Feeling Young Again

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Tracy, Chris and I

Some of you will remember s/v Sanuk and our (younger) friends Tracy and Chris who we first met in Vero Beach Nov 2010. They’d owned Sanuk, a Baba 30 (Hull #1) for only a short time so we thought they were joking when they talked about buying a catamaran and even borrowed one of our catamaran books. You may recall that we stopped to visit them in Crisfield, MD last October when we cruised down the Chesapeake on our way south. Yes, lovely Sanuk would be up for sale this winter. She’s spent the past few summers in the Keys, with her owners heading south to spend more time with her every winter. Ah, what a great life.
Marathon is roughly 27 miles up the chain from Cudjoe Key. No Name Pub wasn’t worth another visit so we met at Boondocks on Summerland Key for a catching-up dinner and a rousing game of mini golf- the only mini golf course in the Keys supposedly. We didn’t keep score but I’m sure the ladies ruled the night; me with the first (surprise) hole-in-one and Tracy with two. The guys, well they each managed to land a ball or two in the ponds. 🙂

Russ goes fishing

Russ goes fishing

The moon was full and even with the iPhone we got a pretty decent shot.?????????

Chris won a snow cone (this place doesn’t give away free games) and grape was the fun flavor he chose.

I snuggle with Chris while Tracy cooled off in the ladies room!

I snuggle with Chris while Tracy cooled off in the ladies room!

Key West Jaunts: The fort and Legal Rum

?????Key West is well known for its nightlife, daylife, fantastic people watching, fishing, museums, crazy events, drinking and the many and varied famous and well-known people who have called it home. Two not-so-huge cruise ships seem to be in port much of the time, spilling their innards onto Duval Street (and the surrounding ones too) with regularity. At least those folk don’t need to fight for a parking spot; a simple walk, shop, eat, drink keeps them happy for hours. 🙂
Our first foray into town, before Christmas, was as much a “get reacquainted” visit as anything else. Arrive by 10:30, find metered street parking (the kind where the meter is in the middle of the block and you pay with cash or credit card for the amount of time you want) and wander around. A close-by bakery was closed on Monday, but the sign indicated Cronuts so we vowed to return another day; early too!
Lunch found us over by the docks lined with seafood restaurants, various charter/tour boats (of a more subdued nature than the Fury fleet over by the cruise ship docks), small marinas and the public dinghy dock which we couldn’t see but knew it was there. Click here to read about our Key West stop Jan 2011.

Four years later, sv Pelican, a MaineCat 41 is still in charter

Four years later, sv Pelican, a MaineCat 41 is still in charter

The Monday after Christmas we ventured in again. The 23-mile drive often takes a solid 35 minutes, but more if you get caught in afternoon, evening and night traffic. Route 1 is one lane in each direction between Cudjoe Key and Key West, with an occasional center turning lane and well-placed right turn lanes. Traffic generally moves along, but it doesn’t take much to slow things down to a turtle crawl.
Russ needed a haircut and we got that done on our way into town. The day’s plan was to spend time at Fort Zachary Taylor, lunch in town then check out the rum distillery; Key West’s first (legal one). In our eagerness we neglected to appreciate that this was a HUGE vacation week and multitudes would be filling the streets and parking spaces around town. But first the fort, which is basically on the beach and where we found ample parking at 10:30. The fort is tucked pretty much out of sight and I don’t think most tourists know or care about it. Kinda down on the list after all those more exciting things I mentioned at the beginning. Since we haven’t been fort-ified since the summer, the time was ripe for a fort visit.DSC00842 (800x593)

Killed some time with a walk around the fort’s water-facing perimeter. Spied these Green Iguanas which are non-native, read more on them here. DSC00849 (800x600)

