Friday, March 14, 2008

Boot Key Harbor

It's Friday afternoon and we are anchored at Boot Key Harbor, at Marathon Key. This is a popular place for cruisers. There are probably 200 boats anchored here. Many cruisers come here to spend the winter.

They even have a "smorgasboat" that makes the rounds of boats, selling newspapers, coffee, pastries, and pump-outs.

We pulled the anchor at Islamarada about 9:30 this morning and headed to a nearby marina to top off our diesel tanks. I called ahead to the marina to make sure it was deep enough for us to get in and out.

My charts said they had 2-3 feet of water, which is barely enough for us. The dockmaster said, "Sure, you can get in here. We have a 48-ft. catamaran docked here right now." (Our catamaran is 36 ft. long and needs at least 2'8" of water to float.

We followed the markers into the channel. About half way in, our keel was stirring up mud and the depth sounder said 2.7 feet. I revved up the engines and we plowed through some mud. As we entered the marina, I felt that old familiar thud as we hit bottom.

Phil took over the controls and managed to power us off the shoal, and we continued on to the fuel dock. We topped off the fuel and water tanks, left them a bag of trash, and were on our way out of the marina by 10:30.

As we exited the channel, our keels began to dig into the mud. I revved the engines and we powered through, leaving a wake of muddy water. Once we got out into the deeper water, we opened the sails and were soon doing 6.5 knots.

Prior to Islamorada, I got nervous when the depth meter dropped below five feet. My new "nervous threshhold" has been reset to three feet.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and the wind filled the sails. We kept the motors going as well to augment the sails.

A few miles down the Intracoastal, we found Channel Five, which led us through a 65' fixed bridge and out into the Gulf of Mexico for out trip to Marathon.

At first, it was fairly calm. Motoring with our sails, we were averaging 6 knots. Soon the seas grew to 3-5 feet, on our beam, which caused enough turmoil on board that we needed to hang on tight to keep from being pitched from our seats.

Then, the wind moved from the south to the west, so it was "on our nose." Waves on the beam (towards the side of the boat) and winds on the nose (coming straight at you) make for an uncomfortable ride. But, I'm getting used to uncomfortable rides. You just have to hang on tight.

We have figured out how to keep the books on the shelves (bungee cords) and have repaired the clasps on the cupboards to keep things in the cupboards. I'm still learning how to wedge myself into the cockpit or the first mate's chair to keep from being flung across the deck.

Several people have talked about having a "beautiful sail" from here to there. I would like, just once, to have a beautiful sail, with the waves and the wind coming from behind. Is that too much to ask?

Sooner or later, we will have a "beautiful sail."

Our next chance may be as we travel up the southwest coast of Florida, on our way to Naples. Our son, Matt, his wife, Michelle, and our grandchildren Kailyn and Tyler, are planning a trip to Naples for spring break. About the same time, we heard from Phil's sister, Jane and her husband, Tom, that they will be coming to Naples as well.

We have now commited ourselves to making the trek from Marathon to Naples. We're not sure yet what that will involve, but Eleanor Roosevelt said I must do what I think I cannot do.

So, Naples it is. The whole point of this trip is to explore, experience, learn, and operate outside our comfort zone. We are accomplishing all those things so far.

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