Monthly Archives: January 2017

We are getting spoiled

Buttonwood Sound, Key Largo FL
Position: 25 07.095 N 080 26.645 W
Posted by Bill

The Tuesday after the storm provided very settled weather, and the forecast for the week was pretty awesome, so we moved the boat just outside the west entrance to Tarpon Basin. There is a large area of 7-8 foot depth with mostly sand bottom, that has excellent protection from the north through east winds, moderate protection from south winds, and is exposed to the west. Winds were expected to be light, starting from the south, moving west, and then building at the end of the week to 25 knots out of the north. This provided a fantastic place to anchor. We can see the boat from the house we are in, and it is 5-10 minute dinghy ride between the two. As stated in the last post, we weren’t planning to stay in the house, but there is a small apartment type setup in the bottom floor that we could have all to ourselves. It gave us a place to be where we didn’t feel like we were imposing on Mark and Diane, and we got to hang out. With the boat in view and securely anchored, we took advantage. Unlimited water and power, a large bathroom with a fantastic shower, stores and restaurants within walking distance, and the use of a car!!! If you are a cruiser, you know what this means!!!! We have been getting spoiled. I have run out to the boat every day to run the generator, and there were a few days where the wind generator and solar panels have kept up. The winds picked up on Friday out of the north as forecasted, and a front came through yesterday bringing wind and rain, but the boat held fine. It was really nice to be inside a house and not stuck on the boat for 2 days.

While walking one day, I noticed this house with a trampoline on the outside corner of the 3rd story. I wonder who thought that was a good idea???
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Update: Blog is back…we are dealing with a nasty storm!

Tarpon Basin, Key Largo FL
Position: 25 07.249 N, 080 25.847 W
Posted by Bill

Well, the blog site is back up and running on new technology. I hope it improves the speed.

We had a hard “stop” on our slip in Key West. The key hosts a big sailing regatta (race, in case you are not a sailor) and all of the marinas in Key West are booked for at least a week. For us and Sofia Jeanne, we had to vacate our slip on the 15th of January. Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher had a reservation in Key West until the end of January, so they were staying for a bit longer. The winds were blowing out of the east up to 25 knots for about 10 days, creating a lumpy sea state, so we opted to move to the next key up the chain, Stock Island. There is a really nice marina there, but it is really expensive ($4 per foot per day, plus electricity). We tied up at position: 24 33.906 N, 081 44.24 W. It was a short 2 hour trip, which was a good thing, because the sea state was 3-5 foot waves with a 4 second wave period…aka…very uncomfortable. We have gotten to the place in our cruising that we don’t like to be in an uncomfortable sea state for very long, so we bit the bullet and paid to stay in Stock until it improved.
View from our slip in Key West:
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Some pictures coming out of Key West:

There is not much to do on Stock Island, a direct contrast to Key West, but they have a shuttle that regularly goes to town or to the grocery store if you want. We did some grocery shopping, but after a month in Key West, we were ready for a break. There are two really good restaurants within walking distance of the marina, Hogfish Bar and Grill, and Roostica. We hit both while we were there. Hogfish is known for their seafood, and Roostica is known for their pizza and Italian food. We had never been to Roostica before, and the pizza was absolutely fantastic. The best travel day in the weather forecast was Thursday the 19th, and we took off and motored to Marathon.

