Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time in Key West

Tuesday was our day to tour Key West, so we rented bicycles and from 9:30 Am to 9:30 PM, we went all over stopping at a few tourist sites we thought would be fun. The view from on top of the light house was great, and the Mel Fisher Museum was very interesting. Hitting a few key spots BUT too many places to chose from especially for eating. Cycling up and down the streets was a great way to see the city - you could ride slow enough to see, smell and hear everything, and parking was easy.  Key West is very bicycle friendly, with bicycle lanes in the major streets, and bike racks everywhere.  We missed our recumbents though.  It felt very strange to be sitting so high up - no where near as relaxing.  It was a beautiful, nearly cloudless day with low humidity and a cool breeze out of the north courtesy of the frontal passage that brought us rain the day before. Wednesday was supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation, but turned into boat chore day. Steve wanted to put a wire in to connect the GPS to the pactor modem so when we send position reports that information will automatically update. And as with all boat projects they tend to take longer than expected. And multiply.  While working on the wiring, we ran the generator to charge the batteries.  After an hour or so it overheated and shut down.  So the next project was figuring out what went wrong.  The first check was the water strainer on the sea water flow to the generator.  It was clean, so the next suspect was the sea water pump impeller.  To check that required dismatling a good part of the salon to get access to the pump - half an hour of work before even starting on the pump.  Another half hour to take the pump apart, check the impeller and find there is nothing wrong.  Reassemble, then back to the strainer.  Dismantling the hose from the through hull to the strainer finds it plugged with sea grass.  Problem solved!  But it still takes another hour or so to put everything back together, put away the tools, clean up, etc.  The old adage is true - cruising is the art of boat maintenance in exotic places.  A jump off the back of the boat into clear water for a swim helps remind us why we're doing this. And then there is the beautiful sunset at the end of the day that we stop and be thankful for this great life we are getting to live.

Thursday morning we will head over to the Dry Tortugas for a few days than come back here on our way up to Marathon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Going to Key West

We use one of the Naples City Dock lines already on the pylon to switch out with our bow line holding us in place so we can just toss it when we are ready to leave, what a muddy disgusting mess that made but it made it much easier leaving the slip with the 15 + knot winds. By 11 am we are on our way but I am still on the bow washing the mud off. Once out in the Gulf the spray from the 2--3 foot waves coming over the bow wash off anything I missed & any other dirt on deck. We have 15-20 knot winds on the nose, so we sail to wind with 1 reef in both main & jib doing 6+ knots bouncing through the waves heading a little west before turning south to the Keys. Later the winds start clocking east so we have full main & Jib out, still sailing 40⁰ to the wind but closer onto course. By dinner time we are sailing to course but still have 15 -20 knot winds, doing 7+ knots so we put 1 reef in both jib & main but still going too fast (will put us at the entrance of Key West at 3 AM) so we put triple reefs in both jib & main which slows us down to 4-5 knots. Now we are having trouble steering to course as the wind has shifted again so we are tacking our way down through confused rolling seas. Moon is a third full so we have great visibility, but nothing to see. We do see a huge school of fish just skimming the water looks like silver drops on top of the water. Either they are having a feeding frenzy on something floating on the surface OR they are trying to get away from something underneath them. It is amazing what you see out there on the open water. We try 3 hour on 3 hour off watches thinking that 4 on might be too long, and that gives us a little time to rest. By 8:30 Sunday morning we are right on course for the entrance to Key West with the wind on the nose so we roll up the jib & have the main out for stabilization. Start seeing fishing boats headed out for their day of fishing. As we get a visual sight on Key West we are both surprised to see that the Island has mountains. As we get closer & with the binoculars we finally can see that what we thought were Mountains are two cruise ships, which makes much more sense than Key West having mountains. As we go past the docked cruise ships it sure makes us feel really small as our 68’ mast does not even reach their first deck. We see all kinds of boats anchored out in several anchorages, but we will be going around the Island to a mooring field on the Northeast side. This will be my first time using a mooring so we talk it over & decide Steve will try to grab the mooring ball while I drive the boat. As he grabs it with the hook & tries to pull it up to get a rope looped in several things go wrong, one the mooring ball does not come up & two the boat starts drifting away & I forget to use the bow thruster to keep us close so the pull is too great & Steve cannot hold on, so the boat hook goes overboard. At least it is floating next to the mooring ball so Steve comes back to drive while I try to grab the boat hook and then the mooring ball. I am positioned on the swim platform to grab the hook as Steve Backs us up to it, but I can’t quite reach so I yell up “I’m going in” & jump in & get the hook hand it back up to Steve & he puts the ladder down so I can get back on the boat. So we have a new plan to back up to the mooring ball and get the line looped through than run it up the side of the boat to tie it to the cleats. That works BUT Steve then sees an orange tag that we THINK means that mooring ball is out of service so we release that ball & go look for another. As we are looking for a new one, one with more line to be able to pull it closer to the boat we see several without any line just a chain that does not look inviting, so we call the office asking for some help in finding one to use, and learn ones out of service have an orange flag that say do not use NOT an orange twist tie tag AND since we are at high tide there is NO slack in the mooring ball to get it any closer, and do not use the ones with chain as they will chafe your rope and are tagged to be replaced. So now we know that the first one we hooked was good to use and we have a system to grab it from the back of the boat. We go to that same mooring ball and the third time is the charm as we get our line through from the stern and run it up to the bow to tie it off. By 12:30 I have changed into dry clothes and we are having Bloody Marys on deck. After relaxing for a few minutes we have lunch then get the dinghy out & blown up and ready for use. Take showers to get cleaned up – I am very salty from my little swim. As I am in the shower I hear Steve talking to some people who came up by dinghy, who had just helped someone new coming into the mooring field, and came by to say they were sorry they were not out to help us when we came in – so was I. We take the dinghy into the “secure “dinghy dock to check in then walk into town. Sure could use some of those 20 knot winds now as it is a hot walk so first thing to do is find a place to get some water and a drink to cool us off. We walk around finding our way to the tourist hot spots, finding the piers where the cruise ships were when we came, Duval St & and Mallory square. Checking out things to come back & see & do while we are here. Enjoy a great Cuban dinner then a late night dinghy ride back to the boat. Monday morning we were expecting rain but it looked like it was going to be a nice day, but the weather prediction came true & by late morning till late afternoon it rained washing the salt off the boat from our trip down. Used the time to catch up on emails, etc. etc. and make plans for touring the Island on Tuesday. 4 PM sun comes out & it clears up. Spend a relaxing late afternoon in the cockpit reading & watch another beautiful sunset.

