Tag Archives: Cruising Florida

Moving On

Rhonda and I have thoroughly enjoyed our month here at Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg, and we’ll probably soon have another post or two that talks about some of the things we’ve seen or done while here, but it’s time to move on. The engine checks are complete, the bikes are lashed down on-deck, the speed sensor is re-installed, and Eagle Too is ready to get underway. We postponed our departure by a day to allow an intense storm front to blow through, but tomorrow morning and the next few days are supposed to be beautiful, so after a quick breakfast we’ll be bringing in the lines and pointing the bow south. Next stop—Sarasota, where we’ll take a mooring for a few days. I hope that this time we’ll be able to linger long enough to visit the Ringling Museum!

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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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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Twenty-two days ago, we left Pensacola. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that our plans were to be in the Keys by April 25th. I thought that that was just about right to give us a few days to relax and soak in some of Key West’s funky vibe before jumping off for Cuba on May 1st, the date on our approved Coast Guard documentation.

Well it’s April 25th. And today at 1520, (3:20 PM for you lubbers) we dropped anchor in a delightful little anchorage off Bahia Honda state park in the Florida Keys.Recap9 Recap10

I have to admit I’ve had my doubts. When we ended up falling for St. Petersburg and hanging out there for a week, I thought our schedule was completely busted. But we didn’t stress over it. Because that’s the great thing about being cruisers rather than merely people who own a sailboat. Time really doesn’t matter, at least on a micro level. Oh, the seasons are still important, as you don’t want to be caught in the wrong latitude at the wrong time, weather-wise. But if you find a spot you like, well, you just hang out until you’ve had just short of enough. There really is no schedule.Recap1 Recap2 Recap3 Recap4

It’s been a really interesting trip so far. Pensacola to St. Joseph Bay, and then on to Apalachicola via the Gulf County Canal and ICW. Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs (nice town), entering the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) at its northern end.  Anclote Key to Clearwater to St. Petersburg (where we could see ourselves living very comfortably) via the GIWW. Then down to Bradenton, Sarasota, Boca Grande and Ft. Meyers, completing the entire GIWW (and successfully managing the Miserable Mile) before re-entering the Gulf. A mooring ball in Ft Meyers Beach, a night at anchor in Factory Bay on Marco Island, and a run to Little Shark River on Cape Sable in the Everglades. For those who may be thinking of following in our wake someday, we’ll try to provide some additional details in the not too distant future. But suffice it to say that our plan to head south in early April has been spot on. For our three biggest legs to date: Pensacola to St. Joseph Bay, Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs, and south down Florida’s west coast from Sanibel to the Everglades, we’ve been able to ride the mild north winds behind weak late-season cold fronts. No 30 knot northers like we’d have seen in February or March, and no afternoon or evening thunderstorms like you’d expect to see in late May through October.  In fact, in the last 22 days, the only time we’ve had any significant rain at all was yesterday evening, when we were anchored in the Little Shark River in the Everglades.Recap6

I imagine it probably rains there almost every day, and the rain danced across the river like a scene from a Japanese block print rather than storm with menace. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the season has at least one more mild cold front to offer us so that we can again ride the gentle north winds south to Cuba. As May turns to June, the seasonal southeast winds usually fill in pretty strongly, winds that oppose the Gulf Stream that has to be crossed a couple of dozen miles south of the Keys. When wind opposes current, the seas turn turbulent, the boat pitches madly, and Rhonda becomes a very unhappy camper.

We called Boca Chica Marina at NAS Key West when we were several miles from crossing under Seven Mile Bridge (the marker that finally said to us “You’re in the Keys!!!”) and made a reservation for the remainder of the month.Recap8

Our plan has always been to try to secure a slip there, as it’s extremely affordable (as all MWR marinas are), has everything we need to be comfortable (water, power, ice, laundry, and of course a bar. And a restaurant too). And best of all, it’s only a 10 minute bike ride from Duvall Street in Key West. We’d kept our fingers crossed, and we got lucky. We should be moving there tomorrow morning.

The boat has performed extremely well.  We blew out one of our jib track stoppers on our first passage, but it was a $6 part, which we found in Bradenton. A small seawater leak from our engine’s vented loop just required some new hose clamps. And our steaming light has apparently expired, but we’re not doing much nighttime motor-sailing, so it’s not a problem and can wait until we get to the Rio Dulce to fix it (you sailors will understand). Our biggest problem? We picked up a bazillion mosquitoes in the Everglades, and we’re having to fumigate the boat to get rid of our new guests. So while I’ve been wanting for a while to have the time to whip out a quick blog post to let you all know how things are going, we could have done without being trapped in the cockpit for three hours while insecticide percolates below. But at least we planned ahead and had what we needed onboard.

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We hear you knocking but you can’t come in!

We’ve seen some really cool things and interesting places. We’ve had some less than optimal days (and nights). But all in all, the last three weeks have been a blast, and every bit the adventure we were hoping for. We can’t wait to see what’s next!