Our plan after Key West was to hole up in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on a mooring ball until we left for the Bahamas. This time of year there is a waiting list for mooring balls and we ended up being number 36 on the list, with an estimated fulfillment time of 3 weeks. We ended up anchoring in the Sister’s Creek entrance to Boot Key at position: 24 42.216 N, 081 06.190 W. The anchorage was packed full, but we found an area to drop the hook. I tried several times to get the anchor to set properly, to no avail. The night we arrived had very settled weather, so we decided to set on the anchor and try to reset it the next day. We enjoyed dinner and drinks on the boat together with Matt and Shirley on Sofia Jeanne. It was a good night. Two other things were factors in our planning for the near term…Tricia’s sister had rented a house on Buttonwood Sound in Key Largo, just southwest of Tarpon Basin, and we wanted to spend some time with them; and there was a major weather event coming for Sunday through Tuesday, one which we needed decent shelter from south and west winds up to 40 knots. We were nervous about our anchor not setting well in Boot Key and how crowded it was…both not good for a nasty storm, so the next day we headed for Key Largo.
We left on the 20th, and had 2 to 4 foot beam (hitting the side of the boat) seas half of the way there, and we were rolling badly. At one point something fell and hit the water knob on the sink in the aft bathroom and flooded the sink, soaking everything inside it. Thankfully, Tricia noticed it before it dumped a bunch of our fresh water into the bilge! We made it to Buttonwood Sound and anchored a couple hundred yards off of her sister’s house, at position: 25 06.362 N, 080 26.632 W. The house has a small lagoon with a protected dock, and we were able to dinghy right in and tie up. She and her husband had a cocktail waiting at the Tiki Hut beside the dock, and since we hadn’t had a decent shower in 2 days, we took a shower in quick order. It was awesome to have this big shower to ourselves, and one that was not a public or marina bathroom!!!! We hadn’t intended to stay at their house, but the weather was still calm, and our boat was securely anchored, and we enjoyed a night in a real bed!!! We lived close to her sister (Diane) and husband (Mark) when we lived in Ohio, and we were always good friends and doing fun stuff with them, so it was really good to see them. Here are a couple of pictures of the awesome house and property they rented:
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The wind was going to start to pick up the next day, so we moved the boat into neighboring Tarpon Basin in anticipation of the impending storm. Tarpon Basin has good protection from all compass directions, but has notoriously bad holding due to the amount of sea grass on the bottom. We had dragged anchor badly in 25 knot winds there several years ago, so my anxiety was up. Anticipating 35-40 knot winds from the south and west, we picked a spot close to the south and west edge of the basin and found a large patch of sand with no grass. We have 2 anchors, a Delta plow anchor and a Bruce anchor. The Bruce is better for the sea bed we had in the basin, so I used that, and we got a great set in the sand. Winds were 15-20 knots, but we had enough protection to go to the dinghy dock where Diane picked us up, and we spent the day at their house, returning that night to the boat. The anchor held great, so we joined them for breakfast the next day and then returned to the boat to get ready for the high winds and nasty storm front that was coming.

It hit us pretty much as projected. 15-25 knots Sunday evening, 25-35 knots Monday into Tuesday. The storm front moved through about 4:30 AM and the wind shifted to the west. Lots of rain, lightning and a tornado watch. It was probably the worst storm we have had at anchor. The anchor held great, even through the wind shift. Right now it is blowing into the mid-30s and there is 2-3 foot breaking waves in this protected basin. There are not many boats in here, maybe because of the known holding issues, but no one seemed to have a problem dragging anchor here during this weather event. We heard from Sofia Jeanne, who is still in Sister’s Creek, and they are doing fine. There were several incidents with boats dragging there, and also dinghies floating away from the mother vessel! Thankfully, not with them. Tomorrow we will be able to go ashore again and rejoin Diane and Mark, and then Wednesday when the winds shift, we can anchor off of their house again. Here is a sample of the sea state in Tarpon Basin:

Here is a picture of our boat in the distance, anchored off of Mark and Diane’s house:

The blog is moving…….and so are we!

Key West, FL

The high winds have been blowing all week, and we have to vacate our slip on Sunday. We won’t have a decent sea state until next Wednesday or Thursday, so we are moving to the east side of Key West in Stock Island to wait out the weather, and then move on to Marathon.

We are also moving the blog to a new technology platform, so we cannot update content until it is done, and it may take a week or so. Given that, we won’t be posting until that is complete. See you on the new platform!

Key West Update

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

We have had a great stretch of weather, both for our trip south, and while we have been here in the Keys. There have only been a couple of bouts of rain, and 4 or 5 days of high winds since we left on November 1st. Yesterday, we got hit with the worst weather so far this cruising season. It looks like the entire country is feeling this one…temps under 10 degrees in Ohio, snow and ice in the Carolinas, and high winds and cold temps in the Keys. Some rain came through with the front yesterday, and the winds have been blowing over 30 knots, and we had a low of 57 degrees this morning…brrrrrr! I know our northern friends and family are playing violins right now, but let me tell you…we have lived pretty much in summer conditions year round for 3 years, and when it gets below 70, I get cold. It truly is all relative. Good thing is, we are tied to a slip and can get off the boat, and if necessary…turn on our heating system. Thank goodness it hasn’t come to that yet. We are getting rocked quite a bit here in the harbor, as the winds have produced some chop, but man…the people anchored out or in the mooring field here are really getting their asses kicked. Glad to be where we are. The Key West Mooring field is very exposed to winds and wakes, especially from the north, which is where the worst winds come from in the winter months. We know friends that are/have staying/stayed there for extended periods, and there have been several times that you can not get off the boat for several days because it is too rough to go ashore in the dinghy. When people ask about our life style, you often hear them make envious comments. We always tell them “it isn’t all sunsets and cocktails”, and this is a good example of the other side of living this way, so it is one of those things you have to endure.

