FL Keys Trip, Part 1 of 4- Stuart -> Biscayne Bay

12/13/20-Our time in Stuart, FL came to an end December 4th, 2020 when Steve finished his 2nd class (Boat Surveying) at the Chapman’s School of Seamanship. We were free to start our full time boat life now! Our plans from the beginning were to head to the Bahamas in early December, however we decided to delay a bit so that we could get a better assessment of traveling safely during the pandemic. Finally, we made a choice and on December 13th, we headed to the Florida Keys instead. 

12/13- Conditions were perfect that morning (seas 2 feet high every 3 seconds), so we headed out into the great big blue in order to get to our first stop of Lake Worth quicker.

Sadly, winds were only 5-7 knots so we couldn’t put the sails up. After a 30 mile sail, we approached the Lake Worth/Palm Beach inlet, which was quite an interesting inlet. The channel was fairly narrow (to our standards) and it made it feel even smaller with large cargo ships and fancy yachts going in and out.

Most of the time, the bigger ships have a pilot boat that helps them navigate the waters. We left Stuart around 9am and arrived Lake Worth around 2pm. Right away, we found a decent anchorage site among many other boats. We dropped anchor and celebrated the first leg of our Keys trip and our 6th time ever anchoring!

12/14-The next morning, we left early hoping to avoid lots of boat traffic, but sometimes the mornings are the busiest time because the fishing boats want to get out early, and so do the yachts. We had a bit of a race with one in particular but even with the pilot boat leading them, they were moving faster than us. We gave way and waited for them to clear the channel. Finally, off we went, out the inlet and into the ocean to make good time and not worry about crossing under bridges.

Great conditions again (seas 2 feet every 2-3 seconds) and awesome wind at 15 knots…but on the nose so no sails again. Our next stop was Boca Raton and it took us about 7 hours total, anchor to anchor. The tricky thing about the Boca inlet is that it is REALLY narrow, REALLY shallow in places, and also very busy but mostly with small vessels, no cargo ships or huge yachts thank goodness. The other caveat is that it is hard to navigate when there is a strong current. We decided to skip this inlet and head farther south to the Hillsboro Inlet to work our way north in the ICW until we reached Lake Boca Raton.

Luckily we timed the bridges right and got to the anchorage fairly quickly. It was a very narrow channel but cool to see all the fancy houses along the way. That was a quick stop but we did get to snorkel to check on the anchor, enjoyed a nice dinner, and a restful sleep.

In the morning, we fought a bit of incoming current but at least the Lake Boca bridge opens on demand so we had no trouble getting out. The incoming tide fought us but it was worth it because when we got to the ocean, it was like glass. A beautiful morning on the water! But you guessed it…no sails again. 

12/15- The third leg of this trip was Boca Raton to Miami and was a longer, 8 hour day.  Steve put the fishing lines out…so far we were 0 for 2 with ocean fishing on our own boat. Luckily he did catch one Bontio that day.  What wind we did have was on the nose again so still no sailing! We started seeing more and more cargo ships, huge yachts, and even a “sleeping” cruise ship. We actually got to see the new crew come from land to get on. Even though cruise ships aren’t active right now because of COVID, they still need to take care of the ship, and that’s exactly what the crew does. We also spotted an amazing, and the world’s largest “sloop” sailboat called “M5”.

Our plan was to head south of Miami and check out Marine Stadium or even No Name Harbor as an anchorage but we opted for Dinner Key instead because of its easy access to shore, trash drop off, grocery stores and more. When you head to this area, you are passing through Biscayne Bay which is home to Biscayne National Park. At the very entrance to the bay from the ocean, you’ll notice lots of houses on stilts through the Biscayne Channel! This is known as “Stiltsville.”

Dating back to the 1930s…and with a colorful history of illegal alcohol and gambling…It’s a really cool sight to see and there are not many of them left after general wear & tear, fires, and also damage from hurricanes. The bay can be rather shallow in places, so be sure to pay attention when entering. We shot straight across the northern tip of the bay to get to Dinner Key.

There we found a decent anchor spot, albeit around numerous boats, both occupied as well as not occupied, or even worse, derelict or sunken. Immediately we got snorkel gear on to get in the water. Cody and I explored near the boat while Steve dove on the anchor to make sure it was set. All was well so we ate dinner and called it a night.

12/16-The next morning, Steve jumped on the paddle board to enjoy the glass-like water and was greeted by manatees! This was our very first sighting of these beautiful creatures and it was so cool to see them near the boat.

Later that day, we hopped in the dinghy and went to shore. This was the first time off the boat in 4 days so we were ready to stretch our legs. Luckily, Miami and the Coconut Grove area have a city-wide free trolly so we hopped aboard and headed into Downtown Miami to check it out, while being physically distant and wearing masks of course! More snorkeling and SUPing again this afternoon. 

12/17-The next day was another run into the city. We needed to pick up some supplies at a dive shop (Grove Scuba) and marine store (Crook & Crook Marine). Luckily, both of these were right off the Coconut Grove trolley route so that helped us a lot.

Back to the boat for anchor’s away and on to the Biscayne National Park. The wind was in our favor, coming from the west so we got both the jib and main up for a faster trip to our next anchor spot for the night, Sands Key. We had a quick dip, dinner and went to bed. When we have more free time, we’d like to explore the National Park. It has some really great snorkeling sites to see! We stayed just that one night at Sands Key and took off in the morning for the rest of the Keys. Click here for part 2 of 4, Biscayne Bay -> Marathon.

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