Tag Archives: Tales of the Southern Loop

Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3

Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4

When Ed and I awoke, it was September 7, 2020. Even though rain and low visibility lie ahead, we decided to move towards Marathon. If we remained in Tavernier, the weather would only get worse.

Today, we would be passing some of the most famous areas of the Florida Keys such as Islamorada, where a memorial stands in remembrance those who perished in the all time historic Labor Day Hurricane of September 2, 1935. The tropics were buzzing this 2020 as well as Ed and I inched southwest through the drizzle. 

Within a few hours the weather was mostly behind and a family of dolphins welcomed us to their home of Florida Bay.  Florida Bay, a magnificent body of water that for centuries has cast its spell upon multitudes. A water body that now has its fair share of ecological issues due to Florida’s extensive agriculture and development that has basically stopped the flow of fresh water from the once Everglades, “River of Grass. “

-Historic Florida map, 1884. Interacting with the bottle nosed dolphins was a fun contrast to the stressful broken-generator-scenario that had consumed us in Tavernier and put me in a really good mood. 

  1. Dolphins jumping in our wake, Florida Bay with video! 

2. Before us was beautiful…3. Behind us looked ominous…It was a spectacular trip! Six hours later we arrived at Marlin Bay Marina in Marathon.  Everything was first class. Dockhands Gilde and Frances ran out to meet us so docking was a non-issue; Barbara checked us in with a friendliness not often anymore experienced. Nonetheless, a couple of  things were clear: not that many people were there, and in public places, even outside when in public, we would be wearing a mask. Covid-19 was taken very seriously here in Monroe County especially because Hurricane Irma had wiped out their hospital in 2017. Ed and I thanked Barbara and walked out carefully into the lightning and drizzle, a hint of things to come.4. Ed checking in and standing on wall at Marlin Bay MarinaEd and I were overnighting longer in Marathon because I had a week of meetings for the South Florida Water Management District. With the Zoom format trawler lifestyle was no big deal, but having reliable wi-fi was. Marlin Bay Marina turned out to be the perfect place for everything.  All technology worked and Ed went snorkeling while I zoomed. 

When time and weather allowed, Ed and I spun around in the dingy.  We saw iguanas, darting Northern Rough Winged swallows, minnows, nurse sharks, parrot fish, loads of penguin like cormorants, American egrets, white egrets, various herons, ospreys, magnificent frigate birds, pelicans, an island rookery, and visited a place achieving “ecological sainthood,” the world famous Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital. 

5. Sea Turtle Hospital display, Marathon Ed and I took long masked walks to the Fish Market on 35th Street and beyond, taking note of the thousands of crab and lobster traps lining the streets. Of course fishing and crabbing is a longstanding Keys’ industry. Thankfully, today there is more pressure for sustainable methods. In any case, its a way of life that will not be given up. 

6. Crab and lobster traps lined the streets/lots of Marathon  7. In spite of Covid, the Fish Market and other restaurants and shops at 35th Street were busy 8. Goofing around at the Fish Market

The water in Marathon looked as healthy as anywhere we’d seen with lush seagrass beds and substantial wildlife. The only thing we noticed was that there were not many pelicans flying in formation as we regularly see along the Treasure Coast. Here, if we saw a brown pelican, it was flying alone. 

10. Dingy adventure reveals seagrass beds, rookeries, and wildlife-Lush manatee grass-Magnificent frigate birds-An invasive but cool looking iguana -Minnows eating what looked to be periphyton 

Towards the end of our stay, Ed and I  walked at least a mile along US1 to Publix. We wore our masks the whole way;  it was so hot! I felt miserable. Cars zoomed by along a busy road that could have been anywhere. It was hard to believe all of this was all once mangroves and a native wildlife habitat. I really wanted to take off my mask. But I didn’t. Ed and I knew the importance of keeping them on, plus, in Monroe County the fine for not wearing a mask was $250.00.

11. Ed walking along US 1 in Marathon  As we neared home, we saw that the clouds we’d watched building over the past few days were lending themselves to the beginnings of a beautiful sunset.  Even though we were dripping sweat, we ran as fast as we could. When we got to the marina the sky was silver but ablaze. 

“Ed! Take off your mask!” I said to Ed. “Let’s take a selfie!”

