Saturday, February 27, 2016


27 February 2016

Marathon was such a pleasant place, we sometimes almost forgot we were being held hostage. When we finally escaped, we have often wondered why we were so anxious to go. The first day found us in rather rough seas which meant we did not get as far as we thought we might. We stopped at Indian Key and picked up one of the two mooring balls. Gust-O took the other one. By 10:00 that night we were thinking we had made a mistake. The waves were hitting us abeam which caused us to roll and slam. Sleeping was not easy.  Oh how we missed the quite anchorage at Marathon.

But wait. Day two was encouraging. We sailed right along with a shortened sail and dropped anchor at Rodriguez Key in time for lunch and a much needed nap. Gust-O invited us over for brunch the next day. After preparing the dinghy, which is no easy project, we stopped at our anchor to remove the fishing line which had securely wrapped itself around and around our anchor rode and then disappeared under our hull. We were unable to unwrap the line from the rode and unable to break free the line going under us. Did it think it had caught a giant red snapper?  As we did not want to be late for brunch we abandoned that project and headed up wind to Gust-O. Within a minute, we knew we had a problem. Our little trolling motor jammed up. Yup, you guessed it. That fishing line was now wrapped around our prop. I grabbed the oars and with Herculean effort rowed UPWIND to Gust-O. Not only did I have to row an inflatable dinghy upwind, but Reggie was attempting to free the prop from the fishing line. In order to do that he was required to place his buttocks in the way of my left oar. We did arrive at Gust-O in time for brunch, but my knuckles were bloody and Reggie’s right buttock will soon resemble a blueberry cobbler. Once the prop was free, Reggie pulled in about 300 feet of line. After enjoying our repast we were ready to engage the fishing line in a final battle. I am happy to report we won and Submit was free to leave that night for the Bahamas!

But wait. The weather forecast changed. We could still go of course. However, even if we survived the wind and seas, we figured we would never want to sail again. So, we spent a second night at anchor at Rodriguez Key. Next day we had a fantastic sail to Angelfish Creek which is an anchorage with good protection from the north wind which was soon to arrive.  We eased our anchor back to Gust-O and rafted up for snacks and libations. As you can see we are loving the cruising life today.

But wait.  There is a strong current here and power boats come flying by. We did not want to risk swinging into their super highway, so decided to deploy stern anchors also. The nightmare begins. Some how we managed to snag Gust-O’s anchor with our keel and drifted down on them broad side. I can’t possibly tell you all the shenanigans which were done to separate the two boats, but it wasn’t pretty. On the plus side, I have to congratulate all of us for keeping our cool (well, mostly). I can still hear Ray saying, “This isn’t good.”  I’m sorry to say “Oh, sh—“ escaped from my mouth more than once. Also on the plus side, there were no physical injuries. Gust-O has a scrape on her nose and needs a new snubber. We tied a fender and a throwable to our stern anchor and set her free for the night.  Lessons learned.

There has been a strong north wind all day and we are glad to be tucked in here. Our retrieved stern anchor is doing its job and we are thankful for a day with no misadventures, other than having to rescue our dinghy oar which starting to float away.  Thanks Anita for seeing it before it got too far.

Stay tuned. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Neither do we.
Tomorrow came and went without us posting this.  We spent another night in Angelfish and then exited the shallow side with at least a foot of water under the keel.  Off then to Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, Florida.  We are told they have 580 slips.  We are not in one.  We are on mooring 154 out of probably 200.  The charge is $25 per night and you get access to the facility for showers, wifi in the marina building, garbage disposal, and a water taxi which can be ordered for picking you up at your boat or dropping you off between 8AM and 5PM daily, weather permitting.

We took advantage of the water taxi to head in for registering and paying for the mooring.  Afterwards a walk to see some of the local sights was followed by a lunch out and discussions about staying or going, and if going, to where.  We walked about a half mile to do some re-provisioning  and then headed back to the boats and naps.

