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Diva Di's Cruising Adventures
Bahia Honda to Key West
06/06/2010

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.


Marathon, FL Keys
06/06/2010

Thu 3 Jun 10

Sleeping through the night almost happened, except that the fabric wind scoop over the forward hatch came loose and was flapping madly in the light breeze. I got up to fix that and then slept soundly until just after dawn - a rarity to sleep so late.

This morning's tasks are to go up the mast to check and fix the anchor light, retape the spreader boots, and retrieve the spreader halyard that got away when the shackle broke the other day. It is 0740 now and the sun is already very hot, although the air temperature of 76F is pleasant.

It is now almost 1100 and we have accomplished quite a bit. While Diane did the housekeeping below, I polished some marks off the hull, cleaned the new dinghy which I got filthy wearing the wrong footwear inside, and sorted out how to affix the lifting harness for the new engine. Before the day wore on, I wanted to get up the mast, so I readied the gear, briefed Diane on the procedures, and up I went.

A now-departed sailor friend sold me a piece of gear that proved invaluable today - a 4:1 winch gearbox. It allowed Diane to get the extra mechanical advantage she needed to grind my considerable bulk up 44 feet off the deck. It took almost 30 minutes to do with me helping to pull myself up somewhat and frequent short breaks, including a few tasks along the way. I have photos to prove we did it!

I had two minor two important tasks. For the former, the spreader boots got retaped and the errant spreader halyard was retrieved. For the latter, I inspected all the rigging as I went up looking for any signs of impending trouble and found none. When I got to the top I discovered that the LED anchor light doesn't really seat securely in the socket. It seems to catch, but the right wiggling can set it loose, which is how I found it. I secured it as best I could, tested that it worked, and I hope it will last either three more years that way, or until I get a better perch aloft so I can see what I am doing to make a better fix.

[posted 3 Jun 10 1200]

There were numerous little tasks that kept cropping up throughout the day, but I made sure to relax in front of the fan with my book in between, not to mention drinking lots of water.

Before our excursion ashore for dinner, we showered (in bathing suits) on the swim platform and dressed in our cleanest casual. I had previously washed several of my "boat shirts" in the sink and the water that came out probably rivaled the color of the oil spill in the Gulf. Ask most wives and they will probably tell you their husbands are walking dirt factories; I know mine would.

The dinghy ride was almost a mile but that was good to continue the engine break-in period. We arrived at Burdine's and discovered that there is no inside air-conditioned dining room as we had hoped. In our few previous visits, it was always pleasant to dine al fresco; this time it was hot. We found a shaded area with a little breeze, however, and before long we were quite comfortable after all.

Dinner was quite good and before we were halfway through, Diane invited the interesting couple at the next table to join us. They were long done with dinner and sipping wine; we had traded a few witty comments and thought it would be nice if they sat with us. Their life stories were very interesting, but not worth repeating here. They just came all the way from Mexico to this place, and their next stop is Lake Worth halfway up the east coast of Florida, then on to Annapolis.

Just as we were getting ready to wrap it up because of sunset, there was a very brief but torrential rain. We had left some of our hatches open and were prepared for water aboard, but the rain shower missed our section of the area. It was an early night to bed for a good night's sleep that was, however, interrupted by thunderstorms and rain on two separate occasions. The normal drill is screen out, hatch closed, swelter, rain passes, hatch open, screen in. This time we left the screens out and had no bug problems at all.

Marco to Little Shark River
06/06/2010

[Note: I made a change to the way I was composing this blog and found an embarrassing number of errors. They are not all typos; this keyboard has been fluky for a while now and when I type certain character sequences too fast, it goes crazy.]

Right after our last post, we went back to the dinghy and motored around to the rear of the Winn-Dixie grocery store where we got some a few provisions, including some fish that I somehow managed not to catch for myself along the way. We got back to the boat, relaxed, and prepared dinner. The dolphin (or Mahi-Mahi as the Hawaiian name goes) was not the freshest but it was quite tasty when pan seared with a Cajun rub. After dinner, we made our next two days' passage plan.

