Blackwater Sound To Key Biscayne

We fell asleep to the muffled tunes from our one-man band at the Tiki Bar ashore. It was not at all unpleasant and kind of added to the already peaceful tranquility of our anchorage for the night. If you can't have Jimmy Buffet sing you to sleep, this is probably a fair substitute. The next morning brought clear blue skies, calm seas and a short transit to Key Biscayne. This meant no rushing around in the morning to get the anchor up and get underway. We could relax, enjoy breakfast, Susan could check in on the Waterway Cruiser's Net and I could check all of the engine fluids and go through our pre-departure check list.


It was close to 9 AM before we actually got underway and we hated to move on. But we did want to get to Key Biscayne and get prepared for our Gulf Stream Crossing. The forecast looked good for Friday and we needed to fill up with fuel and top off the water tanks. Crandon Park Marina has the best diesel prices from Miami to Key West and we were starting to get low on fuel. A .35 to .34c saving per gallon means a significant savings on an near empty tank. We carry 300 gallons of fuel so you can do the math. Shortly after getting underway, we crossed under the newer 65-foot Jewfish Creek Bridge. For many years, this was a drawbridge that either held up traffic on the highway or traffic on the water waiting for an opening. The new bridge was a treat for both boaters and folks on the highway.

Cruising north we were in the waters of the Biscayne National Park. We crossed Card Sound and sailed along Elliott Key. The waters of Biscayne Bay offer some of the best year-round boating in the country. The closer we got to Miami, the more boat traffic we encountered. There were trawlers, sailboats, sportfishers and small fishing boats heading in all directions. We have noticed over the years that the boaters in the Miami area seem to be only able to operate their vessels at full throttle. Perhaps they come this way from the dealer. We were surprised a little at the number of boats heading south into the Keys given the fact that most of the marinas and anchorages in the Middle and Lower Keys were almost full.

Once again we were casually heading north in no big hurry. We probably could have made the trip in half the time, but why just burn up fuel. Beach House burns about 2.5 gallons of fuel per hour at our normal cruising RPMs of 1700 to 1800. Less than this and the fuel burn goes down even more. At higher RPMs, the fuel burn goes up considerably. At 2:30 PM we dropped anchor behind Key Biscayne (lat 25.41.597N and long 080.10.597W) between Hurricane Harbor and the Key Biscayne Yacht Club. Since this was Wednesday and we didn't plan to leave until Friday, we had a couple of days to prepare the boat and take a closer look at the weather. The only down side of anchoring here is the boat wakes from all of the boats running up and down the bay can at times make this a rolly anchorage. Fortunately most, but not all, go home by dark.

Crossing the Gulf Stream in a small trawler like Beach House is very different than crossing on our sailboat. Sea Trek was a 40-foot, full-keeled, heavy displacement ketch that actually liked it when the wind picked up. The trawler is very uncomfortable in moderate to heavy winds and any kind of seas on the beam. This is why we sat in Marathon for so long waiting for the winds and seas to lay down. We began to be concerned about the weather forecast by Thursday morning. We learned a long time ago that when the NWS changed a forecast a couple of times a day and it was a different forecast from other NWS sources, that they really didn't know what the weather was going to be. Given their track record of being wrong so often and way underestimating wind and wave conditions, we began to have second thoughts. Add to that the fact that the weather window was only one day and if the front were to speed up just a bit, we would be caught out in it with no place to go. The winds were to start blowing pretty hard after the front passed and it would mean holding up in an expensive marina in Bimini for a number of days.

So we decided to pass on this window. On Thursday midday, we arrived at the fuel dock at Crandon Park Marina to fill up the tanks. While we were there, we decided to spend a few days at the marina and wait out the winds. The boat had a pretty good layer of salt from transiting the Keys and we hadn't done a good wash down in a month or more. So a marina stop made sense if we were staying put. There was a slip available for us (the marina is almost full) so we pulled in for a few days. During our marina stops we make the most of our time at the dock. The boat gets a good wash down, laundry is done and any shopping or supplies we need are just a bus ride away. Susan was able to contact an old friend and they went out for lunch and some shopping. Now we will start analyzing the weather sources we use and see when our next weather window opens. Maybe Tuesday?

Here's a list of our favorite weather sources...
http://www.nws.htmnoaa.gov/om/marine/zone/usamz.
http://forecast.weather.gov/gridpoint.php?site=mfl
http://www.bahamasweather.org.bs/index.php?page=marine
http://www.ikitesurf.com/windandwhere.iws
http://www.wunderground.com/MAR/flm.html
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/maps/Florida.shtml
http://www.passageweather.com/
http://windmapper.com/FL/observations
http://www.buoyweather.com/wxnav6.jsp?region=gulfofmexico&program=Maps
http://www.geoffschultz.org/weather_map.php
http://www.zygrib.org/
http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/north_bimini_north_beach
http://www.myfoxhurricane.com/custom/models/rtofs/rtofs_current_gulf.html
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/gulf.shtml

We use all of these resources and more to try to make our own determinations about weather conditions we will encounter. It does take some time, but we have often been able to determine on our own that the conditions would be right or wrong despite the official forecast. Stay safe out there and stay tuned.

2 comments:

  1. Where is Crandon Parks Marina? i don't have my charts. this winter we're on concrete waterways travelling cross-country. In South Bimini is a marina (in condo complex)that was $1-$1.50 a foot, I think called Bimini Sands. Taxi ride to clear Customs. Mikki and Joe usually on Asian Lady. We stopped off at beautiful Boca Chita national Park in Biscayne Bay. We draw 4' and were fine.

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    Replies
    1. Crandon Park Marina is at the north end of Key Biscayne just where the Bear Cut Bridge crosses over on to the Key. Thanks for the heads up on Bimini Sands. Inexpensive dockage in the Bahamas is sometimes hard to find. It looks like we may be crossing on Thursday with a 2 1/2 day window. We'll see. Have fun on the road.

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