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: