30 December 2013

Miami: What Will It Be Like in 117 Years?

It is interesting to think about Miami and what it looked like before it became the huge city that it is.

Ponce de León was the first European to visit the area in 1513, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés is believed to be the first European to actually land here in 1566.  After that, a combination of explorers, settlers, treasure hunters, slaves, soldiers and native Indians moved in and out of the area over the years.

Miami's growth as a settlement was relatively sluggish over those few hundred years compared to some of the other places we've visited.  It was not until 1896 that Miami was incorporated as a city, and at that time it only had three or four hundred people in its population.

One hundred and seventeen years to change from relatively uninhabited wilderness to modern day Miami.

Phoenix and I talked about the changes that might occur in this area over the next one hundred and seventeen years.

"There will be a lot more people. I read somewhere that 20 million babies are born per day," said Phoenix.  I quickly looked it up and found that it is actually around 360,000 babies born per day in the world.  Not as scary as 20 million, but still a very significant number.

"There may not be space in the world for you to go cruising around on a personal sailboat when you are my age," I told Phoenix pessimistically.   "And the water quality will probably be so poor that you can't go swimming in the ocean."

I'm usually an optimist, but not in regards to how we are treating our limited natural resources.   "The only good outcome," I foretell jokingly, "is that our house in Hawaii [around 1/3 mile inland] might be waterfront in 100 years."

My other predictions for the future and for the pristine wilderness areas that I have loved visiting over the years are more dismal.  "Will it be like Wall-E?" asked Phoenix.   I wish I could guarantee that it won't.

For now, we will enjoy beautiful Biscayne Bay and hope for the impossibility that our use and Miami's continued growth will not damage this amazing ecosystem.

We seem to be the only transient cruisers in this mooring field.  It is interesting being surrounded by empty boats.


Sage has mastered the inflatable SUP on flat water.  Thanks to Gigi and Greg for setting us up with this awesome board!
The girls kept disappearing under boats.  You can see them in this picture about to paddle under the catamaran.  Apparently they got the idea to do this after seeing some kayakers go under. 


We are thinking of crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini in the Bahamas on Thursday, two days from now.  After taking the day to relax and play on the water, we walked 1.5 miles to Mary's Laundromat and Café (awesome empanadas and fresh fruit smoothies while you wait) and to Publix to finish some chores.  Laden with groceries, we hopped on the bus (25 cents each for Jamey and I!) for the ride home.  We are aware that it is going to be expensive to provision in the Bahamas, so we tried to stock up on high yield groceries that won't spoil:  rice, beans, canned mustard greens, peanut butter, raisins, etc.

29 December 2013

The Orange Bowl and The King Mango Strut

We arrived back at the boat yesterday early in the morning.  The boat is moored at Coconut Grove Sailing Club (CGSC), a great club that reminds us of Community Boating in Boston where Jamey and I met.

One of the wonderful things about CGSC is that it has 24 hour launch service on demand.  This was awesome for us as we arrived here from New Orleans around 3 am yesterday morning. It was particulary impressive that we were able to load all of our luggage and all the food, gifts and provisions we accumulated onto the launch.  In the past, we have had to balance everything precariously around the dinghy and take several trips back and forth from the dock to the boat.

Our drive from New Orleans took around fourteen hours of travel time plus an additional hour spent at Walmart in Tallahassee where we started stocking up as we had considered taking today's weather window to cross to the Bahamas.

We did not cross today because we were totally fatigued, spent most of yesterday sleeping and organizing the boat and still have a few errands and chores we need to do before leaving the U.S.  Jamey also had to return the car to Miami Airport. 

Plus it's totally relaxing and entertaining to be here. 

The CGSC is hosting the Orange Bowl Regatta this weekend, and we are surrounded by lots of seriously competitive sailors.

It was surreal for me to wake up and see this sail pass a couple of feet away from us. 

We walked down the street to CocoWalk and watched the hilarity that is The King Mango Strut, a satirical parade followed by a street party that is an annual event in Coconut Grove. 

The King Mango Strut parade was started in 1982 by a marching band that was denied entry into the official parade for the Orange Bowl (the football Orange Bowl, not the regatta mentioned above).  The band was not allowed in that parade because they used unconventional instruments including conch shells, kazoos, and garbage cans. 

Since then, the parade has poked fun at the year's newsworthy people and events.  The girls' tolerance for political satire was short-lived, but we totally enjoyed the live music and celebration in the street afterwards. 


