We pulled up the anchor around 7 and headed over to Riviera Beach Marina. On the way we saw a Volvo racing boat sail into the harbor. We tied up at the gas dock, filled up with diesel and petrol for the outboard, filled the water tanks, did a load of laundry and then departed. Once out of the Lake Worth Inlet we put up the sails and headed south. It was good to be on the move again. We sailed between half a mile and a mile offshore South past West Palm Beach, and then we were chased by the Coast Guard because we got too close to Mara Lago. Apparently Trump was there and there is an exclusion Zone around the resort for a mile north, south and east of the establishment. According to the Coast Guard we were loitering even though we were making almost 6 knots!
The winds were favorable but a little fluky. We would go from a beam reach to a broad reach to a beam reach to a broad reach. It made setting the sails hard because every 10 minutes or so you had to reset them as the wind direction was 45 degrees different. We made good progress however with speeds between 3.5 and 6.5 knots and decided to sail through the night and go in one jump to Marathon. Jillian called us in the afternoon and we got to Skype with her, Ollie and Avery. It was wonderful to see them. The little ones are growing SO quickly!
The sun went down just as we were passing Fort Lauderdale. I took the first watch, and as the sky darkened the shoreline began to bustle with lights, traffic and all sorts of activity. We were about 3/4 of a mile offshore, and on our left side were tankers anchored waiting to enter port. Lights twinkled in all different shapes and colors. The night was clear with very few clouds overhead, and the wind blew from the north-northwest pushing us gently along at about 4 knots. Above the anchored boats the flights from Europe lined up to the horizon, a seemingly endless parade of planes headed towards the airport.
After sailing under the flight path to the airport we passed the entrance to Port Everglades; there was a single cruise ship in there and the harbor was lit up like a Christmas display. As we headed further south towards Miami, the tall buildings became more and more crowded together until the skyline was nothing but huge brightly lit buildings. Some Office Buildings, some apartments and hotels, very pretty to see at night. I only wish I had a decent camera so that I could capture this View.
We made our way down the coast until we passed the glittering lights of Miami. There were lights of every color. We sailed across the mouth of Biscayne Bay and the wind gradually increased from 10 knots to a solid 15 to 20. Around 11 p.m. the wind increased even further so we rolled up the Yankee and unrolled staysail to help keep control of the boat. The winds kept increasing and soon it was blowing 25. Waves were 4 to 5 feet and rather steep and breaking. I wrestled the main sail down, and then we sailed under staysail alone. Even with just the tiny staysail up we were making anywhere from 4 to 5.5 knots!
The wind kept strengthening through the night until it was blowing consistently over 30. Every once in a while a wave would wash across the cockpit and dump its contents all over us. I went off watch around 1 and tried to sleep but without much success. Melanie called me up around 4 a.m. and told me that she was trying to get into shallower water. We were not crossing the keys at night because we did not want to risk that during darkness. There were crab pots and coral heads to contend with, so we were skirting the 30 to 100 foot depths in an effort to stay out of trouble during the night. While we were adjusting the sails for the change in direction, the wind came up and gusted over 40 and the pole for our wind generator came loose again!! It was threatening to detach and blow away, we got a line and wrestled it back on to its mount and then managed to tie it down. Next morning when the sun rose we unrolled the Yankee which increased our speed to between 6 and 7 knots. We also turned in to shallower water and started crossing the keys. The water was a beautiful turquoise, you could see dark patches where the coral heads were and I’m sure that if it was calm, you would have been able to see the bottom. There were fish jumping out of the water in various spots, I’m sure they were being chased by something larger.
We arrived at our anchoring spot around 4pm, motored in to a narrow canal with mangroves on the right and hurricane damaged houses on the left. We anchored in a very small bay behind Coco Plum Beach, spent the night there and then met up with Jeanne and Neal the following day at the beach. We took Windsor on a long line (50ft) and he just ran about like a crazy boy, so happy to be able to burn off some energy. We all went to happy hour at a bar on the Gulf side, and at sunset everyone there got a free shot. Then we came back to our boat for a few drinks before turning in. We went to the beach with them the next day and then went over to their camper for dinner. It was warm enough to swim in the heated pool so we did, and then went back and enjoyed a wonderful evening together.
Next morning we left for Boot Key Harbor where we picked up a mooring ball and spent two nights and a day. We re-provisioned at the grocery store and went across the road from the marina to a liquor store where we got two tokens for free drinks at the bar next door. So we went next door and enjoyed some good conversation with a few locals and then returned and went to bed.
We left early in the morning and headed towards Key West. After raising the sails we realized that we had somehow gotten a crab pot tangled around our rudder. We fought for a good 20 minutes to get it loose. We could not steer and the pressure on the rudder was preventing us from turning into the wind. We couldn’t lower the main either because we couldn’t turn far enough into the wind to take enough pressure off the sail to allow it to come down. We lowered the dinghy into the water, and eventually I was able to wrestle the line up far enough to where I could cut it free. During the whole episode I managed to poke the boat hook into the windmill and one of the blades snapped. We had to stop the windmill and tie it so it would not wobble and break. Once freed, we turned on to our course and headed west. Winds were 15 to 20 but gradually subsided during the day. We made very good time sailing between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 knots, and when the wind moderated to below 10 knots we put up the spinnaker and our speed once again increased from 4 to almost 6 knots.