An hour before sunset, we took Clyde for his first ride in the new dinghy. We landed at the Esplanade dinghy dock and he set off in his harness and leash with Diane in tow. The first half of the walk went well because there were few people. Then as we tried to complete a full circuit, the traffic increased and he got temperamental. We reversed our tracks and all went pretty well.

As it stands now, we plan to leave very early tomorrow to make it to Cape Sable by nightfall. The winds are expected to be light, so barring a thunderstorm, we will have no wind to sail with and little breeze Tuesday night. The next day should be long as well as we hope to make Marathon in the Keys by Wednesday sunset.

Tues 1 Jun 10

Hah! Light winds they said? We spent over 8 hours motoring directly into 2-4 foot waves that made for a wet, slow, uncomfortable ride. Axiom number one in sailing that the wind direction is always coming from your intended destination. Axiom two is if the wind is behind you, it must be too light to do any good. We had the former. But let me start at the beginning.

The night was quite pleasant, although I still slept in the main saloon with the fan running for the first half of the night. Knowing we wanted to awaken early, I slept fitfully after about 0200. At 0500, Diane snuggled up for a short while until we arose near 0600. It took but 10 minutes to prepare to get underway so we were off in the pre-dawn twilight of another beautiful morning.

Amazingly, we had ridden the tidal flood current into our anchorage and then got to ride the ebb current back out; that is rare. Once past the shoals at the edge of the pass, we turned south and were able to motorsail to good advantage for a short while. Then, our course to the destination and the wind direction just wouldn't work together, so we furled the sail and purely motored.

I was trolling the lure again when the "clicker" on the reel let us know something was hooked. I slowed the boat and asked Diane to turn back toward the fish so I could reel it in better. It was a Spanish mackerel (the only type of fish I have caught trolling in the Gulf), but it was not hooked in the jaw, but rather snagged on its side. I filleted it quickly and we cleaned the cockpit and resumed our course.

The wind direction had been forecast correctly, but the strength was much stronger and building. Before long we had the waves I mentioned earlier and we were hobby-horsing like crazy. 2-4 foot waves are not bad, but when they come 2-3 seconds apart, that is crazy. We were slow to secure things for shipping water across the deck, so we got some down below in the galley. Diane was not pleased, but we buttoned up better and carried on.

At one point, the average speed was so slow (each wave knocks out some momentum) and the ride so uncomfortable, that I elected to turn 45 degrees off course to port (closer to land) and put out about 1/3 of the foresail. This had several effects: it let us take the waves on an angle which is less stressful on the boat and crew, the sail acted to steady the boat, and it added almost two kts to our forward speed, which kept our progress decent even with us turning off course (VMG to the sailors).

After the immediate improvement and then a few hours of further improvement as we got closer to land, we decided conditions warranted turning directly back to our destination and motoring the rest of the way. By the way, Cape Sable was no longer our destination, but rather Little Shark River. I am typing this while Diane is minding the helm, so more later...

Well, our decision was half right. I had elected not to enter the anchorage at the mouth of the river, but rather to stand offshore one mile to help avoid the nasty bugs. We anchored and before we could do much of anything we had biting flies coming several per minute. They are very slow to react so it is not unusual to have a 90% kill ratio, but after we killed 20 we decided to move. We are now anchored three nm from the nearest shore and a little closer to our next stop, Marathon.

It was a grueling day at times, but overall not too bad. Getting water below was the part that made Diane the most upset, but overall she handled the day well. We are now sitting below with a nice breeze funneling through the boat and sipping the first of several cold ones. It was a 12-hour day today and while it was not strenuous, it sure is taxing.

If you are wondering why we haven't exclaimed what a wonderful cruise we are having, that is because we are still sorting through the almost inevitable problems that happen. We surely enjoyed our time with our club friends the first night, and were glad to celebrate the new dinghy/engine despite the unexpected expense. The evening in Smokehouse Bay, Marco, was very pleasant. We look forward to getting some things sorted out in Marathon and plan to spend tomorrow and Thursday nights there.

