Monday, July 19, 2021


Intermezzo is all put away and resting on the hard at Marina Puerto Escondido and I'm back in California. We're done sailing for a while.

We hauled out last Thursday afternoon. The TraveLift slip is a tight squeeze for Intermezzo, only a few inches on either side, but with some help from the marina guys, we backed into it without any problems. A diver pulled the slings under the boat abd Intermezzo was lifted out of the water. We blocked the boat perfectly and I spent the next couple of days putting things away and cleaning things up for long term storage.

It was really hot in the afternoons, so I would get up early to get my work done in the cooler morning hours, then head back to the hotel to cool off in my air conditioned room. By the time I left to fly home on Sunday afternoon, I had had enough of hot, humid, tropical climates. Arriving in San Francisco, the cool evening air was a very welcome change.

I always feel a bit melancholy when I leave Intermezzo behind. I gave the boat an affectionate pat as I walked away. I'm going to enjoy land life until November, when Intermezzo will be launched again to cruise the Pacific coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez this coming winter and spring.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

La Paz to Puerto Escondido With Johan

My friend Johan and I sailed Intermezzo from La Paz to Puerto Escondido over the past few days. We left La Paz on Sunday morning making overnight stops at Isla San Francisco and Punta San Tolemo along the way, arriving here yesterday evening.

I met Johan when I was in La Paz back in 2017-18.  He's a young 75 year old, a very capable sailor, knows his way around boats and has a great sense of humor. We enjoyed each other's company, good conversation and just being out on the beautiful Sea of Cortez for a few days.

The weather was great, light blue skies, some puffy white clouds, dark blue seas with gentle swells. It was hot during the day, but with a breeze blowing most of the time, it was comfortable in the shade of the hardtop.

I had removed the sails for transporting Intermezzo on the ship and didn't want to wrestle the heavy mainsail onto the boom, only to have to remove it again for hauling out in Puerto Escondido for hurricane season. Johan and I hoisted the jib in La Paz so we might get a little help from the wind.

We motored the 40 nautical miles (nm) to Isla San Francisco on Sunday, dropping anchor their around 4 pm. There were quite a few boats crowded into the southern end of the big crescent shaped anchorage, where we found some protection from the southerly swells. We took a swim to cool off, enjoyed cocktails followed by a nice dinner.

The next morning, we weighed anchor at a gentlman-ly 10:30 am and set sail for Los Gatos, another 36 nm north. The wind piped up enough in the afternoon for us to shut down the engines and let the jib pull us along at a nice 4-5 knots. The wind caused a southeasterly swell to build which was unfortunate, as the Los Gatos anchorage is exposed to the south and east. Rather than risk an uncomfortable rolly night there, we pushed on a few more miles to Punta San Tolemo where we anchored on the north side of the point. It was more comfortable than Los Gatos would have been, but the swell bent around the point and rocked us a bit when the boat swung beam to the seas. More swimming, more cocktails, another dinner.

The highlight of our trip was during the passage from Punta San Tolemo to Puerto Escondido yesterday. We spotted a giant pod of spinner dolphins hunting as a pack, roiling the water white with their jumps and splashes, some dolphins herding fish into a dense school while others ripped through the school, chomping away. We turned of the motor and drifted, the dolphins moving around us like whitewater on a river. I took a video and posted it to YouTube (click here to watch it).

I forgot how much I love the scenery in this part of the Sea of Cortez. The steep mountains along the coast are striated with colors shades of tans, browns, gold, reds, purples, maroons. The taller mountains further inland are in the background, hazy purple-blue, often with clouds brushing their tops. It feels really good to be back here.

Intermezzo is in a slip at Marina Puerto Escondido, near the town of Loreto, about a third of the way up the inside of the Baja peninsula. Construction of the marina had just started when I was last here in 2017. Now it's finished and it's one of the nicest marinas I have ever been in. Everything is well designed with quality materials, well executed and well maintained. I was so glad to say hello again to my friend Javier, the harbormaster. He is a really great guy, very friendly, very professional. The entire staff is customer-focused and clearly oriented to creating a premium image. 

Tomorrow we haul Intermezzo out of the water, again, to sit on land for a few months to wait out the hurricane season. I'll spend a couple days buttoning up the boat and then head back to California. I've been living on the boat for over a year now, with time on land only over the Christmas holidays and a brief break from waiting for the ship in Florida. 

Coastline of the Sea of Cortez, San Toleme anchorage

Johan at the helm of Intermezzo

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Intermezzo Is Back In La Paz

 Intermezzo has returned to La Paz, exactly two years and six months after we set sail on The Voyage on January 8, 2019. My long ordeal of waiting to load onto a ship is finally over. I am feeling a strong sense of relief and one of celebration, for having closed the loop, returning from where we started.

The unloading went smoothly, although 12 minutes delayed. After waiting three months to load onto the ship, I can deal with that sort of delay!

My friend Johan served as crew to receive Intermezzo as the boat was lowered from the deck of the Chipolbrok Star. We met a panga a the end of Muelle (Dock) 4 at Marina Palmira, which coincidentally was once Intermezzo's home in La Paz. We boarded the boat just as the slings of the crane were being lifted away.  Intermezzo's decks are covered with spots of some powdery substance, I suspect the same as whatever the ship is carrying in its bulk cargo holds. I didn't have time to do a thorough inspection, but didn't see any obvious damage. It looks like Intermezzo made the journey unscathed, but a bit road weary.

When we started the port engine, no cooling water came out with the exhaust like it is supposed to. I poked around a bit but couldn't remedy the situation. I resigned myself to running both engines briefly only for maneuvering, relying on only the starboard engine to get us to the marina. Fortunately, when I revved up the port engine to back away from the ship, the raw water pump finally had enough suction to get things flowing and all was well.

We motored to Marina Cortez as the sun was setting. It felt so good to have Intermezzo back, so good to have the boat back in La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. We docked the boat, snugged up the docklines and fenders and then went to Johan's place to have a celebratory beer and shot of tequila. Johan's wife, Barbara, had taken pictures of the whole event from their rooftop terrace including the one for this post. I'm very grateful to both of them for their friendship and support.

Tomorrow I will wash down the boat and give it a good look over. Saturday we will provision for the passage to Puerto Escondido. Sunday we depart. Johan has volunteered as crew for the trip, so I'll have good, capable company for the three day trip.

When I finished The Voyage in New York in September 2019, I wrote, "It feels like a lot, sometimes too much. I can hardly distinguish individual memories of all that passed, it's more like kaleidoscope of experiences that are now a part of who I am, experiences that will influence who I will be." It felt like that again today, the feelings not as big this time, but of a similar nature.

It's not a wrap yet, but we're getting close. In just over a week, I'll be walking away from Intermezzo for a few months to live on land for a while. Life for me is shifting again.

