Hiding Out in the Mangroves
23 January 2016 | John Pennykamp State Park
Since the wind gods have not been favoring us with a southerly direction for crossing to the Bahamas, we decided to head south for a bit to the Keys to wait it out. So here we are in John Pennykamp State Park marina in Key Largo, docked behind a stand of mangroves to protect us from the 30 knot gusts from the west. Today was sunny and cool (yeah, I know you northern friends think I'm a wuss remarking about 60 degree temps) with clear sky to display a spectacular full moon tonight. Tomorrow morning prediction is for 40 degrees so we may have to turn the heater on.
Backtracking a bit, we finally got our bimini and solar panels installed at Ft Lauderdale last weekend, just in time for the arrival of our favorite crewmate, Sue Beres. After stocking the boat, we said goodbye to Brian and Maria in midafternoon and headed down the ICW for fuel and a night's anchorage before heading out the channel. With high winds in the forecast, and a full anchorage at Lake Sylvia, we opted for a mooring ball at the Las Olas bridge. That proved to be a good choice as it blew all night long.... and we ended up staying two nights waiting for a chance to head out into the ocean.
As we left Port Everglades on Monday morning we heard a broadcast warning of Navy maneuvers just off the coast. We stayed three miles offshore, but were pleasantly surprised to see a submarine just off our starboard side in the restricted area, a nice start to a beautiful sail down the coast. We arrived in Miami in early afternoon. As we passed under the Rickenbacher bridge we saw fleets of sailboats racing in the distance. Turns out, the Olympic trials were going on for small cats and the 49ers. The mainsails of the 49ers displayed the colorful flags of the participating countries. We followed the fleet in to Dinner Key Marina, where we again snagged a mooring ball. It was a pretty bouncy night as there isn't much wind protection in the large mooring field and we were pretty far out from the marina shore.
Tuesday again presented brisk north winds to sail down Biscayne Bay. By midafternoon we were entering Angelfish Creek, where we found a perfect place to anchor among the mangrove covered islands. Only one other boat joined us there. It was a perfectly calm night even though the wind was still blowing on the Bay and out on the ocean.
We needed an early start the next morning to get out the Creek into the channel at high tide... the charts indicated there was only 4-5 feet at low tide. We had the third day in a row of great sailing in Hawk's Channel, which kept us inside the reefs that go down the coast. High tide at Angelfish Creek, however, meant we arrived at Pennykamp at low tide. We did a soft grounding when the depth read 4 feet at the last marker into the marina bay. After a short delay while the tour boats made their way out that same narrow channel, and reported to us that there was actually 5 feet of water if we stayed in the exact middle of the route, we made our way to the marina docks. We were the only transient boat there so we had our choice of the 6 slips. Bill guided Whisper in, stern first, between posts set just 12 feet apart (our beam is 11 feet). Once tied off with bow, stern and spring lines, we were perfectly set for our stay.
And we've been here ever since. The little bay is perfectly calm no matter how hard the wind blows from whatever direction. Yesterday it rained buckets all day long but we were comfortable and dry...except for the excursion to West Marine and the grocery. Mat and Jodie Koblenzer lent us a car for errands...thank you so much! There were surprised to see us as we usually see them when we come down here with the camper.
The park is a huge dive site because of the coral reefs just offshore. There are tour boats, snorkle and dive tours, SCUBA lessons and equipment rentals available, as well as kayaks and SUPs for rent. We toured in the dinghy through the mangrove canals but it was too rough on the ocean to go out to the reef that way. And the water was really too cold for snorkling without a wet suit (according to our new toy, the Hawkeye depth and temp meter).
We'll hang here another day or so... it looks like we may have a chance to cross midweek. If not, we may go further south to explore some more Keys. We have the time and the choices....