The journey resumes with a stumble at the gate – 1/7/16

First of All -

  • First canceled flight
  • First rebooked itinerary

Namely Speaking-

  • Pangborn Field
  • Seatac
  • Atlanta
  • Ft. Myers

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,329
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: NA
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 25 in East Wenatchee WA; 75 in Ft. Myers FL
  • Water Temperature: NA

Our holiday visit with our two sons and their families is at an end. We spent the Christmas week at our youngest son’s house, enjoying time with his family, and especially with our 5 year old granddaughter and our 9 month grandson, who was experimenting with walking while we were there. After Christmas we drove up to Oak Harbor and enjoyed a great week with our oldest son and his family. Grandkids there are older (grandson is 15 and a high school freshman; granddaughter is 10 and in 4th grade). We caught up on all their doings, including ROTC armed drill team for our grandson. Sandy spent some memorable time with our granddaughter, who got a Singer sewing machine for Christmas. She and grandma stitched up several projects on the new machine, with Gracie absorbing sewing knowledge and grandma storing up memories. We also managed to sandwich a trip over the mountains to Leavenworth to look in on our home there, and reconnect with friends back in Eastern Washington. We took the Amtrack train from Everett to Leavenworth, and found it to be a wonderful, relaxing way to travel. While home I put in some quality time with the snowblower, clearing away two feet of compact snow and getting the driveways and walkways back into shape. We drove our car back to Western Washington so we could more conveniently run around without having to borrow a car from the kids. That meant a drive back over the pass to Leavenworth when the time came to fly back to Florida. I allowed an extra day in Leavenworth so I could deal with a foot of new snow, which had fallen while we were on the west side. Things are in good shape at the homestead now, snow-wise, and having given the house sitter some lessons on how to operate the snowblower, she should do fine through the rest of winter.

For us, though, it is time to start thinking about palm trees, sandy beaches, and 80 degrees. We arise at 2:45am, which gives us enough time to get out to the local airport, Pangborn Field, for the 5:40am shuttle flight to Seatac Airport, aptly located partway between Seattle and Tacoma. I walk up to the ticket counter exactly 1 hour before scheduled take off, and the cheery airport manager asks me if I’d gotten the message, yesterday evening, about our flight being canceled. It’s 4:40am, I’ve been up for 2 hours already, and we’re facing an 11 hour, 4,000 mile cross country trip, and that’s definitely not the question I wanted to hear from him. I say “Obviously not, since I’m standing here right now.” He tells me they texted me shortly before 9am, and also emailed me, that the plane from Seattle had been unable to land due to fog, and therefore, we had no plane to take us over the mountains this morning. I discover that this happens to about 20 percent of the flights this time of year. They have a shuttle van lined up to drive us to Seatac, however it will arrive 2 hours after our scheduled flight departs. The manager is apologetic, and efficiently books us on alternate flights, with a connection in Atlanta, which will get us in to Ft. Myers just 2 hours later than our original itinerary. So, we bounce our way across Blewett and Snoqualmie Passes in the shuttle van and arrive at Seatac at 9:30 am. The lines are awful, and we reach our gate just 15 minutes before the start of boarding. Take off is delayed by 1/2 hour due to a dog having been improperly loaded onto the plane. Both dog and owner must be taken off the plane before we can take off. This is a matter of concern, since we have only 1 hour in Atlanta to make the connection to Ft. Myers. Once in the air, the pilot assures us that he will be able to make up the lost time, and in fact, he does. We land on schedule at Atlanta, at Gate F11, which is at the opposite corner of the terminal from our departure gate to Ft. Myers. Fortunately, the lady sitting next to me on the flight explained about the high speed train that quickly gets one to remote gates. We find it without getting lost, and arrive at our gate while boarding is in process. It’s a great relief to settle into our seats for the final leg of our transcontinental trip. Things go well from there. Our duffel bags show up in good shape at the carousel, our hotel shuttle van arrives without delay, and a comfortable hotel room awaits us. We grab a bite to eat at the sports bar across the parking lot, at 10 pm, which isn’t too bad considering the 3 hour time change.