Look closely and you can see Intermezzo being lifted off the deck of ship in this picture Barbara took from her rooftop

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

I'm Back In La Paz, Intermezzo Is On the Way

I arrived in La Paz, Baja California Sur (Mexico) on Saturday afternoon and have been enjoying getting reacquainted with this lovely small city as I wait for the ship transporting Intermezzo to arrive. The Chipolbrok Star is scheduled to arrive tomorrow night and unloading operations to begin the next morning.

La Paz is just as beautiful as I remember it, but Covid is a big concern. The case load is pretty high (two-week average daily cases >5 per 100,000), the hospitals are reportedly full, and vaccination rates are relatively low compared to the US. People are wearing face masks everywhere and practicing social distancing,  restrictions are in place for businesses and restaurants, the malecón (public seafront) is closed, and the streets seem more empty and quiet than I remember them. Nonetheless, life goes on and I am enjoying walking around the city, eating at my favorite restaurants and trying some new ones.

In a blog post during my first visit to La Paz, I wrote that "I really like this town...If I were thinking of a place to live in Mexico, La Paz would definitely be on my list." Well, this is my third visit and I'm planning on making this Intermezzo's home base for the foreseeable future.

I'm converting my blog posts for The Voyage from San Francisco to New York (2015-2019) into a book, mostly as a gift to my Mom, also for limited publication and distribution to family, friends and fans. Coincidentally, I started working on the chapter "La Paz and The Sea of Cortez" right when I arrived here. It feels a bit surreal to be reading my blog posts from late 2015 when Renee and I arrived in La Paz in November 2015, near the beginning of my first attempt at The Voyage and now to be back, almost six years and over 23,000 nautical miles of sailing later. So much has changed outside of me, inside me.

I'm so grateful to have this blog as a memoir of all that I experienced sailing Intermezzo. I think the book is going to be a good one, as it will arrange all the blog posts into chapters, each with a preface of highlights, retrospectives and adding a little about what was going on for me personally over all those years. Looking back, I think my sailing adventure and writing about it kept me on a steady course as my "land life" experienced a good deal of turmoil.

Once I unload Intermezzo off the ship, I'll fill up the diesel tanks and head to a marina for a couple of days to clean up the boat, provision and prepared for the three-day passage to Puerto Escondido. I plan on departing La Paz Sunday morning, making stops at Isla San Francisco and Bahia Los Gatos along the way and arriving in Puerto Escondido next Tuesday.

Once in Puerto Escondido, we'll haul out Intermezzo and prepare for long-term lay up on the hard for the hurricane season. If all goes as planned, I'll be flying out of Loreto next Sunday bringing an end to the long ordeal of getting Intermezzo back to the Sea of Cortez.


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

We're Through the Panama Canal and In the Pacific

Intermezzo passed through the Panama Canal today, piggy-backed on the Chipolbrok Star and is now on the Pacific Ocean. The picture above is as the ship left the Miraflores locks, the last ones heading towards the Pacific.

It is Intermezzo's third transit of the canal, the first when the boat was delivered to me from the builder in South Africa, the second time in April 2016 with me at the helm and now, relaxing on the deck of a ship.

The ship is lying in the Pacific Anchorage of the canal. I expect it will depart tomorrow if it is to make it's ETA in La Paz the morning of July 7.

I will be there to meet the boat.

The Chipolbrok Star entering the Pedro Miguel locks

The ship being lowered in the Pedro Miguel lock chamber

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


Intermezzo is sitting on the deck of the Chipolbrok Star towards the ship's bow, blocked, chocked and strapped down. Finally!

We loaded at around 2 pm this afternoon. The whole process of getting Intermezzo to the ship and then making sure the boat was properly secured on the deck was quite an intense process.

My day started at the dock along a canal in the Harbor Beach neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. I had buttoned up the boat the day before and stayed the night at a motel, about 15 minutes by bike from the boat. My loading time was 3 pm, so I left the motel around 11 am and grabbed breakfast on the way.

When I got to the dock, I folded up the bike and stowed it below, packed a few last items into my bag and then set to work figuring out how I was going to leave the dock singlehanded. I had attached my fenders to the fixed dock's pilings to protect Intermezzo and now had to remove them. This would normally be a non-issue but today's low tide was really low and Intermezzo's hull was right next to pilings that were covered with exposed, razor-sharp oysters. The wind was blowing us slightly onto the dock, so I had to figure out how to rig fenders on the boat that would stop the hull from being scratched by the oysters.

Tying a couple of fenders horizontally along Intermezzo's gunwale did the trick, but then I wondered, "How am I going to get off the dock by myself?"

Usually in circumstances like this, I would motor against an after bow spring line (a line tied to the bow and extending aft to an attachment on the dock) to bring the stern out, then reverse away from the dock. However, I didn't have crew to handle that line or fend the bow off the pilings.

Hmmm....I began studying this tricky situation and coming up with options. Right in the middle of my problem-solving, my phone rang. It was Oliver, the loadmaster from the shipping company, asking if I could bring the boat earlier, like at 1:30 instead of 3:00. To make that schedule, I had to get through the nearby 17th Street Bridge during its 1:00 opening and it was already 12:45. No, I couldn't make it by 1:30, but I could make it by 2:00 if I got through the bridge at its 1:30 opening. But I didn't have much time.

I decided I would put a whole bunch of fenders on Intermezzo's bow, untie the boat from the dock and try to crab the boat out sideways using the engines. I moved quickly in the blazing hot sun and humid air, moving fenders, getting more out of the locker, untying dock lines, preparing the boat to get underway and starting the engines. I cast of the last line, jumped to the helm station and gradually worked my way off the dock, enough so that I could reverse away from the dock. I didn't come close to touching a piling. Nice job, but now it was 1:15 and I had only 15 minutes to catch the bridge.

I motored out of the canal towards the main channel and then realized that this really low tide might be more of a problem. What if I couldn't get from the canal to the channel? There is a big shoal between the end of the canal and the channel and I remembered having to be really careful deep enough water to get into the canal on my way to the dock. I followed my old track on the chartplotter, which roughly shows the route I took to get in the canal, the emphasis on roughly. I was particularly concerned about a hazard I remembered plotted on my iPad's Navionic charts warning of a rock in the vicinity. I motored slowly, trying to stay in deeper water but the depth sounder started rapidly going from 10-feet, to 6-feet, to 5-feet and then, kadunk, I found the rock. I was going really slowly and it just lifted the port hull a little as the keel slid off and along the shoal, but the sandy, raspy, grinding noise was, shall we say, unsettling.

I immediately reversed the engines and got off the shoal and started nosing around to try and find route out. What if the tide was so low that I couldn't get out and I couldn't get to the ship, and I'd miss loading, and it would leave without me, and I would have to wait months for another one? I quickly interrupted all those negative thoughts and focused on driving the boat. I figured that there would be deeper water fight up close to the dock of a nice waterfront home and I was right. Six feet, seven, 10, 11-feet. We were free!

I turned into the main channel and increased speed as I now only had a few minutes to make the bridge opening. I engaged the autopilot and ducked down below to inspect the bilge and make sure I hadn't put a hole in the boat. Thankfully I hadn't.

