Antares Cruising East

Vessel Name: Antares
Vessel Make/Model: Endeavour 37 Ketch
Hailing Port: Toledo, OH
Crew: John and Evelyn
About: John started sailing as a kid and he hasn't stopped (neither sailing nor being a kid). He introduced Evelyn to sailing in 2000 and together have been cruising Lake Erie.
Extra:
Left the lake for the ocean late August 2013. We traversed the Erie Canal, headed down the Hudson River, and tried to keep up with summer weather on our way to Florida. Each winter season since, we leave the snow behind, drive to sunny Florida, prepare Antares for the nomad life for half a [...]
26 December 2014 | Ft. Myers Beach to Key West
24 December 2014 | Ft. Myers
13 December 2014 | LaBelle, FL
18 November 2014 | La Belle, FL
19 December 2013 | Marathon Key
19 December 2013 | Marathon Key
20 November 2013
02 November 2013
30 September 2013 | B-Ville, NY
15 September 2013
15 September 2013
09 September 2013
06 September 2013 | Buffalo, NY
05 September 2013 | Dunkirk, NY
Recent Blog Posts
26 December 2014 | Ft. Myers Beach to Key West

Sailing the Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, December 10, 2014. Engine won't start. John switched the battery indicator to "All" and that worked. The air temperature is 46 (perhaps that's the reason she wouldn't start), northwest winds 10-15 mph and diminishing, waves 5 feet and decreasing, clear skies, high today of 65, continual [...]

24 December 2014 | Ft. Myers

On the Caloosahatchee River

December 2, 2014. Today was to be a short day with a 14 mile trip to the LaBelle free docks. We could check systems, make adjustments, finish bending on the sails, and fill the water tank. We had to go through the Ortona Lock, an eight foot drop only a few miles from the Glades. It was a beautiful, [...]

13 December 2014 | LaBelle, FL

Glades Boat Yard

November 13 -December 1, 2014

18 November 2014 | La Belle, FL

Continuing the Journey, Round 2

Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Leaving Toledo is about to finally happen. I feel we spent the entire summer preparing for this moment. The van is stuffed to the rooftop; the seats removed for the added space. We expect to leave right after the water department shuts off the tap at the curb. All day [...]

19 December 2013 | Marathon Key

Day 104-107 Cruising the Keys

Our first visitors from home at Dinner Key Marina were so welcome. Stef and Roy (Anchor Pointe Marina!) found us at the dock and what a great greeting! We spent time with them and this is when I first found out that more people were reading our blog than just the few we knew of. I apologize for not [...]

19 December 2013 | Marathon Key

Day 104-107 Cruising the Keys

Our first visitors from home at Dinner Key Marina were so welcome. Stef and Roy (Anchor Pointe Marina!) found us at the dock and what a great greeting! We spent time with them and this is when I first found out that more people were reading our blog than just the few we knew of. I apologize for not [...]

Sailing the Gulf of Mexico

26 December 2014 | Ft. Myers Beach to Key West
Northeast winds
Wednesday, December 10, 2014. Engine won't start. John switched the battery indicator to "All" and that worked. The air temperature is 46 (perhaps that's the reason she wouldn't start), northwest winds 10-15 mph and diminishing, waves 5 feet and decreasing, clear skies, high today of 65, continual slow warming trend, outgoing tide. At first light it was 62 in the cabin, but after heating water for coffee and the frying pan for breakfast, it quickly rose to 66. We are riding the outgoing tide from Matanzas Pass and we breeze along the Ft. Myers Beach area. People are already walking the beach wearing long pants and jackets. We are wearing layers of clothing and socks for the first time since arriving in Florida. Our course keeps us three miles off-shore with following seas and some white caps. Unfurling the jib helps with our speed, but not with the rolling. After 5 ½ hours, we see the Red-2 indicating the beginning of Capri Pass leading the way to Factory Bay at Marco Island. It's a tricky channel, but we know it now, and we ride the incoming tide to the well-marked, large protected anchorage. We averaged 7 mph over 6 hours and 41 miles. With no plans to go ashore, it is simple to drop anchor and prepare for the night. Days are getting short and we have a long way to go tomorrow. Never enter a port in the dark; it's just not wise.

Thursday, December 11, 2014. The engine is warming while John washes the anchor chain as he pulls it up from the sludgy bottom of Factory Bay. We have clear skies, 47, northeast wind at 5 mph. Our destination is Little Shark River, about 65 miles away. This is our longest run and we are starting before daybreak. There are flashing lights on the channel markers as we catch another outgoing tide and move along quickly with the engine barely in gear. The sun peeks over the horizon. About an hour out, I turn off the engine and we are sailing at 6.5 mph under jib and main, close reach, 15 degree heel. We set our coordinates to the Romano Shoal Light. Now all three sails are up, heading 168 degrees, averaging over 6 mph. Morning winds begin to ease off and by 10:45 am, we're down to 3 mph. With three good hours of sailing in, we fire up the engine again to reach the light before noon. We set the new waypoint for Little Shark River and the wind clocked around to be on the nose, 5 mph with 1-3 foot seas. As the seas ease up, our speed improves to 6.5 mph again. ETA will be 5:00 pm, with daylight to spare. M/v Trident, a small trawler, beat us to the anchorage, and another sailboat was already anchored up the river. We traveled 67 miles in 10 ½ hours, our longest day yet this season. It got very chilly as soon as the sun set. No mosquitos or gnats, but too chilly to sit outside tonight. I look out over the wildness here and see only our three anchor lights in the dark. Are we wise?