Back in the Water – 1/8/16

First of All -

  • Chinook’s first day in the water, after 3 1/2 weeks on the hard

Namely Speaking-

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 20 yards; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,329 miles and 20 yards
  • Hours Underway: 3 minutes
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.1
  • Wind Speed: NA
  • Daily High Temperature: 74
  • Water Temperature: NA

We would have liked to sleep in but we’re relying on the Sweetwater Landing Marina owner, Brandon, for a ride from the hotel back to the Marina, so we’re out in the lobby at 7:30am, when he swings by in his pickup. We’re very appreciative that he’s willing to go out of his way to pick us up. It’s raining when we get back to Sweetwater, but as soon as the rain lets up, Brandon trundles over to our boat with his huge fork lift and raises Chinook up off the bunks where she’s rested during our absence. The boat looks to be in fine shape, except for the radar reflector which is dangling alongside the hull, instead of being properly suspended from the port side spreader. Apparently, the nylon line holding it up decided to fail while we were away. It’s amazing how, on a boat, things can break when the boat is just sitting there. I gaze up at the empty pulley on the spreader, wondering how I’ll manage to fish a new line up through it without having to lower the mast.

DSCF9924Brandon carefully backs around to the shear bulkhead where he takes boats in and out, and lowers our boat back in the water. He says it will be ok for us to remain tied up to the floating dock during the day, while we get reorganized. I talk with him about the radar reflector problem and ask him if he has a ladder which might reach. He brings over an extension ladder and, with the boat tightly tied to the floating dock, he’s able to prop the ladder against the mast and fish a new line through the pulley. Check that off the list. While Sandy begins the tedious process of removing our travel luggage from our duffels and totes, I reinflate our dinghy. I’m going to experiment on discouraging barnacle growth. I smear a product on the bottom of the dinghy. It’s called Eelsnot, no kidding, and was given to me by a good friend and sailor back in Seattle. He says racers coat the hulls of their boats to increase speed, and it’s also supposed to discourage barnacle growth. I figure it’s worth a try, and smear it all over the bottom of the dinghy. I also apply UV protectant to the upper surfaces of the dinghy, so she’s now ready for anything, top and bottom. Shortly after putting the dinghy into the water our unofficial harbor host, Bill, walks up to welcome us back. He’d stopped by before we went home for Christmas, offering to provide transportation when we got back, and here he was, making good on his offer. Sandy scratches together a quick grocery list, and we’re soon off to the nearby Publix grocery store in Bills van. He patiently waits for us in the store while we load up our grocery cart with provisions for the next week or so. When on an extended boat trip, with our only land transportation being a pair of deeply stowed folding bicycles, this act of kindness on his part is incredibly thoughtful and considerate, and deeply appreciated by us. He tops things off by saying he’ll drop by tomorrow to give me a ride over to West Marine and Home Depot, so I can pick up fuel for our two cooking stoves. What a guy.

By mid afternoon we’re back at the boat with a big load of groceries to tuck away. What with grocery bags, food tubs, as well as clothing duffels and miscellaneous items still needing to be put into place, we can barely move inside the boat. It’s all we can do to cook up some dinner and clear off space to open up the bed. It’s been a long, tiring day and, on the heels of an equally long, tiring air travel day yesterday, we are eager to crawl into the sleeping bag for some much needed rest.

Tornado Alert! – 1/9/16

First of All -

  • First severe thunderstorm passing right overhead
  • First tornado warning issued for our locale

Namely Speaking-

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,329
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.4 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: storm gust of 40 mph; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 70
  • Water Temperature: NA

We finally get to sleep in, and take advantage of the opportunity. The morning is taken up with organizing and stowing groceries, clothes and boat related gear. Things are actually starting to come together by 1:30pm, when our generous friend Bill drives up to take me out to buy the final few items we need before shoving off again. The trip is a success, with West Marine supplying me with butane cylinders for the back up stove, as well as some plastic tubing which I’ll use to repair the solar shower nozzle. Finding kerosene fuel for the Wallas stove proves a slightly bigger challenge. It seems stove fuel isn’t a big seller in Florida. The Home Depot clerk tells me they ordered in a whole pallet of the stuff, but sent it back since it didn’t move. We next try Walmart and actually find quart bottles of kerosene in the sporting goods department. I grab some grocery items there which we thought of last night, and we’re soon on our way back to the boat. I unsuccessfully try to buy some gas for Bill’s van. He politely refuses, explaining that he once hoped to buy a MacGregor sailboat and possibly take a trip like ours, but that life got in the way and that dream is no longer possible. He tells me that reading this account of the trip has brought him much enjoyment, and more than compensates him for his help. Comments like that are a powerful incentive to keep on posting. Thanks so much, Bill. We wish you well going forward.

While I’ve been out shopping with Bill, Sandy has been patiently waiting for a chance to do a small load of laundry. Someone started a load in the morning, and just left it there in the tub. It’s sat there all afternoon, and we eventually give up all hope of doing our wash today.