We made it to the bridge in time and passed through it. Now I had to get all my fenders and dock lines arranged to come alongside the ship, while navigating the boat through pretty busy waters. I had requested a starboard tie, as I have more visibility of that side of the boat from the helm. Oliver agreed, so I engaged the autopilot and worked quickly to get all the fenders and lines properly set up on starboard.

That done, I caught my breath and then radioed the Port Everglades Harbormaster to get permission to enter the restricted area of the port where the ship was docked. Permission granted, I motored ahead to the ship, about a half mile from the bridge. As I drew nearer to the ship, my phone rang. Oliver again.

"Would you mind coming alongside on your port side?"

I told him I had just got all my lines and fenders set on starboard and I was singlehanded.

"No problem if it takes you five minutes" replied Oliver.

So, I slowed the boat down to just make steerage, engaged the autopilot, and moved all the fenders and lines over to the port side. It was just one little adrenaline rush after the other today, but at least that gives me focus and speed.

I drew alongside the ship, the loading crew looking down on me from the deck about 15 feet above. I asked them what they wanted me to do.

"Throw us your lines," replied the loading crew chief.

The wind was blowing 15 knots from behind, a 2 knot current was pushing me a along and there was a nice motor yacht less than 150 feet alongside the ship ahead of me. If I left the helm to handle lines, I risked drifting into the other boat.

"Ummmmm, no. I'm not doing that," I told them, "Can't you send someone down the ship's ladder onto the boat to help me?"

They sent one of their crew down the ladder and we quickly had Intermezzo secured. The rest of the loading crew and diver immediately set to work getting Intermezzo into the lifting slings.

The written directions from the shipping company said that I would be climbing up the ship's ladder to assist the loading crew in securing the boat and to turn over the keys to a "ship's officer". So much for that. The loading crew chief told me I wasn't allowed to get on the ship from its water side for security reasons and to "just leave the key in the door."  A tender would come to take me back to a dock near my hotel.

I really wasn't comfortable with this. I asked the crew chief, "Can I come onto the ship from the land side?" Because I am a USCG-licensed mariner, I have a Transportation Worker Identity Card (TWIC) that allows me to get into secure areas of ports. The chief told me that, yes, with a TWIC I could come onto the ship, but had to get a pass from security at the port's entrance gate.

I hopped on the tender which brought me to the 15th Street Boat Ramp, coincidentally also known as "Cox's Landing". Cox made his landing and called an Uber, which slogged through heavy Fort Lauderdale traffic back to the port.  I got the pass I needed at the main entrance to the port and the Uber driver dropped me at the gate to the secure area for the ship. A security guard was dozing in his kiosk at the gate. I though about just walking in, but decided that might cause a problem, so I woke him.

"Do I need to check in with you, or anything?" I asked.

The security blinked his bleary eyes a couple of times and sleepily replied, "No, just go on in."

A member of the ship's Chinese crew was at the top of the gangplank leading up to the ship's deck. I was prepared to show him my ID, explain who I was, why I was getting on his ship, but he just smiled, waved me on board and helped my find my way onto the upper deck, no questions asked. He even helped me with the rather heavy travel bag I was carrying, having taken it with me in when I got into the tender in case I couldn't get onto the ship. I don't think he cared what I was doing and I'm pretty sure I could have stowed away on Intermezzo and stayed on the ship all the way to La Paz.

Let's just say the security was somewhat lax.

I clambered around on the ship's deck with my bag, found Oliver and said hello. He showed me how to get to Intermezzo. The boat was supported by wood block cribbing fore and aft on each hull, some blocking had been laid under the keels, steel stands welded to the ship's deck between the hulls and heavy tie-down straps were in place to prevent lateral movement. It looked okay, but not like it should be.

I had sent drawings to the shipping company that show how the boat is supposed to be supported on land. The fore and aft supports are supposed to be in specific locations and their are specific requirements for the keel blocking. The aft supports are about four feet out of position and the keel blocking is not tight and extends too far aft. Apparently no one on the loading crew looked at the drawings. I was not happy, but the loading crew had moved on to loading and securing more boats and it was clear that they were not going to re-do mine. I texted Oliver to complain, but he didn't respond.  Oh well. It's probably okay and Leopard catamarans are known to be strongly built boats. It it's not, I took photos to document the improper job and I'll deal with it.

On a positive note, I inspected Intermezzo's hull to make sure I hadn't done any damage when I hit the rock and was grateful to find no evidence at all of the grounding.

I hung around on the ship for a while, watching the loading of one boat after another. I have to say the loading crew is really skilled and hard working, very impressive to watch. From what I could tell from the position of stands and blocking, the ship's deck looks like it will be filled with boats. I'd guess at least a couple dozen, a mix of motor yachts, sport fisherman, and catamarans.

I caught an Uber back to the motel, took a shower and walked to a pub to get a cold beer. It was a busy, intense, somewhat nerve-wracking day, but Intermezzo is on a ship. Finally! Cause to celebrate.

Intermezzo in the slings, getting ready to load onto the ship

Intermezzo dangling in the air from the ship's crane

All blocked, braced and strapped to the ship's deck, ready for the trip back to Mexico





Monday, June 21, 2021

The Ship Is Here

The Chipolbrok Star arrived in Port Everglades sometime while I was sleeping last night. If all goes as presently scheduled, Intermezzo will be loaded onto the ship's deck around 3:00 pm tomorrow. At last.

I was tracking the ship's voyage from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania via MarineTraffic and when the ship got close to the inlet to Port Everglades I decided to get on my bike and watch enter the inlet.

It's only about a five minute ride from where Intermezzo is docked to where there is access to a beach near the mouth of the inlet. It was a blazing hot and super humid afternoon with thunderstorms brewing off in the distance to the west. I rode along peaceful high-end residential streets to the beach and then set out on foot across the burning sand of the beach to where I could scan the horizon for ships. 

Guided my the MarinTraffic display on my phone, I located the Chipolbrok Star off the the northeast, about five nautical miles away. The ship was making just over 6 knots, so I figured in a little less than an hour I could snap of photo of the ship entering the inlet.  I found some shade and sat down to wait.

The ship drew nearer, but it seemed to have slowed down. Sure enough, the ship's speed shown on my phone had decreased to four knots. Then three. Then two. Then the ship stopped.

I thought, "Are you kidding me?" Then then the ship started moving again, picking up speed. I thought, "Okay, probably just picking up a harbor pilot." The ship traveled a short distance, then slowed down and stopped, again. And then it dropped its anchor. I could see the ship clearly, just a mile off the beach sitting low on its waterline. They must have loaded a lot of heavy bulk cargo in Fairless Hills.

My Waiting For the Ship drama was clearly not over. Obviously the ship wasn't going to enter the inlet anytime soon, so I head off to get a cold beer and call it a day.

The drama has also continued in terms of the scheduled loading time tomorrow. First it was 11 am, then it was 1:30 pm, now it's 3 pm. Par for the course. But I'll be happy as long as I load sometime tomorrow.