To see pictures click on link

Saturday, April 24, 2010


to see pictures

We have a sunrise departure on Thursday from our anchorage to continue down the ICW to the Sanibel Causeway Bridge where we will cross under and out into the Gulf to continue down to Naples. It is a beautiful day as we travel south with the beautiful Islands of Captiva & Sanibel a mile to the west & Pine Island 2-3 miles off to the East. We have to make sure we do not leave the ICW channel as the water off o either side is only 3 feet deep. By 9:30 we are passing St. James City, another good anchorage we heard but we will not be stopping here. After that we turn into what is called the miserable mile, it is actually very scenic BUT it is even more narrow here and the water off to the sides can be as shallow as 1 foot. The other problem is the small power boats & fishing boats are zooming up & down making it a very busy section. They say sail boats need to beware on the weekends and really watch out if it is a holiday weekend. By 10:30 we pass under the bridge 70’ clearance and are back out into the green waters of the Gulf. Winds are too light for sailing so we have the main up & motor running. Winds pick up a little so we put the jib out & throttle back a little so it is not as noisy. By 3:30 we are turning up the channel to go up the Gordon River to Naples to the City Dock where we top off with 25 gallons of diesel and get a slip for a night or two so we can provision for our trip down to the Keys. After settling in & getting cleaned up we walk into “town” to 5th avenue the shopping & restaurant street. All kinds of activity going on, shops are all open people walking around, come to find out they were having a wine tasting event that night. You could get a ticket to go around to all the different restaurants and sample some wine & food. We got there too late to take advantage of that BUT all the stores were still open so we could walk the street and look around. They had a White & Black store that now has BLUE – when did that happen, saw a beautiful silver bracelet that I was so tempted to buy, & passed by Cache it was tough not to go in & look! TOO soon to think about buying anything. Found a great restaurant to eat at special of two full meals & salad plus a bottle of wine for just $35. Nice walk back to the boat to make up for the bread served with dinner.

Friday we take a 3 mile walk to West Marina and Publix for supplies, have lunch out & catch a taxi ride back to the boat. Steve spends the afternoon working on a new boat project fixing the pump out for the head, seems the dip tube inside tank came off so it won’t pump out. Too much trouble to take the tank out so got some good advice from Raymond back home and Steve puts in a T to connect the pump out line to the bottom of the tank.

