July 2005 to October 2006

Not too much in the way of monster fish to report during this period. There was something very large that grabbed our bait at the Cholera wreck off Long Island, but we were unsuccessful in getting it aboard. I suspect it was a big doormat fluke.

While anchored in Zachs Bay at Jones Beach on many occasions, the most memorable stays included the Jones Beach airshow, incredible July 4th 360 degree fireworks with about ten different shows all visible at the same time, and concerts as we watched the boat swinging at anchor from our seats in the stadium.

Several trips up to Kismet to see a friend with a beach house there, and revisits to Sailors Haven, Watch Hill, Heckster State Park and Tequila Jacks.

Took a trip up the Hudson to Crofton, NY to raft up with about 15 boats. Enjoyed hiking up the hill to the funky Blue Pig and Black Cow restaurants.

Had a nice beach barbecue at Robert Moses state park, and discovered a secret surfing spot on Fire Island, which will stay secret. Sorry!

The boat returned to Florida in November, and is now inside rack stored in Fort Lauderdale when we are not using it.

Florida cruise in January 2006

It was a big mistake to leave the propane cabin heater at home when the boat was shipped to Florida for the winter; we sure could have used it. But, good planning by Jane to leave aboard the long johns, heavy blankets, mittens and heavy coats from our late fall boating trips off Long Island in NY, because we used them all in Southern Florida!

Work responsibilities and the NYC transit strike delayed our departure to Florida until early January. Landing in Fort Lauderdale, extensive hurricane damage was apparent during the taxi ride to the marina. The boat was quickly readied and we were soon headed down the Intercoastal Waterway to get lunch and supplies at Joe’s supplies in Hollywood, then resumed our trip south.

We anchored at Oleta park in North Miami. This is a great free anchorage that is frequently visited by dolphins. We had a peaceful night at anchor while temperatures dropped into the 40s! Good thing the boat was equipped as above with cold weather gear as we sure needed it.

The next day we inflated the kayak and visited Sand Spur island, one of the natural islands scattered around the huge Miami harbor. A dolphin jumped clear of the water to get a better look at a passing cigarette boat. It looked like he was really interested in it, as he jumped so he could stare right at it horizontally. Pretty funny.

We packed up the kayak, then motored up Archer Creek to our old marina to get fuel and say hi. Also enjoyed visiting with our fishey friends there, teaming in the clear water. Continued south through Miami harbor to berth at Dinner Key marina, formerly the Pan American Flying boat base. City hall is in the Art Deco former main terminal building and nice models of the flying boats are in the dockmasters office. It is called dinner Key because people used to take their picnic dinners down there to watch the impressive flying boats take off and land.

Dinner Key marina was in a lovely location, within about a half mile walk from Cocco Walk in Coconut Grove. Cocco walk has lots of open air cafes, nice shops and historical mansions etc. It was a wonderful urban environment we had not seen in Miami before. Something like Yorkville in Toronto.

Boca Chita

Visited a couple of live-a-boards there on their handsome yachts, then we were off to Boca Chita. Formerly owned by Mr. Honeywell, this isolated 56 acre island was wisely purchased by the park service. It has a wonderful protected harbor that costs $15 a day/night to use no matter how big your boat is. It took us less than one hour to get there in our boat and we stayed tied up at the seawall for three nights. Only four other boats shared this little piece of paradise with us for most of the time there.

The place abounded with wildlife. A yellow bellied woodpecker seemed to like to follow us around and search for bugs on the palm trees with a loud trilling sound. It seemed he was being very friendly, but likely was trying to scare the bugs or geckos to move from the sound and hence be visible to gobble up. We walked around the seawall with flashlights at night to illuminate dozens of lobsters in the shallow waters, as well as many fish, leopard rays, sea stars, landcrabs, geckos, bats and birds. We even spotted an Octopus swimming around!

Flocks of ibis walked around, not paying much attention to us. The pleasant squabbling of the hundreds of cormorants at the island next door (part of the ragged keys) was constant, day and night. Watched a foot long Cowfish chase a small crab around on the surface not five feet from us, kind of funny to watch the fish avoid the pincers of the crab who did not want to be eaten. But, the crab made the fatal mistake going to the surface rather than try to hide in the coral on the bottom.

Met some nice folks who were staying aboard their sailboat at Boca Chita. It was not fun for them to cruise down the Florida coast in twenty foot seas, but they made it.

Inflating the kayak and paddling over to the ragged Keys revealed more large rays as well as a big redfish, a first for me. I snorkeled and saw lots of fish, including a nurse shark in the clear waters. Two tours by Park Rangers of the lighthouse type structure there were most informative and we now know how to tell apart red, white, and black mangroves. The tree leaves sweat salt that you can scrape off and use for table salt! We stayed Tuesday afternoon through Friday morning at Boca Chita, not really wanting to leave.

