Bahia Honda to Key West
06 June 2010
Fri 4 Jun 10
It has been one week since we left and it seems much longer, which I think is good. The plan is for us to remain here at Marathon until the pump-out boat empties our waste holding tank, and then take off. I will try to get some local knowledge when we go ashore, and perhaps snorkeling at Sombrero Reef will be in the cards this afternoon.
We plan to anchor at Bahia Honda for two nights, then move further "down key." I have no idea if Bahia Honda State Park has Wi-Fi, but I doubt it. From there, we are headed for a snorkeling stop at Looe Key, then to Key West, but we may learn of some worthwhile stops in between. In any event, it may be days before our next post.
I'll close this writing session with a note about photographs. I know that lots of good and interesting photos would be welcome by many of those following our cruise who have never been here. Unfortunately, Diane could care less about taking pictures, and I am usually more absorbed with other things than carrying and using the camera. We'll try to get a few more photos for you as we can.
It is now 1800 and we have had an interesting day. We got our holding tank pumped out in Boot Key Harbor, then slipped the mooring and motored (into the southerly wind) to Sombrero Reef. There were several boats there already tied to the strong, well-spaced mooring balls. The moorings are there to allow boats to get close to the coral reef without having to drop an anchor with all the risk of damaging the coral. What a great convenience that is!
We had suffered with little to no wind for much of this cruise, but today there is 10-15 kts from the south. The swell had us rolling side to side like I have never experienced before and it was very difficult to stay on your feet safely. We had the dinghy in a secure position on the davits so it was essentially out of the question to lower it and give us access to the swim platform. This is where I elected to rig our dinghy boarding ladder on the mothership for the first time.
Diane remained aboard while I rigged the ladder and slipped over the side. There was the difficult part, for me, of squeezing my bulk between the stern railings and the dinghy, but I made it somehow. The water was absolutely delightful in temperature (about 86F) and very clear. It would be sure to startle many novice snorkelers, but the second I placed my goggled face underwater, my field of vision was totally encompassed by fish of many varieties. I was a little surprised to see the fan coral so close to our keel, only 3-4 feet beneath, but we were not harming anything.
Many of the fish were eating the algae slime that was coating much of our boat bottom. I had just reapplied anti-fouling paint with the help of a good friend six weeks ago, but slime is difficult to deter. I swam around the boat observing the coral and fish for just a short while, then returned to the swim platform. Diane decided to come in and use our "looky bucket" (bucket with a clear plastic bottom) to catch glimpses of the sea life, rather than risk the heavy wave action.
After a short, but very uncomfortable, time there, we slipped that mooring and got to sail (yes, sail!) northwest to Bahia Honda, which means 'deep bay' in Spanish. I had no sooner put out my trolling gear (outside the no-fishing area) when it got a strike. I reeled in a yellowtail snapper of a size barely worth keeping, but he didn't look like he would survive a release, so we kept him.
Entering Bahia Honda, sailboats of any size first have to transit the gap in the old bridge to then enter the bay south of the existing bridge. The bottom is sandy with many large patches of grass, so the key is to find the sandy spot to drop the anchor. We were successful on the first try and then we got ready to drop the dinghy and go ashore to the beach. On of Diane's frequent laments about our cruising is that we spend such little time at places where there are beaches. Well, here we are, honey. Have at it.
There is a small marina there where boats that can navigate the shallow entrance can dock along the seawall for a fee. We tied up our dinghy, checked in with the dockmaster, and were told that there is no fee to use the park for those coming by boat. We then strolled to the small beach between the bridges and promptly got into the water, where we immediately started a conversation with a young couple who were vacationing here from northeastern Florida in their motorhome. We spent a long while discussing this and that, and with enough sun, decided to head back the boat. Along the way, we rinsed off the sand and salt water at the outdoor shower and took a peak at the Atlantic side beach (covered in seaweed).
Back aboard Diva Di, I cleaned the snapper for dinner, then set about relaxing some more. Those acclimated to heat may do better than I, but I find that a little work and a lot of rest is needed at these temperatures. Later, dinner was shrimp with sautéed vegetables, with the morsels of snapper as an appetizer (it is really a nice mild fish).
