Category Archives: Florida

Back in South Carolina

5/13/17
Beaufort, SC
Position: 32 25.742N, 080 40.757W

Sorry I have not been keeping up with the blog. We are in travel mode along the ICW, and it seems like after a couple of years of posting of the same places in both spring and fall, it is hard to come up with something new, unless something crazy happens. On top of that, we have been putting in some very long days of travel, and it is more difficult to find the time it takes to keep up the posts. Here is a recap of our travels since New Smyrna Beach.

We left New Smyrna on 5/5 at pre-dawn. We had slip reservations at Marineland Marina which was a 10-11 hour trip. We were getting hit with high winds again (again!!!!), and they were forecasting gale force winds out of the west for just about the time we were going to arrive…not good for docking, especially at Marineland. We decided to make a short run up to Daytona Beach and stay at the Halifax Harbor Marina, and leave the next day for St Augustine since the forecast was showing light winds the next day. It was a really nice marina, and we tied up at position 29 12.221N, 081 00.834W. We got there before noon, so we decided to explore Daytona Beach. It was Cinco de Mayo, so we went to a really good authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch and celebrated! We walked to get some provisions and then went to happy hour at the Chart House right next to the marina. It was really windy, and we were glad we held up.

On 5/6 we headed out pre-dawn and made our way to St Augustine, one of our favorite stops. The forecast was wrong, as usual, and we had strong winds all the way until we arrived and picked up a mooring next to the Bridge of Lions in downtown St Augustine, position 29 53.671N, 081 18.536W. Here is a picture of this cool bridge opening for some sail boats:
File_002
We took a long walk and hit some of our usual stops for drinks, music and dinner. The architecture in the city is very cool. Here are a couple of pictures of Flagler College, that are typical of other buildings. In the early 1900’s Henry Flagler had the vision to build the first railroad through Florida all the way to Key West. They would build a section of railway for about 50 miles and then he would build a resort for all of the rich people of the time. It is pretty cool history if you haven’t checked it out. The Flagler College building pictured was the resort hotel he constructed for St Augustine.
File_003 cmp
File_004 cmp

We spent 2 days in St Augustine and then started the tough part of the trip…going through Georgia. If you have followed the blog, you may remember that there are 3 major shoal areas along the Georgia ICW, a couple in northern Florida, and several in South Carolina. You must time the tide for adequate depth, and also work out how the substantial tidal currents will affect your arrival at these spots. There are 8 and 9 foot tides, and currents greater than 2 knots. You may also remember that we have named Georgia “the horsefly state”. We left St Augustine at pre-dawn and made it all the way to Fernandina Beach, where we grabbed a mooring ball at position 30 40.267N, 081 28.145W, a 61 mile trip, which is pretty long day for us. We had fantastic weather finally, except it was record heat in the 90s. We were going to stay for 2 days, but the timing for the shoal areas restricted us to a 1 night stay.

We departed on 5/8 at pre-dawn (you see the pattern here?) and worked our way into Georgia. Just over the Florida border we encountered smoke from a wild fire in north central Florida. They have been having a drought, and nasty wild fires. The smoke was moving east. Much like fog, It was so thick we could not see 100 feet in front of us, and it was not fun to breathe. This lasted for more than an hour, and thank goodness we didn’t go aground or hit anyone. This is a picture of us first getting to the smoke bank:
File_000
We timed the tides perfectly for the first 2 shoal areas, and anchored in the Crescent River close to sunset at position 31 29.397N, 081 19.786W…another long day. We also started to encounter the horseflies, this year starting south of Fernandina Beach Florida. They come, many dozens at a time, and land on the underside of the bimini and dodger canvas. They they dive bomb you in the face, and bite exposed skin, leaving welts. We swatted them all day, leaving a cockpit full of carcasses. Not fun a bit! We tried several things to ward them off, including spraying the canvas with deet, which worked for short periods of time. This onslaught lasted all the way through Georgia and into South Carolina.

The next day we departed at pre-dawn, destined for Turner Creek in the Thunderbolt, Georgia area. We weren’t moving fast enough to transit the next shoal area (Hell Gate) and make it to the anchorage before dark, so we held back and anchored in Kilkenny Creek at position 31 47.521N, 081 11.945W.

On 5/11 we departed at pre-dawn again. We didn’t have to go very far to get to Turner Creek, but we needed to make a bridge opening so we were up and going early again. We arrived in Turner Creek and anchored in position 32 00.851N, 080 59.363W. We could have kept going, but we really like the anchorage. It is quiet, and has a Publix grocery store and a really cool dive bar right next to where we anchor. We wanted to provision for the final leg home, and also take advantage of the really cheap and strong drinks at the dive bar, so we made a shorter run for the day. This part of the Georgia ICW is one of my favorites, with very picturesque estates along the river system.

