Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Why would I ever leave...this island?"

Well, that's the question Howard Livingston asks in his song, but it seems that sometimes the answer is...MONEY.
Bev got a temp job at the hospital in Marathon, so Sunday night we enjoyed our last sunset in Key West and on Monday morning hauled in all 3 anchors and set sail for Boot Key Harbor.
It was predicted that we'd have seas running 2 to 3 feet, but as soon as we rounded the point at the west end of Key West we were slammed with waves running 5 to 6 feet. We couldn't use the engine because the waves "hobby-horsed" the boat to the point where the propeller came up clear of the water. So we sailed on as best we could. We had about 3 hours of tough tacking back and forth into the seas and traveled about 4 miles before the seas began to subside. Once the waves backed down to predicted levels, we were able to have a very nice sail for the rest of the day. We even set the mizzen-powered self steering gear and sailed hands free for a few hours.
By sundown we still had 20 miles to go and the wind died out to zero. We started the engine which, after a finicky start ran fine till we set anchor.
The only real trouble we encountered was the old leak in the forward bulkhead. I thought I had that spot repaired, but apparently the pounding we took in the morning opened up the seam again and we started taking on water. For a while the bilge pump handled it, but then the pump burned out. We had to pump manually until the boat leveled out enough to stop leaking. Since we made anchor Monday night, no further water has come in.
We anchored outside the harbor for the night on Monday, and first thing Tuesday morning our friend Scott from "Detroit Copper" dingied out and brought us a pot of fresh coffee. Bev cooked up some bacon, eggs and bagels and we all had breakfast on deck. Then Scott guided us in to our mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor. "Thanks, Scott."
Now we're relaxing and trying to recouperate from our adventure. Tonight there's "meet and greet" at the club house and we will go and meet the other cruisers in the harbor. The boater community here is very active. There's a "cruiser's net" radio program every morning on the VHF radio. We received a nice "welcome package" from the net organizers and the local water taxi. It's a package of information, catalogs and coupons wrapped up in a nice canvas shopping bag.
For those who are "geographically challenged" Marathon is a city on Vaca Key, about half way up the Keys from Key West. It's at Mile Marker 50 on the overseas highway. We'll be here for about 6 weeks or so, depending on how long the hospital can guarantee Bev enough hours to pay the rent and still save a bit.
I've included only one picture today, but it's a humdinger. Yesterday just after our first REAL showers in 4 months we were getting in the dingy to go back out to the mooring when someone shouted "Look Up!" When we did we saw this "sundog" - a ring around the sun. It last for several hours and was visible at least as far away as Key West. Cool!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Arrrgh! Let the "bloody battle" commence!