Wed 2 Jun 10

The evening was a mixture of bliss and challenges. As expected, the wind and seas lay down (went light and calm) and boat gently rocked all night log, so that was the bliss part. We were awakened near 0200 by a boom of thunder and I quickly roused to investigate. All I could see for several minutes was cloud-to-could lightning and the timing between flash and bang indicated a two mile distance and increasing to the north.

Once that was past, we got a gentle rain at first that we loved for both the sound of it and the washing off of the accumulated salt. Following that, however, was a torrential rain that made me realize we had not pulled the drain plug on the new dinghy. I quickly estimated that the water weight in the dinghy could get significant if I did nothing, so this as the challenge part.

I was out in the relatively cold rain lying on the swim platform reaching under the dinghy to get to the plug. I managed to do that with swift success, but as I was doing it I thought that a silly slip and I could be in the water with Diane still snug in her berth. The chilly rain cooled me down to where I could regain sleep comfortably and we both enjoyed the rest until about 0600.

It was an eerie silence that greeted us when we went topside just before dawn. It was something to savor, and we did until we weighed anchor and got underway shortly after. The wind forecast was for southerly breezes up to 10 kts. That prevented us from using any sails until quite long into the passage when the wind shifted to the southeast for a while. It was a boring passage under motor alone, but at least if the wind was not going to help us, it was almost calm. The sea had leftover swells from storms in the night, but was otherwise flat for the longest time.

At one point, after the Keys were in sight, I noted that the depth sounder readings were about 2 feet shallower than the charts indicated. Not knowing it a shoal had built up and not wanting to plow into it, I slowed to 3.5 kts and watched the depth sounder hover near 8 ft for almost an hour. I finally decided to trust that the bottom would not suddenly rise up too fast for me to react and resumed making 5.5 kts.

About the time we neared the widely-spaced navigation markers approaching the keys and warning of shoal banks, the wind picked up and we could motorsail to good advantage. Even with the engine on, it was nice to have the sail full and drawing well.

Before long we were under the Seven Mile Bridge and turning for Boot Key Harbor. We took on diesel, gasoline, and water at Marathon Marina and continued in to pick up a mooring ball. The person on the radio and at the desk was the same one we saw two years ago on our way to the Bahamas. I recognized her and she did us, even remembering our temporarily lost dinghy episode. You really need to go through life treating others well because you are bound to see many of them again, especially in the cruising world.

We got to the check-in desk well prepared to use the new shower/bathroom facilities; it was wonderful. They have added an additional dinghy dock and wonderful laundry facilities, too. Cooling down after the dinghy ride in the blazing sun required a cool beverage and sitting in front of a fan below. Even Diane needed a fan and that is unusual.

For dinner I prepared the mackerel I had caught the other day in the same Cajun style as the dolphin. It was really quite delicious. After cleaning up, we took Clyde in the dinghy to the marina dock and strolled the short distance to the local park. There were far too many people enjoying the park for Clyde to get comfortable; in close quarters he is fine with strangers, but in public places he gets quite skittish.

Back at Diva Di, we read in the cockpit until it was dark, and then went to bed with both of us pretty tired.

Photo: From the masthead
06/03/2010

Note the new dinghy and engine trailing astern. Some will care to note the 4 large solar panels. They have provided all the electrical power we consume with our refrigerator/freezer, fans, instruments, lights, stereo, laptop, etc.

If it gets cloudy for two days in a row, then we have to run the engine to let the high-output alternator recharge the batteries. Not a preferred method, but a backup.

06/06/2010 | Sharon Caldwell
Hi my friends, it was so much fun to get to Key Biscayne and have email and get to read your blog. I laughed out loud at times. We feel a sense of relief to be back, but at the same time miss the beauty of the Exumas. Can't wait to see you and share our adventures. Love, Sharon , Dan, and Maggie
Marco to Boot Key Harbor, Marathon
06/03/2010

[Photo: one small portion of Boot Key Harbor, Marathon.]

[Note: I made a change to the way I was composing this blog and found an embarrassing number of errors. They are not all typos; this keyboard has been fluky for a while now and when I type certain character sequences too fast, it goes crazy.]

