Monday, January 24, 2011

Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A.

January 19th, 2011

We made it to Key West! We found (somewhat) favorable weather and started off at about 7am on Saturday morning (1/15), with winds out of the NNE - great to push us south! Days before, I was trying not to think about the trip too much. That way I wouldn’t get nervous about the long trip. It was an 80 mile trip total, plus some motoring up and down channels on each end of the trip. At first everything seemed great, smooth sailing, wind at our backs (and in reality is was ok)...but then the wind died back. We found ourselves going back east at a very slow rate. Eventually we were almost standing still. One o’clock and the heat of the wind. a.) it’s hot. b.) we weren’t getting anywhere and c.) it was wasting our time. The forecast didn’t call for “light and variable” winds, they called for 12-15 knots. So we swindled as much air as we could and made our way slowly. We even did a few 360’s because the wind just didn’t cooperate. 

Dolphins saying Hello!

More dolphins!

Sunset over the Gulf, no land in sight!

Nothin' but Beauty!
Overall, it was good. No major problems, just long: 37 hours total. Dub brought us in to the Northwest Channel cruising along. Our afternoon consisted of cruising along at about 5 knots...even getting up into the 7 knot range. It kinda scared me because it makes me nervous when we lean over because of the speed (and sails pulling us). It’s just hard to believe the boat will stay upright, but Dub assured me: it’s made for this, there’s 6,800 pounds in the keel of the boat and that should keep us upright. I believe him, but’s its crazy. It’s like your instincts tell you you’re leaning over too far, but you learn that sailboats are all about leaning (and rocking for that matter). 
So, we came in and anchored in the dark. We woke up to LOTS of sailboats. Within the vicinity, probably 50 the whole area, probably 100 total. We’re anchored by Wisteria Island, which is just west from Key West proper. It’s quite the paddle, too. About 1.1  miles from our location. We’ve ordered a motor for our dinghy, so we’re prepared for things like this. It will be great for exploring the different places we go. We also ordered 2 Crazy Creek chairs (camping chairs) for lounging about. I can’t wait! We’ve wanted these self-supporting chairs for a while. It’s going to give us a portable, small option for sitting and will be a bit cushioned! We also ordered a dozen Clif bars for extra survival food, just in case. 
Lately we’ve been fine tuning our Luxury Yacht (ha!). We found curtains and sheets at a thrift store. The curtains are flowery and Dub’s not crazy about them, but he’s ok with the shade they provide. The sheets are necessary because its warmer lately. We found a twin set of SpongeBob Squarepants. Funny stuff and somehow perfect. We also seem to have a routine down for nights, days and the time in between. Dinners are gaining more variety due to some canned goods. Water and electricity usage is getting fine tuned. I think we’re getting the hang of it, but there’s still some new things. 
Some of the views from our boat.

We weathered our first storm. On January 18th we paddled ashore to get ice. We really needed it. It was over a mile and I have to say, not too bad. I wasn’t sore at all. Just hot and sweaty. We got lunch at the Conch Republic Seafood Company-- fish tacos, my new fav! Our bartender gave us two free drinks and we made a new friend. He wants to call us and meet up and talk boats. He has a sailboat on a dry dock and wants to chat about it, I guess. He’s Czech and seemed very nice. We’re supposed to get a call tomorrow and hang out. 
Anywho, we paddled back out and enjoyed the steamy day. About 4:30pm we started to prepare for a storm. We set a second anchor JUST in time. As Dub let go of the rode, the wind blew us and the front came upon us. Wind and rain blowing sideways. We barely got inside before it rained on us. About an hour of rain, wind, waves while we watched our movement at the windows. It rocked us a bit at first, but didn’t seem too bad. It moved through pretty fast. We survived!
Sunsets are worth gold!

