Key West - Can You Believe
26 November 2017 | Key West Bight Marina
Southern Florida, Beautiful
We had a wonderful stay at Marco Island. Our Chicago friends, Jim and Elaine Buch hosted us, gave us their car, shared Thanksgiving Dinner and took us for a boat tour of the island. They are truly special people living in a very very special place.
We stayed at the Marco Island Yacht Club for a couple of nights and then the urge to get to sea returned. So we anchored out for one night waiting for the winds to pick up from the NE. We left Saturday afternoon at 1600 having waited for the incoming tide to make it easier for our 6 foot draft to clear the channel. It was getting dark by the time we exited the Capri Channel and it was cloudy. Unfortunately the anticipated NE winds were confused and decided to come from the South, yup right where we wanted to sail. So we headed west out into the Gulf. Our self steering Hydro Vane, we call Vivaldi, did a great job for a couple of hours until the winds dropped to less than 3 knots. So we powered for a while until the winds finally decided to adhere to the forecast and turned NE. Up with the sails, off with the engine and we were off. These next hours turned out to be one of our most enjoyable sails. NE 10 to 15 while we sailed south.
Now this was a short overnight jaunt. Only some 81 nautical miles to Key West and we didn't want to get there too early so I trimmed the sails in what I call relaxed mode. We were moving along at 7 knots sometimes toward Key West sometimes toward Mexico, it was heavenly.
We arrived in Key West North West Channel around 0700 just as the sun popped up. Perfect timing. Nice job captain. Not to shabby a passage, 98 miles to the harbor in 14 hours.
So we are here in Margarita Vil for a couple of days doing projects, waiting for packages and planning.
Wednesday we may head off to the Dry Tortugas which will be our jumping off spot for the trip to Mexico. We've never sailed these water so this is all new to us. We have to pay attention to the currents, big time through the Yucatan Channel. My plan is to first head south west to pick up a Gulf counter current to help us get south toward Cuba, then once near the island head west along the coast toward the western end of Cuba before deciding how to deal with the Yucatan Channel. I expect lots of current, maybe winds against current, sailors know what that means, and lots of shipping traffic.
As an aside, we have an AIS transceiver on board and I am so thankful now that I made the decision to buy the transceiver rather than an AIS read only unit.
Ships call us!! Especially at night when I can see them on our chart plotter both on radar and the AIS. Then a call comes in on our VHF, "Lucky Bird this is motor vessel Carnival Princess, we see you and want to know your intentions. Our courses would cross so some sort of corrective action is necessary. I respond and that starts a dialog that keeps us safely apart. God bless these electronic devices, ours is the best.
At night you loose several sensory inputs. Distance is very hard to judge and often it is almost impossible to see running lights on fishing vessels or the large ships. So you see a mass of white light coming at you and visually your mind starts conjuring up all sorts of possibilities none of which may reflect reality. So that's when the electronics become so vital. Echo trails on the radar tell us where the target has been. AIS confirms with more accurate COG, SOG, boat length information and a name; importantly the name of the vessel. Most respond to my call on channel 16 but not all and that is when my first mate Alice starts to get really nervous. A boat on radar 4 miles out looks really close. It's not quite white knuckles time but we start paying a lot more attention and make for frequent VHF calls. We haven't had a close encouter yet so our systems are helping.
We've had three night sails since leaving Turner Marine. We get into a rhythm with our watch system and the night passes swiftly. I have to admit that my mate doesn't always adhere to the schedule and often gives this captain an extra hour unless of course there at boat in the vicinity at night, then it's Bob !!!
So that's it for tonight, just had two bowls of goulash prepared by chief Alice and heading to glass three of red wine. All is good on LB.