We took off our masks, came together, and smiled. I thought about the smiles on the faces of the dolphins that had greeted us and I was eternally grateful for the beauty around Ed and me. Hurricanes, pandemics, changing landscapes, and impaired waters…the world remained a beautiful place!

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3A cloud covered sun and a silver moon coated Biscay Bay with a metallic morning light. Today was September 6th, and last night something had changed.

At 3am Ed had shot out of bed. “It’s too quiet in here.”

“It is. That’s why we’re sleeping.” I rolled over putting the pillow over my head.

Ed returned a few minutes later. “The generator stopped working.”

“Oh,”I mumbled and quickly went back to sleep. When I awoke, I found Ed inside the engine room. 

“Good morning,” I said. He looked up.  “So maybe it’s not such a good morning; the generator doesn’t work.” I tried to smile. “But let’s not let this ruin our trip.” 

“Jacqui the oven/stove wont work, the refrigerator and the air-conditioning won’t work, and forget easily charging the phone or computer. We wont be able to anchor out. I was really looking forward to more of that.”

“Yeah, it’s a bummer. But it will still be fun. So we’ll have to depend on marinas to plug in that shore power thing.”

Ed smirked. “I’m surprised you remember- shore power.- In any case, let’s get ADRIFT underway.” Ed closed up the engine room, headed to the helm, and hit the button to raise the anchor. The clickity-clack sound of metal hitting metal echoed throughout the bow and upper helm.

“At least the anchor still works!” I yelled to my Captain. 

ADRIFT crept south in the direction of Tavernier. Once again, it was turning out to be a beautiful day. -Leaving Miami, Biscayne Bay-Card Sound, Biscayne Bay, heading south to the Florida KeysBiscayne Bay was stunning and huge. As we exited the bridge at Card Sound, the waterway started to narrow. Some boats were going very fast. I decided to continue reading my new favorite book, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades,  rather than complain. I knew Ed was thinking about the generator…

“Hey Ed!” I yelled towards the upper helm. “Did you realize we have been passing the marl transverse glades?”

“Hadn’t really been thinking about them,”  he replied. 

I walked up the ladder and sat beside him. “I’m going to read to you, OK?”

“In contrast to the unobstructed, rimless, and continuously flowing Peat Transverse Glades, the Marl Transverse Glades were raised spillways, receiving water from the Everglades only during the wet season…The significance of of the Marl Transverse Glades for understanding predrainage Everglades hydrology lies not in their volumes of outflow but instead in their indication that Everglades waters from Rockland Marl Marsh typically rose high enough each year to flow out….” 

“Do you know what this means Ed?” 

“No idea…” 

“It means that when the Everglades were high, like now, during hurricane season, water oozed through to Biscayne Bay not just from areas around Ft Lauderdale, but also from south of Miami  to about Homestead. Today that stretch includes cities like Kendall, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Naranja, and Homestead Air Force Base.”

“That is pretty surprising.” Ed replied, seeming to be in better spirits. “So – another reason Biscayne Bay doesn’t get enough fresh water.”

“Look at you!” I lovingly mocked. “I’m surprised you remember!”

-Compare predrainage “marl transverse glades” (southern most arrows) pg. 48 & to post drainage developed areas today, pg. 49 -between Miami and Homestead. In predrainage times, this area McVoy calls the “marl transverse glades,” filled up/flowed over with high Lake O and rain waters oozing through to Biscayne Bay. Today due to development, pumps, and drainage this does not occur. Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, 2011.I looked up from my book. We were in a narrow waterway of mangroves and approaching Key Largo. “Why are those boats going so fast?!” I complained. I couldn’t hold back anymore.

“Because they are allowed to.” Ed replied. “They are in the channel.” Wakes hit up hard against the shoreline.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to go so fast in here. I don’t see how a manatee could survive. And it’s dangerous.” I agonized. 

“Just smile Jacqui!” 

Ed remained silent looking straight ahead. ADRIFT plodded along in repetative wakes while swirling through boat traffic. And I decided – I better just smile…When we arrived in Tavernier, at Mangrove Marina, Ed was once again focusing on the broken generator. Docking was not so easy this time. The winds had kicked up and I was in charge of the lines. I wondered how I’d jump off to the dock if necessary. The engine ground as Ed moved forwards and backwards trying to back into the slip.  We almost smacked into the dock and I yelled loudly realizing the fender was caught on a neighboring house boat. Thankfully, at the last minute, two young dockhands saved us. We thanked them profusely and Ed handed them a tip. 