[Kate: Thanks for the comment on our last post and the wll wishes.]

Right after our last post, we went back to the dinghy and motored around to the rear of the Winn-Dixie grocery store where we got some a few provisions, including some fish that I somehow managed not to catch for myself along the way. We got back to the boat, relaxed, and prepared dinner. The dolphin (or Mahi-Mahi as the Hawaiian name goes) was not the freshest but it was quite tasty when pan seared with a Cajun rub. After dinner, we made our next two days' passage plan.

An hour before sunset, we took Clyde for his first ride in the new dinghy. We landed at the Esplanade dinghy dock and he set off in his harness and leash with Diane in tow. The first half of the walk went well because there were few people. Then as we tried to complete a full circuit, the traffic increased and he got temperamental. We reversed our tracks and all went pretty well.

As it stands now, we plan to leave very early tomorrow to make it to Cape Sable by nightfall. The winds are expected to be light, so barring a thunderstorm, we will have no wind to sail with and little breeze Tuesday night. The next day should be long as well as we hope to make Marathon in the Keys by Wednesday sunset.

Tues 1 Jun 10

Hah! Light winds they said? We spent over 8 hours motoring directly into 2-4 foot waves that made for a wet, slow, uncomfortable ride. Axiom number one in sailing that the wind direction is always coming from your intended destination. Axiom two is if the wind is behind you, it must be too light to do any good. We had the former. But let me start at the beginning.

The night was quite pleasant, although I still slept in the main saloon with the fan running for the first half of the night. Knowing we wanted to awaken early, I slept fitfully after about 0200. At 0500, Diane snuggled up for a short while until we arose near 0600. It took but 10 minutes to prepare to get underway so we were off in the pre-dawn twilight of another beautiful morning.

Amazingly, we had ridden the tidal flood current into our anchorage and then got to ride the ebb current back out; that is rare. Once past the shoals at the edge of the pass, we turned south and were able to motorsail to good advantage for a short while. Then, our course to the destination and the wind direction just wouldn't work together, so we furled the sail and purely motored.

I was trolling the lure again when the "clicker" on the reel let us know something was hooked. I slowed the boat and asked Diane to turn back toward the fish so I could reel it in better. It was a Spanish mackerel (the only type of fish I have caught trolling in the Gulf), but it was not hooked in the jaw, but rather snagged on its side. I filleted it quickly and we cleaned the cockpit and resumed our course.

The wind direction had been forecast correctly, but the strength was much stronger and building. Before long we had the waves I mentioned earlier and we were hobby-horsing like crazy. 2-4 foot waves are not bad, but when they come 2-3 seconds apart, that is crazy. We were slow to secure things for shipping water across the deck, so we got some down below in the galley. Diane was not pleased, but we buttoned up better and carried on.

At one point, the average speed was so slow (each wave knocks out some momentum) and the ride so uncomfortable, that I elected to turn 45 degrees off course to port (closer to land) and put out about 1/3 of the foresail. This had several effects: it let us take the waves on an angle which is less stressful on the boat and crew, the sail acted to steady the boat, and it added almost two kts to our forward speed, which kept our progress decent even with us turning off course (VMG to the sailors).

After the immediate improvement and then a few hours of further improvement as we got closer to land, we decided conditions warranted turning directly back to our destination and motoring the rest of the way. By the way, Cape Sable was no longer our destination, but rather Little Shark River. I am typing this while Diane is minding the helm, so more later...

Well, our decision was half right. I had elected not to enter the anchorage at the mouth of the river, but rather to stand offshore one mile to help avoid the nasty bugs. We anchored and before we could do much of anything we had biting flies coming several per minute. They are very slow to react so it is not unusual to have a 90% kill ratio, but after we killed 20 we decided to move. We are now anchored three nm from the nearest shore and a little closer to our next stop, Marathon.

It was a grueling day at times, but overall not too bad. Getting water below was the part that made Diane the most upset, but overall she handled the day well. We are now sitting below with a nice breeze funneling through the boat and sipping the first of several cold ones. It was a 12-hour day today and while it was not strenuous, it sure is taxing.

