Friday was another fabulous day on the water. You know the story by now: Comfortable temperatures, mostly sunny and favorable winds. We had just enough wind from the right direction to fly the code zero most of the way from Holiday Isle to Newfound Harbor. Along the way, David saw a 2-foot long fish jump 10 feet out of the water out of the corner of his eye and hollered. Julie turned to look just in time to see the same fish do it again, but she also saw what the wish was after: It was chasing a small fish that had also jumped 10 feet out of the water! That was the last jump we saw, so we assumed the small fish was toast. A couple of hours later, we had to put away the code zero and resort to the noisy diesel engine for the last two hours of the day's journey as the wind died down.
Anchoring is usually a breeze in Newfound Harbor. We have anchored there several times before, but never at low low tide. At 4 pm, we commenced running aground. We were able to successfully run aground three times over the next hour. We were having so much fun running aground, we almost forgot to anchor! The problem was that the water was a foot and a half lower than the charts indicated. We only need 4 ft. of water beneath us, so we stupidly figured that 5 ft. of water would be sufficient. Charts lie! Or the low low tide we had Friday night was abnormally low. We changed tactics and anchored in water that was supposed to be 7 ft. deep. That worked!
Options' next crew of Phil, Karl and Chris will be coming on board Monday in Key West when Brooke and Julie rent a car and drive back to Miami to fly home. As luck would have, they elected to fly out early and were driving down A1A en route to Bahia Honda State Park, a scant 7 miles from Newfound Harbor! We bribed them into picking us up and we all had a great dinner at No Name Pub.
There are other bars and restaurants with dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling, but No Name Pub takes the cake. They have layers upon layers of dollars, probably several hundred thousand dollars worth! If you look closely at the picture, you'll see thousands of dollars right behind us. They frown on patrons removing dollars from the wall in order to pay their bills. We asked, just to be sure.
Saturday we slept in and didn't get under way until well after 8 am, knowing it was a relatively short sail to Key West. Once again, the wind gods had blessed us. We enjoyed moderate winds from off of our port beam (sailor talk for wind coming directly from the left side, at 90 degrees to our heading). We sailed at a 6 to 7 knot clip almost all the way. When we turned north to head into Key West harbor, the wind moved to mostly behind us, so we slowed to about 4 knots. I still find it amazing that sails generate lift, like a sideways airplane wing. That allows the wind to make the boat go much faster when it's slicing into the wind at an angle as compared to going to the same direction as the wind. Trivia note: When we went to the Wright Brother's museum at Kitty Hawk a few years ago, we learned that their design for the airplane wing was inspired by sails!
Upon arrival at Galleon's, we had the pleasure of seeing Heather. When we last said goodbye in February of last year, she had been diagnosed with cancer, had limited insurance and was having trouble coming up with the cash needed to start chemo. We contributed to her cause before we left. We got an update that, after two rounds of chemo, the second round being three times as aggressive as the first, the outlook is good. She seemed happy and full of life.
02/05/2011, Closing in on Key West now
With all the ice and snow in St. Louis over the last few days, we completely forgot to update the blog. That's our excuse and we're sticking to it!
We had a couple of surprises when we got to Miami. First, they wanted us to dock in such a way that we couldn't get off the boat: Either bow to the dock, with our 4-foot tubular bowsprit preventing an easy step off (more like walking the plank!) or stern to the dock with our stern steps at water level looking up at a 4-6 ft. high dock! We discussed the problem and worked out a plan where we would dock in a temporary available mega-ship slip. Docking was very tricky due to the proximity of other boats and pilings that had to be avoided. The huge ship in front of us helped by blaring loud obnoxious music to make the pilot (that would be David) relax and, all the really drunk 20 somethings were very encouraging. Once securely tied up, the huge ship continued to blast us with their music while they partied down.