The Broccoli Horror Show: Night of the Living Dead Vegetables, an anti-GMO group
Skye liked this funky vehicle -- lots of toys tied all over it. 

Jamey joined the Coconut Grove Juggling Exchange

He was good enough that he was asked by two of the jugglers to do a three-way act. 


25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

We spent the past few weeks in New Orleans.  We had not planned to do this till a change of dates in Sage's kindergarten interview in Hawaii shifted our plans around, and we realized that we could celebrate Christmas with extended family.  It's near impossible for me to take off enough time from work to fly to the mainland for the holidays, so this is our first big family Christmas since 2004, the year before we moved to Hawaii.

I thought that I would have tons of time to blog while in New Orleans and had been planning to post a lot with great intent to fill in the gaps from the start of our trip in July.  I even hoped to try to capture some of my mom's fascinating stories from her family's past (ghost stories, romance, history -- she has every genre covered, and she is an amazing storyteller!).

Unfortunately, there was no time to write.

The biggest downside of living in Hawaii is being far from family.  We really crave and miss being with family, so we wrung every bit of family time that we could out of this visit to New Orleans.

The girls and their cousins made a film.  We still have to edit the footage and will post a link to the video when it's done.

The movie is about a magical forest.

I was cast as the Bad Witch that pretends to be a Good Witch in this scene. 

We had the pleasure of seeing my talented mom (violinist), sister (violinist, pianist, harpist) and niece (cellist, harpist, pianist, and choir member) perform in several Christmas concerts around town.

Mary is fourth from the left in the back row.  She has a perfect voice.

Mary practices a lot more than Phoenix and Indigo.  To their dismay, I was inspired to increase their practice time.  

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Aunty Aimee -- she is usually the concert mistress for the UNO Civic Symphony Orchestra

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We ate lots and lots of good food.  As amazing as the Cajun and Creole cuisine in New Orleans is, the food from my mom's kitchen surpasses all else -- think Cajun and Creole augmented by Deep South meets Taiwanese infusion and add a little bit of Mama Liu artistry = Best Food Ever!  The girls were very happy to be surrounded by bountiful home-cooked food especially after the rationing and limited variety they have had on the boat.

We took pleasure in all the things that we cannot do while living on a boat -- daily showers, watching TV, riding bicycles, going to the movies, being able to drive places instead of just walking everywhere, and mostly being with family.  

1.  All the Lius and Wilkinsons.  We are so grateful to my family for their hospitality, generosity and for all that they did to make the girls' first big family Christmas so memorable and wonderful.



2. Tate and the Goodman family for the huge box of Hawaiian goodies that greeted us in New Orleans.  We have really missed Hawaiian treats during our travels (nori and Hurricane popcorn win out over other snacks any day and nothing beats lilikoi jelly!)  I did not get a chance to take a photo of the box before Jamey put away everything, but picture a box exploding in volcano-fashion with tons of goodies and Aloha!

3. Brenna and family for the Hawaiian leis that greeted us back on the boat!  The leis traveled the same route we did across the U.S., and down the East Coast over the past few months and were welcomed with open arms and mouths!

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4.  HUGE thanks and hugs go to the all of the Clarke and Duffield elves for the special delivery that greeted us on the boat on our return!  We were extremely impressed with how clean the boat was --- THANK YOU, GRAMMY AND GRAMPY!!

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Wow! In case you are wondering, yes, we are riding a few inches lower in the water. 

5. Merry Christmas and warm wishes to all of our friends and family.  We love all the holiday wishes, cards and emails we've received and love hearing from everyone even more than we normally do!

Jamey and I decided to make some of our Christmas gifts this year.  Did you know that there is now designer duct tape?  The Platypus brand is thick and gorgeous to work with.  The Duck brand is fun and has a plethora of patterns including Saints (Who Dat!), Red Sox, Star Wars, Angry Birds, Hello Kitty and many more beautiful and funky ones.  It was a good family project that bonded us together (sorry for the bad pun), and the girls loved the satisfaction of creating beautiful things by themselves.

Uncle John, Agong, and Aunty Grace

The girls loved making duct tape flowers. 
Jamey liked working with precision, using a ruler and X-acto knife.

Go Saints! We also made some Red Sox things.  Go Sox!

I did not work with a ruler, X-acto knife or any precision at all.

07 December 2013

Boca Raton: The Yamato Colony and a Temporary Leave from the Boat

Boca Raton is a wealthy town.  This was obvious to Phoenix and me as we walked along one of the town's main streets this morning.  Fancy shops, gold-colored fountains, perfectly manicured everything.  A bit of palm tree charm offsetting an overly clean street.


