A Travellerspoint blog

Getting to The Key West

We both grew up in south Florida so things shouldn't surprise us, but there were some lasting impressions.

• We looked at the traffic as we walked and things were different, but it took some thought to figure it out: no pick up trucks but lots of Mercedes and Porches. Not like Spring Creek.

• I must have seen a couple of hundred dogs being walked and it's clear that folks down here have no concept of a proper dog. I saw, by exact count, five in total: two labs, one boxer and two all-American mutts. For the rest, if you were to take them by tens, they still would not weigh 50-lbs, merely bite sized canine canapes and doggy hors d'oeuvres. There seems to be some sort of genetic imperative that the smaller the dog the more noise it must make and these all met that criterion. I've been missing our dog, Wile E. He is, in fact, a proper dog, on the outside at least; he's a weenie on the inside even though he looks like a fierce creature.

• I had forgotten what it's like to be around fashionistas; south Florida is a very fashion forward place, where many people seem to place great importance on how they look and what they wear. In South Beach we finally stumbled on a fashion shoot, its original raison d'etre . Despite my background, it seemed really silly and altogether unnatural to see a lady posing before the camera. With our clothing oddments from Goodwill and Walmart, we were very out of place and could not have cared less.

We saw this on the morning we left Sunset Lake. We had seen maybe two shells on the way south, both one person and both being used by men, probably for exercise. An women's eight person shell seems like there needs to be an organizing competitive body, maybe the University of Miami.

After a couple of weeks in south Florida, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach, it was time to head out. We left Sunset Lake and were going to anchor near Key Biscayne for and early departure through the Biscayne Channel. Carol had a different plan that involved gallons of water, not available on our boat, so she could wash her hair. So we ended up staying a night at Dinner Key Marina, very near Coral Gables, where she grew up, and next to the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, where once she sailed. This was the last night in a marina for a long while so we celebrated with a Poppa John's Pizza. Way Good!

So, Friday morning we got underway, not knowing at the time that the trip would ask and answer two questions: (1) Should we be allowed on a boat? (2) Do we really want to be on a boat?

Since we were going into a marina with limited room to maneuver, we had lashed the new dinghy onto the back of the boat rather than towing it; a good thing to have done. So Friday morning after we had cleared the Biscayne Channel into the open water, I decided that it was time to drop the dinghy into the water and to tow it. It didn't seem like we were going very fast, so I didn't slow down .... big mistake, and once again, predictably, chaos ensued. The dinghy hit the water, flipped upside down and separated the towing painter. Somehow the emergency painter that we always attach when towing the dinghy also lost purchase, I don't know how, Murphy's Law or some such thing. So, we're going south headed to the Keys and the brand new dinghy is in our wake headed north to Newfoundland in the Gulf Stream. So, around comes the boat to recover the dinghy and the foresail ties itself into a ball like a wet sheet from the washer and the two jib-sheets do their best imitation of 50-ft. long amarous snakes trying to mate. That was a problem for later. Recovering the dinghy was easy .... getting it right side up was not. I was on the swim platform directing Carol in using the boat hook to help flip it right side up. One mis-step and I was in the water with the dinghy. Fortunately, Carol had insisted that I put on one of our life vests with a built-in safety harness that I had secured to the boat with a safety tether. So, no big deal. Eventually we got the thing turned over and jerry rigged a new painter. Then onto the sails which probably took another quarter hour to get unfouled.

This was probably the 2d dumbest thing that we've done on the boat; Carol owns the record for numero uno and I hope never to top that. So, should we allowed on a boat? Maybe not; we may be a danger to the sailing gene pool, dumbing it down.

The trip included:

• The dinghy, of course;

• After taking off the safety tether the snap shackle, which connected me to the boat fell into pieces in the cockpit, imagine that. I repaired it and it's now very secure, but it gives one pause.