On 5/12 we departed at pre-dawn and made the push into South Carolina, through 2 shoal areas, past Hilton Head, and up to Beaufort. We got a mooring ball at the downtown marina at position 32 25.742N, 080 40.757W. It was a long and tiring run through Georgia, which we are glad is done. On a positive note, the landscape of the Georgia ICW is very beautiful, mostly marsh land and wide open sounds (which can be nasty in bad weather). We had great weather finally, and we saw tons of dolphins every day. We didn’t go more than 30 minutes without seeing pods of them swimming and feeding, and we saw many mothers swimming with their babies. We are staying in Beaufort for 3 nights to wait out the weather system we are getting today, and to relax a few days. Normally we would push to get to Charleston, our favorite stop along the coast, and spend the extra days there, but the marinas are booked solid with waiting lists, and we couldn’t get a slip. In addition, the anchorages are not very good ones, with holding issues and debris on the river bottoms, and really strong currents. So, we are taking an extra day in Beaufort.

For now, I leave you with some pictures Tricia took along the way, one of a cool sailing vessel in St Augustine, and several good sunsets:
20170507_143500
20170510_063756
20170510_063835
20170319_191538
20170329_190818

Checking out New Smyrna Beach

5/4/17
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Position: 29 01.635N, 080 55.233W
Posted by Bill

We spent a few days in Vero Beach and after some high winds blew through we left on 5/2. We stopped in Cocoa/Cocoa Beach and anchored at position 28 21.118N, 080 43.219W, really close to where we have anchored in the past. This is a standard stop going both north and south. There is not much to do there, at least for us, and the restaurants are not the best, so Tricia made homemade gnocchi, Matt made jalapeno popper dip, and Shirley made a salad. We had an outstanding dinner on the boats!!! The next day we made our way north to New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona Beach. We have never stopped here before but have heard so much about how nice of an area that it is, so we planned it as a stop this time. Motoring in the ICW can be boring at times, but it was nice to have calm seas for once, but not so fast. We got hit by a nasty squall that lasted around 40 minutes, with 35+ knot winds, blinding rain and 4 foot seas in the ICW!!! It was crazy! Fortunately, waves were on the bow and not on the beam. We saw tons of dolphin and manatees along the way. Here is one of several dolphin that swam beside the boat for about 20 minutes…something we always get excited about:IMG_1899 cmp

We pulled into New Smyrna Beach City Marina and went ashore for happy hour. There are some really good places to eat here. Today we hit a great place for breakfast, and great place for happy hour, and a great place for dinner. All were in a short walk from the marina in the downtown area. Another round of storm fronts moved in, or we would have walked to the beach, where we hear there are some really good places to go as well. We’ll save it for next time. The downtown area reminded us a lot of Fernandina Beach, with many shops and restaurants. We will stop here again for sure. It looks like we have a couple of days of high winds again, and we would stay here if we could for another day, but the marina is booked and we have to move on, so we will take a whopping perhaps. The next stop is Marineland and then on to St Augustine for a few days.

Here is a picture of the marina, and of the downtown area:
IMG_1901 cmp
IMG_1906 cmp

We can’t seem to get a decent break from the weather this year, but next week is looking really good! We are excited!!

Back in the USA

4/28/17
Manatee Pocket, Port Salerno, FL
Position:27 09.267N, 080 11.703W
Posted by Bill

Well…we made it back safely.

Our good friends and traveling partners, Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher, joined us in South Bimini the day before we left. It was a great reunion and a good time was had by all!! We had a 2 day window of good weather and sea state, and we picked the best sea state forecast. It was supposed to be seas around 2 feet and light winds until the last 1/4th of the trip, and then just over 2 feet with winds in the low teens. We left on 4/26 at first light and had a great passage for 3/4ths of the way…just as forecasted. However, the last three hours sucked bad. For that period we were in the Gulf Stream, which is a 3-4 knot current that runs north. Our one rule that we will never break, “don’t travel the Gulf Stream with any kind of wind with a north component (N, NW, NE)”. The reason is that a wind opposing that strong of a current creates steep, tightly spaced, waves that kick your ass. Winds were supposed to be SE so we thought we were good to go, but they ended up being NE when we got there. We also had a N to NE swell running which was amplified by the NE winds, which were 15-20 knots, and whipped up by the stream. So….once again we had 6 foot BEAM SEAS, short wave period, and steep! You guessed it…ass kicking. It amazes me that we have not be able to count on any forecast data this year. We use 5 different sources and interpolate, but they have all been wrong when we have counted on them.