If you are wondering why we haven't exclaimed what a wonderful cruise we are having, that is because we are still sorting through the almost inevitable problems that happen. We surely enjoyed our time with our club friends the first night, and were glad to celebrate the new dinghy/engine despite the unexpected expense. The evening in Smokehouse Bay, Marco, was very pleasant. We look forward to getting some things sorted out in Marathon and plan to spend tomorrow and Thursday nights there.

Wed 2 Jun 10

The evening was a mixture of bliss and challenges. As expected, the wind and seas lay down (went light and calm) and boat gently rocked all night log, so that was the bliss part. We were awakened near 0200 by a boom of thunder and I quickly roused to investigate. All I could see for several minutes was cloud-to-could lightning and the timing between flash and bang indicated a two mile distance and increasing to the north.

Once that was past, we got a gentle rain at first that we loved for both the sound of it and the washing off of the accumulated salt. Following that, however, was a torrential rain that made me realize we had not pulled the drain plug on the new dinghy. I quickly estimated that the water weight in the dinghy could get significant if I did nothing, so this as the challenge part.

I was out in the relatively cold rain lying on the swim platform reaching under the dinghy to get to the plug. I managed to do that with swift success, but as I was doing it I thought that a silly slip and I could be in the water with Diane still snug in her berth. The chilly rain cooled me down to where I could regain sleep comfortably and we both enjoyed the rest until about 0600.

It was an eerie silence that greeted us when we went topside just before dawn. It was something to savor, and we did until we weighed anchor and got underway shortly after. The wind forecast was for southerly breezes up to 10 kts. That prevented us from using any sails until quite long into the passage when the wind shifted to the southeast for a while. It was a boring passage under motor alone, but at least if the wind was not going to help us, it was almost calm. The sea had leftover swells from storms in the night, but was otherwise flat for the longest time.

At one point, after the Keys were in sight, I noted that the depth sounder readings were about 2 feet shallower than the charts indicated. Not knowing it a shoal had built up and not wanting to plow into it, I slowed to 3.5 kts and watched the depth sounder hover near 8 ft for almost an hour. I finally decided to trust that the bottom would not suddenly rise up too fast for me to react and resumed making 5.5 kts.

About the time we neared the widely-spaced navigation markers approaching the keys and warning of shoal banks, the wind picked up and we could motorsail to good advantage. Even with the engine on, it was nice to have the sail full and drawing well.

Before long we were under the Seven Mile Bridge and turning for Boot Key Harbor. We took on diesel, gasoline, and water at Marathon Marina and continued in to pick up a mooring ball. The person on the radio and at the desk was the same one we saw two years ago on our way to the Bahamas. I recognized her and she did us, even remembering our temporarily lost dinghy episode. You really need to go through life treating others well because you are bound to see many of them again, especially in the cruising world.

We got to the check-in desk well prepared to use the new shower/bathroom facilities; it was wonderful. They have added an additional dinghy dock and wonderful laundry facilities, too. Cooling down after the dinghy ride in the blazing sun required a cool beverage and sitting in front of a fan below. Even Diane needed a fan and that is unusual.

For dinner I prepared the mackerel I had caught the other day in the same Cajun style as the dolphin. It was really quite delicious. After cleaning up, we took Clyde in the dinghy to the marina dock and strolled the short distance to the local park. There were far too many people enjoying the park for Clyde to get comfortable; in close quarters he is fine with strangers, but in public places he gets quite skittish.

Back at Diva Di, we read in the cockpit until it was dark, and then went to bed with both of us pretty tired.

Thu 3 Jun 10

Sleeping through the night almost happened, except that the fabric wind scoop over the forward hatch came loose and was flapping madly in the light breeze. I got up to fix that and then slept soundly until just after dawn - a rarity to sleep so late.

This morning's tasks are to go up the mast to check and fix the anchor light, retape the spreader boots, and retrieve the spreader halyard that got away when the shackle broke the other day. It is 0740 now and the sun is already very hot, although the air temperature of 76F is pleasant.

