Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Riders on the Storm

The weather radar picture didn’t look good for our 20th departure, so we saw Pirates of the Caribbean instead. Long movie, great special effects, not as good as the first one (are any of them?). When we got out, the sky looked great. Mom, Dad, and Whitefoot were keeping watch on the boat, and when we dinghied back, they were agreeable to a late afternoon departure. I looked at the radar, and saw an excellent picture, so we upped anchor. We had several hours of fine sailing into the early night. Then lightning started everywhere. Dad and I steered a zigzag course, keeping out of the nearest cells. The winds rose and fell, up to 30kts and down to 10 depending on the storm cells. Many sail changes were necessary. The closest bolt hit one mile away, so we did pretty good dodging the cells. But it was a rough ride. Heavy rain came just before dawn, but it was still pretty comfortable in the cockpit under the bimini and behind the windshield. Dad wore a light coat, but I was comfortable in my t-shirt most of the night. Had to put on a light sweater just before dawn.

Of course, everything looked better in daylight even though the rain continued. We sailed out of the rain into beautiful skies just as the Key West marker came into view. Trip time from Marco to Key West was 22 hours. We docked at the Hilton Marina for 2 nights. Spent one day touring town and the other shopping and prepping for more sailing. It was good to scope out the town from a dock, now we know how to get around. Our friend GW Meadows has spent 2 winters in Key West, and had e-mailed helpful hints too.

Mom and Dad rented a car to return home on Sunday morning. We set sail for Sand Key, and have been moored here for the past 2 nights. It’s a wonderful reef, with tons of fish and beautiful reef to snorkel over. The reef spines jut from 15 feet up to within 1 foot of the surface. At low tide part of the reef is exposed. We can swim down to the white sand between the reef ridges and peek under the shelves for fish and lobster. Haven’t seen a lobster yet. I did get my lobster stamp for the mini-season which starts Thursday, so I’d like to find them first. We can’t fish or catch lobster in this reef anyway, since it is protected.

Rachel and I were snorkeling together with Kathy in the kayak when we saw our first shark. It was probably a nurse shark, about 5 feet long. I swam after it, and it quickly departed. Rachel said it was exciting, and that it looked like a big catfish. I’ve also had to chase a couple of barracuda away from us. Kathy doesn’t want to hear about sharks and barracuda, but is still game to continue snorkeling

I hoisted Rachel up the mast in the boson’s chair to mount our flag pennant. She loved that too. Rachel has a fine sense of adventure, and is eager to experience each new thing.

We will sail back into Key West today after more snorkeling to check mail, buy a few more supplies and have a little more fun on the town. Then we’ll probably head up-key toward Marathon, looking for lobster along the way.

The boat is performing well and taking good care of us. Only minor repairs necessary so far.

I’m able to type this via Word, and then copy it for posting on the blog via Verizon cell phone hook up to the internet. If I have cell coverage, then I have internet access. Pretty cool!

Don’t forget about our new e-mail address:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Key West in the gunsights!

We will get a few more provisions here in Marco Island, and then set sail for Key West tomorrow.
It’s about 80 miles, should be 2 days and 1 night, considering the light winds encountered so far, and our reluctance to use the engine. It’s so much nicer to sail, but we’re learning that to get anywhere, when the winds get light, the iron genny gets fired up.
Some highlights so far:
Rachel upon sighting 6 dolphins surfing our bow: “This has made my whole day!”
Red tide around Englewood and dead fish everywhere.
Finding prehistoric sharks teeth on the beach between Venice and Englewood.
Whitefoot taking her first dump on board in the “business box”.
Catching 3 Spanish Mackerel for a sumptuous dinner.
Today, surfing the outside edge of an enormous rain cell in winds up to 25kts and boat speed of 8.5kts.
Finding out that the bad alternator was just a loose fan belt.
Finding out that the bad battery was just a loose fan belt.
Excellent sunsets everyday!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wednesday, July 12

Day 2 of our journey. Yesterday we turned in the rental car, finished a few things with the boat, and set off with dark clouds chasing us out of the Manatee River. A black wall of rain followed about 2 miles behind, slowly catching up. Numerous power and sailing vessels passed us going the opposite direction, only to disappear into the black wall never to be seen again (by us). We ran for Egmont Key, and the rain cell caught us as we anchored. It passed quickly, and we had a wonderfully cool evening. Rachel, Whitefoot and I slept on deck. I had to go below for blankets in the middle of the night.

We pulled up anchor at 9am, and had great winds for 4 hours, making up to 7.8 knots. Seas were smooth. The clouds began to build, so we tacked for shore, 6nm away, between some cells. We were trolling with a little feathered lure, and caught a Spanish Mackerel, which was part of our dinner.

Tonight we are anchored in the gulf, at the southern end of Sarasota. Winds are out of the east and the water is calm, so our gulf anchorage should work out.

Our current destination is Key West. The 5 day weather outlook is good. Time for bed, so thanks for checking in on us!