I've buttoned up the boat, we're ready to load. The cabins are secured, the sails and canvas stowed, the freezer defrosted and perishables disposed of, hatches secured and covered, seacocks closed. All that's left to do is shut down power and cover up the instruments once Intermezzo is loaded.

It's finally happening.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Yay! The Ship Is On Its Way!



The ship Chipolbrok Star left Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania yesterday and is on its way to Port Everglades, currently offshore from Ocean City, New Jersey! I'm now tracking the ship in real time, no longer relying solely on what the shipping agent tells me.

Weather in the Atlantic looks good for the ship's voyage and ETA here is currently on Sunday afternoon. If all goes well, I'm hoping to load on Monday or Tuesday.

What a relief. I am finally feeling like my long wait is coming to an end.

My previous post may have been a bit dramatic. I expressed my despondency over what was only a one- to two-day delay, for goodness sake. Yet, the pain was real. It's like I've been mentally kicked in the same spot over and over.

Here is the list of ship arrival dates provided the shipping agent, Peters & May, since I signed the transport contract with them in January:

  • March 20-25
  • March 1-15
  • March 15-30
  • March 10-15
  • April 5-20
  • April 19
  • April 19-20
  • April 19-25
  • May 8
  • May 17
  • May 25
  • June 9-13
  • June 14-15
  • June 17-18
  • June 18-19
  • June 20

That's a lot of kicks to the head! Three months of being repeatedly disappointed, having to change plans and wait, not knowing. And if I consider that I could have gone back to continue exploring the Bahamas in April and May, well....ugh. But that's 20-20 hindsight, not useful thinking

In any case, with the ship on its way, at least something is really happening now. Uncertainty is decreasing as the ship gets closer.

Chipolbrok Star's route to Port Everglades (Got to miss that Gulf Stream current!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I received word that my ship is delayed...again. This would be funny if it wasn't testing my mental health and casting a pall over my life. It's torture to wait patiently for a loading date to arrive only to have the date moved further away.

The ship has been docked at the Kinder Morgan Fairless Hills Terminal near Philadelphia. The loading of bulk cargo was delayed by heavy rain. Once it finishes loading it will depart and head straight here to Port Everglades.  The ETA has moved out from June 18 to June 20 and the loading dates are now June 20-22. That results in an ETA in La Paz of July 6.

I figure it will take the ship three days to get from Fairless Hills to Port Everglades. That means the ship needs to leave by tomorrow. As of tonight, it's still at wharf. 

This has been one of the most frustrating experiences I can remember. 

I'm hanging in there, but it's demoralizing, lonely and depressing at times. It's been raining almost constantly here, which doesn't help.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Blog Housekeeping

I'm doing a bit of housekeeping on my Sailing Intermezzo blog that affects those of you who follow by email subscription.

Google is discontinuing its Feedburner application that my blog uses to send emails to subscribers. So, I've switched to a new service called "". Hopefully the transition is seamless, although you might need to confirm with that you want to continue receiving emails and you might get a redundant email via Feedburner until I've tested that everything is working okay and stop that service. If you notice that you are not receiving emails, please check you junk mail folder or try subscribing again.

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Good News, Bad News


The schedule for the ship to transport Intermezzo to La Paz is firming up.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that the ship is not arriving in Port Everglades until June 18, three days later than the previous schedule.

More bad news is that I misunderstood the previous arrival window of June 14-15 as also being the loading dates. My bad. It takes three days to load the ship. So my new loading window is June 19-21.

Even more bad news is that I misunderstood the seven days sailing time from Port Everglades to La Paz. It is actually seven days sailing after the ship's first stop in Cristobal, Panama, which adds another three days.  My bad, again. So instead of arriving in La Paz per my original calculation on June 23, Intermezzo will not arrive there until July 4-5.

More waiting and now I won't get Intermezzo out of the water before hurricane season "officially" starts on July 1. I'm going to work with my insurance carrier to see if I can get a coverage rider.

Yesterday, divers cleaned Intemezzo's hulls and props so that we will be presentable when we show our undersides on the ship. A vanity cleaning, but also one engine was not getting up to speed due to all the growth on the prop. Stuff grows fast in Florida's warm, nutrient rich waters.

I spent today completing paperwork for loading and clearing into Mexico. The shipping agent will send me a definitive loading day/time as soon as they have figured out the arrangement for loading boats onto the ship. They have to fit together on the deck taking into consideration which boats get unloaded along the way. After Cristobal and La Paz, the ship will continue on from to Ensenada, Mexico and then all the way to Victoria, British Columbia.

My saga continues, but at least with more clarity and understanding. We're getting close!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

New Ship, Later Loading, Faster Voyage


The ship to transport Intermezzo to La Paz has been changed. Originally, we were loading onto MV Wladyslaw Orkan between June 9 and 14. Now we are loading onto the Chipolbrok Star on June 14 or 15. The good news is that the new ship will only make one stop on the way to La Paz, reducing the transit time from 14 days to just seven days. I estimate arrival in La Paz on June 23.

I'm delaying my return to Fort Lauderdale until June 10.

Looking forward to getting back to Intermezzo and then back in Mexico!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Ship!

I am happy to report that a ship to take Intermezzo to La Paz has materialized!

Intermezzo is scheduled to be loaded onto the MV Wladyslaw Orkan, a 656 ft long general cargo ship sometime between June 9 and 13 in Port Everglades. The voyage to La Paz will take about two weeks, so I'm anticipating arrival there on or about June 28.  If I hustle, I can get the boat out of the water by July 1.

It is a great relief for the waiting and uncertainty to be over. Things can still happen that could cause further delays to loading, transit time and unloading, but we have a ship. I'll deal with matters as they unfold.

I'll be heading back to Fort Lauderdale on June 6 to finalize preparations for loading. Hell, I might even enjoy myself a little when I get back there.

Many thanks to all of those who crossed their fingers, made wishes and expressed sympathy and support while I've waited for my ship to arrive.

MV Wladyslaw Orkan, Intermezzo's ride to La Paz

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Circumstances Improved, Some Hope

 After making my decision to wait up to another 30 days for a ship, I set about trying to find dockage for Intermezzo so that I could take a break from living on the boat. Kinga, my main contact at the shipping company had mentioned a private dock not far from the Las Olas anchorage where I had been bobbing around for the better part of a month. I made a phone call, checked out the dock with the dinghy and sealed the deal.

The dock is great. It's on a peaceful canal in a very nice neighborhood, along the waterfront of a very nice home that is mostly vacant this time of year. The dock is in great shape, pretty secure with water and electricity. I can even use the swimming pool and patio area when the owner is away. Nice!

Much to my pleasant surprise, Kinga told me that the shipping company will reimburse me for the cost of the dock from May 25 until Intermezzo gets loaded on a ship. I'm really grateful for that and it makes me think that the company has some confidence that it won't be too long before a ship materializes.

