Sunday, February 26, 2012

Update: Key Biscayne (No Name Harbor) to Nassau - 27 Hours at Sea

Hello from Nassau. After another great visit to Miami and Key Biscayne it was time to move on. So here we sit in Nassau exhausted from our trip but very excited about heading down to the Exumas in a couple of days. It’s a short 6 hr trip from Nassau to the Northern Exumas (for displacement hull vessels) and some of the most gorgeous water in the world. As we reflect on our trip we realized we haven’t made a post to our blog since the cruisers Sun Downer at Monument Island. So before we jump into the trip here, let me fill you in on our stay in the Miami area this year.

Every year we cruise we find other interesting places and things to do we didn’t discover from the previous year. This year in the Miami area our find was No Name Harbor and Key Biscayne which we have avoided for many reasons (word of mouth and written) like the proverbial plague. All I can say is dammit, sometimes you just have to experience things for yourselves. Life’s duds for some, turn out to be little treasures for others. You would think we would have learned that lesson by now. Oh well, we never claimed to be the sharpest knives in the drawer. Sometimes we think we never even made it to the drawer.

Anyway, the subject is No Name Harbor in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park located at the southern end of Key Biscayne. For you geographically challenged folks (I like to fondly use the term “Lost In Space”) here’s a bird’s eye view of the joint. This little harbor with no name is a very unique place in deed. It can be the most tranquil little anchorage for us sail boat enthusiast. During the week one can sit on anchor and watch nature at work. Dolphins fishing and fighting off pelicans trying to steal their catch. Manatees lounging about surfacing to get a breath of fresh air and to check out the non-residents (us sailors).  

On the weekend starting around 3:00 pm the harbor is invaded by every culture and size vessel known to mankind, but mainly Cuban locals with mucho dinero. These people like to party and they are going to party come hell or high water. For god sakes somebody in Miami has got to “bust a move” and it’s a contest of who's the best. All the rules go out the window, well maybe not all, but most. One minute you will have a single boat come and anchor next to you and before you know it they will have 5 other boats rafted together. One weekend you could almost get to shore by jumping from boat to boat. You get the picture, way too many boats and not enough water. But what about sound? OMG, it’s a good thing we are losing our hearing cause it seems like every boat must serenade the entire anchorage with their musical favorites. Well multiple that times 50 and you better pullout the headphones or ear plugs.

The people watching and boat handling are off the hook. Watching the people going about shedding their pent-up frustrations from the work week is amazing. The TV Show “Modern Family” could write many episodes just by watching these people for a weekend. Now alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in the park except in designated areas like the “Boaters Grill” at the head of the harbor and boats in the harbor. The grill is run by Cubans and has good food. It attracts people from all over Miami and is a little mine gold of a business. Have breakfast, lunch or dinner while looking out over the harbor and the boats on anchor. Our favorite menu item was their whole snapper, seasoned scored and fried. Mmmm is it good. 

For the most part everyone who comes into the harbor is pretty good at boat handling and anchoring. There’s the occasional idiot, who couldn’t anchor or dock a boat if their life depended on it but they come out anyway in their million dollar yachts. It’s fun to watch people who have more money than sense as long as they don’t crash into our boat. LOL.

The park surrounding No Name Harbor has many paved bike/walking trails, pavilions with grills and picnic tables and is a very popular with the joggers and cyclist. The park was completely destroyed by Hurricane Andrew back in 1992. The park was closed for about a year while the island vegetation was replanted and structures rebuilt. If you are ever in Key Biscayne it’s worth a side trip to visit the park and have lunch or dinner at the Boater’s Grill.
Almost everyone thinks, “No Name Harbor”, how did it get that name. LOL. Well according to Wikipedia “  Originally, the site was privately owned prior to the creation of the state park. Several development plans indicated the land was slated for the construction of condominiums and residential homes. The surrounding land was cleared for development in the 1950s and charts identified the body of water as "No Name Harbor". The plans failed, and the harbor's name was retained.”

One the the highlights of Miami and No Name Harbor this year was meeting Ginny's High School friend John Salyer and his lovely wife Marilyn.  John and Marilyn are cruising on their trawler "Carolina" a DeFever 49. John and Ginny have been conversing on Facebook for about a year and John has been following our blog. It was like we have known them for many years, They were so gracious and easy and fell right into the group. We had a Super Bowl cookout with five boats and fun was had by all. We can't wait to see them again. 

So now you have it. One of the coolest little harbors in Florida with the coolest name.

With a good two day forecast we weighed anchor Thursday morning (Feb 23rd)  with our buddy boat “Megerin” (Ray and Sandy McCoy) and pulled out of No Name Harbor for our trip to Nassau. The Gulf Stream crossing was very fast as the wind was out of the south southeast at about 15 to 18 kts. Seas were 3 to 5 ft and we got a nice push from the gulf stream to the north end of Bimini. We passed Bimini around 2 pm and headed out across the Great Bahamas Bank for the Northwest Channel and then onto New Providence Island and Nassau. Once we hit the bank the wind and seas subsided a little and we had good conditions for the overnight portion of the trip. As usual our radar and AIS system worked great to give us eyes in the night and to allow us to hail ships and other AIS vessels by name to negotiate CPA (closest point of approach) terms. The night was very busy with all kinds of commercial shipping and fishing traffic. The night was dark, dark, dark and the stars were simply awesome. 

Every 30 minutes we checked in with “Megerin” to check status. It’s a good way to help stay awake and alert. Around 12:30 am Friday morning we transited the Northwest Shoals and the Northwest Passage Light (which marks reefs and shoals and is no longer operational) into the deep waters of the Northeast Providence Channel. This stretch can be a rough ride if the wind and tide are opposing each other. The wind was out of the southeast at around 12 kts and the tide was running at about 1 kt off the bank when we made transited. What makes this area a big potential hazard is the change of depth from the shallow Great Bahamas Bank into the deep water of the Northeast Providence Channel. Its like a huge funnel. With much caution we eased through the passage and Mother Nature was kind to us indeed. No rough water to negotiate in the pitch black night. As we made it into deep water it was a off to the races on our way to Nassau.

 “Land Ho” was announced by the captain around 7:00 am Friday morning and we were granted permission to enter Nassau Harbor by Harbor Control around 9:00. As we made our approach to the harbor entrance we saw two cruise ships and several freighters approaching the harbor. By 10:00 am we were tied up safely at Nassau Yacht Haven and making preparation for the Customs and Immigration Officer to board “Wind Dust”. By 11:30 am we had lunch at the Poop Deck and afterwards promptly hit the bed for some much needed sleep. No Name Harbor to Nassau in 27 hours nonstop. Not bad. 

Some additional photos from Miami, Key Biscayne and No Name Harbor.

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