Needless to say, we made it to the Lake Worth Inlet and ended up anchoring in North Palm Beach at position 26 50.268N, 080 03.326W. We were so beat up and exhausted that we just collapsed on the boat and crashed early. If you are a blog follower, this is the same anchorage that we pulled up the remnants of a house boat with our anchor a few years ago. I was a little nervous this time, but we stayed away from the spot that we anchored before. Yesterday, we went ashore, had a great breakfast and hit the local grocery store. It is always a culture shock coming back to the US from the Bahamas, especially at the grocery store with all of the options available, and fresh produce. Just to give you a general idea, you go from this:DSC_0439 cmp

To this:DSC_0241 cmp

Yesterday we motored the ICW to Port Salerno, and Manatee Pocket. We enjoyed dinner and drinks at the Twisted Tuna. It was fun, and nice to have the options and prices that the US offers at its restaurants. Here is a shot of the anchorage:DSC_0053

We are starting the trek back up to Southport, and expect to be there before Memorial Day weekend.

Movin’ on

2/22/17
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

Well, Tricia made it back from Ohio on the 20th, and the family event went very well. I got up early that day, walked 3.5 miles to the Marathon Airport, and rented a car for a day. I picked up Shirley, from Sofia Jeanne, and Sharon, from Byrd Ketcher, and we went to Miami to provision at Walmart and Costco. It took longer than we expected, and Tricia’s flight was a half hour early into Fort Lauderdale, so mid-shopping, we went and picked her up. Then we finished off provisioning and escaped the insane “real world” and beat it back to the Keys. We then spent the last 2 days finishing the boat prep for the Bahamas, as there is a decent weather window to cross over coming up. It has been a crazy couple of days, but we are ready!

I always find it true that things happen for a reason, and since I didn’t get to go north with Tricia, I was wondering what the reason was going to be. While she was gone, I came back from the grocery and found that our refrigerator was not on and had defrosted. It does that about once a year for some unknown reason, and all I have to do is switch it off and back on, and it works fine again. So I did the normal off and on and all was fine, but, had I not been here to catch it, we would have lost all the food in the refrigerator, which is a lot of food!

Marathon is a nice stop, but we are ready to move on. There are some crazy, as well as shady, people here living in the harbor on boats. The guy next to us is a great example. Here is the boat:
DSC_0041
And here is the guy in a crazy outfit:
DSC_0038 comp
His is by himself on the boat. He has a little black dog that attacks him, and he yells constantly at him. He also talks to him, and if you closed your eyes, you would think he is having a 2 way conversation with someone answering. The other day he was, as Matt says “slinging buns in the air” at the gulls and pelicans. They were mooching and cawing at him when they wanted more. He talks to them like the dog, and finally says, “You all are lazy beggars. You don’t have Obama any more….you need to get a job!” What a hoot! He is very entertaining. So are the many people that do not know how to anchor properly. The anchorage is a constant source of entertainment.

So the plan is to leave tomorrow, travel up the inside (Florida Bay side) of the Keys, stopping at Tarpon Basin, and anchoring Friday at No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. Then cross to south Bimini on Saturday. It may be more difficult to get blog posts posted while in the Bahamas, but I’ll keep you posted.

A couple of other pics from Boot Key, our friends Matt and Shirley taking Grady for a Frisbee excursion ashore, and a great sunset:
IMG_2878
IMG_2895

Singing the mooring ball blues…

2/16/17
Marathon FL, Florida Keys
Posted by Bill

We have found and seen that one of the most difficult things to do when living like this, is plan a land based trip around a definite schedule. A significant, milestone, family event, popped up on the radar a couple of months ago, scheduled for February 18th, in northern Ohio. This is one of those things that you really don’t want to miss, so while we were in Key West, we started to figure out how we could make it happen. Our original plan was to go to the Bahamas as soon as weather allowed, after we left Key West in mid-January. So, we thought about two approaches: 1) Leave the boat in the Bahamas and fly back to Ohio, or 2) Find a place to leave the boat in Florida and fly back to Ohio, delaying our trip to the Bahamas until we return. As with everything else in our lifestyle, weather is the primary factor in decisions, so we favored option 1 if weather allowed us to get across to the Bahamas. We could leave the boat in 1 of 3 places, based on our planned route and our experience with those areas: South Bimini, Nassau/New Providence, or Georgetown in the Exumas. There were marinas in those areas that we felt comfortable leaving the boat, and there were regular flights back to the States. It really depended on how far we could go in the time we had before the 18th of February, and that depended on the weather. If we left the boat in Florida, we could try to find a marina in Miami or the Keys, or we could get a mooring ball in Marathon. If we could get a marina, we would have shore power, but if we used a mooring ball, someone would have to run the generator for us for a couple of hours every day unless it was really windy (in which case the wind generator would keep batteries topped up). Our traveling partners on Sofia Jeanne graciously offered to look after the boat and run the generator. The one thing we didn’t want to do was leave the boat at anchor…for obvious reasons if you read the last post!

