Back in Florida



We left Virginia a week ago.  It was cold.  We were bundled up while out on the water.  we were looking forward to the warm tropics. Cold is not our style.  Now, I am writing this in the middle of a subtropical downpour in the winter tourist capital of the eastern USA.

We are now settled in our anchorage at South Lake in Hollywood, Florida. Approaching Florida is always an exciting time.  Navigating to clear clear the shallow banks north and west of the Bahamas. Crossing the Gulf Stream. Dealing with complex boat traffic.  New weather patterns.  Crowds. Cities. People.  Radio traffic.

But, to start, I’ll be backing up a bit and sharing some photos that we took while offshore and can’t upload over the satellite link…


Crash landing.

Always offshore in warm waters flying fish abound.  For some reason, they are attracted to lights.  In fact a way to catch a bunch of them is to anchor a dinghy with a white bedsheet stretched out vertically and lite by a flashlight.  They fly to the light, hit the sheet, and collect in the bottom of the dinghy.

Our navigation lights attract them as well, so we frequently find them on the boat’s deck in the morning.  Maybe someday we will collect enough of them at one time that we will see if they are as tasty to humans as they seem to be to every predatory fish that swims in the open ocean.

Such fascinating and strange creatures living at the interface between water and air.


Sometime you don’t have to look through the binoculars to find the bird. 

In the days before we approached the coast we were visited by several land based birds. A pair of Great Blue Herons circled the boat, and then headed off. Do they migrate this far offshore? Or was this pair lost and doomed to fly until they crashed into the sea?  A kestrel landed on the mizzen boom for a short rest and then flew off into the blue.

A day before we came into the coast we found a warbler on board who gave a new meaning to “birding binoculars”.



King of his world.

He spent a day wandering about the boat picking up every tiny little bug we had hanging around while we carried him back closer to land. He was quite friendly, more to Bill than Karen for some reason. It was actually a challenge to keep him out of the cabin.

Most of the time, when a tiny little songbird like this ends up on a boat at sea the story has an unhappy ending.  This case was different.  He rode back with us to within a mile of shore before flying off. Hopefully to make Florida a better state–one bug at a time.

As we come close to the coast on a Saturday morning, the number of recreational fishing boats is extraordinary.  Remember, we have just spent a week sailing and the number of boats we have seen can be counted on one hand.  Suddenly, within a mile of us there are one or two DOZEN boats. Some trolling, some anchored. some drifting, some flying kites. It is a touch overwhelming.  Oh… there are large ships and barges, and  the Navy is conducting submarine exercises nearby too!

IMG_8158Coming into Port Everglades, the main harbor in Fort Lauderdale, the first thing you come to is the huge cruise ship terminal. There were eight of these huge things at the dock as we came in, these were two of the smallest ones.  Seriously. A quick estimate suggests that there were cruise ship cabins for nearly 20,000 people there ready to leave before the weekend was over.


Dania Beach Blvd Bridge opening to let Harmonie through.

Once you get to the inland waterways of Florida you have to navigate the bridges.  Lots and lots of bridges.  To get to our anchorage today we need to open three.  To get to the boat yard tomorrow we will need to deal with at least eight.  Once you know what to do, it is not especially hard, but with all the other boat traffic, and currents, it can be a bit stressful. All this is coordinated on one channel on the radio.  It is fascinating how quickly you can learn the basic personalities of the bridge tenders–and boat captains.

And… would any passage summary be complete without a set of pictures of sunrises, sunsets and weather?  Some of these are worth clicking on… seriously.


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The missing night

Time 09NOV2018, 18:00 local
Latitude N 27° 03.9’
Longitude W 79° 16.w’
Weather: E, 8, gusting 10. Clear
Course: 165°M
Speed: 4.4 knots
Water temperature: 84.0°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 616NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 73NM

One of the most spectacular things about sailing offshore is the night sky. Hundreds of miles from any other lights, on a moonless night the splash of the Milky Way across the zenith can hold your attention for hours.

Coming up on deck to start a night watch, the first thing is always a look up at the sky. Of course you are getting a feel for the weather, but it also just awes and stirs the soul.