We were planning to walk down to South Beach, but when David checked in over the phone with U.S. Customs, we found out the rules of the game had changed: We now had to go in person to clear U.S. Immigration on the cruise ship island. An hour and $46 in taxi fares later, we were walking down South Beach and taking in the ambiance: Lots of nice restaurants facing the ocean with dining right on the sidewalk and often hotel rooms up above. We found an OK restaurant that had some specials, including a free glass of wine per person. We ended up sitting right next to the two-person band. The singer/drummer was from Australia and the guitarist was from Venezuela. They were good and performed mostly original tunes.
Back to the boat, we found we were locked out of the boatyard! When we had changed slips, they had neglected to give us a remote control to open the special gate to the dock of the rich and famous. The marina office was closed but we eventually hooked up with a security guard who let us in.
With another long day of sailing on Thursday, we were up and under way before dawn. After motoring out of Miami harbor against a 3-knot current, we motored south past Key Biscayne until the wind piped up. As is typical, the wind was significantly more than forecast which was good luck for us. We were able to make some good speed with one engine supplemented by the main and jib sails. It was another beautiful day of sailing - pleasant temperatures and wind and mostly sunny.
When we reached Holiday Isle, we found it was low low tide: We have been there before but have never seen the flats so extensively above water level! That's what a new moon will do. They have a nice deep channel going into the harbor, so no worries there. However, the approach to the dock was scary for David: Only one foot of grace on either side of the narrow slip with a 10-12 knot breeze from the side. With help from Julie and Brooke fending off the pilings on either side of the boat, we were able to slide right in with no damage.
After extensive research, Brooke found a nice restaurant that was 2.2 miles away - a good chance for exercise on the way to dinner and the option of a taxi ride back. By the time we left for dinner, it was pitch black outside. We had to walk along the main highway. With no street lights, we could not see what was in front of us unless cars were going by. Not surprisingly, we wound up stopping at the first restaurant we came to. Luckily they had lobster!
David and Brooke
P.S. The photo is of Key Biscayne in the foreground and downtown Miami in the background in the early morning hours of Thursday as we headed south for Holiday Isle
Brooke and Julia just called me to look out front: You can see tall buildings across the horizon, stretching from Key Biscayne in the south to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and more to the north.
Brooke, Julia and I left Nassau early Tuesday morning and finally called it a day a little after midnight. We anchored about four miles from the Gulf Stream and found out that that was a couple of miles too close: About every ten to 20 seconds, we would get a series of moderate waves that would rock and roll the boat. After rocking and rolling all day, we slept right through the waves.
Both days of sailing have been close to ideal. We've had fair wind and following seas, a sailor's dream. We could have used just a bit more wind. In order to cover the 165 miles in time to get to Miami before dark on Wednesday and allowing six hours to stop and sleep, we've had to run one engine most of time.
With the sun shining, the wind blowing from behind us and the temperatures in the upper 70s, we wore bathing suits through the day yesterday and shorts today. We felt very guilty about enjoying the great weather with all the nasty weather back home (such a liar...no guilt at all). We did not have to shovel any snow or scrape any ice off the boat!
We saw very few boats along the way. Once away from Nassau, we saw two boats over the first 50 miles, then three more boats around the 50 mile mark and one more during the night. We were way off the beaten path! Today, we've seen a number of commercial ships on the horizon as we've transited the Gulf Stream.
We've got reservations at Miami Beach Marina tonight, just a short walk from South Beach. Having been rocking and rolling for the better part of two days now, I'm sure we will walk like drunken sailors as we go exploring the night life. We might even stay up past 10 pm!
P.S. Julie says "Hi and I'm warm - ha ha!". The pic is of Julie and David in front of the Code Zero sail.
When Max and Micah headed for the airport at 11 am yesterday, I started an endless series of long-delayed boat chores and boat cleaning. I took a leisurely pace and managed to finish only 30 hours later!