Today we were awaken at 4 am to some rocking of the boat. We somehow got our rode (anchor rope) wrapped around our keel (the bottom of the boat). We were only able to rock a 20 degree distance and eventually our anchor rope got cut by the boat and movement. We were about to try moving the boat, when we noticed we were free. We dropped the  motor and got the other anchor out. We set it and I stayed up reading for a bit, just to make sure it was set. It was. I went back to bed at the ripe hour of 7am. Slept til 8:30am. Sind then we realized the tide and current was moving us around. We went swimming off the boat and we were practically swept away. We had to hold onto the dingy just to stay by the boat. So we researched and found out you can send a weight down the rode, that will hold down the rope, even if you swing around it. Dub put a small anchor down twenty feet to weigh down the rope. We’re going tonnight to get a half gallon of sand to add to the weight. This will hopefully help us out. We’re also going to get a new anchor and rode. Chain works best, but rope is cheaper. We’re going to splurge and get about 40 feet of chain. The chain lays down better and will help hold the anchor in place better (with its weight). 

It's all about the Sunsets, here at Key West!

And the moon rises, too!
Overall, we’re fine tuning and cleaning up a bit. We’ve enjoyed a few sunsets from the best unobstructed view in the Keys! People are out here paying for this and we live here! For now. 

Full Moon at our Anchorage,
Meet our neighbors.


January 13th, 2011
I guess it’s time to catch up again. We’ve spent a fair amount of time anchored and not as much sailing. It’s ok by me, but I start to feel a bit lazy by day three of being JUST on the boat anchored. We enjoyed our time at Cape Coral. 

Sunset at Cape Coral, fit with a person on an Ultralight.

A lovely lady name Christa (who worked at the marina) hooked us up with a ride to town to get laundry done and provisions. It was nice to see the hospitality. She and her sister were German...and so continues the trail of encounters with Germans. We’ve run into several German folks along the way (and they’ve always helped us out). No real understanding of why we meet so many Germans, but oh well. Dub wants to get a German phrase book. I think not. We’ll be fine with a few english words and gestures. While we stayed at Glover Bight we went ashore to have dinner and ended up taking a picture for some German folks. Dub gave them a slice of his pizza and we got a free round of drinks! It was very nice of them. 

The Resort at Marina Village, 
the view from our anchorage at Cape Coral.
We docked our dinghy a few times and walked into town or went to the Nauti Mermaid, the dockside bar. So much walking on cement really does a number on your feet and knees. It’s crazy how I can hike for 20 plus miles, but 6 miles on the concrete is killer! We were pleasantly spending time on the boat and also on land. We spent a full week anchored because a front came through with crazy winds. It’s disappointing to just sit, but it can be a fun way to be lazy and get to know the area. We went to the public library a few times and got pizza at a great italian place. They also had a HUGE italian market...lots of deli and pre-packaged type stuff. Bunches of cheeses, wine, veggies, bakery and general grocery stuff. It was neat, but we didn’t really need anything at the time. Great food, though. 
On Saturday, January 8th, we gassed up the boat, got water and headed for the sea! There was a small craft advisory until 5pm and we waited it out. We watched the sunset over Sanibel Island and motored out to the Gulf through San Carlos Pass. Following the navigational markers, we finally hit the last one around 8pm. From here we shot an azimuth on the compass and  headed towards Big Marco Pass, near Marco Island. It took us until 6:30am to get there (about 35 nautical miles). There were some slow moments when the sails were luff and we weren’t getting much speed. Sometimes those marine weather forecasts are a bunch of crap! There was supposed to be 10-15 knot winds. It was more like 5 knots. You get what you get, I guess. We came into Capri Pass (which is right by Big Marco Pass), followed markers around to the Marco River Marina. Got some gas and anchored. We were a little worn out to say the least. It’s never a good idea to drink a bunch the night before you plan on sailing all night. I guess we got carried away. 
Now we’ve been here for five days and I have to say, Marco Island has impressed me a bit. Being an island (something like 4 miles by 6 miles), it seems everything is pretty close. We went out on Sunday to get lunch and a Tiki place was right next door. On Monday we went looking for general things like grocery stores, liquor store, library, public transportation, etc. It was all pretty close. Much easier than Cape Coral where we anchored last. That was comforting. 

Lots of fishing Pelicans at sunset near our anchorage.

