Monthly Archives: December 2016

Merry Christmas!!!

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having a great one!

Last night we tried to go to Christmas Mass, but the church was packed full. We went to dinner early at a great Italian place called Mangia Mangia, where they make home made pasta and sauce. It was great!! Thanks Ted and Sandy for the recommendation. Afterwards we walked Duval Street to check out the people watching, which was equally enjoyable. Lots of people decked out in Christmas garb:

We walked up to the 700-900 block, which is comprised mostly of the gay bars. There were dudes dressed up like women, singing Christmas carols. Hard to tell these are dudes! Matt and Grady posed with one:
This one was singing “Walking round in womens underwear” to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, and was very surprised when Tricia and I knew the words and joined him!!

Today we called family, Facetimed with the kids and grandkids, then had a great Christmas feast on the dock with our friends, complete with turkey, stuffing, twice baked potato casserole, sweet potatoes, ham, cranberry sauce, gravy, 3 bean salad, green bean casserole, key lime pie, pumpkin pie, and chocolate martinis! It was really good!!! Who says you can’t have great food cooking on a boat!
It was also 82 degrees and sunny!

We hope you and your family had a good one!

Surviving Key West

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

I have to admit…as frugal as we are, staying here is worth the cost of the slip. There is so much to do within a short walk. We used the bikes (very nice bikes) that the marina provides and did a grocery run the other day, stopping at a really good taco stand on the way. Other than that bike ride, we have been walking multiple times per day and just exploring. Besides the bars, we have been checking out the houses in Old Town. The architecture is very similar to Southport NC, our new summer home, and since we are building a house next summer we wanted to get some ideas. There are many houses that look like this, and it is the same general plan we want to build:
It also helps to have our builder (as well as one of our best friends) traveling with us and giving us guidance. It is amazing what a house in shambles will cost you here in Key West.

As I mentioned in the last post, the town is decorated for Christmas. Here are some pictures:

In addition to the crazy people you see here, there are some interesting vehicles too:

Kurt and Sharon (Byrd Ketcher), and Matt and Shirley (Sofia Jeanne) have been here for monthly stays several times in the past, and have helped us identify some of the good places to eat and drink. We contributed some of our favorites too. The other night we went to Turtle Kraals and watched the turtle races:
The bar hands out tickets with a number that corresponds to a turtle. If your turtle wins, you pick a key from a board of almost 100 keys. If the key opens the lock on a treasure chest, you win at least $250. Several of us had the winning turtle number, but no one picked the right key, however…Tricia picked the key right next to the winner. Oh well! We really like going to Rick’s on Duval Street (the main drag through Key West, where most of the action is). There is a regular entertainer there called Adrian. Our travel partners know him very well. He has stayed at Matt and Shirley’s house when traveling. He plays dirty songs and picks on the crowd, and is hilarious! Great fun. Here is a picture of him that Shirley snapped:
Kurt snapped this one of all of us at Rick’s last night:

I’ll leave you with some random pictures of the marina, starting with our view from the end of our dock:
The pool:
And a view of the fish around the dock:
Speaking of fish around the dock…there has been a very large bull shark visiting us almost every day when the fishing boats come in. People feed it and the tarpon. It is BIG! We won’t be swimming in the marina!

Key West

Key West, FL
Position: 24 33.749N, 081 47.998W
Posted by Bill

We wrapped up our visit in Marathon with a stop at Harbor Cay Club to visit with our friends there. Having stayed there for a couple of winters, we have made some good friends. It was good to catch up and we hope to see some of them in Key West while we are there. A few of the boats were not home, so we missed a couple of people unfortunately. Maybe we can catch them coming north in January.

