Category Archives: When?

Anything that impacts the schedule for our departure or travels, including searching for another boat.

Amps In The Bank, Water In The Tank, And Spending A Day In Nassau

After four long days, the winds have finally stopped howling, and Rhonda and I are getting ready to make our next move. It’s about time, as 96 hours of listening to the rigging hum and feeling the boat rock and rub against the pilings was just about all we could stand. It’s a little over 30 miles from Palm Cay Marina to Allen’s Cay at the northern end of the Exuma island chain. Our plan is to settle our tab and throw off the lines in the morning and skirt Yellow Bank as we head southeast. The charts say the Bank is 12 feet deep with numerous coral heads that reach to within 3 to 4 feet of the surface (our keel is 5 feet deep). It requires visual piloting, which means we have to make sure the sun is high and the sky is clear so that we can read the water and dodge the keel munching stacks of coral. We’re thinking we’ll probably take the scenic route, skirting the edge of the bank rather than cutting straight across. It will add a few miles to our sail, but it should be quite a bit easier on our nerves.

To prepare, we spent the day giving Eagle Too a much needed bath. I also ran the water maker to fill the tank, and turned on the battery charger to top off our house bank with plenty of fresh electrons. With everything full, we’re basically ready to go.

So I mentioned in my previous post that Palm Cay Marina has a little car available for running errands. Your use is limited to two hours, and since it takes 20-25 minutes to get into Nassau and the same to get back, you have to plan your trip to make the most of the just-slightly-over-an-hour that’s left to do whatever it is that you need to do. On our grocery/pharmacy/liquor store runs, we literally plot our movements in advance and head into town with lists in hand to make the most of every minute. But the other day we had an idea. We wanted to spend an afternoon just sightseeing. More than you could fit into a two hour window. But we didn’t want to have to rent a car. So when we found out that Bob and Wendy on S/V Journey also wanted to play tourist for a while, a plan was hatched. We signed up to take the car from 11AM – 1PM, and they took the 1 – 3 PM. And like that, we had a ride for half a day!

We headed for The Queen’s Staircase, which was hand-carved by slaves from a hill of solid limestone in the 18th Century.

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We hiked up to Fort Fincastle, with its commanding view of the cruise ships in the harbor.

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We wandered through the grounds of the government buildings.

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And stumbled upon a rum distillery.

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We explored the former gracious manor home Graycliff, now operated as an exclusive hotel. We were in awe of their lobby “tree” made entirely of wine bottles!

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Graycliff has its own cigar factory, which I had to see (and sample the wares).

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We took in the general sights around town.

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And then stopped by the Rum Cake Factory, where they sell absolutely amazing cakes for only $5 each. They were better than Tortola Rum Cakes for a third the price.

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A quick stop to pick up some “takeaway” street food to bring back to the boat for dinner later.

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And then our time ran out and we had to return to the marina. But we packed a lot of the sights, sounds and feel of all that is Nassau in four short hours!

It’s Not All Fun And Games

While this Life On The Hook™ does provide its share of picture postcard moments, it’s important for any of you who are considering heading down the cruising path to know that every day isn’t straight out of a Jimmy Buffett song. Take today, for example. Eagle Too is anchored off Boot Key in the outside anchorage (just off the town of Marathon), with a beautiful view of the sunsets and the Seven Mile Bridge.

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But the anchorage offers no protection from winds from the south through the northwest. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as the winds are predominantly from the southeast here, with some north winds when a cold front passes. The past few days have been gorgeous, but today we’re feeling strong southwest winds, and we’re paying the price for our selection of anchorages.  There is nothing except a few reefs between us and Cuba to calm the swells, and two-to-three footers are pitching the boat like a rocking horse. Rhonda and I have spent all day hanging out in the cockpit, because it’s just too nausea-inducing to spend a great deal of time down below, unless it’s flat on our backs in bed.

