Journal entries from Dec. 24 - Dec. 31, 2016. Boot Key, Marathon, Florida.
I talked to Chris Parker this morning and told him of my plans to leave on the 30th for Marina Hemingway. He said that the entrance to the marina was difficult to navigate in northerly winds and he expects a cold front to sweep down there on Friday. He recommended that we get going Thursday and make port by Friday at the earliest time we can. Will doesn’t know of this and it may change by the time he arrives but as of now I’m planning to leave on Thursday morning.
Our permit does not jive with the weather of course but I can’t help that.
There is a pot luck lunch/dinner tomorrow afternoon at the marina. I will make an Italian cabbage salad, I bought the fennel seed today and have everything else. Got to bring something.
Once again it’s Christmas and I’m feeling pretty lonely even if it’s my own doing. There is a dinner at the marina building this afternoon and that should help. Will is flying down on Wednesday, don’t know exactly when, I hope we’ll have enough of the day left to get some supplies in because the next morning I plan to sail. A cold front is moving down by Friday night and we have to get in the harbor before it arrives. It’s 123 miles and will take all that day and night to traverse. There is the current to consider as well. It would be better still if we could get going Wednesday late. That would give me time to get there even if our speed dropped to four or so knots. I’ll let Will know the details today.
The weather yesterday was very nice, 77 and drier than it’s been. Today the pattern has reverted with an easterly wind, occasional rain and 80 degree temps.
I made a salad as my offering to the boater’s Christmas pot-luck. People really put on the feedbag including me. They had a buffet spread and a line a hundred cruisers long stretching down the side of the building. Well worth the wait. I joined a table with folks who had been out for years living on their boats and another couple who had just started. It was great fun and I picked up a few good things to know. Somehow flying had gotten mention, one couple lives in Colorado, and in the course of conversation they said they had met a guy from South Africa who gave hang gliding lessons and was on a boat and… I knew just who they meant, met him in Salinas, Puerto Rico two years ago. Boy, do cruisers live in a small world. Big ocean, small community.
Each morning in Marathon on the VHF radio channel 68 there is a cruiser’s net which gives a weather report, welcomes new boats, says goodbye to those leaving and notifies us of any activities that may be going on that day. This morning I heard of an outboard motor for sale in town and followed up on the lead by riding my bike to the shop where it was. It was a wasted trip of course, I already have a well used motor. But, it was such a nice morning I took the time and pedaled from one end of the island to the other riding in a bike lane or on the sidewalk. I guess I’m getting used to it because I wasn’t as tired as the last time out. I’m far more cognizant of traffic too, now I wave an arm when approaching an intersecting side street so the driver might notice me. It works.
An activity mentioned for one o’clock today was Mexican Train dominoes, a game I like to play so I thought I’d give it a go. So as not to waste a dinghy trip I brought a bag of laundry to pop in the machines. Apparently the game isn’t as popular here as it is in other places, at least with men. I ended up playing at a table with seven women, all good players. I was tolerated and had an interesting time, my laundry made me miss a couple of rounds but they invited me right back into the game. The women are all serious cruisers, some have been at it for years and years. And one lady said she was never going back to live on land again. But, unlike a men’s domino game these women began to clean the tiles with handy wipes… all of them. All I could do was laugh, and, when the timing was right, said: “See, you washed all the luck off”. Ho, ho.
Will Patten is flying down today to join me for the Cuba leg of my trip. I hope he has an open schedule. It will be a good change to have someone else onboard, it is safer and I can use the company.
Dec. 29, 2016 Marathon
Will arrived safely late yesterday, delayed in the Miami airport miasma and Route One traffic. He is enthusiastic about the trip and has plans for our Cuban visit. He will be our activities director. I have enough to do just getting us there.
The boat is ready for the trip, all I have left to do is fill the fuel tank and that can be done on the way out of the harbor. The weather and our schedule are in disagreement, a strong cold front is coming into the area on Friday and the next two days after it passes will have powerful winds from the east. I thought about going to Key West because it is a few miles closer to Marina Hemingway, about twenty as the crow flys, but with the wind factor it’s a better plan just to hang out here in the river until Monday. Besides, Will has a rental car so we can go anywhere we like until then. We’ll use it today for provisioning.
I met the people who bought the old wooden boat anchored next to me. The girl said they were trying to get out of the deal but sighed, admitting they had been impetuous. What do you mean impetuous? It’s a wooden boat, built in the thirties and the transmission is shot, what’s not to like? And the fact that it had been towed to where it is might have tipped you off that the $5000 asking price was too good to be true.
Since Will kept his rental car for a second day he and I took the opportunity to visit Key West driving down there on the Overseas Highway. It takes about an hour to go the forty miles, traffic was heavy due to the holiday weekend and no one was in a hurry. Key West was packed with tourists. I had been there with Jeanne some twenty years ago and thought the town was a zoo then; and Will said he remembered good times from his college days, certain places that he’d like to revisit. But Key West changed. The funky, laid-back little city has been changed over to a throbbing commercial venture that has little, if any, soul. Maybe it was the forty dollars it cost to park. Or, the singer in Sloppy Joes, the bar Will reministed about, who should have been playing on the pier. At least on Mallory’s Pier at sunset the buskers showed real talent to the cell phone toting tourists. Two cruise ships were in town contributing their passengers to the mob. So we wandered around settling in at a joint where we felt comfortable, near the boat docks, and spent the rest of our time talking to well-heeled boaters.
Today the much publicized cold front is moving into Marathon and the Keys bringing cooler air and very gusty winds. Walkabout is backed into the mangrove trees, her anchor dragged a few feet during the week and the rudder is in the riverbank at low tide. Not much of a problem so far and we hope to leave Sunday afternoon. The wind predictions are for strong east winds tomorrow and less for New Year’s day. I think we can have good sailing by starting early in the morning Sunday arriving outside the channel to Marina Hemingway Tuesday at sunrise. It won’t be a placid trip, the waves will still be seven to nine feet when we start but should go down as we get closer to Cuba.
Craig and Donna from Mighty Fine got here yesterday, we ran into them last night at Overseas, the restaurant across the road from the city marina. They plan to stay in Marathon for the winter and have a slip at Sombrero. We’ll join them on the beach this afternoon.
Will and I ran errands in town this morning turning in our marina cards and getting some last minute internet. I biked up to Publix and bought a carton of milk and some eggs. On the way back a guy in a white SUV pulled out of a store driveway and knocked me off my bicycle. If he had not slammed on the brakes I wouldn’t be writing this. Luck was on my side and I wasn’t hurt, only shaken up. The driver was all apologies of course and waited anxiously while I got my wits, and temper back. Later I complained to the marina manager, not that he could do anything but that he should warn other visitors of the problem. Biking on the sidewalks is a given, the highway is far too dangerous, but drivers don’t always know you’re there. The manager knew exactly what I was talking about but said this time of year there were just too many idiots in town…
On that note, at eleven we cast off the line to the mangrove trees, pulled up the anchor and headed out of Dodge. Picked up some diesel fuel at Burdine’s dock and motored out of the channel anchoring again in the spot I took ten days ago where we will stay tonight. The plan is to leave around seven tomorrow morning and set a course directly to Marina Hemingway. The marina is nine miles west of Havana and we should be at the sea buoy outside the entrance by eight or nine Monday morning with a southeasterly wind coming off the land. NOAA’s wind and wave prediction for the trip are Southeasterly wind of fifteen knots and seas up to six feet but averaging four and a half feet. If that comes true we should be able to sail the whole way which would be a real treat.
Happy New Year to everyone!