Key West and Onwards

We spent a few days enjoying the food, drinks and people as well as shopping for supplies and gifts for the grand kids. At one of the happy hours there was a person selling parasail rides and we both decided that would be a fun thing to do. Having watched people do it for weeks, we both decided that it should be a bucket list item.


Sunset the day before parasailing

We went out early in the morning on their first run of the day. There were only 4 of us on the first trip; two young girls from London, England and the two of us. It was strange to be out on a powerboat doing 40mph, bouncing roughly across the water. Sailing is so much smoother! The sky was clear and there was a gentle southerly wind blowing. We put on our harnesses and attached them to the parachute, and once we lifted off the noisy powerboat things became quiet and we floated gently up to around 300 feet in the air, the only sound being the breeze blowing through our hair. Turquoise water spread out in front of us and the town of Key West shimmered in the waters to our left. We decided that we will have to do this again once we get to Put-in-Bay. The views were spectacular! After 10 minutes or so we were slowly winched in and just like that we were on the boat again. What an experience!

We had signed up on Facebook for a Key West Cruiser group. We met the lady in charge while doing our laundry one day and decided to sign up so we could swap information and meet a few of the adventurers like us. They had a get together at one of the local happy hours and we attended and met a lot of cruising people. We had a nice time and made a few new friends.

Our friends Jane and Bryce who we had met in St Pete arrived in Key West on Tuesday, so we met them and a few of their friends on Wednesday evening for dinner. There was a couple they had met in Mobile that drove down to spend a few days with them and then there was a couple from Somerset Ohio who had launched their Seaward 26 in Fort Myers and sailed down to Key West following Jane and Bryce. They were a very nice couple, and we will be getting together with him once we return home to Ohio.

We also met a Swedish couple, Bjorn and Annika who arrived Thursday from Panama and anchored near us. We got together on their boat with them on Friday evening. They were a very nice couple and very well-traveled, they have over 100,000 miles of sailing experience all over the world including the Antarctic! We chatted about our adventures and thoroughly enjoyed swapping stories of our travels. I got some very good ideas for sailing our boat downwind under rolly conditions and how to make the ride more comfortable. We also spoke at great length about tuning the boat as well so that our upwind performance improves. We are excited about trying these things out.

We went with our Swedish friends to the grocery store and showed them the bus routes so they could do shopping for provisions. Then we agreed that we would get together for happy hour and watch the sunset. Saturday we finally finished our shopping for the kids and decided that we would leave next week when favorable winds arrive. We had a final get together with them on our boat on Saturday evening. They left late Sunday headed towards Key Largo. It was a perfect day with warm temperatures and gentle winds. We came in and took a shower and then headed back to the boat to watch sunset.

Annika had an extensive collection of movies on a hard drive, and she downloaded them for us and we gave her some music in exchange. We hoped to find some things worth watching, and we did. It was nice to see some new movies instead of continually recycling our old stuff. The next few days were spent relaxing, walking everyday and shopping for the kids. On Easter Sunday we went to St Mary’s Catholic Church. It was a beautiful building and the service was quite nice.


St Mary’s on Easter Sunday

We were both getting itchy and felt the need to leave. Besides that the weather was starting to get more humid and hotter, so we decided that the next favorable wind direction for us would result in our departure. We scheduled a hull cleaning because after me cleaning it in the Tortugas, we now had a seaweed Factory attached to the waterline after just a week! It’s definitely warming up and it’s amazing how fast the life grows.

Bjorn gave us a rigging manual which explained how to tune our rigging so that the sailing upwind more efficient. We spent an afternoon tuning the rigging in preparation for our departure. While cleaning the nav station, I found a business card from Phil Amsterdam; he owns the Curry Mansion in Key West. We got in touch with him and he invited us over for drinks one evening. I met him in Alexandria Bay and he took us on a tour of his home there. This mansion was just as historic. Lots of beautiful antiques, some over a hundred years old. We enjoyed our time with him and then headed off to Harpoon Harry’s for a turkey dinner. We decided to leave on Friday after the bottom was cleaned. We have what looks like a coral reef growing underneath our boat, and as the water warms things started growing more quickly. We never really had trouble with it until now.

