Friday, January 18, 2013

Dinner Key, Coconut Grove

     In some of my previous blogs I've mentioned the benefit of making "laundry friends." The physical act of doing laundry in public laundry facilities affords people the opportunity and time to have a chat. So far, I have gained some of the best cruising information from quite a few of my laundry friends.
One of those tidbits of knowledge was acquired while tending to laundry tasks in St. Augustine at the city marina. Roxanne aboard a catamaran Dawn Dancer gave me so much useful cruising information. She told me that one of her favorite mooring locations was at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, Miami. As our laundry exchange continued she also offered information for useful iPad apps for wind (Realwind) and tides (Realtides). She also suggested that Dinner Key was a good stop to provision and visit the historic enclave of Coconut Grove before traveling to the Florida Keys.

     We downloaded the suggested apps and found them to come in handy during our trip down the ICW. The new apps were utilized everyday to calculate optimum departure and arrival times at inlets and anchorages. Dinner Key wasn't a destination that we'd previously considered. But, after being informed that there was an extensive mooring field decided that this would be an alternative to anchoring in Miami.
 It was a pleasure to be in Biscayne Bay where the water was cleaner, the breeze seemed fresher and to no longer be at the mercy of moody bridge tenders along the ICW.

     Roxanne thought that being a writer and photographer, I would find Coconut Grove interesting. Bohemian artist and writers have always called  the Grove home. Eclectic and intriguing, Miami's Coconut Grove can be considered a loose tropical equivalent of New York's Greenwich Village. A haven for writers and artists, the neighborhood hasn't outgrown its image as a small village. Outdoor bistros and sidewalk cafes are packed with patrons young and old on weekends.

Joe loves his ice cream
     On Saturday morning we had breakfast at Le Bouchon du Grove. Afterward, I wanted to visit an organic farmers market on the outskirts of town. The only problem was we'd taken a wrong turn along the way and ended up in a seedy area. You know you've taken a wrong turn when billboards posted in the neighborhood read: Drugs ruin neighborhoods! Report all drug dealings to the authorities! Yikes! Joe's stride quickened as he periodically glanced over his shoulder. I was doing my best to stay calm suggesting that we might want to swing our arms to try to look more nonchalant, as if on a fitness hike. His heightened caution began making me nervous. I'd never seen him so concerned. The neighborhood continued to worsen. Barred windows, abandoned houses, junked cars on cement cinder blocks, barking pit bulls tied on short leashes. He said, "This is just great Michele! I don't like the looks of this. It's getting worse instead of better. Someone was lit on fire in a neighborhood just like this one in Miami last week!" As our pace accelerated I was hoping to see anything resembling the farmers market. We turned a corner and spotted tents set up in an empty lot. We practically ran toward them. The aroma of burning incense wafted from tents. Joe said, "Are you sure this is the right place? It smells like church." The crowd of Birkenstock wearing patrons sampled vegan food, soy based ice cream and even an alfresco massage table.

 The following day irreverent humor was brought to Coconut Grove in the form of the King Mango Strut Parade. The thirty-first annual holiday parade tradition took over the streets of downtown Coconut Grove on Sunday, mocking and punning the biggest local and national news events of the year.
Mango juggler

     Some of the participants carried black caskets in a mock funeral for the Twinkie. "Pot heads" promoting the legalization of marijuana paraded with ceramic pots tied to their heads while tossing bags of weed (cut grass) to the crowd. I was the lucky recipient of one of the bags. A vintage VW Beetle called the Auto Bong sported a giant blunt tied to its roof.

     Other featured guests included Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on his death bed, Fidel Castro in a wheelchair and former Gen. David “Betray-us along with a float with call girls and secret service men called "Secretly Serviced."


     The parade was a hoot and was all in good humor. An all afternoon and evening block party kicked off after the parade dispersed. Joe and I had dinner that evening at LuLu's a sidewalk cafe that offered a perfect view of the evening's festivities.

     One or two days is more than enough time to cover Coconut Grove. There is no protection from an easterly wind direction in the Dinner Key mooring field and can become extremely uncomfortable due to the fetch in Biscayne Bay. Therefore, we found it prudent to have alternative plans to move prior to an easterly wind change.
     Winds had been forecast to switch to north east and due east within a couple of days. A gentle 10 knot northeasterly afforded us an easy 17 mile run down to Boca Chita Key in Biscayne Bay where we spent only one night.
      The forecast also called for increasing winds of 20 knots and higher within a few days. It was time to continue south in order to arrive in the protection of Boot Key Harbor, Marathon before the onset of heavy winds and seas.

Location:Miami, Florida