We arrived at Key West around sunset, motored to the mooring ball field and tied up. Next morning we went to shore to pay for our stay and then went to the ferry to meet Mary and Mike. We explored the town and went to the Sunset Festival. Next day we took the dinghy into downtown, tied up for the day and walked around looking at the various stores. Melanie made a delicious dinner on the boat that evening, chicken with creole sauce. It was YUMMY! Monday after I finished work we fixed the windmill by taking off two of the blades and turning it into a three-bladed generator so it was properly balanced, then headed into town where we took one of the Conch Train Tours around town.
After sunset we found a bar that played steel drum music and enjoyed a sunset drink and some appetizers before heading back to the boat. Our time on the mooring balls was up, and we decided not to extend as the anchorage was quite rough and our trips to town were long and wet. We motored the boat over to the west side of Fleming Island and anchored in the sheltered bay just north of the coast guard station. The trip to town was MUCH shorter and not nearly as wet. Winds had been blowing between 25 and 35 knots for days with no end in sight.
After work the next day we went and got pumped out. The anchor was securely set, so we decided not to pull it up. Melanie stayed in the dinghy holding on to the anchor rode while we took the boat in to pump out. It was free! On our way back, our friend Mike jokingly suggested that we leave Melanie for 24 hours in the dinghy. What we did not realize was that right after we left the sheriff came by to make sure that Melanie was okay, obviously concerned about this tiny boat bobbing around at anchor in a busy channel. After we tied up, we had a few drinks and then went into town to the Schooner bar where we listened to some live music.
While we were there the wind increased even more and changed to the North so our anchorage was only partially protected. When we decided to leave we motored out of the harbor into a two to three foot chop. We were swamped! Waves were breaking into the boat, soaking us through and a few times the motor stalled. A larger boat came by and asked us if we needed help, we said yes and they promptly left! We finally got the motor started again and headed back to the boat, giggling and laughing all along the way while all four of us were completely soaked to the skin. Windsor got wet as well and he hates water; he was not happy. We got the dinghy tied up lifted it out of the water and drained almost half a boats worth of water out. We secured the dinghy and came down below for the night. Mike said he would drink whatever Melanie was drinking because she could not stop laughing during the whole episode.
The weather did not cooperate; the winds were high all week, so after a week of waiting for favorable weather to go to the Dry Tortugas, Mary and Mike left and went back to Fort Myers. We fell into a routine of coming in to shore around mid afternoon and then going to a happy hour. Many of the places had very good food and pretty cheap drinks. We explored quite a few places just looking, window shopping, planning and going to a few of the happy hours to try out food. The views are always good, the music is good and as this is the busy season, there is live music everywhere almost everyday. We have not yet ventured into the bar District which apparently gets pretty raunchy in the evenings. Not really my cup of tea. The places around the water have fabulous views and really the entertainment and the atmosphere there is exactly what we are looking for. We quickly realized that we would have to discipline ourselves otherwise we could spend ourselves into oblivion. The winds finally changed back to the more seasonal easterlies instead of the Northeast and they moderated slightly which made us appreciate our choice of anchorage location, well sheltered and convenient to town.
Sunday we listened to Pastor Mike’s sermons on the radio, and then headed into town where we caught the Duval Loop bus and went down to the southernmost point. We had our picture taken there, then walked the shore and went on to the beach for a little while before stopping at a very small bar called The Tipsy rooster. It was very cute, the chairs looked like rooster legs with tails. We had a drink and then caught the bus back to the marina and settled in for the night. We saw a pontoon boat that has a tiki bar mounted on it motoring around serving drinks to the people that were on board. Quite an interesting idea.
I must say that Windsor is a very very magnetic dog, we have gotten more comments about him and his cuteness than you could possibly imagine. We get stopped at least 10 or 12 times a day by people that want to pet him and think he is the most beautiful dog they have ever seen. He just laps all this attention up.
We arranged to go to Tampa and Fort Myers, so we headed into town and bought some gifts for Josie and Marley, as well as some decent clothes for ourselves, some boat items and then we arranged with the captain of the Schooner Appledore Star to go sailing. We met him while walking around and talked to him for a good hour on his boat, and he invited to sail with him on a sunset or one of his afternoon cruises. He is 36, owns the schooner and Charters it out in Maine in the summer and Key West in the winter. He and his girlfriend were very interesting, one of their crew mates Cory hailed from Westerville and went to Upper Arlington. We had a great conversation with them and decided to go out sailing with them on Tuesday.
We went to a new bar for happy hour, and were surprised to find mussels on the menu. After a few drinks and and wonderful plate of mussels we headed back to the boat to prep for Sunset and to go in and watch the island time Duo. It is a steel drum and guitar twosome, and their music is very very good. They play at the Schooner bar which is our favorite place in Key West thus far, so we went over and listened to music while trying to keep Windsor away from the chickens. He is dying to get his teeth into one of them. They are literally everywhere.
The sailing trip did not pan out, we went to the grocery store and bought supplies for our trip North, and beer and wine for the sunset cruise. When we got there, we were told we could not take Windsor, so we postponed for another time and went over and watched the sunset at Mallory Square, then headed back to the boat. After work the next day we took the boat over, filled up with fuel and pumped out and then raised the sails and headed out of the Northwest Passage away from Key West towards Fort Myers.