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:
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:
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: