Welcome to the Rhum Brave Chronicle. A collection of posts, pictures and videos from our adventures aboard the Rhum Brave.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Visit to Nest Key

A Key Largo local advised us to visit Nest Key (bayside) in the Everglades National Park.  It's one of the few places where boaters can make a landing in the Park (most keys are closed to visitors landing).  We were able to find the key and subsequent anchorage rather easily.  The water is a nice depth, people are friendly (and not overbearing with their music) and it's a great place to watch the sun go down.  I've also been amazed at how little trash there is on the island.  As much as we love Elliot Key, Sands Cut or Boca Chita the amount of trash spread throughout the area can be depressing.  We can all do better.  One word of caution though.  The horseflys can get a little vicious this time of the year.  Here's a couple shots of Nest Key.  Enjoy.

The Other Joy of Boating

The boat dealers never talk about this when you're at the boat show or going for a demo ride but basically 50% of the time you actually spend enjoying the boat will be matched with cleaning or tinkering about.  Trust me on the math.  This especially applies to saltwater boaters (my brother boats in Lake Tahoe and brags about never having to really wash the boat) where salt is great for a margarita rim but horrible on boats and trailers.  My general comment to people who are "thinking" about buying a boat is that "You have to love washing and fixing your boat and then occassionally you get to go out and enjoy it for the day."  This does not include the time spent preparing to spend the day on the water nor the time spent cleaning up the kids afterwards (kudos to the wife for handling that aspect). On this trip we've had to keep the topside clean (Cheetos and strawberries are hell on the gelcoat) and scrub the bottom every couple of days.  It's amazing how fast the algea and other critters attack the hull.  Fortunately I've been raising a couple of very cute boat cleaners.  Soon enough I'll be able to sit back and enjoy a cool margarita while the Rhum Brave gets detailed.  Hold the salt please.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Again I have to credit my wife for getting anyone to actually view The Rhum Brave Chronicle.  The Chronicle is up to 466 hits but to be honest about 75 of those are me checking on the site regularly.   Interestingly we've gotten hits from Mexico (hola mi familia!), Belize (I need to get there), Spain (Ole'), Germany (Bier!), India (Namaste) and Puerto Rico  (more rum por favor).  To date the most popular post has been "Snorkeling Along the Reef" with 57 views.  Writing that piece was almost as much fun as experiencing it.  I'm looking forward to many more posts and seeing how this spreads around the world.  For fun I'm having the girls research each new country that links to the Chronicle.  Call it revenge for telling me to "Give it up Dad."  Ha! 

On a side bar, my boss retired last week.  We had a nice going away party for him.  He's moving to New Mexico and I'm going to miss working for him.  He's got some big plans for retirement so I wish him well.  Take care Pat!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Need Underwater Camera Recommendations

With all the snorkeling and diving we’ve done it might be time to make an investment into an underwater camera.  The undersea life has been amazing and it would make for some great additions to the Blog. Please comment on some recommendations.  Thank you.

Catching Up on My Reading

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2011 was to read at least twenty books.  At the recent pace I’ve been going I’ll easily reach this goal.  In the last six weeks alone I’ve polished off six books and should complete another 2 by month’s end.  I recently discovered an interesting source of topics in the New York Times Best Seller List.  Please feel free to recommend any books I might be interested in.   I’d also be open to a book exchange with anyone interested.  Send me a book that I’d like to read and I’ll send you one of mine.  We can return when done reading.  Send me an e-mail at rhumbrave@gmail.com if you are interested.