A guided tour sounded good and we were rewarded with a tour by a competent and knowledgeable Alabama woman who stays nearby in a motorhome with her husband. Before the tour we moseyed around and up to the top but I forgot to take pictures up there and later when we finished, it was pouring rain.????????????
Key West has a long and rich history beginning with Spanish explorers who first surveyed the island in 1513. After the Florida territory was transferred to the U.S., the Navy established a depot here in 1822 to rid the area of pirates! Arrgg! By the 1890s Key West had become Florida’s richest city thanks to fishing, salvaging wrecked ships (big business) and cigar manufacturing.
So the Army looked down the field and saw the puny depot the Navy had constructed and said, “We shall build a fort to protect Southernmost.” 🙂 Construction of Fort Taylor began in 1845. Then, along came talk of secession and the beginning of war in 1861, the fort was not yet complete. The quick thinking and decisiveness of Union Captain John Milton Brannan to defend and keep the fort under federal control when Florida seceded made Fort Taylor only one of three forts in Florida to remain that way. He had no orders, so of course, wrote to ask. When d-day came and no orders, he made the right decision (can you tell I am a northerner), defended the fort and probably breathed a sigh of relief, when, days later a ship arrived with the orders, “Seize the fort!”
Originally, the fort was surrounded by water on all sides, with a walkway linking it to the mainland. The fort was completed in 1866, although the upper level of one side was destroyed in 1889 to make way for more modern weapons, with the older cannons being buried within the new outer wall to save on materials. The fort was heavily used again during the 1898 Spanish-American War.
Unlike Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas (been there too!), Fort Taylor was not a prisoner fort and the two small holding cells we saw were to give the unruly a place to think about their behavior. The fort stayed active through 1947 when the army turned it over to the U.S. Navy, until eventually the inactive fort became a convenient place for storage of old machinery, cannons and a ton of Civil-war era artifacts. All this history got buried in sand, rubble and cement until Howard S. England asked why was Fort Jefferson was an historic site while Fort Zachary Taylor sat neglected and forgotten? Why indeed?????????????????
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is; Mr. England used his own resources to locate what came to be the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the U.S. Not until 1973 did Fort Taylor receive National Historic Landmark designation; a long time in the making. Not a very attractive fort, unlike Fort Jefferson and many others we’ve visited, but the tour is informative and the hour passes quickly. A rain shower ended things a bit prematurely but we still heard the full spiel.?????????????????????????????

Strategically placed latrines were meant to be aided by tidal flow, but it didn't work out that way

Strategically placed latrine were meant to be aided by tidal flow, but it didn’t work out that way

Throughout the year the Rangers lead a variety of programs. Annual events include reenactments, sculpture displays, concerts, a pirate festival, fort haunting, boat race and more. A few steps from the fort is Key West Beach with a shady picnic area, beach equipment rental hut, small café and a perfect view of the ocean.

Ominous rain clouds off the beach

Ominous rain clouds off the beach

Cruise ship makes her way in to the dock

Cruise ship makes her way in to the dock

We left the fort in the rain, making a mad dash for the car. Oh did I mention we got half drenched on a day with no rain forecasted?

Then we began the search for parking in town. Gee how about $20 for two hours, $30 for all day? Gee how about we need 3 hours and oh, you don’t have room anyway? OK. We found the rum distillery and only one driving oops that ended at the water with no good way out. Bonny is very handy in tight places, not like big Bertha Annie. Our goal was to park so we could walk to lunch and then to the distillery, and when we turned and found ourselves behind the neighborhood garbage collection truck I feared the worst. Two blocks later, he turned left and we went straight! Traffic stops a few blocks down off Duval and I spot a parking lot. I jump out and ask the totally disinterested attendant what the cost is to park. What?? $40!! Holy Margaritaville Mr. Hemmingway! As we’re about to head off, a woman who’d heard the rip-off price stopped and gave us the day’s best news- park at the Westin garage-only $4/hour and that’s not much more than metered street parking. A spot on the roof-top level was fine indeed and off we hustled to get lunch. See photo at the top 🙂

?????????????????????The distillery is located at the top of Simonton Street at the former site of a Coca Cola bottler. In between times was a bar- naturally. Back in the day small in-town Coca Cola bottlers could be found everywhere. I remember we had one near us in Hamden. It was on School Street, so named because that’s the route I took to walk to grammar school. 🙂

Tours were given at 3 and 3:30 and we showed up in time for a tasting before the tour. $5/pp to taste 5 rums; free tour.