Friday, December 12, 2014. Getting under way at 7:00 am, John is washing the mud off the chain and anchor. There's a north wind, but it feels east in our little cove. We leave Little Shark River right after m/v Trident and head south. After 4 hours and 27 miles, we have mostly high, thin clouds with blue sky around the horizon. The sun is shining through enough to cast shadows and comfortably warm. We have a nice east wind, beam reach; the jib and mainsails are full; the sea is nearly flat. So why aren't we going any faster (than 6.7 mph)? Three trains of thought here: 1) We keep changing course to avoid the crab pots, thus slowing us down at every turn, 2) There is a current running opposite of us, and 3) God forbid! We're pulling a crab pot behind us! We keep sailing along when John sees the Seven Mile Bridge on the horizon about 13 miles ahead. We follow the markers to Moser Channel. That bridge is so impressive: its height, length, and curves all add up to a massive accomplishment in engineering. Crossing over the bridge or under the bridge makes no difference. It is awesome! AND there's quite a current running through the channel. Yes, the choice answer is #2: There's an inbound current right now that is very visible to boat traffic. Once we cross to the Atlantic side and turn east toward Boot Key, we pick up speed for the final two miles to the entrance to the mooring field.

We are assigned a mooring ball and lucky to have it. This place is always full during this season and they even have a daily cruisers' net on channel 68 to keep abreast of all that's happening here. John grabbed the ball and I began clearing the deck of all our gear (charts, binoculars, etc.) when he hollered out to me, "Here he is!" John's nature is usually calm, so I'm expecting some disaster. Next to us is m/v Leap of Faith, a mid-sized trawler. It just so happens, that we both just read the book: Trawler Trash: Confessions of a Boat Bum by Ed Robinson, who lives in Boot Key aboard his trawler named Leap of Faith. He also has a Facebook page called "Leap of Faith: Quit your Job and Live on a Boat" that I have been following for a while. I did not connect the two as being authored by the same person until on his Facebook page there were two photos of two sunsets with Antares in the foreground.
We headed to shore to register for a couple of nights here, get showers, and find a happy hour with half price appetizers and drinks. One negative about Marathon is that all the nearby restaurants are across the road from the marina and there is much traffic along this stretch of highway. We had to play dodge 'em to cross the street; were we the chicken or the 'possum!? Once inside, we sat down to a full meal. It felt good, we were hungry, and we could relax. We perhaps relaxed a bit too much. Outside, we had to recross that highway in the dark. The wind had picked up and it got chilly after the sun set. The dinghy light was terribly dim (forgot to check the batteries from last spring), it was too dark to see what we were doing, and the ocean spray was a shocker. At Antares, we had not put up the anchor light yet and had no flashlight with us. I got leg cramps and wasn't helping much at this point. We got things done, though, and all squared away when John got leg cramps. Is it our diet? Could it be the strain forced upon us by the cold and wet and dark? Could it be the stress of a long day sailing? What are the odds that we should both suffer cramps on the same evening? We were turned in by 8:15 pm. Getting old, are we?

Saturday, December 13, 2014. Today, we rest, we keep it light. A trip to the deli for lunch meat, bread, and rum, with a simple picnic planned. We made an impromptu stop at the Legion on the walk back where the Army-Navy game was in full swing and the beers were cheap. We planned to watch the Christmas boat parade then go to the music jam to round out the day. So we drop off the goodies and get the guitar..... then we stop. Wasn't it cold and wet last night? Bring the foul weather gear. How dark was the ride back? We have fresh batteries in the dinghy light and an extra flashlight on board. Won't the guitar get wet? Will there be extra dinghies and boats about the harbor because of the activities? We talked ourselves out of it. Instead we prepared to leave in the morning, pulled our dinghy aboard and completed all the other necessary tasks. We were ready to watch the boat parade by 6:00 pm with our binoculars and beverages in hand. We listened to the music jam from the warmth of our cockpit. We enjoyed the evening immensely, right in our own back yard.

I'll be researching for a 12 volt car charger for both AA batteries and laptop computer. Every time we use the inverter, it uses up too much of the battery power in the conversion from DC to AC (except when the engine is running). Amazon is amazing for finding such things. I know they're out there....

Sunday, December 14, 2014. Weather: 61 and clear, north to northeast winds, 10-15 mph in the morning, easing off in the afternoon. We get moving at 7:30 am and within two hours, we're sailing. There are fewer crab pots here in Hawks Channel or at least well-spaced. We are averaging 6.2 mph, beam reach, 265 degree heading, no weather helm; a wonderful sail on a wonderful day. Fat Albert is in the sky above Cudjoe Key (weather blimp), Navy jets coming and going. Not many boats, but enough to know that they, too, are having a fine day. At 3:09 pm, we arrive at our final destination for the winter months, Stock Island Marina Village. Looks the same, but there have been updates going on all year and we hope to take advantage of them all. C-Dock, we're home.

On the Caloosahatchee River

24 December 2014 | Ft. Myers
neverending summer
December 2, 2014. Today was to be a short day with a 14 mile trip to the LaBelle free docks. We could check systems, make adjustments, finish bending on the sails, and fill the water tank. We had to go through the Ortona Lock, an eight foot drop only a few miles from the Glades. It was a beautiful, calm day as we headed toward the Gulf. Around 8:00 am I began hailing the lock tender on the hand-held VHF radio to request an opening. No response, so I called again on the larger Raytheon VHF radio. Again, no response. We were some distance away yet, so I wasn’t concerned. We figured the tender was probably away from his radio and couldn’t answer right away. By the time we were at the lock and waiting, I was getting a bit impatient at the lack of response. We hovered almost one hour. Another boat came up and told us that they could hear us and tried to reply. They, too, could get no answer from the lock tender. Now, what are the odds that both radios could only transmit? John began troubleshooting the main radio. At first he planned to install the new one we had on hand, but after detaching the antenna cable from the Raytheon, he noticed the corrosion. A few swipes with sandpaper and we began to receive transmissions. Between the two radios, we had one working radio! One problem temporarily solved, but where was the lock tender? Then we got the call that the lock was open. Earlier, during that hour wait, I telephoned the lock and got an answering machine. I then called the LaBelle Bridge tender to see if she could help. She gave me the Army Corp of Engineers number. They, too, had an answering machine and I left a message. The gentleman who was working the lock was the supervisor. He had gotten word at 8:10 am that there was no one tending the lock. He must have driven like a mad man to get here from Clewiston so quickly. This lock is gravity feed. The gates at the downstream end were opened slightly to release the water slowly for a drop of eight feet. We were on our merry way.

