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Dinner Key Marina, Coconut Grove, and The Barnacle

Gary and I did some stretches and exercised on the bow of White Swan before weighing anchor and heading west across Biscayne Bay to Dinner Key. Our friends, Tom and Pat Dennis told us about the marina there and we went to check it out. Their slip rentals are rather expensive, in our opinion, so we opted to rent a mooring ball for three days. The amenities of the marina were available to us since we rented a mooring ball. For those anchoring in the area, there is no access to the marina’s dinghy dock or any other amenities: laundry, water, pump out, WiFi, and boat shuttle from and to the marina, (no fuel). However boaters, if you choose to anchor in this area (along with all the grounded derelict boats) there is a boat ramp that can be used to land dinghies at a public park just a little south of the marina.
The young man in the marina office was very nice and informative, telling us about the marina and the nearby area. There are two restaurants on shore near the water, within easy walking distance north of the marina. We found the Chart House restaurant and right next to it, going back south, is a family and dog friendly diner with mostly outdoor seating. “Scotties” reminded us of some of the restaurants in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) and we chose to have lunch there. In BVI fashion, Gary enjoyed conch salad and fish chowder. On the other hand, I relished a good old fashioned hamburger.

Wondering if there was an easier way to get to these restaurants, we walked back to the marina, staying close to the water’s edge and found a path from Scotties going to the parking lot of the City Hall*, which is adjacent to Dinner Key Marina. It’s a much shorter walk taking this shortcut, rather than walking quite a distance west to get to the main street and then go north to get to the restaurants.

*The City Hall is located in a renovated Pan American clipper building. Back in the day, the area was a seaplane base first used for the Pan Am clippers that flew to the Caribbean and South America, and then it became home for the U.S. Coast Guard. We tried to enter the City Hall building, but it was locked to the public.

Coco Walk restaurants and vendors


We walked to the Coconut Grove district, which is southwest of the marina, and found many shops and cafes. The Coconut Grove area is actually part of the city of Miami but it has an ambiance uniquely it’s own, boasting of old Florida charm.

Olympic sailors sailing through the mooring field

The U.S. Sailing Center at Coconut Grove‘s Kennedy Park is one of the training sites for the U.S. Olympic sailing team. We are lucky enough to be here while young athletic sailors from various countries are here in training. Many sail boats of various sizes and from numerous countries, sail through the mooring field where we are moored on their way to Biscayne Bay for practice or regattas.

After exploring a small portion of the Coconut Grove area, we headed back to the boat, just in time to get caught in a rain shower. Fortunately, we brought our windbreakers with us and they offered some protection from the rain. As we were nearing the dinghy dock, Gary made the statement, “ I bet this rain ends about the same time we get to the boat.” He was right…



This morning, we both wanted a hot shower, so instead of starting up the motor to run the hot water heater on the boat, we opted to go to the marina shower house. While there, we did some laundry, and I took advantage of the extra space in the shower house and cut my hair, being careful to clean up my mess. Years ago, my hairdresser friend, Pam Kendall, taught me how to cut hair. The skill certainly comes in handy while living aboard White Swan, as we don’t have the nuisance of having to find a place to get our hair cut. Thanks, Pam!

Taking advantage of the marina’s boat shuttle, I took the laundry back to the boat (much easier than schlepping it on the dinghy), and Gary and I prepared for a day ashore, intending to explore Coconut Grove more thoroughly and have a picnic lunch in one of the parks.

Costing 25 cents a person, we boarded the Coconut Grove trolley and toured the district, familiarizing ourselves to the area. This was very beneficial in that without undue exertion, we located the Fresh Market grocery a short distance north of the Chart House, and we were able to see what was downtown in Coconut Grove. The trolley ends at the metro station, where normally all patrons disembark; but after explaining to the driver what we were doing, she not only allowed us to stay on the bus, but also explained how the bus and metro system operates in Miami. What a gift! She told us exactly what to do to get to South Beach from Coconut Grove, giving us the confidence we needed to go there tomorrow.

Cocoa Walk in Coconut Grove

After our trolley tour, we walked through Coco Walk, which is a uniquely designed open-air business area with artisan shops of art, jewelry, pottery, antiques, entertainment, etc. Instead of having our picnic in a park, we decided to sit by the square’s fountain to eat and people watch while basking in the ambience of the sites.

After finding a sport’s bar where we can return to watch the football playoff games, we continued our walking tour. Walking south, we found a sign, beside the sidewalk on the east side of the main street, indicating a tourist site, of Commodore Ralph Middleton Monroe’s home, The Barnacal (circa 1887). We followed a picturesque path through a hammock, leading us to The Barnacal, so named because the inside architectural design of the loft is shaped like a barnacle.

Commodore Munson's home which he mostly built from wreckage material

Most of the original acreage owned by the Commodore has been sold, but the grounds of The Barnacle were donated by the late owner’s family to the Florida State Park and is now impeccably maintained by volunteers who have a passion for preservation of such treasures. The two tour guides expressed personal sentiments to this grand old place, while they led us through the residence, yard, and boathouse. A few descendants of the Commodore still live in the area and occasionally stop by The Barnacle to talk to the caretakers, connecting the fragmented past to the present…thus, the loyalty of all who lovingly care for this “home” and it‘s history.

Rails used to haul out boats, with replic of "Egret" in background

The Commodore was a “wrecker” by trade, back in the day when channels through the Florida Keys were not marked as they are today, and navigation was tricky, to say the least. There was a gentleman’s rule that who ever arrived at a shipwreck first, had the rights to salvage. Therefore, it was out of the Commodore’s best interest to design fast moving boats so he could have the first right of salvage. He designed 56 boats throughout his lifetime, the favorite of which he christened “Egret“. Most of his home was made from wreckage salvage material. The Commodore’s brilliance is evident in not only the designs of his boats, but also in the architecture of his house and boathouse, built to withstand the ferocious hurricanes. Trial and error made him a master of both crafts. By the end of our tour, we were so impressed with the Commodore, we bought a book from the quaint gift shop entitled, The Commodore’s Story, The Early Days on Biscayne Bay by Ralph Middleton Munroe and Vincent Gilpin.

Inside Commodore Munson's boat house

After an enlightening time spent at The Barnacle, we walked to the Chart House to have a relaxing dinner while enjoying the view from our table by a window. Our spiritually adopted daughter, Kelly Ousley, would have been delighted to have been there with us for two reasons: one, she would have loved the view, and two, the Chart House is one of her favorite restaurants. This picture was taken with her in mind.

Before walking back to the marina, via our earlier found shortcut, Gary enjoyed pompano in banana rum sauce for his entrée while I had parmesan crusted snapper. Dinner at the Chart House cannot be complete without sharing their famous flourless chocolate lava cake, which has to be ordered when the entrée is ordered, as it is prepared upon request. Chocolate is the best way to end any day…















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