It is now almost 1100 and we have accomplished quite a bit. While Diane did the housekeeping below, I polished some marks off the hull, cleaned the new dinghy which I got filthy wearing the wrong footwear inside, and sorted out how to affix the lifting harness for the new engine. Before the day wore on, I wanted to get up the mast, so I readied the gear, briefed Diane on the procedures, and up I went.

A now-departed sailor friend sold me a piece of gear that proved invaluable today - a 4:1 winch gearbox. It allowed Diane to get the extra mechanical advantage she needed to grind my considerable bulk up 44 feet off the deck. It took almost 30 minutes to do with me helping to pull myself up somewhat and frequent short breaks, including a few tasks along the way. I have photos to prove we did it!

I had two minor jobs and two important jobs. The spreader boots got retaped and the errant spreader halyard was retrieved. I inspected all the rigging as I went up looking for any signs of impending trouble and found none. When I got to the top I discovered that the LED anchor light doesn't really seat securely in the socket. It seems to catch, but the right wiggling can set it loose, which is how I found it. I secured it as best I could, tested that it worked, and I hope it will last either three more years that way, or until I get a better perch aloft so I can see what I am doing to make a better fix.

Diane has earned a great reward, so I am taking her our to dinner and she can have any kind of fish sandwish she wants! ;-)

[posted 3 Jun 10 1200]


06/04/2010 | George
Its great to be back in IL with family, friends and VSC's. Blessings, fair winds, good fishing, togethernes, restful sleeps, great side trips, time to read, new friends...........See you in Nov. Semper Paratus, G & A
06/04/2010 | Ed Flaherty
Glad you are out on the water again. I know how you both love it so. Regarding your problems, Diane is right as you are sometimes too frugile BUT, as you were my friend first (since 1976?) I agree with you that trying a used critical piece of equipment to save $14.22 was a smart move. Looking forward to reading more. Our best to you and Diane. Ed (& Nancy)
Ft Myers to Marco Island
05/31/2010

Sun 30 May 10

The evening was amazingly comfortable in that I, the perennial human furnace, was not too warm to sleep without a fan. Diane, surprisingly, felt too warm and moved to the main saloon. Maybe that was just to get away from me. In any event, the pre-dawn was beautiful with almost cool temperatures and a gentle breeze. I even enjoyed a cup of coffee vic my standard iced tea first thing in the morning.

Despite Diane's warmth of the previous evening, her mood needed some defrosting. Apprently she was concerned about our dinghy and engine situation. I am determine to rise above these challenges and carry on, and I finally convinced her to do the same.

The young owner of the inflatable boat shop called as promised and collected us at the dinghy dock. We rode with him to his store where we found out he left his young family on (thankfully nearby) Sanibel during a 4-day vacation to help us out. During the whole sequence of events, we made it plain to him that we appreciated what he was doing and asked him to be sure the deal was worth his extra trouble. We believe he was gneuine in his desire to help us out and was fair; he certainly went above and beyond.

It was a long four hours, but in the end we were the proud owners of a new Achilles hypalon
RIB and 9.9 HP Suzuki 4-stroke outboard engine. The sad fact was that despite the ministrations of a good mechanic, the used Johnson we had was not running reliably at all. It would be heartbreaking to spring for a new dinghy only to have the engine become the weak link. The details of what Claude, owner of Suncoast Inflatables, did for us are too much for this blog, but he was great.

Non-boaters reading this are verry bored by now, but I must mntion that the new dinghy, supposedly within inches of the same total lenght, is so superior to what we used to have. We need to break in the engine for 10 hours, but so far it is a joy to start and run. The sharp reader might wonder what we did with our former dinghy and engine. Well, Claude took them back to his shop to store for us until we decide exactly what to do with them. We didn't even try to get a receipt showing he had taken possession, but we have no concern with that.

We have dear friends, Dan and Sharon, in the Exumas (Bahamas) right now and one post from their blog hit home with me then, and especially today. When you work hard to make dreams come true, you sometimes do things you wouldn't otherwise do just to keep the dream alive. Taking funds that we hoped not to touch for a while to make this purchase is an investment in continuing our dream. We may have to eat catfood in our elder years, but we are doing this now while we can!