Why not go into Boot Key Harbor to get away from the swell? Because it’s high season here in the Keys. There’s a 45 boat waiting list for a mooring (which means we’d probably be waiting until May), and the small areas to anchor inside the harbor are packed tight with boats. Many of these boats look worn and neglected, with several feet of sea grass growing from their hulls and sadly soggy partially deflated dinghies sitting awash alongside. I have no confidence that the ground tackle on these boats (anchor, chain, associated shackles, etc.) are any better maintained than the rest of the boat. So I just don’t trust them, and wouldn’t risk our boat by anchoring among them. Better in our opinion to suck it up and stay “outside,” where we can put out 100 feet of chain in 8 feet of water, and have a quarter mile of room to drag before we’d hit anything. Since we were only planning to be here for a few days before heading up the Keys to stage for our Bahamas crossing, it just made sense to hang out here. Besides, we love the sunsets. Just think how much these people paid to enjoy the same view as us…

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So to cope with today’s conditions, I made of quick batch of Mac & Cheese with diced Spam, and a couple of Bacardi and ginger ales. It’s a great meal for a rolly day, the kind of thing you can just pop down below and give a quick stir occasionally and then go back above before vertigo sets in.

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The mix of carbs and protein settles the stomach, while the Bacardi and ginger ales really explain themselves. Meanwhile we’re reviewing our charts and doing passage planning.

We’re currently waiting for a line of thunderstorms to move through the area overnight, which is causing us a bit of anxiety. A storm on the water is always 10 times worse than the same store ashore. But tomorrow is supposed to be clearer and the winds are predicted to shift to the northwest at 15 knots, which means that if we head eastward tomorrow morning, we should actually be able to get in a day of sailing, something we’ve done entirely too little of since leaving Pensacola back in December (it’s been about 85% motoring or motorsailing). Our plan is to go at least as far as Channel Five, with the goal of making it all the way to Rodriquez Key to anchor for the night. Then we want to move on to Angelfish Creek. At that point, we’ll be about 25 miles south of Miami, which means we’ll be perfectly positioned to jump across to Bimini. If the predicted south winds develop over the weekend, we should be able to point the boat due east, and let the Gulf Stream carry us northward towards our destination. We learned during our passage from Cuba to Mexico and then back to Florida that it makes more sense to use a current to move you toward your destination rather than fight against it.

We’ve been working on a post for a couple of weeks that outlines our journey south from St. Petersburg to the Keys. We’ve made the trip three times now (twice south, once north), and we definitely have our opinion on places to stop along the way. I still intend to finish it, but truthfully, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to soak in all there is to enjoy and also spend a couple of hours hunched over a computer. When the writing starts to remind me of work, I just stop. Those of you who follow us on Facebook have seen our regular updates, and if you’re interested in monitoring our progress, we strongly suggest you like our page. Our internet access has been pretty spotty since leaving Marco Island, and we’re relying primarily on cellular data now, so it also saves us data to throw a quick picture and a few words on Facebook rather than maintain our blog site.

With a little luck, our next blog post will be from Alice Town on Bimini Island. That’s all for now, Eagle Too out…

A Good Day For A Pot Of Spaghetti

After an overnight passage from Pensacola, Eagle Too is securely tied to the sidewall at Port St Joe Marina in St Joseph Bay.

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Like seven of our previous eight overnight passages, it was not a fun trip. Even though we picked a window that promised warmer temperatures, it was still bone chillingly cold out in the Gulf, which only confirms our decision to go when the air temperature was supposed to be in the 70’s rather than the 50’s. Add five to six foot seas and winds from every possible direction, and it added up to a pretty miserable night.

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But as is always the case, once we arrived, that all fell away, and we are now just savoring the moment. It was an odd arrival, because up until the minute we pulled into the marina, we were in cold fog and cold temperatures, with moisture dripping from us and everything onboard.

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But as we cleared the final marker and made the turn into the marina, the fog vanished, the sun appeared, the temperature climbed into the upper 70’s, and people met us on the dock wearing shorts and T shirts. I’m sure we made an odd sight in our wet foul weather gear, hats and gloves. We quickly shucked our wrappings and hung everything in the cockpit to dry. And I just had to laugh when I got power hooked up and turned on the heat, only to have it start running in air conditioning mode. Twenty-four hours of shivering, waiting to get heat back onboard, and when we finally had power again, it was warm enough to trip the air conditioning on!