Saturday afternoon we leave for Key West, should take us about 16 hours so we will arrive sunrise Sunday morning.  Will post link to pictures when we get to Key West - Steve says I have to shut down to get ready to pull out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Useppa Island & Cabbage Key

Monday 4/19 we make it out of the Collins neighborhood without any depth issues. It is another beautiful sunshine day with very light winds so we are motoring with the Main out doing 6-7 knots. We will head south and instead of going back into the Gulf, this part of our trip will be via the ICW (intracostal waterway). By 3:30 we are anchored just off Useppa Island. We get the dinghy out, inflate it and in the water. Steve gets the motor on, as I am handing him the lock a part of it falls into the water - GONE! Even though he wants to strangle me, he doesn't and controls his emotions. The lock still works, just not as good as it did/should. I feel horrible and will never hand anything over to the dinghy again without BOTH hands holding on for dear life. By 4:30 we take a dinghy ride over to Cabbage Key and walk around the trail, go up the water tower before going to the restaurant for a drink. The restaurant is known for its "wall paper" it is covered with $1.00 bills that everyone who comes by signs with their name or boat name and tapes the $1 bill to the wall. It is estimated that they have about $70,000.00 on the wall, about $10,000 falls off each year and that gets donated to charity. We go back to the boat for sunset from the cockpit, do a Skype call to my nephew Dylan so he can see where we are.

Tuesday 4/20 another beautiful day, This is dinghy exploring day !!! First we go all around Useppa Island - a private Island so we can't land anywhere, have an "appointment" to go ashore on Wednesday to see the museum. Than we drive around Cabbage Key and over to Cayo Costa which is a long barrier Island between the Gulf & ICW, that is mostly uninhabited and part of the State Park. We explore north at first than head back to Cabbage Key for lunch. After lunch walk down to docks, and people are pointing and taking pictures of something in the water.  We figure "manatees!", and rush to see.  Wrong.  It was a mama otter and her baby.  Junior got a bit disturbed when mama disappeared and was swimming frantically around the harbor calling for her.  She eventually appeared and they swam off together.  We verify directions to the tunnel of love with the dockmaster - a passage cut out of the mangroves through the Island of Cayo Costa to a little lagoon a few yards away from the Gulf. We find the tunnel of love and wind our way through - what an amazing sight going through / under all this foliage. Then once over the sand dune, it is an unbelievable sight turquoise water and deserted white sand beaches. This Island is only accessible by small boat, so is almost always practically deserted. We walk down a couple of miles looking at all the shells washed ashore, they say after a storm this is the place to get to first for premium shell finds. There is NO trash anywhere in sight so the combo of very few people coming here & the State Park workers they do an amazing job of keeping the beach clean of all trash. As we walk back, there a 3 other couples that have come through on their dinghys so we visit with them. They are locals from Punta Gorda anchored near Pelican bay & know the Collins - small world. Back through the tunnel of love into open waters and back to the boat, later Steve prepares another wonderful dinner. It was a fabulous day! Later that evening we hear another boat coming into anchor, they are close but it is dark so we can’t see them well, the next morning we see it is Polyphonic the boat & couple we met up in Venice. They are now traveling with friends stopping here before going to Key West. They are headed to Cayo Costa today as Steve and I go over to Useppa for our appointment to go see the museum. The Island is a private Island and very quaint and very beautiful in the “old Florida” style. Early evening Jeff & Jane and their friends come over for a visit. We will be a day or so behind them going down to the keys but will try to meet up again down there. It has been a fabulous three days here on the ICW.  TOO many pictures to post, they are on facebook & I will try to get a link to all the pictures OR select a few and post them.

Weekend in Punta Gorda

Saturday Joanne & I try to go to a farmers market only to find out it has been canceled due to the Punta Gorda block party going on that day. We find out there will be four music stages with different artists throughout the day so plan to return with the guys later in the day. Stop at the grocery store, Joanne with a list me without one, not sure what we will need but pick up a few items knowing we will still need to come back with a “list”. We get back to the Collins’s and Steve has washed off the boat and fixed the water maker hose leak. We have lunch and head back down to the festival to hear some live music. One of the acts Jim Morris we want to see gets delayed due to a rain shower, but the rain lets up enough for him to play his set. 