If you read the blog, you know that we ended up staying stateside. The Miami boat show is the same weekend as the family event, so every marina in the Miami area was packed full. The marinas in the keys were also booked, as most of them get filled up 4-6 months in advance of the winter season. There was also a fishing tournament in the Marathon area, which put further demand on the marinas. Our only option was to go with a mooring ball. We put our names on the wait list when we arrived on January 18th, thinking that a month was plenty of time to work our way down from our 38th position in the queue. The mooring field employees figured we had a 3 week wait. We set the trip to Ohio up so that we left on the 14th and returned on the 20th. This gave us time to help buy and prepare the food, and help with setting up the venue for the event, and gave us a short window to see our kids and grandkids. The cheapest flights were out of Fort Lauderdale. We had 3 reasonable options to get from Marathon to the Fort Lauderdale airport: Shuttle service, limo service, and rent a car. The cheaper of the 3 was renting a car. Since it is a 2 ½ hour drive, and our flight was at the “butt crack of dawn”, we needed to go the night before and stay in a hotel. The day before we needed to leave, we were number 4 on the mooring wait list. The weather was really good, so we thought there would be plenty of people leaving , and we had a great chance to get one. We find out around 2 PM that we didn’t make it. Since the family event is on Tricia’s side of the family, she has to go without me, and I stay with the boat. I went with her to the hotel and left the next morning, dropping her off at the airport on the way back to Marathon. Three hours after I get back, the marina calls and says “you have a mooring”. I think: great…I can fly to Ohio on Friday and return with her on Monday. However, we find that the cost of the flights have tripled, the cost of the shuttle and limo has gone to close to $300, and because of the boat show in Miami, all of the cheap rental cars are taken. I could probably do it, but it will cost over $600. On top of what we were already spending, this is beyond our budget, so I stay in Marathon.

The really frustrating thing, as if the whole thing isn’t frustrating enough, is that the mooring we were given was open on the day before we actual got it, and that would have allowed us to stick with our original plan! I don’t know why it took the marina another day to assign it to us, especially after we told them our dilemma and asked for as early a notification as we could get. The good thing is that Tricia made it! I am working on getting the boat ready for the Bahamas trip, and will do some major provisioning in Miami on the day I pick Tricia up at the airport. We will hit the high seas for “da Islands” as soon as weather permits when she returns.

Movin’ on…to more anchoring woes

2/10/17
Marathon FL, Boot Key Harbor
Position: 24 42.217N, 081 06.083W
Posted by Bill

We wrapped up our visit with Tricia’s sister and her husband and headed back to “reality”. Our visit was great. Great to hang out with them and some friends that visited from Ohio while we were there. We found a great place to get fresh seafood, and the girls prepared a feast of lobster tails, shrimp and tuna, with fettuccine alfredo:
IMG_2855
IMG_2857
IMG_2856 comp

Man was it good! We also enjoyed a few “drink and drift” sunsets. This is something we picked up in the Bahamas. Participants would take their dinghies out into the harbor, tie them all in a big flotilla, and enjoy cocktails and appetizers while watching the sunset. Here in Buttonwood Sound we used our dinghy, kayaks and a row boat. We had some great sunsets:
IMG_2850

We stayed there almost 2 and ½ weeks, way longer than originally anticipated, and we needed to get back to Marathon as we were getting low on the wait list for a mooring ball. You have 2 hours to get to the marina office after they call, or the mooring is given to the next person, so you need to be close. The boat had been anchored out for close to 10 days in the same spot, and we visited it daily to charge batteries and open it up, but we were only there an hour a day. Around day 8, I started to notice a cormorant (sea bird) sitting on the bow, using the anchors as a personal toilet. Not too bad to clean up…but day 8 had 4 birds, and day 9 had 7 birds. Needless to say, the entire front half of the boat was an absolute mess, and smelled horrible. Before we departed on the 6th, we spend several hours cleaning the boat as best we could on anchor. Here is a picture of the bastards on day 8:
IMG_2867 comp

