Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ups and Downs...and ups.

Kintala is safely holed up in Boot Key, riding out a blow expected to include wind gusts up to 35 knots. There are a lot of boats crowded into the safe spot, all on short rodes, so the next 36 hours should prove interesting. Protected or not, boats have been known to saw through their mooring lines or drag an anchor to rampage through the rest of the fleet. Yet we are very content to be where we are.
The anchorage at Boot Key Harbor

Just a few nights ago Kintala was not a happy boat. Lying to a poorly set anchor while trying to figure out a place to ride out the upcoming blow looms as a pretty big deal when everything one owns is at the end of the decision making list. Boot Key was the only real option within a reasonable reach, but it was rumored to be full with boats anchored outside waiting for a spot. And “outside” would be a terrible place to ride out this weather. The original thought that it wouldn't be that big a deal had disappeared. To quote Marine Weather for the area of Boot Key, “Monday: West to Northwest winds 25 to 30 knots. Seas 9 to 11 feet...building to 10 to 13 feet.”

One of the worst beating we have taken was in Fox Town, where the seas were every bit of 6 feet, maybe a bit more, lasted nearly 6 hours, broke over the bow...and we broke the boat. Winds gusted to 50 knots, blew steady at 40, but we did have a little protection. Waves twice as high and lasting twice as long while sitting out in the Florida Straights? That's the kind of thing that can bring an end to cruises.

Had Boot Key proved to be full, we would have anchored north of Marathon, which would leave us bare faced to the weather when the front passed and the winds swung to the west-north-west. Marine Weather again, this time for the bay north of Marathon.“Monday; West to Northwest winds 25 to 30 knots. Bay Water extremely rough.” Not sure what “extremely rough” means, but it sounds better than “10 to 13 feet.” Not a good time, but perhaps no worse than Oriental, Charleston, or Fox Town. Still, 3 days of little sleep, little food, and seriously uncomfortable motions (aka; taking a beating) is not a happy thought. That became our last, and not very good, option. You know some bad calls have been made when the options list is reduced to one.

A Marina stay could have been an option, the cruising kitty somewhat flush from the summer's work. A four night stay could be had for a little more than a week's worth of after taxes pay. But marinas in this part of the world are pretty full this time of year, and many have approaches that will snag a 5 foot keel. Calling around made it clear that a slip for our Tartan just couldn't be had. Even if one could be found in Boot Key, the transient slips are pretty exposed, lying right at the inlet. Those folks are going to have an ugly weekend, dock or no.

Back in Factory Bay I had pulled up the latest Prog Charts and saw what could be a bad-looking possibility playing out. Marine Weather and the GRIB files didn't go out enough days to offer details on the coming cold front, but it looked like a lot of isobars were fixing to gather over Florida, and the winds were going to be fierce. Deep in the reptilian part of my brain, that bit mostly tasked with self preservation, I wondered if staying in Marco Island for a few days to see how things panned out might be wise. And it would have been. But, clearly, I am not that wise.

Now the do-do was getting deeper, with options being reduced to Boot Key or taking a thrashing.

So we left Little Spanish Key just after dawn, picked our way through an absolute nightmare of crab (or maybe lobster) pots hiding in the rising sun, and made the Moser Channel well before noon. That gave us enough time to backtrack through the Channel and head to the north side of Marathon should Boot Key be stuffed.

It wasn't. Tight? Yes. Stuffed? No, or at least not when we got here Friday. It is Sunday now, the blow arrived last night, and the place is pretty stuffed now. (Why do these things always arrive at night? This one forecast to last through today, tonight, tomorrow, and into tomorrow night. So last night was night one of three.)

Before the weather arrived we had a chance to visit with friends from Carlyle lake. Dennis and Petra own the marina where we started this little adventure. They spend part of every winter living in a picturesque spot at one of the nearby keys. After getting settled in, we dumped the Ding into the water and putted down near the channel entrance for a happy hour meet.

Riding back through the bridge into the anchorage after our happy hour visit with Dennis and Petra

So I wasn't concerned when I should have been, got concerned when it was too late to do anything but came up against poor options, and ended up sitting pretty safe with only minor concerns after all.

Ups, and downs...and ups.

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