against the wind so who cared about the motoring. We picked up a mooring ball so we could do laundry and take some showers with and unlimited water supply then headed back to the boat for some grilled chicken. We had the first rain last night and then this morning it was raining pretty good. I went back in to drop off the trash then came back for another good rain. In a clear time we took off and went to an anchorage about a mile and a half away in Lake Sylvia. There at anchor we went through the front you see to the right. Pretty good front but we've seen much much worse. The good thing was we got plenty of rain and I put on a swim suit along with my rainsuit top and washed the boat. Afterwards in the big rain we got that rainwater rinse. It is always nice to have a clean boat.

Otherwise no good pictures since it has been overcast and dreary. The cool news is that I ordered a new camera based on an experts opinion. Scott told me about a Canon with a CMOS sensor along with a 20x zoom that he thought was really good. I took his advise and it has been delivered at my mailing service. We should be sailing to Lake Worth on Sunday and the SAILING part is really true. Winds should support a great day of sailing north so we will get there and settle in waiting for the next weather window to the Abacos. I found a place to have the camera delivered and will order the forwarding on Monday. Pretty cool.

We are both looking forward to the trip to the Bahamas and this next week will be final preparations and the excitement of anticipation.

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