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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