On the 14th, we shoved off and cruised to Key West, the of the road if you are traveling by car in the Keys. There was a lot of sea grass floating around, especially in the first half of the trip, and several boats had to clear their raw water intakes a couple of times. Other than that, the trip was uneventful, and we pulled in to Conch Harbor Marina in Key West Bight in mid-afternoon. Here is what Key West looks like as you are coming up the channel:
(Mallory Square where the sunset gathering is:)

We have been to Key West several times via land, but this was our first time here in our boat. It is sssoooooo expensive to pay for slips here, and we are pretty frugal, so we never opted to do it. This year we decided to splurge and check it out for at least one time. Everyone says that Christmas and New Years is a blast here, so we opted to stay until the middle of January. The other reason we have not stayed here on our boat is because we thought we might need a liver transplant if we stayed longer than a week (the longest we stayed before this was 5 days, and it about killed us!) If you are not familiar with Key West, it is known for an endless chain of bars and “anything goes” behavior. There is live music everywhere you turn, and plenty of shops and stores with some unique stuff. One of the best things is the people watching. You can see pretty much anything here.

The marina we are in is gated, has pretty decent restrooms and showers, free laundry (yes, I said free), a nice pool right outside the gate, free bikes, and is right in the heart of the action in the most popular area of Key West called Old Town. The pool is part of a restaurant/bar called Dante’s. Right next door is Half Shell Raw Bar and Schooner Wharf Bar, so if you have been to those places you know where we are. I’ll post some pictures of the area in the next couple of posts.

The night we got here, there was a Christmas boat parade that we could watch from the end of our dock. It was very cool, but the pictures did not turn out too good. Here are a few:

We jumped right in to the happy hour scene and have been having a great time the last couple of days. I’ll post more every couple of days. Everywhere you look, the town is decorated up for Christmas. It makes me think of my Mom. She loved Christmas, especially the lights and decorations. She would be loving this!!! Sure do miss her!

Man…I love the Keys

Marathon FL
Position: 24 42.524N, 081 05.221W
Posted by Bill

I guess that it has been awhile since I posted….I guess we’ve been pretty busy!

Byrd Ketcher and Sofia Jeanne caught back up with us in Marine Stadium and on the 5th we headed south in Biscayne Bay for the Florida Keys. The winds were brisk and the bay was pretty choppy, but for the first time in a long time, we actually got to sail and turn the motor off. We made good time to Tarpon Basin (Key Largo area) and anchored at position 25 07.222N, 080 25.726W. We went ashore and hit a great happy hour with stiff drinks and good food. It was great to be in the Keys again. For one, it is the land of happy hours. They are everywhere and offer great deals on food and drink. Most start around 11AM and go to 6PM, and you usually get a great view. This is where the water clears up and you start to be able to actually see the bottom. Nothing like the Bahamas, but it is still great. Life slows down when you get here. Fewer boats, less stressed out people, fewer Ass Captains (as in the Ass Captain award recipients).

We had a few days of great weather, but a winter front was forecasted to hit the Keys on Friday and last until Monday. Winter fronts are associated with strong (30+ knot winds) out of the north. The bad thing about the Keys is that they are not a lot of places to get protection from the north winds, so we planned to be in Marathon for the weather event. We picked up anchor the next day and moved south to an anchorage off Lorelei’s in Islamorada, our favorite bar in the keys. They have a great location, good live music every day, and a legendary happy hour. Our anchored position was 24 55.634N, 080 38.024W. We enjoyed our evening there very much.

