Key West, Chapter One

We left Stock Island in the morning to move to the Key West Marina, Galleon.  Our new friend and slip neighbor, Darrin, came over to help us with our lines as we cast off.  We pulled out of the dock.   The wind was ornery and tried to push us back in.  John was afraid if he kept going forward the bow may swing starboard (right) and hit the boat next to us so he gave reverse a punch to clear it.  We cleared that boat but now were moving in reverse and headed towards the boats on the opposite side.  The bow, where I stood, swung port (left) and was on a collision course with the bow of a slipped boat.  That owner flew up to his bow and I pushed with all of my might off of his bow pulpit as he pushed with all of his might off of ours.  I felt his breath and he heard my heart racing.

The construction workers stopped working to watch.  It was quiet.  Every boat owner popped up or over to watch, or ran to the fronts or sterns of their boats if they were in our trajectory.  The first guy and I avoided boat contact, barely.  Echoes was now perpendicular to the boats opposite to where we slipped and was still drifting backwards.  The next boat was a dive boat with two enormous engines coming along the side of us.  A man pushed us off as best he could as I pushed off the piling that boat was tied to.  We very lightly scraped against one of the propellers.  We continue to drift back into a third boat.  This was big catamaran with a dinghy lifted on its stern.  That owner and his friend pushed our stern and I was at the bow trying with whatever strength was left in me to remove the pontoon of his dinghy that had wedged itself into our bow pulpit.  It made a horrendous squeeeeeak as it rubbed when I and gravity forced it out.   The owner swore loudly and sailorly and commented directly at our personas.  He made long observations about our boating abilities and intellectual levels.  He was furious.  John kept his cool and apologized, reassured him that we had insurance and that we would take care of any damage if there was any.  He told him we would hail him on the VHF and give him our information once we were settled.

John got the boat under control and we proceeded to leave.  He cracked jokes to everyone on the way out.  Like, I hope you enjoyed the show!  I wish I had a pet monkey with a red fez and tin cup to send around for tips.  I checked in with boat owner one and two, whom I knew rather intimately, and they said they were just fine and good luck.  We hailed the catamaran on VHF many times but he never answered.  Later, John called our friend Darrin and had him go over and give him our number.  Also, when you go into a marina you sign pages of wavers so he knew where to find us.  But, we never heard from him.  We left with no damage to their boats but plenty to my nerves.

It is just about an hour to motor between the two marinas.  It was a quiet hour with both of us trying to reconstruct what happened and what we had learned.  It was a new “experience.”  As usual, we had both studied the charts into Key West because two people’s heads are better than one.  But I did not look up the next marina map on the internet as John had.  This was mistake number nine of the day.  We hailed the marina and asked for dock assistance.  We turned the corner into the marina and it was the first time I heard any excitement in John’s voice that day.  Holy Shit! he said,  Look at the size of these fairways!  There was a labyrinth of yachts, and I do mean yachts, that twisted and turned with extremely narrow water in between to navigate.  I almost fainted.  The marina put little letter stickers on the outside pilings, A, B etc, and then numbers that go down the dock that you can’t see because you haven’t turned yet.  I was at the bow trying to help find our slip and John shouted, It should be down there but I don’t see it.  And we don’t see anyone there to assist us.  We pass it.  A dock handler shouts over that we’ve missed it.  It is behind us.

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We are packed in between bee-on-chee yachts of gleaming white monstrosity.  There are no cul-de-sacs at the end of these fingers, just more yachts.  John had to spin our 42 foot boat around in a fairway of maybe, maybe 40 feet, along the side of fancy yachts, in the mean wind.  It is like spinning a basketball on a pin head.  By now our dock handler has found us and it standing on the dock to watch the pirouette of a lifetime or to push for as little damage as possible to other boats.  John spun Echoes like a pro and the bow came over the dock for her to grab and assist the spin.  I stood there with pleading eyes and a line ready to toss thinking, Please, please let us tie off here.  I hadn’t uttered a sound but she said, No darlin.  Don’t hand me that line.  Every slip is spoken for and yours is down there.  She points and I still don’t see our space.  That was because after a sharp left turn (try that with 42 feet) at the end of the finger was our space after a sharp right turn.  We couldn’t see the space because a fifty five foot shiny sailboat was docked next to it with its bow stuck way out in the fairway blocking it.  John thread both of those needles and with a light and utterly unavoidable bump on the dock edged his way to our slip.  I tossed the line to the handler and completely missed her.  Bravo!  She had to lay on the dock to hurriedly retrieve it out of the water.  She tied us off and we were in.