After dinner, we took the dinghy ashore and walked up the trail to the old bridge to watch the sunset. We could tell 15 minutes prior that it would be mediocre at best, but the vacationing Midwesterners exclaimed that it was going to be terrific. I guess we have seen so many really gorgeous sunsets that our standards have changed.
Back at the boat, we both read and relaxed until it was well dark. I coaxed Diane onto the foredeck to gaze up at a beautiful night sky. Only about one-third of the sky was visible due to cloud cover, but the spot above us was exquisite.
We slept very well until a nearby passing thunderstorm kicked up some 30+ kt winds that got our attention in the middle of the night. I checked our GPS track and we had swung on our anchor rode but not dragged at all. Nevertheless, I stayed up in the cockpit enjoying the cool, brisk winds until they settled down enough for me to feel comfortable with our security again.
Sat 5 Jun 10
The consequence of that sleep interruption was that we both slept quite late into the morning; I didn't ply myself off the berth until after 0730, and that is late for me. We took Clyde (the cat) ashore in the dinghy and he got lots of loving attention from many of the park workers. After he had had his fill, he led the way back to the dinghy and off we went.
Following a brief discussion, we decided not to stay at Bahia Honda another full day, but instead took off for Looe Key. I trolled the fishing lure astern, but a small powerboat passing too close astern snagged it and we lost the lure and the entire spool of line off the fishing rod. I don't wish the operator ill, but I hope when he discovers all that line wrapped around his propeller and the likely seal damage, he will learn not to pass too close behind other boats.
It was a two hour trip to the reef motoring pretty much into the wind and we found a nice mooring ball. The rolling we experienced at Sombrero Reef the day before was much worse, but it was still dangerous to be in the water right next to the boat with it bobbing so violently.
The part of the reef we saw was quite nice and the fish variety was good. I had only seen one small Nassau Grouper in the wild before, but here there were two good sized ones. It is a marine sanctuary protected against all fishing and spearing, so that's where the good fish are!
After less than an hour of that and we were ready to move on. We were still undecided about our next anchorage, but finally settled on a spot near the Saddle Bunch Keys. It was a nice motorsail of 2.5 hours to get there and we are quite alone, except for the occasional passing boat.
Setting the anchor proved difficult, but it finally seemed to hold. I went over the side with the SCUBA hose connected to our tank and scrubbed the slime off the bottom, also checking the running gear. After all that, I snorkeled over the anchor to find the tip lodged in a tiny ridge on the hard bottom. It was completely unacceptable, so I took our looky bucket in the dinghy to scout and found what appeared to be a sandy section 100 feet way. We weighed anchor and moved the boat, where the anchor set and I was able to confirm it with the dinghy and looky bucket.
While we seem to be in the middle of nowhere, we are still in cell phone range, so we called our close relatives to check in. Dinner was a comfort meal of hamburger, mashed potatoes, and a tomato salad. Yumm!
The water is mill pond calm right now which means no wind and likely a lot of bugs and stifling temperatures. As it turns out, we only experienced a short duration of noseeums and a few mosquitoes, but the temperature was very uncomfortable. As usual, I slept in the main saloon with the fan blowing on me and Diane did her best in the V-berth.
Sun 6 Jun 10
It cooled off just a tad in the morning and a touch of breeze felt quite good for about an hour. We got underway shortly after 0800 and were able to motorsail nicely all the way to Key West - about 4 hours. We eased past a big cruise ship near Mallory Square and entered the anchorage abreast Fleming Key. While it didn't seem that crowded to me, the boats were space such that it was not easy to find enough room between them. With depths near 20 feet, you need at least 100 feet of chain rode out to be safe and that means you can swing in a wide circle.
The spots we chose happened to be near boats with their owners aboard and that meant we were politely told we were too close. I doubt that was true, but I don't want to be next to someone that feels that way. We finally found a spot farther from the dinghy dock than I liked (Diane really didn't like it), but the anchor held well and we are not too close to anyone. We intend to be here a few days, so maybe we'll try again for a closer spot later.
It is now almost 1400. The plan is for me to inspect the engine and then clean up for a short excursion ashore where I hope to post this and check email.