By Wednesday we got a feel for the place and got enough opinions of the island that we found a good restaurant/bar. The Sand Bar. We split a blackened fish sandwich and enjoyed some peel & eat shrimp! Yummy! It was destined to be a good night with a seafood meal like that! And we met some folks playing pool, chatted with some ladies from Illinois and they bought us a beer-- Again a good sign of the place and it’s good times. We played Wii tennis, had some brews, and chatted with our new friends Ron and Lena. They offered a place to shower and a bed to sleep in...we decided to take ‘em up on it. All the generosities of good people-We’ll say only good things about the Sand Bar and the folks there! 

Pink Sunset at Marco Island where we were anchored.

Last night we stayed at Ron and Lena’s place, enjoying good company, great pasta, beer and a nice warm shower. We really appreciated it! It was great because there was a cold front coming in and 30’s were in order, not to mention crazy winds. Most of all it was nice to meet genuine people and enjoy the night on land. Now we’re back on the boat, hoping for some good weather to push us towards the Keys. Hoping we’ll get out on the seas when the time is just right. We’ll be waiting and watching. 

Sunset at Marco River Marina, Marco Island, FL

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New and Beautiful Year

January 2, 2011!

Another year has passed by...  Going to have to get used to writing 2011...with only 1 zero, it’s hard to remember. Guess I’ll have to practice, got a whole year to get it right. We stayed (camped) at Cayo Costa State Park for a night. We went to bed at, shit, 7:30pm, or something. We read and enjoyed the white sand beach and then made dinner. Our neighbor mistook poison ivy for some other vine...oops, Ha! We HAD to tell him. The couple thought that poison ivy had three leaves that all came out of the same petiole. Nope, not really. They were greasy looking leaves, too. She even iPhoned it. It was poison ivy, as declared by the iPhone Gods. He went and washed up and neglected to put away the rope that was still wrapped around the poison ivy. Poor guy. Unfortunately, this was day one of a four day trip. Hope, for his sake, that he’s ok. We enjoyed the time on land. 
We then headed for Cabbage Key to stay for two nights. First night was good, docked next to another sailboat with a couple in their late 50’s early 60’s. Good conversation. They stole all the hot water in the shower, though...terds. 

Cabbage Key Restaurant & Docks, simple Cracker style house-turned restaurant. 

We spent New Years Eve on the boat, cleaning up a bit, walking around the key, getting a “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and generally being lazy. It felt good. Sun was warm, people watching was good, and we were at awe with the other boats and the people coming and going. Expensive boats, (probably) snooty people, and some funny stuff. We stayed on board until about 6:30pm and then mingled with some other folks. It was like each Captain had to ask about the others’ boat. One of the guys we talked to was an employee for USGS, Dan. He had paddled by all the docks earlier and I said, “Nice Kayak!” He was in a boat that looked just like my Mom’s grey kayak. He mentioned later that he saw our boat and thought... “hum, they’re different...” and he looked forward to meeting us. Apparently  in a line of fancy boats, when you see our 1974 Catalina, that’s what you think. We when to dinner and had a filet mignon and crab with shrimp bisque and salad. All topped off with their famous recipe (right...) of Key Lime pie for dessert. Great stuff. A DJ helped us dance the night away. He also decided to nap for a bit, after the huge meal and woke up just in time for the Ball Drop in Time Square. We went back up to the restaurant and had champaign and danced a bit. We met up with Dan and his wife, Liesel, a lovely German woman. We stayed up til 2:30am chatting. I gleaned a few things: 
  • Post cards are good to send out as a small gesture and to inspire folks. (I used to do this all the time, about 5 years ago, but have since lost the habit)
  • We are inspiring to other people just in our endeavor and spirit. (Just by doing this and being here, talking to people, it’s inspiring to folks to live their dreams or something)
Sunset at Cabbage Key on New Years Eve, looking east.

Key Lime Pie and Corona with Lime, Deeeeelish!

Great Egret that sat right next to our sailboat on the dock.

Great Egret...Up close and personal.

Brown Pelican chillin' on the water

Catchin' the wind. Osprey sail too!