I also had an informative and reassuring conversation with Simon Judson, Peter & May's CEO. He filled me in on the current big picture situation with the shipping industry. Demand is far exceeding the supply of ships due to economic recovery from the global Covid recession and ship owners are charging much higher rates for cargo, double from a year ago. Finding space on the deck of ships for yachts at economically feasible rates is very challenging.

Simon explained the details of the deals Peters & May are trying to negotiate with three candidate ships to carry Intermezzo and dozens of other boats that have been waiting like I have been. The key to these deals is the base below deck cargo. The space on the ship to carry yachts and its ports of call isn't known until the base cargo has been booked. Then it's a matter of figuring out what combination of yachts can fit on the ship and negotiating a price to carry them. The logistics are complicated and constantly changing, lots of moving pieces. However, Simon is quite confident that they will work something out for the first week of June. I hope he's right.

I'm going to take a break from Intermezzo and head back to California to visit family and friends, enjoy a change of scenery. The current earliest possible date for securing a ship is May 30. I'm planning on returning then, although Kinga tells me that she hasn't experienced a ship being "nominated" sooner than 14 days prior to arrival, which as of today makes June 3 the earliest possibility. Thanks to Covid, I can make changes to my flight reservations without penalty, so I can stay longer in California if I want to.

That means the countdown clock stays set on 14 days until I hear from Kinga that a ship has been nominated. Loading usually takes place a few days after the ship arrives and takes two to three days. So, that puts loading 16-17 days out. It takes about two weeks for the ship to sail to La Paz. I'll be lucky to get Intermezzo out of the water by July 1 and the risk of hurricanes increases every day after June 1. That's cutting it a bit too close for comfort, but nothing I can do about it other than move quickly once the boat is unloaded off the ship and watch the weather carefully.

I feel better having Intermezzo on a dock so that I'm not tied to the boat as much and don't have to deal with a crappy dinghy access to land. I'm looking forward to my break in California. And I'm a bit more hopeful that my Fort Lauderdale ordeal will end soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

No Ship

A ship arrived yesterday, as scheduled, but it will not be stopping in La Paz. So, from my perspective there is no ship.

I am told that another ship is scheduled to arrive on May 30.

I now have to make a decision. Do I continue waiting here and being taunted by incomplete, incorrect and last minute information regarding ships? Or do I give up and make a new plan?

I have to factor in that hurricane season is drawing near, officially beginning on June 1. My insurance excludes coverage for named tropical storms beginning July 1. One of my personal rules of sailing is, "Don't be in the wrong place at the wrong time." Being afloat in Florida or the Sea of Cortez in June would violate this rule.

My initial reaction is to give up on shipping the boat. I'm reminded of a quote (mistakenly?) attributed to Albert Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." A pattern has been established: I'm told a ship will arrive on a certain date. A few days or less prior to that date, I'm told there is no ship or the date is pushed back. I wait. And the process repeats itself.

I cannot understand why the shipping company does not either have better information to share or won't simply tell me, "Steve, we hope one day to transport your boat to La Paz, but we have no idea when and can only provide three days notice when we do know." I believe that the latter case to be the truth. If I'm right, then I would choose not to go on indefinitely. I would need to figure out how to get Intermezzo to La Paz on its own bottom. Or sell the boat.

I have considered selling the boat, but I'm not ready to do that right now, so I'm tabling that option.

So, what's involved with sailing Intermezzo to La Paz?

Here's a summary:

  1. Re-commission, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  2. Sail north out of the insurance company's Tropical Storm Zone to a good hurricane hole.
  3. De-commission the boat, haul out and lay-up on the hard for hurricane season.
  4. Re-commission and launch the boat after hurricane season (November).
  5. Muster crew, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  6. Sail to Panama.
  7. Leave the boat in Panama to wait for the Pacific's prevailing northerlies and Tehuantapeckers to subside (March).
  8. Muster crew, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  9. Wait and pay for a Panama Canal transit.
  10. Sail to La Paz.
  11. De-commission, haul out and lay-up on the hard for hurricane season.

So, basically a year's worth of logistics and sailing, plus inevitable gear failure, repairs and wear-and-tear.

The decision I need to make now is to wait another two to four weeks for a ship to possibly materialize or to cut and run, committing to a year's "work" getting Intermezzo to La Paz.

I did a back of the napkin economic analysis of the two options, taking into account all the costs I could identify, travel costs to and from the boat, the cost of a month's dockage while waiting for the ship or the costs of wear-and-tear from sailing to La Paz. I also included a 20% contingency factor for difficulties and uncertainties associated with the sailing option.

It turns out that the total estimated cost for each alternative is roughly the same. However, since sailing back to La Paz is not how I would choose to spend a year of my time, I need to include the opportunity cost of that option. Even a low-ball estimate of that opportunity cost easily makes waiting longer for the ship (that may never materialize) the better choice.

So that's what I have decided to do. I will wait up to another 30 days, docking Intermezzo so that I can take a break from the boat. If the ship materializes, great. If it doesn't, I head north to find a hurricane hole and prepare myself to set sail for La Paz in November.

I hope I am avoiding the definition of insanity.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Ship Transport Update

I received somewhat encouraging news today. A ship is scheduled to arrive on May 17 and, if it will be calling at La Paz, we may be able to load Intermezzo sometime between May 20 and 23. That ship is scheduled to depart Port Everglades on May 25 with an estimated arrival date in La Paz of June 8.

Less uncertainty, but still uncertain.

If we can't load on this ship, I am told another ship is scheduled to arrive on May 25 and depart around June 2.

So, worst case is we load onto the second ship.

I really, really hope we get on the first one.

Resetting the countdown clock to May 20. Nine days and counting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

May 8th? Nope.

Well, my May 8th date for loading Intermezzo onto a ship to La Paz isn't happening. Seems it never was.

The local sales manager for the shipping agent seems to be doing her best, but couldn't provide me with any meaningful information, so I contacted Peters & May's CEO, explained my circumstances and asked him to look into the situation here. This is the email I got back:

Hi Stephen,

I have spoken to the relevant parties involved. I don’t know where the date of 8th May came from but I can say with some certainty that shipment will not be prior 15th May. At the moment there are two possible vessel candidates out there with May dates (1 due w/c 17th May, the other towards the end May) and it may be that actually both these vessels are of interest. I see no reason why you would not be on first sailing. There are plenty of other yachts booked for La Paz hence this is simply a matter of holding out for a little while longer. I would expect that situation will become clearer within the week.


Simon Judson​
Chief Executive Officer

I am, of course, bummed. Feeling downtrodden and tired. But I'll deal with it.

I will hold out for a little while longer, restarting the countdown to May 17th.

Twelve days and counting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Eleven More Days?

Some modest developments here in Fort Lauderdale as I wait for a ship to arrive to carry Intermezzo back to La Paz.

The loading window of May 1 to 10 has now progressed to a tentative loading date, May 8. Unfortunately, towards the later end of the range and I'm really not sure how certain the date is. Still, I'm using it as the basis for counting down the days left; 11 as of today.