I came up for my first night watch last night as we made out turn around Little Bahama Bank I to the Straits of Florida. I was treated by a clear sky, sparkling with stars, but fewer than I expected, and no Milky Way at all. Even though we were 50 miles from the coast of Florida, the artificial light leaking up into the sky washed out the view. I wonder how many people reading this can walk out into the moonless night and REALLY see the stars? A very lucky few, I imagine.

We should be in Florida dropping anchor tomorrow afternoon on the way to a haulout Monday morning.

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Was it just last week?

Time 08NOV2018, 18:00 local
Latitude N 27° 04.3’
Longitude W 79° 04.3’
Weather: NE, 6, gusting 8, Mostly clear
Course: 205°
Speed: 2.5 knots
Water temperature: 84.5°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 569NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 117NM

It happened today… even before I expected. The guilty party shall remain nameless. Just last week it was cold. Well, cold for us tropical birds—down in the 40’s even! We were both looking forward to warm again! Who knew that the first complaint about it being “too hot” would come before we even touched land? To be fair, it was 90 degrees in the cabin, and a bit stuffy.

We struggle with less wind then we’d like, but the overnight forecast is promising. We’ll be approaching the northernmost islands of the Bahamas tonight, and once again crossing the Gulf Stream early tomorrow morning.

No luck on the fishing front…yet.

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Joining the dark side

Time 07NOV2018, 11:00 local
Latitude N 30° 07.0’
Longitude W 77° 51.3’
Weather: SSW, 3, gusting 6, Mostly sunny
Course: 218°
Speed: 6.8 knots
Water temperature: 82.9°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 422NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 268NM

Early this morning, as forecast, the wind went away. We have been motoring for several hours and it looks like that will continue for a bit more. Other than a few small and mild rain squalls, nothing interesting to report on weather. A few flying fish cover the recent wildlife sightings.

Last night we were past in the dark by Adele, a 180 foot (!) sailboat. Like us she is headed for Fort Lauderdale. Hopefully we get a look at her there.

With calmer seas, and easier sailing, we put out some fishing lines. Hopefully that will be productive.

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Almost halfway

Time 06NOV2018, 14:00 local
Latitude N 31° 39.3’
Longitude W 76° 30.2’
Weather: SSE, 12, gusting 15, Sunny
Course: 230°
Speed: 5.8 knots
Water temperature: 80.8°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 319NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 383NM

A bit less than halfway as the gull flies, but past halfway in sailing distance. We’ve had more variable weather than in past trips, but nothing nasty. A bit more beating into the wind than we like, but we continue to make good progress. We should be making landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

We are once again in the world of flying fish. We know this because we have found the first one on deck this morning. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get the fishing lines out.

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Progess South

Time 05NOV2018, 10:00 local
Latitude N 33° 08.0’
Longitude W 75° 34.2’
Wind: SSE, 12, gusting 15
Course: 230°
Speed: 5.2 knots
Water temperature: 80.6°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 231NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 484NM

After a fast and windy day yesterday, and a windy rainy night, we are on the back side of the front. A few scattered shower remain, gray skies, and the waves are shrinking as the wind fades. The air temperature is warm and comfortable, we have shed the layers of warm clothing we needed just two days ago.

The wind direction is not ideal, but at least for now we can maintain a course more or less in the direction we want to go. The weather models are all over the place for the next few days, we have to sort out what we get!

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“The Twinkles are Back!”

Time 04NOV2018, 05:30 local
Latitude N 35° 26.9’
Lon W 75° 07.2’
Wind: NE, 19, gusting 25
Course: 160°
Speed: 8.3 knots
Water temperature: 74.3°F
Nautical miles from Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: 104NM
Nautical miles to Port Everglades, Florida: 616NM

The first glimmers of dawn are showing as we leave Cape Hatteras behind, and approach the edge of the continental shelf where the water drops from a hundred feet deep to over a mile. The weather has so far been running as predicted with wind changes in speed and direction running as we had expected. We’ll likely have the roughest water of the trip in a few hours as we cross the Gulf Stream.

After a spectacularly clear afternoon and night, a few scattered clouds are spreading across the sky. The moon rose just before dawn so we were treated to a beautiful dark sky spread of stars. The bioluminescent plankton put on a competing show in the disturbed water in Harmonie’s wake. Not just there either. As Karen announced after coming up on deck for her night watch, “The twinkles are back!” She was revering to the plankton lighting up the toilet bowl with the seawater flush!

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