Thursday evening we got a call from Melanie’s brother informing us that her mother had passed. This came as quite a shock as she was in pretty good health when we saw her in November and we had just spoken to her a few weeks prior on her birthday. A sobering reminder that life goes on no matter what.

Friday was departure day; we left Key West after having our hull scraped by a diver – “Sir Mike”. He did a good job and we were shocked as to the amount of crud that came off. We pulled anchor, motored in and fueled up along with pumping out our holding tank and filling the water tanks, then headed South past the cruise ships in the harbor, raised sail and turned eastward. We got a late start; the diver was not done until almost 3pm, so we only sailed about 10 miles and around sunset came into an anchorage in the lee of Saddlebunch Key. It was very remote and sheltered, yet the highway was only a half mile away by water. The sun set and we were treated to a fabulous display of stars; the Milky Way was in top form.

We arrived on an outgoing tide, and by the time I had all the little jobs done involved with setting the anchor and prepping for the night it was dark. A school of luminescent jellyfish floated by on the outgoing tide and we were treated to a half hour or so of flashing lights in the water as they drifted by, quite a show. Our anchorage was very sheltered and we enjoyed a calm evening and a good night’s sleep. Early in the morning the wind shifted and swung around to the South making the anchorage a little less comfortable, so we hauled the hook and motored out, hoisted sail and turned east towards our next destination; Marathon. The wind was 15 to 20 knots and we enjoyed a fast sail down the keys, and with a following swell our speeds were above 6 most of the time. We arrived at Coco Plum Beach inlet in the late afternoon, and after dropping anchor, we took the dinghy in to shore and enjoyed a nice late lunch with a bottle of wine, then took a walk to let Windsor stretch his legs before heading back around sunset to go to bed.

Our plan was to head to Key Largo, but the next morning we had a good wind from the South and decided to sail all the way to West Palm. We made good time up the keys with a following swell. As we turned further North, the wind dropped a little and once under 10 knots, we raised the spinnaker and used that to help maintain our speed. We jumped from 4 to 6 knots and sailed over a beautiful turquoise sea; we could see the bottom the water was so clear. Our shadow swept along the bottom jumping over sand, weeds and coral heads as we headed past Islamorada, then Plantation Key and finally Key Largo.

The spinnaker helped us make good time, and the wind gradually switched more to the South until we were flying the spinnaker on one side and the main on the other so they did not get in each other’s way. As the day progressed we realized we would not make it all the way out of the Hawk Channel before sunset, so we made a turn to the east to head out into deeper water and that is where our “fun” started. The apparent wind increased to 12-15 knots; too much for the spinnaker and it shredded! Tore into strips. Now we had sail cloth flogging all over the place trying to tangle itself up as best it could in everything; forestay, wrap around the mainsail, tangle in the shrouds; everywhere! We turned the boat so the wind was coming from behind and I wrestled the shreds behind the main and hauled the sad remains down. Our speed dropped, so we unrolled the jib and then headed east and picked our way through the coral heads out to deeper water.

Once out into the deeper water we felt our speed increasing as we picked up some help from the Gulf Stream. The water changed color from tropical turquoise to an inky midnight blue, quite beautiful. We were sailing along at speeds of 7 to 9 knots with winds around 7 knots, something unheard of in our boat. We sailed past the lights of Miami and watched the lights from planes lining up to land at both Miami and Ft Lauderdale. We scooted up the coast with a gentle following swell and winds that fluctuated between 3 and 10 knots. Our speed would drop to 3, then up to 8, then down to 4, then up to 7 – yoyo-ing around but making good progress nevertheless. The wind fizzled almost completely at sunrise, but our speed still stayed above 3 – I loved the help we were getting from the Gulf Stream! Around 10am Monday, the wind came back up to 15 knots and we squirted into the Lake Worth Inlet at 6 to 7 knots before dropping our sails and anchoring close to the spot we left in early January. The anchorage was quite crowded, there were a good 10 boats there. We headed into shore and went to the Tiki bar where we met up with some of the folks we had befriended during our last visit.

