Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Key West to Marco Island Sunday May 14 (Scott and Sue’s 18th!)

We begin our trek north with the ultimate goal being Clearwater Fl. by making a run to Marco (Polo) Island. This is a run of about 90 miles from Key West at a heading of about 10 degrees. We always figure on averaging about 5 knots so this run will take us about 18 hours. We like to arrive to new places in daylight so we decide to leave good old Key West at 6 pm and sail through the night. The day of our departure we go to the Conch Marina for diesel, gas and water. A new problem crops up then…Back when we had the fuel ‘scrubbed’ we opened the tank at the fuel gauge port. This port has a rubber gasket and the (non working ) mechanical fuel gauge above it screwed to the tank with 5 machine screws. We noticed at the time that some of these screws were stripped. I tried to put in sheet metal screws and a new gasket at the time and thought I had things down tight. Upon filling the fuel right up to the deck level (no working gauges so I have to do it by sound…what?) I then noticed diesel on top of the fuel tank and into the bilge! Apparently the gasket is not down tight and with about 3 feet of hydrostatic pressure (dieselstatic?) it oozed out of the tank. We cleaned that up with absorb pads and decided that the bigger problem would be if water got on top of the tank and oozed IN. When I get to Clearwater I’ll drill out all 5 holes and move up one screw size and re-tap. Anyway, I love the smell of diesel in the morning!
We then moved over to the east side of Christmas Tree Island and hung out for the afternoon and prepared the boat and ourselves for a night sale. This means rigging jacklines on both sides of the boat, making sure our tethers are ready, checking flashlights, laying in a course on the GPS and so forth. At 6pm, after a spaghetti dinner for our long run, we headed out the northwest channel out of the Key West area. This is very wide and well marked. Once you get to bell buoy #1 you can turn and head direct to Capri Pass 80 miles almost due north by Marco (Polo) Island.

We were able to set sail around that buoy and sail our course on a broad reach in about 10 knots of south east wind. We were making between 4 and 5 knots. The sun set was spectacular in a perfectly blue sky followed by even more spectacular sail under the stars. We love sailing at night. We tried to set the autohelm so the helmsperson could sit back at the helm and enjoy the ride and the stars. It ain’t working! I thought I had fixed this some time ago but now it is not getting any signals from the compass at all. Nothing. Hand steering through a long night can get tedious especially for one with a short attention span. Scott! He’s all over the map when he steers. However, sailing north is easy on a clear night because rather than stare down at the compass you can stare at the north star! We found we could position ourselves with respect to the mast so that when the north star was just to the right of the mast we were on our plotted course. Well of course you can do this….this is how most of the planet was discovered! At one point Scott saw a shooting star that looked like the ones they draw in cartoons. It looked like a fiery snow ball and it covered about half the sky.

We took 2-3 hour hunks at the helm depending on how we felt. Around midnight the wind pooped out and we began to motor sail with just the reefed main up. (We always reef the main at night no matter what!) The nearly full moon had come up and as it got high in the sky, washed out many of the stars but we could still see the north star and use it to sail by. It is so good to be on the move again! We love the sound of the boat moving through the water. We love the feeling of aloneness when you look all the way around and only see the horizon. No lights, no boats, no shore. It is a weird and wonderful feeling and we never (yet) tire of it.

Sleep happens in 2-3 hour hunks and is not as sound as when you are on the anchor. Around 7 am we spotted the southern tip of Marco Island…Land HO! We’re a little tired and ready to put the hook down. Around noon we were finding our way into Capri Pass at the north end of the island (see photo at left). This leads up the Marco (Polo) river to a place to anchor in Factory Bay. But wait…it doesn’t look like the chart at all! There is supposed to be a center channel buoy AFTER you pass Coconut Island but we encounter that buoy (or is it?) before we even get to land. Go on? We turn back and go out the channel while working the charts, binoculars, and computer charts. We encounter a sailboat coming out and ask them, “Which way in?” I can see the river and I can see red markers up in the river but the center channel buoy has me thrown. These guys wave there hands and seem to say that you can just head up the river. We try. When the depth sounder went down to 2 feet under the keel Scott rammed it (the boat) into reverse and back out we went. Scott is for continuing north at this point and Sue wants to try again. Sue wins. This time we call Sea Tow (note: we’ve learned earlier that the Coast Guard will NOT give you any navigation help or info on water depths. They are afraid of being sued.) Sea Tow guy was very helpful and told me yes I DID have to take that center channel to port and yes buoyage has changed since last hurricane season and yes, well, the hurricanes pretty much took Coconut Island with them! The lesson: Have up to date charts. Mine are brand new! If you’re not sure get some local knowledge. We also called a local marina for help coming in and they were also helpful. Nobody likes to look like a fool by asking for help but believe us: There is NOTHING more foolish looking than a sailboat sitting sideways on a shoal. ASK!

We came easily up the river now and made our way to the anchorage area. The little Factory bay is surrounded by homes and tall condos. There is room for about 3 boats in the anchorage and we’re number 3.

AHHHHHH…the hook is down. Nothing broke and nobody died. Well nothing new broke anyway. Another great sail and now for a well deserved Budweiser. If only it were Old Style! We also celebrated our anniversary by dingying over to the ‘world famous Snook Inn’ restaurant. Sue called to see if we could park the dingy while eating. The guy said they have plenty of boat slips available. Sue said our dingy isn’t very big. He said their slips weren’t very big either. We had a good dinner but had to endure a karaoke like performer who abused every song he sang. Anyway we still enjoyed our celebration. Getting back into the dingy we found that as the tide went down (about 2 ½ feet) our motor stuck in the mud. So the valiant Captain jumped into the water to free the motor as the princess, or should that be maiden Sue (oh, please) climbed down the steep pier into the boat.

We were definitely ready for a long sleep. But wait. What’s that at 12:30 a.m.? Of course, thunderstorms! Back to our 2 to 3 hour sleep schedule. It turned out not to be very violent storms but Sue kept close watch anyway. Our new hatch covers (remember Ft. Lauderdale?) held out most of the rain but the v-berth hatch does have a leak so no sleeping there. Yet another project for Clearwater. Today is Tuesday. We woke up very sleepy and the NOAA weather predicted several storms all day so we stayed tucked in Factory Bay. Tomorrow evening we plan to head out again sailing 90-100 miles up to Egmont Key just in the mouth of Tampa Bay. We are almost there!

Post Note: Well the winds are still strong from the northwest so the current plan is to leave Thursday morning as the wind shifts to the west and sail on through to Clearwater, about a 26 hour sail. Today we'll reprovision a bit in the town of Marco Island and wash clothes with the fresh rain water collected during Tuesday's day long rain.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you made it, I hope the next leg goes smoothly. K

Bridgette said...

WOW - I think it is great that you guys are doing this! I am jealous of all the great things you get to see & do!