01 March 2014 | Boot Key, Marathon, FL
Gail/Sunny/Winds North 8 knots
Well, I’ll bet you thought we gave up cruising. Our last cruise to the Bahamas was in 2011. In 2012, Gail had a recent hip replacement, so we decided not to leave the States the first year. Instead we sailed Florida’s Gulf down to Key West and back. The next year, 2013, our beloved canine crew member wasn’t doing well on the boat. She wasn’t even interested in dolphins. In Panama City, it was rough on her to get on and off the boat to go to the ladies’ room. We decided this was not good for her, so we turned around and headed home in February. She went to sleep for the last time in late June.
Now in 2014, we are on our way again!! We left our dock in Niceville, FL on February 2. The fog was pea soup thick. We couldn’t see the end of the front of the boat. We had a line to follow on our GPS, we knew our bayou like the back of our hand, and we depended on our radar. I was also depending on nobody else being foolish enough to be out in these conditions. When we approached the Mid-Bay bridge, I could see it for the first time looking up, not forward. About an hour on the other side of the bridge, the fog started to lift. Gradually, we could see farther and farther. We saw more dolphins than we usually see. We commented to each other that the dolphins were looking for Keesi. Dolphins in the Bay typically slide through the water, but many of these were jumping fully out of the water. Something you see in the Gulf, not the Bay. As we were approaching the 331 Bridge, one jumped completely out of the water two feet from the cockpit. It startled Frank causing him to lunged sideways until he realized what it was. We commented that the dolphin wanted to see in the cockpit looking for Keesi.
We sailed to Panama City arriving early enough to watch the Super Bowl (wasn’t very super). I guess a lot of things are different with the weather this year. When we sailed to Panama City, the fog wasn’t forecast in advance. We thought we would dock one night, then sail on to Clearwater. Instead, we were at Panama City for a week due to morning fog. The fog kept us from leaving early enough to get to our next anchorage by dark.
On February 8, we left the dock at first light. It was hazy/foggy, but we knew the Bay and could see the markers ahead of the boat. Arrived at Apalachicola and was docked before 4 pm. This was nice. It gave us time to relax in the cockpit before fixing dinner. We enjoy this dock because it is downtown at Centennial Park. Locals and tourists are out for evening strolls and stop and talk.
The next morning, we were delayed a couple of hours due to light fog and Frank had to replace a line on the hot water tank. We entered the Gulf to cross to Clearwater shortly after noon. The conditions were light, but because we were delayed, we went anyway. I have never seen the Gulf like glass, but it truly was. You could see fish breaking the surface as far as we could see, likely several miles. The most remarkable part of this trip was, under these conditions, we saw a strong green flash at sunset. I thought you couldn’t see them in the States. I have since learned that it is possible under perfect conditions, but very rare.
We arrived at Clearwater mid-morning the next day. We slept, straightened the boat, then showered. Then we got our grouper sandwiches from Crabby Jimmy’s as always. I didn’t think it could get better, but these were the best. Crabby Jimmy’s never disappoints. We enjoyed our evening in the cockpit. We back into the slip, so we visit with the people walking the docks in the evening.
The next morning we sailed to Venice Beach, a nice bedroom community south of Tampa. We docked at the free dock next to the park. We checked the weather and the heavy winds that were forecasted for late the next night had been moved up to the afternoon. We weren’t allowed to stay on the free dock for that length of time, so we changed our plans. We left Venice at midnight, sailed through the night. It was a lovely sail. Did I mention there was a full moon? We arrived at a protected mooring field at Ft. Myer’s Beach the next morning. We were glad we got there early. The winds were really high when they hit, some 30 mph and more.
We enjoy that anchorage because of the activities. There is several restaurants and live music surrounding the area. At night, we sat in the cockpit (with a big moon), listening to a live band at Doc Ford’s. It was sweet. We stayed there four days.
We left for an overnight sail to Marathon. That was also a nice sail. When we arrived at Boot Key mooring field, there were none available. The marinas in the area were also booked. We anchored outside of the Key for three nights. I always thought that anchorage would be rough because it is open to the Atlantic Ocean, but surprisingly it wasn’t. The worst part about it was the motor boats. They had no respect for anchored boats. One morning before dawn, I almost got knocked out of my bed when a motor boat passed us. A few times, during the day, we saw motor boats come so close to our bow, we were surprised they didn’t snag our anchor line.
When we got our mooring assignment, it was a premium location. Very near to the dinghy docks and marina office and closer to the Dockside Grill, a place where we grab a burger occasionally. We are also within a dinghy ride and short walk to West Marine. It turned out to be fortunate. Our electric toilet started malfunctioning. Frank replaced most parts except the motor and the bowl. It still malfunctioned, so he bought a new one and installed it. I feel like my bathroom has been redecorated. Then Friday (we’re up to February 28), while he was checking the boat motor, a hose sprung a leak. So it was back to West Marine for more stuff.
Well, we seem to be ready to move. We plan to sail north to Rodriguez Key Monday, March 3, then cross to Bimini in the Bahamas, Tuesday, March 4.