Although the wind was still from the east, we set out to test the waters. We thought we'd stick our nose out into Hawk Channel and see how the winds were pushing the waves. It was better than Sunday, so we decided to go for it. The waves were in the two to four foot range with an occasional boat soaker thrown in to keep us awake. All in all it wasn't a bad tripp up to Channel Five where we cut to the inside on a rising tide and snuck through the skinny cuts without touching bottom...but at times had only an inch or two to spare! We traversed 56 miles and anchored in Tarpon Bay off Key Largo. The first set of our anchor didn't hold and we found we had moved nearly a quarter of a mile when we noticed the sceenery was changing! We reanchored and got a good set this time and stayed put all night. This morning we awoke to calm waters and much less wind. We should be able to make Coconut Grove this afternoon. We have been on the boat without touching land for seven days now. Wonder if we'll have sea legs?
The picture is an example of cooking at sea...the stove is gimballed and is level. I, on the other hand, am not!
We left Naples Friday and had a gorgeous sail down to Little Shark River; flew all the canvas and just breezed along! Saturday we continued on to Marathon. The decision to go up the intercoastal was nixed in view of the forcast of strong winds from the east for the next few days, so we decided the protected waters of Boot Key would be a better choice. A call to Tow Boat US for local knowledge confirmed our fears that the ICW would be tricky with the wind causing extra low tides and it being normally shallow just north of this area.
The first night we anchored outside and spent a pleasant night in the shelter of the mangroves. Sunday morning, the forcast wasn't too bad, so we headed out only to be bashed about trying to head directly into the wind and seas. Tacking would be the seamanshiply thing to have done, but adding extra time in the bash wasn't our idea of fun. So, we returned to Marathon and anchored inside (no moring balls were available at the City Marina, as usual). The weather was much better, but still a few whitecaps in this protected anchorage! Today, Monday, it's blowing worse than yesterday, so we'll sit tight another day and wait and see.
Having to wait makes us both antsie and looking forward to being home, where by-the-way, the weather is reported to be lovely...go figure! LOL.
We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust our sails, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We've been waiting here in beautiful Naples, FL for five days waiting for the winds to shift somewhere other than the east and it looks like it might be soon, however, this strong easterly that has been blowing for days has succeeded in blowing water out of Lake Okeechobee to such a level that it is now too shallow for Zephyr to cross. So we change our sails and backtrack to Marathon on Boot Key and then up Hawk Channel to Miami. Very disappointing, but we are SO glad we made the trip to Naples!
We have had a splendid time with our friends Ann and Ed! Besides the sightseeing they shared their beautiful sunset on the beach ritual with us two evenings. It couldn't have been more perfect. Can you believe there is a restaurant that delivers to the beach? They even salute you as they leave and the food was delicious (or was it the wine?) But it was a wonderful time and we thank you dear friends. (Had the first advacado today, Annie, and it was wonderful!) The picture is of Ann and Ed.
We have also enjoyed meeting fellow cruisers. I must mention Judy first, what a lady! She is single-handing her Catalina 35.0 from Ft. Myers to Miami where she will pick up a crew member and continue to the Bahamas! We spent some time together checking out art galleries and come to find out she is a watercolorist. She and I got to spend some time together talking technique (she is far more advanced than I) and she gave me some wonderful tips as well as some great watercolor paper to try. We must keep in touch.
We also were fortunate to meet Norman and Nancy who sail out of Swan Creek on the Chesapeake and Tim and Noreen who hail from St. Paul and are also Garrison Keilor fans. We're looking forward to meeting them again in St. Paul next fall for the opening program.
We have been staying at Naples City Dock and are overwhelmed by the professionalism, talent and friendliness of the staff. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty. I especially was impressed with Marlene! I believe that girl can get any boat into a slip in any condition if the captain just listens to her directions! She is amazing! I speak for many boaters here when I say "Thank you, Marlene. You rock!"
So, tomorrow we will head out at first light to return to the Little Shark River, then back to Marathon and north from there. I guess it's okay to start towards home; it's been in the 60's this week and the robins are back!
We left Boca Chita last Wednesday. Made very salty-splashy journey east in easterly winds to Boot Key where we stayed for two days on a mooring ball at the City Marina. Joe and Joyce on Shibon II buddy boated with us through the lobster trap buoys, 3-4 foot waves and 18-20 knot winds. They were continuing up Hawk Channel so they anchored at the mouth of the key and continued north and left the next morning. We'll miss you fun guys!
We took the next day to spend time with Clarice and Rodney, friends from home who also were hiding from winter here in the beautiful keys. It is always so nice to find friends in faraway places.
Friday we headed north through the Gulf of Mexico to Little Shark River in Everglades National Park. It's a beautiful anchorage with great holding. It is so isolated (no cell or internet) that there is no light pollution. When the stars came out, the sky lit up with millions of stars! I had just downloaded Star Walk on my iphone and was able to point the phone to the sky and it identified the stars, planets and constellations! Unfortunately as the stars came out, so did the mosquitoes and no-see-ums which shortened my star gazing class.
