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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Setting Sail and Bidding Goodbye to Key West...

Setting sail and bidding adios to Key West wasn't hard to do in the least and with tax season having concluded and with me no longer earning a paycheck, and with a favorable weather window on hand, it was an easy decision to hoist sails and haul my ass on out of there.

Yep, I'd grown tired of the frivolity of the Key West lifestyle and of its high cost of living and of everything even remotely associated with tourist.

Not that there is is anything wrong with tourist per se, for tourist are but ordinary folks chasing a good time before having to head on back to their respective homes and to the daily grind of commuting to and from work.

Yet the real fact of the matter is that I'd grown weary of the so-called cruising lifestyle and of all its inconveniences. And it's not like I'd sailed the Seven Seas either or even so much as done any occasional sailing.

So it was easy for me to conclude that it was high time that I cease being but a vagrant on a boat and simply get on with the rest of my life.

Admittedly, I simply never got around to embracing the so-called cruising lifestyle this time around as apart from when I previously sailed along with my then wife aboard S/V BratCat back in '88 and '89.

The daily exhilaration of cruising just wasn't there for me this time around which leads me to believe that companionship of all things might perhaps be the key to joy no matter what one might be endeavoring to do whether it be taking the dog for a walk or grilling burgers together out in the back yard.

In any event, Day One (May 8th) got off to an inauspicious start. I was kinda, sorta late in pulling away from the mooring ball in Garrison Bight and of later motor sailing on out the Key West Channel against the oncoming tidal current.

Yep I know. I briefly went on over to the "dark side" and cranked up the motor as apart from attempting to sail on out through the channel.

I'd simply forgotten just how strong the currents can be in that channel and it seemed like forever to finally get on past the cruise ships on the south end of the channel and then on out to open waters were I could later hoist Blondie's sails in earnest.

I suppose that I should have done a little research before departing and made sure that I'd be departing with an outgoing current. But ya'll should know me by now... I couldn't be bothered.

Besides the NBA playoffs had started... that and the fact that there was plenty of cold beer to be imbibed at a nearby local pub might have had something to do with it.

So yeah, I'll be the first to admit that for better or worse my attention was elsewhere and not on the Key West Channels' incoming and outgoing currents.

And so with light south-easterly winds I proceeded to set sail for Bahia Honda. Unfortunately for me however it was slow sailing. There was simply no way that I'd make Bahia Honda some thirty-five miles away before night fall.

So with noon approaching, I happened to sight some sailboats at anchor off in the distance near Stock Island and elected to drop an anchor as well. I'd set sail in earnest the following morning at daybreak.

However to Blondie's misfortune, low tide had started to set in and Blondie's keel was soon resting on the bottom. Fortunately a passing boater was gracious enough to pull my boat out into deeper water.

(memo to self: check the tides before anchoring and don't assume that that larger sailing vessel you see at anchor out there draws more than you do.)

Ooops... a super new moon... combined with low tide ain't a good thing.

At anchor, Day 1.

Well needless to say, it felt good to get on out of the hot sun. In any event those light southeasterly winds simply weren't pushing me along fast enough and in hindsight it was a good decision to drop an anchor and sail another day.

At the very least I had finally committed to getting underway and had now departed Key West in earnest.

Day two, daybreak.

With a pot of coffee already brewed, I pulled up anchor and hoisted sails just as the sun started to peek over the horizon. Winds were still relatively light but were forecasted to shift on out of the south for an easy sail on to Bahia Honda.

Well it was indeed an easy sail. Too easy as a matter of fact. A little more wind would have been most welcomed but Blondie did eventually sail on into Bahia Honda sometime in the late afternoon.

And with a swift oncoming current flowing out from that anchorage, I had to once again go on over to the "dark side" and crank up the outboard motor for a little assistance.

Once inside that anchorage I was only too happy to drop the sails and anchor and later row my inflatable ashore to use the Park's outdoor rinse for a nice cool shower. Fortunately there weren't any fat German tourist lurking around in their speedos unlike the previous time I'd made a stop there.

Afterwards I treated myself to not just one but two lemon ice teas out of the vending machine before rowing my inflatable back on out to the boat for the evening. And I don't recall Arizona lemon ice tea ever tasting so good if the truth be told.

The following morning was more of the same. I rowed ashore, loitered about the Park premises, and did my best to stay out of the bright sunlight. Once again there didn't seem to be much wind blowing so I was somewhat content to stay put until it did pick up.

Well it wasn't until eleven in the morning or so that the coconut tree palms finally started swaying whereupon I hurriedly rowed back out to the boat, hoisted sails, pulled up anchor and got underway.