Taste first, tour next!

Taste first, tour next!

I don’t know that much about the process but these rums are distilled five times which means a much reduced chance of a hangover headache; so we were told.

It all happens in this one room

It all happens in this one room

Russ came away with the Key Lime Rum which tasted remarkably like the real thing with a touch of pucker and no sweetness. He also ran off with the day’s bottling, but got hunted down and returned to me sans loot.

Rum Runner Russ, aka Captain Rusty Nail

Rum Runner Russ, aka Captain Rusty Nail

Good-bye Southern Florida


S/V Sanuk: once again our neighbor

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.

tug lake worth

One of 3 tugs moving dredging pipe

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

Still Messing Around

Tracy shots

I Love Mixology Class

How does this happen? That a one week planned stay turns into three..and it’s perfectly fine because we are enjoying  hanging out , not being on the go constantly and we like visitors! Our friends Chris and Tracy on Sanuk (a Baba 30′) stopped at the harbor on their way north from Key West. They’ll be inching slowly toward home (on the Chesapeake) as the weather warms along the southern states.
Tracy brought the ingredients for a new shot they’d learned: Pineapple Upside Down Cake- Vanilla Rum, Pineapple Juice and Grenadine. You can see just how to make it from Tracy’s demo above.
Over breakfast at the Stuffed Pig on 2/22 we all decided the day was perfect for a trip out to Bahia Honda aboard Ortolan.  An hour and ½ motoring trip took us right off the beach on the ocean side and we dropped the hook in 6 feet of clear water. Dinghied in close to shore where the water was very clear and no sea grass at all. Checked out the park and the tiny harbor (even smaller than No Name) and the water lovers in the group took a dip in the clear water near the dinghy. Back aboard, Russ and Tracy (thanks!) jumped in to scrub the bottom of the hulls.  Once we dropped in hand-hold lines, the relatively easy scrub job became much easier. The hard part is staying with the boat as it bobs in the water. Even in calm conditions, there’s always movement. Dedicated sailors we are (plus, Chris wanted to see the huge sails) we raised the main for the trip back to the harbor. During the short-lived luffing stint, we were rewarded with a sea turtle sighting; could see him swimming near the surface then come up for air. Water depth was about 25 feet.  Sailing very slowly has some advantages!
Next visitor was- ok I’m stretching things a bit here- a marine electronics guy who was to perform warranty work on our chartplotter and install the new antenna sent to us by Maine Cat.

Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda, FL Keys

Messing about in Marathon

The plan is playing out as designed and even where it fell apart, it fixed itself as though the sea gods chose to grant a couple wishes, just because.