We stopped at the anchorage where the Lorelai bar is on Islamorada, and spent the night. Lorelai’s was one of our favorite bars in the Keys, but they have cut back on happy hour drink portions and have no happy hour food specials anymore…damn! It still has a great view and live music, but we have that on the boat…including cheaper food and drink. Too bad. The next day we made it to Boot Key Harbor on Marathon. We were still number 12 on the waiting list, so we had to find a place to anchor. With over 50 boats on the waiting list, the anchorage area is jammed full of boats. Many are permanent residents, with dilapidated boats. The holding is not the best either, so it can be a crazy place to anchor. We found a good area with room for the boat to swing, put down 70 feet of chain and set the anchor well. I ask the guy next to us how much chain he has out, something you should do to make sure that neighboring boats swing evenly and anchor. It also lets you know if someone has too little anchor line out and they could possibly drag anchor and hit you. The guy says “I guess 60 feet”, so I am good. We are only expecting 10 knots or less of wind for the next 3 days, so I am not at all worried. The next day we dinghy to Burdines (restaurant) to get lunch, and in the middle of lunch the marina calls me. “A neighboring boat says you are dragging anchor…can you check it out?” The wind has just shifted from east to west, but there is less than 10 knots. You could almost hold on chain alone in that situation, not to mention the 60 pound anchor we have. We go back to the boat and sure enough, we are right on top of the boats next to us. We didn’t hit anything, so all is good, but the guy starts to lecture me about anchoring. I asked how much chain he had out (again…the same guy as the day before) and he says 6 to 1. That is “captain-ease” for 6 feet of chain for each foot of water depth. We are in 10 feet of water, so it should be 60 feet of chain. I didn’t like being next to this guy, so we moved further down the anchorage. After looking at the track we took while swinging at anchor, I realized that we did not drag at all, and merely swung on our 70 feet of chain when the wind shifted. If he had 60 feet, he would have swung too, and there would have been 150 feet between our boats. His boat had obviously been there so long, I don’t think he had a clue how much chain he had out. So, we pick this new spot and get a good set. We were expecting a front to move through with 25 knot winds, the typical Florida winter pattern. The anchorage is so crowded that I only put out 60 feet, because we don’t have room to swing with more than that. With winds in the mid to upper 20s, I put out at least 90 feet. As always, the high winds and major wind shifts occur in the middle of the night, and last night was no different. We shift from west winds to north and the speed picks up. At midnight, I go on deck to see how we are holding and we are ok, except the guy that was way in front of me with the west winds is now beside me, his boat still pointing west. All of the other boats are pointing north-east into the wind. We keep swinging closer and closer to the back of this guys boat, and I keep waiting for the wind to swing it away from us. At about 4 AM, a fender that is being used as a float for something in the water, pops out from under this guys boat, and the boat finally swings with the wind! We were as close as 15 feet to hitting him. I was watching all night, and if necessary, would start the engine and motor away from him until we could move our anchor. The wind is going to shift to the east, so I can see that this will place us in contact with this float. I don’t know what is under the water, and I know that it held the stern of his boat against 25 knot winds for 4 hours, so I know that I don’t want to get hung up in it! It is 6:30 AM, and I can see that we are also dragging ever so slowly…ugh! I get Tricia, and we pull the anchor up, move it forward so that we can avoid the float, and put out more anchor to keep from dragging. We successfully move and put out almost 90 feet of chain. We avoid the float, stop dragging, and as the wind shifts we see that the guy who we almost hit, has less chain out than the other boats. We swing about 30 feet in front of him in an east wind. If we had not moved, we would have swung into him. Ugh again!!!

Anchoring is almost an art. The benefits are worth the troubles, but in an anchorage like this, sometimes it can suck bad, for days at a time. We do have a nice view of the harbor from here though:
Boot Key Harbor 2017 02 08

We are getting spoiled

1/30/17
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???
IMG_2838 small

Update: Blog is back…we are dealing with a nasty storm!

1/23/17
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:
DSC_0006 cpr
Some pictures coming out of Key West:
DSC_0008
DSC_0014

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:
IMG_2824
IMG_2827
IMG_2830 cpr
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:
DSC_0017

Here is a picture of our boat in the distance, anchored off of Mark and Diane’s house:
IMG_2823

The blog is moving…….and so are we!

1/13/17
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

1/8/17
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:
img_2799