C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Miami to Lake Worth via the ICW - YUCK!

Due to horror stories of the Intercoastal Waterway’s numerous bridges with restricted opening times designed by some nefarious, sailboat hating entity to ensure any vessel with a mast unable to travel faster than 7 knots will arrive at the next bridge minutes after the span closes, we have always managed to transit the area between Lake Worth on the north and Miami on the south by “bumping” out into the ocean.

July 22 we departed Miami headed north in the ICW. The threat of small craft advisories offshore and deteriorating conditions as TS Bonnie closed in on south Florida gave us reason enough to brave the gauntlet of ICW bridges.  Anne took on the task of listing all the bridges names, schedules, and restrictions in order from south to north (see image included).  Her list, 33 bridges in 64 miles, proved valuable.  Once clear of a bridge we would check the list and either start a sprint to the next bridge in hopes of making a scheduled opening or set a leisurely pace that would consume our ample time easing up the waterway rather than joining in the flock of boats pacing to and fro awaiting a draw bridge span to open and allow transit.

We covered 40 miles and passed thru 22 bridges in our sprint northward to clear Bonnie’s path.

Bonnie’s arrival in the morning of Friday, July 23, found us securely tucked into Pelican Harbor.   A near perfect circle with canals leading outward every 60 degrees and condos or McMansions lining the banks,  Pelican Harbor is the antithesis of a natural setting, but it’s mud bottom and 10 foot depth provided a secure hole for Anne and I to wait out Bonnie’s passage.  It is with a thank you to the weather gods that we can report Bonnie passed by our position with little more than a couple intense squall lines and 30 knot winds.

By 15:00 on the 23rd we were hauling the anchor and checking Anne’s bridge list to see if we needed to sprint or lope on up the waterway.

By dusk on Friday we were meandering through the Lake Worth Anchorage looking for a good place to drop the hook. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gateway City

Bonnie, now officially a tropical storm is in bound.   NOAA’s remaining uncertainty in the storm track and our growing certainty in North Carolina as a port of call has us hustling to move northward.  Gazing across our deck to Biscayne Bay and beyond to the Miami Skyline draws up a sense of melancholy.  Like Saint Louis standing along the Mississippi River is the gateway to the American West, Miami with is shores hemming in the Gulf Stream feels like the gateway to the tropics.  By pushing forward we are moving away from the romanticized, idyllic dream of sailing in the tropics; placing on hold for another year a return to the Bahamas or beyond.  It is with a longing for the Abacos, Exumas, Berries, and beyond the we raise the main and plot our course for the day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A wild ride across Biscayne Bay

The decision to move northward to Miami was met with resistance from Mother Nature.  The 20 knot east winds present for the past 6 days were forecast to increase and back to the northeast by late in the day.  We raised the hook and continued our uphill climb to Miami in what has become a usual fashion – motor sailing windward with a double reefed main.    Rounding Pigeon Key our progress improved as we transitioned from the expanse of Florida Bay to more frequent channels and small bays west of Key Largo.  At Barnes Sound our heading shrunk in number as we began to head more northerly.  Fortunately we were ahead of the backing winds and our speed increased.  Clearing Card Sound Bank provided us a wide enough channel to feel comfortable raising the working jib, if comfortable is what you call sailing close hauled in 20 knots with the toe rail swimming and salt spray leaping skyward as C’est la Vie’s bow cleaves three foot seas.   I relish the feeling of making 6 knots on the wind while I stand in awe of our craft’s ability to deftly handle all the forces currently straining to find a weakness.

The wild ride across Biscayne Bay ended at a point west of Cape Florida where we turned eastward to our anchorage along the lee side of Key Biscayne.  The easterly heading forced us to drop the jib and return to motor sailing. 

We anchored as the Miami skyline shifted from silhouetted buildings in the setting sun to ablaze with it’s evening attire of accent lighting.

The push is on.