We’ve been to Port St Joe before, but it’s been a few years, so we decided to take a walk around to see what’s changed. Not much, apparently. The town in many ways reminds me of the mythical Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” with its single street business district composed of storefronts from the 1940’s and 50’s. It seems like the type of place where life peaks in high school, with its social drama and school events and Friday night lights and Prom queen. Then you graduate, and life becomes about hoping to land a job in the meat department of the Piggly Wiggly or wait tables at Castaways, or if you’re really ambitious, open your own insurance business, repeat daily for the next 50 years.  Is the town really like that? I can’t say. It just feels that way to me. A nice place to visit for a few days, but I couldn’t imagine living here. There’s just too much adventure in our souls.

The cold front that chased us as we left Pensacola has now caught up with us, and it is about 50 degrees outside, with a chill north wind blowing. It’s a good night for warm comfort food, so we’ve spent all afternoon cooking up a big pot of sauce for a nice spaghetti dinner. Some red wine and a pile of fresh garlic bread also, naturally. Meanwhile, our Storm app tells us it’s 80 degrees in Clearwater, FL, a mere overnight Gulf crossing away. So our plans are to move to Apalachicola in the morning, and take advantage of a predicted good weather window on Wednesday and Thursday to jump over to central Florida. It should be about a 30 hour crossing. With luck, our plan to be in St. Petersburg by Christmas should play out perfectly.

It was hard to say goodbye this time, probably harder than when we originally headed out last April. But I have to admit, after five months of being tied to the dock, it feels really good to be moving again, out in the big blue, with exciting destinations and adventure ahead!

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Waiting For Weather

The final provisioning run is complete, and the last errands have been run. The car we’ve been borrowing has been washed and the tank topped off, and it’s ready for Rhonda’s sister to reclaim it. Everything is stowed, and the boat is rigged for sea. All is in readiness, and it now all comes down to weather.

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We would have preferred to head south a month ago. But the issues that brought us back to Pensacola last July have kept us here. It now appears though that things are well under control, and we are able to resume our adventure. There’s just this little issue of winter’s rapid approach. We hate sailing in the cold. Absolutely despise it. That’s why our blog’s tagline is “A couple on a boat in search of perpetual summer.” But it’s been cold lately. Like down in the lower 40’s/upper 30’s cold (about 3 – 4° C). Temperatures in which we wouldn’t even consider heading out onto the water. We’re Floridians, after all, and not New England lobstermen!  But tomorrow, the winds are predicted to clock to the south, and a flow of warm Gulf air is supposed to drive temps back up into the mid-70’s. Just what we’ve been waiting for to make the 24 hour jump to St Joseph Bay, 120 nautical miles to our east. The only problem is that in December, a warm south wind comes with a cost. A cost in the form of strong flow and high seas. The forecast calls for winds in the 15 – 20 knot range, with gusts into the upper 20’s, and four to five foot seas. We’ve sailed in those conditions before, but always because they developed while we were underway. Those are small craft warning conditions, and we’ve never really planned a departure in such weather. But it’s a choice that has to be made. We can either stay warm while underway and deal with the conditions, or wait until the winds clock back around to the north. But while a north wind will bring flat seas, in mid-December it will drive the temperatures back down into the 40’s again (where’s that global warming we’ve been promised for 30 years?)

So we’re ready to go, and we’ll make the final decision when we get up tomorrow morning and see what the day has in store for us. If the winds are less than 20 knots sustained, we’ll slip the dock lines and head out the pass. If they’re blowing into the mid 20’s, we’ll reluctantly tell the marina staff that we’ll be guests of theirs for a while longer.

If we can go tomorrow, we should be able to make it to Apalachicola before the next cold front brings storms and rain. The beginning of next week, after the front’s passage, looks suitable for making the Gulf crossing to Clearwater, and we could meet our goal of being in St. Petersburg by Christmas.