I managed to get my first Pfizer covid vaccination. It was relatively easy to schedule an appointment with CVS and they didn't care that I wasn't a state resident, although I used my Merchant Mariner Credential (captain's license) as ID rather than my California driver's license so as to not press the issue. I used public transport to get to and from my appointment and the whole process went smoothly and quickly. My only side effect from the vaccine was a slightly sore arm for a day and a half.

I've been cleaning and waxing the boat every morning. Some sort of mold/algae had bloomed and was spreading over the nonskid deck. It was difficult to remove. I tried a variety of cleaning products and mixtures of them, finally discovering that a 20 percent bleach solution worked best. I don't like using bleach on the boat because it is corrosive, but I was careful to just apply it sparingly to the fiberglass deck and not let it run where I didn't want it. I also continued to spot treat the WD40/rust stains from the riggers with oxalic acid. They are much reduced in number but stubborn ones keep reappearing; it's like playing whack-a-mole.

I'm using cleaner/wax product from 3M to clean and wax the fiberglass topsides. It's not a hard job, but it is tedious to do it by hand. I'm breaking the boat into sections that I can do in a morning or two and just settling in to getting each day's work done. I follow up the cleaner/wax with a second coat of liquid wax. My objective is to seal the gelcoat as best I can to prevent it from getting stained by soot, rust and other stuff during the journey on the ship and make the post-transport cleanup easier.

I finished my old 3M Cleaner Wax and am now using the company's new Perfect-It Light Cutting Polish and Wax. I'm really impressed, it's a significant improvement, easier to work with and better results. If it performs well over time, I'm going to use the Perfect-It medium polish/wax, followed by a final coat of wax when I put the boat away to try and restore the gelcoat's luster and hopefully get it so that I can maintain the finish by just waxing in the future.

Nothing else to report. Eleven more days...

Tight quarters in the Las Olas anchorage

Great stuff (if it holds up)!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Waiting in Fort Lauderdale, Sweltering

Intermezzo is lying in the Las Olas anchorage in the middle of Fort Lauderdale, one of only a few places where boats are allowed to anchor here, waiting for a ship to transport back to La Paz, Mexico. I'm on my own now, Robin having returned home to North Carolina on Monday.

I received somewhat encouraging news from the shipping agent. A ship has been "nominated" and the current loading window is from May 1 to May 10. That means I have between 10 and 20 days to sit and wait. I can deal with that. But what if transport on this ship falls through, like my original one in March and the last one this month? That would be really, really inconvenient, with the hurricane season approaching and nowhere to put the boat. I'd be nearing my wits end, I think. So I'm not going to worry about it, figure the ship will materialize on schedule and if it doesn't, deal with it then.

We're riding at anchor about 200 feet from a sea wall at the end of Sebastian Street and the elegant boutique Pillars Hotel. There are another 10 boats anchored around us, a wide range of size, age and condition. A few are unattended and somewhat neglected looking. Sloop du Jour is a modest older 35-foot Beneteau that is home to Forrest, a nice guy who "used to work in the movie industry, Hollywood and all that", but left it for a simpler life afloat during Covid. There is another catamaran and two large monohulls, well-kept boats, transients like me, who want to avoid the high cost of dockage. 

It's a relatively peaceful anchorage, well-sheltered and in a No Wake Zone off the Intracoastal Waterway. It gets noisy on the weekends with music-blaring boats on the water and noisy sports cars and motorcycles on the seafront road. The near shore is lined with high- and mid-rise condominiums, illuminated at night. On the far shore, across the channel, are multi-million dollar waterfront homes.

It's only a few blocks from the end of Sebastian Street to the ocean beach. Securing the dinghy to the seawall and getting onto land is a bit tricky. The seawall is rough concrete, covered with sharp oysters below the high tide line, not friendly to inflatable dinghies. There's also a jagged corrugated metal storm drain pipe outlet to be avoided. The urban location makes it prudent to lock the dinghy up. I tie a long bow line to the base of a street sign in the middle of the wall and then run a short stern line to a piling to hold the dinghy off the wall. Once properly tied off, I loop a steel cable around a wooden dock beam and lock it to the stern of the dinghy.

At high tide, getting out of the dinghy requires just a big step up from the bow and onto the top of the seawall. At low tide, I have to grab the top of the wall and hoist myself up about four feet. No matter the tide, the face of the wall is crawling with dozens of what I call sea-cockroaches, creepy little buggers that I don't want getting onto me as I make my landing.

From the end of Sebastian Street, I can walk to the beach, a bakery, bars, restaurants and liquor stores. I've been running along sidewalk along the seafront and back along the beach for exercise. On weekdays, there aren't many people. On weekends, it's mobbed.

My other dinghy landing is about a mile up the Middle River at George English Park where there is a nice floating dock with no sea-cockroaches. A Publix supermarket, a mall, Home Depot, CVS, a laundromat, and a good Italian restaurant are all within a short walk from this dock. 

The weather has turned hot and humid. I'm sweltering again, like I did in Costa Rica, Chiapas, and when I was "Stuck In Lodi Again" in El Salvador, like I am here.  I tried to avoid sweltering this time by scheduling ship transport for March, but was foiled again. Since I'm anchored out, I can't use the little air conditioner I purchased in Charleston which has offered welcome relief from sweltering when we can plug into shore power. Fortunately, afternoon thunderstorms have accompanied the hot humid weather, which cool things down for a couple hours.

I'm trying getting into a routine of getting up early, working on the boat in the morning when it's cooler out, having quiet time during the afternoon and going to shore to exercise in the evening. So far so good.

My main boat work is to get a good coat of wax on the topsides to protect the finish from whatever airborne substances- soot, salt, rust- to which they will be exposed on the ship. I haven't waxed the boat in over a year so the gelcoat is pretty porous and easily stained, as I discovered when the rigging was replaced. The riggers, Nance & Underwood, arranged to have the spots removed from Intermezzo's at the Leopard docks in Dania Beach last Thursday, a job that required application of concentragted muriatic acid. Quite a few faded spots remain that will require subsequent treatments. I want to try and avoid difficult cleaning problems after I unload the boat from the ship in La Paz.

Finally, a bit of good news: I'm getting my first Covid vaccination tomorrow! I managed to schedule an appointment at a CVS in Pompano Beach, about five miles north of the dinghy landing at the park. Officially, there is a state residency requirement but I think I can skirt around it by showing up, using my USCG Captain's license as identification and stating that I'm a captain of a yacht anchored in Florida and don't have a land address. I'm pretty sure that, even if they care about proof of residency, they won't know what to do in my situation and it will be easier just to give me the jab and get rid of me than hassle me. 

We'll see how it works out tomorrow.

Intermezzo anchored off the end of Sebastian Street, Las Olas anchorage, Fort Lauderdale


The dinghy tied off to the nasty concrete seawall

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Storm, Rescue, Fast Sail and Disappointment

Quite a bit has happened since my last post on April 11 from Linderman Key.

