Last Leg – Miami to Key West

The northwestern shore of Key Largo is fairly undeveloped.  Paddling from our anchorage, we can barely read the No Trespassing sign, so instead of exploring the island, we take turns trying to grab the spiny lobsters all over the rocks.  They have no pinchers but it is creepy as hell to grab a giant saltwater cockroach and the shell was sharp enough to draw blood on my left hand.  The sky becomes too dark to see anymore, so we paddle back.

This smoky blue image is the best we can capture the bio-luminescence.  Steve and I are the brownish blurs and we are kicking our feet to make the water glow.  It looks like you are a character on the video game Mortal Kombat, on fire, under water. 

Downtown Key Largo is only 15 miles from us, and we find a dock early in the afternoon.  After running some errands at the Post Office and grabbing a Frosty from Wendy’s, I meet Steve and Sascha, and we get food for the rest of the trip.  Not much excitement on Key Largo except for the beautiful water and skies.
The first inlet leads us back into the ocean to finish the journey.  Sailing through the night is productive as the wind takes us almost entirely home.  There are lots of reefs around the Keys, so we drop anchor in a sandy patch and snorkel around for a couple hours.  We try to find the strangest thing around the boat and Steve comes up with a huge conch.  It is decided that we are not going to cook the conch and we head West.

like a snorkel boss

Sascha’s GoPro is awesome.  I want one.

DIRECTION

The last 3 months, we have been going approximately south.  First due south along the coast of New Jersey, (had to briefly backtrack North when we switched to the ICW), then southwest, south, southeast, south, you get the picture.  When we rounded Jupiter Beach and the coast of FL starts curing west.  When you get close to Key West, you are traveling straight into the setting sun.  The anchorage is on the western side of the island, so after passing the pushpin, we make for due North.  The first time since we were in the Delaware Bay.
HOME

Well, kind of.  Anchored next to the Coast Guard station, we decide it is too far to paddle and pull out the outlawed motor.  If you don’t remember why it was outlawed, I’m just gonna say it has too much power. 

Key West is pretty wild and it doesn’t take 15 minutes to get scooped up by 4 drunk Russian chicks and taken to a rooftop bar called The Garden of Eden.  The first thing we see when we walk into the bar is a butt-naked old dude.  This is a clothing optional bar with lots of naked old people and one ballsy young dude that just doesn’t fit in.  The Russians are a little too hammered and decide to take the cab home.  Good idea.  We wander around for another hour checking out some bars, meet folks, and wind up stumbling into a drag show.  The first night it really lives up to it’s reputation.  There are more bars per capita in Key West than anywhere else in the country, so they say.  I haven’t done the math.

Yeti roosterTheirsOurs

I feel like death in the morning and Steve is unable to move.  Sascha and I go to town to visit more streets, galleries, and the beach.  Around 4PM, we take a nap in “America’s Number One Park”, which is the size of half a tennis court.  I finally feel normal again.  We proceed to check out street chickens, galleries, cool trees, and I go to the beach while Sascha picks up post cards.  We get back to the boat after dark, Steve is still in the same position.  The ice cold Gatorade brings him back to life and we stay up all night talking about politics, religion, the future, and all that stuff.  What if hiving happens in our subconscious and that is why our gut has feelings about people and situations?

The dinghy motor isn’t doing all that great.  A gear in the throttle linkage is frozen, and after we brake it loose, there was still a lot of friction, which ultimately leads to me breaking a gear tooth.  So we disconnect the link to the carburetor and zip-tie a toothbrush for our new throttle lever.  We had an open end wrench, but kept getting electrocuted.  There was also a gas leak due to brittle hoses.  With the newly ghetto rigged dinghy we head to shore for Sascha’s last day.

Big pushpin – check.  Key lime pie – check.  Chocolate dipped, frozen key lime pie on a stick – check.  Fries and drinks at Wendy’s and we make our way back to the boat.
Sascha and I get up pretty early and head to shore.  He is going to hitchhike back up to New York.  Glad we got to hang out with him.  Can’t believe it’s been a week.
THE GAMES
Sailing.  Living on the edge.  You encounter intense, unique obstacles on a very frequent basis.  Sometimes you are concerned with the idea that you might not reach our destination.  You might not get through the night.  The game in this scenario is doing whatever it takes to get it done
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Once you are settled (or in our case, too broke to go on), there is a ninja-like psychological transition that takes place.  The automated human response to the new living situation is to get more and more comfortable.  But this is not a game at all.  The reason I believe this to be true is that there is no excitement.  Or very little, which makes it a bad game.  The real game associated with this change is to again make yourself uncomfortableand strive for a new goal.  Instead of working hard to stay alive (a reasonable goal), Steve is working hard to upgrade the boat.  He was going to get an apartment and get settled and finally realized the notion bummed him out.  Instead, he’s gonna work and save and upgrade the boat so he can sail to Belize.  That’s the game.  Gotta keep playing the game.
WHAT’S NEXT?
The combined 9 months (6 in NY and 3 since) of living on Silent Runnerhave been awesome.  I’m ready for a little break, though.  I’m going back to Jupiter in a few days to meet with Jeff and follow through with a plan we discussed in Teepee Town back in January when I met him.  We are gonna take his van to San Diego.  I’ll be coming through Savannah next weekend, so give me a ring if you want to grab a drink.  In closing, I decided to quote someone who knew much more about living than I could ever hope to learn.  The most badass chick ever: Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. 
”The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – E. R.

