We’re sitting comfortably in a slip at Boca Chica marina at Naval Air Station Key West at the moment. After a week of pushing steadily southward, knocking out 40 to 60 miles a day, we’re enjoying the opportunity to kick back, relax, drink a few beers ($2 drafts at the Navigator bar at the head of the dock!) and listen as the conchs are blown each day at sunset.
Our plans are to take care of some minor maintenance issues and give the boat a much needed bath, and then get ready for the right weather window to jump over to Varadero, Cuba. Our plans were to shoot for May 1st, but right now it’s looking more like the 4th or 5th before the winds lighten up and turn more northerly so we can have a pleasant sleigh ride south rather than beat into six foot seas. But there are definitely worse places to be stuck waiting for weather! The laundry here has six washers, so we were able to knock out our entire backload of washing in 35 minutes by shoving it all into three washers at once. And I believe the dryers actually use surplus jet engines from the nearby airfield, as they completely dry a huge load in 15 minutes. There’s an Enterprise car rental agency about four miles away at the Key West airport, so tomorrow we’ll probably order up a car for a few days and play tourist.
One of the things that stands out about this trip so far is that you just have to trust and accept that you can’t plan for or control every aspect of the voyage. You prepare as best you can, and then you just head out and hope for the best. It’s amazing how much we’ve picked up along the way. Pretty much our entire trip from Tarpon Springs to here has been affected and informed by people we’ve met as we’ve headed south. We’d planned to end up here at Boca Chica, but we’d never even heard of places like Factory Bay, Little Shark River, or Moser Channel before leaving Pensacola. Even our route changed based on things we picked up along the way. I’d originally thought we’d enter the Keys via the Northwest channel on the west side of Key West. But it was a much shorter trip through the Moser Channel under the Seven Mile Bridge, which then led us to the delightful anchorage at Bahia Honda State Park that we were totally unaware of.
Now sometimes this bugs Rhonda a bit. She’s always been a planner, and she wants to know what the plan is for tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after. But if you meet someone at an anchorage and you tell them your plans, they might just have a better suggestion for a place to anchor or to pick up a cheap mooring, and like that, the plan has changed. So keeping an open mind and having some flexibility in your plans seems to be pretty important.
Boats Are Not Cars
The internal combustion engine has been around for over 125 years, and it’s been pretty well perfected. You jump on the highway in your car or truck and drive 500 miles and never give a thought to your engine other than keeping an eye on the gas gauge. You might go months without even lifting the hood. But boats are not cars. When you’re motoring along 50 miles offshore, you really start to obsess about your engine. Did the RPM just change? What was that odd noise? Is the belt starting to squeal? What is that drip doing there? Every three to four hours, I’m opening up the engine compartment and looking around with a flashlight. One time I found a small seawater leak that had started dripping on the engine (fixed with new hose clamps). Another time, I noticed that a fuel line was rubbing against a motor mount, and it was starting to chafe a hole in the line (fixed with a piece of scrap hose used as padding and a few zip ties). I lost a night’s sleep when I found a small puddle under the fuel filter that I thought could be the beginning of a fuel leak. I spent several hours yesterday with soapy water, a rag and some brushes completely cleaning the backside of the engine, to ultimately learn that a little bit of oil dripping from the engine intake (perfectly normal, since the intake draws air from the crankcase thanks to the EPA) had mixed with about a tablespoon of rainwater that we’d acumulated during the rainstorm we experienced in the Everglades to create a little amber puddle that looked like fuel. Oh well, at least the engine is nice and shiny again!
One of the most useful things we’ve had along on the trip has been the cheap little Android tablet I picked up at BestBuy for $100 prior to leaving Pensacola. It’s running the Navionics navigation app, and it lets me chart and plot and measure and look at bays and anchorages ahead without having to mess with the chartplotter that Rhonda is using to drive the boat. I fiddle with that thing all day long when we’re underway, and we use it for each evening’s chart review when we’re planning to get underway the next day.
Follow Us On Vessel Finder
A friend pointed out the website Vesselfinder.com to us. Since we broadcast an AIS signal while we’re underway, we apparantly show up on Vesselfinder.com and you can see our latest position. So if you’re interested in seeing where we are, just go to the site and search for Eagle Too. No idea if this will continue to work once we leave the US, but the site does show ships around the world, so who knows, it might!
Well, breakfast is ready and it’s time to start the day, so that’s it for now. We’ll try to post some more pictures very soon. Eagle Too out!