What a joyous occasion to re-board Sojourner and head out on new adventures!! It had been longer than we had planned, and the excitement –and, quite candidly, the trepidation– were all the greater for that reality! Beginning in familiar territory, we decided to start the journey southward slowly and easily: limit ourselves to short days on the water and revisit known marinas, at least until our sea legs returned. Wel-l-l… that plan lasted less than a day, and the reality of the first day became the pattern for the entire trip to the Keys.
From St. Augustine, we made good time and arrived very early afternoon at our targeted destination, Palm Coast, of “40 Days and 40 Nights” fame (see blog entry 5/2009). Though the day was gorgeous with its warm sun, white fluffy clouds, and calm waters, the weather forecasts suggested changes on the way, so we altered the plan first day out: let’s travel the entire day and stay at a new marina!! Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach was a delightful new stop, but after some consideration, we left the next day thinking we’d rather be down for a couple of days at New Smyrna Beach, one of our favorites, if the weather forecasts came true- And they did!!
Winds from the north, often very strong, dominate the winter weather pattern in Florida, and as far as the winds are concerned, winter arrived our second day out. That change ensured we would travel slowly. After two days down in New Smyrna, we rode 15-20 mph winds to Cocoa Village, Sojourner’s 2009-10 winter home, and stayed there two days. From there, we traveled first to Vero Beach and then on to Stuart for short visit with Cousin Evie before blowing into North Palm Beach and another two-day wind break. Wind gusts at 13 mph made departing Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart somewhat dicey, but the steady 21 mph winds made docking at Old Port Cove in NPB simply terrifying, and we were glad to sit for a while!
Three glorious cruising days took us to Delray Beach and Ft. Lauderdale before traversing the Port of the Everglades, passing by the Port of Miami, and cruising right through the heart of Miami to Coconut Grove where we again spent a couple of days waiting out the wind.
This trip through both familiar territory and new places offered a Florida version of all the different cruising we have done. The first few days carried us on essentially brown, mostly wide (if narrowly channeled) Intercoastal waters through primarily natural landscapes punctuated only periodically with significant evidence of human activity. At Ft. Pierce just north of Stuart, a transformation occurred, and we knew we had entered the Florida of winter fantasies! The water color changed dramatically, the waterway began to narrow, and the undisturbed landscapes became a rare exception to the increasingly dense conglomeration of human construction. Heading into the Ft. Lauderdale -Miami corridor, we traveled some 56 miles under an unending series of “slow speed; no wake” restrictions because of “congestion in the area” and “manatee zones”!! Much of our cruise through the famed south Florida cities of Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Boyton Beach and Miami itself was like driving slowly through neighborhoods on a city street! A multitude of bridges cross the waterway to connect those neighborhoods, and our decision to take this first cruise “slow and easy” helped us accept the inevitable delays as even the “short” Sojourner often had to wait for a scheduled opening. We’re not certain we would be so copacetic if we had to make the trip multiple times, but this time, we thoroughly enjoyed the slow pace and the time to truly take in all the sights that it provided!
The last leg of the journey would take us from Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove across Biscayne Bay, through Stilt House City to Hawk Channel and a day’s run in the Atlantic Ocean to Key Largo so we paid particular attention to both the wind and wave heights! The last day was well worth waiting for and one of our best cruising days ever!! The water was an indescribably beautiful blue-green in color, the swells were less than a foot and the wind, nothing but a gentle breeze. Bottle-nosed porpoises played with Sojourner and we had a grand time!
And now we are in Key Largo! Sojourner’s berth is on coconut palm-lined Port Largo Canal, and she shares the narrow waterway with several other cruising vessels, a half dozen dive and snorkeling boats, AND the illustrious, if somewhat dilapidated, African Queen of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fame. We were joined by our training captains/now friends Capts. Patti and Carol from St. Petersburg for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we were all treated to the visit of a very special guest on Turkey Day!
We took many pictures during the southern half of this cruise, several of which may be viewed in the St. Augustine to the Keys Flickr set, including video of the porpoises!!