Around 9:45, Bill on s/v Escape Pod and Caroline (of TheBoatGalley.com fame) on s/v Barefoot Gal were doing a radio check at the boat yard. We were 8 ½ miles away and our main radio was transmitting and receiving well. By 10:30 am, we were at the LaBelle docks. There are slips for 6 boats, three were in use. This is a fine location for access to water, electricity, and amenities. We put on the main sail and then John took the bike to get items at the hardware store. We now had hot and cold pressure water, but the sensor had to be tapped to activate when the pressure got low. (It was hardly considered inconvenient after only having jugs of cold water that we had to carry to the boat for the last month). S/v Escape Pod joined us at the free docks so John and Bill shared a round of beer and a round of stories with the other sailors already here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014. It was warm and clear with a light east wind as we left LaBelle. Already, the little Nimble motor vessel and s/v Antigone had left. We helped s/v Salty Spray leave and he told us about anchoring at Bimini Basin as a great stopping place across from Ft. Myers about a mile in up a canal. We considered it, but planned to anchor across from the Ft. Myers Yacht Basin between the Edison Bridges and the Route 41 Bridge. Bill was going to stay at LaBelle another day to work on his hard dodger some more. All the bridges and the lock that we had to open were “on request” so there were no schedules to keep. We passed through the Denaud Swing Bridge and the Alva Bascule Bridge. The Franklin Lock west side is on tidal water and we only dropped one foot. After the State Route 31 Bascule Bridge, we no longer needed to request openings. All the rest were either already open or at least 55 feet tall. We only need 46 feet.

About 3:00 pm, we stopped for a free pump out at the city marina, and anchored across the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between the bridges. Several boats, including s/v Salty Spray and another from the boat yard were already settled in. We decided to find Bimini Basin on the charts and it seemed interesting. We called TowBoatUS for information and Jerry told us all about it including upcoming activities there. He informed us where to avoid the shallow spots and how the incoming tide can help. With all this info, we decided we would go to Bimini Basin next.

John says: All systems good, inverter gave us BBT, Origo-a hot meal, Perkins-hot water for shower, Jabsco-good water pressure; Corona and Angry Orchard the final soothing for our first sunset at anchor.

Thursday, December 4, 2014. It’s another beautiful day for cruising toward the Gulf of Mexico. We started at 8:30 am; several boats have already moved on already. Slowly…slowly, we followed the channel markers back to the ICW during the low tide. We took our time going the 14 miles to arrive on the incoming tide at the approach to Bimini Basin. John says: Observed sport fisher with excessive wake. Chatter was heard on channel 16 regarding boat violating no wake standard. Evelyn gave the one-finger salute and screamed “a**hole!!” She said it was a great stress reliever. Evelyn recanted morning knot tying lesson as the “sheep bend.” I said, “No, that’s what sheep herders use”. The knot is called a sheet bend.

Two and a half hours later, we made the turn at Red-86 toward Bimini Basin, Cape Coral. Cautiously we approached the canal… not much water under us, maybe two feet… once in the canal, we had plenty of water and paid more attention to the beautiful homes, boats, and landscapes here. The one overhead powerline was not a problem. After the curve to the basin, there were about seven boats, including s/v Salty Spray at anchor. There is a park to the northwest with dinghy docks, a beach, and boat ramp. Houses, apartment buildings, and small canals skirt the rest of the basin. You can see commerce across the street from the park and the road traffic seemed minimal at this distance. A hound dog on s/v La Famille announced our arrival and solar panels were charging at a rate of 8 amps. We headed for shore to find the perfect trio of stores: Ace Hardware, West Marine, and Winn-Dixie. First, we made the recommended stop for ice cream at the edge of the park. Here we debated whether to continue, because it was a much longer walk than expected. What else had we planned to do today? We went to all three stores and two more for good measure. Back at the park, we rested in the shade a bit before going back aboard to ready for tomorrow’s departure. Dueling conchs at sundown had everyone laughing, and that old hound dog was still making announcements.

Friday, December 5, 2014. We need to pay attention to the batteries after the sun goes down. Voltage was down to 12.6 on the battery bank this morning so the engine was slow to start. (John keeps the fully charged starter battery in reserve). It was cloudy, 69 degrees, light wind, tide coming in. There’s a one foot tidal swing this time of year, so we knew we had enough depth. We measured 2 ½ miles back to the ICW. I suppose that’s equivalent to a country mile, right? Around 10:30 we got a bit confused at the split between the ICW channel that goes north inside the west coast, Green-101, and the channel that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of panic, we slowed, let other boaters pass us, compared the paper charts to the GPS, changed heading to 162 toward Green-13, and on to San Carlos Bay with Kitchel Key on our starboard beam. We are definitely better cruisers this year.