Yesterday Bev and I were invited aboard "Aurora" to participate in "The Bloody Battle," an event which commemorates the famous battle between the naval and air forces of the Conch Republic and the imperial forces of the United States. In the original battle, the Conch forces surrendered after engaging the enemy for 13 minutes, then immediately applied for $1 Billion in foreign aid. (Doesn't the US always pay its defeated enemies?)
In yesterday's reenactment, the bulk of the Key West schooner fleet combined with several private vessels and 6 airplanes to attack a single Coast Guard cutter, the Farallon. Farallon and her crew received a heavy beating from repeated broadsides from the naval vessels (shooting damp bread balls and water cannon) and took 2 direct hits from aircraft (which dropped streaming rolls of toilet paper.) After only a single pass through our lines Farallon retired from the field. The victorious forces of the great Conch Republic retired to the Schooner Wharf bar to celebrate.
Here are a few pictures of the battle.
N.B. - The crew of the charter vessel "Party Cat" violated the "rules of engagement" by using "unauthorized ammunition." They threw tomatoes, eggs and other items which were dangerous to all concerned. We have received other reports of this vessel violating the marine rules of the road and generally being operated in an unsafe manner. We strongly suggest that if you are ever in Key West and want a day charter, pick any vessel other than "Party Cat."
Also, I've included a picture of the school of yellowtail that swarmed around the boat on our reef trip last week. I've also included some pics of friends we've met here in Key West.
We will be leaving Key West in the next few days so we need to say goodbye to:
Dave and Ray,
Mike and Patty,
Jeff and Helen,
"Portside Tom,"
Melinda from Garden of Eden,
Erica, John and Chris from Kelly's,
Sue and Kevin,
the crew at the Coffee Plantation,
Rose and Mike,
Louis and K (our newest friends, sorry can't remember the spelling),
Terri, Bob and Kevin from the Key West Bight Marina,
and others too numerous to mention.
Photo legend:
1) Capt Jeff of "Aurora" (left) and Capt Scott of "Detroit Copper."
2) Bev and I with "Commander" Howard Livingston of the Conch Republic navy. (Better known as the lead singer in the Mile Marker 24 Band.)
3) Mile Marker 24 performing at Schooner Wharf during the Conch Republic days celebration. Note the old outboard engine that has been converted to a margarita machine.
4) Our favorite bartenders Erica, John and Chris from "Kelly's Caribbean Grill."
5) Schooner "Appledore" preparing for battle.
6) Schooner "Hindu" (oldest and fastest in the fleet) preparing for the great battle.
7) Schooner "Jolly II Rover" in the battle.
8) US Coast Guard Cutter "Farallon" in the heat of battle. Note the 3 "TP bombs." 2 of the 3 TP bombs hit Farallon causing her to retire from the battle giving the victory to the naval and air forces of the Conch Republic.
9) A school of yellowtail swarming around "Aurora" during our trip to the reef.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bev visits the reef

This Monday, Bev and I were invited aboard "Aurora" for a snorkeling trip to the reef. The wind was calm, there were few waves and the water was amazingly clear. We stopped at a different spot that my last trip and I was pleasantly surprised to see more living coral. It appears the reef is recovering, or at least not declining as fast as some would have you believe. There were dozens of species of beautiful tropical fish, including some large schools of yellowtale and blue chromis.
A fantastic day. I'm glad Bev got the chance to see the reef before we move on. Thanks Capt. Jeff.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And now, some pictures

We finally made it to the Internet Cafe with the laptop, so here are some pictures from our visit here in Key West.
From top to bottom:
1)With a storm blasting away outside, Barney and I take a break from fighting the weather and have a little chat.
2)At the "drag races" the MC leads the contestants through the obstacle course they have to run.
3)In the "pits" at the "drag races."
4,5,6) Some shots of the KW waterfront with the schooner fleet in port, and the schooner "Western Union" now returned from major repairs in Miami.
7)A spectacular evening sky over the anchorage.
8)A rainbow. The remarkable thing is that this rainbow last for over an hour. If you look closely, you will see there is a second, fainter rainbow just to the left of the bright one.
9)The sailing vessel "Legacy." She was dismasted and put hard aground during hurricane Wilma in Oct 2005. After over 2 years of fighting with authorities for permits to free her, the owner finally got her afloat a few weeks ago. She is a 158' megayacht, built in Italy by Perini Navi at a cost of over $30 million. She will now be transported back to Italy for a refit. I guess it's nice to have money.
10)Eat your hearts out folks, we get a sunset like this almost every night.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Conch Week

This week is "Conch Republic Independence Week" here in Key West.
The event marks the anniversary of the events of 1982. The US Immigration department, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put a road block up on US Rte 1 to stop the traffic in drugs and illegal immigrants. The folks in Key West (tongues firmly in cheek) said "If you treat us like a foreign country, we're going to BE a foreign country." Key West declared independence from the US, declared war, promptly surrendered and asked for $1 billion in foreign aid. A "bloody battle" ensued between the schooner fleet in Key West and the Coast Guard (ammunition consisting of water balloons and rotten veggies).
The "Conch Republic" still has its own flag, issues "passports" and conducts "foreign affairs" with the US.
This week will be marked with a number of events including a "drag race." (Contestants required to wear high heels.) There will also be a recreation of the "bloody battle." And of course, in real Conch tradition, there will be TONS of alcohol consumed along the way.
It's all in fun, and we'll be there. Wish you were here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sad news