The afternoon sky is darkening, so I put the cockpit surround up before it gets dark outside. We just manage to barbeque up a pair of steaks for dinner before it starts to rain. I check the weather report on my smart phone app, and see an intense thunderstorm heading our way. Alerts are posted for severe weather, including possible tornados. We’re urged to take immediate shelter. I evaluate our options, which are limited to running over to the concrete block restroom building in a driving rainstorm, and decide to sit tight and take our chances on the boat. I do disconnect the GPS so that, if we’re hit by lightning, at least that will have a chance of surviving. The tornado alert says that radar indicates rotation in the thunderstorm cloud. That’s ominous. Lightning flashes frequently, but the thunder is not simultaneous so we figure we’re not exactly in the crosshairs. The boat gets hit with some strong gusts of wind, but it soon passes and things settle back down. I’m pleased to see that the repair I did to the overhead window seems to have worked. Despite intensely strong rains I find no drips from the window. During the lull in the rainstorm, we walk up to the restroom building. I’ve written a note to place on the clothing basket of the inconsiderate laundry squatter, but am disappointed to see that, while we were having dinner, she apparently finally removed her wash. It’s too late for us to start a wash this evening though. Maybe we’ll do it in the morning before shoving off.

Heading the Wrong Way on the Caloosahatchee – 1/10/16

First of All -

  • First day under way following our Christmas break

Namely Speaking-

  • Panda Bear

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 9; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,338
  • Hours Underway: 2
  • Fuel:
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.5 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12 mpy; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: 70

Periodic shots of rain greet us this morning. We use the time doing the laundry we couldn’t get done yesterday. Sandy also grabs a shower. We walk back and forth to the restroom/shower building in between rainy periods. It’s noon time before we’re ready to leave, so we eat lunch at the dock. By 1:30 there is nothing left to do but go, and begin the next segment of our Loop cruise. Somehow, despite the fact that I’m eager to get going, it seems hard to actually start. Operations that were done without thinking seem strange. We’re in transition back to life on the water, and it will take a bit before we settle into routine once again. It doesn’t help that, once clear of the dock and halfway down the marina fairway I realize that I’ve forgotten the companionway bug netting, which I’d rinsed off and left on a boat bunk to dry. Sheepishly, I come about and head back in. We nose up to the floating dock and Brandon hands us the bug net, and we’re finally able to depart.

DSCF9926I’m only planning a short run, approximately 9 miles, down to Ft. Myers Yacht Basin. We stayed there for several days just prior to our Christmas break and liked the place. This will serve well as our shake down cruise, and if we get in early enough, I’ll be able to catch some of the Seahawks playoff game. We get in a little after 3pm, get tied up, and head for the office to register. They have a TV in the boater’s lounge, so I settle in to watch the final quarter. The ‘Hawks are down 9 to nothing, but I’m not worried. In short order they pull ahead 10 to 9, but then nearly give me heart failure before holding on to win. They live to play another day.

Walking back to our boat, I notice a hard sided dinghy which is nearly awash in rainwater. They’ve gotten a lot of rain here in the pastDSCF9927 couple of days. Back where we live in semi-arid Eastern Washington, rain is an event, and a fairly rare one at that. Around here, rain is an occurance, and a frequent one at that. And I believe this is considered the dry season in Florida. We are told that last night a tornado touched down at Cape Coral, just across from Ft. Myers, and destroyed several homes. It sounds like the storm was worse here than up where we were. I sure hope we don’t get caught in another storm like last night’s.

Surfing in to Naples – 1/11/16

First of All -

  • First time with temps in the low ’50’s in Florida (53 degree overnight low)
  • First time cruising in new waters since around Thanksgiving
  • First time tying up to a mooring ball on the trip
  • First time surfing the swell into an inlet (Gordon’s Pass)

Namely Speaking-

  • Whiskey Creek
  • Cattle Dock Point
  • Doctor’s Pass
  • Gordon’s Pass
  • Naples

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 52; Sail: Motor sailed 4 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,390
  • Hours Underway: 7 1/2
  • Fuel: 5.1 gallons
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.5 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 15 mph; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 65
  • Water Temperature: 69

To start with, I need to clarify the title for yesterday’s post. Going the wrong way on the Caloosahatchee refers to the fact that virtually all Loop boats entering that river are headed east, all the way across the Okachobee Waterway to Stuart, on Florida’s Atlantic coast. We, on the other hand, went part way up so we could park the boat and get maintenance work done while we went home for Christmas. On our way out yesterday we did see a Loop boat headed east, a trawler named Panda Bear which we’d seen earlier in the trip.