By 11:00 am, we entered the Gulf of Mexico. More blue sky showing and the grey clouds turning fluffy and white; winds light and variable…..Crap pot! The first one we actually had to avoid! At this point, there is no channel, but we made for the green marker that signaled the beginning of Matanzas Pass into the mooring field of Ft. Myers Beach. I am amazed at how close we are to the beach as we make our way in. We are assigned a ball way back in the east end mooring field. That’s a long dinghy ride to the office, showers, and Bonita Bill’s. On the other hand, we could go up a near-by canal and dock right behind Topps Grocery Store. John stepped on his new glasses, so after registering at Matanzas Inn at 2:00 pm, we set off to find OptiExpress. We took the 400 trolley across the bridge to the old Summerlin Mall, walked a mile, got a temporary repair, walked another mile, took the trolley back, had a 30 minute dinghy ride to our mooring ball, and arrived after sundown. House batteries were low, so we ran the Honda generator to bring them back up to 13 volts (one cup of gas and ½ hour). By 9:00 pm, we had lights out.
Saturday, December 6, 2014. We worked inside this morning making our home more comfortable. We mounted the vegetable hammock in the galley and changed out the lightbulbs for LED lights (John had to reverse the wiring). In the head we installed a clothes hook and reorganized storage so fewer items on the counter. We designated a drawer in the saloon for spare bulbs, hardware, and zip ties, another for electrical components, and leveled the light over the table. John took a hand with some laundry and also ran the generator again to battery level of 12.9 volts. The sunshine continued to charge the batteries. After lunch, we spruced up a bit for going ashore. A nice breeze, clouds and blue sky, and expecting some rain later didn’t stop us. We came back to Antares to watch the Christmas boat parade, but they didn’t parade (that I could see since we were in the east mooring field). There were some very decorative and innovative ideas, though. For the next couple of days, we took it easy going ashore, visiting the beach, restaurants, and shops, watching the people and the sunsets. We added 20 gallons of water to our tank 5 gallons at a time, each time we went ashore.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014. Harbor master came around to do a pump out, six days after the first one. We can go about 12 days, if we’re careful, but all pump outs in Florida are free so we take advantage when available. We also moved to a mooring ball in the west field, spent the afternoon at Bonita Bill’s, then pulled the dinghy and outboard on deck to get ready to shove off in the morning. This is one place where we could spend a month, but the weather gets worse in January, so getting 200 miles further south now makes a big difference in comfort.

Glades Boat Yard

13 December 2014 | LaBelle, FL
Warmer than Ohio!
November 13 -December 1, 2014
It's amazing how much you can accomplish when there is no deadline, and you just work on weekends at your own pace through the boating off-season. To squeeze the work of those eight months into one month continuous...now, that is a completely different view! The fact that we were heading out to the ocean also made us aware of the consequences if something was not completely right, that we had to make certain things worked on demand. Older boats are just that temperamental. Everything needed to be inspected and operated and brought to working order. Over the next few weeks, we checked off most of our concerns.

One of the big projects was to remove the water tank in order to reposition the bilge pump float switch and to repair the hole in the bottom of the boat. (Yes, you read that correctly: "a hole in the bottom of the boat." It's the size of a screw hole, a screw that quickly got 5200 adhesive on it and several rubber washers to make sure it held. Now it will be removed and the gap fiber glassed properly). That tank is the size of a coffin and there is no moving around once it is standing up in the middle of the cabin. We had started to put water, five gallons at a time into the water tank, so that had to be emptied. The stairs and floor/sole have to be opened; all the hoses have to be detached, the holding straps removed. We have done this before, but what a pain. It's an all-day affair, so best be getting it done. John painted the bilge area, too. It looked very nice when finally completed. Water leaked out of the cold pressure hose connection, but that was the only problem when the water system was put back together again.

When checking the thru-hull openings, the head sink was plugged. It appears the mud wasps entered through the drain and built a village inside. John disconnected the drain and reamed it out with a small diameter pvc pipe. We flushed it out with pressurized water. The engine water intake valve was very hard to work until the lubricant could work its way into it. The shower sump stopped working. So now the shower water runs into the bilge, then the bilge pump removes that water. The hot water pressure pump is temperamental. You have to tap it to get it to operate and it's behind the electrical panel and behind the engine. We use the boat hook to reach in and whack it. We spanked it into submission and now it works without prompting. The work list is unending and unrelenting. It's like trying to live an unfinished house. The Florida heat and humidity have negatively affected just about everything on Antares. I have two full pages of boating "to-dos" besides regular, everyday chores. No wonder we fall into bed every night simply exhausted.

The entire week of Thanksgiving was cold and windy. There were few of us at the boat yard this week, and most of us just worked on inside projects. So making plans for a gathering just didn't happen. I know I wanted to hunker down wrapped in a blanket with the little cube heater going. I do love our tiny living area with its compact galley and salon. I always maintain that it is much more luxurious than camping! (Alas, but much more complicated, too). The Glades office was closing that Tuesday, so on Monday, I scheduled us to launch for the following Monday, December 1. It was time, even though the work list was still very long. John breathed a sigh of relief that we weren't launching before Thanksgiving.

Continuing the Journey, Round 2

18 November 2014 | La Belle, FL
cold front, rainy
Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Leaving Toledo is about to finally happen. I feel we spent the entire summer preparing for this moment. The van is stuffed to the rooftop; the seats removed for the added space. We expect to leave right after the water department shuts off the tap at the curb. All day we packed and prepared, checking off the items on the lists that we had made during the last 5 months. I called the water department at 2:00 pm to be certain we were on the work list for today and the clerk also gave me the city garage number. I called again at 3:00 pm because they close at 4:00pm. At this point we decided to stay another day. We had drinking water and a 40 gallon hot water tank we could draw from. At 3:30 the worker came, checked the water meter, and used his "key" on the curb turnoff. I asked if that was all and he assured me that it was and left. For the next 2 hours, John and I drained the pipes and put in the antifreeze. When he opened the pipe that led into the house, it didn't drain. Instead, lots of water came in. The curb was not shut off. I knew the city garage opened at 7:00 am, so I assured John that I would call them by 7:05. That I did.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014. Again the scheduled time would be between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.....so we waited. We sat down for breakfast, then continued to pack, clean, tidy up, organize. Would we have to wait until Thursday to head south? The cable guy stopped by, the postman passed our mailbox, and then the water department worker arrived. It took him several tries to finally close the tap then put a tag on the water meter. Leaving now was up to us only. I changed batteries in the thermostat, lowered the temperature, unplugged the refrigerator, and determined that we need to go; to get some distance before nightfall.

