February 11, 2015:
I know, a blog post in real time? Modern day 2015? This is crazy! But, it was all too exciting to let simmer on the back burner. While we embarked on plenty of adventures, excursions and (always) more boat projects since our return from the Keys in May of 2014, honestly, they can wait. From the moment we docked back in May, the next big “sail trip” on the horizon was, for us, the Strictly Sail Miami show in February.
Their unbiased sponsor, Flo, claims, “It’s the sailing event of the season!”
Strictly Sail puts on shows in various cities–Chicago, California, etc.–every year and we had been trying to make it to one for a while. When the show in Miami came up, we booked it months in advance and started scraping our pennies so we could afford, you know, like three drinks in Miami. The show would also be a great opportunity to check out the latest technologies and developments in boat design, sail accessories, electronics and hardware, as well as attend seminars and hands-on sail classes taught by some of the sailing world’s well-versed and renowned experts–Nigel Calder, Jimmy Cornell, John Kretschmer and the like–real, live sailebrities, if you will. *sigh*
I also had another more personal goal in mind. I had been mulling over the idea of polishing and cobbling together a few of my early blog posts into a book for quite some time (I know–surprise, surprise). But, when the time came to get serious about it, I reached out to the man who published my very first sail story for some guidance. You may recall this notorious character —
Bob Bitchin, self-proclaimed “Editor-at-Large” of Cruising Outpost. Bob has written and published a number of books himself over the course of his colorful career, so I figured he could give me some words of wisdom when it came to publishing my own. Bob’s recommendation on publishing? “Self-publish,” he said. “It’s the best way to go.” Self-publish, I thought with a huff. Who’s going to buy my hand-made, self-printed drivel? But, I pondered it for just a bit before I promptly decided to take his bitchin advice and do it! Then I got real bold and told Bob I’d bring him a first edition, signed copy at the Miami show! *gulp* Now I had a real deadline, but an incredibly motivating goal.
Luckily, I busted my arse, finished Salt of a Sailor in record time and packed the very first hard copy with me on the flight to Miami. My plan was to corner Bob at the famous Cruising Outpost Party he hosts every year at the show. I planned to gently saunter up to him at the party, introduce myself in person, book in hand, and thank him for all of his help. Or, if that didn’t work, spring out from behind a port-a-potty if need be and hold him down until he took the book from me and promised to read it cover to cover. Either way, I was excited about the Bob encounter.
The book all printed and packed, Phillip and I hustled ourselves to the airport to get on a big jet airliner to Miami the day before the Strictly Sail show began.
Another really cool part about this trip was that it was our first time to try out this fancy new vacay rental website called Airbnb. Don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a fantastic concept. Anyone, anywhere in the world can list their property (be it their whole house, apartment or studio) or just one room (the guest bedroom, the garage, whatever) on the Airbnb website for rental by total strangers (aka … us!). We had poked around on the site weeks before the trip and found a one-bedroom condo that looked like it was just a few blocks from the Strictly Sail show, which meant we could walk everywhere – no car rental! Even after taxes and the Airbnb service charge, it was still cheaper than any hotel in the area. Thank you Airbnb! We hopped on the Metrorail (a whopping $2.25 a piece to get from the airport to our condo) and headed downtown.
And, when we got to the condo, the Vizcayne on Biscayne Blvd, we were thrilled to find it was literally right across the street from the show!
We could literally throw a stone at the Strictly Sail tent from the front door of our condo building! (That is, if we were inclined to throw stones at it … we opted for embarrassing selfies instead!)
And, the condo? Let’s just say we had a bitchin view!
And, you might think it would be hard to really kick back and get comfortable in someone else’s place? Trust me, it’s not.
But, we didn’t stay at the condo long. We were ready to get out and explore and dig into some authentic Miami cuisine. Our trusted rigger back home, Rick Zern with Zern Rigging, had recommended an upscale Peruvian restaurant near the marina, which turned out to be about a half block from our condo. I’m telling you – location, location, location. So, we went to check it out–CVI.che 105. And, I’ve had some really great ceviche before, I’m definitely a fan, but every time I’ve had it, it’s always been a mix of tiny little diced up pieces that look a lot like pico de gallo. Something like this —
Peruvian ceviche, however? Looks like this!