Ortolan at marathon BY

Ortolan at Marathon Boat Yard

Arrived Marathon Boat Yard on Sunday and squeezed into the allotted spot alongside the dock- with help from two workers/liveaboards who caught and tied lines. We trotted ourselves right up to City Marina (nearly a mile north on the Overseas Highway (the main road, A1A where you just need to know the Mile Marker #; Key West being MM 0) and put our name on the mooring ball wait list- #8. Figured 2- 3 days.
By Thursday we were still at MBY, and we had only moved up to #4 on the wait list. But being at a dock at the boat yard was a plus and heck they’d only charged us for 2 nights at half price, plus electric. The seal was replaced on Thursday (warranty repairs always take a while), and we’d gotten the Ok to stay until after the pump out boat came by Friday around 10:30, we needed it and if we left the boat yard and did not get a mooring, we’d be shit out of luck. Friday was quite the interesting day as the sea gods worked their magic, but we did have to prove ourselves worthy first.
Over our 5 day stay we’d walked over 12 miles in our daily trips to Publix, Home Depot and the City Marina. Mail and items recently ordered had to be retrieved from City Marina and the dinghy patch kit was being sent from a company in Florida.  By Friday, when a mooring did not appear to be forthcoming, we requested an extension from MBY again so that we could walk to City Marina and get the patch kit. Again, no problem to stay a few more hours.
Now things get messy- and smelly. Since day 1 we had a leaky thru-hull (the one for the starboard holding tank). Each time we emptied the holding tank outside the 3 mile limit, it would dribble more into the bilge. After several emails to the manufacturer, they sent us a whole bunch of replacement seals and advice on replacing the seal.  Friday is pump out holding tanks day at the boat yard, so we got right to seal replacing after the pump out. We had time available before the City Marina would get the day’s mail.
I guess I should be photographing our mishaps but at the time, I never think to do that; it’s all we can do to get things fixed.  Russ turned the lever and when he exclaimed “oh, shit!”, he really meant it.  Over a quart of remaining waste flooded into the bilge even though we had a pitcher under the opening, sort of. Spent the next 90 mins cleaning out the bilges.
Nothing was ruined; the only bilge areas with anything in them were the two forward ones- snorkel gear and a couple bags with my shoes- that I never wear. We raced to pull the stuff out once we realized that the mess was headed down that far. What an ordeal. So then, it’s time to walk the mile to City Marina. Off I go while Russ continues to dry the bilges and sets up a fan to finish the job. Darn good thing we did this at the dock so water would be available.
The patch kit has arrived- phew, I did not walk in vain. I check in at the desk (for the 5th time) to see if we’ve moved up on the list. Gosh almighty- if we aren’t NEXT in line. Just to be sure, I inquire that “maybe tomorrow?” we’d get the call. Then just for ha-ha’s I inquire “but not today though?” since it’s already 2pm and the calls would happen around noon. I get confirmation on these thoughts and head back to tell Russ the good news.
Getting ourselves off the dock was an event. All our fenders were strung horizontally with a special one on our port stern so we could pivot out. We released our bow and spring lines and after several attempts, suddenly, when we were both at the stern (of course) the bow was far enough off the dock- and my job to remove the stern line needed immediate attention.  The canal leading from the marina basin was only wide enough for us. We turned right and headed out of Boot Key Harbor toward a protected basin about 5 miles east. Several days of high winds (15-25) meant we needed protection yet being next on the list, did not want to venture far.  Next thing we know, the phone rings, “honey don’t answer it unless it’s important” I say, being at the helm at the time. More than important- why it’s the City Marina saying they have a mooring for us! How can that be? No matter, the gods like us today. We turn around and 30 mins later are snug on mooring ball #S8. Less than an hour later the wind has kicked up and continues for several days. I am happy, very happy.

For the birds

Wind be dammed, we will sail!  Saturday, the wind was forecast for WNW at 10-15kts and we were headed NE- thus hopeful for a day of sailing. Our goal was Tavernier Harbor which is not really a harbor but a barely perceptible indent where the Wild Bird Sanctuary (WBS) is located.  25 miles and we had the sails set in every combination as well as wing-to-wing to make up for the wind that never exceeded 12 kts. Light winds in the morning allowed us to try a successful sailing off the anchor executed thus: removed anchor bridle, raised main, weighed anchor and off we went. Did have an engine going- but just briefly.

Thanks to Google earth, emails and phone calls we were able to locate the WBSand knew we could anchor off the property and dinghy in.  Pulled the dinghy up on to a small sandy spot amidst mangroves with a passel of pelicans nearby. (can see our dinghy in the upper right of the below photo) The sanctuary was entirely outdoors with pelicans, herons, ibis and egrets roaming free and looking cute for the photographer.

