Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now in the Keys, but 1st Marco Island

We left Fort Myers on Saturday after Thanksgiving pulling away from the ball about 8am and having I think a seven hour motor sail down to Marco Island. As we pulled out of the pass we were right on time to be right behind Dave from New Horizon to sail together. He was in our marina in Panama city and was due to leave before us but didn't. He too was headed for Marco Island for a day of rest before heading further south. Several people told us about a place to anchor in factory bay so that's where we headed once we got through the channel. Dirk and I were in the lead and we got to the anchoring spot where it showed 11 feet, then it showed 4. We draw 4' 11" we had run aground. Dave's boat draws more so Dirk tries to motion for him to go back but he keeps chugging on as he doesn't hear us yelling for him to go back. We reverse and are out with no problem but we see Dave churning up the sand trying to get free. Finally he breaks away and heads back the way we came. Later we find out that that particular anchorage has a sand bank running the width of it. No duh.....Lucky for us it was soft sand. So we found another spot outside the channel not too far away and set the hook. Dave is single handing it so we decided to invite him over for a home cooked meal and some conversation. Steaks and potatoes on the grill and he brought over some homemade mulberry wine that was awesome. Next morning he was headed south by the time we awoke but we decided to stay and check things out. Michael and his wife Christi live close by so they brought their boat out to ours and took us on a tour. Wow, the waterways are endless as are the small islands dotting the landscape. We stopped at one island called Cape Romano where the famous Dome home is located. Apparently hurricane Wilma decided to claim the home and the builder is trying to rebuild but running into road blocks. Pretty cool house but looks like a little too much work to me.
The guys decided to do a little fishing and I sat back just soaking in the warm temps and relaxed. Before long it was time to head back to our boat as it would soon be dark. The next morning we started preparing the boat for the 20 hour crossing to the Keys. The winds were suppose to be light and the seas calm so we decided just to put the dinghy on the davits as neither one of us felt like hauling it up to the front of the boat. We were trying to time it so that we would be getting to the Key West channel at sunrise so about 3pm would have been a good time to leave, but we were anxious to get a move on. At noon we were about to pull anchor when we were approached by the Sheriffs dept. boat. Oh great we thought, we have heard and read horror stories about this particular place in the past and realize that it isn't a very sail boater friendly area. We were pleasantly surprised as this guy was just making sure our papers were in order, he answered questions we had for him and was in general very pleasant. No problems here.....So once again we set about pulling anchor and heading out. Once outside the pass we set the sails and plotted our course so that we would go out about 20 miles offshore and then turn south hoping to avoid too many crab pots. A few times there were so many white buoys that I'm sure from the air it looked as if someone dumped a giant size bean bag into the water. At first it wasn't too bad as the water was calm enough that the strings of pots could be seen on the radar. Once the waves picked up a bit that didn't work any longer. We were finally able to turn off the motor and actually do a little sailing and lucky for us that we were sailing because while trying to avoid one crab pot I snagged another. I took her into the wind and was hoping once the boat stopped that the float would cause the pot to release then we would just push it away. No such luck.....Dirk tried taking the boat hook and pulling on the line as we could see the line under the boat but it was apparently hooked on something. One thing left to do, so Dirk tied a line to himself and jumped in diving under the boat to release the pot. Simple enough and we continued on. Sunset was coming quickly and we didn't seem to be any closer to getting out of the pots, at one point we were close to 40 miles offshore and we were still having them to contend with. The way we usually do the longer crossings is one person at the helm watching and the other rest or sleeps if they can. This time we didn't have the leisure of rest as one person had to be on the bow with a spot light reporting back to the helmsman. I knew those marriage saver headsets would come in handy one day. I couldn't imagine doing it without them. At one point at about 2am we both were so tired we decided to put the boat on auto pilot, main sail up and set the radar alarm for anything coming within 3 miles of us. I don't think either one slept but we both were able to lay in the cockpit and close our eyes and rest for about 2 hours. The wind was so light that we were only making about 2 knots. It actually worked out well as we reached the channel about 25 minutes before sunrise. Below is the sun rising over Key West.
Finally we made it through the channel and around and up to the Boca Chica naval air station marina. Wow, what a great place. We were going to stay one night in a slip and then move out to a mooring ball for a month but we were able to get a slip for the whole month which is great. I have shore power to do some of my sewing projects and easy access to land so we can get stuff done. But judging by the looks of things we may not get too much done. Like I said this place is beautiful, wonderful marina with many great folks. Great facilities, a little beach right next to the bar and grill with tiki huts and grills.
Our only problem is that it is a ways to get anywhere. I think we will look into getting two fold up bicycles as they will be very handy here and we can take them with us when we go. So here we will reside for a month, get into the slow pace of the cruising life and just take some time for us. A perfect ending to a perfect 1st day here was a beautiful Key West sunset.

I will keep updating while here as Im sure I will have much to report on and many photos to show. So keep checking back...

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