If we miss tomorrow’s window due to high winds, it will most likely be after Christmas before we’ll have another chance. And we most likely won’t see temperatures in the mid-70’s again until March or April.

Stay tuned…

Two Weeks A Castaway

“Houses are but badly built boats so firmly aground that you cannot think of moving them. They are definitely inferior things, belonging to the vegetable, not the animal world, rooted and stationary.” — Arthur Ransome

For fifteen days, Rhonda and I did what has become for us a most unusual thing—we slept in a bed firmly planted on terra firma. Eagle Too was on the hard at Pensacola Shipyard, and while we were told that we could remain aboard if we wished, there was something quite unsettling about the prospect of dwelling in a vessel propped up by metal stands rather than gently supported by mother ocean. Prior to now, we could count on one hand the number of nights we’d slept ashore in the last two years. But when Rhonda’s sister suggested we stay at her house while we hauled our boat, we jumped at the offer. So for two weeks plus a day, we slept each night in an enormous, totally immobile bed. It neither rocked nor pitched, and absent were the quiet hum of the refrigeration system, the whoosh of ventilation, the creaking and squeaking of lines and fenders, and the sigh of wind in the rigging. It was totally dark, still and quiet.

We didn’t get a single decent night’s sleep. 🙂

Why? Maybe it was the subtle tension of the ongoing refit gnawing at our minds, or the discomfort of strange surroundings. But my theory is that after two years afloat, Rhonda and I have become sea dwellers, used to the sounds, smells and feel of a boat in its natural element. No matter how much our conscious minds told us otherwise, unconsciously it was just too unusual to try and sleep without the constant stream of subtle physical and audible cues that say “sleep well, everything is right, you and the boat are safe.”

I’m happy to say that we’re now back where we belong, floating peacefully pierside. The shipyard grime has been washed away, and we’ve brought our cruising gear back onboard. A few more tasks to accomplish, and then we’ll be ready for a fair wind to start us once again on our journey in search of perpetual summer.

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Not Your Traditional Thanksgiving

I shot a possum this morning. It was harassing my sister-in-law’s chickens. The chickens provide fresh eggs while the possum provided nothing but aggravation. Since it wouldn’t listen to a stern warning, it unfortunately had to go.

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The reason I was out shooting possums on this Thanksgiving morning is because our boat is now sitting on the hard at Pensacola Shipyard, and we’re temporarily homeless. We technically could have stayed onboard, but living on a boat that’s up on stilts in the middle of an industrial operation lacks appeal. Since Rhonda’s sister’s husband is currently working offshore and she was home alone for the holiday, she offered us a room, which we gladly accepted.

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With the unpleasant task of dealing with the possum behind me, Rhonda and I headed to the marina to retrieve Eaglet, our dinghy. We’d left her behind in our slip at Palafox Pier when we motored over to the shipyard last Monday to have Eagle Too hauled for a quick refit. After scrubbing Eaglet’s slimy green bottom, we deflated her and rolled her up to store her until we’re ready to bring all of the cruising gear back onboard that we’d unloaded for the mini refit. Our slip lease is up at the end of the month, and so we’re that much closer to getting back underway.

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Both of our sons are working today, which we’re actually quite thankful for.  Getting our youngest son settled into a stable job and back on his feet financially was one of the key reasons why we ended up unexpectedly returning to Pensacola this summer, contrary to our original plans. The downside is that since they’re both working today, there won’t be a Thanksgiving dinner for our family. We’ve pushed it to Saturday, which seems to fit everybody’s schedule better. Giving thanks for our blessings should be all about the sentiment, after all, and not tied to some specific and arbitrary date on a calendar.

Our refit is going well. Our troublesome transmission came out easily, and is now on its way to East Coast Marine Transmission in New Jersey for a tear down and rebuild. We’ve been promised a 24 hour turn around, which means we might get it back as soon as next week.

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Our bottom is sanded and prepped, and we should start applying paint tomorrow. We’ve pulled our old vinyl-coated lifelines, and our local rigger has already ordered our new replacements, in bare-stainless of course. So far the weather is cooperating, and if we can get a few more warm, dry days, we should be able to finish the bottom by Monday.

