Monday, April 24, 2017

Everglades/Ten Thousand Islands

April 24, 2017

We are currently docked at our home dock in Marco Island.

After leaving Miami on 4/7/2017 we traveled to Little Shark River on the far south west Florida coast.

This is a remote and wild area and quite a change from the hustle and bustle of Miami.  This is the 'end' of  the Everglades and characterized by giant mangroves.

On a bad day the bugs can be absolutely horrendous, but due to cooler weather, the insects were not bad for most of our stay.  On our first few nights we were anchored about 1/2 mile from the gulf, but a moderate wind contrary to the current caused a bad interaction between the boat and the anchor chain so we moved about 4 miles up the river and around a bend.  The anchorage was smoother, but the morning of our departure, the sound of thousands of mosquitoes was louder than I have ever heard.  Needless to say we raised anchor and got underway as quickly as possible to minimize our  'blood donations'!

We then traveled up the coast to Indian Key Pass and then up Russell Pass.  Our anchorage was about 4 miles below Everglades City and we made two dinghy trips up to Everglades via the twisting and totally unmarked Russell Pass channel running aground only a couple of times :-).  The channel is hard to follow and filled with sand and oyster bars, the first fairly soft to hit, the later very 'crunchy'. Other than the adventure, taking this channel is shorter, has somewhat less current, and keeps you away from the crab boats that put out 'swamp-you' wakes.  Everglades City is the stone crab 'capital' of Florida.

Later this week we plan to head  north to Pine Island Sound, one of our oldest cruising 'stomping grounds'.

A few pictures of the wild and remote Ten Thousand Islands area.

The mangroves are incredibly tall in Little Shark River - taller than any others we have seen.
I have read that these some believe that these are the 'mother' of all mangroves!

Sunrise over the river from our 'lower' anchorage

 A few pictures to illustrate why the Calusa Indians called them 'walking trees':

One way they propagate is to send out 'runners'

Docked Rose Marina
Marco Island, FL

Monday, April 17, 2017

Coconut Grove & Bahamians

April 17, 2017

We are currently anchored near Everglades City on the lower southwest Florida coast and have some intermittent and weak internet, but I thought I would try to catch up on blogging.

We recently spent over two months in Miami, specifically moored in Coconut Grove.  We love Miami, but we feel a special relationship with Coconut Grove because of its Bahamian connection.

Coconut Grove was the earliest black settlement in south Florida and the settlers were largely African Bahamians that came to the States for work.   The West Grove is still predominately black with many Bahamian influences.  Many people avoid the West Grove, but we go there regularly.

Early Bahamian settlers at the Barnacle (circa 1895)

Our church in Coconut Grove is Greater St Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church.  We first got connected at an evening event at the Barnacle which featured dance groups from various black churches.  The dances were very moving and we met someone that invited us to St. Paul's. The church just celebrated its 121st anniversary - not many American churches can say that! 

However, they are not the oldest church in the Grove, the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church down the street is a little older and the oldest African American church in Miami-Dade.

 A funny, but telling story:  We were dressed in our 'Sunday best' (not anywhere up to black church standards, but the best we have on the boat) riding the bus to church.  We rang for a stop at Grand and McDonald, about a block from the church.  As we approached the bus stop, the driver (a black woman) said with a questioning voice, "Is this your stop?".  Not many white people get off there.

The Bahamians brought to south Florida an understanding of tropical life that influenced the style of housing.  The Mariah Brown house was built in 1895 and still stands.  I can't begin to count how many hurricanes it has survived!

Note that the landowner mentioned is named Stirrup.
On a cruise, you may have visited Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and not realized it.
The cruise ship companies call it the much more romantic 'Coco Cay'

 Bahamian style cemetery - keeps bodies from washing away in storms.

Bahamian names are common:

The Post Office - Rolle is a very common Exuma name

Armbrister is a name from Cat Island

I was yelled at when I tried to take a picture of the sign at the domino park, but then this man came out, said "don't mind her", and insisted I take his picture.

Colorful mural that we have sat in front of waiting for church

A few thoughts on 'black spaces':

We have spent 5 seasons in the Bahamas largely in 'black spaces' and are quite comfortable in them.  Just a clarifying note. In our opinion, most people cruising in the Bahamas do not spend a lot of time in black spaces; rather they stick to places that are predominately populated with white people.   There, like here, you need to get into black neighborhoods, black churches, businesses where the customers are predominately black, etc to be in a black space.  Quick test - look around - are virtually all of the faces black - then you are probably in a black space.

In my opinion, the best thing we can do for 'race relations' is to get to know people that are different from us.  And here is the tricky part, in order to really know someone, you have to know them in their 'space'. Talking to the black guy at work or the black couple at church doesn't really get you there.  Believe me, they have two personas - one for white spaces, one for their space.

So be brave, and push your boundaries.  While walking the streets of the West Grove, it is amazing how many people say 'Good Morning' or the woman at church that told us, "Please come back as much as you can, you bring us great joy!".   But be respectful - if someone doesn't want you to take a picture - don't take it, it is their home, not yours.

However, don't be foolish  -  there are many places,(black and white) I would not go in Miami so be careful.

What I am sure you will find, is that they are just people, trying to live their lives, raise their families, and support their communities - just like you.

Anchored Russell Pass, near Everglades City, FL

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Into The 'Wilderness'

April 8, 2017

After over 2 wonderful months enjoying big city life in Miami, we are currently headed to the 'wilderness' of far southwest Florida and hopefully the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico.

We are currently in Marathon, FL and will transit tomorrow to Little Shark River near Cape Sable.  Later in the week we hope to head to the Dry Tortugas.

After tomorrow, we will be 'off the grid'  for 1-2 weeks - no cell phone or internet;  our satellite phone will be our own way to communicate.

After the hustle and bustle, great food, and many attractions of Miami, it will be quite a change!

We still have some Miami blogging to do and I thought that I would have a chance to catch up on a layover day here in Marathon tomorrow, but weather is calling us make the trip to Little Shark sooner rather than later.

Anchored near Boot Key
Marathon, FL

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Miami Zoo

March 7, 2017

We visited the Miami Zoo - one of the best zoos you will find.  We have been there several times before, but it is so large you can always get new views.

Following is a small subset of what you can see:

Florida birds - except for the Flamingos, we see these regularly in the wild


Roseate Spoonbill

White Ibis

New Everglades exhibit - still a 'work in progress'

Alligator - eyes open

Alligator - eyes closed


Two bobcats napping - look closely!

Sumatran Tiger - Male

1 year old cub (we think) gnawing on  large bone

Mom (we think) - Mom & Cub are about the same size now, so hard to tell apart

Napping Jaguar - look at those paws!

Little 'puddy' cat



Singing Dog from New Guinea


Crocodile Monitor


Red River Hog

Squirrel Monkey 

Moored Coconut Grove, Miami

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Vizcaya - Quinceanera & Weddings

February 25, 2017

Today we visited Viscaya, a mansion built during the gilded era before the Great Depression. The owner-builder was James Deering, an International Harvester heir.

Viscaya is a standard Miami location for weddings and Quinceanera photo shoots.  I try to 'shoot' the photo shoots.

Formal Gardens:



Garden Mound


Moored Coconut Grove, Miami