Brooke just called from the Nassau airport. She and Julie just caught a taxi and will be here shortly. We will depart first thing tomorrow and sail well into the night. We'll anchor near the Gulf Stream, next to South Riding Rock, which is a rock in the middle of nowhere. That will be a good jumping off point for Miami. As we sail west across the Gulf Stream, the north bound escalator should deposit us just south of Miami, which is why we're headed to South Riding Rock tomorrow night.
We've got reservation for Wednesday night at Miami Beach Marina in South Beach. From Miami, we will work our way south with two long days of sailing. Thursday night, we'll dock at Holiday Isle in Windley Key, a place we've enjoyed twice before. Friday night we'll anchor out in Newfound Harbor where we hope to catch the most bizarre taxi driver to take us for the world's best pizza at No Name Pub. Saturday will be a short day, arriving in Key West in the early afternoon, in time to relax and enjoy.
It looks like extremely favorable weather for all this sailing. I fear we're being snookered into a trap. Next report will be from Miami Wednesday night.
P.S. The picture is of Max and Micah with the conch salad chef in Morgan's Bluff. He scooped live conch out of the shell to make the salad!
When we last left our brave sailing/fishing adventurers, Max, Micah and David had arrived in Spanish Wells Friday morning. We had an absolutely great lunch at a restaurant apparently called "Restaurant;" we were the only eat-in diners. David had the best hamburger in his life, a whopper with bacon, lettuce and a slice of onion. We asked around about bonefishing and were told to find a sheltered stretch of water undisturbed by wind, since bonefishers need to see the fish.
When we got back to Options, we loaded most of our remaining beer into the cooler, jumped in the dinghy and went around to the back of the little island right next to Spanish Wells. There we found some shallow water sheltered from the wind. Micah and Max bravely jumped overboard and proceeded to wade near shore casting here and there while emptying their beers. David reclined on the front of the dinghy, reading a book and sipping a beer or two while ensuring that the dinghy was securely anchored and not drifting out to sea. No bonefish, but there were some needlefish. Micah and Max piled back into the dinghy and we completed our circle around the island. One stretch was a long narrow channel lined with mangroves. It was very peaceful except when a fishing boat came roaring by at high speed only a few feet from our dinghy. We really could have used Brooke there to yell her descriptive greeting that starts with the letter A. The last leg of the journey was over extremely shallow water. We tilted up the engine and made it through with inches to spare.
We had a great dinner on the boat thanks to Brooke. Not only had she pre-made and frozen a nice batch of spaghetti sauce but she also reminded me that she had done so just before we defrosted hamburger to make more spaghetti sauce!
The next morning we were underway just before dawn to get the most out of our last day of fishing. While heading across the shallows on the way to the deep water, there was just enough wind from the right direction to pretend to sail. We hoisted the main and let fly the jib while running both engines at full speed. The sails boosted our speed by almost half a knot! After less than an hour, we had to ditch the sails. Some would say we wasted time and effort, but pretending to sail is better than not sailing at all.
We had an extremely productive fishing binge while we sailed by the cut between the Pimlico islands and the reefs farther to the southwest. We caught fish after fish where the current was running strongly out of the shallows to the deep. Most of what we caught were the unwanted barracuda, the rats of the reef. Micah had the great idea to use barracuda as bait fish on steriods. We had visions of catching bigger and bigger fish by recycling each new fish caught to catch a bigger one. It only worked to a point. The bigger fish seemed wiser. Rather than take the whole fish, they would just bite off a big chunk far away from the hook. The one exception was when an 8 pound barracuda ate an entire 5 pound yellow fin tuna.
Once past that productive fishing ground, the fishing went cold. Three hours later, we had lost more bait but had not hooked another fish. In retrospect, we should have sailed back and forth in the strong current near Little Pimlico island.