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It’s quarter till departure, and we’re charging rapidly ahead. With a little luck and some good weather, we hope to be back to living our Life On The Hook™ by mid-December!

Cautious Optimism

Since late July, we’ve worked to help one of our sons overcome a debilitating health issue. While we felt we were making progress, it was a “two steps forward, a step and a half backward” situation. A good day would leave us encouraged and optimistic, but then a really bad day would bring it all crashing down again. We were on an emotional rollercoaster ride with no clear end in sight. And of course, we had no idea of when or even if we’d be able to return to our dream of cruising the Caribbean in search of perpetual summer and the ultimate beach bar with the best fruity rum drink.

Fortunately, things are looking up, and we’re cautiously optimistic. After weeks of doctors, counselors and labs, our son started making progress, and resuming control of his life. As his condition improved, we found ourselves with increasing amounts of free time, which has allowed us to start traveling the local waters again, renewing our ties to the wet parts of our world. And there are certainly worse places to gunkhole around during the summer months than Pensacola.  It’s amazing what a little sailing, a little beachcombing, a little fishing and a few pleasant nights at anchor can do for your perspective and attitude.Sunset1

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Fresh Fish For Dinner? Yes Please!

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And now we see what we hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Our son is returning to work, reporting for orientation next week for his new job at Pensacola Naval Air Station. It’s the last step in his recovery, and the development that should allow us to resume our interrupted adventure. In fact, we’re feeling encouraged enough about our prospects that we pulled the trigger yesterday on four gallons of bottom paint that Defender had on sale, and we’ve scheduled a haulout at Pensacola Shipyard for November 21st to do a bottom job and repair our ailing transmission. Upon completion of those tasks and a few other minor maintenance items that we’ve been wanting to address, we should be ready to resume our journey and once again head south. When we signed our slip lease at Palafox Pier on September 1st, we gave them 90 days notice. That means we’ll be free to leave the first week of December. The timing couldn’t be better. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Because you know what they say about that light at the end of the tunnel…

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Five months and 2,400 miles after throwing off the lines at Palafox Pier and Yacht Harbor in downtown Pensacola, Florida, Rhonda gently worked the throttle to carefully back Eagle Too into a slip while I hung from the starboard shrouds, ready to jump ashore and tie off our docklines.

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After cleating off the lines, I climbed back aboard while Rhonda shut down the diesel. As the engine shuddered to a stop, the low-oil-pressure alarm whistled shrilly until Rhonda reached down and switched off the engine key, silencing it.

We noted the time for our log, checked the instruments as we usually do upon arrival, and then, our end-of-voyage ritual completed, stood for a moment in the now silent cockpit, taking in our very familiar surroundings.

“We’re home,” we said to each other. For we had just returned to what has become the closest thing to home for us now that we live the life of vagabond cruisers. We were once again docked at Palafox Pier.

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We previously lived in slip 6 on E dock for 16 months, but it has another occupant now, and we slid instead into slip 11 on D dock. We can clearly see our old home, it’s just right over there, and we look with dismay at the squatter currently occupying “our” spot. But D dock isn’t a bad place, and we’ll be fine here for now.

The marina at the Naval Air Station was accommodating and affordable, but unfortunately there is very little there in the way of shopping or dining. Getting around required a car, and after five weeks, we’d pretty much worn out our ability to borrow a car from family or friends. Moving to downtown, while more expensive than the Navy marina, would be cheaper than staying put and renting a car, and would put numerous replenishment and dining options within walking or biking distance. With luck, we won’t be here too long. Rhonda thinks I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have the issue that brought us unexpectedly home sufficiently under control by November to let us head out again before the weather gets too cold. We’ll see.

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You may have noticed that It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update.  The creative energy that would have normally been expended formulating blog posts has instead been devoted to teasing out solutions to a complex family health issue. After a day of dealing with counselors, doctors, and social services workers, there just isn’t the energy or desire to pull together a blog entry. It’s all been quite depressing actually, and depression is not much of a motivator. But we’ve been making progress, things may be on the right path now, and we’re feeling somewhat optimistic that the time may soon come when we can resume our voyage and things here will be fine in our absence. And optimism is energizing. So maybe the drought has ended. Again, we’ll see. For now, just know that Rhonda and I are fine, we’re home, and we’re looking forward to the (hopefully not far off) day when we can once again head out and resume our interrupted journey.