My sister called this morning to say that my Aunt Kay passed away last night. It was not unexpected, she was 93 and had been in poor health for a long time. The word is that she just went to sleep last night, quietly and painlessly. After a long, full life, to pass on in that way is really a blessing.
She was an artist, an avid bridge player, and a "second Mom" to my sister and I. We will miss her.
Now it will be a mad scramble to see if I can get to NY in time for the services.
(Some timing, Aunt Kay. You just HAD to go as a cold front is approaching the Keys, didn't you?)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A slight change of plan

and our 200th post to this blog!
Bev has been offered a temp job at the hospital in Marathon, about 50 miles further up the Keys. So...we will leave Key West around April 27th or so, and spend May and part of June in Marathon, then head up the coast from there. It will mean reaching NY no sooner than mid July, but that still leaves us a few weeks in NY and a few more in MA before heading back south. The hospital wants Bev back for next winter. That should work out nicely. Marathon has a really good harbor with very secure moorings. We won't have to worry about our ground tackle when the fronts come through. Not as much fun as KW, but KW is only a $1 bus ride away.
Today we saw an exhibit of John Lennon's art work. Yoko is sponsoring a tour of the exhibit to benefit AIDS research. The pieces are for sale, WAY out of my price range, but very interesting to look at.
It was fun, and we learned a bit of Beatles' trivia: Who was "Prudence" in the song "Dear Prudence" and why was she asked to "come out and play?"
Answer in our next post.
Also, the schooner "Western Union" has returned to her home port. She was built in KW to lay cable for the company she was named for. For the last four months she has been in Miami for repairs and now she has returned to reclaim her place as the flagship of Key West's fleet of tall ships. We hope to have some pictures soon.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


What a ride!
About midnight Sunday morning, a violent thunderstorm struck Key West. As the storm hit, a huge wind gust spun us around and caused one of our anchors to break loose. (Oddly it was our biggest, heaviest anchor.) The gust had the boat heeling over at about 25 degrees or so for a very long 10 or 15 seconds. Fortunately, our two other anchors held, and as the wind shifted, the big anchor reset itself. We sat up most of the night keeping watch to make sure we didn't drag and hit something (like another boat.)
We found out today that the storm produced steady winds of over 40 knots and one gust was recorded at 60!
The only damage happened when one of the bamboo curtains in the pilothouse broke free and slapped the VHF antenna, snapping the mount off at the base. This is easily repaired, and there was no other damage to contend with.
And the big news is - we didn't run aground or have to be towed. We held in place. Whew! But it was a wild ride even so.
We had thunderstorms again on Sunday night, but not as bad. Last night the storms had the decency to go around us. The next few days are expected to be quiet.
On a lighter note, when we got up this morning, we discovered the tall ship "Bounty" had anchored not far away. She was in town only to pick up a passenger and was back out on the sea, headed for Mexico, by noon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Little by little

The computer is getting well again, little by little. By the next post I should have some new photos to share. For now, just a few words about plans.
As it looks now (subject to change at any time) we will be pulling anchor and leaving Key West around the end of April. It will all depend on favorable wind shifts. Right now we have near constant northeast winds which will make it tough going if we head north. We plan on taking the boat out a few times before then to "shake down" after 4 months of sitting at anchor. Baking in the sun is taking its toll on sail covers, varnish, paint and other vital stuff. Not using the engine also takes its toll as gunk builds up in the carb. So little by little, we start getting ready to get on the move again. It's a shame, because we would really like to stay here. But they have this little thing called hurricane season and I'd really like to follow the good old "BSE" rule - Be Somewhere Else!
So we will try this spring to complete the loop by making our way back to Kingston NY. While there we can visit my sister (who now lives in Middletown) and my son in Albany. I will also attempt to clean out my storage bay. (If you have need of a NEW 15 hp outboard, contact me.) From there we hope to spend some time on the Cape with Bev's family. After that we might just head back to the Keys for next winter.
For now, we're just content to be "livin' out the lyrics Buffett wrote." (A line from "Same Boat" by Eric Stone.)