There is a possible weather window to allow us to cross from here to Bimini tomorrow.  We would leave late afternoon and probably end up motoring the whole way, arriving mid morning ahead of deteriorating weather.  We’ll review any weather resources available to us to make a final decision midday tomorrow.  Meanwhile, first thing in the morning, we’ll catch the water taxi in to get departure showers!  Wish us luck.  With the crossing, not the showers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

musings 18 feb 2016

Musings, 18 Feb, 2016

I’ve just returned from the bow, sipping a gin and tonic, enjoying the view.  Palm trees.  Blue sky with puffy white clouds.  The sun is dropping towards the sea.  Masts all around us from boats of every size and shape, some sophisticated modern cruisers, some old salts.  (the coast guard just came by , tweets of siren, pulling a dinghy over to make sure the passengers are complying with safety rules)  Pretty scenery at every point of the compass.  If we have to be “stuck”, this is a pretty good spot. 

We can always pine for better circumstances, but sometimes we need to appreciate what we have.  Sure, its closing in on three weeks we’ve been here.  We are starting to get a little antsy to go.  And my poor bride has been down sick with the crud for 4 days now, with no recovery in sight.  Maybe tomorrow.

Perhaps it is the tonic speaking, but I’m having a great time right now.  Lots of projects important to me have been done.  It looks like we may be able to leave in a couple days.  Today is Thursday.  We might cross to Bimini on Sunday or Monday.  Wish us luck on that one. 

We are excited about having one of our beautiful granddaughters (we have 3) coming to join us in the Bahamas in early April.  My bride has been working on preparations for the visit, and we still have lots of lead time to get there before she arrives.  She will be our first stay-aboard guest!

I dinghied to town today and visited a used boat parts store.  I don’t really need anything, but it was an excuse to get off the boat and leave my bride to recuperate undisturbed.  I bought nothing at the store, but on the way back, I bought a pound of fresh smoked fish dip made by a local.  He buys local fresh catch fish such as King Mackerel, smokes it at his dock and sells it locally to restaurants and individuals.  Rumor has it the dip is excellent. 

I was mildly chastised today for not posting more frequently and keeping in touch.  I’m on vacation!  Besides, it seems there is little happening which would be of interest to others.  We rise to a pot of fresh brewed coffee and listen to the weather forecast.  We breakfast while looking out on the anchorage and listening to the local cruiser’s net.  Will we go to town today?  Or not?  Will we see our friends today?  Will we leave today or stay another?  Will we meet new folks as boats come and go past us?  Will the wind blow hard enough to cause excitement as someone drags anchor?  Will our neighbor who is standing at the stern of his boat with his foot up on the pushpit, giving himself a pedicure, fall in?  Will the sheriff or coast guard stop to inspect our boat and papers?  Was there some not-to-be-missed event announced on the cruiser’s net?  Will the new solar panel and the old wind generator keep the batteries charged up enough? 

So many questions.  Perhaps it is time for another G&T and additional contemplation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 Feb 2016 Barbara Musing

10 Feb 2016 Barbara musing.

Lately I’ve been asking myself, “What is cruising?” I know it is different for different people, so I guess the more accurate question is, “What is cruising for me?”

Is cruising a vacation?  I would have to say “No”.  Reggie still does some work through the internet and phone. I’m retired, so every day is a vacation for me. However, the real reason I have to say “no” is because  cruising is a lot of work. Everything is harder on a boat.  To make the bed, I have to crawl on my hands and knees. To fix a meal, it is necessary to remove half the food from the refrigerator, stack it on the stairs, table or stove, then put it all back once I’ve found the items needed for the meal.  There is no dishwasher and water is at a premium, so that adds an extra dimension.  Of course we need to buy groceries occasionally. That means collecting the bags, life jackets, oars, and whatever else we might need. One of us gets into the dinghy and the other hands down all of the paraphernalia.  I might add that this is easier for some cruiser than it is for us. There is a real risk that one of us will end up swimming. 

Now that we are finally ready to go, we slowly troll (electric trolling motor for us.  aren't we "green"  and slow?) in to the dinghy dock, tie up and carefully disembark. Now we walk the mile or two to the grocery store. After purchasing the needed items, we find a dumpster, so we can remove the un-needed cardboard and other  useless packaging materials. Now we haul it all back, put it in the dinghy, slowly troll home, and unload it into the cockpit. Whew. 