At the end of that post I mentioned that the thunderstorms that were forecast had not yet materialized. Well, they did. Suddenly and with gusto!

We watched dark thunderclouds move across the horizon and tracked the storms north of us all afternoon. In the evening the dark clouds came closer and we started seeing lightning bolts five or ten miles away. Then, while I was cooking dinner, all of a sudden a vicious wind started blowing from the west. It rapidly built from 20, to 30, to a steady 40 knots with gusts up to 47, and with the wind, heavy rain, some hail, thunder and lighting.

Our anchor started dragging, so I started both engines to keep the boat pointed into the wind and take some load off the ground tackle, while preparing to cut and run if needed. Fortunately our trusty Rocna anchor bit hard into the grassy sand after dragging only about a 100 feet and held is firmly in place for the rest of the storm. 

I captured the following image of our track before, during and after the storm.  The bar showing 98 feet of distance at the lower right hand corner provides a sense of scale. Not the seven foot depth sounding near the center; we were in pretty shallow water. The water stippled with red dots to the right is only two to four feet deep (the lines are one foot depth contours). The arrow head at the lower left corner points north.

Position 1 is about where we originally dropped the anchor and let out 100 feet of chain. Position 2 is where we were swinging with southerly winds before the storm. Position 3 is where we swung during the blasting northerly winds during the storm. Position 4 is where we ended up after the storm passed and the winds resumed blowing from the south. Our anchor had dragged about 100 feet from Position 1 to midway between Positions 3 and 4. 

While the storm was blowing, VHF Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, was going crazy. Boats running aground, boats taking on water, capsized was small boat mayhem out there. Boats from the Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Fire Department, National Park Service and the private rescue service, TowBoat U.S. were scrambling all over the place.

The TowBoat U.S. skipper alerted all the emergency services of the boat he considered to be in the most danger, a 19-foot Mako open center-console boat. It had been blown into the shallows and run aground with eight people on board, including two children and an infant. That type of boat provides virtually not protection from the wind, rain and hail, the air chilly from the cold front causing the bad weather. 

The boat in distress was only about a quarter mile from where we were swinging at anchor. The fire department scrambled a helicopter and we watched as it lowered a medic to provide assistance.  Neither the /Coast Guard, the fire boat, nor the TowBoat could find a way through the shallows to help. But the National Park Service ranger, who probably knows the shallow waters better than anybody, managed to thread his way to the Mako, transfer the two women, two children and infant to his boat and bring them to the larger fire boat which had a warm cabin for them. The two men on the Mako, which was now drifting with the rising tide, stayed on board with the Coast Guard standing by until storm calmed and the TowBoat was available to tow them home.

It was quite an amazing rescue to watch and listen to. We sat by wondering if we could use somehow use the dinghy to help but quickly decided it was too dangerous and we could end up becoming part of the problem rather than the solution. We were happy it all turned out well in the end. Kudos to the ranger who persevered to make the rescue and essentially coordinated all the other services by radio.

After all that excitement, we spend the next day in the same spot in nice, but breezy weather.

On Tuesday (April 13) we moved to anchor off Elliott key and walk more of the "Spite Highway" a nice trail which runs the length of the island down its center. The trail got its name as a result of a real estate developer bulldozing a 125 foot wide swath through the island's forest in 1968 just before the island became part of the newly created Biscayne Bay National Park. The key was previously destined to become the City of Islandia, but preservationists saved it from such a fate, obviously pissing off the developer.

Wednesday we had a fast sail from Biscayne Bay to Fort Lauderdale, the wind blowing a steady 15-plus knots from the east, putting us on a close reach the whole 40 miles. We caught the north-flowing Gulf Stream, which boosted our speed to over eight knots, sometimes nine, making for a fast trip.  We anchored in Lake Sylvia, a crowded little anchorage ringed by very expensive homes. Some of the boats anchored with us were pretty nice and in good shape, many others not-so-much. Multi-millionaires looking across their waterfront backyards at a motley band of marine nomads.

During our sail to Fort Lauderdale, I received a call with bad news. The ship onto which I was scheduled to load Intermezzo on April 19 has been delayed. There is a ship leaving on April 25, but there will be no boats on it going to La Paz, so it won't be stopping there. The agent doesn't know when there will be space on a ship going to La Paz, maybe late April, maybe early May. Maybe.

So I am stuck in Fort Lauderdale for an undetermined period. Docks are scarce and very expensive here so I can't leave the boat. I have to sit at anchor in a place I don't like very much for at least 10 days, probably two weeks, maybe longer.

I am feeling very disappointed. It feels like a bit like a short prison sentence, mostly in solitary confinement.

It's not really that big a deal and I absolutely acknowledge that my plight pales laughably compared to the too many who are truly suffering. But, I'll express the reasons for my disappointment, just to get them off my chest: I miss my family and was looking forward to seeing them. I was looking forward to getting off the boat for a little while, after living on board, on the water, for 98 days straight. And I would like to get vaccinated against Covid and I can't while in Florida as I'm not a resident.

There. Done complaining. Now I'll just make the most of however many days I need to wait until my ship comes in. Chalking each one off, like a prisoner in a cell. A nice, comfortable cell.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Linderman Key, Card Sound FL

Yesterday we moved the boat about 12 miles southwest from where we were anchored off Sands Key in Biscayne Bay to anchor off Linderman Key in Card Sound, passing through the narrow channel across Cutter Bank.

We spent five days on the hook at Sands Key, getting boat chores done and exploring nearby waters and small keys.

Cell reception there was not good, either weak or no signal even though the Miami skyline was in view, less than 20 miles away! Sometimes I would get a signal inside the boat, other times we had to walk around the decks holding our phones out like Mr. Spock held his tricorder out in Star Trek, trying to pick up service. The limited connectivity had the benefit of being less distracted from the beauty around us.

Our steaming light, halfway up the mast, didn't work during our night passage from Lake Worth, so I rigged up my ATN Mastclimber bosun's chair and inch-wormed my way up the mast. The bulb was blown and shattered as I tried to remove it, leaving small shards of glass on the deck, a small one making its way into Robin's foot. Sorry. I managed to extract the root of the bulb from its fixture, installed a new bulb and had Robin switch it on so that I could make sure it worked before I descended. It did, so I made my way down the mast and packed up all the gear, satisfied with another job completed. 

Until I switched on the light myself to admire my work and the bulb didn't light. Ugh!! It was up the mast again the next morning to clean the fixture to get the new bulb seated properly. Now it's fixed.

I also did some research and troubleshooting on the Wakespeed WS500 charge regulators (see my final boat project update), which did not seem to be playing nicely with each other. It turns out that when you connect the two regulators together, the master regulator LED flashes green status codes and the slave regulator LED repeats these codes in orange. I had mistook the orange flashes for red error flashes and thought something was amiss when in fact everything was working fine. It would have been nice if the documentation for the regulators mentioned this, in my humble opinion.

