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, December 17, 2010

5 months and 19 days later

C’est la Vie returned to her home port, Everglades City, FL. today after a 5 month 19 day round trip to Beaufort, NC.  The northward trip included a detour through the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys.  C’est la Vie spent about a month alone on the hard in Wilmington, NC before we began the southbound  journey that included a jog out the Abacos. 

We awoke in Russell Pass to the familiar and none to subtle bouquet of low tide in the Ten Thousand Islands.  Fortunately the tide was rising and Anne enjoyed breaking 8 knots motor sailing under the main on our short trip up Indian Key Pass to the mouth of the Barron River and home sweet home on Sunset Island.  The image above is Anne at the helm homeward bound in Chokoloskee Bay.  The image below is Anne outward bound last June in Chokoloskee Bay.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Motor Vessel C'est la Vie?

Our goal for the day… Lignumvitae Key to Indian Key Pass.  Approximately 80 nautical miles of shallow water sailing and crab buoy dodging along the waters of Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park.  With a building northeast wind forecast, we planned to motor sail the morning passing through a couple of the narrow passages along the Ships Channel.   We anticipated sailing close hauled on the building NE breezes in the afternoon.  Most likely due to a developing sea breeze throughout the day and our near shore route, the winds actually died as we passed off Cape Sable. 

Already a day overdue we dropped the sails, handed the helm over to Otto, and resigned ourselves to a long day of motoring.  We established a three hour watch schedule based on our ETE to Indian Key Pass.  Our watches consisted of reading interrupted with frequent scans of the waters ahead for buoys that mark crab traps.  Typically, due to C’est la Vie’s full keel design, we don’t worry too much about catching the prop or rudder, but we still try to avoid direct encounters with the small styrofoam buoys.  Below the buoys lines a 3/8 inch nylon braided line that extends down to a trap located on the sea bed.  The lines are notorious for fouling props, rudders, or other appendages extending from the hull of passing vessels.

Anne took the first watch and spotted a tight group of 5 large orange mooring buoys with 2 inch polypro tethers just north of Sand Key.  We are unsure who placed these buoys or why.  They are in exposed waters near the marked Ship’s Channel.  Vessels traveling the area after dark or with lackadaisical watches could easily run afoul of the large lines.  Unfortunately I was not thinking ahead and did not mark their position for future reference or to post on Active Captain.  

Moving northward past Cape Sable the buoys thinned out.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunset while passing off shore of Pavilion Key.  Around 20:00 we cleared Indian Key on our way toward the anchorage in Russell Pass.  Despite having to motor the entire day it felt good to be in our own backyard.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The north winds finally down to 15 knots we cast off our mooring ball in the 30 degree predawn light.  The Miami skyline off our stern is just beginning to glow pink with the start of a new day.

Making over 6 knots motorsailing under our genny on a broad reach, we placed Biscayne Bay in our wake by noon.

Our goal is the mooring balls on the north side of Lignumvitae Key by this evening and Russell Pass, our own backyard, by Thursday evening.  In the summer time with 14+ hours of daylight these 60 to 80 mile days would be long but conceivable.  With less than 12 hours of daylight we are pushing hard.  I am comfortable navigating Indian Key Pass in the dark, but refuse to operate C’est la Vie in the dark along the backside of the Keys or through the Ship’s Channel along Florida Bay.

With luck and great effort from our beta marine engine we do arrive to find one available moor ball at Lignumvitae Key just as the sun fades over the Gulf Waters. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

project time at Dinner Key Marina

While awaiting out the frontal passage we tackled projects… laundry, cleaning the bilge, servicing the lower bilge pump switch, and replacing a section of exhaust hose.   

Issues with lower bilge pump switch first appeared during our Wilmington to Abacos crossing.  Due to a build up of bilge sludge the switch would not turn off once it was activated.  This resulted in some long run times for the pump.   Our shallow draft, full keel hull design makes it very difficult to access the lowest section of the bilge.  Wisely the last owner installed an excellent pump switch -the ultimate bilge switch - and located the filter and pump remotely.  This set up is ideal for servicing the pump and the filter, both located in the starboard cockpit locker.  During the six years we have owned C’est la Vie this is the second time I have pulled the lower bilge switch for cleaning.  The previous cleaning was done in conjunction with replacing the shaft so there were fewer obstacles in the way (i.e. the exhaust system, water lift muffler, and shaft were all out of the way.)  

I went into the project with some idea of the difficulties of reaching the switch.   Accessing the switch required removing a number of cooling hoses, the air filter, and the diesel fuel return line.  With these obstacles gone and after much squirming, cursing, pleading, and bruising of my upper torso; I was finally able to remove the switch.    Expecting to find a hearty coating of oily muck, even I was astounded at the degree of gunk built up on the switch. 

Based on the contents of the switch I became determined to dredge out the lowest reaches of our bilge.  Anne assisted me in creating a scoop out of a measuring cup and bamboo skewers.   The very same bamboo skewers that worked so well to clean out the tubes of our heat exchanger in summer 2008.  A hour of effort resulted in the collection of one handle of a screw driver the metal portion long ago succumb to rust, one wooden scoop, one zip tie, numerous washers, the stainless screen off our scrum box, and nearly a quart of oily muck.

Did we mention it is cold here in Miami?  Low temps in the 30’s with wind chill readings in the 20’s…  in Miami?  Cannot imagine what the rest of the country must be experiencing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dinner Key Marina -update

Dinner Key Marina located in the Coconut Grove potion of the Miami Metro area is one of our frequent stops when transiting the area.  The marina has added a mooring field since our last visit.  The area in which we once anchored off Dinner Key now hosts approximately 200 mooring balls.  At $20/night irreguardless of vessel size some may feel this is an expensive change while others will disagree.  Personally I welcome the change as paying for the ball has the added benefits of access to the marina’s amenities: bathrooms, showers, laundry, pump out, recycling, dinghy dock, fresh water, and even used oil & filter receptacles.  There is still space to anchor south and north of the new mooring field for those unwilling to pay for a ball.  We found the marina staff to be friendly and helpful.  The marina even runs a free, hourly boat shuttle to and from the mooring field.  Our only complaint would be power boats, including the Dinner Key Marina shuttle boat, running at speed and producing wakes in the mooring field.

Another pleasant surprise was to discover Rainbow Connection and our friend Kim in a slip at the marina.  Another trip to the Fresh Market provided our dinner we all shared aboard Kim’s 41 Morgan Out Island.  Great to catch up.

And then there were two...

NOAA predicting the passage of a strong cold front so we anticipate remaining on our mooring at Dinner Key Marina until  Wednesday, December 15th.   Due to family plans associated with the holiday season, Trish jumped ship today.  Anne and I appreciate the tenacity, sense of discovery, and good humor she brought to the voyage.  We look forward to future travels and adventures with Trish.