The next day we moved on to Marathon. Every year we have stayed at a private Marina called Harbor Cay Club and have really enjoyed staying there except for the exposure to north winds, in which your boat gets slammed with incoming waves. They have also imposed a 2 month minimum stay, which is longer than we usually plan for because we are looking to get to the Bahamas ASAP after the first of the year. Marina slips are really scarce in Marathon unless you want to pay out the butt, so we opted to go for the Boot Key Harbor mooring field. The harbor is protected from winds of all directions. The city of Marathon manages 226 mooring balls, and there are a few places to anchor outside of the mooring field. The good thing is that it is reasonably priced and you can dinghy to Sombrero Beach and many bars and restaurants. It is also close walking distance to Home Depot, Publix, Liquor Stores, a movie theater, and many more restaurants. The bad thing is that it is usually full this time of year, and after the new year there is a long waiting list of people wanting to rent a mooring. You can’t make reservations and have to actually be in the harbor to have a mooring assigned. Also, you have to show up in person with a picture ID to get on the waiting list, which means you have to find a place to anchor and come ashore, first come first served. When we got to the harbor there was one mooring available and we had 3 boats, so that meant 2 would have to anchor. We were first in, had the longest boat and deepest draft (not as easy to find a place to anchor as them), and our friends told us to take the mooring and they anchored, hoping we would get 2 more moorings before the weather hit. Thursday was really nice and we took the dinghy to Sombrero Beach for the afternoon:

Well, the winds came on early in the AM on Friday as predicted, but they were’t able to get a mooring until Friday afternoon. It was a little dicey for them because the anchorage was really tight and boats were swinging around like crazy in the wind, but they made it OK and finally got tied up on a mooring. The winds have been howling and our wind generator is making power like crazy!! We have been taking advantage of happy hours, and made stops to Home Depot and Publix. The other day we hooked up with Bob and Cat on Sea Lyon. If you remember, they have stayed at Harbor Cay Club every year and also traveled to the Bahamas with us last year. They are at Harbor Cay again, so we hooked up at a happy hour and caught up on what they have been doing. They were getting their asses kicked in the north winds, and it made me glad we picked Boot Key Harbor!

We earned another Ass Captain award the other day. We had made a run to shore in the dinghy, and when we got back to the boat we had some stuff to take aboard, which I handed to Tricia. Our usual routine is that Tricia climbs out and ties the dinghy up while I negotiate the dinghy along side the boat. Then I hand stuff up. After we got aboard, after a few minutes, someone knocks on our boat and yells “Island Bound?” We come up from down below and here is a guy holding our dinghy. Neither one of us tied it up or checked it (which we always do) because we were preoccupied with getting the crap on board the boat, and it just drifted away! Thank God the guy who found it was cool and brought it back to us. I was extremely embarrassed, but it does actually happen quite frequently, just not to us!

The mooring field is so big that they have 2 sets of dinghy docks:

Here are a couple of pics of the mooring field:
We have a few boat chores to do (pickle the water maker, jug some water from shore, buy a few boat parts), and plan to hit Sunday Fun Day at Sunset Grill, and then will move on to Key West. It looks like we have an excellent weather window Tuesday and Wednesday, so we are planning on taking advantage of it to have a smooth passage.

Not to piss off our friends and family up north, but the weather has been in the low 80s except for the latest weather event. The highs were in the mid 70s for the last couple of days…oh well! Signing off for now, leaving you with sunset pics from Tricia:

Arriving in Miami…and to a serious leak

Marine Stadium, Miami FL
Position: 25 44.505N, 080 09.984W
Posted by Bill

We really enjoyed Stuart while we were there, and also some rest from traveling almost every day for weeks. The next stage of travel was to get through Fort Lauderdale, into Miami and Biscayne Bay, then head into the Florida Keys. Miami and Fort Lauderdale have placed several anchoring restrictions that severely limit the number of places you can anchor, which forces you into renting a slip. The slip prices in these places are pretty stiff, so we were looking to skip Fort Lauderdale all together and travel off shore from Lake Worth (Palm Beach) to Miami in one really long day. There are over 30 bridges to negociate when you take the ICW from Lake Worth to Miami, which is a major pain in the ass, so missing those by going off shore was a large factor in choosing that route. The next window of decent weather was looking like 12/2-12/3, so we left Stuart and traveled to Lake Worth, anchoring just off the inlet at position: 26 46.102N, 080 2.673W. Along the way, Byrd Ketcher broke an alternator belt, so we waited while Kurt put on a new one, and off we went. One of the things that I hate about south Florida are the power boaters. They are assholes. In the Carolinas and Georgia, everyone waves when we pass each other , and most power boats are aware of the effect of their wake on smaller boats and sailboats, so they are courteous. Not so in south Florida. You say hi…they ignore you like you are not there. They will throw a 4 foot wake flying right next to you with no regard of the effect. So here is Byrd Ketcher, anchored just off the channel, clearly broken down, and the power boats just go flying by! It is just unbelievable how rude and egotistical these people are. Really tough to work on a boat at anchor with power boats throwing wakes at you. End of rant…