Heading south in late October is a first for us. Since 2009, we would leave in January for a camping vacation. This time, the scenery is subtly different and the further south we went, the less color change in the landscape. Lexington, KY was a nice stop early enough to avoid rush hour traffic and get a hot shower (last one on Tuesday morning). I had plenty of food from the refrigerator to make a meal, plus the hot plate, frying pan, and an improvised can opener. John whipped up a pot of delicious chili. So with anxiety eased and a full belly, we got a good night's sleep.

Thursday, October 30, 2014. When you cruise, you meet sailors from all over the place, and you get to keep in touch and occasionally meet again. We made a stop in Atlanta to visit friends we met during last year's cruise. What a lovely reunion we had! Many discussions abounded about our fun times together, sharing knowledge and experiences, remembering friends, and making plans. We stayed up rather late, but rose early enough to continue where we left off.

Friday, October 31, 2014 - Sunday, November 2, 2014. Leaving Atlanta with a smile and many thanks to our hosts, we set our sights on Tallahassee and family. We made quick stops along the way, and arrived by 5:00 pm at the Posey home. That evening, we had an impromptu party with many of the Posey clan, including several guitar players. Music and camaraderie were the order of the day and it resumed all day Saturday with a trip to Taylor Cove on 4-wheelers. The family owns several acres along the coast where oysters were harvested. Of course, everyone brought food and beverages and oysters. You had a choice of eating oysters raw or put them on the grill to steam (and make them easier to open). There weren't any left and everyone was satisfied. I learned about fire sticks, oyster beds, the history of Taylor Cove, who's who in this large, loving, extended family, and the legacy that will endure.

Sunday, November 2, 2014. It was a leisurely good-bye to family this morning, with a goal to be within a hundred miles of The Glades Boat Yard where Antares has been stored for the last 6 months. We found a reasonable motel just so, a bit too cold to use the pool, but nice facilities. We took a walk and ate in. Lights out early, thinking about being at the boat yard by the noon schedule.

Monday, November 3, 2014. Owners are not allowed in the storage area; instead, the boat is brought to the work area where electricity and non-potable water are readily available. It may be a bit challenging in the comfort arena, but you can stay on board as you prepare to launch. Just remember to call ahead to reserve a space. This time of year, a lot of sailors want to launch and the spaces are limited. When we arrived at 12:10 pm, Antares was already in place. Workers put down tarps and used jack stands. The cradle remained in the storage area. It was wonderful to pull up to Antares. It was like coming home; we hadn't seen her in 6 months. She is in the first row facing the Caloosahatchee River/Canal. We could sit on the bow and watch the boats go by.... or look for alligators.

We noticed the hull and top were green from the algae growth. Inside, it smelled of old mud with some visible mold on the wood and ceiling. There was sand all over the floor where the workers had come in several times to pump out the water in the bilge during the summer months. Mud daubers had built a village inside. I think I got all the wasp nests, but there are always surprises. We have released several tree frogs, too. Apparently, they get blown from the trees into boats. I opened all the port lights and hatches which helped with the odors immediately. John went to work on the topsides; the green cleaned up easily, just an investment in time and cleaner. I began with the refrigerator, knowing that it was not cleaned thoroughly before we left here. Non-potable water was not what I was going to use to clean a place where food is stored. I had a big container of Lysol disinfecting wipes that did a nice job without water. I cleaned the sleeping areas next, knowing that we wanted to sleep well after all this activity. We brought the bedding, cold foods, and drinking water on board. Nighttime came early.

Tuesday, November 3, 2014 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014. At first we were getting up at 9:00 am, have breakfast and coffee with news. Now we're up before 8:00 am, and working on Antares shortly after. Every day, all 10 days so far, have followed a similar routine. It gets dark by 6:00 pm, and everyone stops working outside. Besides, by then, arms are weak and one more trip up the ladder is one too many. It is soon after that, that many of the people here get together for food and drinks. Some have cocktails, some cook on the grill; some eat on their boats and join afterward. It's a time to share, to discuss, to explain, to inform, to discover, to enrich, to listen, to enlighten... so many topics, pretty much all boating related. As we get to know our fellow boaters, there is a spirit of adventure in all of us. No one can make a schedule of where and when they'll be, just a general idea. Several are going to Key West, as we are, but no specific rendezvous planned. I know that when we recognize another boat from here, we will at least wave!
It was windy and rainy on Sunday when the electricity cut out. We switched the fridge to AC and heated our soup on the alcohol stove. We were warm and cozy on this cold day. Sally and Ron visited us for lunch and, except for the leaky port light above Sally, they were quite comfortable. We plan to turn that gasket over and get a few more years of use out of it.

We estimated that there is room in the work yard for about 55 boats at one time. Nearly every day, a boat is launched. Nearly every day, a boat is brought from the storage area. Sometimes, we just don't get to know some of the people. On the opposite side, there are those here doing long term projects on their boats with no projected launch date. There's a lot of knowledge in this boat yard.

