Saturday, August 29, 2015


Since we are currently in Miami, Tropical Storm Erika has certainly been on our minds as it has slowly marched across the Carribean toward Florida. There is always a certain energy that precedes a big storm, and it is hard to explain. Growing up in Florida means that I have seen quite a few storms and a few hurricanes too. Our house was flooded and destroyed by hurricane Wilma about 10 years ago, and there is nothing quite like a big named storm to get a community buzzing.

There seems to be two sets of people in regards to hurricane preparations. There are those that rush to the store at the mere mention of a storm, even if it is two thousand miles away. This group is called the Hoarder group, and they are excited that a storm is coming because it will bring devastation to everyone except them, because they have bought all the supplies possible. They buy up all the water and batteries, and are solely responsible for a third of the summertime Gross Domestic Product here in Florida. Luckily, for the other group, the What-Evers, Home Depot and the groceries have plenty of time to restock after the Hoarders initial assault, so important last minute items like beer, and Fireball are already back on the shelves. This group hits the stores last, and will take whatever they can find, figuring it probably doesn't matter anyway because if the storm doesn't kill them, the Hurricane Party just might. This group is excited that a storm is coming for two reasons. The first is that it is an excellent reason to have a party. As weird as this seems, it is absolutely true, there are plenty-o-parties in the face of total destruction here in Florida. The other reason they are excited is that for some weird reason, these storm always, always, ALWAYS attack in the middle of the night, with 2AM being prime time for storm strikes. This leads to two phenomenon. The party has hit it's stride by then, and there is nothing left to do but pass out and check out the carnage in the morning, where the second phenomenon, a instant day off of work materializes. A win-win you might say, except that your house and car might be totaled. And the Tylenol might have gotten wet somehow. Woo-Hoo!!!

Courtesy of NOAA/NWS

While the Hoarders and the Whatevers get ready, we have our own preparations to do. Being on a boat in the middle of a storm is about the same as digging for gold in a minefield. It might not work out so well. But you could get lucky! There are a lot of things to do though, and some are not optional. There is a lot of information available on the net about this, so I won't bore you with it all here, but I will tell you what we are doing. Feel free to add comments on this, as we are by no means expert boat preppers.

The first thing, is the take off phase. It is important to take off anything that might take-off in the wind. This includes the dodger, side curtains, and any laundry hanging on the lines. This can also include removing the sails and sail bags if the storm is going to hit you directly. We probably will skip this step, as the storm is projected to move well West of here now, and the intensity is lower than previously thought. We also plan to remove our window covers on the outside of the boat, and any cushions that might go away. We are going to check and clean all the hatch drains, and make sure the hatches are locked down tight. We are also going to turn the boat around, placing the nose into the prevailing East wind. Then the usual stuff like doubling the dock lines, filling the water tank, getting a couple bags of ice, running the generator and then... a trip to the store for beer and Fireball. Wait a minute... oh well, I guess we should check the Disco ball and lights too. What the hell. Maybe we are off Monday...

It looks fine outside to me!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dinner Key in Miami

Dinner Key Marina is where we are at the moment, an easy 15 minutes to work in the morning, and in the heart of historic Coconut Grove. Since we have been here living on the boat here twice now, I thought it would be interesting to delve into the history of the area, and then let you all know about it too. The area had it's start way back in the early 1800's, and this area around Biscayne Bay was so isolated, that visitors would have to sail or steam right past the area all the way to Key West, and then board much smaller vessles for the return trip. The very thought of Key West being more accesible than Miami is a real laugh, but that is how it was back then. There were no roads or railroads to this area, so if you wanted to come here, you had to do it the hard way. Many of these smaller ships wrecked, and were lost. It seemed that only the very well off could afford the best ships and the best crews to ensure a safe passage. And so, Coconut Grove became and area known for wealthy Northerners looking to "Get away from it all". Our previous post on the Barnacle house is a glimpse into this era, opulence on a grand scale in an age of simplicity and substinence living for the common folks. The first hotel here was built in 1883, and now is Peacock park, named after it's founder. The area just north of the Grove is known as Brickell, and it is the place to live and play in Miami. Right now there are at least 15 tower cranes busy making new skyscrapers in this one area. The Brickell area is named after William Brickell, who met Ralph Monroe, owner and builder of the Barnacle house, when Monroe saved his schooner off the coast of New York.

Another prominent resident early on was James Deering, bigwig with the International Harvester company. He wanted a house like no other, someplace that would be from another time and place. His house, Viscaya, is now a museum and gardens, and is open to the public. Deering accomplished his goal, and the house is a Mediterranean masterpiece, filled with European artworks and sculptures. The grounds are a showpiece for tropical plants, and Miami is the perfect place for that. If you get the chance to see the home and gardens, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Dinner Key Marina was once home to the Clipper Ships, which are not really ships at all. This term was used by Pan American Airlines to describe their aircraft, which early on in the company were all seaplanes. Later, Pan Am used this term for all their airplanes, even though they were no longer seaplanes.

The city hall is still here, and is in fact still Miami City Hall. The building in the center of this photo is the city hall, and the marina piers now attach to the same seawall in the photo. The drive up to city hall is still the same. If you look at the "Where Are We" section of this blog, (on the right side), you will see a current view of the exact same spot!
Pan Am actually got it's start down in Key West, and if you are there, you might accidentally walk right past a small, insignificant building that has a sign out front, declaring it the original home of Pan Am Airlines.
They airlines first route was one carrying mail from the mainland United States, to Cuba. The airline quickly grew, and much larger clipper ships flew right out of Dinner Key Marina. Biscayne Bay is perfect for landing these planes, it is large and calm, and the location here in Miami is a perfect jump-off location for points South, East and West.