We met up with Tricia’s cousin Bob and his wife Lynn in Lake Worth. They live nearby and really wanted to have dinner with us. We took the dinghy ashore to Riviera Beach Marina, paid a tie up fee, and they picked us up and treated us to a fantastic dinner. It was really nice talking to them and enjoying the meal. We had planned to leave at 4AM the next morning so we beat it back to the boat and checked the weather…window closed for leaving the next day off shore, but Friday looked OK for going off shore from Lauderdale to Miami (which we have to do because our mast is too tall to take the ICW for that stretch), so we decided to take the ICW to Lauderdale and try to find a place to anchor.

We left early on the 2nd, and about 2 hours into the trip Byrd Ketcher develops an engine overheating problem (rough luck for them this trip). It looks like they need to replace the water pump which will require an overnight stay at Boyten Beach to get parts. Sofia Jeanne and Byrd Ketcher can go ICW all the way to Miami since their masts are lower than ours, and the weather window for us to go off shore is about an 8 hour window, so we reluctantly leave them behind to deal with the issue and press on. We anchored in Sunset Bay in Fort Lauderdale in position: 26 08.577N, 080 06.525W. It was a great anchorage and there were only 2 other boats with us:

The next day we went out the inlet at Fort Lauderdale and motored to Govenors Cut inlet at Miami. We stayed about a mile and a half off shore and had pretty calm seas until the last 3rd of the trip:
The seas were following, so it was pretty comfortable. Pictures of arriving in Miami:
We seem so small next to the big ships!

We pulled into Marine Stadium, which is an abandoned stadium where they held boat races and ski competitions, etc… It is now a really nice anchorage with a fantastic view of the Miami skyline:
As we pulled in, the bilge pump kick on, which it never does. We don’t get much water in the bilge normally, never enough to kick on the pump. Couple of minutes later, it kicks off again, and it kept doing it while we were looking for a spot to drop the hook. I did a quick drop, enough to find out what was dumping water into the bilge. You get a real sour feeling in the gut when you know the boat is taking on water, trust me. After troubleshooting, we found that a hose fitting on the hot water heater had broken and fresh water was being dumped into the bilge as fast as the pump would push it, then subsequently dumped into the bay by the bilge pump. Easy to stop it by switching off the fresh water pump, but we didn’t have a spare for that part of the system. I should also note that Marine Stadium is at least 4 miles away from anything that could potentially provide a new part. After digging through our spare plumbing parts, we found a fitting that matched from the air conditioner condensation drainage plumbing…an absolute miracle! It took some effort to remove the broken part, and we had to move all of the stuff out of the “garage” (aft berth) to do the repair, but all went well. Next, since we dumped more than half of our tank of fresh water, we needed to commission the new water maker I installed. We hadn’t been in decent water to run the thing until now, so yesterday I started it up, and we had issues. One, I had switched the output fittings on the pressure cylinder, so brine water was coming out of the fresh water hose. Two, the pump that we use to provide sea water wouldn’t push the air out of the system. I spent most of the day in the cockpit locker where all of the stuff is installed, and finally got it working. We made about 15 gallons of water in an hour and then called it quits for the day. Today we will do some exploring and make more water.

Meanwhile, our traveling partners continued to work on Byrd Ketcher several times along the way, and we expect them here this afternoon. I think the overheating problems are finally solved. Fingers crossed.