Bird sanctuary

Almost feeding time. The anticipation is building!

Most of the birds live elsewhere and only visit- some regularly, others once a year. The birds who are permanent residents have large pens set up around buttonwood trees and other naturally occurring features. We had a close look at owls, a peregrine falcon, several varieties of hawks and parrots. Each day at 3:30 is feeding time. The birds – mostly pelicans- come in to the beach area and really have a flapping wild time when the 5 gallon bucket of small fish is tossed about.  The birds are fed to bring them in close to observe them and look for injuries and entanglements. Well worth the visit.

Sunday (Jan 9,day 92) brought another opportunity to sail off the anchor and get creative on eeking out enough speed to arrive at our chosen spot at a decent time. We’ve been planning short days so that we can sail and not have to rush to get somewhere. Plus, we’re not in any big hurry to get back to the city- until we have to. Benj flies out Jan 13 and we plan to stop at No Name Harbor before ending up off Miami Beach.

Three Days at Boot Key (Marathon, FL)

Turtle Hosp- Anita

Anita gets around.

Vast amounts of time are spent (have I mentioned this before?) planning and trying to figure out where to go, what to do and how the seldom accurate weather forecasts play into those plans. Plans A & B are almost always a necessity.  First we were stopping at Key West, then not, then we did. I wanted to stop at Bahia Honda State Park on our way to Marathon and that looked not to be possible since we had to make it a couple hour day stop, not an overnight. Spending Monday night at Key West was going to allow us the chance to stop at Bahia Honda; 9 miles south of Boot Key and about 40 miles north of Key West. The park sounded lovely, trails beach and all we had to do was anchor off the beach near the entrance to the tiny harbor. What could go wrong?
Enter fog- just as we got the anchor up and had gone, oh maybe 1/10 mile, we could see it roll in and the two massive cruise ships became invisible.   We turned back and re-anchored. So much for the park, and then what if we were delayed too long?  Fog and clouds gave way to sun by 9:30, so off we went after a hot breakfast enjoyed all together. On get-up-early travel days, breakfast is cereal and fruit how and whenever the person wants- in Benj’s case it’s when he drags himself out of bed. For Russ it’s when we are safely underway.
Made it to Boot Key City Marina (have 226 moorings) by 4:30 and got a good mooring assignment; close to the dock where we could put the dinghy to walk to Publix and a reasonable distance from the marina facilities. Plenty of catamarans, mostly monohulls and a few trawlers. Chatted with the owners of the Privilege 43 near us; Maine Cats are an infrequent sighting, so we seem to spark interest from other cat owners.
We quickly got down to business and took care of the chores: laundry, showers, trip to Publix to once again lighten our wallets and work our muscles, multiple water jug fill ups and taking are of various on-line business. Breakfast Wed a.m. at the Stuffed Pig was delicious and fun. The perfect Keys kinda place. Benj settled in to a comfy seat in the marina’s multi-purpose common room and Skype’d to his heart’s content.
Thursday morning we walked less than a mile down the Overseas Highway (A1A) to the Turtle Hospital and Rehab.  Tara was our guide and a hands-on worker (for love not money) who gave us a passionate, enlightening and delightful tour. We learned about the five species of turtles typically handled by the hospital, four were currently in residence: Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Kemps Ridley and Green.  After the talk and presentation, Tara took us around to the operating and triage rooms, complete with scale, digital x-ray, intibating machine, CO2 laser and ventilator.  Meeting the turtles was the highlight. Each one who is recovering is in a tank of their own, the others are split between three sectioned-off areas in a cement pool that is fed from the Gulf waters.
Sparky is a Hawksbill who has become the hospital’s mascot and education tool. Anita, shown above was sent to the Turtle Hospital due to a neurological defect which causes her to always swim in circles. It doesn’t bother her but feeding is a problem and a very time consuming process. She will most likely become a permanent resident.