Snorkeling Along the Reef

One of the major bucket list items we planned for this vacation were multiple trips out to the various reefs for some snorkeling and scuba diving.   Coming to Key Largo and missing out on the snorkeling is like going to Key West and not having a drink.   For the boat-impared it’s hard to say “Missed that!” due to the multitude of excursion boats leaving at almost any reasonable hour.  Fortunate that we have the Rhum Brave we set off on a mission to snorkel the string of reefs off John Pennekamp State Park.  The Park offers mooring buoys on each of the reefs and the wife has become highly proficient at reaching over the gunnels to snag the floating line.  She uses my fishing gaff and has managed only once to gaff herself in the hand (minor pinprick thank God).   The reefs vary in depth from breaking shore to 25 feet with excellent visibility.  The water color varies with the angle of the sun and bottom features.  Imagine the most amazingly vibrant teals, greens and blues unlike anything Benjamin Moore Paints could recreate.  After gearing up we’d hit the water which tended to be a major relief from the hot weather.  If you’ve never seen barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) then brace yourself.  They were everywhere ranging in size from 1 to almost 4 feet.  They sit there motionless except for their eyes that seem to follow the movement of my children’s petite fingers (the toes are comfortably tucked away inside a set of flippers).  My wife suggested that I remove my wedding ring after reading something on the Internet describing local divers watching their hands being cleanly clipped off in a millisecond by some hungry barracudas.  However, I suspect that these creatures have become so familiar with humans swimming in the water that we have little to fear (I still took off the ring).  Our experiences became so common with these creatures that my seven year old daughter had no trouble diving repeatedly into the water while the largest barracuda we had seen to date calmly floated about ten feet below the boat.  She knew he was there but I nonetheless stayed in the water with her just in case he got the munchies.

As we explored one of the first reefs out came the yellow tail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus), hogfish snapper (Lachnolaimus maximus) the largest queen conch (Strombus gigas) I’ve ever seen (in the water and out).  The conchs were every where and I was immediately reminded of the best conch I’ve ever eaten (I now diverge).  Several years ago my wife and I took 3 night NCL cruise to the Bahamas with a stop in Nassau.  We were on a mission for fresh conch salad and I’m not sure who told us but we ended up taking the local jitney to a large produce & fish market located below the return bridge from Atlantis Resort.  Along the waterfront was a collection food shack’s serving a variety of Bahamian seafood cuisine with freshly prepared conch as a staple.  Now when I say shacks to describe these restaurants image Jimbo’s in Virginia Key (Miami) only worse. Send me a message if you don’t know what Jimbo’s is.  Each shack seats about 8-10 people along a bar front that overlooks the kitchen (closed enough to reach into the kitchen actually).  The cook takes your order (start with an ice cold Kalik Gold and keep a second one on the wing) and then heads across the street to buy all the ingredients from the local vendors.  We ordered conch salad, fried yellowtail snapper and freshly made french fries.  For a show this place is better than Benihana’s.  The cook starts dicing everything (onions, peppers, tomatoes, limes) right there in front of you (I had him go light on the scotch bonnet peppers) and then goes to work on the conch.  Mind you he just bought the thing live and now proceeds to remove the animal for slicing and dicing.  After watching him prepare the animal it seems like you need to know what you’re doing or else you’re eating poop or sea snail leather.  Apparently preparing conch is something of a generational garnered skill.  The wife was a little freaked out at first but after a couple scoops of the conch salad she was sold (and so was I).  We even got to keep the conch which incidentally they were selling for $20 bucks to the tourists off the ship.  We plan to return to Nassau soon with a large group of friends so we’ll be heading over their again (let me know if you want to join our little foodie shore excursion). The place we ate at was called “
21 Jump Street
”.  Apparently Johnny Depp is still popular in the Bahamas.

Ok.  Back to the reef.  The reef was teeming with a variety of small fish that seemed to spend the majority of their time darting around looking for food while trying not to become a snack.  On one section I could count at least three black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) hiding in and around the rocks.  In one hole I found a massive Florida lobster.  This thing was a pig!  One memorable sight was the 100+ pound tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) that suddenly appeared next to me (I was a little startled at first imagining something more “teethy”).  He was gliding around reef and rather uninterested in us.  The highlight for the girls though were the six foot nurse sharks gliding along the bottom.  I had seen them earlier but was not sure how they would react.  They loved it. 

Unfortunately we don't have any underwater photos so our next major investment will have to be an underwater camera.  The wife made the original suggestion so maybe it'll be under the Christmas tree this year (hint, hint!).  Here's a couple of us hitting the water.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thank God the Tiki Bar is Open

Of all the things we done down here one of our favorites has been just plain old enjoying the sunsets from the balcony.  Our place is on the third floor and faces due west.  The sunsets have been A class especially with a nice selection of refreshing libations (cocktails, heaters, coolers, etc.).  Lately we've been on this St. Germaine liquor (http://www.stgermain.fr/index2.php) kick.  We'll mix it with champagne, vodka, sprite, lemonade, etc.  Of course my standby favorite is a simple rum n coke or light rum on the rocks with a good squeeze of fresh lime.  After sunset cocktails its dinner on the balcony with an occasional electric storm show to the northwest.  Thank God the Tiki Bar is Open!