But wait, we’re not done. We have to stow it all away. Where will it go? We sort of have a general plan, but if it is perishable, we need to rotate our supply. That means haul out the older items, put in the newer items and then replace the older items.  And then there is laundry or refilling the propane. It is a lot of work and I didn’t even mention the repairs and maintenance jobs.

Is cruising going to new places? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.  That is my cruising plan, but in reality we are often in the same place for extended periods of time (like now). I continually work on the concept of just ‘being’.

I guess that for me, cruising is just another way of life. It is transient and we make new friends quickly and then say good bye. It is work and yet simple. Like our pioneer fathers, we must be self sufficient.  We conserve power and water. Modern communications are often limited. We usually talk to people on the VHF, which is like the old party line telephone systems. If you are too young to know about those, ask your grandparents. 

Submit is, first of all, my home.  

A day in paradise?

Sunday 7 Feb 2016: Barbara is whipping up dinner as the sun sets on a virtually windless, beautiful sunny day at anchor in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida.  We’ve spent the day on the boat doing little projects.  Listen to the weather to see when we can leave for the Bahamas, double check the markings on the anchor rode, put a connector on the end of the secondary VHF antenna, find receipts for things which need to be returned to West Marine, enjoy a tasty lunch, measure a fitting and a hose which need replacing, add a couple trolling lures to the tackle box, dig out the lazy jacks which didn’t get re-installed when the mast was down 3 years ago, rig up the bosun’s chair, wake Barbara from her nap and send her up the mast immediately so she doesn’t have time to worry about it, take her picture while she is up there because my son tells me if there are no pictures it did not happen , Make Barbara a Dark and Stormy as a reward for installing the lazy jacks and making it back down alive, clean out the cockpit cubbies in search of the frog which was in there but must have jumped overboard, sell a piece of equipment which I’ve been hauling around for several years to “Diesel Bob”  who responded to my ad on the morning VHF radio cruisers net, visit with “Uncle Dev” who stopped by for a while (We met Dev only by radio two years ago in Eleuthra.  He is friends of our friends Jeremy and Heather and Thea and Shea), plan our next trip to town with Dev’s help, beat Barbara in a game of cribbage (she is still several games ahead of me this trip!),  have a glass of wine while writing this, smile because Barbara is happy puttsing around in this version of her nest.

This is a sunrise picture Uncle Dev took of us in Governor’s Harbor, Eleuthera, Bahamas two years ago.

This is proof Barbara went up the Mast, Ben!

Night before last was rainy and very windy.  Yesterday was very windy all day, blowing 20-25 with occasional higher gusts.  Our wind generator topped up the batteries so we turned ot off for a quiet night last night.

We would have moved north today, but we would have only been able to make it to anchorages with poor protection for the weather predicted over the next several days.  Big wind is supposed to arrive again tonight.  We may be able to move later this week.

We’ll make at least one more trip into town and pick up some replacement provisions.  We’ll probably top up the propane tank we’ve been using since launching, just because we can and who knows when the next opportunity will present itself.  The wine supply is a little light on volume, so we may add to it.  We could buy supplies in the Bahamas, but they are significantly more expensive so we may as well load up what we have room to store.

We are biding our time, waiting to sail from one paradise to another.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Boat Dancing 6 Feb 2016

Boat Dancing

Does one wake in the middle of the night to blog or does one blog in the middle of the night because one is awake?  3am.  Hmmm.

First, some business.  We have been told by several folks that they tried to post comments to our reports and could not.  That should be fixed now, so give it a try if you are so inclined.

If safety and comfort are concerns, and aren’t they always, weather can dictate much of your travel plans when traveling by boat.  Cold and heat are endurable.  Enough wind is a delight.  Wind creates waves. More wind is challenging and harder work and creates bigger waves.  Too much wind is potentially devastating and, combined with the waves it creates, can be lethal. 

We were reminded that much of forecasting is educated guessing.  Predicted waves are an average of the highest one third of the waves seen.  NOAA then tells you to expect occasional waves of up to twice that height.  You might be tempted to brave 3 to 5 foot seas, but what about the occasional 10 footer or higher?  Are those waves coming at your bow so you slice neatly through them or are they hitting you from the side, rolling you first one way then the other?  Is it for an hour or for an amount of time which seems interminable?