4th Leg – Ft. Lauderdale and Miami

Dubi’s getting cabin fever

We finally get some fish on the boat.
Candy that tastes bad is a good thing to have on the boat.  Good for cravings and you don’t wipe out the food supply every time you get hungry.
BAD MOOD
Ok, I am in one of those moods today and don’t want to write this.  I haven’t been able to rebalance myself for about 2 days now and the feud with Femi has been going on now for about a week.  Other than getting mad at me first, he really hasn’t done anything wrong.  I just don’t like the guy right now.  I’ve got specific reasons, but basically he doesn’t line up with my values.  We did resume communication after 4 days of silence after I paid him back for groceries.  I have a new understanding of the phrase ‘Money talks’.
The boat seems as if it is getting in worse shape.  Today, the main radio is not working properly.  The bridges cannot hear us, and everything sounds broken on this end.  The boat is pretty gross.  Really gross.  The cushions are all deteriorating with the rest of the interior.  When I’m in a good mood I can overlook all of the cosmetics and messiness, because the goal is to get to Key West, not to have a sparkling boat that never leaves the harbor.  Unless I had 4 OCD crew members, I couldn’t do both without going crazy.  Besides, Dubi isn’t gonna pick up after himself.
I wonder if I am crazy because I can’t stand to be around the same people for too long, as is also proved by my dating record.
Now, I’ve got to practice what I preach and not worry about things that don’t matter or are out of my control.  In the words of DZ, “Ask yourself, is this gonna change your life?  If not, don’t worry about it.”
So, today, I will search for something that makes me excited.  I’m contemplating fixing some things on the boat or taking Mickey’s suggestion and riding a bicycle around Ft. Lauderdale.
FT. LAUDERDALE
The suburbs are not unbearable.  Instead of the nuclear family, it’s full of nuclear vacation homes.  Except every mansion and sub-mansion does not look the same.  The streets are ALL water and instead of kids, each home has 2.3 yachts.  It’s something to behold.
We are dropping the hook in Lake Sylvia to explore the city.  The anchor does not set very well and the boat keeps drifting in the wrong direction.  At this point I am about to jump out of my skin because I can’t stand to be on the boat another minute.  I debate just jumping off and swimming to shore.  I ask Steve, “Where do you want the boat?”  He points and I jump in the water to manually swim-push the boat to the correct orientation.  After a minute and a half of treading water and pushing the 6,000lb boat, I’ve got it just where Steve wants it.  I look up and Steve is pulling the anchor line, which undoes everything I just did!  I climb on the boat and am speechless.  I can’t even look at him.  I do some Spanish lessons on Rosetta Stone to cool off and then Femi and I take the dinghy to shore.  Steve wants to stay on the boat.
After we paddle under a really low bridge, we park at the other side.  Femi and I still aren’t talking and I think we are going to split up and explore FTL independently.  I am thinking the same thing I’ve thought all morning: Why am I putting up with this shit?  I am not enjoying life.  Do I leave or tell Femi to leave?  We are so close to the end.
I start to think Femi is a balancing mechanism to keep Steve and I from killing each other.  Just have to make it another week and then I can make a change.  I look for a convenient store towards downtown and before I realize, Femi and I are talking.  We talk about a runner or car jumping over the bascule (like two draw bridges for boats to pass through) bridge as it rises.  We walk around the city all day and meet some cool people.
Innovative creep-mobile.
No one knows what Dubi’s doing.
Thank you Isabella for the conversation at the art gallery, Natalie for the day-work info, and Emily for the art she makes.  Femi and I chill at Colee Hammock Park for a couple hours and have some deep sociological discussions.  Femi believes people should be able to discuss political and religious differences.  I realize that even though Femi and I have some different views, we share enough values to enjoy one another’s company.
When we head back on the dinghy, the low bridge is now much lower.  The tide rose a couple feet and we barely scrape underneath, contorting our bodies and pushing off the ceiling instead of paddling.  Steve has been on the boat for about 9 hours, but we come bringing General Tso’s chicken from a Chinese restaurant.  Tension has subsided.
I’m wired and it’s hot on the boat.  I read about Nikola Tesla in the cockpit until about 2AM and sleep under a towel.  The rain wakes me up just before the sun comes up and I relocate to the vee berth.  Steve and Femi start motoring just after dawn and I am awake.  The mood is good.  We head the last 20 miles to Miami.
MIAMI

Around 1PM, we pass under the final bascule bridge.  We passed under 82 bridges – in Florida alone.
We dropped the hook just north of Watson Island, across the water from Miami.

