Friday, January 15, 2010

Florida part 2

Fort Lauderdale, the Venice of America where waterways are lined with amazing residences. Here is a look back at our time there in December.

12th December.

Las Olas Marina mooring field. Seraphim was in prime position for the Winterfest Boat parade. Over one hundred brightly lit and loudly blaring competitors of all sizes sailed right on past in front of us. It was magnificent.

An extra treat was catching up with Pat and Walt on Centime with whom we sailed  from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico in Winter 04 when I was newly pregnant with Jack.

On Sunday 13th December Seraphim headed along the ICW and up the New River to a marina. I was singing “Electricidad”, my version of the Spanish song, “Felice Navidad” in anticipation at being able to plug into a dock for a while.

The New River Marina was also the start point of the Winterfest parade. Half dressed and unlit Winterfest boats headed down river, as we headed up. Matt, the dockmaster gave us an excellent spot alongside the re-developed Riverwalk, next to a park. It was to be our home for two weeks, which has stretched to five.

December 14th

I would never have guessed it was a special day if James had not bounced on my head before dawn singing “Birthday”. Later I was awoken from a doze in with champagne, yummies, and “Happy Birthday” sung by my boys.  (It hardly seemed a year since Rastafarian Adrian accompanied by his steel drum sang on the dock in St Lucia.) A day full of treats ensued including brunch at the Floridian Restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard, a Fort Lauderdale tradition. Highly Recommend.

Eileen, John’s mother, visited for two weeks over Christmas staying in a Best Western Oceanside Inn tucked between the Harbor Beach Marriott and Sheraton. Three minutes to the beach it was great value in a top location.

An explore by car through Rio Vista (River View) wowed us. The waterfront homes are as dazzling on the land facing side.

On Christmas Eve we attended the family Service at the Church by the Sea  which included a heart warming Nativity Play. I was intrigued that the Service sheet  announced who had sponsored the Poinsettias. It was the most fashionable congregation we’d come across. Supper was sorted by Tokyo Sushi, a Rodriguez celebration tradition (e.g. our arrival in the USA in May and my Birthday dinner).

On Christmas day after a present opening frenzy in Eileen‘s room, Christmas lunch on Seraphim was rounded off with a cruise of the ICW Christmas lights, aboard “Tropical Adventures“, a family run tourist boat. Father Christmas had first given us a flyer whilst we walked down Las Olas Boulevard admiring the Christmas decorations.

Florida part three comes up soon. Marriage proposal on the pavement, drive ins, dive ins, and police helicopters at bedtime….

Monday, January 11, 2010

Florida part one

Greetings from an extra-ordinary cold Fort Lauderdale. Avocado, strawberry and citrus farmers of central Florida are distraught. Me too, fresh, fresh, fresh strawberries we feasted on last week were the best ever. This week the crop froze.

But, for now, back to early December in Vero Beach, Florida. The Gods read my smug blog - “waterproofs away”, and cracked their cheeks. Torrential winds and rain with the spin of tornado warnings. The inclement conditions forced us to dig deep under the pilot berth (a six foot by two foot sloping “garage“) and drag out the cockpit tent. Wintering in Gibraltar (05) and Palma (07) it provided an extra, upstairs room, an excellent anti claustrophobic device.

Vero Beach’s nickname is Velcro Beach. Cruisers get stuck there. During the week, free buses provide transport to Publix, (my favourite supermarket), West Marine, (chandlery), Pocahontas Playground (9/10) and pretty much anything else. The mooring price includes showers and laundry. The place was literally packed to the rafters, arf! Arf!, boats were rafting two or three abreast on buoys. A charming couple thankfully experienced with Grandchildren rafted onto us. We eyed their immaculate craft remembering pre-children chic.

In Vero we spent time with our friend Greg Von Zeilinski whom we originally met in Solomon’s island (Maryland) during Hurricane Isabel in September 03. (See archives, Hurricane Isabel on our main website here). Greg had been kind enough to let us use his address for mail. It is so exciting collecting post. Genuine jumping up and down, excitement. Even in this email centric age, cards and presents from home make a big difference to Birthdays and Christmas. I immediately hid large parcels in the pilot berth, (“garage”), making a mental note from whence I should exhume them on Christmas Eve. Curious and determined small hands can discover even the deepest crannies. (It worse than John and chocolate!) Vero Beach Community put on a Christmas Parade. The boys soon learnt that waving their flags manically attracted more candy canes.

Greg a vicar who cares for his elderly parents, ferried us everywhere and gave his expert assistance helping John fixing the stern gland. Interestingly, Moonshine’s stern gland gave up on the ICW as well.

With 11th December, the date for our arrival at New River Municipal Marina on the horizon, we un-stuck from Vero and headed south. At our new gentle, stopping for playgrounds pace it would take 4 days to cover the 163 miles. (Pushing hard we could do it in 2 ½). On the first day south of Jensen Bridge we stopped at a BTN (Better Than Nothing) playground on the pier under the bridge. We have learnt from bitter experience that the children have to be run out once a day.

From Hobe Sound to Jupiter, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach the homes become more palatial and surreal. All realms of taste, or not, are catered for. The most overt display of wealth is a mansion one block back from the water, with the precious waterside plot given over to an immaculate lawn. Thousands of dollars of real estate for serfs and turf, with fountains with running water like in ancient Rome.

The picturesque anchorage beside the ICW in Lantana had a playground. Time was against us. Fifteen bridges from Lantana to Fort Lauderdale. Most sail in the ocean to avoid waiting for bridges. John and I think this is one of the most spectacular parts of the ICW.

The pressure cranked up when with five bridges to go, and the afternoon waning, the Atlantic Boulevard bridge broke down. Whilst waiting for the electrician to fix the bridge and free the waterway we tied up to a bar with a dock, or dock with a bar, depending on your priorities. The boys swam in the bar pool. Finally the electrician fixed the bridge. The barmaid cursed. Half the bridge opened. Better than nothing. Powering ahead of other yachts, charging for bridge openings, we made it to Las Olas (The Waves) Marina mooring buoys field in time to secure one of the last buoys.