We spent a few days with me working and then us walking at Peanut Island. Each day would start out clear and then cloud over and storm before clearing up around dusk. On Wednesday a vicious line of storms came ripping through the area in the late afternoon. I ran into shore just ahead of the rain to buy ice and returned to the boat, hauled the dinghy out of the water and then the rain began. 40-50 knot winds and blinding rain flayed the boat for about an hour and then it was over and the sun peeked out – we made it through another storm without dragging and our neighbors did as well.

We decided to make a jump to Charleston on Friday, 360 miles, so we planned to head in to the marina to resupply on Thursday. We came into the dock early on Thursday morning, tied up and went for a cup of coffee to see Beethoven, a small business man we met in December. He was not there but we had a nice conversation with his wife, then stopped by the tiki bar for lunch and headed back to the boat so I could work. After work we went to Publix to grocery shop and then came back and packed everything away and got the boat ready for the trip Friday. While on the dock we stopped to talk to a couple who were having danger signs posted on their boat. We found out that they had gotten a rat infestation on their boat while at the dock! They must have left the boat open with no one on board, and then while they were gone the rats moved on board. They fought it for 5 weeks before calling an exterminator to bomb their boat. $1,400! And to add insult to injury, they had to leave the boat for 3 days while the boat was sealed completely and then flooded with toxic gas. Who knows if they will find the body, hopefully they will before it starts to rot and stink the boat up. Thoughts of rats boarding the boat had never crossed our minds before. And then to make matters worse we were talking to another lady on the dock and she said she had seen them running around on the dock, and when they saw people they would duck under and hide underneath the docks near the conduits. We were now totally paranoid!

We left in the morning after saying our goodbyes, and headed out of the channel into a 20 knot wind. Waves were funneling down the channel making for quite a rough ride out. To top that off we had a cruise ship trying to get in to port! We unfurled the staysail and used it to motor sail and tack our way out of the channel. Once clear we set sail for Charleston and made quite good way. We headed in a close-hauled direction about 45 degrees away from the coast until we were about 8 miles out and could feel the Gulf Stream starting to carry us. Then we headed due north and made our way along at quite a clip. The coast turns North West after West Palm, so it slowly slipped further away from us until we were almost 30 miles from shore.

Speeds from 8 to 11 knots with a 15 to 20 not breeze from the beam made for quick progress. We were visited in the afternoon by a pod of dolphins and they played for a good half-hour in our wake which amused Windsor no end. There were 4 or 5 babies in the pod and their mothers swam close by their sides as they zipped around and surfed our wake and the waves around us. We were concerned about Windsor’s health because he had not eaten or drunk for almost 24 hours. We realized as it got dark that two more days of that would make him a sick puppy, so we decided to head for Cape Canaveral.

We turned West and our speed immediately dropped from 9 to 5 knots, and once out of the Gulf Stream we slowed down even more. After sunset we saw bioluminescence in the water, our wake twinkled with little lights. Melanie went below to sleep while I took first watch and after an hour or so she came back up because she was queasy from the rocking and rolling around. To counteract the current we had to point almost 30 degrees off of our intended heading in order to make way in the direction that we wanted! It was a long slow sail back to Cape Canaveral, and when we arrived, it was 4 a.m. in the morning. We tied up to a free wall and slept until 10.

We picked up a dock at one of the marinas, floating docks because the others had poles and short piers and we swore we would never do that again. It was a great facility, and after I registered I went and picked up a rental car and then we drove to the store to replace my phone which accidentally got stepped on in the dark the night before. Then we drove over to PetSmart and picked up some new dog food for Windsor. We fed him breakfast in the morning of an egg and some doggie cookies and he inhaled them. We think there’s either something wrong with his dog food or he is just tired of it, that plus being seasick. When we got back to the boat we gave him the new food and he scarfed it down. He seemed very happy, so we think that we are okay and are going to head off to St Augustine. Melanie made ceviche for us for dinner and it was absolutely delicious. We then went and watched the launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral from the second floor of the marina building. It was a great view and we really enjoyed hanging out with the locals and watching the launch. It was over all too quickly. We headed back to the boat and watched a show before retiring and sleeping like babies.