Before long Blondie was scooting on out of Bahia Honda and on towards Moser Channel and out under the Seven Mile Bridge.

What can I say other than, "If It Don't Blow, I Don't Go"...

It was a sail that took longer than anticipated but once safely on the intercoastal side and in relatively shallow waters, I again dropped the sails and set an anchor for the evening.

I'd worry about sailing on to Marathon in the morning when I wasn't quite so exhausted and overheated.

Poking along on towards the Seven Mile Bridge, Day 3.

At anchor, intercoastal side of the Seven Mile Bridge, Day 3.

Early morning, Day 4.

A quick early morning sail to Keys Fisheries in Marathon. Day 4. No need to hoist the main that morning. Within an hour or two I was once again at anchor.

Me eagerly awaiting for 1 pm to roll around and for the Keys Drinkeries Tiki Hut to open up for business so that I could then indulge in a few cold Heinekens that just happened to have my name written on them. Hey... we's all gots our own priorities ya know.

Later that evening I trekked a little ways to Daffy Doug's Discount Store and purchased a few provisions for the rest of my sail on up to Cape Sable and later on to Marco Island.

This time I was sure to scrutinize my receipt and ensure that I wasn't overcharged like the previous time I had been in there. Yeah, you can say that I'm still hacked-off over being overcharged the last time I was in there.

Early morning, Day 5.

Day five was pretty much a non-event insofar sailing was concerned. I had intended to set sail for Cape Sable that morning but it was pretty much a no-go from the get-go.

Light winds made for slow progress and I eventually got tired of baking in the sun and dropped a hook a few miles north off of Fat Deer Key.

NOA Weather Radio was forecasting 10-15 mile an hour winds out of the east for the next coming days so there was no sense in attempting to slog it out. I'd wait for the winds to pick up for my twenty mile sail on up to Cape Sable.

Early morning, Day 6.

Winds did indeed pick up as forecasted and with the dinghy now deflated and securely stored aboard the boat, I reefed the main and set off for Cape Sable at a good clip. Blondie was finally gliding swiftly across the water.

It was indeed an easy sail on past Cape Sable and before long Blondie was leaving Middle Cape and Northwest Cape in her wake.

That's when a previously forecasted weather system or whatever weather folks call inclement weather, overtook Blondie and a few other nearby sailing vessels.

Fortunately Blondie's mainsail was already reefed when overtaken by that squall. Not long thereafter I was dropping an anchor off of the entrance to Little Shark River and calling it a day.

It didn't make any sense to me to follow two other sailing vessels I'd seen earlier on into the mouth of that river so I didn't.

Hey, what can I say other than I ain't no dummy... I know damned well that there are blood-thirsty mosquitoes in that alligator infested mangrove just waiting for some unsuspecting sailor to come upon them.

And you can also forget about me wanting to take a quick dip into the water to cool off in some forsaken place called Little Shark River for if there are little sharks lurking about, then surely their parents can't be too far off along.

I did nevertheless turn on my handheld radio and then proceed to eavesdrop in on a conversation among the two skippers at anchor. One skipper commented to the other that his anemometer, whatever that might be, had recorded a reading of 39 miles an hour at one point.

That must have been while his boat was motoring on in towards Little Shark River and when his boat suddenly appeared to be all greyed-out by the storm and was now going backwards of all things while Blondie continued to swiftly sail on forwards.

Approaching inclement weather. Somewhere off of Middle Cape.

Early morning, Day 7.

Day Seven was pretty much a non-event. I pulled up anchor first thing in the morning only to then observe the other two sailing vessels do likewise. Those two "powerboats" then proceeded to swiftly motor on past me and before long were soon out of sight.

Oh well... Blondie happens to be a sailboat and she ain't got an inboard engine to push her along and dat be dat.

And with Blondie casually sailing along, Ponce de Leon Bay was soon but an afterthought along with Highland Point, Lost Man's River, Indian Key Pass and the rest of the Ten Thousand Islands.

Me enjoying a little shade courtesy of my portable bimini while sailing in light winds. Dang... I can only hope that no one saw me... Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Late afternoon, Day 8.

Marco Island at last.

And not unlike your typical Betty Ford Clinic patient, I am what one would call, "Back Again"...

Me measuring the depth of the water with my sophisticated depth sounder. Marco Island.

Easy sailing with five toes on the tiller while en route to Sand Key some five or so miles offshore from Key West. S/V BratCat, 1989.

Last day aboard S/V Blondie-Dog as a liveaboard. From here on out I be but a day sailor!