During the semi-quarantine winter of 2020 Lisa and I found that we just couldn’t stand the dark and cold any longer. So even though Rover was hauled out in Annapolis, we flew to Fort Lauderdale for a 5-week stay.
As I have written on these pages before, Fort Lauderdale is a fantastic location that we love, but while it’s a great live aboard location for a sailboat, it’s not the best sailing location. In Lauderdale the open ocean is the only game in town and that means waiting for a reasonable break from typically very stiff winter winds – and even then waiting for a day when the wind is coming out of the south or southeast to keep the sea state from being too choppy.
The Biscayne Bay out of Miami, however, is almost a sailing paradise. Because it’s comparatively sheltered from the ocean (especially from the north), it’s a great spot for daysailing and hosts a very lively sailboat racing scene out of the Coconut Grove Sailing Center. At the end of February we got two fantastic weekend daysails in on our friend Mike’s Sabre 425. I know the boat well because she had sat unloved for seven years in Jabins Yacht Yard before Mike bought her and did a fantastic job bringing her back to life.
Both days we had breezes in the low to mid 20s, and the first of the two days they were primarily out of the north which would have made sailing off of Fort Lauderdale miserable. But in the shelter of the Bay we were able to simply roll out the jib and play around for most of the day. We even got some race spectating in.
As I had found with my keel centerboard Sabre 42, the 425 sails beautifully under jib alone in fresh breezes. Mike’s boat has a fixed, shoal wing keel instead of the keel centerboard and I found the 425’s sailing dynamics reminded me very much of our (also shoal draft) Hylas 54 in the sense that the keel really doesn’t start lifting – and so the boat doesn’t really come alive – before she’s going six knots or more through the water. On these two days that wasn’t much of a challenge however!
About the only knock I could make on Biscayne Bay daysailing is that the Bay is actually quite shallow in many places (making the 425’s modest draft highly desirable), so one needs to tack back and forth within a relatively confined space during the day. That’s a perfectly fine tradeoff to get in a bunch of days’ sailing during the winter that would be foregone in Fort Lauderdale.
On the second of our two sailing days we ducked in a little early in anticipation of heavy rains forecast for the evening…
…but we utterly failed to avoid getting soaked on the dinghy ride back to shore from Mikes Dinner Key mooring. As it turned out we spent too long in the cockpit having cocktails and telling sailing stories (lies?) before the rains overcame us. For me at least, it was more than worth it!