It’s more than nippy out when we rise this morning. 53 degrees to be exact, with a biting NE breeze nipping into the marina. The sky clears early, though, so we look forward to warming sunshine over the course of the day. I get help from marina staff pulling out, since the breeze is pushing us against the dock. We could probably handle it on our own, but it just makes sense to ask for help. I swing around to the fuel dock and top off my gas tank, and then we’re ready to cruise the rest of the way down the Caloosahatchee River, out into San Carlos Bay, and then south on open Gulf waters. The GPS screen is literally criss-crossed with our boat’s tracks, since we wandered all over these waters in the weeks before our Christmas break. Shortly after noon we finally pass our previously most southern excursion, at Lovers Key, and we’re now on new waters. The breeze is a steady 12 to 15 mph out of the northeast. Since it’s coming off the land, and since we’re cruising just a couple of miles offshore, the wind waves are only a foot or so. However, a 3 foot swell is rolling in off the Gulf, in the opposite direction. The swells are far apart, so they cause us little problem. The sensation when encountering them is really quite strange. The steady wind on our port beam is quite noticeable, as are the wind waves. The open Gulf swells, on the other hand, sneak in almost unnoticed, and the sensation of their passing makes the boat almost seem to float in the air. Really strange.

DSCF9930This morning I set Naples as our goal for the day. The distance looked reasonable, and I spotted an attractive municipal mooring field where we could tie up and be able to go ashore. This plan starts to look unreasonable as I finally get a clear shot in open water for setting a waypoint at Gordon’s Pass, which is the entry point for Naples. The distance is 10 miles further than I’d anticipated. It looks like we’ll be getting in right at dark, at the speed we’re going. On top of that, the swell seems to be getting bigger, and the motion of the boat is becoming somewhat uncomfortable. It would really be nice to get in by 3pm or so. I start scanning the Waterways Guide for an alternative. I spot Wiggins Pass, which features 3 small marinas. When we get close I try phoning the most promising one. They don’t answer. I call the next one, but it’s a yacht club and they only accomodate other yacht club members. We’re out of luck there. The last one also doesn’t answer the phone. While I’m pondering the situation I see a small speedboat trying to exit Wiggins Pass. The water there is quite shallow, and the big rollers are kicking up some ominous waves in the pass. The speedboat gets kicked around in the waves, and abruptly spins around and rushes back inside. I conclude that Wiggins Pass is no place for us. This leaves us with the option of going all the way down to Naples. I kick the speed up to 8 mph, and project a 4:55pm arrival time at Gordon’s Pass, which seems doable. I’m able to maintain that speed with the engine turning at around 3700 rpm. As we near Gordon’s Pass I phone the Naples Municipal Marina andDSCF9932 confirm with them that we can moor there for the night. Then I notice breaking waves in proximity to the navigation markers which mark the entrance to Gordon’s Pass. I steer a course wide of the outermost markers, and then line ourselves up with the center of the narrow channel. Sandy takes one look at the steep rollers and retreats to the cabin, taking with her the camera, cruising guide, charts, binoculars, and captain’s log book. She’s taking no chances with those swells. I maintain speed at 7 mph as I enter the narrow channel. The rollers build but don’t break, but they try to kick us sideways and it’s all I can do with the steering wheel to keep them on our stern and not our beam. The boat rises 4 or 5 feet as each one catches us. I feel the boat surge ahead as it surfs down the face of the swell. Our speed jumps to 10 mph each time we ride a wave. This continues for several hundred yards, and I’m quite relieved when we finally enter the calm waters of the protected channel. On our left is extensive mangrove swamp while on the right, enormous mansions line the shore. We follow the channel for about 2 miles before entering a small basin where the municipal mooring field is located. It takes us a bit of looking, but we finally figure out where we’re supposed to be. With just half an hour of light I snag the mooring ball line with our boathook and tie up for the night.

Naples, home of the rich and absent – 1/12/16

First of All -

  • First panhandling pelicans

Namely Speaking-

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 300 yards; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,390 and 300 yards
  • Hours Underway: 5 minutes
  • Fuel: 10.1 gallons (filled empty 5 gallon gas can)
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.74
  • Wind Speed: under 10; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 65
  • Water Temperature: 69