“Thank God they were here,” I grumbled.

“One day they wont be.” Ed replied. 

“How would I have jumped on that high dock?” 

Ed did not answer. 

“I’m going to open the lazarette to look at this generator again.” I knew Ed would be obsessed until this was resolved.

“OK. I’m going to take a walk,”  I said. I’ll see you in a little bit.”

It was good to get on land and good for Ed and I to take a break from each other. 

Walking the marina, the first thing I noticed, were these weird and beautiful sea anemone like things on the floor of the shallow docking areas. I got down on my stomach to look closer. -It looks like the DREAM OF THE SLEEPING JELLYFISH. Over the course of our stay, I became totally preoccupied with them, checking on them throughout the day and evening. My blog post is above.I continued my walk. Quaint houses lined the streets. “I love it here.” I thought. “There is absolutely nothing like the Florida Keys.” Once my stroll was over, I knew it was time to make it back to see Ed. He was not a happy camper.

“What’s wrong hunny?” I inquired. 

“I’m not sure I will be able to fix the generator, but the marina office gave me a number of a guy to call. It’s Labor Day weekend. I’m not going to bother him.”

“Come on babe, all the days blend together in a place like the Keys. Let’s call him.” Before we called, we decided to take the inflatable canoe out into a small cove. It was so beautiful! The seagrass was lush and Ed thought he saw an otter but it ended up being a mother manatee and and her young calf poking their noses out to breathe.  It was so joyous to just be there next to them as they came up for air. I though about the fast speed boats we’d seen by the mangroves and prayed the mother and calf would be safe. The sun set , we made dinner,  and retired early. I dreamt of sleeping jellyfish and baby manatees.

In the morning I convinced Ed to take a walk, meet my jellyfish, and see the adorable Keys houses. Lo and behold there was a sign! A sign on a red truck that just happened to be the number the marina had given Ed for someone to fix the generator. Ed left a message and Larry Heimer, Blue Earth Marine Services, returned the call! Soon after we met Larry and Wendy. Wonderful people! Ed learned a lot watching and asking questions. Thanks to Larry the generator got fixed!   Ed after the generator was fixed by Larry Heimer and Wendy 🙂Stormy weather forms… I was so happy! Ed was smiling again!

But there was another issue brewing…

We looked up. “Where is this weather coming from?”  

“There’s a system forming,” Larry replied. “You best leave tomorrow if you can.” 

Night fell; Ed and I listened to the band playing.

Lights reflected off the water and I thought about the jellyfish sleeping on their heads on the milky limestone bottom and the thousands of years of time, tide, and water that had formed this remarkable place.

Ed and I watched the heat lightning and toasted our good fortune to find Larry and  Wendy to fix the generator. 

We decided that unless it was really storming, we would head out first morning light….

 

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

It was September 4th, early morning, we’d  had our first cup of coffee, the engine was yawning, and Ed was at the helm. Today was part two, Boyton to Miami…

“You know what to do right?” Ed jokingly mocked from the helm. He was way too chipper.

I rubbed my eyes. “Yes Captain.”

There wasn’t much wind or tide; I easily removed the spring, bow, and stern lines in that order.

ADRIFT inched off the dock.

“Good job mate.” Ed yelled.

“It’s easy on a day like today!” I replied, knowing the entire Southern Loop adventure would not be so easy.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Ed made the radio request on Channel 9 to open Boyton’s Ocean Bridge; we waited, and as the draw raised up the trawler slid into the long man-made cut of the Intercostal Waterway.

The scene was almost surreal, especially the reflections; the water itself did not look great -trapped inside seawalls, houses, and lawns gushing fertilizer.

Ed yelled,” Look at the man cutting the mangroves!”

I turned to see a worker balancing  atop rocks holding  a trimmer over his head.

“Unbelievable!” I sarcastically yelled back. “You’ve got to love South Florida!”

The sun shone hotter and hotter.  We passed Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, and Lighthouse Point.

“Hey Ed,”Hillsboro Inlet and lighthouse is coming up. The pre-drainage Hillsboro River was about the north mark of the historic east coast seepage of the Everglades!”