We secured the boat and I immediately asked her, How in darnation (something like that) does one back out of this slip?  She laughed and said, If the wind is right a dock handler will help man handle the bow of the boat to help spin the ass end while the captain backs out.  Sometimes, we have to tie several lines from your boat to cleats to assist in the spin.  Other times, we have to hop along the boats and push you off.  This does not settle well with me.  She went off on her business and John and I checked out the damage from the Stock Island exit extraordinaire. We are relieved to find just a few scuff marks that are no big deal.  They make the boat look sexy.

John’s brain was still working.  He noticed a dock space open just behind us.  Hey, he said,  Let’s ask the dock master if we can switch slip assignments before that boat arrives.  We can hand line our boat down the dock to the opposite space.  Then we will be stern in and will be able to pull out going forward rather than backward.  You are a genius!  I yelled.  So we arranged it and asked for assistance.  A new dock handler came to help.  John was to stay on the boat and helm.  The dock handler asked me which line I wanted to handle.  You’re the boss, I said.  Whatever you think makes the most sense.  He said, OK.  You hold the mid ship line and I will hold the stern line and we will pull her back.  He would release the bow line and run back to the stern.  I held the mid ship line.  He released the bow and it immediately swung out with the grouchy wind pushing it.  He groaned and said, Whoaaa.  Change of plans.  You’re on bow.  I ran over and grabbed it and he ran back to stern.  It was like holding on to a twenty two thousand pound bull charging off in the opposite direction.  I immediately leaned way back, squatted down to inches off the dock and dug my heals in.  The dock handler yelled, Sorry.  You OK?  Got it?  There was nothing anyone could do.  Just keep going!  I yelled back.  I had to squat crab walk as the boat moved back and lost about a foot of line each time I did.  Eventually, we got there.  I had no idea I had that much strength in me.  I paid for it for the next five days with a half of a bottle of Aleve.

Once the boat was secured I went into the cabin and cried.  I think my body had produced so much adrenaline that it was leaking out of my eyeballs.   I recovered and came up to the cockpit.  John said, Why don’t you go pour yourself a nice rum punch.  He would have made me one but John’s idea of a rum punch is a big glass of rum and then you punch it back.  I did make myself one and it was a nice.  And after that the wine flowed in true Key West style.

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Stock Island

 

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Stock Island is an island in transition.  It was named such because it used to hold all of the livestock that supplied Key West.  It is an industrial island but Key West is slowly expanding its way over.   As we pulled into the Marina we past this old boat yard where people were living in boats on the hard (on land).  The marinas here are mostly for commercial vessels.  But tourism is coming and there are sharp contrasts emerging.

Stock Island Marina itself is new.  The owner cleaned up an astronomical tonnage of debris from the marina and rebuilt it in an Eco friendly way.  It is a nice marina but he was also building a hotel sixty yards from our slip so all we heard were saws, hammers and the beeps of trucks backing up.  And it was the most expensive slip to date.  There was nothing to see on the island but we had been on the hook for seven nights and our whole wardrobe had fallen to swamp ass.  When you ride in Sea Alice you sit on the inflatable pontoons.  No matter the conditions, at least a little sea water splashes on your petite derriere, and sometimes on more of you, so that you walk around the rest of the day with swamp ass.  Salt water does not dry like regular water as the salt retains moisture.  Pretty soon all of your clothes stink.  This was a day of piles of laundry, boat cleaning and fixing things.

We met some fun and friendly people from Aberdeen who were thinking of becoming sailors.  To try it out they rented boats as rooms rather than hotels on their vacation.  The first boat they rented was on a mooring about a half mile off of key west.  The boat had no running water, full and rank heads and no dinghy to get them to land.  The weather had been rough so they spent three nights roly polying and holding their sphincters.  Now they were at this marina surrounded by construction, trailer parks and old boat yards.  We hope they don’t judge sailing by these standards and give the sailing life another chance.

We had been listening carefully to the weather and found that the heavy weather was staying another three days.  We decided to move to Key West.  Unfortunately, every other boater had the same idea.  We called every single marina starting at the cheapest and did not have any luck.  John came back from moving some laundry around for me and said, Cheer up, Cinderella!  We just got the last slip available at the last marina I called.  That meant we were going to an upscale marina.  The princess did a little happy dance.