The irony of completing the engine charging upgrade now is that, with winter behind us, the days are now long enough and the weather has been clear enough for the solar panels to keep the batteries fully charged! I have to purposely run down the batteries to test the engine charging system!

After completing boat work in the morning and eating lunch, we've been enjoying our afternoon excursions.

We kayaked up a narrow channel into a circular pond among the mangroves in the interior of Sands Key, encountering a large manatee along the way which swam under Robin's kayak and lingered there for a bit. The gentle, slow-moving creature was over five feet long and I'd estimate weighed over two hundred pounds. Robin was glad it was gentle and slow-moving.

We snorkeled along the mangrove roots at Sands Cut, which leads out of Biscayne Bay into the ocean. We lots of fish enjoying the shade and protection of the mangroves, but what was most amazing were the number of lobsters hanging out there. Dozens and dozens of them, peeking out of holes in the sandy coral or from between roots. The bottom was literally crawling with them. I've never seen so many lobsters in one place. I checked and discovered that lobster season in the Florida Keys closed on March 31 and doesn't open again until August, so I was out of luck, dinner-wise.

We took the dinghy to a beach on nearby Elliott Key and discovered a trail that led to the "Spite Highway", a narrow unimproved road that runs the length of the key. The "highway" is about eight feet wide, covered with leaves and goes through what I would describe as dense tropical hardwood forest, though that is probably not the proper ecological term. In any case, it was nice walking along the trail, shaded by the trees, no sounds except for birds and our leaf-muffled footsteps, smelling the organic, musty smell of the forest, a cool breeze filtering through the foilage. And, believe it or not, not a single mosquito! Everything I had read about hiking on these keys mentions them, often in tales of hikes abandoned due to dense clouds of the beasties. We have been very fortunate, none on our hikes, none while kayaking among the mangroves, none in or around the boat. I think there hasn't been much rainfall here.

Our new anchorage is off the shores of a large key, Palo Alto Key, that is chopped up into pieces by narrow channels than run through its mangroves. It is great for kayaking as most of the small channels are within the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and are off limits to watercraft with internal combustion engines. Robin was a bit worried about exploring a place called Crocodile Lake in an inflatable kayak, but we didn't see any crocodiles or alligators. (It reminds me of an Australian joke: What to salt water crocodiles call inflatable dinghies? Answer: Teething rings.)

Today the weather forecast threatened thunderstorms with high winds and lightning, so we decided to stay put on the boat. The haven't materialized yet, although it has been pretty windy. It looks like they won't arrive until tonight and might miss us completely.

Only a few more days before we need to turn around and head to Fort Lauderdale and begin getting the boat ready for loading onto the ship. That is, if the August 19 loading date still holds.

Mostly-lazy days in the Keys

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Sands Key, Biscayne Bay

Intermezzo is anchored off Sands Key in Biscayne Bay National Park in an expanse of shallow water, the skyline of Miami off in the distance to the north. It's very peaceful, a great place to relax after working on the boat for a month straight.

We arrived here yesterday after an overnight sail from Lake Worth. It was an interesting passage, the wind blowing at 10-15 knots from the northeast most of the night, a nice beam reach for sailing. What made the trip interesting was the Gulf Stream.

Information provided in the NOAA text weather forecast reported the west wall of the Gulf Stream about 10 miles offshore. Not accurate. I had plotted a route one mile offshore, the closest I like to get to an unfamiliar coast at night. Shortly after turning southward a mile offshore, we encountered a patch of confused seas and then started bashing into head seas. The boat was also going really slowly, only 3.5 knots on a beam reach with 10 knots true wind speed.

The waves weren't supposed to be coming from that direction and we should have been going faster. I was as confused as the water surface for a little while. Then it occurred to me that I'd only ever experienced head seas while sailing downwind when there as an opposing current. The light bulb turned on and I figured out that the head seas were from the Gulf Stream flowing north was getting stacked up by the wind blowing from that direction and our slow speed was because we were fighting a two knot current.

The urban Florida coastline is well lit and easy to navigate, so I decided it was safe to sail closer to shore. I plotted a new route only a half mile off the coast and turned the boat towards land. As we drew close to our new rhumbline, the seas calmed and started coming from where they should, off our port stern quarter, and boat speed increased to what it should be, almost six knots.

Even though we were only a half mile off shore, we occasionally encountered patches of foul current that caused confused seas and the boat to slow down. I understand that if I had sailed even closer to shore I would eventually encounter a southerly counter current that would boost our speed, but I was not comfortable sailing any closer to the shoreline at night. Once we got to Fort Lauderdale, the Gulf Stream effects disappeared completely and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. The wind dropped just before sunrise, so we ended up motor sailing the last few hours before Biscayne Bay channel entrance, about seven miles south of Miami ship channel.

Intermezzo had passed through the Biscayne Bay inlet on our passage from Key West to Miami in June 2019. As we passed through this time, I remembered "Stiltsville" a small group of houses built on stilts along the inlet channel. This time, instead of turning north towards Miami, we turned south to follow a route on the inside of the Florida Keys.

We motored a couple hours south until we reached what is considered the first island of the Florida Keys, Boca Chita. We continue along a bit further, threading the boat between shoals to drop anchor off of Sands Key, about a quarter mile south of Boca Chita.

Yesterday we mostly rested from our overnight passage, enjoying a swim in the cool shallow water, reading, cocktails and a nice dinner of blackened mahi-mahi and sauteed vegetables.

This morning we set about doing some easy boat chores, Robin cleaning the stainless steel, me troubleshooting the charging system and tweaking the solar charge controllers. After lunch, we took the dinghy to take a look at Boca Chita. It is a pretty little island, originally owned by Mark Honeywell (founder of the heating control company) in the 1930's, now part of the national park. The island has a small stone wall-lined boat basin, a few elegant stone buildings and lighthouse,  a short nature trail through the mangroves and a small beach. A nice place to spend a couple of hours.

We returned to the boat for cold beers, swimming, more reading and another nice dinner. Nice.

Sands Key


Shallows off Sands Key with Miami skyline in distance


Boca Chita



Sands Key from Boca Chita, Intermezzo anchored just right of center of photo

Boca Chita lighthouse

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Back to Sea Tomorrow Evening!

With the major boat projects (almost) done, my month's slip lease ending at the marina, crew back on board and 16 days until Intermezzo is loaded onto a ship, Robin and I are leaving Lake Worth tomorrow evening and sailing down to the Florida Keys for a couple of weeks.

We'll sail overnight hugging the coast to stay out of the opposing Gulf Stream current and then enter Biscayne Bay to spend some time exploring the waters and keys of Biscayne Bay National Park.

It's been blowing hard and nasty out of the northeast for the past few days, but the weather is supposed to change tomorrow and we should enjoy a nice reach in 15 knot winds with gentle following seas.

It will be good to get out to sea again. I've grown too comfortable being stationery in the marina and Intermezzo needs some exercise.

Elliott Key, Biscayne Bay National Park (image from National Park Service webpage)