 Rain chances are increasing so we decide to leave & swing by Fisherman’s Village (a marina & shops & restaurants) local tourist attraction. We go back to Joanne & Richards for dinner, they grill steaks Steve makes a green bean & potato recipe and I make a spinach salad
 = A great dinner. Sunday the rain really catches up to us and it RAINS ALL DAY. But that does not stop us; first we go to brunch at the Isle Yacht Club and have a wonderful breakfast. Than we drive out to Burnt Store Marina, to try to see the manatee’s that are in the marina. We do get to see them but the water is dark & with the clouds they are hard to see.

nose sticking up

 Stop at Home Depot on the way back to the house taking advantage of it being on the way (always something you need from Home depot). Joanne & Richard than take us by a model home of the builder building their new home. Once back Steve makes a real grocery list to provision the boat for the next leg of our trip & goes to the store. Steve prepares a great meal giving Joanne some of his recipes, and the four of us enjoy another great dinner. It has been a great weekend visiting with friends, Monday is another sunshine beautiful day & by noon we are leaving the dock and headed out to Charlotte Harbor heading south,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Venice & Punta Gorda

Wow it has been a busy few days so I have some catching up to do. We spent an extra day at anchor up in Pass-a-Grill / Egmont key. Steve went in the cold water to clean prop and bottom of boat; found it is much harder to stay down in the salty water than it was back in Offats. We had a relaxing day Steve made a fabulous dinner (using every pan on the boat, guess who had cleanup duty!). Thursday by 8 AM we were on our way out of the anchorage. Glad that we have the wash down pump now as the last 2 times at anchor it has been mud to wash of , not sand that just fell off. We motor sail out into the Gulf with just the jib out, by 9:30 we turn south and we have 20 knot winds on the beam , have 1 reef in the jib full main and cruising down the gulf at 8+ knots. A few more clouds today BUT still a beautiful day. By 3 we are docked at the Crows Nest Marina in Venice. Great little place and town. They have free "bikes" we can use so we peddle into "downtown" Venice - missing our former bikes the whole time we are riding. All kinds of little shops, but since we just got rid of everything we are not in the buying market - still hard not to look! We did get a little 20 minute shower early that evening but we are sure enjoying our run of great luck with the weather so far. We meet another sailing couple Jeff and Jean on a 51' ketch with a 7' draft, 70' mast . ( So we get all kinds of local and beyond knowledge from them as to where we can go that we will "fit". They are planning on heading to the keys around the same time we should be so hope to meet up with them again. Friday 4/16 we have a sunrise departure from Venice-

We have a great sail down to Charlotte Harbor and by noon we are entering the channel.  Have to motor up the channel but once in and turn north towards Punta Gorda we put the sails back up and are doing 9+ knots with a reefed jib.  We make contact with friends Richard and Joanne Collins who we are going to visit and they are just ahead of us returning from their own few days out cruising to a marina at a near by Island.  Richard had sent us the info on how to get to their rental house / dock as they will leave their boat at the local yacht club they belong to so we can keep our boat behind their house.  By 3 we are tied up at their dock.  

Later that night we go to dinner and watch another fabulous sunset, Life is good.


Will continue the Punta Gorda update on next blog BUT as you can see I have received some very helpful tips from Richard on how to do my blog postings :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pictures from Egmont Key

Coming in to Pass-a-Grill Channel

Our anchorage

Sailing to Egmont Key

This is the 5th leg of our journey, just a short little trip down the coast. We have a great sail down to Egmont key with 15 knot winds on the beam, flat seas, emerald green water, blue skies just a beautiful day. Doing 6-8 knots so by 2 we are in Pass -a-Grill channel and by 3 we are anchored. The old saying of Cruising is boat maintenance in pretty places is coming true. On the way down we were running the water maker and heard the bilge pump going. Sure enough we have a small hole in the tube running from the water maker. Found the leak, now we have to find a place to get the fitting to splice the tube . In the meantime we have plenty of water just can't make our own right now. We enjoy another beautiful sunset from the cockpit of the boat with dolphins swimming near by.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Away from the marina

One of the "party" boats going by
Relaxing at anchor with a margarita :)

Our dock for the last week

We lucked out and got a phone # from the marina for a canvas shop who actually answered the phone on Sunday. Seems they work out of their house so the # we had was their home # as well as their business #. They did not do tube work but recommended someone who did. We called them & left a message explaining our situation. Monday morning when Steve called back we were told someone was on their way to the Marina. He arrived around 10 & by 2:30 that afternoon we had the repaired tube back. It was too late to head out to our next destination, but we did not need to stay in the slip at the marina for another night. The marina was very convenient, but costly, and we like hanging on the hook much better. So later that afternoon we untied the dock lines and went out about 200 yards to anchor out overnight. Tuesday morning we will continue south stopping at Egmont key to anchor out again before continuing on to Venice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tried to leave Clearwater