So, sailors look for places to take their boats to hide from most of wind and as many of the waves as possible, there to wait for a period of nice weather before moving on.  After all, this is supposed to be a post card vacation, not man against the sea.

Boot Key Harbor is one of those hiding places.  Trees, land and buildings provide 360 degree protection from the waves and partially block the wind.  Partially.  And when wind hits a boat, the boat moves.  Now the boat samba begins. 

Boats at anchor dance back and forth much like a flag waves, but in slow motion.  The dancers are different sizes and shapes so they appear to be dancing to different tunes.  They pull at their anchors as a dancer would pull at a partner’s hand when moving apart but trying to stay together.  Are the boats held to their anchor partners by a line which allows the boat to move and dance quickly or by a chain which acts as a damper?  Does the anchor partner have enough traction on the floor of the harbor to keep from sliding?  Is the anchor big enough and the right design to hold steady against the lunges and pirouettes of its partner?

Prior to the beginning of the dance, some boats do practice moves.  They pick up their anchor partners and wander among the other dancers looking for the best remaining spot on the floor: not too close to the other dancers, or too near posts or the edge of the floor; a spot with good traction for the anchor partner. 

The dance begins.  Some dancers travel miles at the end of their anchor’s tether and yet never leave their spot.

 Much of the fastest dancing happens in the middle of the night and includes kettle drum thunder, strobe lightning and copious rain.    One dancer slips and falls landing aground, stuck at the edge until a helping hand can pull them back to the floor the next day.  Another dancer’s partner loses its grip and its crew must brave the storm to raise the anchor and find a new spot among the other dancers while the wind howls and the rain blinds and the darkness hides the other dancers.  Sometimes the move is less successful and dancers collide amid loud man noises. Morning oft times finds them still tangled.

The dance provides engaging entertainment for those of us who have danced slowly at the end of a strong chain which is attached to a well designed, oversized anchor partner with a good spot on the floor.  We are the successful dancers, this time.  We sleep a little better.  This time.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Boot Key bound

4 Feb, 2016
After  a couple rainy days in Fort Myers Beach, we headed south.   There are two possible routes, one inside, one outside.  The inside route takes you up one little river and down the next, under a couple bridges and through the countryside.  It is the more scenic.   However, it is shallower.  We decided it was not for us but it sounded great to “Gust-O”.  They could avoid any possible rolling waves in the gulf and it may have been a little shorter route to our next planned stop.

Out into the gulf we went.  Lack of wind made it a non-sailing day, but getting farther south to warmer weather was more important than sailing.  We were anxious to re-stow the stocking caps and gloves!

We were able to keep in radio contact with “Gust-O” and were told they had a little unplanned stop which delayed them.  We’ll let them tell any portion of the story they wish to share.   

Their delay meant we need to head part way back if the boats were to stay together.  We also needed to find an alternative stop/anchorage for the night.  We chose to meet at Panther Key.  It was our first out-in-the-wilds anchorage and was great.  We rafted up briefly with Ray and Anita and then spent a quiet relatively bug-less evening.  Ray and Anita were not quite as lucky on the bug-less part.

Next day was a day of sailing, motor sailing and motoring with occasional showers in the morning.  The afternoon brought sunshine and calm seas.  The evening found us at anchor in Little Shark River in the Florida Everglades.  It looked swampy spooky as we entered the anchorage area.  Owls hooted and other birds made unrecognizable  sounds.

Anita asked “where are the alligators? I don’t see any alligators.  Aren’t there supposed to be alligators?”  I offered to take her to shore for an alligator hunt and chase, but she declined.   We saw no alligators so were not eaten alive by them.  However, the mosquitoes and other bugs would have enjoyed a feast if we hadn’t gone below and installed our screens.  Again, we enjoyed a relatively bug-less night but Ray and Anita fared less well.  It is great having them for bug bait.  I believe I heard Anita say they were never going back there again!

