Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FL Keys: Week 1

We spent the past week sailing downwind from Dinner Key, Miami to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, FL. Turns out the Florida Keys are uber shallow and difficult to sail and anchor close to land. We have been sailing within a range of 6-15 feet most of the way south. With clear, sandy bottoms you need to keep your eyes peeled with regard to what's ahead...a patch of white sand or I might run aground kind-of shallow. We typically covered b/w 20-25NM each day and felt like real cruisers.

Sailing from Dinner Key to Sands Key, we ran into an old friend in the middle of Biscayne Bay who we met in Lake Sylvia back in Ft. Lauderdale. He saw our unique red and navy sails and made an eager b-line for Aletheia. At first, we thought who the heck is this?! Then we recognized his lovely hull and shouted "Hey Tom!" He wanted more ketchup! He was on his way back up to Lauderdale to put his visiting granddaughter on a flight back to NY. Since they had an extra day to spare, he dropped the hook where we planned to anchor in Sands Key. We enjoyed dinner and drinks and breakfast on his m/v Dasher. We made a fresh batch of ketchup too!

Warm, clear waters!
At anchor at Sands Key
Our buddy Tom!
Small storm passing overhead
Sands Key sunet
After a fun and fiery evening with dinner and maybe one to many RumChata's (think Bailey's but with rum), we weighed anchor the following morning for a quick sail to Billy's Point, about 8NM south in Biscayne Bay. We quickly dropped the hook, went for a swim in our birthday suits and enjoyed the clear warm waters. Nate reset the anchor since it was lying on its side. It helped that the water was so clear to be able to see it and fix it. No big deal, so he reset it, pointy side down. Some hull and bottom scrubbing was also in order. 

No wind today!
We're in about 10ft of water
The following morning we decided to find a bit of shelter even further south because a cold front was approaching from the southwest with forecasted winds b/w 20-25kts and t-storms. With minimal choices of anchorages due to exposure and shallow waters, we tucked ourselves in Angelfish Creek after a leisurely daysail around Card Sound. There really aren't designated anchorages; however, they do tell you where not to anchor. So we avoid those areas and use our chart to determine what the best protection will be from forecasted winds with water depth being a large factor. 

They say there are two types of sailors in this world: Sailors who run aground and liars. Well, in our case we cannot tell a lie! We entered Angelfish Creek with a bit of wind on our nose. We dropped the hook and eventually our keel hit bottom as the anchor was catching. Seafloors are obviously not flat either! We used our secondary anchor for the second time to kedge off the bottom. Nate took the hook and dropped it about 70 ft from Aletheia. We tried to pull her off the bottom with the stern anchor, but with a 2kt current against us and stiff winds, it was nearly impossible. So, there we sat for about 4 hours waiting for the tide to turn and each time we heard the approaching hum of a powerboater who would eventually waked us, we cringed each time she hit bottom. Finally, as the tide turned in our favor, we got into Boatworks, I rowed hard (grunting like a super heavy weight lifter) while Nate weighed the stern anchor to reset it, twice. Who needs kettleballs and crossfit when you can kedge! Thankfully we got off the bottom and rested in 8ft of water as a lovely thunderstorm passed overhead, protected in our little private anchorage.
After our kedge workout - she floats!
Happy post-bath. Relieved to be floating still!
We had a lovely day sail the following mid-morning south to Rodriguez Key where we spent one night at anchor. Again, due to shallow waters, we don't get terribly close to land and anchored about 1.25 miles out. Here we tried to protect ourselves from forecasted winds from the Northeast. Too long to row ashore so we enjoyed views from our boat. At this point we hadn't been on land in 5 days since the night before we left Dinner Key on March 23. Both of us got a little cabin fever at this point. Once we arrived at Long Key, we took the .65m row into shore to visit Long Key State Park - our first land excursion since leaving Dinner Key. 

Just add potatoes!
5 days of trash 
Cowboy Nate with main and fore sheet reigns steering the boat
Rodriguez Key sunset
Sailing towards Long Key
Cute cormorant visitor until he started to shit on our boat
Long Key sunset
The past week we've had beautifully consistent NNE winds b/w 10-20 kts with following seas and sunny skies to carry us towards Marathon, FL. We arrived here feeling very welcome, like we just arrived at summer camp. We reserved a mooring ball for the month of April, moored on ball #Q9 (see us here!). This is our second mooring ball, the only other one being in Blue Hill, ME. And that one was "on the house"! The Boot Key community has been incredibly friendly and helpful so far. There are lots of Women Who Sail ladies here so I hope to meet some during our stay. I've met my first famous sailing author from The Boat Galley, she is on a neighboring mooring ball. I told her I have her cookbook all marked up. Maybe I'll even have her autograph it. 
There are many summer camp activities going on here within the cruising/harbor community, and I've heard basketweaving is one of them! Tonight we're going to Burdines Waterfront for some live music and we're told they have the best french fries in the keys. We'll see about that! This morning we went out for breakfast at Harbor Hillbillies, my first floating food truck! A young couple from Missouri fell in love with the Keys community and created this awesome concept. The floating kitchen is located just strokes away from Aletheia. It works like a dinghy drive-thru for carry out breakfast. You may stay to enjoy your hot breakfast tied up in your dinghy or as take-away back to your boat. Prices are reasonable. I had the "Brakefuss Sammich" (egg, cheese, bacon on a biscuit for $4). Nate enjoyed the "Mash" (potatoes, sausage, egg, onion and pepper for $7). The floating kitchen is near one month old, but I imagine business will be booming for years to come!

Flag is out, business is open!
It's been one week since we left Miami and a lot of experiences have happened since our departure, even within the last 24 hours of our Boot Key arrival! For the next month, we'll explore land and water before our trip up north towards the Chesapeake around May 1st. There is a great bus system that we will utilize so we can see more of the keys that we passed on our way down, including Islamorada. We'll also make our way down to Key West, visit some local landmarks, including Ernest Hemingway's home. Have you visited the Florida Keys and would recommend landmarks that are a must see?!
Entering Boot Key Harbor
Our property. First mooring since Blue Hill, ME
Love to all,
Jenn & Nate

P.S Happy Easter & Happy Pesach to family and friends near and far!

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