We go into Labelle 2-3 times per week to fill up our drinking water containers at the park and buy groceries and supplies. Although the boat yard has sulfur water, the showers are good without smelly residue. Their drinking water has too much sulfur in it for our palates. I definitely bought white vinegar to wipe down all the inside surfaces. Mold wasn't bad, but it is present. What's left is a clean, fresh surface. I'm nearly finished with the cleaning. The van still has gear to bring on board and items to go into the van to store. John has the hull cleaned and waxed, the boot stripe and water line painted, the bottom scraped and washed. The solar panels are working nicely. Progress is being made. We hope to launch before Thanksgiving, but this wouldn't be a bad place to celebrate the holiday.

Day 104-107 Cruising the Keys

19 December 2013 | Marathon Key
Our first visitors from home at Dinner Key Marina were so welcome. Stef and Roy (Anchor Pointe Marina!) found us at the dock and what a great greeting! We spent time with them and this is when I first found out that more people were reading our blog than just the few we knew of. I apologize for not keeping up but we were no longer confined to waiting out locks with time to spare, that we put the pedal to the metal and by the end of each day, dog tired. I promise to go back and write the blogs from days 47-103, but for now we are out of the canals, rivers, and Intracoastal Waterway where you must follow the “road” or pay the consequences. I’ll take up my story where the travel seemed markedly different than the previous and new choices available to us.

We knew the travel was different as we left the Dinner Key Marina in Miami and set out on Biscayne Bay. We were shedding the familiar and sometimes that is not an easy thing to do. The comforts we found through each segment of our journey is mostly gone. We started over on several levels. First, most noticeable was that the ICW chart book we were using was done. We had to put it with the others (Great Lakes, Erie Canal, Hudson River, New Jersey coast and Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay). The ICW chart book guided us 1095 miles safely along the US coast, Virginia to Florida, and was easy to read, understand, and follow. Now we use the big chart book, sort of awkward with tiny print and the magenta line is only a suggestion or non-existent. We rely heavily on the compass as well as the GPS. Second, the people we were traveling with were not going south. Biscayne Bay was their departure point to the Bahamas. They were scattered along the ICW waiting for their weather windows, each in a different spot. We were the furthest south, and had expected to see them all once more before we left. It was not to happen. I’m glad I had on my sunglasses so that John couldn’t see that I was upset about this. That’s the way of transient life: enjoy and appreciate the company while it’s here; expect sailors to follow their own way in their own time to their own tune. (Hey Drew, is there a song here?) Third, I felt that we are truly an island in the ocean. All we need has to be found on 37 x 12 feet of space or do without. It was the first time in a long while that we used the autopilot for any length of time. Then once the sails were set, they got to stay that way for hours. 4 ½ hours with the engine and 2 ½ hours under sail alone on Day 104 dried my eyes and put a smile on my lips. The only concern on this day was the antifreeze level. John added 3 quarts of fluid over the past few days, ever since we pushed to make some scheduled bridge openings so we didn’t have to “hover” for half an hour. We shouldn’t push Mother Perkins! Fourth, this area of Florida is not so built up and polished as Miami north. Rustic and wild comes to mind. Some of the people we meet are living on the edge of mainstream. I wonder how their boats float, let alone sail. Yet they are friendly and informative and happy to clue you in on the best places for the best prices. At Boot Key Harbor, you can dingy up to any vessel (sail or power) and strike up a conversation. It’s easy to let the time slip by, so don’t plan too many chores or errands to do in one day. Other changes are not so obvious; we might not even notice them at first, then realize we are in a different lifestyle, why not different habits?

On Thursday, Day 104, emotions went from low to extremely high. The clouds threatened rain from the ocean to the east and the wind was blowing 20 mph. To the south where we were heading, the sky was clearer with only a few white clouds. I hoped we would outrun the rain and that it would pass behind us. It did. Biscayne Bay was huge. How can the ocean be any bigger? We followed the recommended course even though we could have gone anywhere in the bay. It was consistently 11 feet in depth so we had no fear of running aground, a freedom we hadn’t felt in a long while. The only restrictions on this day were the cuts through mangroves between large bodies of water. One cut I particularly liked was the cut through the mangroves just before reaching Route A1A, the overseas highway to the southernmost point of land in the continental USA. We went under the highway and stopped for the night at Gilbert’s Marina, a bit expensive, but we wanted to celebrate: great restaurant and bar under a grass roof, beach, and salt water pool. There was live music, but again, we called it a night pretty early. It seems this is another subtle change in our lifestyle that was becoming a habit.

On Friday, we left Gilbert’s early to go only 6 miles to Tarpon Basin, a small enclosed bay very sheltered from the wind that was building. Anywhere else we might have planned was exposed and we didn’t want to spend more at Gilbert’s, so 6 miles was the best decision. We had to go very slowly to the anchorage a mile in from the route with depths ranging from 4.5-6.9 feet. Staying near the shore seemed the best course, but as soon at the depth was 4 feet, we dropped anchor. It still was a long distance to the dingy dock, but it was better than running aground. We had gotten new anchor chain in Ft. Lauderdale and well worth the cost when the heavy wind and rains hit in the night. We could hear it in the rigging but the boat barely moved. The live-aboard sailors here welcomed us to their little park and dingy dock at Key Largo behind the government building. It was a pleasant feeling. (Lately, the atmosphere has been less than friendly, though nothing was said directly to us. There are places that cruisers are not looked upon with fondness, if you get what I mean). We talked to several, but Tony and his little 3-legged dog Angel, had the most to share. John bought his fishing license and gear here. He has been talking about trailing a line behind the boat ever since I can remember and now he would do it. I stayed on the boat the second day; and early on Sunday, we planned to travel another 20 miles to the east side of the Keys.