I was referring to my new favorite book, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades.

As we slowly made our way, I saw finger canals everywhere…

Construction to channelize the Hillsboro River and the Miami River had first begun in 1910. The New River, in 1906. It wasn’t just the most southern coastline that was wet either, apparently the region from the Jupiter Inlet to the Hillsboro Inlet was once so marshy people canoed between the two- and out into the Everglades- regularly. That was until drainage lowered the water table six feet! Crazy isn’t it!

“Everglades eastern flow was directed towards numerous natural outlets piercing the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, specifically Cypress Creek, (region of Hillsboro River JTL) Middle River, New River, Snake River, Arch Creek, Little River, and the Miami River.” These flows eventually made it to the Atlantic Ocean and  Biscayne Bay.” Pg 262, Landscapes & Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, 2011. 

It is strange to think that there are no natural flows through these once cypress forests and rivers, but rather a channelized construction of canals, pumps, and structures kept in place by the South Florida Water Management District.

We forget that the Everglades’ waters, beginning in Lake Okeechobee, once seeped through, on and off, around today’s Pompano Beach; Ft Lauderdale to Miami; and even at South Miami to about Leisure City. Today ADRIFT would only make it to Miami.

  1. 1850s undeveloped South Florida: Cypress Strands, the Peat Transverse Glades; and the Marl Transverse Glades were once natural seepage areas from the Everglades. Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades pgs. 49, 48, & 266. Notice how canals were constructed to these natural outlets. (3)

2. Modern satellite image of of S. Florida, note areas that once flowed through near Pompano (Cypress Strands); Ft Lauderdale area (Peat Transverse Glades); and further south of Miami (Marl Transverse Glades). Compare image 1 &2.

3.  Earliest canals New River to Ft Lauderdale 1906; Hillsboro & Miami 1910. (Boyton for reference.) These canals led to where the water was naturally exiting the east coast.

“Hey First Mate!”

“Captain!”

“Get your head our of that book and look around!”

“Holy cow!” I screamed. It looked like we were going to be swallowed up by the wake of a cargo ship!

 

4. Near Ft Lauderdale’s Port Everglades

5. Condos along the ICW near Ft Lauderdale

6. North area of Biscayne Bay, Broad Causeway Drawbridge at Bay Harbor

I was speechless. We had entered Ft Lauderdale. The modern Transverse Peat Glades! I watched in total amazement.

“Come up on to the helm,” Ed yelled. “We’re in Biscayne Bay almost to Miami.”

I put my book aside and crawled up the ladder. Even though I despise over development , it was very exciting. Huge ships went by and multi million dollar boats were docked everywhere.

“I think this is near the area of  the recent fish kill.” I said. I showed Ed my phone pointing to the area between Highway 934 and 1-95. “The bay has polluted stormwater runoff problems and also it doesn’t get all the fresh water it historically received because we have cut off its flow connection of the cypress, peat and marl transverse glades.”

Ed looked at me through his sunglasses. “You read too much. Just enjoy!”

7. Further south in Biscayne Bay

8. Port of Miami

9. Ed smiling

10. Miami shoreline near Miami River/Maimi Canal outlet

11. Some wildlife! Yeah! Cormorants!

“Wow. This is amazing I said. My book was put away under the cushions.

“Where are we going to park? Make sure we don’t damage any seagrass.”

Ed rolled his eyes. “Not “park,” “anchor!”

We made our way just southeast of the Magic City and Rickenbacker Causeway. Remarkably, we anchored without a blip on a sandy/muddy bottom.

ADRIFT relaxed and found her direction in the tropical breezes. The whole thing was rather otherworldly. “God I love South Florida,” I thought,” even with all its water and drainage issues, she’s beautiful!”

12. A homemade dinner on the ship!

13. The Magic City arises…as night falls.

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

It was 9:36 am, September 3, 2020, and we were preparing to leave the Harborage Marina in our hometown of Stuart. The sun blazed down upon me as I  stood on the bow of the Mainship 400 trawler we had christened ADRIFT. The day had arrived. Ed and I were off -for three weeks- to experience our first real boating adventure- the Southern Loop. 

Ed yelled down from the helm. “So you know what to do, right?”

