Sunday, March 6 we bid farewell to Marathon with perfect sailing conditions for our “inside” trip. Several other boats had the same idea, but they were headed for Hawk Channel, “outside”, most likely due to their draft exceeding ours. We traveled 75 miles, nearly all under sail with main and screacher. What I’d like to know is, why when we’d come to a cut through a shallow bank (we are following the intra-coastal here) did it always mean a change of direction that necessitated a jibe, me at the helm and several times finding ourselves in less than 4 ft of water. We can draw as little as 2 1/2ft, but to protect the props and rudders we keep the dagger-boards down further. Boats who draw more than 5 ft- ish need to either traverse the skinny spots near high tide, or skip the scenic route and travel outside along the coast ( Hawk Channel).
Near the end of our trip, we passed through Key Largo and as I looked at boats anchored near shore I spotted s/v Sanuk; hey, thought they were farther ahead. At that same instant they were headed back in their dinghy from the Tiki Bar and saw us. I think Tracy exclaimed “look at that big ass cat. Oh wait, it’s Ortolan! They came up to anchor near us and we caught up on stuff since they’d left the Tuesday before.
Fast forward to Miami.
We arrived late morning on Wed after enough sailing hours the past few days to keep us happy for a while. Spent a lovely day anchored off Pumpkin Key and even doing boat chores, including scrubbing the hulls, did not ruin the day. Met up with Sanuk at Dinner Key Marina the next day, did laundry thing, shopped at The Fresh Market and filled our water tanks. The wind picked up out of the East which meant a rough ride on the mooring, so Wed mid-morning we headed off (I love our new mooring clip) to Marine Stadium on Virginia Key where better wave protection could be had. Felt like déjà vu- 3 mos ago we arrived here; our first stop in Miami, now we will depart from here on Thursday. Winds look reasonably decent, but T-storms are in the forecast.
The captain says, “if you stayed put whenever a thunderstorm is in the forecast you’d never go anywhere.” Hee Hee. Not sure that’s true, but today we left anyway and got a juicy taste of being underway along the coast when a storm passes over. The day began well enough. Raised the main and jib and headed north in moderate winds on a starboard tack, averaging 6kts. By 10:15 the storm warnings were popping up on all pieces of equipment and conservative sailors we are, we dropped the main promptly. We didn’t get to the jib fast enough (plus it doesn’t help that the furl line is too short) and we thought for sure it was going to tear big time the way it was flapping wildly. Still have a useful jib sail. One didn’t need radar weather to see the line of the storm- it was a big one that stretched the entire length of Florida including the Keys.
The rain was torrential, which ruins visibility but flattens the water. For 20 mins the wind howled – I never looked at the wind display (what you don’t know won’t scare you) but Russ said he saw gusts as high as 35kts. Ortolan flew straight and true at a reduced speed. Although I was tense I didn’t mind mopping up water and wiping the Strataglass panels so we could see if this was as bad as it was going to get. Heard some thunder and saw a bolt or two of lightning. The storm was more intense at our day’s destination (West Palm Beach/Lake Worth) and we had the good luck to be between two bad cells and so did not get the worst of it. So many Coast Guard announcements on Chnl 16 for boats and people in trouble. Always makes me cringe to hear them.
The storm changed the wind direction and so the sails popped up again briefly near trip’s end. Once more, an outside trip contains little “strictly sail” time. On the bright side, we saw flying fish. Russ thought I was seeing things when I described them but of course we Googled them later and sure enough we did see flying fish. About 8 inches long, with oversized dragonfly type wings, they pop out of the water and fly over the waves for 5-7 seconds before plunging back in. Was the coolest thing.
Here we are anchored in Lake Worth for a few days until conditions are right to sail north to Vero Beach via Ft. Pierce inlet