Sailing South

S/V Mariah with Trish & John Billings

15 January 2017 | Tropical Mexico
27 November 2016 | Mazatlan
25 May 2014 | Mission Bay, San Diego
04 May 2014 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
05 April 2014 | St. Maarten
17 February 2014 | Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, DR
31 December 2013 | Thompsons Bay, Bahamas
20 December 2013 | Long Island, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
11 November 2013 | Marsh Harbor, Abaco
31 October 2013 | Grand Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
21 October 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
15 August 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
17 July 2013 | Charleston, SC
14 June 2013 | Hilton Head, SC
14 May 2013 | Key West
18 April 2013 | Key West
25 March 2013 | Venice, FL
06 March 2013 | Orange Beach, AL

Key West - Heaven

18 April 2013 | Key West
April 17, 2013

Instead of making for Marathon, we, together with Sea Vu Play, decided to go to The Dry Tortugas because the weather was perfect, we had a long weekend available to us and the trip would only take 24 hours. Wow! Paradise…blue/green crystal clear water, turtles, fish, dolphin and a fort with a full 360 degree MOAT! Fort Jefferson…look it up if you have a chance to get some really great pictures.

I have included one here, but, really, look it up. It is amazing. It is called the Dry Tortugas because there is not a drop of fresh water to be found and it is a breeding ground for a couple of species of turtles. The fort built a complicated system of cisterns to capture rain water, but they have all crumbled now. We spent a glorious weekend snorkeling and exploring the fort before heading for Key West.

While we initially planned to go to Marathon, we had to stop in Key West to spend the night. We were told by the Dry Tortuga Ferry captain that we should stay in Fleming Key in Key West, so off we went. And we have been here ever since. The heck with Marathon, this is another slice of heaven. The city had so many problems with boaters that they set up a “mooring field” so that every boat is attached to a buoy, no anchors allowed. It only costs $18 per night and includes bathroom facilities, laundry room, free internet, free holding tank pumpouts and free parking at the dinghy dock. The only thing they don’t offer is water, so until we can get our watermaker working, we have to leave our buoy and go to Key West Harbor to fill up about every 2 weeks. If we were to get a slip in Key West Harbor it would be about $3.50 per foot per night ($145 per night). The only down side to this mooring field is that you have to “dinghy in” to get to shore and the ride is quite difficult. We consider ourselves “dinghy-challenged” as our motor only works when it feels like it and our dinghy is very old and soft. The wind blows 15 to 20 everyday so our trip to shore is a very wet process, definitely an “E” ticket ride. We don our swim suits for the ride in and then change our clothes (sometimes shower) before going into town on our bikes. Last week, we gave up on the motor and bought a brand new Yamaha 8hp that works flawlessly. But the dinghy is still sub-par and we will have to fix that as soon as we can afford it. So, we are out in this open water bay called Garrison Bight with about 50 other boats of all kinds, some permanent” liveaboards” and some “transients” like us. We have met a couple that lives in New Hampshire and have been cruising each winter for 5 years. They have just returned from wintering in Panama and are heading back up to New Hampshire for the summer. Another couple lives in New Jersey. They were on their first long venture outside of the Chesapeake and spent all winter coming south visiting all their friends along the way. Since our next adventure involves spending the summer in the Chesapeake Bay, we picked their brains ad nauseum, finding out where to go, what to see, and where to ride out any wayward hurricanes. We meet the most amazing people who are so filled with the spirit of adventure (and they’re mostly even older than we are…go figure), that we just can’t wait to experience the places that they have seen.

But, back to Key West. Key West is like Mission Beach in high summer…cubed. There are at least 2 huge cruise ships in port every day and hundreds of bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and trolley services, all servicing an area about 4 miles wide by 2 miles long. The harbor is filled with charter boats for every activity possible from fishing, glass bottom kayaks, para-sailing to kite-board lessons and snorkel trips. And each activity lasts four hours because the ships leave port every afternoon at 4pm. Then, there are the locals mixed in…most seem to be “rode hard and put away wet,” to quote my friend Jan. Many are down and out and have landed up here after hard times at “home.” It’s a place where you can forget your troubles and have a lot of fun (drinking is a favorite past time and the bars are very busy and great people-watching spots).

We invited Karen & Mark Hallquist from Sea Vu Play to go snorkeling with us at one of the nearby reefs. I first suggested that we take a snorkel charter for only $35 each. John said, “But why pay, we have our own boat.” So off we went out to Sand Key, one of the snorkel reefs. All told, it took us 3 hours to get there and 3 hours back with about an hour of snorkeling in between. The wind was blowing 20-25 knots, the seas were choppy with small craft warnings out. In reflection, we decided that $35 didn’t seem like very much money after all. But we did enjoy the snorkeling and the adventure and scenery. It was a lovely day.

We have recently discovered “Happy Hour” in the local bars. Don’t know why it took us so long, but we have met some really interesting “locals.” Last night, it was Charlie, a boat captain who takes care of a family’s pride and joy and skippers them around whenever they come to town or he takes their boat to the Virgin Islands so that they can come and play on it for a little while. He’s lived here all his life, one of his sons is part of the “Police Horse Brigade.” I think we saw him last weekend while we were riding our bikes around the island and taking my cell phone for a lovely swim. Sigh…a new cell phone should arrive any day now.

John will be flying into San Diego from April 20th to May 4th to get some crisis dental work done, so if you’re in the area, give him a call and catch up. I will be staying aboard Mariah – all by myself – holding down the fort. So, if any of you want to spend a week in Key West with me, let me know (by email as my phone is dead). I am in the process of learning all the things that are normally John’s responsibility – using the dinghy, checking the electrical, water and holding tank levels. It’s a good exercise. Maybe one day, I can teach him to cook, clean, do laundry and buy groceries. Ha!

Alas, we all have to begin our migration north to get out of “hurricane country” (oh yeah, what about Sandy??) by June 1st. We will leave as soon as John gets back from San Diego and the weather permits. In the meantime, I shall enjoy every day here in Key West, swimming, snorkeling, enjoying “Happy Hour” and our evening ocean bath…heaven!
Vessel Name: Mariah
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan 41
Hailing Port: San Diego
Crew: John & Trish Billings
About: John & Trish hail from Mission Beach in San Diego, are avid body surfers and dinghy sailors. They are in their first year of full time cruising.
Extra: We are cruising the East Coast of the US until November when we will head South again.
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Mariah's Photos -