Our next day’s trip was going to be a long one, so we arose in the dark to do the morning prestart engine checks, etc.  Those done and with coffee in hand, we awaited first light only to discover we were in thick fog, surrounded in a white silence broken only by the odd wild noise.  We delayed our start for a short while before deciding to head slowly back out to sea backtracking on our track from last night.  Another boat in the anchorage headed out just ahead of us.  Their more fancily equipped vessel included an automatic fog horn which sounded every few minutes even after they disappeared.

We only had to travel a short distance off shore before we were out of the fog.  Breezes gradually built from a fortuitous direction which let us raise sails and shut down the engine, a relief from engine noise and a savings of low fuel.

The sailing was great.  This was our view from the cockpit.

This was my view into the cockpit.

We doused sail shortly before passing under the 7 Mile Bridge.  We were now on the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys and were reminded of it as we turned to port to head for Boot Key Harbor and Marathon.  Wind waves combined with a slight swell from sea and the occasional boat wake made for a rolling, bouncy trip for a little while.  The quiet waters of the harbor were welcome.  Almost 8 years ago to the day would have found us in this same harbor, having just purchased “Submit” a few days earlier.  We shake our heads in disbelief at our naiveté lack of experience and knowledge back then and where we went and what we did in a new-to-us untried vessel.  We should have been more cautious, but, after throwing caution and wisdom to the wind and buying her on Ebay after a couple glasses of wine, we had a great time and don’t regret a bit of it.  

Boot Key Harbor has changed significantly since we were here.  No bascule bridge at the entrance.  Less anchoring space.  More mooring balls.  It is a very popular spot for cruisers.  It is sheltered from all directions.  There is good provisioning and an active cruising community which meets on air on VHF channel 68 each day at 9am.  Newcomers are welcomed, departing yachts are wished safe travels  news and weather are shared,  find help or link up with other travelers if you wish.  Some boats come only this far and spend the entire winter.  Others never leave.

A huge municipal mooring field has been developed.  Taking a mooring grants access to dinghy parking, showers, laundry, meeting rooms, and more.  They are very popular and currently full with a waiting list.  We are number 37 on the waiting list.  The waiting list has had over 50 boats on it recently because weather has prevented arriving boats from continuing on with their travels.  The next good weather window will see a substantial exodus, flotillas headed in every direction.   A couple cold fronts are moving in tomorrow night so the next travel day may be 4 or 5 days from now.
Having no mooring, we squeeze into a spot to anchor.  

Next day brings a relaxing morning and then a LONG (for us) dinghy ride to the municipal dock.  We are at the opposite end of the harbor, and, as some of you may recall, we do not have a gas outboard for our dinghy.  We do have a fairly strong headwind and an electric trolling motor.  We decided several years ago to try eliminating gasoline and additional oils and fuel tanks and a heavy outboard motor in favor of safer, cleaner electric.  It has worked ok so far, but we lack the speed and power and long distance cruising range of traditional setups. 

The dinghy trip took us on a slow, stealth because we are so silent, cruise through the anchorage and mooring field and back.  I never fail to be entertained by the variety of boats in an anchorage or mooring field, every size, shape and condition, many to drool over, all to reject save one, “Submit”.

The marina charges $22 per day to use their dock but that includes all the amenities except the mooring ball, which is just a few dollars more. We registered, paid and walked a half mile or so to lunch. 

After lunch found the women headed back to the marina for laundry and showers and the men hiking another half mile to Publix for shopping.  The men had been given lists to fill which they augmented as they wished, even knowing they might suffer the possible female scrutiny of “why did you buy this?” or “where will we store these?’.  Once laden with treasures, a taxi was called to haul the men and their treasures back to the marina.  It was $6 well spent given that my purchases must have weighed over 100 lbs.

The fresh, clean ladies were finishing  laundry so the boys grabbed a quick shower and turned in their shower cards to avoid the $10 deposit loss.  Our dinghy had barely room for us given laundry, computer, life jackets, groceries, battery, throwable floatation device, oars, etc.  Thank heavens we were able to leave the bag of garbage in the marina dumpsters, another perk of the registration fee.

Dinner followed storing of all the supplies, and then a quiet evening and sleep……until awakening in the middle of the night just before a rain shower.  We closed hatches and ports and found ourselves wide awake with nothing to do but write this!