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Friday, February 25, 2011

Reminiscing about No Name Harbor...

The weather here in the Keys has simply been delightful for the past couple of weeks and with the nice weather, boaters can be seen and heard making their final preparations to set sail.

I too wish for a change of scenery and hence found myself the other day attending a gathering to discuss the next weather window to cross over the Gulf Stream and on over to the Bahamas. The general consensus was to sail off from Boot Key Harbor, anchor overnight behind Rodriguez Key, and then sail directly to Bimini.

Well it all sounded like a good plan to me for all I know. In any event, that wasn't how I and my then wife did it way back in the day when we cruised aboard S/V BratCat... a Morgan 35' sloop.

Our plan was pretty basic. Simply take our time sailing back up the Keys from Key West until we arrived to our jumping off point at No Name Harbor on the south end of Key Biscayne. From there we'd cross the Gulf Stream and hopefully make landfall at either Gun Key or Cat Key.

Nevertheless, it is No Name Harbor that I've got on my mind at the moment and has me thinking back to a time and place when our boat was at anchor in that harbor. We had spent the previous four days or so leisurely sailing up the Keys and were both anxious to get off that boat and go ashore by the time we sailed into Biscayne Bay.

In addition there was a little matter of wanting to satisfy a craving for some greasy food and a few cold beers... well maybe more than just a few. At least in my case anyway.

So after a few inquiries of where to go later that evening for some burgers and beer, we were informed by other fellow boaters at anchor, of a place accessible by dingy on the north end of Key Biscayne. We were also forewarned of the low tide that would be setting in around ten or so that evening and to be sure to head on back to the harbor early enough to avoid it.

Well after but a few beers that evening, that low tide was but an afterthought with me wondering just how bad can a low tide be for an inflatable dinghy. Besides, first and foremost on my mind at that particular moment was that I happened to have an empty beer bottle sitting in front of me and would someone pleeeez bring me yet another Heineken.

That dockside Bar & Grill certainly did revive our spirits. The food was great and the beer couldn't have been any better. Not only that but we enjoyed the air-conditioning while engaging in a bit of people watching. Key Biscayne certainly is an affluent community to say the least and that place was hopping with rich, beautiful, idle people... all milling about throughout the place.

It was the kind of crowd you'd expect to see in a Miami Vice TV episode back in the day and Don Johnson might have been hanging out at that dockside bar for all I know.

However all good things must come to an end when we eventually decided to head on back to our boat. After climbing down the dock ladder and into our dinghy we were soon enough motoring our way on back to No Name Harbor.

That's when we came across a minor inconvenience of sorts. The water simply wasn't deep enough for the outboard propeller to push us forward or in any other direction for that matter.

That prop was now either mowing sea grass or churning up mud and sand. There was little to do other than tilt the outboard motor up to keep the prop from dragging and to climb out into the water and tow that dinghy on towards No Name Harbor.

So yeah, that was me out there late one evening trudging in what seemed to be the middle of Biscayne Bay pulling the dinghy by its painter with the wife inside. To further compound the situation a thunderstorm just so happened to decide to kick up and roll on through South Florida at that late hour of the evening.

The wind started gusting and what seemed to be like a monsoon swept on over us with cracking thunder and lightning strikes all about. The enjoyable evening at the Bar & Grill was now but a faint memory as I continued trudging and pulling that dinghy to deeper water all the while thinking to myself that we'd both be crispy critters before long.

We eventually do reach water deep enough for the outboard motor to finally move us forward when phase two of that thunderstorm also decided to take a swipe at us as it too swept on through Biscayne Bay.

This time around there was even more lightning and thunder cracking all throughout the moonless night sky when I finally made my only sensible decision of the evening and headed that dinghy towards the relative safety of the shore.

That shoreline was undoubtedly part of somebody's private property but by then I couldn't have cared any less. The lightning strikes had been tempted long enough and the winds had kicked up a heck of a chop in the water and made our forward progress decidedly slow.

(Is it little wonder that my ex-wife quietly yet steadfastly refused to ever board another sailboat after that cruising experience?)

Fortunately as we were motoring towards the shoreline, I happened to spot a concrete structure extending over the water behind somebody's luxurious property. By now we were completely weary of our ordeal and just wanted to be done with that storm and find shelter until it had completely passed on through.

For the next hour or so we both had our arms fully extended bracing the inflatable dinghy off of the concrete columns that supported that platform when the storm later finally subsided.

We were later to learn that the concrete structure extending over the water was in fact a heliport and was part of the property that previously belonged to Bebe Reboso.... a shady character with purportedly ill gotten gains and former President Richard Nixon's best bud back in the day.

I was to even later learn that the luxurious home that the heliport was a part of was in fact the final bloody scene of the movie Scarface where Tony Montano met his demise.

The stormy weather did indeed finally relent and it must have been three or so in the morning by the time we eventually made it back to the relative comfort of our boat in No Name Harbor.

Incidentally, don't go googling for any so-called "No Name Harbor" on the south end of Key Biscayne. The harbor in question simply doesn't have a name but sailors had to call it something.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Manatee Moment at Boot Key Harbor, Marina...

I've never seen a live moose before but I can recall reading "A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" by Bill Bryson and of the author describing a moose as the dumbest creature imaginable.

The author also went on to explain that it took absolutely no hunting skills whatsoever to shoot a moose simply because of how docile they were... so don't be impressed next time you see a photograph of Sarah Palin alongside a dead caribou as she cradles her rifle.

Well if ever there was a sea equivalent of the docile moose, it must be the manatee. These creatures seem as large as cows, move in slow motion and are completely docile.