The town is relatively young, first settled in 1895.  It had a slow start, and in 1900 there were still only "six white families."

An interesting and unexpected part of Boca Raton's early history is the Yamato Colony.  This was a small Japanese community that was started in 1904 by a Japanese man named Jo Sakai who had recently graduated from New York University.  It is speculated that either Sakai saw an advertisement enticing settlers to the area ("No better location for pineapple culture in the state….In sight of the Ocean, 40 minutes by rail from the big hotels with their electric lights…") or that he was invited to start up the colony by the Model Land Company who very much wanted to increase its revenue from land sales and encourage use of its associate Florida East Coast Railway.

Whatever the reason, Jo Sakai started the colony and worked to bring Japanese immigrants to Boca Raton to buy land, clear it, and plant pineapple.  The Boca Raton Historical Society has an impressive amount of letters, telegrams, personal accounts and articles describing the colony's development and progress and the efforts made by Sakai.  We learn that Sakai had the colonists pretend to be students wanting to study in the U.S. when applying for entry, that there were difficulties during the Russo-Japanese War and that settlers endured much anti-Japanese sentiment during both World Wars.

The colony ultimately failed, unable to compete with the Cuban pineapple industry which at the time had a hefty hold on the northern U.S. pineapple market.  Nonetheless, the colony was able to leave somewhat of a legacy as one of its settlers, George Morikami, amassed a great amount of land, became a millionaire, lived a hermit-like life on a trailer on his land and towards the end of his life, donated his land to Palm Beach County.  This land is now Morikami Park and hosts the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

Jo Sakai's efforts remind me of the powerful influence that one man can have in starting an enclave of immigrants in an incongruous location.

In Hawaii, I work with many Marshallese, a group of migrants from the Marshall Islands allowed to live and work in the U.S without visa restrictions under what is called the Compact of Free Association.  I could waffle on about the difficult plight that many Marshallese find themselves in here in the U.S, but will try to not digress.   The connection I make with the Yamato Colony is that the second largest Marshallese population in the U.S. (Hawaii has the largest) is in Springdale, Arkansas because of one man.

John Moody was a Marshallese graduate of a college in Oklahoma and started the migration of Marshallese to Arkansas in the 1980s after finding a job in Springdale, marrying local, and sending word back home about the job opportunities in Arkansas.  Since then, employment offered by Northern Arkansas's multiple poultry plants and the low cost of living there have continued to draw Marshallese migrants who are now estimated to number over 6,000. 

I wish I could entice all my family and friends to join me in Hawaii.  

WHERE WE ARE:  New Orleans and Bakers Inlet, North Miami, ICW mile 1079.7.

WHERE WE STARTED:  Anchored in Pineapple Lagoon, Mile 1042

40 miles, 8 hours 


Jamey and Sage are due in Hawaii for Sage's kindergarten interview next week.  We have been slowly piecing together logistics for their trip:

1. Where should Jamey and Sage fly out of?  A normally straightforward question is more difficult to answer when you are traveling by boat.  With the uncertainties thrust on us by weather delays and potential engine issues, we cannot know for sure where we will be more than two or three days ahead.   We decided on Fort Lauderdale when we booked their tickets last month and figured that a rental car could make up whatever distance is needed.

2. What should the rest of the family do?  Drive to New Orleans and visit my family -- yay!  If we leave a few days before Jamey and Sage, we will be able to visit with cousins who are there for the weekend, visiting from Tennessee.

3. What should we do with the boat?  We asked Jamey's parents if they might want to use their boat while we are away.  They replied enthusiastically, "Why wouldn't we?"  While we are away, Janet and Gary will sail around on C.Spirit for part of the time and will leave her moored the rest of the time down in the Miami area.  They will arrive tomorrow night and spend a day and a half with Jamey and Sage.

4. Rental car.  Have one delivered? Take a taxi or bus to pick it up?  We find the best option:  Budget has an office in Boca Raton located one mile from a public dock.  It is an easy tie up to the dock, a short walk to pick up the car, and it is totally stress-free loading up the car and sending Jamey and Sage back off down the ICW.

The Palmetto Park Bridge and the dock at Silver Palm Park, Mile 1047.  Very strong current; luckily there was a flood tide and ample depth. 

It was sad for me to say goodbye.  Sage is super excited to be an only child for a week.

We are used to being UNDER the bridge. 

