Leaving the Keys – Miami, Fort Lauderdale to Stuart
336 Days Looping
4,964.9 Nautical Miles Total (5,713.5 Statute Miles)
169.1 Nautical Miles This Week
24.2 Hours Underway This Week
7.2 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks
Monday – Mar 9th – 0 NM – In: Islamorada, FL
Our original plan was to head toward Miami on Monday. The winds were still very strong and Brenda was still not feeling well, so we added a couple of days to our stay in Islamorada. We just hung around the boat for most of the day. Brenda napped, and I read a book and puttered around the boat.
By evening, Brenda was feeling a little better, so I walked up to a local Pizza shop and picked up a pizza for dinner.
Tuesday – Mar 10th – 0 NM – In: Islamorada, FL
Tuesday morning Brenda was feeling better, but she still wanted to take it easy and stay around the boat. I took a walk up the road to West Marine to pick up a few parts for my bilge pump project and to have something to do. I spent the day working on the boat, the blog, and got in a few more chapters in my book. The wind shifted and steadily decreased throughout the day, by evening, things had calmed down to a gentle breeze.
By dinner time, Brenda was feeling better and we walked across the street to a Sushi Restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we turned in early as we were planning an early morning to get underway.
Wednesday – Mar 11th – 50.6 NM – To: Homestead, FL
Wednesday dawned beautiful with just a gentle breeze. We were going to leave early with the Canadians in the catamaran next to us, but they had a mechanical issue and decided to stay another day or two to get that repaired.
At 8:30 we dropped our lines and headed out, following our convoluted course back out through the plumbing pipes, past the pink house, the sailboats at anchor, and back to the green marker in the channel before turning North.
We followed the ICW north. We never saw more than 12 feet of water for most of the day. There were a few “cuts” where the channel snakes between mangrove islands and aside from a few fishing boats and dolphins there was almost no traffic. At 11:30 we passed under the Route 1 bridge that connects the Keys to the mainland. We cruised past Key Largo, and then under the Monroe County Toll Bridge (no toll for going under!)
As the day progressed, it had started to get cloudy and as we entered Biscayne Bay, the wind picked up a bit and we started getting choppy waves. Our destination was Homestead Florida, about halfway up Biscayne Bay. We were planning on going all the way to Miami, but with the bad weather, there was a backup of boats waiting to go to the Bahamas and all of the marinas and anchorages were full. We made it to the turn to Blackpoint Marina, and made our approach. Blackpoint Marina is at the end of a long narrow dredged channel with a rock breakwater along the sides, again a “pay attention and stay in the channel” route. The channel used to be used by barges bringing trash to the Miami Dade County Landfill, which bordered one side of the marina. The Landfill has been capped and is now a state park.
As we pulled into the marina complex, we stopped for fuel. There was another boat (also a Looper) already at the fuel dock, so we had to wait for them to finish. While we were waiting, a manatee and an alligator cruised by us! Lots of wildlife!
They didn’t have a regular slip for us, however, there is a restaurant that has visitor docks for guests, and as it was mid-week, they let us tie up there. There was no power, but at least we had a place for the night.
It was 3:00 by the time we finished tying up. We rinsed the boat down to get the salt spray off, and while we were rinsing the boat, three more manatees came swimming past right next to the boat. After checking the weather, we saw that there would be some clouds and rain in the morning, but the clearing for the rest of the day. Winds in the morning were predicted to be reasonable, so we settled on Fort Lauderdale as our destination and called around to see if we could find a marina. Things in Fort Lauderdale were almost as tight as in Miami, however, we did get a space at the Swimming Hall of Fame Marina.
In the evening, we stepped off the boat right into the restaurant and had dinner. Dockside dining!
Thursday – Mar 12th – 43.6 NM – To: Fort Lauderdale, FL
In the morning we left around 8:30 am. The forecast was for rain in the morning, but not much wind. We left Blackpoint marina, cruised back up the entrance channel, and back out into Biscayne Bay. Almost as soon as we turned North into the main Biscayne Bay channel, it started to rain. We did get treated to a nice rainbow at one point.
After an hour or so, we could start to see the Miami skyline in the distance through the rain showers. We had wanted to anchor out in Key Biscayne (just outside of Miami) to let the boat spend another night where it started. (When we bought our boat it was in Key Biscayne), however, with marinas closing due to Covid, all of the anchorages were full.
As we approached Miami, we were treated to a show from the Coast Guard doing rescue practice with a helicopter. Very fun to watch. Cruising through the Miami waterfront is also a treat as there are lots of cruise ships and mega-yachts lining the waterway. Because of Covid, there were more cruise ships in port than normal as they have been canceling cruises.
Dock space in Miami is crowded at the best of times, and also very expensive because you are vying for space with the large yachts. We had seen Miami when we came for the boat show a few weeks before, so we decided to give it a miss, and continued on to Fort Lauderdale.
The Intracoastal Waterway from Miami to Fort Lauderdale (and most of Florida for that matter) is crossed many bridges. Most of them, especially in built-up areas have clearance that is less than 24ft so, we had to wait for them to open. Fortunately, they have them timed so that if you go at a “reasonable” pace, you pretty much reach a bridge within a few minutes of its scheduled opening.
When we got close to Fort Lauderdale, the rain clouds cleared and we had a nice sunny cruise through the Super Yacht marinas, past the Port Everglades cruise terminal, and into downtown Fort
At 2:15, we arrived at the “Swimming Hall of Fame” marina in Fort Lauderdale. This is a large marina that is next door to the Swimming Hall of Fame. We backed into our slip, looked to our right, and saw another Swift Trawler 42 with a blue hull. Our twin!