DSCF9935It’s quite chilly this morning, in the mid ’50’s. It rained lightly off and on last night, and it’s showery this morning until around 9am. I phone the dockmaster after breakfast and tell him I’ll be heading for the fuel dock to top off our tank, and hopefully get directions to a slip. He says they’re full up, but if someone leaves, we will have a place to tie up. Our departure is slowed because Sandy has suffered a cramp in her back, and it takes a while to ease up. By the time I cast off from the mooring ball and motor over to the fuel dock, I’m told they have an opening for us. I fill the gas tank and empty 5 gallon gas can, pick up a block of ice, and get directions to our slip. It’s another fixed dock with pilings, and with Sandy still bothered by her back, I’m single handing my way in. A marina employee is there to help, and I manage to get the boat secured without too much difficulty. Once we’re settled in, we go for a walk through the shopping districts of town. We stop for lunch in a nice 5th Ave. restaurant, and then hoof over to the grocery for a few items before returning to the boat. Walking back down the dock, we pass a small crowd of people, clustered around the fish cleaning station. A large gang of pelicans crowd together in the water below, hoping for scraps. Up on the dock, a pair of hopeful feathered panhandlers crowd the operation, but the guy with the filet knife tells me it’s against the law to feed birds. These two pelicans hope he’s a law breaker. Sandy later notices him giving a handout to one of the dock beggars. Apparently he’s a favorite. The other bird has nipped him in the past, and so gets ignored.

A great deal of wealth is concentrated here in Naples. It’s evident in the shoreline, which is lined with one mansion after another. Out on the water, a police boat slowly idles back and forth, justDSCF9937 daring someone on a boat to step out of line. Shopping districts are filled with fine dining places, boutiques, art galleries, real estate offices, and imposing law offices. Beautiful people stroll up and down the sidewalks and lounge in the sidewalk cafes, discussing (I suppose) their stock portfolios. A steady stream of small jets pass overhead, on their approach to the local airport. Prop driven planes are definitely in the minority here. I wonder if the jets are part of some commercial commuter service or privately owned.

DSCF9940In the after noon we head for the shower building to freshen up. After my shower I strike up conversation with an interesting fellow. He turns out to be local, and a sailboat owner. He’s lived around here for decades, going back to a time before all the mansions were built along the canals on the approach to the City. He tells me the homes down there start at $3.5 million. They go up to around $25 million. Very few of the owners originated in this area. They’re owned by people from all over the country. Practically none of the homes are occupied by permanent residents. In fact, most of them are vacant for 50 weeks of the year. He confirms that those jets overhead are all private planes, presumably ferrying mansion owners to and fro. He has a place on the water, down the GICW near Goodland. We’ll be going by there tomorrow, and he invites us to stop in. We’ll see how that works out.

We decide we just can’t leave Naples without sampling some of their pizza, and so when dinner time rolls along, we walk up to a small pizzeria near the head of the dock. It’s a tiny place, but very crowded – a good sign. We grab a table, order, and then enjoy some great pizza. Two cups of ice cream top off the meal, and we have slices left over for a lunch bonus.

In the midst of 10,000 islands – 1/13/16

First of All -

  • First time on Florida’s Gulf Coast beyond the reach of condominium builders
  • First time encountering canoe campers on the Gulf
  • First time Sandy wears her down jacket
  • First time anchored in a place where absolutely no artificial lights are visible

Namely Speaking-

  • Keewadin Island
  • Rookery Bay
  • Umbrella Island
  • Isles of Capri
  • Marco Island
  • Slingaree Island
  • Hog Island

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 30; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,420
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 65
  • Water Temperature: 63

My desire to get an early start falls victim to a case of inertia, brought on by the sounds of a fresh breeze outside and a 54 degree cabin temperature inside. I manage to crawl out of a comfy sleeping bag shortly after 7am, and am ready to back out of our slip by 8. With the wind pushing against us I ask for help from a boat across the dock from us. It goes better than I expected, and we’re soon motoring slowly down Gordon River, leaving Naples in our wake. We’re taking the shallow, twisty inside route to Marco Island and beyond, to the start of the region known as the 10,000 Islands. The wind is on our port beam most of the time, so I run the genoa out to give us a bit of a push. As an added bonus, we have current in our favor most of the way, so we can keep DSCF9943our speed at 6 mph without asking too much from the engine. We leave the Naples mansions behind and enter an extensive region of mangroves. The designated route is quite shallow, with depths from 3 to 6 feet being typical. We start out at low tide, and gain more than 3 feet of tidal depth over the course of the run. It’s quite chilly throughout the morning. Sandy dons her down parka and stuffs hot packs in her heavy gloves. I trade my Tilley hat for a stocking cap to keep my ears warm. By noon the temperature finally climbs above 60 degrees and the sun begins to burn through the overcast. We pass the little community of Goodland, where the fellow I chatted with yesterday lives. I have no way of knowing which place is his, so we pass on by. Goodland is the last outpost of development on thisDSCF9945 coast. Except for little Everglades City, a short way upriver from the coast, we will be cruising along a wild, uninhabited shore, much of which is part of the Everglades National Park. My first choice of an anchorage is Whitehorse Key, however we pass it by after seeing that it is already occupied by a substantial cluster of tents. Several boats are pulled up on the beach, and it looks like the camp of a large fishing group. A short distance beyond I see an attractive cove, which is bordered by a decent sized beach. We anchor in the cove, with good protection from the light prevailing NE wind. It is open to the Gulf, but we are expecting no weather out of the west overnight. We dinghy ashore for our usual beach walk, and manage to come back with a few nice shells. I’ve got to wrap this up for now. Time to put some pork chops on the barbeque.