Enough philosophy. I am typing the last few paragraphs sitting by the pool at the Matanzas Inn with an adult beverage and my admiral is smiling. That is worth a lot. As often happens, we had interesting conversation with multiple people at the pool.

After the pool session and before going back to Diva Di, we walked few blocks to the Lighthouse Tiki Bar for a beer and some music. The band was quite good, and our conversation with the bartender was interesting. He is 39 and heading back to Chigago after trying for six years to mak it down here in Florida. He has a great business idea and spirit, so we wish him well.

Cleaning up at the boat took little time and then we went back ashore to the Matanzas Inn for dinner with a 2-for-1 coupon. Both our meals were quite good!

We took the dinghy back to Diva Di - outboard engine starting on the first pull - and spent an hour of quality deck time with Clyde before bed. The plan is to leave tomorrow early and make it to Marco's Smokehouse Bay for another night. Then it will likely be two days before we can get to the Keys proper, maybe Marathon's Boot Key Harbor or Bahia Honda.

Mon 31 May 10

Last night was warm, so I elected to sleep in the main saloon again with the quiet, but effective, fan keeping me comfortable. It was another beautiful morning, but I suspected it would be a hot one with little breeze. We left at 0715 and motored out to the Gulf of Mexico for the straight run down to Marco. For several hours, we were able to use the foresail to some advantage, but the wind was mostly from the direction were were heading (all too common for sailors), so we furled the sail and just continued on with the engine. Motoring from spot to spot is not why we bought a sailboat, but when you are trying to get to a particular place on a particular day, that is what you do.

I have been trolling a shiny silver spoon lure since w got into the gulf with no luck so far. The sea has been calm except for the wakes of passing large cruising vessels and sportfishers. The wind teased us a few times but was always from an angle where we couldn't sail to our destination.

We entered Capri Pass at Marcoo Island and took the first turn off the channel to starboard to work our way past the unfamiliar waters of Collier Bay and then into Smokehouse Bay. Some of our PGI friends recommended this area so are giving it a try.

At anchor in a gentle, but vital, breeze, we are relaxing with a cool beverage and making plans to go ashore. I had mentioned to Diane that there were numerous shops and galleries just adjacent to the nearby marina and she perked up a little until she realized that this is Memorial Day and all the shops will be closed. She made some less-than-complimentary remarks about how I always manage to time our arrival when there is no opportunity to shop. That has not been my plan, but it certainly works for me.

A bit bored from the 5.5 hours of motoring, I leapt to the task of lowering the dinghy and cleaning it out. It's like a new car in that you can't stand to see it less than pristine for some indeterminate time. I opend the fuel tank vent, primed the fuel line bulb, pulled out the choke and pulled the starting cord once. It started and ran fine, and when the choke was pushed in two seconds later, it idled so quietly I had to do a double-take to ensure it had not stalled.

We are now ashore at a posh place called The Esplanade. Everything but the bars and restaurants are closed, but we will walk to see if the grocery store is open for us to pick up a few items.

It's hard to say when the next post will be made.

05/31/2010 | Katesn.com
Took a chance and saw that you are keeping a blog on this trip too! What a nice surprise. Sorry for the trouble so far, but I am sure you and Diane will work it all out and have a great trip from here on out! I'm glad to know that you are again out sailing and spending time on the boat! I will keep checking in on you, so have fun! And, fair winds and following seas...
06/04/2010 | Vernon Roumillat
Ahoy, Glad you send your blog site. We didn't know you had one.I know what you mean about spending the money to buy your new dinghy and motor.We just had to buy a new norcold refrigator for the boat and that was NOT in our budgit but you do what you have to do.So we hope we dont have any more refrig. problems for the coming years.Wish we could have been in Boot Key to greet you but our timing is off. We will be here until June 26th. so may see you when you get back. Take care,Vern

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Diva Di Crew
Who: Duane, Diane and Clyde the cat
Port: Punta Gorda, FL
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