We decided to try and leave the next day and headed down the channel past the cruise ships to the entrance of the harbor. Winds were over 25 knots, but we were not sure about sea conditions. Once clear of the harbor we quickly realized that although the waves and wind would be from behind, the road would be ROUGH! We were hit by a few 7 ft breaking waves and were immediately soaked. Discretion took over and we both agreed this would not be fun and we headed back to the dock. Winds screeched all day until the front came through and brought with it heavy rain and thunderstorms. By sunset it was all over and we had a calm night.

We left the dock on Monday to anchor just East of the Canaveral lock to watch the launch. Our spot had an unobstructed view over water of the site so were were excited to be able to see yet another rocket go up. They scrubbed around an hour before the launch so we missed out – bummer. Next day we awoke to a temp of 50! It was cold! The wind had moderated from the 20s down to 10-15, and the skies had cleared so it warmed gradually through the day, but never made it much past the mid 60s. A week ago we were complaining about it being too hot and humid; now we are too cold?? This has been a crazy weather year thus far.

Dolphins came around the boat today during the afternoon, swimming in very dirty brown water looking for fish, and Windsor was just beside himself, barking until he was almost hoarse – he gets so excited when he sees them – we thought he was going to try and jump in! They also played a little, jumping a splashing a few times which added to the hilarity; I’ll bet they were around for a good 2 hours! Poor Windsor was exhausted when they left.

Late in the afternoon we lowered the dinghy and rode over to a small island that was close to our anchor spot. We let Windsor run around there and he loved it, no leash and free to explore wherever – smelling and running around like the crazy boy he is. Then around sunset we motored through the lock and tied up on the free wall in Canaveral Harbor where we spent the night and then left early the next morning, motoring out into a very calm and flat sea. There were almost no waves and certainly no wind! So we motored with the sails up to catch any help we could. It gave us about a knot of extra speed, but for most of the day it was too light to sail without the motor. We motored past Cape Canaveral and saw the launch pad loaded with the rocket being launched later that day. The skies were clear and it was warm; the swells were only about a foot so it was an easy ride. We saw a few dolphins and seabirds, but not much sea life. Quite a few sailboats were headed in the same direction, it seemed like everyone was headed north. Around noon we crossed the 4900 mile mark in our adventure, quite a milestone.

The wind gradually increased during the day and switched to the South until we were on a broad reach. We still had the engine running so we could make 5 to 6 knots during the day. We decided that we would turn the engine off at night so we could sleep and to make sure we did not get to St Augustine in the middle is the night; it has a reputation as a treacherous inlet when the conditions are unsuitable. Around 4 p.m. the wind did come up enough for us to turn off the engine, and soon we were doing 5.5 to 6.5 knots with a following sea of 2 to 3 feet.

We watched the rocket launch and tried to take pictures and video, but it was too far away. We still got to see it go up and it was pretty cool. We watched the sun set and then I took in a reef on the main and we got ready for night watch. I took the first watch and Melanie went below to try and sleep. As with our prior trips the wind was from behind and this created a very uncomfortable rolling motion which made it difficult to get any sort of rest downstairs. We were hoping that the wind would drop off during the night and that the waves would as well so that we could both get reasonable sleep on our watch off. That was not to be, despite the forecast; the wind increased to 15 to 20 (forecast was 6-10) and although the direction was correct, we were going too fast. I rolled in both jibs and pulled the main to the center line while we were on a beam reach, and this slowed us down to between 2 and 4 knots – painfully slow but it ensured that we would not reach the inlet until after sunrise.

Melanie came up for watch at about 12:30 and I came down to sleep – I was freezing – the temperature dropped down to upper 50s, so she stayed up on watch all wrapped in a blanket while being dressed as warm as possible. When the sun came up we were 7 miles from the inlet, and I set the sails so our speed went from 2 to 6.6! We were there in a jiffy, poking our way past the dredger and into the channel where we ran into friends of ours on a mooring ball while waiting for the bridge to open.

We passed through at 9:30, found our mooring ball and then dropped the dinghy to head into shore and register. Melanie got talking to a local whose daughter was a sailor and they recommended a place for breakfast, so we walked over and enjoyed a great spread and then headed back to the boat to catch up on some shut eye – the rolling just stops you from getting good sleep – seems like the last few nights have been that way. But, for now we are safely tied up in St Augustine and will wait here until the next spot of lousy weather passes through before moving on.

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