The next couple days is playtime J  The next island is Key Biscayne, the start of the Florida Keys.  As the sun is setting, we find ourselves in the oldest bar in Miami, Tobacco Road.  Cool place with 2 stages and 2 live bands (one sets up while the other is finishing).  Steve and I split a delicious South of the Border Burger with guac and chili on top.  Femi’s cousin picks us up and we go to some bars by the water.  Frozen margaritas = wasted.  Couple more bars and we paddle the dinghy back around 4AM.  It is evident that the people who tied the dinghy to the boat were drunk.
The hangover is pretty intense and we finally make it off the boat around 2 in the afternoon to go to South Beach.  Steve says the number of beautiful women he has seen in his life doubled today.  I’m so tired when I get back to the boat I pass out and Femi can’t wake me up.  He really couldn’t.
I wake up and Steve and I have the first real conversation in over 3 weeks.  We talk about our lives and minds and end up in really good moods.  We swim, drink rum, and are so deep in conversation that we are constantly rolling cigarettes.  The guitars come out and Steve has the idea to post up somewhere with a sign that says FREE LESSONS.  We head to the beach.
The first person to give us lessons is a 20 year old jazz student.  We give a couple more lessons and meet Sascha, a German dude backpacking America.  He slept on the beach last night, so I offer him a boat bed and a ride to Key West.  Femi may or may not do a ride share in a Smart Car to Savannah, but with only 3 more days or traveling, we can afford the space of another passenger.
Maggie and Shawn are awesome.  I felt awkwardly hurried because I wanted to leave Miami today.  We are still waiting to find out if Femi’s ride is gonna come through.  I started charging my phone in a bar and started talking to the bartender and his girlfriend.  My mood turned around quickly and I relaxed in the bar all afternoon, talking about the restructuring of the education system in the U.S. (she’s a 6th grade English teacher) and the battle between new and old school thinking.  I feel better about the future of this country after talking to her.  The situation is immensely complex, but they are taking logical steps.  Looks like we are hitting the Keys tomorrow morning.  Pot luck at the Yacht Club included an amazing tangerine dip with chips and Guy bought us two rounds (we accepted one) and invited us to dinner he was grilling after hearing we sailed from NYC on a 27.
Dinner was awesome.  It was a potluck at the Yacht Club.  Grilled filet, tenderloins, sausage, chicken, fried zucchini with tzatziki sauce, mac’n’cheese, potato salad with bacon (get or make this!), and chips with two homemade dips.  The first dip was hummus, and the second at a glance looked like imitation crab meat, but was actually a fluffy tangerine and whipped cream concoction.  (Look up a recipe for this, also!)  It was sweet, good, perfect.  Guy never asked if we were hungry, he just said, “Eat.”  Based on his experiences, (he moved boats for 8 years and has been sailing for at least 20) I think he could tell we had an appetite.  
When we finished our plates, he walked by our table on the outdoor patio next to the pool and told us to clean up.  “Whatever’s left, you take with you.”  After our 3rd plate, we were absolutely stuffed.  He walked back to our table with a few bags of leftovers and told us if we are back in Miami to look him up and “We’ll figure something out.”  Cool dude.
We walked along the highway to help digest the 4 pounds of meat we just ate and to see one of Invader’s (globally known graffiti artist in Miami last week) tags.  It gives me a sense of freedom to see well done graffiti.  No politics involved, just pure, simple, enjoyable art.  Sascha took the bus to the beach to get post cards.
We headed back to the bar in the Yacht Club and waited for Shawn to close the place.  We invited him to hang out on the boat for a while.  If we make it to Key West by Friday, he’ll have bar-backing work lined up for us.  Shawn blew my mind with his humble finesse and sharp reactions.  The dude is really, really bright and threw some serious philosophical bombs in my ear without blinking.  He’s one of those people that just looks past, through, or around what most of us see.  I haven’t man-crushed that hard since Fernandina.  When Sascha came back from the beach around 10:30 that night, Shawn paddled to shore and took off.  Sascha brought it back and we watched Pirate Radio.  How have I never seen this?!  Maybe it is just the great mood, but right now, it is one of the best movies I have ever watched.
I wake up to Femi and Sascha talking in the cockpit.  Femi is getting the ride share back to Statesboro to sell some things, clean out his apartment, and then possibly rejoin Stephen in Key West.  We say goodbye and Steve and Sascha paddle them to shore.  The boat feels empty and their company will be missed.  I know this contradicts what how I felt earlier, but that’s what happens when you share a small place for almost a month.  The boat is also much roomier.
We put up the new fore sail (Genoa) while the Miami skyline slowly shrinks behind us.  Sascha is a cool cat and definitely has some wisdom stored behind his quiet, polite façade.  The old discussion about enjoying the moment comes up and he says, “It’s not about having a good time, it’s being able to recognize a good time.”  The northern shore of Key Largo will be visible at dusk.