DSCF9949DSCF9951

Aligning with the weather for an Everglades wilderness beach walk – 1/14/16

First of All -

  • First time cruising on waters Chinook has seen before
  • First time seeing live horseshoe crabs
  • First bird: American avocet
  • First time wearing foul weather gear

Namely Speaking-

  • Jack Daniels Key
  • Chokoloskee Pass
  • Pavilion Key
  • Lostmans River
  • Highland Beach
  • Broad River
  • “The Nightmare” (high tide canoe route through Everglades mangrove swamp)
  • Ponce de Leon Bay
  • Little Shark River

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 52; Sail: 3 hours motor sailing
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,472
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.71
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 62
  • Water Temperature: 64

Last evening I spent considerable time studying weather information, drawing on multiple sources to gain as clear a picture as possible. The predicted pattern is somewhat complex and variable, with stormy days alternating with fair, calm days. Today is predicted to be chilly, with 10 to 12 mph winds out of the NE, and rain developing in the afternoon. Tomorrow a warm front is supposed to move up from the south and crash headlong into the cold air we’re now in, resulting in strong winds, accompanied by showers and thunderstorms, all of which will produce high seas. This is all supposed to end tomorrow night, and Saturday is forecast to be sunny and warm, with north to northeast wind at 10 mph and seas 2 feet or less. By Saturday night it’s supposed to get windy and stormy again. The long range forecast for next week calls for fair but breezy weather. My task is to apply this best knowledge to our immediate travel plans so that we can take advantage of the good days and be in suitable locations when prudence calls for us to hunker down. The plan that evolves is this: Today we’ll get an early start and make the 40 mile run down to Broad River, where the chart indicates a possible anchorage. Broad River is also adjacent to a nice stretch of beach, called Highland Beach, which will afford us the chance to go ashore and stretch our legs, weather permitting. Since we expect stormy weather tomorrow, we’ll need to lay over on Friday, and then make the long crossing out to the Keys on Saturday. We’ll head for a marina near Big Pine Key, since there’s a good navigation channel across Florida Bay to that part of the Keys, as well as a 40 foot bridge I can sneak under. Once there we’ll determine our next moves, again, doing our best to take what the weather gives us.

DSCF9977I get up at 6:30, bundle up and toss charts, camera, binoculars and log book into the cockpit. I flip the auto pilot, VHF, and navigation lights on, activate the GPS, start the engine, and go forward to raise anchor. It’s just getting light when we leave our little bay at 7am. It’s breezy out and shallow inshore depths force me to cruise a couple miles out from shore. Even there the depth is only 4 or 5 feet. The wind has a bite to it, and the water is choppy. We’re heading down to a very remote stretch of coast, along the west side of Everglades National Park. Once we pass the inlet to Everglades City we will be completely isolated, with no services of any kind, including cell phone access. The water gets quite rough when I pass open inlets between islands, and I begin to wonder if I should change plans and simply head in to Everglades City. I know if we do, we’ll be stuck there for several days, and will lose the good Saturday weather window for getting across Florida Bay. I check my weather reports again and see no changes, so decide to proceed. This turns out to be the right call, for today at least. The winds ease up a bit, and the seas remain a light chop. The rain does start 3 hours sooner than expected, but I simply set up the cockpit surround. While this reduced visibility, it does provide a wind break which, in this chilly air, is welcome.