Our Yacht Club commodore told us to look up some members who have a house in Florida and are down there now. Jane called them on the cell phone and the humorous 78 year old and his wife kindly invited us to their Florida based Yacht Club raft up of about 15 boats in No Name Harbor.

No Name Harbor

So, we headed over and at about the halfway point, we were surrounded by about 6 dolphins. Stopped the boat and watched them cavort around us. Once we pulled into No Name Harbor, we ate lunch in a Cuban restaurant there and I overheard one of the customers say to their waitress they were going to tour the famous Cape Florida Lighthouse that the park told me was closed. Well, they confirmed it was open and we quickly walked down the shore to join them on the 1 PM tour. Along the way we were startled by a loud exhale, and it was two manatees swimming by!! Got to the lighthouse and a VERY skinny raccoon was waiting behind the gate for the people to come in. Guess he did not need much fur on him thus he looked skinny compared to his northern cousins.

Interesting tour of the lighthouse and keeper quarters, flowed by great views from the top. Lots of fish were visible in the clear waters.

Met Nat and his wife aboard his perfect condition 46 foot Viking motoryacht, it was very comfortable with the aft stateroom and spacious interior. He introduced us the rest of the club members, on about 15 boats. I think the two largest were 68 and 72 feet. It turns out that the young fellow who lived aboard the lovely 68 footer with his wife and two kids was originally from Saskatchewan, my dad’s home province in Canada. The 68 had a beam of 20 feet and about the same living space as our house. Anyway, we had a wonderful cookout under the stars overlooking the houses on stilts known as Stiltsville, now owned by the park services who continue to buy up interesting parts of Florida to protect them from development.

We had to move the boats from the harbor wall as that is the rule there, rafting up in groups of four boats. I was awoken at night by a thunder and lightening storm, so I quickly put up the canvas cockpit cover before the downpour started. It poured for about half an hour then stopped. The winds picked up and I went back to bed, feeling safe as we were rafted to the 68 and Nat’s 46 foot motoryacht. I was again awoken at about 5:15 Am by blowing boat horns and scrambled outside to see whitecaps in the harbor and boats drifting around as their anchors pulled free from the mud in 47 MPH winds. I was not too worried as we had big anchors out in our 4 ship raft-up, then we started moving towards the dozen or so sailboats self tacking back and forth at anchor in the strong winds. It took a moment for me to realize our four ship raft-up had broken free as well!! Nat and his wife were up on deck watching the show, now quickly turning into danger, so Nat’s wife expertly untied my lines from their Viking. I fired up our well tuned engines to escape the raftup just before we drifted into a sailboat crazily tacking back and forth at anchor in the wild winds.

Some club boats headed out of the chaos in the harbor into the stormy seas of Biscayne Bay, bouncing around out there in the dark until order had returned in the harbor. Two of the club’s big power boats ended up in the mangroves, one 50 and another 60 footer. Club members were later able to pull both of them out with a 23 foot Boston whaler. But, when the biggest boat pulled out, he dragged the little boat behind him and almost sunk it with water over the outboards until he realized what was happening. If it had not been a Boston Whaler it likely would have sunk as they have lots of floatation. All boats eventually tied up to the seawall and each other and so we were secure. To heck with the park rules in a wind storm!

Into the middle of the blowing winds came our friend from Dinner Key in his 53 foot Hatteras, kids asleep aboard, docking single handed with a quizzical expression like “humm, why are all these people having a problem?” He is a tough seaman and rides through the hurricanes aboard his boat, laughing these experiences off as “no big deal,” nor were the near 50 MPH winds we were experiencing. I beg to differ, and even the dolphins came into the harbor, perhaps as a way to escape the rough seas. They seemed to like cavorting around a sailboat with an attractive blue hull.

Unfortunately, someone received a nasty bump off an anchor bowsprit and needed ten stitches to his head. The same angry anchor pulpit broke a window in another boat in the raftup. We gave a large clear plastic stowage/leaf bag to the boat to temporarily patch the window.

Well, we had hoped to leave that day, but sustained 30 knot winds might have made for a wet ride up to Miami, and Jane wanted to stay put. I think it was the knowledge that the Yacht club was going to have roast pig that night though. Another fantastic meal, this time in the Cuban restaurant that made space for us in light of the nasty winds.

I snorkeled that day on the other side of the sand spit in the calm waves, the land providing a wind screen on that side. I spotted several attractive fish and barracudas in the acres of healthy sea grass. Walked around a nature trail and saw several flowers and butterflies. But, much of the area was seriously damaged by the hurricanes and many trees were bent sideways with their roots half pulled out of the ground.

