Day 12 - Tue 8 Jun 10
The sun had not yet risen as we motored out of the channel to the southwest. Unlike the forecast, the wind was out of the west, our direction of travel (no surprise). Motoring was the only option for over nine straight hours, but there were brief times that wind variations let us put up a sail. I did not run the engine at more than 50% of full RPM to conserve fuel, but we still made 5.1 to 5.9 kts depending on the current conditions, which did vary along our track. I made sure the bottom was clean and the prop was smooth at the previous anchorage.
We left Key West with 25 gals in our fuel tank and two 5-gal jugs of diesel. We can motor all the way to the Dry Tortugas and then home (over 240 nm) with the fuel we have, but I am sure hoping that when we choose our day to come home there is some wind to help us along. This is supposed to be a sailboat with an auxiliary engine, but on this cruise it is a motorboat with auxiliary sails.
The day was really pretty glorious in that the water took on gorgeous shades of blue, varying with the depths, and there were clear blue skies for the most part, with seas less than 1 ft much of the time. This section of water has some depths up to 80 ft, but also some small sandy shoals of about 12 ft. It is a surreal experience to be completely out of sight of land, and usually other boats, and be cruising in less than 20 ft of water. Come to think of it, much of the Bahama Bank is like that, too.
I trolled several heavy shiny fishing lures that I had been given by my stepdad many years ago. Three of them got a strike and all three were carried away by the fish, or whatever caused the reel to start spinning. We boated no fish, but at least we had three exciting moments as we quickly leapt to action, slowing the boat and turning so I could retrieve the line without the boat speed affecting us.
Diane won the bet as to the time we would first spy the fort on Garden Key. At 1405, she was late by five minutes, while my guess was for 1430. It is really great to have your landfall in sight, but we have learned that actually getting there takes a long while at only 5+ kts.
Fortunately, the channel east of the fort was open and that saved 15 minutes off our approach. We had seen through the binoculars that a large vessel was anchored there, but we didn't realize the magnitude of the problem until we entered the anchorage and saw that of high percentage of the useable space was taken by a National Park Service vessel of some 100 ft in length. We circled for five minutes assessing the situation when Diane noted that one sailboat was weighing anchor. We circled close aboard and asked if they were leaving; their affirmative answer solved our problem. We were able to set the hook in 15 ft of pure sand and it held great.
I set about my usual post-anchoring tasks, as did Diane, and soon we were relaxing. At that time, a small boat from the National Park Service boat came by attempting to speak with each of the boat operators. Diane quipped that they were informing boaters of an approaching hurricane or oil slick, but they were trying to gather information on some people who were camping outside the fort and left in a 30 ft boat and never came back, leaving all their gear there. It is very strange, indeed. [We found out later that they needed something back at Key West, so they took their boat over, stayed at a hotel, and then came back two days later. In the meantime, a search and rescue operation had been initiated.]
As I surveyed the anchorage, I noted a sailboat with a name and shape I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was my buddy on New Hope from Coco Plum, just outside Marathon in the keys. I dinghied over to say hello and we and his buddy chatted a while. We made plans to go over to Loggerhead Key to snorkel tomorrow.
Back at Diva Di, we sautéed some canned crab, prepared some rice pilaf, and had more of the fresh cole slaw we made the other night. It was a pretty great meal; Diane has done a great job of provisioning for our cruise, as usual. Breakfasts are cereal and milk for me and special fruit bread and butter for her. Lunches vary from dinner leftovers to nice deli sandwiches. Snacks usually include fruit and pretzels.
I should note that now we are in an anchorage where there is little tidal current. That is significant because our boat will swing on the anchor and face the wind where our wind scoop will funnel whatever breeze there is through the boat. In a strong tidal current situation, the boat will lie mostly with the current flow, irrespective of the wind, which often leaves you with little air flow. Hopefully, our present situation will give us a comfortable stay here.
Clyde spent some quality time topside with us as the cooling breeze and calm anchorage provided just the comfort we were craving. It was barely dark when we crawled into the forward berth and slept soundly all night.