“Of course Captain!” I reviewed: 1. Check wind and tide direction. 2. Release the stern spring line. 3. Release the the bow spring line. 4. Release the bow line. 5. Release the stern line. 6. Make sure boat is clearing the dock. 7. Relay message to Captain. 

“Aye, Aye, Captain!” I yelled back over the sound of the diesel engine. Then just to tease him, I asked: “Is it the front, or back spring line first?”

Ed did not smile…the motor growled, I moved starboard, quickly, carefully, and methodically removing some lines from their cleats and bringing others on board.

The trawler inched forward like a sputtering whale. 

“You’re clear!” I yelled, watching the transom just miss the dock piling.  

We slowly motored out against the tide, and our adventure had begun. I walked to the bow looking over the wide and beautiful St Lucie. The trip through the St Lucie, the Jupiter Narrows, the Loxahatchee, Lake Worth, and the canal-like portion of the Intercostal Waterway to Boyton would be familiar, but from there it was all new territory.

  1. St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon looking towards St Luice Inlet

2. Jupiter Narrows entering Loxahatchee and Jupiter Inlet area

3. Jupiter Lighthouse first lit in 1860, Loxahatchee River

4. Channelized ICW from Loxahatchee River in Jupiter south to Lake Worth

5. Lake Worth

6. Port of Palm Beach just west of Peanut Island and inlet

7. Lake Worth, the Alba Hotel, built in 1926, is today’s Biltmore Condominium 

Ed, and I planned for our Southern Loop adventure for over a year. We took hands-on classes. We altered our schedules. We read books. Most important, we promised not to kill each other. 

This blog series is meant to share our adventure and learn about our South Florida  waterways with the help of an incredible book I read along the way, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, written by five South Florida Water Management District scientists, led by Christopher McCoy. 

By the time we arrived at Boyton Harbor Marina the sun was setting. It was time to have a cocktail at a classic establishment, the Banana Boat or TWO GEORGES, historically Lyman’s Commercial Fishing Dock, now part of the Community Redevelopment Area. 

A moist breeze filled the air. Ed inquired. “What’s our water lesson today?”

I took a deep swig of my daiquiri, “Well something new I learned is that there used to be a chain of ponds just west of here. Extensive. 20 miles of them! 2 miles wide…

Boyton sits not too far below Lake Worth in Palm Beach County. Chris McVoy’s book notes that in this area, not only was Lake Worth opened up to the ocean, and the gigantic arm of the Loxahatchee Slough -once connected with the Everglades- swallowed up by development, but  there was a  twenty mile chain of freshwater ponds – also described as a sawgrass marsh- just west of here, and now it’s the area of Congress Boulevard!”

“Really,” replied Ed. He took a swig of his beer. We drained the swamp right?”

My brain was frozen. “Sometimes I wish we didn’t. Not so much anyway…”

The two images above are from Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades and compare the area from the Loxahatchee to the Freshwater Ponds east of the Northern Everglades from 1850 to present. The contrasting images reveal many aspects of the environment that we don’t think about today. Going clockwise from noon. The connection of the C-44 to the St Lucie River; the channelization for the ICW along Florida’s east coast; the cutting of pine and cypress forests; the “disappearance” of the Loxahatchee Slough’s giant red arm up from the Everglades and across Palm Beach County to the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter; the replacement of the sawgrass plains with the Everglades Agricultural Area; the man-made inlets and the opening to the ocean of Lake Worth; and last but not least, the very rarely talked about chain of freshwater ponds that that have been drained and are now the area of Congress Boulvard. All of the drainage allows us to live here and helped agriculture in the past; however we have impaired our waters. Images, pages 48 &49, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, SFWMD, Christopher McVoy and others, 2011. 

Red lines equal pre-drainage boarder of the Everglades; yellow lines equal pre-drainage landscape boundaries: primarily sawgrass plains and Ridge and Slough with visible tree islands of which east coast development has heavily encroached. You can see the WCA (water conservation areas) along eastern Atlantic Ridge. You can recognize this because they are the only areas with ridge and slough water pattern remaining. These areas, although protected, are now water impoundments since the ACOE built the Central and South Florida Project after the 1947 flood. Tomorrow, we will learn how the Everglades’ waters once exited to the Atlantic Ocean right through parts of Florida’s east coast when we continue our trip from Boyton to Biscayne Bay/Miami!