Weighing anchor is easier than dropping anchor, so it was uneventful. I have learned the hard way to retrace my course…oh, yes; you’ll want to hear about THAT, but another time! There were two other boats ahead of us on the magenta line, when another sailboat, Valinor, passed us. We first met this single-hander at a marina in South Carolina so we chatted a bit on the radio. He was going for more miles that day and asked about the weather. John checked it out, and changed our destination to Long Key Bight, about 35 miles away. The wind would be strong from the north tomorrow, but fine for coastal sailing then. Predicting conditions over several days is another subtle change. John then had plenty of time to fish. Ever heard of a Lizard fish? Sharp teeth! They are used for bait, so John threw them back, all 5 of them. We couldn’t go as far up the bight as Valinor, so we didn’t get to have sundowners with him. The wind was strong and clocked around to the north during the night. As I retraced my approach on the way out, it was a little unnerving bashing into the waves. As we turned to go west, the wind became our friend and the compass kept us on track. On this day, we motored 2 hours and sailed for 4. So far it’s a grand Monday….

Approaching Boot Key Harbor on Marathon is straight forward. You round the island, head for Pigeon Key at the seven mile bridge, and turn right to enter the channel. We planned to be at a mooring ball just after noon. Have I mentions before that when we have a wonderful day, something will go wrong to spoil it? I also learned through this trip that my multi-tasking limit is 3. I was steering, watching the depth, and avoiding lobster pot floats successfully as John lowered and tied down the mainsail. I wanted to know how far to the entrance and when we would be settled. Ahh, GPS is a great tool for finding distances, so I started panning the arrow to the channel markers …clunk!! I looked around to see a pot float split in two and the speed dropped considerably. I had to stop the engine and John raised the sails back up. Neither of us was happy and it showed. I think we chopped off a few more floats on the way to a designated anchorage and dropped the anchor. John donned his mask and fins and dove on the propeller. Surprisingly, he came up in 30 seconds and said he was done. A float and line was wrapped around one ear of the prop, which was it. I was certain we had a spider web of lines all tangled and asked again, “That’s it? Really?” A much less expense than what happened at Rock Hall, Maryland…another story … We fueled up at one of the several docks to the harbor. This is the first time we had to pay for water. Guess we’ll be more conservative, as if we haven’t been so far!

Book Key Harbor has 226 mooring ball and most are occupied during the high season. They schedule weekly pump outs where the barge comes to you. There have two dingy docks, showers, laundry, project rooms, and a meeting room with library, television and Wi-Fi. This is a community with plenty of activities: pot luck dinners, movie night, music jams, and local entertainment. Information about the entire goings on is broadcast daily on VHF channel 68 at 9:00 am. I could stay here….

All communities have their dark side. If you want to know about the problems facing this harbor, check out www.cruisersnet.net. It is really important to know that this harbor is located in International Waters so the regulations are a bit different than what we’re used to. For example, we have to have an anchor light on at the mooring ball. Dinghies have to have a 360 degree white light at night and a fire extinguisher if it is motorized. The worst thing is for documented vessels; the moment they enter Florida waters, they are illegal and can be ticketed. I’m not here for politics, nor are the other boaters; this obviously needs to be resolved and the word out to documented vessels. We want to have a great vacation and fine memories. It is happening right here and right now in spite of all the difficulties of being a cruiser.

Day 104-107 Cruising the Keys

19 December 2013 | Marathon Key
Our first visitors from home at Dinner Key Marina were so welcome. Stef and Roy (Anchor Pointe Marina!) found us at the dock and what a great greeting! We spent time with them and this is when I first found out that more people were reading our blog than just the few we knew of. I apologize for not keeping up but we were no longer confined to waiting out locks with time to spare, that we put the pedal to the metal and by the end of each day, dog tired. I promise to go back and write the blogs from days 47-103, but for now we are out of the canals, rivers, and Intracoastal Waterway where you must follow the “road” or pay the consequences. I’ll take up my story where the travel seemed markedly different than the previous and new choices available to us.

We knew the travel was different as we left the Dinner Key Marina in Miami and set out on Biscayne Bay. We were shedding the familiar and sometimes that is not an easy thing to do. The comforts we found through each segment of our journey is mostly gone. We started over on several levels. First, most noticeable was that the ICW chart book we were using was done. We had to put it with the others (Great Lakes, Erie Canal, Hudson River, New Jersey coast and Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay). The ICW chart book guided us 1095 miles safely along the US coast, Virginia to Florida, and was easy to read, understand, and follow. Now we use the big chart book, sort of awkward with tiny print and the magenta line is only a suggestion or non-existent. We rely heavily on the compass as well as the GPS. Second, the people we were traveling with were not going south. Biscayne Bay was their departure point to the Bahamas. They were scattered along the ICW waiting for their weather windows, each in a different spot. We were the furthest south, and had expected to see them all once more before we left. It was not to happen. I’m glad I had on my sunglasses so that John couldn’t see that I was upset about this. That’s the way of transient life: enjoy and appreciate the company while it’s here; expect sailors to follow their own way in their own time to their own tune. (Hey Drew, is there a song here?) Third, I felt that we are truly an island in the ocean. All we need has to be found on 37 x 12 feet of space or do without. It was the first time in a long while that we used the autopilot for any length of time. Then once the sails were set, they got to stay that way for hours. 4 ½ hours with the engine and 2 ½ hours under sail alone on Day 104 dried my eyes and put a smile on my lips. The only concern on this day was the antifreeze level. John added 3 quarts of fluid over the past few days, ever since we pushed to make some scheduled bridge openings so we didn’t have to “hover” for half an hour. We shouldn’t push Mother Perkins! Fourth, this area of Florida is not so built up and polished as Miami north. Rustic and wild comes to mind. Some of the people we meet are living on the edge of mainstream. I wonder how their boats float, let alone sail. Yet they are friendly and informative and happy to clue you in on the best places for the best prices. At Boot Key Harbor, you can dingy up to any vessel (sail or power) and strike up a conversation. It’s easy to let the time slip by, so don’t plan too many chores or errands to do in one day. Other changes are not so obvious; we might not even notice them at first, then realize we are in a different lifestyle, why not different habits?