The engine inspection showed that everything is in order, but I will need to do some careful inspection and some hose, belt, and pulley replacement later this year. After a cleanup, we went ashore to deposit some trash and find a cool place with free Wi-Fi. Harpoon Harry's was recommended to us by a neighboring boater, so that's where we went.
Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the air conditioning and our cool beverages. Diane watched TV while I spent just over an hour catching up on almost 100 emails, posting this blog, and checking weather sources. Reluctantly, we left the air conditioning to sit outside at the Schooner Wharf Bar to listen to music and have some appetizers as our dinner. The coconut shrimp and calamari were pretty tasty.
From there we slowly strolled along the wharf back to the dinghy and off we went on the three-quarter mile ride back to Diva Di. It is really important to have a reliable dinghy.
The next few hours were pretty miserable in terms of the temperature and humidity. There was barely a breath of air and it was stifling. At this point the heat got to us both and we decided to cut short the cruise. I went so far as to suggest we leave at that time while we could safely exit the channel of Key West before dark and then continue for the 30 hours or so straight home. Diane suggested we wait until morning, which got no argument from me.
We decided to sleep in the cockpit where the air would likely be a bit cooler and any little breeze could help. As it turns out, we did that in shifts and that proved helpful, although the seat cushions (which are intended as flotation devices) are not all that comfortable.
Day 11 - Mon 7 Jun 10
Clyde got to enjoy some extra time on deck in the dark this morning since I was already up there. He seemed to be much happier not to be stifling below, as well. I am writing this before 0730 and the plan has changed back to continuing the cruise at least for another day or so.
We weighed anchor and motorsailed out to the southwest to Sand Key light and its coral reef. The conditions were amazingly calm and the light was good despite the mostly cloudy/hazy sky. The portion of the reef we snorkeled was nothing terrific, but a worthwhile stop to be sure.
Back aboard Diva Di, we showered on the transom and made way for Boca Grande Key, a little island about 14 miles due west of Key West. We had been here before three years ago and loved the solitude and natural beauty. If the sky is clear, it will reward us with a blaze of stars as there is virtually no man-made light for about 14 miles.
After anchoring, we lowered the dinghy (it takes three minutes I am finding out) and took off for the pure sand island on the other side of the channel from Boca Grande Key. We were disappointed to see many signs warning people to stay off the island; we assume it regards nesting of some protected species of bird. We heeded the warning and Diane just collected shells in shin-deep water while I floated with the dinghy staying cool and comfortable. The water is 87F, so cool is a relative term, but it is better than baking in the sun.
I took the time to raise the dinghy engine one position higher and that seemed to make a big difference in getting on plane. When Diane was done there, we moved to a shallow, sandy spot off the main island where Diane looked for shells and I floated in the water. She found some interesting shells that will add nicely to our collection.
Back at Diva Di, we showered (again) and relaxed in the cockpit with music and a book. We both remarked at how "this" is what we wanted our cruise to be like, and we finally have it. We have decided to take the next step and sail to Garden Key of the Dry Tortugas tomorrow. The weather is very settled which means no stormy conditions expected, but that also means little wind for sailing or comfort. My gut feeling is we will have enough to help us, but not too much.
Diane's main thought right now is about the passage home. To me, it makes more sense to go directly home from the Dry Tortugas, as long as the weather is good and the boat is running well. Another option is to come back to Key West, but then we are stuck with almost the same distance home from there, or the prospect of working out way up the coast and roasting at every stop along the way.
We decided that the key to our comfort was to sleep in the cockpit with the hope that the nice breeze would remain and the bugs would not come. Using the cushions from the main saloon on the hard cockpit seats made for a really comfy, if narrow, berth. The breeze stayed perfect throughout the night and the stars were indeed magnificent. The only negative was a number of mosquito bites before I fell asleep and quite a number when I awoke. At 0530 I was driven below by the bugs, but by then we were both awake and eager to get underway.
Clyde did not care to be locked down below without us, so he awakened us once in the middle of the night and we let him come topside with us for a while. After his nocturnal visit, Diane took him below and elected to stay there.
My admiral is saying I am taking way too much time on the computer, so I just realized I posted some things twice, but I don't have time to fix it.
[photo: our Key West anchorage]
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.
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.
[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.