Friday, February 12, 2010

Waiting for Mariah

As Andy Rooney might ask, why do they "Call the Wind Mariah"?

Chilly in Marathon
There’s something funky about this photo, taken yesterday, during the calm before the storm. Why would a photo of tropical paradise in Marathon include a Tiki Hut and First Mate Mary Ann in fleece? In February? The temps continue below average here in the middle Keys, but I can’t complain since it’s MUCH colder up north. But we're at anchor, and waking up in the 50s on MicMac in the morning makes me think twice about a marina. And we're waiting for a mooring ball?

But it was perfect weather yesterday for a brisk mile walk to Publix to restock MicMac. We also found a great Cuban restaurant in town, El Siboney. Neither of us needed much dinner after polishing off their Cuban Mix sandwiches for lunch.

One good effect of the January cold snap (into the 30s) was the death of some invasive species in Florida. The local paper just reported that the headcount of those pesky Burmese pythons, and other invasive iguanas and fish is way down. Survival of the fittest, however, means that many of them are still lurking in south Florida.

Many folks in Boot Key Harbor are sitting on their boats this afternoon, waiting for the big winds and thunderstorms NOAA is predicting. Click here to see Boot Key Harbor on their live web cam.

In spite of the frequent false alarms and faulty predictions we listen to on our VHF radios, well-prepared sailors still “batten the hatches down.” Captain Pete now has live radar as well on his new smart phone toy! Then there's Accu-Weather and the National Weather Service. NO Weather Channel out here on the hook though. TV reception is practically nil here. Cable rules!

When that blasted disembodied NOAA voice (the robotic one) issues gale warnings, we check and re-check the anchor, put out more chain if possible, remove anything topside that’s loose, secure the dinghy, and reduce as much “windage” as possible. No need to be whipping around the anchorage like a whirling dervish when “it” hits the fan.

And I had hoped to take Patti on Bum's Rest advice and get some tasty stone crab claws tonight. $1 a piece sounded great. Guess they'll be there tomorrow too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fried Key Lime Pie!

What do sailors do in Marathon when they’re “stuck in port” with very windy conditions predicted for the foreseeable future? Dine ashore. And it's even better with friends.

Dan and Deb recommended nearby Burdine’s Chiki Tiki (doncha love that name?), so we dinghied there around 6:30 last night after some vino onboard MicMac. It’s the stereotypical Keys restaurant with atmosphere out the wazoo.

We enjoyed catching up with our "About Time" friends and hearing their stories of past trips down the ICW and crossings to the Bahamas. They raved about one specific dessert, so we ordered ONE fried key lime pie to share. Wow. Hope I get to walk a good bit while we wait here for calmer seas.

We dinghied back to MicMac under starry skies just in time. 30 minutes later, a rapid wind shift (as in 180 degrees in 5 minutes) occurred as a front came in. The north wind has been howling ever since, gusting to 25 or 30 knots, even in this sheltered harbor. I doubt any sane sailor will leave this anchorage today. I probably won't post anything on this blog for days since the winds are supposed to continue for days.

Hats off to fellow sailors on Sheet Music and Bum's Rest for safely arriving in Bimini yesterday. Glad the two skippers and one canine crew member didn't succumb to seasickness. First mates and other puppy were not so lucky. See their blog for all the details.

Our condolences to all our family and friends who are AGAIN seeing snow today, even in Williamsburg. Y'all must think you fell asleep and woke up in Minnesota.

This morning, we listened to Cruisers’ Net on VHF Channel 68. One of the sailors moderates this daily opportunity at 9 a.m. for sharing news (there’s a book signing and pot luck tonight) and announcing items for sale, want, trade, or giveaway. One boater ranted about the lack of courtesy flags on some “foreign” boats, prompting a venting by a few Canadian yachters. Quite a few boaters want to share rides to the Miami Boat Show this coming weekend. One announced that gale force winds were coming, which was corrected by another sailor who noted that the Beaufort Wind Scale defines a moderate gale force wind as 41.6 knots. I get a little green just hearing that number. Reminding us that lots of cruisers homeschool their children onboard, kids participate in a Trivia portion at the end of the broadcast.

“Marooned” in Marathon

Captain Pete wanted to leave Matecumbe Bight at first light due to predicted shifting winds. I am NOT a morning person, but was a bit concerned as I took this photo at sunrise. Does not “red sky in morning; sailors take warning” have a nice ring to it?