We are headed north.  Our goal for today is Miami and our vision for the remainder of the summer has drifted away from the Bahamas and towards North Carolina’s Outerbanks.   Invest 97 has dashed our hopes of crossing to the Bahamas within the week.  The weight of choosing the safest float plan in the looming shadow of a tropical storm has depressed our desire for a summer in the islands.  We long to spend warm days diving in gin clear waters over a tropical reef.  We love anchorages that afford us the opportunity to watch the hook raise a cloud of sand in 20 feet of water.  Well, ok maybe we are not 100% committed to August & September in the OBX. 

We are headed to Miami, the current bullseye for Invest 97, for the same reason NC is more appealing than the Bahamas for the remainder of what the experts continue to tell us we be an active storm season… options.  Here in the Keyes as in the islands our options for dealing with storms is limited to… find a good hurricane hole and strap in.   Along the Eastern Seaboard, I feel there are more opportunities to 1)move out of the path 2)seek shelter inland along a river 3)haul out.  

Am I textually processing or attempting to justify our decision to head for Miami?  If invest97 targets Miami then we will have the opportunity, 24 hours or more, to move north or south.  If the storm targets the keys and we linger here, then what options to we have?  Yep, hoist up the sails & crank up the motor the push is on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Continuing the uphill climb

 We elected to get an early start in hopes that the winds and seas had subsided some overnight.  Clearing Burnt Point proved us wrong.  Two reefs remained in the mainsail as we clawed and bounced our way east along Fat Deer, Long, and Fiesta Keys.   Three hours of ducking spray while motor sailing brought us to Channel 5. 

Invest 97 continued to draw our interest.   Computer models had her developing into a tropical storm and traversing our area anywhere between Marathon and Stewart Florida.  Our hopes for crossing to the Abacos waning, we began to question if continuing to push towards Miami was the safest option?  Perhaps returning to Key West would take us away from the developing storm and continue to provide us with the option to visit the Bahamas?  So the guessing game began… which way to go?

Throughout the morning NOAA warned us of small craft advisories in both Hawk Channel and Florida Bay.  With doubt in the air and fatigue from the soggy motorsail setting in we slipped in the lee of Lignumvitae Key around 13:00 and dropped the hook. 

With a lack of clarity on the future of invest 97 moving anywhere in these conditions simply felt like a futile exercise.  We took the path of least resistance…  A leisurely, late lunch served as a preface for afternoon snorkeling along the shoreline of Lignumvitae Key.   We will have more information on which to base our looming decisions soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rewarded with a nice anchorage

We found a wonderful anchorage between Bamboo & Fat Deer Keys that afforded us all the space and solitude that Boot Key Harbor lacked.  The winds continued easr at 20 knots.  Our anchorage provided enough shelter to reduce the chop while maintaining a comfortable breeze. 

Via our phones we are continuing to monitor invest 97.

Escape From Boot Key Harbor

With a 20+ knot east breeze forecasted for the next couple days, prudence may have warranted remaining in
Boot Key Harbor, but we were growing weary of forking over the daily $21 for the mooring ball and “locals” were beginning to inquire about how long we were going to stay.  Seemed like the time to escape Boot Key Harbor. 

We spent the morning showering and linked to the internet.  Thanks to the internet we are aware of the tropical wave off the windward islands.  We will continue to monitor this system and factor it into our plan to cross to the Abacos. 

Off the ball by noon, we stopped at Berdines for fuel – diesel for C’est la Vie, soda for Jeff, and  ice cream for Anne.  We  exited the harbor around 13:00.  3 to 4 foot seas greeted our return to the sea.  We raised the main with 2 reefs to smooth out the seas.  Rather than fight the headwinds in a lumpy Hawk Channel we planned to pass through the 7 mile bridge and motor sail eastward on the leeward side of the keys.  

We did find a more acceptable sea state on the Florida Bay side of the keys, but 20 knots of wind on our nose made our progress a slow, uphill climb.