Huge chunks of shrimp, octopus, fresh fish, calamari, mussels, etc. They’re tart but tender. And, it comes on a bed of fried corn (which adds great texture), these sweet, plump hominy-looking kernels and sweet potato. Yes, sweet potato. I would have never thought to throw in some sweet potato with ceviche, but trust me, the Peruvians know how to do it. We also tried their grilled octopus with chimichurri and creamy pepper sauce,
and Phillip ordered the braised beef and beans, both of which were incredibly flavorful.
Then we were miserable. Pretty much, anyway. That was a lot of food. Way more than we needed at the time, so we knew next time, to order one entree and split there, but it was absolutely divine–best ceviche I have ever had, hands down. Stuffed to the gills, we decided to go poking around the marina, get a little preview of the boats and decide which ones we wanted to check out first tomorrow.
“Uhhh, yes, I’m looking to upgrade my Niagara 35 to a 74″ Catamaran.”
Not really. We would never! We love our Niagara! But, that’s what we were planning to tell the brokers so they would let us on these big, buoyant monsters just for a look-see. There were soooo many floating mansions to see! We spent a couple of hours poking around the boats and the big tent, planning our attack for the next day and eventually worked our appetites back up. (It really doesn’t take much with us, though). After some thorough Trip Advisor scouring, Phillip had rooted out this little place called Toro Toro for us to check out. The bar at Toro Toro was THE happening place in Miami–a modern, swanky atmosphere, finely crafted cocktails and all walks of elegant Miami life.
We also got incredibly lucky to get in without a reservation (because the place was booked solid the rest of the time we were in Miami) but after a quick sip at the bar, they called us right back. From the moment we sat down, everyone in the place stopped by to check on us–make sure we had menus, our candle was lit, had the sommelier come by yet? The service was phenomenal. And, the food? So good I forgot to take pictures. That is … until the highlight. Their La Bomba dessert. I’m not sure you can handle this.
Three scoops of vanilla bean and strawberry ice cream, fresh fruit and cookie crumble, complete with an edible flower garnish, are brought to the table in a sculpted chocolate shell bowl.
The server lays down a clean piece of plastic on the table and then … CRACK! He drops the bowl onto the table where it shatters into a beautiful, melted chocolate dream. Slow-churned caramel is then drizzled over the top, almost like a painting.
It was a true culinary experience.
That, sadly, among these two ravenous travelers, didn’t last long!
We sauntered home with visions of caramel drizzle and chocolate shards dancing in our head. The Strictly Sail show hadn’t even begun yet and we had already sunk our teeth deep into the adventure. Despite the full bellies and travel fatigue, we found it a bit difficult to lull ourselves into a deep sleep that night. Perhaps it was the newness of the place, but I suspect it was the excitement of the day to come–the boats we would explore, the fellow cruisers we were going to meet, the sailebrities!
Phillip and I both rustled to before the sun rose the next morning and started checking the seminar schedule and readying the backpack for the day. This was it! The Strictly Sail Miami show! We stopped in at a little coffee shop at the YVE hotel across from the show, where many Strictly Sail folks were staying, ordered up a couple of lattes to sip on before the show and settled in at a window seat. I was perfectly content, sipping my latte, munching some granola, with a lovely view out of the cafe window. Phillip, however, had a different view. He spotted him first. Over my shoulder. Sitting there, drinking coffee, eating a bagel, like a totally normal person, not five feet from us. The man himself … BOB BITCHIN.
I immediately started sweating, fidgeting with my hair, biting my nails, glancing over my shoulder. It was really him! Phillip and I debated it a bit. Should I bust up on him, now, all starry-eyed and stammering, book-in-hand or wait until the Cruising Outpost party on Saturday? Would it irritate him if I interrupted his breakfast? What if he held up his hand to cut me off and just said, “Sweetheart, talk to my people?” I had no idea what this man would do! I was all hot and clammy and nervous, but ready to get it over with. Phillip pulled the copy of my Salt book I had signed for Bob out of the backpack, handed it to me and told me to go for it …
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