February 19th - The key to success in sailing – Part Three
Well, as I was saying, sailing successfully to a key, anyway…
When we left you, we’d anchored off the north side of Rodriguez Key and found a nice internet
connection. That connection allowed us to look at the weather
in detail. We were very encouraged. However, as is often the case, NOAA doesn’t get it entirely correct…
The next day was a bit cloudy, so our pre-arranged plan of diving
and sightseeing the harbor bottom was put on hold and naps and general laying-about ensued. As the wind
was scheduled to shift around to the South (going East, first, making for the continued lumpy water
, but still a very secure anchorage until that time), we’d have a sheltered location overnight.
We thought that it would be fun to dinghy
in for dinner, and so lowered the dinghy
and installed the outboard motor
. However, just as we started into the boat
, the rains came. We dashed inside and waited out the squall, and soon, the clouds parted, the winds died, and we set off for shore. Along the way we saw a catamaran
which had just anchored. He looked like a local, so we diverted to his side and chatted him up about where we might put ashore.
He advised a location which we found with no difficulty, and nearly immediately afterward, as we were still tying up, he zoomed in on his dinghy, with his dog riding up front. We waved and set out walking toward Snook’s, a popular local restaurant, Steve having been familiar with the area from having visited many times in his boat
No sooner do we get to the main drag’s corner, and turn onto the walkway, but here comes that sailor in a pickup truck and offers us a ride to the restaurant. As it was two miles away, that was a welcome surprise. However, like nearly everywhere else we’ve been, we continually are surrounded with the kindness of strangers. Likely, we’ll never see him again, but I’m sure there was no hesitation in his mind that we should ride with him!
Following the very nicely done dinner (atmosphere, presentation, quality), we walked it off, stopping along the way to enjoy an ice cream craftsman who made his own product in his store. As it was late at night (nearly 10), he’d just made most of what we ordered, and it was very soft. That didn’t impair the taste, however! In due course, we arrived back where we’d left the dinghy, finding it 25 feet from the water’s edge, the tide having gone out in our absence.
Dragging it back in the water
and getting the others loaded was not particularly challenging, but the sea state was definitely uncomfortable. The wind
had built in the East during our 4-or-so hours ashore, and the fetch had as well, making for a very wet – and very long - ride back to the boat with the wind and waves on our nose. I immediately fired up the generator
and made hot water and one after the other we all showered and got our salt
off us and warmed back up.
The next day dawned clear and with a light wind, from the south as promised. Give that the island was in the way, we had calm water and only light winds in the anchorage despite the forecasted 15-20 knots. The apparent light winds would come back to haunt us, but for the task at hand, it was ideal. Not wanting to do that the prior night, what with the dark and stormies outside, I started by getting the dinghy up after stowing the motor
and fuel tank
. We sailed off our anchorage, but as we would be transiting a fiddly part of a reef, and I wanted to make sure we had a backup I’d started the engine
after stowing the dinghy and motor and before lifting the anchor
The wind was perfect – we had a broad or beam reach the entire way out to and over the reef. We were making 6 knots in 10 apparent knots of wind, and the direction was entirely controllable on a very broad reach as we went Northeast up Hawk Channel. Eventually, we turned East to thread our way through the many coral
heads in Pennekamp State Park, on the way through the Molasses and Mosquito Reefs
on the way out to the Gulf Stream
We navigated closely, as there were numerous 1-6’ sections on our route
, and aside from the legal
ramifications of sea life protection, contacting any of them would not improve our day, either! We crossed a section of 7-9’ water, and it was a real gut-clencher to see the under-the-keel depth sounder
go through double, and then single
, digits on the way to just over 1!! Of course, that lasted only a couple of minutes, and soon the depths flew upward again.
As quickly as we left that area, we turned off the idling Iron Jenny backup, and enjoyed the solitude and silence. It was a great sail for a couple of hours, heading for the Gulf Stream
and its northward lift
. Unfortunately, the forecasted 15-20 South wind was more like 5-10, and as soon as we reached the Gulf Stream and headed North, our apparent wind dwindled to nothing. We’d expected to jibe our way North, keeping the wind to our aft quarter(s). However, there wasn’t enough to create any significant movement. Worse, the sea state was large swells from the prior few night’s strong north and east winds, and we were rolling and the sails
were crashing around as they filled and emptied with the motion.
So, I put up the staysail, rolled up the genny to a handkerchief meeting the inner stay, pulled all sails
blade tight to help dampen the roll, and turned on Perky. As much as I hate to run the engine
, we’d have been better off going to the Bahamas
than to try to get to Miami
then, as what little wind there was would have been fine if we’d been going East or West, but zero-zip-nada going north.
Fortunately, with Perky muscling along, and the Stream helping, along with the reduced roll due to the change in direction relative to the waves, things calmed down, and eventually we were doing more than 10 knots over the ground with our engine only at cruising revs. We tossed out the lines again, but caught nothing but a Bonita, which we cut up for bait, and even that (the lures, with fresh bait added) produced not so much as a nibble. So, our box score for the Gulf Stream, reputed to be among the very best fishing
in the Atlantic, remains Eating Fish
Two (the first being our trip on the way north last year), Flying Pig Zero.
We arrived off Miami’s entrance in good time, but continued on the Gulf Stream’s push beyond the entrance before we turned in. The wind, which had finally built to the forecasted amount, helped by the shoreline channeling it, then showed its real mettle, with 18 knots on the beam. I loosened the staysail and main, rolled out the genoa
and set all three, and soon we were blasting along toward the channel.
Once again, we enjoyed perfect conditions for about an hour’s sailing, enhanced by our intentional overshoot of the Government
Cut entrance. When we turned into the channel, the wind wouldn’t be to our advantage, so we got some more sailing for our time out, and, as well, we helped our timing by arriving somewhat later, meeting the requirements for safety
with the cruise
As there were cruise
ships coming out, we hailed one of them to see if we’d be able to go up Government
Cut this time. Fortunately, indeed, there were only two behind the first one, and despite the freighter traffic, we knew we were going to be OK. As the next one was already on the way out by the time we headed up the channel, we felt comfortable in going ahead without running afoul of the safety
Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We were at the crest of a flood tide, carrying us in, and assuring we’d not go aground when we turned the corner. The next cruise ship
passed us before we got to the commercial
section and, indeed, didn’t even have a patrol boat to keep the curious at bay. (The norm for the cruise ships is to have a patrol boat which demands that pleasure craft maintain a 300-foot separation from them.) The last boat had reversed and had already left the turning basin before we got there, and there were no incidents as we made the bridge and the corner. Sure enough, the water was thick enough that we didn’t bump as we did on the way out several days earlier!
Picking up the mooring
was pretty much a non-event, too, and we settled in for showers, soon lowering the dinghy for a trip ashore. Our guests took us to a fantastic Cuban dinner in an authentic Cuban diner, our first ever such experience. We waddled away from the enormous bounty presented, and hit the hay after a calm dinghy ride back to Flying Pig, our home.
Today, I took our guests to Sailorman, the famous salvage
and consignment store in Ft. Lauderdale, on the way to the airport
. Nothing exciting to report, other than to be reminded that there is every sort of marine service
you could possibly imagine in a one-mile radius, probably, of that location. We are so blessed to be provided with a mooring
and transportation, and be in the marine
capital of the US.
Tomorrow and the next several days will be devoted to our preparations for taking our next cruise. That will be a straight shot for about 300 miles, most of which will take advantage of the Gulf Stream’s lift
, again. That passage
will end with our putting Flying Pig on the ground for several months while we attend to shoreside chores and pleasures. But that story will have to wait for another time.
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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