We crossed “outside” to Hawk Channel and I never went below for the next 6 hours. NOAA lied again, forecasting 15 knots and 2’ seas. Instead we experienced 18-22 knots with 4-5’ waves; I was a tad “green around the gills.”

I entertained myself by taking a series of bridge photos. See the remains of one of Henry Flagler’s railroad bridges of the early 1900s. What a visionary and entrepreneur he was. Ya gotta admire his fortitude. But he underestimated the power of the hurricanes (especially the unnamed one of 1935) that destroyed his efforts to link Miami to Key West by railway. Cruising sailors weren’t so prevalent then either, and we welcome those 65’ bridges that allow us to pass back and forth between the ICW and the ocean.

We were very happy to see Flagler’s 7 Mile Bridge (called the 8th Wonder of the World when it opened in 1912), and dropped the hook in sheltered Boot Key Harbor in Marathon.

This is the heaviest “populated” anchorage we’ve ever seen. About 400 boats are anchored or on moorings here, many of them for months, many waiting for that elusive weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Boot Key used to have the reputation as the anchorage most fouled by its residents. Derelict boats were removed, pumpout boats now remove that fouling “stuff,” and clear waters are returning.

Pete took a long dinghy ride in to the marina to put our name on the waiting list for a mooring. We’re # 18 but no one will want to leave with windy days forecast for the next 4 or 5 days. On the way back to MicMac, he spotted “About Time” and left our card aboard. Our non-boater friends might not know that most of us have business cards with boat names, blogs, email addresses, etc. to exchange with those we meet along the way. Cruisers become instant comrades! 

We met Dan and Deb, now full time liveaboards on their roomy 46’ Hunter, "About Time," last summer at a Stingray Yacht Club party and have been emailing each other our respective progress south stories since last October. Pete's card didn't blow away, so Deb dinghied over an hour later and we invited them to join us later for libations before dinner ashore.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Skinny water

We keep our eyes on the depth meter (on the right) for a good reason. We set it to measure the distance under the keel. So .5 of a foot is 6 inches! No naps for the navigator on watch!

Cormorants standing on the bottom.

Papa Pete's Pizza

The Captain prepares one of his specialties.

Super Bowl XLIV in Islamorada

We knew we were in the Keys when I spotted this flamingo pink Nauti-Limo near our marina. VERY classy, doncha think?

We would have missed the Super Bowl if we had been anchored out because TV reception is spotty in the Keys. So we opted for a marina and cable TV, but instead walked down Highway 1 to Chilly Willie’s to catch the first half. We did not need to dress up for dinner!

Hog Heaven is the infamous sports bar in Islamorada, but that would have been a major hike. Two bar seats at Chilly Willie’s were our home for the entire game. Who could leave with the lead changing hands a few times, “buy one drink, get one free” for the night, dollar nachos (pretty bad), and free shots if your team scored? We were offered a ride back to the marina by fellow Saints fans, but chose to walk, singing “Oh when the Saints go marching in” and with our free Bud Bowl t-shirts across our chests for visibility to drivers. New Orleans folks have so much to celebrate now. Whoopee!

Islamorada is called the “Sportfishing Capital of the World” (George Bush Senior loved to come here)with VERY pricy bonefishing trips extremely popular. And you can’t even eat those things.

The local artists have an arts village, the Rain Barrel, near the marina too. No Beebes here however! You can’t miss the spiny lobster sculpture out front. Lack of space on MicMac inhibits my purchases. Our ARB would really love that concrete manatee and a few colorful whirlygigs by our mailbox.

We are now the only boat anchored in Matecumbe Bight and the winds have finally been light today. The water is like glass. NOAA of course forecast 10-15 knots. They must use a Magic 8 ball. We now hear that the Mid-Atlantic coast may get another snowstorm in a few days. Y'all come on down.

We are sailing southwest now. Most folks think the Keys are directly south of Miami, but they string out to the southwest. Tomorrow we plan to head out Channel 5 (not 4 or 6 ;-) to Hawk Channel and get to Marathon. The harbor promises to be very crowded. The Harbormaster told Pete there were 26 on a waiting list for a mooring ball yesterday. So we'll enjoy our solitude at this anchorage today.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why we're in the Florida Keys

Thanks, Mindy, for sending us the photo of our house last week. You reminded us why we're not in Virginia during January and February.