 

 

Newfound Harbor

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We are making our way down the keys to ultimately sail a further sixty eight miles west to the Dry Tortugas.  We have put this destination at the end of our travels because it is supposed to be the grand daddy of cool places to see and because it is possibly the grand daddy of adventures to get there and to get home from there.  It is a remote island with no sea tow to call, no cell or internet, no running water, no facilities other than national park service offices.  It is at this point that we are watching the weather very carefully.  We need to time our travel with the right weather and fully provisioned, dieseled and watered.  You can get stuck on the island waiting out a weather window to return.  We know some heavy winds and weather are coming so we decided to take advantage of one more free anchorage before heading in to a marina.  Newfound Harbor Channel is the only anchorage between Bahia Honda and our reservations at Stock Island Marina the following day.

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Newfound Harbor sucks.  It is a huge harbor with miles of a very narrow channel and the skinniest water we have been in yet.  There are three places to anchor.  We got to the first and thought, no way.  Number two was worse.  Almost four miles into it and two tums later we get to the third anchorage which was no better.  We set anchor and John dove down to see there was about ten inches under our keel.  And it wasn’t low tide yet.

The anchorage was on the edge of a residential area so we weren’t interested in exploring with Sea Alice.  Most of the boats anchored around us were vacant, smaller sail boats that most likely belonged to the people on land.  Other boats looked to be people’s permanent dwellings.  We occasionally see boaters that are kind of like homeless people living on boats which don’t or can’t go anywhere, sailor rats.  So we enjoyed some snooping.

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There was a “boat” way off in the shallows that was most creative.  They had rafted two boats together.  The first was more of a platform which was covered with tarps, a large tent in essence.  The second was an old pontoon with a roof completely covered in solar panels.  Under the solar panels was a hot tub.

We watched four boats come into the anchorages after us.  They went from one anchorage to the next, like we did.  All four of them chose to anchor right in the navigational channel as that was the deepest and the safest.  We have never seen that before.

The best part of the day was watching another cormorant rush hour commute from one mangrove to another.  There were hundreds, if not thousands of them flying low along the horizon looking like a giant, black zipper.  With every couple of hundred cormorants you’d see a lone white seagull making the commute with them.  Why do you think just those few seagulls do that?  I asked John.  And he replied in his best (worst) hip hop voice, Pretty fly for a white gull.

 

 

Bahia Honda

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We sailed to the Bahia Honda State Park to spend the day at the beach and the night on the hook.  This is what I thought sailing would be like.

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Three things stick out in my mind about Bahia Honda.  First, a gaggle of feisty, fun, cheek pinch worthy Hispanic kids chasing fish and shouting, Feeesh!  Feeesh!  They would squeal and run from floating sea grass and cry, Beach worms!  Beach worms!  And John had them screaming and running when he pointed out the big, hungry, sharp toothed “rock” fish to them.  And this is why fish will be pronounced feeesh from now on.

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Smoking hot and making waves in the best bikini picture ever taken of me.

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Secondly, we noted a black spot in the sky at sunset.  After much deliberation I googled it to find out it was a Naval Zeppelin thirty five miles southwest on Cudjoe Key.  They call the Zeppelin Fat Albert and he is a tethered radiostat radar system.  He is used for surveillance and counter drug trafficking operations.  Fat Albert has quite the history as he has been floating around since 1980.  Once he broke loose from his tether during a wind storm and flew away.  Some local lobster fisherman chased him and attached him to their boat.  Fat Albert lifted the fisherman, their boat and their 175-power engine way up in the sky  before dumping them into the mud keys.  They lived to tell the tale.

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Isn’t it awesome they cut a section in the old bridge to let sailboats come to the anchorage?

Thirdly, I got so excited when we saw blue lights in the water late at night.  They would float by with bright blue tracers.  No, not my style, only wine.  The lights were all sizes between a quarter and a fist.  They were jellyfish.  The light would flash and flicker down.  I’ve read they do this for two reasons.  One, to defend themselves from predators to appear larger.  Maybe they thought Echoes was a big jellyfish eating whale?  I hope not.  Another reason is that they use phosphorescence to absorb energy and slowly release it over time in the form of light.  But I think the scientists have it all wrong.  I think that they are traveling jelly gypsy musicians jamming, singing, dancing, partying and lighting up the sea.