The rest of the day for Phoenix, Indigo, Skye and me is fourteen hours of driving.  We pass speedily by many small towns and through a couple of larger cities.  I feel a bit of culture shock traveling the 800 miles from Boca Raton to New Orleans so quickly when it has taken us three entire months to travel around 1,500 miles from Massachusetts to Florida on C.Spirit.   Driving is so different from traveling on the boat where our sluggish pace forces a connection from us to each town or locale.  And if not a connection, at least an opinion or observation.


Jamey promises to post his version of the day soon. (OK here it is).


Most of the girls left the boat this morning. They are headed to New Orleans by rental car to visit family for the holidays, while Sage and I continue on south for Miami. We had planned to anchor in Lake Boca Raton and then take the dinghy across the ICW channel to the boat ramp about 1/2 mile away. We left early at first light so the girls' 14 hour car ride would not go too late into the night and arrived at the drawbridge right next to the boat ramp around 8 am.  There was a strong current flowing through the bridge, oddly carrying dozens of coconuts and other debris, which I assume was cast adrift by lazy landscapers tending the ridiculously lush properties lining both sides ofthe canal. 

As we passed through the open bridge, our targeted public boat ramp appeared immediately on the right.   We passed quickly but noticed that there was plenty of room at the adjacent public dock. Approaching this dock would mean heading downcurrent straight back at the now closed drawbridge, then making an abrupt u-turn at the very last minute and coasting into the dock. We radioed the bridge tender to let him know our plan and to check if he knew how deep the water was alongside the dock.  All cleared, we tied up uneventfully, happy to avoid the time consuming chore of anchoring the boat then launching the dinghy and rowing back and forth to the ramp with luggage and a full crew. After about 45 minutes, Nancy arrived back at the dock in the rental car, and we packed up and said our farewells.  

Back on the boat, it was so much more quiet and empty.  On my first trip below decks, I was surprised to notice a whole different acoustic quality.  With less stuff and fewer people, there was a noticable echo in the boat.  Funny how all those things that drive me crazy, like the constant chaotic noise of girls (playing fighting negotiating crying whining singing screaming), the incessant clutter of shuffled things (clothes books toys towels sleeping bags crayons maps) and the hourly spillage (milk cheerios pasta juice crumbs salsa sunscreen) become so normal that life seems empty without them. This must be a sneak preview of what empty-nesters feel when their kids leave for college, gulp!

Sage and I spent the rest of the day motoring down the ICW. We made 40 miles, seeming to find our rhythm in timing the frequent draw bridges, anchoring twice when we did have to wait and using that downtime to eat lunch and hang out together.

The end of the day was tricky.  We got fuel at Baker's Haulover in North Miami and wanted to drop the hook in a well reviewed cove about 1/2 mile off the ICW right before the fuel dock.  You can see the perfect crescent beach and the small cut you have to go through just to the left of our pinned anchorage below. Being a Saturday afternoon there were dozens of powerboats anchored just off of the sandbar that Baker must have had to "haul over" long ago. I read the directions for entering the harbor and headed in. There was a Towboat US and a Seatow boat standing by for boats running aground on this extremely shallow section of the waterway.  Immediately after leaving the dredged channel, the depth was too shallow, I slowed, reversed and got back in the channel to regroup even as the towboat captain was barking at me on the radio... hmm where did I go wrong? It was getting late, I was tired, and had no good copy of the chart, so I decided to continue on south and find another spot.  Doing so meant traversing the notoriously shallow haulover, but lots of other boats were doing it, so I didn't give it a second thought.  

After crossing through the haulover by simply following the bouys and taking what seemed like a reasonable line through the channel, I started considering options for anchoring.  I couldn't be sure to find something suitable in short order, and the weather forecast was gentle, so after about 10 minutes, we turned around for the first time on the trip and headed back north. We got to re-try the shallowest stretch of the ICW in Florida!

I must have picked a slightly different line this time, because as we passed the sandbar filled with frolicking weekenders, we bumped once, twice, three times before the depth finder even showed shallow, and then we were back in deep water. On this shot through, Bakers Haulover was more like Bakers "Bumpover" for us.

We dropped the anchor about 4:30 in the midst of all the motorboats playing at the sandbar and took a short swim.  Slowly, as afternoon faded into evening, boats began pulling up anchor and leaving. The last boat left after dark at around 8:00 pm and we had this slightly open spot to ourselves for the night.  Sage and I had scrambled eggs for dinner and played dominoes for a while.  We made a few versions of the domino castle below which we could not have done with everyone on board, then went to bed around 9.