Up early the next morning, we pulled the anchor before sunup in a haze of insects and motored back toward the gulf. We saw a collection of water birds but no reptiles (i.e. crocodiles) in the river, let alone sharks. Once out into the gulf we had out ran the insects and continued in peace. We had a lovely following wind with some decent rollers coming from the aft quarter which rolled us around pretty good, but we were able to set the yankee and make 6-7 knots all day. We were visited by several curious dolphins during the day and one very large something. (No Johnnie, it wasn't a sea monster!) In the distance I saw something leap from the water and sail through the air for several yards. It was too big to be a dolphin, and was colored brown on the back and creamy white under. Our best guess is that it was a large ray.
By 4:30 we had made our way the 74 miles to Naples and took a slip at the City Marina. Stormy weather was predicted and we wanted to be tied to a dock. The weather hit early Sunday morning with gust of 30 and pelting rain. It did a good job washing the encrusted salt off Zephyr!
We are fortunate to have friends here in Naples, Ed and Ann who spend their summers in Johnstown. They offered us a ride to church which we gladly accepted and then we all went to lunch at a gorgeous little restaurant that sits right on the water. After lunch we headed to the Everglades to see some native wildlife. We were amazed at all the alligators we saw in the canal that runs along highway 41. (See gallery) They are quite amazing, just languishing in the sun or gliding down the canal with just a barely visible flick of their tail. The water was clear enough to see many fish; large gar and non-native Oscars as well as sergeants and minnows. It was all very amazing.
As we made our way toward Everglade City we encountered many vultures on the roadside cleaning up the remains of an unfortunate alligator presumably the victim of an automobile. (Why did the gator cross the road???) In Everglade City we visited the Rod and Gun Club (I don't think they have a reciprocal agreement with the Dunlo R & G Club). Many presidents have visited this historic site and it's been maintained in all its glory with original furnishings, paintings and décor. Among the news articles and pictures posted on the walls at the entry is a story of disgraced President Nixon's visit here where, when on a hunt, he lost his shoe in the thick swamp mud. President and Mrs. Eisenhower also visited and their youthful looking picture graces the wall.
Then we went on to the train station, well, it used to be a train station. Now it's a delightful restaurant with a buffet of real southern cooking. It was hard to imagine eating again, but once we dived into the fried okra, southern fried chicken, steamed shrimp, carrot soufflé and coconut-guava cake, we had no problems developing raging appetites! (The cake was, in Ann's words, "the bomb!")
Now, Monday morning, we once again sit and wonder about the weather. The wind is going to be kicking up pretty good for the next week and mostly coming from the east, the direction we need to go to cross shallow Lake Okeechobee. If the wind builds the waves to two or 3 feet and the depth is seven or eight feet, we'd be hitting bottom in the troughs; not good...in fact very bad. So, we may be here a while, hummmm.
When the breeze sways the palms under a cumulus speckled baby-boy blue sky, and the sun glistens on the cat paws rippling across the harbor, you know you're in a paradise. It's hard to believe the hungry birds are flocking at the feeders with their feathers fluffed to ward off the cold at home. We too shall have to be on our way north again soon. But, we're taking the long route to avoid as much of the cold as possible. As my dad always said, your blood thins in the summer and thickens in the winter as a means to regulate body temperature (folklore?) and right now ours is pretty thin so we'll probably freeze when it's 60 degrees. But for now, we're enjoying the warmth, but I will confess that we got out the airconditioner to cool the boat a bit. (Yes, I know, we're a pair of wooses!)
The past three weeks have flown by. The last of our guests, Cathy and Jeff Kloss from Johnstown spent a few days of their vacation here in Key West and we got together to do a little Duval crawling with them as well as go out to Sambo Banks for some snorkeling Thursday. With the water pump and alternator back on the engine we wanted to do a shake-down sail before we leave for good. Going the four miles off shore to the coral reef was the perfect trip. We were joined by Joe and Joyce, our marina buddies who also wanted to check out their boat's fixes before departing. Happily, all parts worked perfectly and we have the green light for the next leg of our journey! We motor-sailed out to the banks, picked up a mooring ball placed there by the state to protect the reefs from anchors and Jeff and I jumped in. The water temperature was perfect, there were very few swells and no waves to speak of, and the fish and coral were beautiful. Terry stayed aboard not completely trusting the mooring and Cathy wasn't quite ready to take the plunge. The reef actually is so close to the surface here that waves break over it, an area we astutely avoided.
Once back at the dock we cleaned up and headed to the Key West VFW for their Thursday night prime rib special. (Delicious and even at 7:30 we were able to get rare!) We had such a good time with Cathy and Jeff that we hated to see them leave. Jeff called Friday morning on their way out of town with the lament, "Friends don't let friends leave Key West!" We wish they could have stayed.
We have met more great people here at the marina: Joe and Joyce, Joe and Joan, John and Linda, Jenna, Pat and Larry have all become good friends as well as others we've only met briefly. Wednesday morning three of us are heading out and will be nearby until Marathon when we'll go our separate ways. Hopefully we'll cross paths again on our trip home. From Marathon we will go up the west coast to Ft. Myers and cross the Okeechobee Waterway to the east coast at Stuart. After that it will be pretty much a straight shot north with stops to visit Fr. Eugene's and Auntie Gladys' and then to the Chesapeake.
