Saturday, March 19, 2016

Making new tracks...

The little Garmin chart plotter we have at the helm records our track, and saves it for an impressively long time. We could have, and sometimes did, follow our old track all the way from Oak Harbor back to Miami. Since leaving Biscayne Bay and turning south into the Hawk Channel, there has been no old track to follow. The new track now hooks around the south end of Florida and is working its way up the West coast.

Stopping the new track for two nights in the anchorage off of Cape Sable may not have been the best idea, but we wanted to spend a day at the beach there. It might have been fine had the forecast light winds out of the ESE actually showed up. The actual SSE winds of 10-15 knots roughed the place up enough to make sleep pretty hard to come by. Oh-four-hundred on the second morning found me fully dressed and trying not to fall off the settee, which was pitching and rolling around slightly less than the v-berth I had abandoned. The very first light of day found me out prepping the deck for getting under way.

Cape Sable at sunrise
The hook came up before the sun, and we motor-sailed northwest, sleep deprived, sore, and not sure if we could make Marco Island before running out of daylight. Exactly 12 long, long hours of grinding out the miles, dodging endless lines of crab traps, following the chart directly into the mud, backing slowly off, re-grouping, and taking a different approach into Factory Bay, the anchor hit the bottom.

We had a half hour of daylight to spare.

Factory Bay anchorage
Cape Sable beach

Cape Sable anchorage. No protection. For 5 ft draft vessels, 1/2-3/4 mile out is the best you can do.
Alligator tracks in the sand

For us, the beach at Cape Sable did not live up to its reviews. It was empty, which was good. It was free of trash, which was also good. And it was covered with 'gator tracks, a weird kind of, “Wow, look at that!” good. The whole visit turned into one of the strange things that happens with this lifestyle. We are glad we saw the place. It will make our “story list”. But we should have thought about it more and maybe not have done it at all. We spent two days off an exposed shore, beat ourselves up pretty good, and ended up pushing hard to beat some inbound weather. 

But we saw 'gator tracks in the sand.

So far our experience of laying tracks in new waters has been that kind of thing. As Deb already shared the sail from Boot Key to Bahia Honda was pretty sweet. The original plan was to spend a day exploring Bahia Honda, reported to be a favorite place of the locals. Alas, the Mantus found nothing but rock or coral under a thin cover of sand, several attempts utterly failing to get it to grab. It was too late in the day to try and find another anchorage. The good news was that the forecast for light winds. We laid every inch worth of 200 feet of chain on the bottom, rigged the snubber, and hoped for the best.

Fortunately, the forecast got it right. The next morning found us sitting in the same place but leaving the boat was out of the question. Bahia Honda will have to wait. Instead we hauled everything in and headed to a place called Crawl Key. Crawl is only 8 nm or so away from Bahia Honda, just short of the northwest end of the Bahia Honda Channel. That end boasts some pretty thin water, 4 feet at mean low tide according to the chart. Crawl lay just before the thin spot and was the perfect place to wait on the morning high tide. When we pitched the hook over for the night it sank out of sight and grabbed hard.

Crawl Key is a good click away from everyone and everything. It boasts the kind of quiet that almost hurts, and the kind of dark one rarely has the chance to experience along the crowded eastern shore of the US. We were starting to have our doubts about the Keys, but Crawl redeemed them, ranking as maybe the best place we have anchored since leaving Oak Harbor back in the fall. We slept well and content that night.

A trawler anchored off Little Spanish Key next to Crawl Key
The next morning we ghosted out of the Bahia Honda Channel flying full main and jib, making three to four knots. Waiting for high tide was a good idea. There were places where we had barely 18 inches under the keel. Past the last green maker we decided it was official, Kintala was in the Gulf of Mexico. We tacked out into the Gulf a few miles hoping to find a point of sail that would lead us to Cape Sable.
One of the MANY crab pot lines in the Gulf.
This one was over 20 nm off shore.

But, just like in the Atlantic, it seems the wind in the Gulf always blows right on the bow. It was a valiant effort though, eventually, we had to admit that we were not making any real headway. Daylight would be long gone before we could raise Cape Sable. Since that part of the Gulf is mostly a crab / lobster hunting ground, daylight was necessary to keep from collecting a pot. The sails were put away and the Beast pushed us onto Cape Sable before the sun was gone. And then the winds, which had been blowing directly off the coast, the winds that were forecast to fade, shifted instead. 

We have a few days of travel left before settling in for the summer. My friend and soon to be New Boss wants to know if we can get there a little earlier than originally planned. It seems the yard is bursting with work - which is good news for both the yard and for its newest marine technician. The Garmin track will stop there for a while, but there are all kinds of tracks in a life.

And we will still be making new ones.


beachbumbob said...

TJ and Deb,
Enjoy the rest of your journey to Bradenton. Have followed your adventures for a very long time. Please give my best to Bill and Christy. Bill worked at a marina in NJ where I was (and still am in the summer) a slipholder. I still remember him getting Veranda ready for cruising, mostly on Sundays and Mondays when the marina office was closed!
If you need a nice port on your way up the west coast, Punta Gorda is very welcoming to cruising boats.
Best of luck with the marina job and please keep the blog going. Always fun to read what owners can do to their boats to make them non-functional!
Corner Club Bob

Robert Sapp said...

Welcome to the right side of Florida!

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Unknown said...

Definitely keep the blog going whilst you two are topping up the cruising kitty. Your writing is a joy and one of my first ports of call when the iPad is turned on each morning.

TJ said...

Hi Robert, thanks. It is a bit harder to get around these parts. Over on the other side jumping "outside" for an overnight run was pretty common. Four or five miles off shore, a hundred feet or more of water under the keel, no crab pots; it was easy to do a 100 miles and get where one needed to get. The idea of a night run on this side...we managed to nudge a pot or two even in full daylight. Route planning has been a bit of a challenge but it is fun being in different waters.

Stuart, thanks for the kind words. I'm going to be "blogging" from the "other side", as one of the hourly workers fixing boats and trying to keep customers satisfied at the same time. It will be interesting. I was a mechanic / pilot in the aviation world and there was a distinctive "pilot" attitude when it came to mechanics. Sometimes, while wrenching, a pilot who had half of my flying experience and nowhere near as many ratings, would come off with an attitude just because my hands were dirty. And, sometimes, mechanics (who had no idea that I was a A&P, IA, Director of Maintenance, and a Designated Mechanics Examiner for the FAA) who were working on the Company Jet I flew, would act as if I couldn't possibly understand what needed to be done to fix the thing.

It should be an interesting summer.

Unknown said...

How attitudes differ! In Germany, where the title "Enginer" is thoroughly respected they would tell me that you can't be an engineer with clean hands. I once watched the Chairman of the Board dismantling a water pump as a sideline during a board meeting.

Having thoroughly empathised with your observations of the marine services industry, I can't wait to see what you make of the different standards adopted by boat owners......