This is the middle of Spring Break and there were 100’s of 20 somethings walking around in large groups with no masks. It will be interesting to see how the Covid rates increase over the next few weeks.
Friday – Mar 13th – 45.6 NM – To: North Palm Beach, FL
We left Fort Lauderdale just before 9:00. We expected a slow trip to North Palm Beach because of all the bridges along this stretch. Our next goal was North Palm Beach, this is where our boat had it’s re-commissioning done after we purchased it so we were familiar with the area as we were there for a month having work done.
Along the route there were many bridges and with our 24 foot mast, we had to have the majority of them opened. The weather was nice and there was just a light wind so we didn’t have trouble holding waiting for the bridges to open. As with yesterday, if you cruise at a moderate 6-8 knots, the timing of the bridge openings means that you typically only have to wait for a few minutes.
We went through Pompano Beach with beautiful murals on the sides of the bridge, and past the Hillsboro Inlet. This Inlet has a reputation for having very strong currents and large waves coming in. What makes it interesting is that there is a lift bridge that many boats need to have raised right at the end of the inlet, so not only do you have to time the waves and current, but also the lifting of the bridge. Fortunately we just went past, not through that inlet. But we did get to see the chaos of boats waiting on both sides to get through.
At Bridge #9, we were in Boca Raton Florida, about half way through our day. The waterway in this area of Florida is very built up. In some places it’s as much as a half-mile wide, in others it’s only 150 feet with multi-million dollar homes packed in on both sides.
Delray Beach was next, followed by Boynton Beach, and Lake Worth. At the Lake Ave bridge (# 17 for the day) we entered the Palm Beach area. At the Bingham Bridge, we had a short delay. The lift bridge is being replaced with a fixed bridge here and there are actually two temporary lift bridges in place. The Bingham Bridge is the main route from the main-land to the Maro Largo, and to insure that there is a good “escape” route for Mr. Trump, the bridge is being replaced.
When the temporary bridges lifed for us, we were able to see the (in)famous Mara Largo resort off to our starboard side. Just after Mara Largo was the Everglades Club a fabulous building, and then the Palm Beach “Municipal” marina, where the boats are the only things more expensive than the real estate!
After the Flagler Memorial Bridge, we had a clear run to our destination. We passed the Rybovich Marina which has a HUGE number of super and mega yachts! We noticed as we passed by that most of them (I’m estemating more than 90%) were flagged outside of the USA. Many Bahammanian, and a few from Panama and Maratius.
We went past Palm Beach Inlet, around Peanut Island, under the Blue Heron Bridge (which is a tall fixed bridge so we could just slip right under, and into the Old Port Cove marina our home for the night.
We had hoped to be able to go to Soveral Harbor just 2 miles (and two lift bridges) further on which is was where we started our “training trip” home from when we bought the boat, but they were closed to transients due to Covid.
After tying up the boat, we walked up to the restaurant at the marina and had dinner, then back to the boat for the night.
We ended up going under 21 bridges in total, 14 of them that we had to have opened!
Saturday – Mar 14th – 29.3 NM – To: Stuart, FL
Saturday morning we left Old Port and continued to head north. We had two lift bridges in a row in the first two miles until we past Soveral Harbor, then a longer run. We didn’t need any of the bridges opened however we had Sailboats in front of us and behind us so we got to see the bridges open anyway.
Passing Soveral Harbor brought back lot’s of memories and returned us to (semi) familiar waters. When we purchased our boat, we brought it to Soveral Harbor and Seminole Marine which is right next door, to have it re-fit. The boat was here for 2 months having the electronics upgraded and a number of components replaced. We spent a good deal of time here. If you get the chance to stay, there are two excellent restaurants and a FABULOUS grocery store only steps from the docks right at the marina.
This is also where we started our “Training Cruise” with Geoff Gow when we brought our boat home to South Carolina.
The rest of the day was good. The weather was nice with only light winds and broken clouds. Being a Saturday, there was lots of traffic between boats moving north for the season and fishermen.
Things got pretty crowded when we got to Jupiter Inlet, another popular inside/outside transition point and, we got a good view of the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse.
When we reached the St. Lucie Inlet and St. Lucie River, we turned West off the ICW to head toward Stuart. This is the alternate route of the Great Loop for boats that take the Okechobee Waterway. Stuart is about 6 miles inland along the St. Lucie. By 12:00 we were safely tied up at the Harborage Marina.
The Harborage Marina is on the North side of bay from downtown Stuart. They have a water taxi service that runs between the downtown dock and the marina. For $5.00 you can ride round trip. They also have a full service bar onboard. We took the taxi over to downtown to meet up with our friends who were staying at the Sunset Marina, just off of downtown.
In the evening we got together with Sonia and Greg from Golden Daze, and Mary and Jim Walker from Pegasus. We went to a little Italian restaurant in Downtown Stuart for dinner. It was great see Greg and Sonia again, the last time we crossed paths with them was on the Erie Canal! We had not met Pegasus yet, and quickly became friends with Jim and Mary. Dinner was excellent. After dinner we had to hurry to catch the last Water Taxi back across the bay to our marina.
Sunday – Mar 15th – 0 NM – In: Stuart, FL
On Sundays Stuart has a large farmers market in the downtown Park right on the waterfront. We took the water taxi across to visit. The Farmers Market was quite good. We picked up some muffins and fresh vegetables, and just had a wander around looking at the crafts and art.
We walked down the park and saw an old Feed Store that had been turned into a Museum of Stuart History, and walked around inside for a while, then went into downtown for some lunch. It was getting pretty hot, so we jumped on the water taxi and headed back to the boat to relax for the day and plan out the rest of our trip.
In the evening, we had dinner on the boat and called it an early night.
NEXT WEEK: Continuing North toward South Carolina
Tom & Brenda