We have been working a routine of running to the grocery store every few days by bike, taking walks through town, doing a little boat maintenance, hitting happy hours, and walking the bars and entertainment at night. Our traveling partners, Sofia Jeanne and Byrd Ketcher, have been having a series of friends visit them, pretty much one right after the other, and since everyone visiting is on vacation, we all end up going out almost every day. It is good because we have become good friends of their friends and it has really been great to see them and hang out with them. The bad thing is that our spending has skyrocketed (although not as bad as we anticipated), and the pace of partying has worn us out. Last night was the first night we took a break and just hung out on the boat watching Netflix. Well needed rest!!!

There is a big sailing race here in Key West in a few weeks and the marina is booked for that period of time, so we have a hard end date of January 16th that we have to vacate our slip. Being the weather fanatic that I am, I have been looking at forecasted contitions for our passage back to Marathon. Right now, there isn’t a great weather window for our escape, and I spent several hours yesterday looking at our options. The holding isn’t great in the anchorages here, and the mooring field and marinas are full. There is a marina about an hour from here up island that is a possibility, so we will continue to keep an eye on the situation. The boat is certainly capable of almost any weather condition, but we have found that we are not fond of traveling in seas where we get our asses kicked. The worst situation is wind on nose, keeping us from getting sails up to steady the boat, short wave periods – 6 seconds or less, and waves over 3 feet…especially beam seas (waves from the side of the boat). Our boat is susceptible to rolling, and beam seas are very uncomfortable. Right now the forecast is calling for 4-6 foot seas on the nose and winds in the high teens to low 20s on the nose, with wave periods around 5 seconds. We don’t really want to deal with that for 10 hours straight, if we don’t have to.

We are also starting to look at our Bahamas plan. Right now, we are planning to work our way back up the Keys, and target a crossing as soon as we can get a weather window after the first of February. We have family renting a house in Key Largo during that time period, so we want to visit with them for awhile on the way back up. We also have to plan a trip to Miami via land, to provision for the Bahamas. That usually involves renting a car for the day, and all of the logistics involved with that. Land based travel is a pain in the ass while cruising. You need to find a way to get wheels, and also a safe place to leave the boat while you are gone. If it is more than a day, you need to make sure you have adequate power to keep your food frozen/cold. Not easy in the Keys unless you find a slip somewhere, which is getting harder to do. We have noticed a significant increase in people cruising this year. Marinas, mooring fields and anchorages are staying full…much more so than when we started. It requires better planning and luck with the weather. We have met quite a few people that are on their first year of cruising, several that have never owned a boat before…WOW…talk about jumping in the deep end with not knowing how to swim!

Key West has been really fun, but we are ready for the seclusion and simple life of the Bahamas. We will miss the people watching…like this guy…who needs bars when you have a 12 pack and a park bench:

Happy New Year!!

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Happy New Year everyone! New Year’s Eve has for a long time been a holiday where we just party at home. We would usually get together with close friends and just hang out. This year was quite different. Since we don’t have to drive, and there is a crazy party going on all through Key West, we got in to the fray. The city closes off Duval Street and some adjacent streets that intersect, and the whole closed off area is jammed with people. On a normal day, Key West does not enforce the open container laws, so it makes for a crazy atmosphere on New Year’s Eve. There are at least 3 “ball drop” events around town that I know of. One is up Duval where the gay and lesbian bars are, and a transvestite rides a giant ladies shoe down. Another is along the docks at Key West Bight, where we are docked, where a pirate wench is lowered from a schooner mast. The third is at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval, where a large, lit up conch shell, rides down and a large “2017” sign lights up at midnight. We (Byrd Ketcher, Sofia Jeanne, and friends Jack and Lori) chose Sloppy Joe’s. We snagged some seats in the back of Ricks, directly across from the conch drop. At about 10:00, things started to get crazy in the streets. They had a DJ standing on the roof at Sloppy Joe’s who was playing loud music and working the crowd up to the big event. People were throwing beads from balconies, and girls were flashing breasts (not as many as New Orleans). At midnight there were people shaking up bottles of champagne and spraying the crowd. The streets were so packed that you could barely move. I was glad we had a front row seat in Ricks, as we had somewhat of a buffer, and a bathroom (lol):
It was a blast to celebrate with our good friends!!!

Leading up to the new year, we made a few runs to the grocery store on bikes, hung by the pool one day, and did our usual happy hour routine. The day after Christmas the crowds started to pick up in town, and it has been really busy. You quickly get tired of fighting the tourists, especially on Duval, but the people watching has been fantastic. Today there is a big pot luck on the dock, which should be fun.

Here is a picture of Darth Vader playing a banjo. We thought our grandson Wrigley would like this one!!

Speaking of grandsons….our latest arrived on the 29th…Liam:15822858_10154049405906689_6814007917258463093_n
Congratulations to Eric and Jessica! This was the first grandchild that we were not there when they were born, which was a real bummer.

Have a great 2017 everyone!