PS Just added new photos in Last Days in KW
This note if mostly so that when our memory fades, we'll have a resource to remind us what and why we didn't get a bigger alternator.
First, the problem is that the batteries recharge slowly.
Solution, get a bigger alternator.
Problem, bigger alternator needs bigger pullies
Problem, when under load, bigger pullies and alt combo stresses engine.
Result, can ruin engine.
Solution, become patient and don't run batteries below 90% or install solar panels and wind generator, ka-ching.
Results, keep plenty of fuel for little Honda generator on board.
So, with all this in mind and the fact that we think we're going to be swallowing the anchor this summer, we're going to practice patience!
02/18/2012, NAS BC
I'm continuing to improve. Need to feel better; we only have another week here and then we'll be back to exploring. If the weather cooperates, we'll return to Bahia Honda and spend the night, then the next day head north toward the western tip of Florida near Everglades National Park.
We've had a lovely couple of weeks here at Boca Chica Naval Air Station Marina. It is reserved for prior and current military personnel, and Terry's nearly 30 years in the Navy/National Guard qualifies us to stay here. We're in a lovely slip surrounded by boats owned by other retirees. It is really neat to listen to Terry compare careers with the guys. He's met one gentleman who actually spent some time on the same ship Terry was on in Vietnam. Another sailor was also an aerographer on an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin, as was Terry. A couple of guys followed the same career path as Terry, enlisting to avoid being drafted, then after finishing college on the GI Bill, went back in and became officers whom we believe make better leaders having come up through the ranks.
Last night we went to the Navigator, the pub here at the marina, for Karaoke night. We're all in the age group enjoy that digs the "good ole rock and roll." What fun we had! No, we didn't grab the mic, but we certainly participated as unsolicited back-up singers! I expect to see the scouts for American Idol on the docks any time now. There's always something fun going on here. Soon will be the Conch Blowing Contest that a group of volunteers enters annually, performing a song and dance routine while honking those conchs; pot luck dinners every Sunday evening, and a Dinghy Crawl through some Stock Island eateries (drinkeries?) followed by a picnic at a friend's house with return transportation provided. For Super Bowl, the marina provided a great feast and TV's including a big screen, four big pans of homemade piaea, grilled fresh fish, and the regular SB snacks. Cruisers, it seems, may be the ultimate latent party-ers! It's always hard to leave these fun folks.
News flash from home! Katie and Johnnie are moving into their new place today!! Finally, after months of negotiations and paperwork, the farm is theirs! Good luck kids, we wish we were home to help you.
That's all for now.
02/16/2012, Key West
Can you imagine being in paradise and coming down with a virus? How unfair is that? Well, that's what I've been subjected to and I am not a particularly happy sailor. (I thought lime, gin, and quinine kept everything at bay!) So, as a last resort I fell victim to modern medicine: hooray for Z-pac and Mucinex and the Naval medical facility! Lt. Henry was wonderful getting me in to see a physician, and now, two days later I'm starting to feel well again...resorted to the sailors' cure tonight. (Probably why I'm having so much trouble typing!).
With that in mind, I am going to attempt to download pictures when our friends visited last week. So check the gallery for a review of our visits to the Butterfly House, Hemmingway's House, and a few other odds and ends.
Pic is of Bill at the butterfly house...they just couldn't get enough of him!
02/12/2012, Boca Chica
We have had the nicest time with visits from our friends! First we had a few days of sightseeing and bar hopping with Bill and Barb, then Father Eugene and Father Ron came down for a couple days. It is so nice to see faces from home and show them the sights of Key West. They timed their visits well, because they had no sooner left than the weather went south, or maybe I should say the northern weather moved in. Last night the temp was in the fifties and the wind howled. But we were snuggled in Zephyr cozy and warm at the dock here in Boca Chica.
This morning we went to church at the beautiful and historic St. Mary Star of the Sea where we've attended mass whenever we are here. Father Baker surprised the parishioners today by announcing that the church had been raised to the level of Basilica by Pope Benedict. It is quite an honor and the congregation was very excited.
Yesterday we put the new raw water pump on and it seems to work well, no leaks, and is producing a larger volume of discharge water. Whoopee!
We will probably be staying here a few more days. We thought we might stay longer, but we're getting itchy feet and as soon as the weather cooperates we'll be heading out, destination undecided.
Picture is of Romeo's long lost twin brother!
02/07/2012, Boca Chica
How the rain did fall! Sunday's rain set a new record of 4.5 inches of rain in one day! Old record was around 2". But at last the sun is out and things are drying out.
Our friends, Bill and Barb, from Pennsylvania arrived yesterday and we are so excited to show them the town. This morning we are going to go to Blue Heaven for breakfast and then do some touristy things in KW.
Just another day in Paradise!
Franci, I will post more pictures soon.