Well we had a plan, to fuel up and leave Clearwater this morning & do a short trip to Egmont Key to anchor out overnight before heading down to Venice. As we were trying to leave the fuel dock a combination of strong tide & wind gust caught us and we were pushed over into the boat pier dock. The bow thruster was not strong enough to straighten us out and I was not strong enough to push us off. The anchor roller on a Viking 60' fishing boat caught our bimini tubing and bent it. A boat fender bender. So back to the fuel dock , regrouped & decided it would be best to stay here in Clearwater to arrange to have it fixed on Monday. Hopefully if they can not straighten it out which is probably unlikely they will be able to bend a new one into the right shape & we can put it back on & be on our way Tuesday.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Getting ready to leave Clearwater

As we are enjoying Clearwater and our long afternoon walks on the beach. Finding a new afternoon stopping place to have a drink . It is time to make plans for our next destination. We are finding that with our 6'3" draft and our 68' mast height we are limited to the places we can go. So some of our recommended stops will have to be altered. I switched out some of my heavy clothes for shorts & tank tops BUT at night it is still pretty cool, so I am keeping some lighter weight sweats on hand. Hopefully in another week or two we can put those away also. The front predicted to come in Friday afternoon arrived around Midnight Thursday with the winds picking up, and the rain starting around 1 AM. Sounded like it rained most of the night and Friday was another beautiful day. We did another grocery store run while we new where one was close, used our "cart" that we got for this very reason & it worked great. Which unfortunately is more than I can say for the pactor modem Steve received back from California today and reinstalled BUT could still not get it to work correctly. He is not too happy about that, has a call into the company and waiting on a call back to see what he is doing wrong /missing to get it to work correctly. The fun learning curve of new things :) is not always so fun. He finally got it to work with the usb connection BUT still unable to get the bluetooth connection to work. A few boat chores taken care of and things are ready to go. Saturday they had a 5 K & 15 K Iron Girl Race / walk so we got up early to watch the start of that. Some of the racers had trouble with traffic & parking so they delayed the start a little. Some of the 5 K runners were already returning as we walked back to the boat. I'm sticking to afternoon walks on the beach. Sunday morning we will head out and have to by pass Sarasota due to the depth in the channel being too shallow. We will anchor out off Egmont Key for a night than head to Venice and anchor a night or two there. Than we will meet up with fellow TMCA members Richard & Joanne Collins who just recently moved to Punta Gorda from Dickinson Texas.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spending time in Clearwater

Wednesday 4/7 we are still in Clearwater and will be here till Saturday, the week rate at the marina is the same as 5 days, and the part Steve is waiting to be mailed back will arrive on Friday. A small front will be passing Friday afternoon so we will stay put until than & head down the coast on Saturday. Weather is great, warm days with a cool sea breeze, cool at night need a jacket. We have NOT had to use the A/C just open the hatches during the day and it stays comfortable. In the evening, it cools down so we have to close all the hatches. We are a 5 minute walk to the beach and have many restaurants to choose from all within a 30 minute walk. So staying put in Clearwater for a week is NOT a problem. This is a great place to walk around and people watch, or just hang in the cockpit of the boat reading, and talk to people as they walk by. It is getting hard to tell what day it is as we get up when we want & do what we want when we want with NO schedule to keep. I am thinking this is a great way to spend the next 7-10 years. We have this Mega Yacht staying at the marina. A 106 foot Lazzara called Stop the Press, she is for sale for 5.6 million if anyone is interested :). You have our word she is beautiful from our view looking across the marina at her. We found a web site to see what she looks like inside WOW !!! in our next life we want one of these LOL. For some reason they came over to the fuel dock today she takes 4000 + gallons of fuel! Not sure how much they put in BUT it took them 31/2 hours to fuel up. Talk about high maintenance. While we were at Best Buy Steve forgot that he had wanted to pick up some Bose noise canceling headphones, so sweet Gina went by there & picked them up for him and delivered them to the boat. WOW do they ever cancel out the noise & NO they are not so he can tune me out they are for when the engine is running and he is trying to use the single side band radio. Steve is cooking on board tonight first time to cook since we left. He had made several dinners that we froze & heated up on the trip over, but no cooking underway. So he is enjoying preparing a nice meal for us tonight.

Pictures from Clearwater