We made it back to Nassau Harbour Club Marina in the late afternoon. No sooner had we gotten the boat tied up when I heard a familiar voice insinuating bad things about me to Max and Micah. It was Chris and Sheila from Neverbored! They were passing through Nassau and just happened to see Options while they were going by in a friend's dinghy on the way back to their boat anchored half a mile away. We visited briefly before they had to run off to meet a niece who was in town on a big cruise ship.
After a wonderful dinner at the Poop Deck (thanks Max and Micah!), we were relaxing in the cockpit when Chris and Sheila stopped by on the way back to their boat. We had a great visit, swapping stories until after 11 p.m., which is very late for sailboaters. As an added bonus, Chris fixed our SSB radio. The last time I used it, I had pushed a bunch of buttons to make it work and had managed to put it on mute, disable the ability to dial in a frequency, etc. It took Chris two minutes to get it working, plus he showed me how to not be as stupid in the future. Sheila gave me the frequencies and time to tune into weather broadcast and cruiser's net.
Sunday morning we woke up to a lovely sunny day. Max went to wash up and the water would not work. We quickly diagnosed it as the water pressure pump not pumping water. Luckily, someone had told me some time ago that my water pump sounded really bad (Chris?), so we bought a spare about six months ago. With the three of us taking turns on different aspects of the pump swap, we managed to get the job done in less than two hours. Now having done it, it would take no more than an hour, but there's always a lot of learning in these jobs.
Gotta go now. Max and Micah are all packed up and it's time to go to Starbuck's and get some Internet connections.
P.S. The picture is of a barracuda bait fish nicknamed "Chunky" by Micah, due to a chunk missing, courtesy of what Micah guesses was a wahoo attack.
01/28/2011, Royal Island
Friday, January 28, 2011
Last night at Royal Island, we had the most peaceful night at anchor that you could hope for. Just a ghost of a wind and a minor amount of tidal current. After a couple of Pain Killers (a tropical drink), we had some wonderful fresh wahoo for dinner, thanks to the skills of Max and Micah with an assist from me. The wahoo is called ono in Hawaii and means "tasty." It was not misnamed! We sat outside in the cockpit after dinner, talking and watching the boat drift around with no force to guide it.
Royal Island is shaped like this: , only elongated. There's 10 ft. of water in the middle and a thin ribbon of land all around except for the narrow harbor entrance at the bottom of the island. There was not much there: A private dock with a couple of boats in good condition and what looked like a derelict anchored on the west end. There was another sailboat anchored on the east end. Right in front of where we anchored were three trailers with AC running all night and a big spotlight pointed at us.
The next morning, we weighed anchor and were off after a leisurely start to the day. There was a light wind and, being in no hurry, we hoisted full sail and moved along at 4 knots, bound for Spanish Wells. We arrived mid-morning and Bandit had a mooring waiting for us.
Yesterday was a good fishing day but the wind gods did not deliver the wind we needed. We ended up motorsailing which meant running one engine with the full mainsail and no jib and sailing at a 30 degree angle to the wind. We zigzagged along the coast and continued to marvel at how the water dropped off from less than 200' to more than 600' in one to two seconds! We went back and forth over the ledge quite a few times and could never get a reading of more than 200' of depth! The depth meter goes to 600' before it starts flashing.
The fish count yesterday was 3 barracuda, a cero mackerel, a shark-bit wahoo and the big one that got away. Max had the big one on the line for just a couple of minutes. The big one struck the line, ran fast and pulled hard for 30 seconds or so. Max got a couple of good runs with him and then the fish popped the hook lose and that was the end of it.
With coaching from Max and Micah and the aid of the man-gina, I managed to reel in the much-sought-after wahoo. Before I could get it all the way in, a shark bit off the back third of the fish. The wahoo was the second of three fish that Max and Micah had on their wish list for this trip. The other two on their list were the tuna (caught and had for lunch on Wednesday) and the mahi-mahi which has eluded us so far. Saturday will be our last chance to get the hat trick.
P.S. The picture is of Micah holding the shark-bit wahoo with David strapped into the man-gina.