We had a great time and left out on New Years Day. The wind was against us a bit (coming from the south). We got to Captiva Island and set anchor by a channel. A few waves and it was a bit choppy with passers-by, but over all it was a good spot once night fall came on. 
Our next day (today) was pretty good. We hit some smooth sailing, but the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) was really busy with boats and lots of people out on a Sunday. It kicked our asses with the waves and totally killed our momentum (us only having a 9 horsepower motor, and barely gassing it to save on gas). Pisses me off how fast people go! Anywho...We made our way to the end (on the Gulf side) of the ICW and the beginning of the Okechobee Waterway. Which has a bunch of locks to help folks cut across Florida. I read later that the last section of the ICW was called the “Miserable Mile” which was actually 5 nautical miles long, because it was a very tight squeeze, with lots of traffic, and very shallow on either side of the channel. We hit some BIG waves (wake) from huge yachts and speed racers. 
We’re going to stay a few nights at Glover’s Blight, a cool little area surrounded on 2 sides by Mangroves, one side by a marina and large resort, and one side by a channel that leads out. It’s super fancy and we’re sitting here listening to crickets and live music from the restaurant. Should be a good anchoring. 
We’ve got chores to do tomorrow: laundry, charge computers, phones, etc. and head for the post office to pick up our generator. Hopefully this will solve some of our electrical/energy issues. We’ve run low, sometimes, on juice to run our lights and our electronics. It’s time to change that. 

I’ve felt pretty tired after these sunny days (in the 70’s). The sun feel hotter and probably is. I feel constantly sunburnt or perhaps windburnt. I’m learning everyday that I have new sore muscles. The constant work of pulling ropes, pulling the motor or working it, and most of all, general balance! It’s totally kicking me in the butt! I definitely feel sore in some place, everyday. It’s a good feeling because I don’t get out onto land to stretch my legs or exercise much, no hiking lately. Although, anchoring and going ashore for errands...that’s hiking. That’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow. We’re gonna kick back tonight and watch The Wire (TV show on HBO), and then get up early to run around. Until next time...Good night. 

All Nighter

December 29, 2010

Can’t believe 2010 is almost over! Glacier’s Centennial year! Been sailing (living aboard for 15 days...17 days of sleeping on it. Challenges seem to come and go, but they’re still remembered each time I start a new day. I’m having issues remembering that I CAN do this. In fact, I have! I get nervous when the boat gets going fast. It’s like you have control of a train and if you let go, there could be a wreck or it could just run out of steam. 
Haven’t had any major set backs. We had a kinked fuel line, and Dub fixed it just in the nick of time. We’ve spent just about as much time on land or anchored out for a while, as we have been sailing. Dub’s itching to head south, as am I because the weather has been unseasonably cold. Freezing temps almost each weekend. What happened to my warm Florida? Oh well, Patience. 

Dub sailing on very choppy Tampa Bay waters (Sunshine Skyway bridge behind him)
Stayed up all night in fairly choppy weather because we couldn’t make it into a channel. Too shallow and the waves were rocking us so much that we were hitting bottom. We headed back out into the Gulf and went south. Not a good idea to try and go into an inlet in the dark. The best idea from there was to head south...and actually head south all night. The wind from the North was blowing us in the right direction, which made for easy sailing south. It was ok sailing at night, just taxing being up and being cold (a freeze warning was in effect...brrr!). I stayed up until 12:30-1:00 while Dub slept. Then He took second shift til 4am. It was ok, just strange to only see lights. You didn’t have a landmark to point at, it was just lights. I never thought I would say it, but I was wishing for more lights. Light pollution is nasty, but they help when navigating. I heard several Dolphins surface for air, 2 or 3 Loon calls and 3 shooting stars! A night to remember. 

Near Boca Grande. I never welcomed a sunrise so much! 

So we made it to Boca Grande, a beautiful wide and deep inlet near Charlotte Harbor. Traveled about 60 nautical miles from Manatee River outlet (in Tampa Bay) to our new location. We’re staying on the south side of the inlet at Cayo Costa State Park. We’ve kayaked out to this island before, but never anchored our boat and gone ashore. A totally different feeling. It’s nice to be off choppy waters at sea! Camping tonight, Cabbage Key tomorrow!

The beautiful beach on Cayo Cost and the view into Boca Grande, the area we had just sail in from. 

A stray, forgotten feather caught my fancy on the beach, scattered among the sand and flora.