• A very hard bottom in one anchorage, which made it very difficult to set the anchor and made us worry that hard to set would mean easy to pull loose;

• That anchorage was totally exposed to the 15~25 knot winds, a very rough night;

• Because of the bottom and the wind, I stood an anchor watch, checking every hour to see if the anchor was still set and not dragging; it was set and didn't drag;

• At O'dark thirty on the anchor watch while I was fiddling around with the chart plotter to check our position, I brought up a menu that had several mentions of being in a restricted area, specifically a PSSA, a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area. Folks in the Keys are adamant about protecting sundry sea grasses, an important part of the food chain. I had visions of the Eco-Police shooting me, throwing Carol in jail and burning the boat or, even worse, making us move in the dark.

• The first night, as were shutting down for the night, the port side came awash with light when the nearest light should have been in Cuba, 90 miles to the south. I went topside and some guy asked if I was looking for him. I allowed that I was not, in fact, looking for him. There were a few minutes of conversation on the other boat and then it left. No big deal but it brought to mind all the tales of drug runners and pirates.

• The shower wouldn't work which entailed taking apart the head to find and undo two kinks in the hose;

• The anchor was fouled with trash on the bottom;

• When Carol had the anchor almost stored, it got sideways in the bow roller and jammed hard and we don't have a crow bar.

• While sailing we noticed a new, deep and disturbing low frequency vibration on the boat for the short time that we were sailing close to the wind, at one point actually seeing the mast and spreaders vibrating. When we anchored I checked things and found that the starboard backstay was much looser that the port side one. Rigging tension adjustments are way beyond my pay grade. But, it seemed like the penalty for doing nothing was probably greater than acting and getting it wrong. Since I have the highest pay grade on the boat, out came the tool box. We tightened it a lot and need to do a little more. There is no locking device on the turnbuckles so we don't know is whether we addressed a problem or a symptom.

• The navigational nightmare of entering Newfound Harbor. You don't so much pilot the boat as play a video game, finding a depth of water number you like, say a 7, and when you reach that spot on the chart plotter looking for another good number, a 9, without an intervening 3, and moving the boat cursor there. It took over an hour to go less than 2 miles.

• While going forward to untangle a jib sheet, I tried to use my face to make a dent in the mast. The mast is in tact; my face however, looks like I went about 10 rounds with Mike Tyson .... a massive shiner, a big mouse and a large cut under my left eye. Another case of elder self-abuse.

So, do we want the hassle of being on a boat? You betcha'! After we cleared the terrible anchorage we had one of the best days sailing, ever, probably making 45~50 miles under sail. The new sails must help, maybe the improved boat trim too, because we were faster, a lot faster, than in the past. The new autopilot is great making the sailing truly enjoyable. Sit back, relax, mess with the sail trim every once in a while, and enjoy the ride. I think that for boaters in general, but sailboaters in particular, that a boat is meaning to Robert Frost's line: "I took the one less traveled by."

We made it safely to Key West. Carol piloted the boat through the harbor, around Fleming Key and to the mooring field .... a first for her. There were three cruise ships in port which means a lot of people in town the next few days.

North of town we saw the sailboat Legacy in about the same place it was last year when we left. This boat's story is a cautionary one for all sailors. http://www.sptimes.com/2007/10/06/State/Deep_pockets_and_his_.shtml

We're looking forward to seeing Jay and Sue who keep the RV near Marathon on Ohio Key; Les and Jean may come down and we'll have a cousin's reunion which would be nice. We've ordered some more stuff for the boat for which we will wait until it arrives; Carol has had our mail forwarded from Green Cove Springs. The mooring is secure, but not very sheltered, so no concerns with anchors dragging. There are stores, like Home Depot, lots of restaurants and, seemingly, an endless supply of beer to go with the quotidian sunsets. The weather is comparatively warmer, but still cool by local standards. Still days in the 70's and nights in the low 60's seems like a really good deal.

Posted by sailziveli 07:08

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We are totally enjoying your blog. We finally go to Wind Spirit tomorrow at Green Cove Springs and after a couple of weeks of shakedown plan to follow you south.

by anrobertsn

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