Fishing Report

My oldest daughter and I tried a little offshore fishing this week.  Our intention was to bag some dolphin (mahi mahi), kingfish or blackfin tuna.  We managed to catch (and release) this bonita tuna.  I seem to attract a lot of the these lately (see last fishing report).  The pictures were taken by my daughter with her itouch.  Not bad. 

We had a great time and even managed to squeeze in some snorkeling afterwards.

Visiting Manatee

This first hand account was written by my daughter...

There was one manatee. IT WAS THE SIZE OF MY DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!. The fin was huge. While I was watching it it was sucking on a hose there was some water dripping from the hose. I took some pics they are really good.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Florida Keys (Part 1)

Our next adventure has already begun with a voyage down to the Florida Keys.  My older girls and I departed on a late afternoon run from Miami to Key Largo via the Intercoastal Highway (don't try driving this with your car).   We put in at Matheson Hammock and cruised due south through Biscayne Bay with flat calm seas, overcast sky's and very little wind.  We cut through the Featherbed Bank west of Boca Chita Key and proceeded 187 degrees toward the Cutter Bank Channel between Long Arsenicker Island and Totten Key.  If you miss this channel you'd better have a flats boat or a TowBoat US membership.  The water on either side get's pretty skinny and can end a trip as soon as it started.  From the end of the Channel we entered Card Sound and could make out the Card Sound Bridge southwest of us. 

We cruised southwest along 228 degrees and proceeded through the Card Bank Cut into Little Card Sound.  Across the Sound and were cruising under the Bridge.  My girls kept asking me if Mommy was driving over the bridge.  Our timing has never been that good.  Under the Bridge and we were now cruising south 191 degrees through Barnes Sound towards Jewfish Creek.  From the top of Barnes Sound you could now see the newly constructed teal colored U.S. 1 bridge.   

The degree headings I've just mentioned were critical to locating the entrance to the Creek.  The entrance to the Creek is nearly invisible until you see the channel marker (#29) and that's usually only about 1/2 mile out.  Anything beyond that and the entire coast line looks like one solid wall of mangroves (as it should).  Along the bank's of the Creek were a variety of bird life including snowy egret's, magnificent frigatebird's,  doublebrested cormorants and brown pelicans.  In 1832 John Audubon landed in what is now Key Biscayne and travelled through the Florida Keys eventually reaching the Dry Tortugas.  He documented the bird life in his classic fashion.  Imagine that in 1832 Miami did not exist, the local seat of government was Indian Key (10 acre island oceanside between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Key and now uninhabited) and Key West had been claimed by Commodore Perry for the U.S. only ten years earlier.  Travelling these areas in 1832 must have been one of the wildest places in America. 

The Florida Keys (Part 2)

Through Jewfish Creek we passed under the U.S. 1 Bridge and were greeted by the sounds and smells of the upper keys.  We cruised past the Anchorage resort on the left and Gilbert's on the right where Friday night happyhour was in full swing.  We were starving for some conch fritters, peel n eat shrimp and beer but the light was fading fast and we still had plenty of mangrove channels to navigate (which I've never been through).  From this point you'll start to see houseboats, sailboats, motoryachts and whatever can float and still be called a home.  Here's a picture of my favorite houseboat and another that won't likely get coverage for FEMA flood insurance.

We were now cruising across Blackwater Sound heading for Dusenbury Creek.  Navigating this creek for the first time required solid charts and a watchful eye for the bottom.  It can go from 7 feet to 2 feet before you know it.  Dusenbury breifly dumps you into Tarpon Basin and then it's on through Grouper Creek before heading out into Buttonwood Sound.  We headed through markers 55 through 57A and then it was a short distance to our new home.  The sun was fading fast as tied up to the slip.  The rest of the girls would be another hour before arriving so the gear was unloaded and daddy finally had his first beer in the Keys.