06 December 2013

Drawbridge Day


From time to time we pass under a bridge.  Usually these bridges are crossing from the mainland out to the barrier islands that protect the coast.  Farther north on the Intracoastal Waterway, many older drawbridges and swing bridges have been replaced by high clearance bridges that sailboats like C. Spirit can pass under without (much) hesitation.  The newly built bridges have a standard minimum height of 65 feet.  The top of our boat's mast is 46 feet above the water, so we clear under these bridges with ease.

In South Carolina, the few remaining swing and draw bridges need frequent repair, and signs are posted next to each bridge stating that the bridges will not open if a hurricane is coming or if the wind speed is higher that twenty-five miles per hour.  Inconvenient at best, dangerous for a boater seeking shelter from a coming storm.

Some days we have passed two or three bridges, often timing our arrival with the GPS to match their opening schedule.  Some bridges open on the hour and half hour, some only on the hour, some bridges open on request (meaning just call), and some do not open during rush hours.  It is a pain to try and keep track of these restrictions, and disappointing to arrive and find that you missed the recent opening and have a fifty-five minute wait until the next.

Today, nearing the end of our trip down the east coast, we came to a section of south Florida where the priorities are shifted.  Access to the coast for everyone is paramount it seems, so older draw bridges have been replaced by newer versions of the same.  It seems the policy along parts of this stretch of the coast is that no car should have more than about a two mile drive to a bridge connecting to the coast. Happily, many of the restored or rebuilt bridges have unique architectural touches that echo the original designs, and all of these new bridges work reliably, even in high winds.

We planned to move fifty miles farther south today, starting at around 7:30 am, which usually gets us anchored around 2:30 pm. But today was different, today was A DAY OF MANY DRAWBRIDGES!! Today we passed through sixteen drawbridges!!!!

It started easily enough with two bridges that opened on request, but then we ran into a stretch that opened on the hour and half hour and were about four miles apart, just far enough that we could not make the distance between the bridges in the twenty-five minutes between clearing the first and the cut off time for the next.

So we waited, and then sprinted, only to have to wait, then we became clever and used the GPS to set a leisurely pace to arrive just in time for the next opening, only to find that the times had changed due to construction.  Near the end of the day, we were fourth in line for a bridge, and the bridge tender closed the bridge right as we came up, then said over the radio, "Sorry, I did not see you back there, I will clear the traffic and get the bridge open right back up, and he did, but we were not able to make it up to the next bridge in time, and had another twenty-five minute wait  for an opening that we missed by just two or three minutes.

In the end, we only were able to make forty miles before we stopped for the night.  Though the boat cruises at a little over seven miles per hour, we averaged only around four miles per hour today.

We finally anchored about twenty minutes before sunset in Pineapple Lagoon, a tiny, man-made lake just off the waterway.  We are surrounded on all sides by docks, houses and condominiums. It is very sheltered, but a strange, uniquely Florida experience to be anchored in the midst of this suburb, able to hear movies playing in living rooms and dogs barking at front doors a short way across the water.

At the end of the day, the captain was worn out, not sure if the lesson was to relax and go with the flow, or to be smarter and learn to play the tides and times to optimize travel time.

Tomorrow and the next day, traveling from Boca Raton to Miami will be more of the same.  We will try for shorter distance goals, maybe half as much, and see if that makes things any better.










While waiting for one bridge, we were next to a public dock and a playground.  Unfortunately, we only had 15 minutes before the bridge was due to open.  Sage gazed longingly at the playground -- such torture!!


WHERE WE ARE:  Anchored in Pineapple Lagoon, Mile 1042, Boca Raton.  Reportedly there is poor holding here, and before going to bed, I checked the rode to see how the anchor was doing.  It seemed as if we might be dragging a little, so I pulled out the Big Dog -- a brand new Danforth anchor that I bought at the start of this trip and have not yet used.  As I went to pull up the other anchor, I realized that it was set really well after all.  Big Dog has to wait for another night.  

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Pineapple Lagoon

WHERE WE STARTED:  Anchored in Hobe Sound, Mile 1001

THERE TO HERE: 41 miles, 16 drawbridges!  Jamey at the helm.  Indigo took most of today's photos. 

Lots of enormous, fancy houses line the ICW here.

There are also a lot of big, fancy boats. 

And lots of enormous, fancy houses that have big, fancy boats. 

It's super built-up. 



Water play.

Water TV. 

It would be just fine with me if I never see a bridge ever again.