Thursday, January 19, 2017

Real life

Kintala and her crew have been on the move, trying to escape the confines of the shallow waters and crab pot mine fields of the Gulf of Mexico and the west coast of Florida, though it has had its charms. A day out of Factory Bay we set the anchor just outside of Shark River. There was no need to venture further inland as the winds were light and variable. It was the first time since getting to Snead Island months ago that we enjoyed a place dark and quiet, far away from the light and noises of modern society. Venus and Mars were glowing bright enough to leave their own reflections in the placid water while the silence was so complete that one's ears hurt, trying to find a purchase in the unfamiliar quiet. I couldn't help but wonder. With nearly half of America's population now living in cities and suburbs, just how many of my fellow citizens ever experience a place where human kind is so obviously unnecessary to the workings of the world or the history of the cosmos? And if more of us did, would that make us a different kind of people than we have turned out to be?

The sun reflected in the water off Kitala's side in a rare moment without crab traps

It was a special evening set in the middle of some not-so-special days. Truth to tell, if I were a full time live-a-board cruiser whose only cruising choices were the west coast of Florida and the eastern Gulf, Kintala would have a “FOR SALE” sign hung on her bow and we would be looking for an RV. Two full days of picking our way through crab pot haven, and finally getting out of the Gulf, have left us anchored up near Big Spanish Key with poor holding, little protection, and nowhere else to get to before night fell. Crawl Key was the anchorage we had been aiming for after coasting over the shallows of the Big Spanish Channel (even at near high tide the depth gauge read “0” at places). But it was completely covered in crab pot markers. With some daylight left, we moved on and ended up here, a place with a bit more swing room. Which is good. Even the Mantus couldn't find a purchase in the few inches of sand covering coral, and we are lying to its 65 pounds of weight and more than 100 feet of chain. It will likely be enough to keep us in place, but it will also be a night of restless and troubled sleep. The night's forecast of light winds has already proven to be in error, and we are currently bouncing and bumping against the anchor chain. Two different anchor alarms are set and, should it turn out that we need to move and attempt a re-hook, picking out the crab traps will be nigh on impossible in the darkness.

Pulling into the anchorage at Shark River on the very last of the sunlight after 10 hours and 40 minutes and 59.7 nm

This is only my second time sailing through this part of the world, but I am failing to understand other people's enthusiasm for the place. Still...

Dolphins have been nearly hourly visitors, rather than a rare treat. We have seen more big turtles in the last two days than we have seen in the last two years. We even saw what we think was the fin and wake of a large shark, off the port side, doing whatever it is large sharks do in the Gulf of Mexico. (I know, pretty much anything they want to do.) That makes a kind of sense since we were heading for Shark River at the time.

Tomorrow we hope to gain Boot Key, though it may be too full for us to find a place to hind from the cold front due Sunday / Monday. Winds of 35 knots are forecast, along with thunderstorms. Should there be no room for us in the inn, at least the anchorage outside has good holding. After riding out a 50+ knot storm in Fox Town a couple of years ago, and with an additional 50+ feet of chain to lay down if necessary, the front should offer nothing more than a couple of days of discomfort and another night or two of little sleep. While in (or near) Boot Key, we hope to address a couple of minor mechanical issues. The brand new remote oil filter we installed last summer has an oil leak. And the
brand new water pump we also installed last summer, (which has less than 50 hours of run time on it) has developed a water leak at the front seal. (The same issue that caused us to replace the old one.)

Welcome to the real life of a full time cruiser.

Of course, another part of the real life of a full time cruiser is the Abaco Islands. With any luck we will see them again before too many more weeks have passed.

As daylight waned, the horizon became indistinct
Backing down on the anchor as the last light fades
The sunset at Little Pine Key


Robert Sapp said...

Best of luck finding a ball at Marathon. We've heard from others that there's currently a waiting list. Interested in seeing what you find out. Glad to see you're on the move. We'll be leaving St. Pete headed south as soon as this front passes and things settle down, probably on Tuesday. Regards, R&R

Donald Strong said...

Will you visit the Dry Tortugas? One of our favorite sailing memories is the trip we made there from Key West in our Stiletto catamaran, about 1981.

TJ said...

Robert, we are now anchored in Boot Key. It is crowded in here, but not as bad as Back Creek in Annapolis. My guess is it will be chock full as the weather approaches. It will be an interesting weekend as the winds pick up and the boats swing.

Donald, no yet but maybe in the spring. I am not going inside up the west coast again if I can help it.