Apr 3, 201309:19 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Finally in the Bahamas
(page 1 of 2)
On Monday, April 1, we took a cab to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital so Holly could get her "physical" and health certificate for entering the Bahamas. Seventy-five dollars later, we were headed back to Boot Key Harbor, exactly one month to the day after her rabies shot. Her shot had to be administered no sooner than one month prior to her entry into the Bahamas, but we now also had, by law, 48 hours to check in at customs and immigration. We'd heard there is wiggle room in the 48 hour stipulation, but we hear lots of things.
I'd filed a float plan with the Small Vessel Reporting Service, a feature administered by the U.S. Customs Service. This should allow us to enter back into the U.S. with just a phone call. I stated our last port as Marathon, knowing full well we would be getting fuel before we left U.S. waters, but I didn't know where. Already breaking laws.
We pulled out of Boot Key Harbor and made our exit into Hawk Channel through the Little Sisters cut and headed east, or northeast. I thought we might stay overnight at Rodriquez Key, near Tavernier, Fla., but I cranked Swing Set up to cruising speed and we arrived at Rodriquez Key just after noon, too early to call it a day. I used the Active Captain feature on our Garmin Bluechart Mobil app on the iPad to find a marina that sold diesel, so we pulled into the Key Largo Harbor Marina for a $500 fill up of 100 gallons of the red stuff.
I picked out Angelfish Creek on our chart for our intended overnight stay and was making way towards it when I saw a line of clouds forming to the north of us. I used the XM Weather feature on our Garmin chartplotter and found out there was a big storm cell coming our way. I got on the VHF for a NOAA weather report and confirmed the report on XM of an intense storm with a severe marine advisory on our hands.
I reacted too quickly, not knowing for sure which way the storm was heading, but I thought I could get around it to the east, so I headed out to sea to circumvent the storm. I didn't seem to be making any headway, so I listened to the NOAA report again and found out the storm was heading southeast at 25 knots. We weren't going to outrun it at our present rate, so I did a U-turn and headed back toward land, not knowing where I was going to find a safe harbor. The only nearby place was a small channel into the Ocean Reef Club, so I made way towards it, and once in the harbor, I called the harbormaster and requested to tie up until the storm passed at their very exclusive and no doubt expensive club. He gave us permission to tie up between two megayachts, as long as we needed to in order to avoid the serious weather headed our way.
After an hour, the major part of the storm had headed out to sea, and the marine advisory had been concluded. I called the harbormaster and thanked him for his hospitality, and we pulled back out into Hawk Channel for our short hop into Angelfish Creek, a cut-through from Hawk Channel to Card Sound. Just as we got into the narrow channel leading into Angelfish Creek, the skies let loose and we got a free boat wash. By the time we put our anchor down, the rain had stopped and we were able to enjoy a pleasant evening once the big boats traversing the cut stopped for the night. None of them seemed too concerned about any "no wake near boats at anchor" protocol.
I was up by 6 a.m., checking the weather and the oil in the Cats. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when I began to get under way. Hold it right there, partner. The port engine wouldn't crank over, and during my diagnosis of the problem, I ran the batteries down and the starboard engine wouldn't crank either. Dead in the water.
I started the generator to charge up the batteries and then climbed into the engine room to see what was going on. I can't seem to climb into the engine room without cutting myself somewhere, and this time was no exception. I checked the alternator belt and battery voltage and didn't find anything wrong. The back of my right hand was bleeding as I climbed back out of the engine room, adding to my displeasure.
I was able to start the port engine with the starboard engine already running by holding the jumper switch down, but the port engine would die when I let loose of the switch. To keep the engine running, I used a clothespin to hold down the switch, but we weren't going to be traveling to the Bahamas that way, so I used the offshore services feature on our Garmin chartplotter and found a MarineMax dealer in Miami, plotted a course to it and pointed Swing Set toward Card Sound, scrapping our long-awaited crossing for at least another day. But who knew how long we would be delayed?
Rosie had gone below for something and then came to the bridge and asked me if I had turned off the breaker for the port ignition. I said I had not, and then the lightbulb came on. I asked Rosie to switch the breaker on, then I removed the clothespin, and the port engine kept purring along. Rosie was quite proud of herself, and this was one of the times I was reminded that we are truly a team. We seem to make up for what the other sometimes lacks. We did a little dance, and I turned the boat around 180 degrees. Bimini, here we come!
We were about an hour behind schedule, knowing full well it could have been much worse. I could only imagine running all the way up to Miami to the MarineMax dealer there only to find out the ignition was off. I may have quit boating on the spot.
We had smooth sailing, as you can see from the photo above, but about halfway across the 56 miles, the light northerly winds kicked up a 3 knot Gulf Stream and things got bumpy. The ship's bell was ringing almost constantly once I put Swing Set on plane to get on top of the waves. I'm not sure if the pounding at speed was worse, or the extreme rolling we were getting at our slower, more economical speed, but we made up some time and were soon in sight of land.