19nm cruised today, mostly all motor sailing close hauled; 763nm total – high temp 85 degrees; water temp 78 degrees – NW wind at 10 knots; seas 2 feet
The air is heavy and still when I rise just before sunrise. A strange smell pervades, sort of like eggs frying in butter. I have no idea what’s causing this. Chris Parker promises mild weather, with little wind, for the next several days. We hurry breakfast and hop in the dinghy for a beach walk. The sand is hard packed, and warm pink in color. After our walk up the beach, we backtrack and climb up to the old lighthouse. The concrete and coral rock structure is in fairly good condition, but no longer houses a light. An automated light, powered by a solar panel, sits atop a rusty tapered pipe pole. From the bluff where the lighthouse stands, we gaze down on a beautiful beach on the open ocean side. A few hundred feet off the beach, dark colored coral reef patches are everywhere. I leave Sandy at the beach and hike back to fetch the dinghy. Our snorkel gear is already in the dinghy. We pull on our wetsuits and run a short distance out from shore in the dinghy. The snorkeling is very good, with lots of interesting coral heads, deep canyons in between, and the usual assortment of reef fish. We enjoy watching a large sting ray as he soars over the bottom. The coral is in better shape than at Conception Island, but still not ideal. Dying coral is very much in evidence here as well.
We return to the boat around 11am, and prepare to get underway. I set a course for Cape Eleuthra, about 19 miles away. A surprising northwest wind has kicked up. From Chris Parker’s report, I’d expected northeast wind, and with less velocity than the 10 knots we’re seeing. The angle doesn’t work very well for us. I end up motor sailing, close hauled, at around 4 knots, with the engine set at 1800 rpm. The ride is not too bad. I decide to head for the marina at Cape Eleuthra, where we can fill our gas tanks and take on water. Showers would also be nice.
I radio the marina and confirm that they have a tie up available. We arrive around 4pm. I stop at the fuel dock first and we take on around 15 gallons of gas. Our slip is located on the opposite side. Maneuvering into these piling slips is always a pain, and this one is no exception. Even without current and wind, it’s a challenge getting tied up. Sandy comes back from the office with a nice sack of ice, so tall rum cokes provide a refreshing break after the tieup hassle.
We are in the land of sport fishing boats. On either side of us, huge sport fishers occupy slips. We are smaller, by 7 feet, than the tender for Boomer, which is owned by the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company. This boat has a 4000 horsepower inboard, and the steering station atop the tuna tower is higher above the water than the top of our mast. Its 33 foot center console tender is powered by a pair of Mercury 300 horsepower outboards. It can run at 60 mph.
This place is packed with such boats, all here for a big fishing tournament. It’s kind of a mix of testoserone and beer bellies. Young, darkly tanned studs serve as deck hands, polishing stainless, rigging poles, setting out jigs, hooks and leaders, and preparing bait fish. Boomer will head out for a day of fishing tomorrow, around 9am, with something like 50 mullet baits rigged. They’re worth about $3 apiece. These mullets aren’t even the baits. They’re just teasers, trailed behind the big boat to simulate a school of bait fish. Ballyhoo are the real bait, and the goal is blue marlin. A good days fishing would be to hook just one or two of these huge fish. The beer bellies are the fishermen. Balding gray pates and expansive midsections seem to characterize most of them. They arrive in taxis, with their airline roll behind luggage in tow, for a ride on these huge boats and a chance to crank in a marlin with rods the thickness of broom handles and stainless reels bigger than coffee cans. Boomer has his stern underwater floodlights on, which causes the water all around to glow at night. Mr. Marlin, on our other side, has rock music booming. This music entertains the crew of locals who spend hours washing and polishing the boat after each day’s run. The large screen tv in the cabin is tuned to news, the FOX Newschannel, what else. Needless to say, we feel very much out of place here, but on the other hand, those showers did feel nice.