Chilling In Marathon

Ah, the life of a cruiser. If you count our time in the Dry Tortugas, we’ve been in the Florida Keys for three weeks now. When are we leaving? We don’t know. We haven’t yet decided. And that’s just fine with us, since there is no place else that we absolutely need to be right now. We live on perpetual vacation, after all!

For most of the last two weeks, we’ve been hanging out in Marathon, which is just about right in the middle of the Keys, halfway between Key West and Miami. Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor offers what is probably the best protected location in the Keys, and contains over 200 mooring balls for visiting boats. Marathon and the Boot Key Harbor mooring field are on the short list of things all cruisers should partake of at least once. It’s one of the common cultural experiences that defines our cruising tribe and unites us through bonds of community. It’s a boating Mecca that offers everything a sailor (or even that lesser order of mariner, a power-boater) requires to sustain themselves and maintain their vessels.Marathon7 Marathon6 Marathon5 Marathon4

Instead of picking up a mooring, of which there are currently plenty available (it’s the off-season—in winter there’s a waiting list), we decided to go to a marina instead. Why? Because it’s currently hot. Very hot. Damn hot. I’m not talking about the kind of hot that you can deal with by pouring water over your head to cool off. I’m talking the kind of hot that leaves you feeling lightheaded and dizzy after merely taking the trash ashore. The type of hot where people on moorings wait for midnight to come so that temperatures will moderate enough to allow for comfortable sleep. No, we knew we wanted to run the air conditioner. And that meant access to shore power, which meant we needed to be in a marina. So we’re tied up to a seawall at Sombrero Resort and Marina, where we have power, water, and even cable TV for a pretty reasonable weekly rate (by Florida Keys standards, anyway).Marathon2 Marathon3 Marathon1

There’s a swimming pool with a Tiki bar for our use, a pretty decent laundry room, and an address where we can receive mail and packages.Marathon12

So as you can imagine, it’s been a bit difficult to muster the determination to leave and head north. I mean, we’re in the Keys, after all, a place that many consider paradise and spend a great deal of money to visit.

For the first time since leaving St. Petersburg, we’ve been able to take our bikes ashore. We’ve found that everything we need, from West Marine and a Yanmar parts dealer (repair parts for the boat) to grocery stores and numerous bars and restaurants (therapy for the soul) are all within a 15 minute ride. I will say that our Back Bay folding bicycles did not benefit from the long period of dormancy. Remaining on deck, zipped in their storage bags while we experienced Cuba and Mexico, the steel parts of our bikes did what you’d expect them do in the presence of salt water and tropical heat—they started rusting. The worst was the chain on Rhonda’s bike, which had frozen into a solid clump of oxide. Fortunately nothing was past the point of no return, and a few hours of cleaning, polishing, oiling and flexing returned everything to working condition.

It’s a mile and a half from where our boat is tied up to Sombrero Beach, which is considered one of the best beaches in the Keys. It’s an easy 15 minute ride on a nice bike path, so we naturally rode over to take in the July 4th festivities.Marathon8 Marathon9 Marathon10 Marathon11

So where to next? Well, we’re still waiting for a new float switch for our shower sump that we’ve ordered from  West Marine. Once it arrives, we’ll probably start looking northward. We believe we can be in Biscayne Bay in two or three days, where we’ll spend a night or two at anchor enjoying a view of the Miami skyline. From there, we think we’ll push farther north, maybe as far as Jacksonville. We have a few months of hurricane season to wait out before we’ll feel safe jumping over to the Bahamas, and we’ve been wanting to see more of Florida’s east coast.

Or maybe we’ll just hang around here for a while longer… 🙂

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There Are Worse Places To Wait For Weather

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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.

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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.KeyWest4

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!