A few miles past the approach to Everglades City (which we had visited on Chinook in January 2004) we near Pavilion Key. On thatDSCF9982 2004 trip we anchored out for a night at Pavilion Key, opting to let the tide go out from beneath us in the middle of the night, and paid the price of being boarded by racoons in search of food. We pass Pavilion Key via a narrow inside passage, and set our course for the Broad River. In 2004 we dinghied 6 or 7 miles up this river, seeing 17 alligators along the way. On this trip we’ll settle for a nice walk on the beach. The approach to the river mouth is narrow and poorly marked by scattered black and white stakes. I try to stay in the center of the channel by GPS, however the channel must do a lot of shifting around here, and I end up slowly feeling my way, with depths of 5 to 9 feet in the channel, but as little as 2 feet when I stray out of it. I tip the outboard up to gain a few inches until the depth improves. This place doesn’t look like offers us any decent protection from foul weather, DSCF9976 so we plan on dropping the anchor as close to the north side of the inlet as possible. This will give us decent dinghy access to Highland Beach. As we dinghy in to shore we spot a roseatte spoonbill roosting in a snag along the shore. This place has a very wild feel to it, with abundant bird life everywhere we look. We go ashore and walk the beach for over a mile. Shells are thick, including some very pretty whelks and small tulips. Footprints other than ours are absent. We feared we’d get caught by rain, but the weather thankfully holds off. We see several horseshoe crabs shuffling around in the shallows. They appear to be digging out nests, and we see what we take to be mating behavior which, I must say, is a bit clumsy for horeshoe crabs. Shorebirds are clearly attracted to this beach, with large flocks of small sandpipers working the sand. A small squadron of skimmers flash by, and we see our first American avocet, a handsome wading bird with a distinctive upturned bill.

Too soon it’s time to return to the boat and head for secure anchorage. Along this shore that translates into Little Shark River, a wellDSCF9981 known and popular refuge for cruisers heading up or down the coast, as well as for boats like ours who are staging to cross Florida Bay to the Keys. It takes an hour and a half to reach Little Shark River, which we reach by 5:30pm, just half an hour before dark. We find 5 other sailboats at anchor, strung out near the center of the river. I’m pleased to see the little nook on the south side, where we anchored in 2004, to be completely empty. I rig the trip line and buoy, since this anchorage has strong reversing currents and Active Captain comments confirm that some boats have had trouble retrieving anchors. All in all it’s been a satisfying day. I think we made the correct choice in moving this far down. We’re in a protected spot for weathering tomorrown’s storm, and we’re in the best possible position for our crossing to the Keys.

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Heeled 15 degrees and still at anchor! – 1/15/16

First of All -

  • First major squall, ridden out at anchor

Namely Speaking-

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 0 – Layover day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,472
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: peak gust of 40 mph +; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 64
  • Water Temperature: 64

DSCF9997Last night we fought the battle of “mosquito cabin”. No matter how tightly we stuffed every crack and crevice with socks, wash cloths and towels, the blood suckers still managed to squeeze their way in. We pretty much held our own, and only smashed one which was tanked up. After that exertion, and following two straight early morning starts, it’s nice to be able to sleep in. It’s gray outside when we rise, with very little wind. We get occasional sprinkles, but no thunder and lightning. I’m begining to wonder if the predicted storm is simply a pussy cat. Mild though it may be, it’s still a nuisance. I spend several hours trying to complete the simple task of replacing my flagDSCF0069 halyard, which has frayed and could soon fail. Every time I climb outside and get started, another shower hits. They seem to be getting stronger, and more frequent as well. However, I finally manage to finish my task. We pass the middle of the day inside, Sandy reading while I work up a route, including GPS waypoints, for our Florida Bay crossing. I modify our planned destination again, this time settling on Bahia Honda State Park, which is only 45 miles away and considerably shorter than the route originally considered. The sun makes a brief appearance around 2pm, so I fill the operating gas tank from plastic gas cans, and prepare to empty rainwater from the dinghy. I get the drain valve and start lifting the dinghy’s bow so it will drain when another rain shower sneaks up on me. I put yet another project on hold, and decide to load the waypoints I’ve worked up onto the Garmin. Before I can climb back into the cockpit we feel the boat lean and then swing sharply around. I go out to see what’s happening. The wind has shifted 120 degrees and is gusting strongly, whipping the surface of Little Shark River into a froth. I figure our pussy cat storm has decided to turn into a tiger. Thunder starts rumbling nearby, and then the deluge begins. Dark clouds pour their fury out on us, sustained winds over 30 and gusts well over 40. Between gusts the boat, straining at her anchor, swings a bit. We get hit broadside with one of the strongest gusts, and we heel DSCF0063over 15 degrees. Rain drives down so hard that I can barely see the sailboat anchored 75 yards away from us. A second boat 150 yards away is completely out of sight. This pandemonium continues for about 30 minutes. I sit up in the cockpit, dodging drips which are forced right through the sunbrella bimini, keeping watch to make sure we don’t drag our anchor. All storms must end, and the rain gradually tapers off. I see breaks in the clouds off to the west. The dinghy really needs emptying now, so I climb out onto the stern and haul up on the dinghy’s bow. It’s all I can do to lift, because of the weight of water in the dinghy. I spill what I can directly over the transom, and then allow the rest to empty out the drain hole, taking care to close the valve when finished. I gaze across the river and see a pair of roseatte spoonbills roosting on a snag. On the spur of the moment I decide to tempt fate by putting the kicker onto the dinghy and going over to try for some pictures. For a change the weather cooperates, and I get some great looks and pictures of spoonbills. My photography comes at a price, however, and that price is in blood. Somehow the no-see-ums have survived the downpour, and they’re out to make up for lost feeding time. I’m the main course. It’s time to head back to the boat, put the kicker back on its bracket, and prepare our defenses against the Everglades insect horde.