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Blogging Blunder of Biblical Bits

Greetings my dear followers.  I am two weeks behind on posts due to lack of internet, lack of time, lack of sense of humor (kidding) or combinations thereof.  I am trying to catch up.  As I was loading new pictures (275 new pictures of birds alone) there was a warning that I was running out of media space.  No problem, I thought, I will just delete the 300 plus pictures out of my media folder to make room for more.  And…POOF!  All of my past pictures from the previous posts are gone.  Vanished.  Capootz.   Nothing.  Blank.  Forever deleted.  No turning back.  Zilch.  Hell by push of a button.

I am technically challenged.  No, really, it’s true.  My tech support manager did everything in his power but no luck.  I have researched this to the bottom of google.   I am reloading my pictures one by one.  I can not just simply save them again but must repost the blog.  I don’t think you will be bombarded with around 30 posts but I simply don’t know.   I am very sorry if you are.  Just ignore me.  John doesn’t have too much trouble with that and I hope you don’t as well.

My next real updated post will be about Bahia Honda.  I will probably get to that in 2018.

Ta ta for now, Crabby Candisdunce

 

(I have learned so much from this blunder.  Like, that I could hide this page from our blog and just my followers would get it in the form of an email.  Pretty smart, huh?  However, because I got my technical support manager involved like the big dumby I am, he un-hid it, added the picture and posted it.  He finds my pain very humorous.)

 

 

 

Marathon, Chapter 2

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We decided to spend a few nights at the same anchorage off of Marathon.  The Intracoastal heading to Key West has some very skinny water.  We would have had to pass certain points only through high tide and with our fingers crossed.   So, we planned to sail the Atlantic side.  There are only a few possible safe anchorages along the way and this was the last marina stop for water, gas and groceries.  We were taking our time and getting ready to move on.  However, the current conditions at the anchorage had what we sailors unaffectionately call the roly polys.  The sea swells rock your boat not in the cradle kind of way, but more in the don’t leave anything on the counter kind of way.  You hear your digesting dinner sloshing around.  Roly polys can roll you over in your sleep if you are a side sleeper like me.  This was our second night so we knew what to expect.  The currents and the winds spin you around a bit and the waves wake you up to keep your dreams fresh in your conscience.  It was a late night as we sipped wine, celebrated Sea Alice’s new stamina and  watched the Muppets dance at Castaways for quite a while.  We went to sleep to dream of mermaids and swashbucklers.

At around 7:00 AM John woke me up with a shake.  Pokey, wake up!  B.P. (our anchor) has dragged and we are headed towards crab pots.  I shot out of bed, threw on some sweats and flew up to the helm.  We were a good third mile from where we originally anchored.  I fire up the engine and John went to turn on the windlass.  This is the powered winch that retrieves B.P. and her chain.  John utters colorful language and explains the power to the windlass is not working.  Are you kidding me?  The crab pots are closing in.  To retrieve B.P. and all of her chain by hand would have called for a Herculean effort.  John messes around with the electrical system and gets it going.  He hurries to the bow.  I look at my instruments to check depth and logistics.  They are all dead.  I call up to John and he comes running back.  Are we still sleeping?  He asks, Is this a nightmare?  Tell me this is a nightmare and wake me up.  He goes into the cabin and preforms whatever magic he does and I have my instruments back.  We retrieve B.P., avoid the crab pots, are in control of Echoes and breath for the first time.  It was damn lucky and a huge relief that we did not hit another boat as old B.P. drug us out to sea.  It was a busy anchorage, with well over twenty boats, and we were scattered between them.  Our best assumption is that B.P. was jostled during a swell, flipped and lost her holding which is why she dragged.  We’ll never know.

 

We had planned to pull anchor and go the the gas dock for fuel and water that day so we decided we might as well go then.  Great.  Pulling into any dock is always acid producing for me.  You may just find out why.  We filled her up without incident and went back to the anchorage to set B.P. again.  Once she was set I hit a proverbial wall so high and so thick that Donald Trump would ask to buy the plans if he knew me.  I informed John, I am going away in a book.  Don’t talk to me.  Don’t look at me.   Whatever you do, don’t ask me to help you with a project if you know what is good for you.  I crawled into the book.  I get sick of my own thoughts sometimes, especially when they are filled with terror.  It really helps my teetering sanity and my delightful disposition to think other peoples thoughts for a while.  I read and read and read.

