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Monthly Archives: May 2016

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Safely docked at Stock Island Marina…with nose hanging out.

 

On April 28th it was time to leave St. Pete, and leave we did. After making the short motor over to the St. Pete Municipal Marina from Harborage Marina to top off our fuel tanks, we had a great little sail back under the Tampa Bay Skyway Bridge and on to an anchorage we’d chosen just off of Anna Maria Island, at the mouth of the bay. We dropped anchor in twelve feet of water, thawed out some steaks and settled in the cockpit for the evening.

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Med moored liveaboard dock.

 

After dinner, we were delighted to get a phone call from our friend Deanna Hohnhorst, whom we met when she crewed for us on our passage down from Panama City. Deanna called us from another sail boat that was out on the bay, within eye sight of ours, as she and her friends were having a gorgeous sunset sail. She called just to let us know she recognized our boat and was filming us with her phone…and to say goodbye while wishing us a safe voyage. It was great to hear from her as she’d just visited us in St. Pete a few days earlier.

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Safe Harbor Channel looking south over the Florida Straits, taken from fuel dock.

 

Only a few short miles from the open gulf, the plans were to leave at first light on Friday, April 29th for Stock Island Marina Village (Key West). We anticipated the trip to be around 200 miles with an arrival late morning the next day. The weather was forecast to be great, initially with smooth seas and mild 10-15 knot southwest winds…clocking around to the southeast and “moderate chop” in the early morning hours.

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Our sea chest strainers.  The top photo is the existing one…we had two new ones fabricated by a company in Minne sota (at $160 each).

 

Just before daylight we awoke, made coffee and started our engine. But, before we could even get the anchor up the engine high temperature warning alarm sounded alerting us to an engine overheating issue. We both suspected what the problem was…our sea chest strainer was clogged. Sure enough, after removing the strainer we found it was choked with a wiry sea grass that had been everywhere in Harborage Marina the two weeks prior to us leaving. We cleaned the strainer and the engine temp dropped to normal immediately. We raised anchor and departed to anchorage at 0715 hours local.

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Clear water of the Keys…refreshing.

 

The weather was true to the prediction and 30 minutes later we were in the GOM. Aside from dodging the crab pots that are numerous in the near offshore waters, the sail down the coast was beautiful, if uneventful. By evening land had disappeared, the night was clear, and nothing revealed itself on either radar or AIS. We had the whole ocean to ourselves.

I took the 10-2 watch as we scooted along at around eight knots. At 0130 hours local the wind shifted to the nose, the motion change awaking husband. We dropped the sails and motored into the six knot and building wind. I conked out in the cockpit for some rest.

Around 0400 hours, the same motion shift that had woken Chuck woke me. I’d had a couple of hours of good sleep and when I woke up I’d hoped it was near daylight. Chuck gave me the time. Glancing outboard I noticed the “moderate chop” was a decent 2-4 foot somewhat confused sea. The wind was a solid fifteen knots, squarely on the nose. Our boat can handle that easily, but it made for more motion than I’d have liked. I went back to sleep, knowing the boat was in the competent hands of my captain.

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Stock Island Marina Village…

 

At 0600 hours, Saturday, almost to the minute, I awoke to an early dawn and the same conditions. Chuck was beat from his watch and I took the helm almost immediately…after a quick nap Chuck was back in the cockpit, coffee brewing.

Our ETA dropped all morning as we bashed head on into the “moderate chop” that had been predicted…we motored it with all canvas furled, not inclined to raise sails and tack off to starboard and a bit more comforting ride, a move that would have further pushed back our ETA. It was a severe clear morning.

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Around 1130 hours local we entered the Northwest Channel and started our approach to Key West. The channel was well marked and, having never navigated it, any trepidation we had quickly disappeared. An hour later we entered Hawk Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. Finally we were out of that cast iron bitch named the Gulf of Mexico…but not the “moderate chop”; the winds were 15+ knots.

Finding the outer marker indicating the Safe Harbor Channel was uneventful as we made our way on into Stock Island Marina Village. The winds and chop subsided as we hailed the marina on VHF 16. By 1400 hours local we were safely in our reserved slip, tied up and connected to shore power. Our chartplotter indicated it was exactly 200 miles, covered in roughly 31 hours, nonstop. The boat performed flawlessly. Yeah, we have a good boat.

Our slip here at Stock Island is a bit small, our bow sticks out in the fairway a good ten feet, and the fairway to it a bit narrow. But, otherwise, the marina is very nice with more than competent dock hands and staff. We checked in and then had a late lunch at a local restaurant.

And, then…sleep.

The next day, we arranged to be picked up by the scooter rental company to rent our rides. The only way to travel in Key West is by scooter. We’d been here before. Hopping around Key West is a blast on little scooters, we rented two for the month.

So, the weeks have passed, with us filling the time largely by just relaxing, eating, and scooting around reacquainting ourselves with Key West. One of our favorite places to eat is El Siboney  for the very best in Cuban food; we had lunch there today, in fact. We hung out one afternoon at the Turtle Krawls  watching the dinghys nightmarishly vying for space at the Key West Seaport dinghy dock. And, yesterday, took in the superb music of Michael McCloud  and HERE  at Schooner Wharf Bar. He’s one of the finest singer/acoustical musicians I’ve ever seen, very entertaining and I highly recommend seeing him if you get the chance.

As I write this on Saturday, May 21st, we are set to depart for Mariel, Cuba and Marina Hemmingway Cuba one week from today, next Saturday, the 28th. We received our CG3300 permit to go to Cuba from the Coast Guard Thursday morning. As always, however, it depends on the weather. To say we are excited is understatement. The other boats going with us are set to start arriving here in the marina next week. Next Friday there is a bar-b-que for those participating.  Captain’s meeting, weather reports, etc. are next Saturday morning prior to a late afternoon departure and over-nighter so as to arrive in Cuba sometime in the morning on Sunday.

Yes, it’s a tough life, we know, but we soldier on.

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