On Thursday, Day 104, emotions went from low to extremely high. The clouds threatened rain from the ocean to the east and the wind was blowing 20 mph. To the south where we were heading, the sky was clearer with only a few white clouds. I hoped we would outrun the rain and that it would pass behind us. It did. Biscayne Bay was huge. How can the ocean be any bigger? We followed the recommended course even though we could have gone anywhere in the bay. It was consistently 11 feet in depth so we had no fear of running aground, a freedom we hadn’t felt in a long while. The only restrictions on this day were the cuts through mangroves between large bodies of water. One cut I particularly liked was the cut through the mangroves just before reaching Route A1A, the overseas highway to the southernmost point of land in the continental USA. We went under the highway and stopped for the night at Gilbert’s Marina, a bit expensive, but we wanted to celebrate: great restaurant and bar under a grass roof, beach, and salt water pool. There was live music, but again, we called it a night pretty early. It seems this is another subtle change in our lifestyle that was becoming a habit.

On Friday, we left Gilbert’s early to go only 6 miles to Tarpon Basin, a small enclosed bay very sheltered from the wind that was building. Anywhere else we might have planned was exposed and we didn’t want to spend more at Gilbert’s, so 6 miles was the best decision. We had to go very slowly to the anchorage a mile in from the route with depths ranging from 4.5-6.9 feet. Staying near the shore seemed the best course, but as soon at the depth was 4 feet, we dropped anchor. It still was a long distance to the dingy dock, but it was better than running aground. We had gotten new anchor chain in Ft. Lauderdale and well worth the cost when the heavy wind and rains hit in the night. We could hear it in the rigging but the boat barely moved. The live-aboard sailors here welcomed us to their little park and dingy dock at Key Largo behind the government building. It was a pleasant feeling. (Lately, the atmosphere has been less than friendly, though nothing was said directly to us. There are places that cruisers are not looked upon with fondness, if you get what I mean). We talked to several, but Tony and his little 3-legged dog Angel, had the most to share. John bought his fishing license and gear here. He has been talking about trailing a line behind the boat ever since I can remember and now he would do it. I stayed on the boat the second day; and early on Sunday, we planned to travel another 20 miles to the east side of the Keys.

Weighing anchor is easier than dropping anchor, so it was uneventful. I have learned the hard way to retrace my course…oh, yes; you’ll want to hear about THAT, but another time! There were two other boats ahead of us on the magenta line, when another sailboat, Valinor, passed us. We first met this single-hander at a marina in South Carolina so we chatted a bit on the radio. He was going for more miles that day and asked about the weather. John checked it out, and changed our destination to Long Key Bight, about 35 miles away. The wind would be strong from the north tomorrow, but fine for coastal sailing then. Predicting conditions over several days is another subtle change. John then had plenty of time to fish. Ever heard of a Lizard fish? Sharp teeth! They are used for bait, so John threw them back, all 5 of them. We couldn’t go as far up the bight as Valinor, so we didn’t get to have sundowners with him. The wind was strong and clocked around to the north during the night. As I retraced my approach on the way out, it was a little unnerving bashing into the waves. As we turned to go west, the wind became our friend and the compass kept us on track. On this day, we motored 2 hours and sailed for 4. So far it’s a grand Monday….

Approaching Boot Key Harbor on Marathon is straight forward. You round the island, head for Pigeon Key at the seven mile bridge, and turn right to enter the channel. We planned to be at a mooring ball just after noon. Have I mentions before that when we have a wonderful day, something will go wrong to spoil it? I also learned through this trip that my multi-tasking limit is 3. I was steering, watching the depth, and avoiding lobster pot floats successfully as John lowered and tied down the mainsail. I wanted to know how far to the entrance and when we would be settled. Ahh, GPS is a great tool for finding distances, so I started panning the arrow to the channel markers …clunk!! I looked around to see a pot float split in two and the speed dropped considerably. I had to stop the engine and John raised the sails back up. Neither of us was happy and it showed. I think we chopped off a few more floats on the way to a designated anchorage and dropped the anchor. John donned his mask and fins and dove on the propeller. Surprisingly, he came up in 30 seconds and said he was done. A float and line was wrapped around one ear of the prop, which was it. I was certain we had a spider web of lines all tangled and asked again, “That’s it? Really?” A much less expense than what happened at Rock Hall, Maryland…another story … We fueled up at one of the several docks to the harbor. This is the first time we had to pay for water. Guess we’ll be more conservative, as if we haven’t been so far!

Book Key Harbor has 226 mooring ball and most are occupied during the high season. They schedule weekly pump outs where the barge comes to you. There have two dingy docks, showers, laundry, project rooms, and a meeting room with library, television and Wi-Fi. This is a community with plenty of activities: pot luck dinners, movie night, music jams, and local entertainment. Information about the entire goings on is broadcast daily on VHF channel 68 at 9:00 am. I could stay here….

All communities have their dark side. If you want to know about the problems facing this harbor, check out www.cruisersnet.net. It is really important to know that this harbor is located in International Waters so the regulations are a bit different than what we’re used to. For example, we have to have an anchor light on at the mooring ball. Dinghies have to have a 360 degree white light at night and a fire extinguisher if it is motorized. The worst thing is for documented vessels; the moment they enter Florida waters, they are illegal and can be ticketed. I’m not here for politics, nor are the other boaters; this obviously needs to be resolved and the word out to documented vessels. We want to have a great vacation and fine memories. It is happening right here and right now in spite of all the difficulties of being a cruiser.
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