There are two sounds that can pull me from deep concentration (yes, I can hold a thought longer than ten seconds occasionally) or a deep funk.  One is the pop of a cork from a wine bottle and the other is the magical crinkle of a Frito’s bag.  Four hours after my submersion in bookland I hear the latter.  I looked up to see John munching, smiling and offering me the bag.  He knows me so well.  Do you want to go gunkholing?  he asks still smiling.  Absolutely, I said reaching for the bag.

Sea Alice continues to be a new man and took us on a very interesting exploration.  We ended up at a boat graveyard in the back of a mangrove.  It appears some people live with these ghostly boats and I had no interest in running into them.

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I have no idea what this is.

 

 

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We also met some new bird friends.  This is a Green Heron.

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This is a Black Necked Stilt.

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And this, my friends, is a shark.

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So ends the Marathon saga.

Boot Key, Chapter One

We had an enjoyable sail and motor the forty plus miles to Boot Key.  This was crab and lobster pot haven so we were on our toes playing frogger once again.  I’ve never seen so many pots placed in a scattered matter.  We zig zagged our way.  Through binoculars I watched commercial lobster fisherman retrieving their catch and traps.  They would hall up the traps, claim their prize, pressure wash the traps and stack them as high as they could on the boat. We drug a line along the way in hopes of catching a lunker but all we caught was a crab pot  by way of my stellar helming.  The reel went crazy and we flew into action turning the boat before the line ran out.  John cut the line along with his thumb.  We reached Boot Key and passed under the Seven Mile Bridge to anchor in the Atlantic off of Marathon.

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We had originally hoped to meet up with my cousin and her husband in Key West but making plans with a sailor is like making plans with the stock market.  Fortunately though, we could catch them for an early lunch as they rode their Harley back to Fort Meyers Beach.  We were very much looking forward to seeing these two.  They live in Indiana and we don’t get to see them as often as we would like.  My cousin is not just a cousin.  She is the one at nine years old that I rolled up my jeans with, slicked back our hair, took off our shirts and rolled up paper cigarettes to act out the song “Smoking in the Boys Room” by Brownsville Station.  In high school we double dated as her now husband was courting her in his kick ass Trans Am.  (I sincerely hope I got the car right, Gary.)  Even our Raggedy Ann dolls would cry when we had to part.  So, we deployed Sea Alice first thing in the morning to see what his mood was.  He revved up right away without any complaint.  We let him purr satisfactorily for a while.  Fifteen minutes before we were to meet we jumped in Sea Alice and…..nothing.  Sea Alice had his moment and he was spent.  The word I uttered loudly echoed over the anchorage.  But, eventually, my hero got him going so we threw every tool we could think of in the back pack and took off.  We had a great visit with Shannon and Gary.  It went too fast.  John would start to tell them a story, like, Candis flipped me off!  And they would chuckle and nod and say, We know.  We know.  John still doesn’t read the blog.  I am smarter than him and I am right almost all of the time.

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After Shannon and  Gary rode off to Alligator Alley we scouted around the Island a little to check out dinner possibilities.  We met colorful sailors who were held up due to prop and engine repair after tangling with crab and lobster pots.  Funny that the lobster pot business was directly across from engine repair.  Why would you choose to paint your balls blue to put in the blue water?  Why?

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We hopped back in Sea Alice to return to Echoes and after much coaxing he came to life….for about two minutes.  We paddled back to tie off on a piling.  Maybe you are about as bored with engine repair and bloody blisters as I am.  This was the mother of all tear downs.  John had Sea Alice completely pulled apart as we bumped against a boat which had created its own reef on its bottom.  I watched an entire universe thrive under that boat.  Apparently, my suggestions of, How about that gray thing over there.  Could that be it?  wasn’t helpful.  So I watched the boat reef.  Finally, I heard John mutter a satisfying, Ahh.  And then a, That might just have done it.  What!  What was it!?  I asked.  The jets.  A jet was clogged.  He blew and blew and it opened up to show sunlight through it again.  You know how hind sight works.  But of course, Sea Alice just needed his jet blown.

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We successfully returned to Echoes to shower up and fix other things.  We brought Sea Alice in for a great dinner at the local favorite, Castaways.  John had alligator and I had crab stuffed shrimp just so that I could make up with the crab pots.   The locals were dancing the night away to some good live music which was like watching an episode of the Muppets.  Sea Alice came to life on the second tug and took us home like a young, sprite engine.  By golly, I think he’s got it!