Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Transit, Transit, Transit

Sunday 20 December 2009
Sunday is a big cruise ship day. There were five of them in "Government Cut", the main Miami channel when we left this morning. That meant, of course, that we could not use the channel. I guess it is a 9/11 thing. So we used the alternative channel and headed out to sea.
As an aside, cruise ships have certainly changed a great deal in the many years since I have been on board, Most people are aware that they now have many more staterooms than before. But what about the large screen TV, the size of a baseball scoreboard, on the top deck. Not only that, but the old fashioned "we are getting underway" and lifeboat drill has been replaced with a full scale disco blaring almost as loud as the ship's whistle to the accompaniment of a woman screaming to the crowd to "get it on." Quality!
I have been in a parade of boats today, but I have yet to see any but Capbam and Gypsysails. A group of 5 other sailboats left Miami Beach this morning and is headed for the same anchorage at Rodriquez Key. I have seen a couple of their sails in the distance. I am still 3 miles from destination, so I expect to see them soon.
Monday 21 December 2009
Up this morning at 6 AM to get underway at 7 AM. The anchorage had 7 cruising boats. I expected to be one of the very few up this early but by the time I housed the anchor at 6:55 AM every other boat was either finishing up or already underway. I presume we are all headed for Marathon, FL. It is about a 40 mile trip. In a sailboat in the middle of winter 40 miles is a good day trip. (BTW today is the winter solstice, the daytime will start getting longer again tomorrow.) As I write this we are strung out in a line about 3 nm long all follwing the "magenta line" which marks the Hawk Channel on our charts.
I am slowing starting to understand how to sail Reboot out here in the ocean. The sail configuration for Lake Michigan provides far too much drive out here. I am currently sailing with the wind on the beam, waves at 2 to 3 feet. I have the jib furled to 105% and no main up. I am doing 6.5 to 7.5 knots in 15 to 20 knots of apparent wind. I expect that my normal setup for coastal cruising will be a double reefed main and an 85% or 105% jib. I had the entire 155% jib out earlier and was seeing 9.5 knots. The problem with that is the autopilot does not do a good job of steering. So I hand steered for about 2 hours this morning. I enjoyed it, particularly rolling all the other sailboats that had left before me. Then I cranked the jib down to 105% and slowed down so I could take a break from steering. Since I single hand it is important to have a wide slot that the autopilot can steer in. If I really trim up the constant gusts drive it crazy. Reboot heads up, the autopilot reacts late, over steers, we drop off, etc. If I de-trim a little bit we slow down but it is a much smoother ride.
We had two days of very heavy rain that moved north and blanked the East Coast with 2 to 3 feet of snow. The cold front that came in after the rain has dropped the temperatures a lot. At the moment it is 60 F. With the wind chill I spend a lot of time in my foulies. They do a great job of blocking the wind. In a couple of days it will go back up into the 80F range and I will be back in a bathing suit.
When I used to sail with my family I spent almost all of my time in the cockpit. I was so worried that something would go wrong I would obsess. Now that I am alone I find myself moving around the boat a lot more. When the weather is cold like today I spend a good part of the time in the cabin. On the trip from St. Johns to Ft. Pierce a lot of stuff that I had stored around the salon table slid all over the place. I stowed it all. I had forgotten how nice it is to have a big open salon area. I have rafted up with other boats a couple of times and my salon is the indoor party location of choice. Party On!
We took mooring balls at Marathon as there is no place to anchor in the harbor. As predicted, the ladies of Gypsysails and Capbam cooked dinner, I provided the dining room, space heater (it was a bit brisk tonight) and charming company (lol.)
Tuesday December 22, 2009
I am underway again in the Hawk Channel. The ICW crosses the keys at Marathon. It runs on the north side down to Marathon, and then runs on the south side to Key West. The Hawk Channel runs on the south side all the way from Miami. They are now essentially one in the same, but my charts again have the statute miles distances along the ICW from mile 0 in Norfolk VA. I have about 15 miles to go to my intended anchorage north of Sigsbee Island at Naval Air Station Key West.
I had a great conversation with Spencer yesterday. He had finished his last final for his fall term of his junior year. He is definitely on the back side of the undergraduate experience, only three more terms to go.
Today has been a mixed bag. I am loafing down the Hawk Channel. I am flying the full jib, the water is clear, the wind pleasant but a bit cool. This morning I left the company of Capbam and Gypsysails a bit before 7 AM as the wind had clocked Reboot around to where I could slip the mooring line and not get blown down on anyone. I noticed as I retraced my route out of the very large mooring field that the water seemed a little thin. Sure enough before I had even reached the bascule bridge Gypsysails announced that she was aground. Fortunately the tide was dead low and they floated off a bit later and followed me down the Hawk Channel.
I find myself surprised at the number of emergency calls that we hear on a daily basis. In Lake Michigan an emergency call was rare and groundings were nonexistent. Here I hear between 3 and 6 calls per day from boaters in trouble.
Tuesday December 22, 2009 3:45 PM Eastern Standard Time
I am here, behind Sigsbee Island near the Sigsbee Marina for the Naval Air Station Key West. After 3,000ish miles, some sailing, some motoring (Erie Canal, ICW) and 4 ½ months I have arrived in time for Christmas. To be fair I spent a month in New York (Weehawken NJ) so I was only sailing and such for 3 ½ months. It is great to "check off" my first big destination.

Merry Christmas!

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