Monday, December 26th through Wednesday, December 28th – layover at Dinner Key

Cutter Loose remains at anchor near Dinner Key on the western shore of Biscayne Bay.  The dinghy dock at Dinnner Key Marina provides convenient access to Coconut Grove with its trendy shops, restaurants, theaters, galleries, Starbucks, private schools and academies.  A Fresh Market foodstore (very similar to Whole Foods) is located on the waterfront adjacent to Dinner Key Marina.  The Grove, taken together with Coral Gables is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the City of Miami.

Streetscape scene in The Grove

A former Naval air base here on Dinner Key was acquired by Pan American Airlines as the base of operations for its twin engine Commodore seaplanes.   The inaugural flight from Dinner Key to Panama occurred on December 1, 1930.   For a fare of $35, passengers could board one of Pan Am’s flying ships for a round-trip flight to Havana or Nassau.  Pan Am discontinued its use of these facilities in 1945, after which the terminal building became (and still is) utilized as Miami’s City Hall.  Several of the former hangars on the waterfront are now utilized as marinas and sailing centers.  Today, retro Pan Am handbags (popularized by the current TV series of the same name) are hot-selling commodities in the village.

Lunch with fellow Irene survivors Barbara and Scott

On Monday, we arrange to meet friends Barbara and Scott for lunch in Coconut Grove.  We first bonded with these Key Biscayne residents in Shelter Island, NY on the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irene in August, 2011.  Like us, they opted to ride out Irene on a mooring at the Shelter Island Yacht Club.  Like us, they overnighted ashore without electricity at the Chequit Inn during the passage of Irene.  It is good to be with these folks again, this time under less threatening circumstances.  After lunch, Scott and Barbara provide a narrated automobile tour of the lovely communities of Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne.  A big thank you to Barbara and Scott for getting together with us and introducing us to your hood.

Cutter Loose at anchor near Dinner Key where Pan Am Clipper Ships once landed on Biscayne Bay and taxied to the terminal. Miami skyline in background.

The temperature tonight is perfect for dining and lounging in the cockpit of Cutter Loose, recounting the events of the day.  We gaze at the lights of the City and the movement of aircraft across the night sky on final approach to Miami International.  We try to imagine Pan Am Clippers landing in these waters. This is a remarkable place to spend the night at anchor.

Coco Walk, an intown specialty mall with multiplex theater

On Tuesday, we continue our stroll through the Grove, enjoying lunch at a sidewalk cafe and a movie at the local stadium seating multiplex in which George Clooney delivers a strong performance in the film Descendants.  When we return to the dinghy dock, the wind is up in advance of an approaching cold front.  The whitecaps join us in the dinghy for the lumpy ride back to Cutter Loose.  We arrive at the boat looking like a couple of soggy wharf rats.  Tonight we watch the Kennedy Center Honors on the ship’s TV as the wind increases in intensity and begins its gradual shift to the northwest, then north.

Egret transit

The cold front passes in the early morning hours, leaving 10 knot winds and crystal clear skies in its wake.  At 9 AM on Wednesday, the temperature is 62 degrees, headed to a high of 72 later this afternoon.  Not exactly survival conditions, but a noticeable change in temperature and humidity nonetheless.

Wednesday’s exploration includes a stop at nearby Miami City Hall, which was the former Pan American Airlines terminal building.  City staff were quite accommodating, urging us to examine the historic Pan AM photographs throughout the building.

Historic Pan Am photos on display at City Hall

Vizcaya mansion and museum

Next on the agenda is a visit to Vizcaya, the winter home of International Harvester vice president James Deering.  This waterfront residence was constructed between 1914 and 1916, but was designed to resemble much older structures dating back to the Italian Renaissance.  Most of the furniture, fireplaces, doors and even ceilings were purchased in Europe and transported to Miami for this project.  The mansion is surrounded by ornate gardens.

Vizcaya Gardens

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Dinner Key/Coconut Grove.  But it is time to move further south in the Keys.  Next stop: Key Largo.

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