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Fair weather passage to the Keys – 1/16/16

First of All -

  • First open water crossing to offshore islands
  • First departure into fog
  • First “fog-bow” sighted
  • First time boat is boarded by a cockroach (Ugh!)

Namely Speaking-

  • Florida Bay
  • Bahia Honda Key

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 55; Sail: Motor sailed 6 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 2,527
  • Hours Underway: 8 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.6
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF0073The forecast of settling conditions overnight proves accurate. We enjoy a quiet, calm night and there is no wind when we rise at 6:30am. The cockpit surround is dripping wet from yesterday’s deluge, and from condensation on the inside. When I unzip a panel to look out, I see that we’re blanketed with fog. Visibility is limited to a few hundred yards. Nevertheless, I prepare to get underway. The route out to open water is free of shallows and obstructions. The typical water depth of 10 feet precludes its being used by large vessels. Fishermen are unlikely to be around these remote waters. Other than the occasional cruising boat, this area is pretty devoid of boat traffic. I’ll have enough visibility to see the crab trap floats when I get out beyond the Everglades National Park boundary, 3 miles out. I’ll follow the GPS route I created yesterday, keep speed at around 6 mph, and maintain a careful watch.

As we motor out of Little Shark River we’re escorted by a pair of dolphins, who rise regularly alongside the boat. They accompany us for a mile or more, sometimesDSCF0076 startling me with their loud spouting. The fog begins to thin around 8am, and we see an interesting phenomenon, a “fog-bow”, an arc of brightness due to sunlight refracting with the fog. Gradually the fog completely disipates and we’re cheered by blue skies, comfortable temperature, and smooth seas. We have just enough wind to warrant letting out the genoa, and later on the mainsail as well. We’re passed by a couple of power boats which, I’m pretty sure, were anchored with us in Little Shark River last night. The near ideal conditions are marred somewhat by the great number of crab pots which litter the surface of the sea here. They’re set out in strings of 7 or 8, with about 150 feet between each float. When they occur at right angles to our direction of travel it’s fairly easy to pass between floats. However, when we encounter strings nearly parallel to our course, avoiding them becomes much more difficult. I quickly learn to account for a certain amount of starboard drift when coming up on a float.

DSCF0077There’s something uniquely enjoyable about setting a course for an offshore island. It seems quite different from simply cruising up a coast or down a river to a destination. We leave the land we were at last night behind, and it soon passes out of sight. For a time we’re alone in a world of water but then, if our course is true, our intended landfall reveals itself with the irregular form of treetops taking form on the distant horizon. Radio towers emerge and the structure of the tall highway bridge we will pass beneath appears. We’ve arrived in the Florida Keys. As we approach the bridge I notice a thin but general layer of overcast to the south. I figure this is the leading edge of the next weather front, which is supposed to hit us tonight. By the time we pass under the Highway 1 bridge the southern horizon has become distinctly dark and ominous. I drop the sails and increase speed in the direction of Bahia Honda State Park, where we’ll hang out until the weather improves. We have 2 to 3 foot following seas on the Hawk Channel side (south side) of the Keys, but the light wind is astern, so aside from a bit of rolling motion, it’s a decent ride. Around 3:30pm we arrive at Bahia Honda State Park. We were here with the boat 12 years ago, and it’s nice to be back. It’s especially nice to get in before the weather hits us. We tie up, one of only 2 boats in the marina. We have time enough to munch some chips and sip cokes in the cockpit, and barbeque steaks before it starts to rain. We dine down below. After dinner I double check dock lines and fenders in anticipation of the gale force winds forecast to hit us overnight. We put our bug net up, in case mosquitoes or no-see-ums show up. While setting up to watch a movie on our laptop Sandy makes a dreaded announcement. She’s just seen a cockroach scurry across the bug net, thankfully on the outside of the net. A visceral feeling of disgust hits us, as we imagine hordes of the filthy creatures squeezing into remote crevices in the cabin. Sandy takes the bug net down and we close up the hatch. She stuffs towels into every possible space, in hopes that we can prevent them from entering.

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