The next morning we made tracks for Fort Lauderdale while the winds were still blowing about 20 knots and the seas were running about three feet. At a 40 MPH cruise, it did not take us long to get into the Port of Miami. The full moon and thus extra low tide made for some tricky navigation up the ICW to Fort Lauderdale, and we passed a couple of grounded sailboats. Stopped at Joe’s supplies on the way up, Nat passed us in his Viking and then we were passed by the tug where Jane’s clear bag “fixed” the broken window. We followed the tug at 5 knots as that is the speed limit, passing the U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser Leyte Gulf docked in Port Everglades, and threaded our way past the huge ocean liners there. We rafted up to a 58 foot cockpit motoryacht across from the Bahia Mar yacht center, filled with 100 foot plus mega yachts.

A broker showed us the inside of this 58, one I had wanted to look at for a few months. It had three staterooms, a pilothouse, large salon, extensive top deck that can sit 14 people, plus a large rear cockpit for fishing and diving from. It was in great shape and is very tempting. Oh yes, it will tow our boat with ease too. It has about a 1,000 mile range and can reach Bermuda and all the islands of the Caribbean with ease.

Anyway, while on the large patio sized front deck, a big manatee swam past us, flipping up his tail as he passed, providing our best view to date of one. I like to think that was a positive sign from King Neptune.

Well, from there we traveled to our marina, washed the boat down, grabbed a taxi to the airport, and landed to snow and ice in New Jersey. Hope to be back in Florida in February, trolling for sailfish if the winds die down and the temperature rises a bit!

Returned to Flordia in February 2006

We returned to Fort Lauderdale in February to go grocery shopping by boat. That's right, the closest thing to Florida fish hunting this year.

Since I was attending an investment conference in Fort Lauderdale for several days, hey, why not stay on the boat! A wise webmaster answered my question of where to buy groceries: simply cruise past the Grand Hotel and Marina to the Calm Bar eatery, shop at Win Dixie across the street. We did just that, enjoying a great lunch at the restaurant, then Jane walked across the street to grocery shop. I got my hair cut at Bob's old fashioned type barbershop. After my haircut was finished by a personable barber, I joined Jane and pushed the grocery cart across the street to the restaurant, over the docks to our boat. How cool is that, loaded the groceries right from the grocery cart!

Pushed the cart back to the Win Dixie, then fired up engines to take us to the Grand Hotel Marina slip I had reserved for the conference. The super nice dockmaster had promised me a spot right next to the hotel pool, and that is exactly what we got. It was great, Jane loved it. Unlike the Bahia Mar which we also like very much, the boat was right on the seawall and two minutes instead of 1/4 mile from the hotel and pool. Several large super yachts were there, not nearly as many as at the Bahia Mar, but one had underwater lights on that attracted African pompanos, bait fish, and many leaping five foot tarpon. Very cool!

I enjoyed the conference at the very nice Fort Lauderdale conference center across the street from the Hotel. Jane watched a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter land onto one of the superyachts berthed at our location, while in the ICW. After the conference we cruised up to stay at one of the local yacht clubs, had a formal dinner with live music, and really liked their pool and tennis courts. Met some friendly folks from the raft up adventure in February. Also enjoyed sitting on the shaded patio and watching the boats go by on the ICW and the geckos play around our feet.

After overnighting at the yacht club, we cruised to Bootleggers for the Sunday "event", and the super yacht with helicopter also decided to go there. It towered above the docks and lent a nice ambiance to the event. We had some fun with a talking stuffed parrot a friend bought and made an amusing video featuring the super yacht. Walked across to discover the uncrowded local beach on the ocean side, then it was time to put our boat to bed at the marina and fly back to NY/NJ.

Boat is back north to New York for the 2006 summer

The boat followed a few months later, and we have cruised around Freeport, overnighted at Zachs Bay for the big airshow, and cruised to a bunch of restaurants. All the rain has put a damper on fishing trips, but we hope the weather will improve soon. Will be going past NYC later in July or early in August. See you on the water!

July to October 2006

It rained in July, rained some more, and finished up with rain. I thought I was back on the northwest coast!

The best thing all season was a giant raft up thanks to Sea Ray boats and Surfside Marine, welcoming all comers. Located in Hemlock Cove near Cedar Beach, about 80 boats showed up. Sea Ray/Surfside provided goodie bags for all, plus a live steel band in the cockpit of a 46 or something SeaRay. It was really great, and a big thanks to SeaRay for the enjoyment they provided to ALL boaters on that day. Even mother nature smiled on the event. I believe it was the best week of weather all summer, and we stayed on the boat for four days, exploring the various beaches. It was glorious weather.

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