Jan 1, 201309:55 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
A Perfect New Years Eve, Almost
During another restless night on the hook, just west of Fleming Key, Rosie and I slept in the salon: I on the couch and Rosie on the dinette. Holly bunked with Rosie, but during the night, she snuck away and climbed up with me. I was oblivious to her climbing up with me on the couch, so any "anchor watch" I was engaged in was of no value.
It didn't matter. Our auxiliary anchor (which is a Danforth) kept us in place, mainly because the wind blew at a constant rate from the north and east. The fact that I dove down on the anchor and shoved it in past the grass and into the sand was the only reason that this anchor held. Yes, James, these anchors do have their use, as long as your boat doesn't change direction over them.
On New Years Eve morning, I called The Galleon and was told initially they didn't have anything in the way of a slip. I'd decided to surprise Rosie and get us a slip, I was prepared to spend a couple hundred dollars if I had to; we came a long way not to. I plied my case with a very nice girl on the phone, and when she learned we only wanted the slip for one night, she found out that a boat was leaving at 11 a.m., and the slip was in fact available for one night, as it was reserved again starting New Years Day. We were in! Rosie was overjoyed. She cried again, for happiness this time, hugging and kissing me too. I did a good thing.
At 10 a.m., as the wind just started to let up, I donned my wetsuit, fins and mask, and swam out to pull up the stern Danforth, hoping when I got it up the boat would drift back over our bow anchor and it would hold us until we could get it up, too. Then, we could get out of Dodge. The Danforth was only in a few feet of water, but still too deep to stand on the bottom and pull it up. I'd taken a fender out with me in order to float the anchor back to the boat, but I couldn't hold onto it and dive down to the anchor at the same time. It was a bad idea in the first place. I swam the fender back to the boat and went back out to the anchor, but to no avail. I had to take another tactic to get the anchor up. Remember what happened to our other anchor back in Coffeyville? I didn't want to lose another anchor or break anything on the boat.
The Danforth was tied at a forward cleat. I had enough line to bring some back to a stern cleat, something I will do from now on, leave enough line to reach the opposite end of the boat, no matter what. I made the other end fast to the stern cleat and took the line off the forward cleat. As the boat spun around, I took up the slack of the forward anchor, but not too much. Once we got set again on the Danforth, now from the stern, Rosie pulled extra line in on the stern anchor as I backed down on it with the engines running, letting out bow anchor line as we went. When we got directly over the stern anchor, Rosie made fast the line, and I went down to pull up the anchor. I expected a lot of resistance, but the Danforth easily pulled straight up. I placed it on the swim platform to deal with it after we swung back around and came to rest again on our bow anchor.
This process was tricky due to the close proximity we were to our neighbors, the prairie dogs. Only when we were safely far enough away did Rosie reveal to me that the male prairie dog was beside himself when he saw me swimming out to the Danforth anchor with the fender. "He's putting another buoy out!" Is what Rosie could hear him exclaim to the female prairie dog. When Rosie told me this, I wanted to turn around and give him a piece of my mind, but I thought better of it. Why let these people ruin our day?
It got ruined on its own.
We had told the dockmaster at the Galleon that we would arrive by 11 a.m. At 10:45, we were hailed on the VHF radio from the nice girl at the Galleon. At first I thought she was calling to make sure we were still coming. Not so fast Keemosabee. "I have bad news, Captain," is what the dockmaster said. I knew then that we weren't getting our slip after all.
"We can't find the captain of the boat that is in the slip we were going to give you. But we did call around and found you another slip in the area." Maybe our day was saved after all! "We found a slip at Oceanside Marina." My heart sank. Anyone with a brain would deduce that Oceanside Marina would be, well, on the oceanside. My local geography knowledge told me this marina would be on Stock Island, and I was right. We didn't want to go back to our anchorage. We knew we could take a cab back downtown to celebrate New Years Eve, so we told her that we would take the slip, albeit very reluctantly.
We rounded the horn of Key West on the southern side, and the waves fed by a very strong easterly wind played havoc with us. Spray was blowing over the bimini, and it was rough going. About halfway to the day beacon where we were to turn into the channel north to the harbor, Holly was looking pretty peevish, if a dog can look peevish. As soon as I remarked on it, Holly barfed all over Rosie. We apparently have a crew member that is seasick prone. As Rosie cleaned up the mess the best she could while we were bounced around by the waves, I made the turn into the channel to Oceanside. The going got better, and as we entered smoother water, two dock attendants were standing by waiting for us.
The folks at Oceanside Marina were very nice to us. They only had one space left, adjacent to the fuel dock. The price was $110 for the night, but they were going to be closed on New Years Day, so we didn't have to leave until later in the day. Yes, a cab could be gotten to downtown Key West, but the woman said getting one back when we wanted may prove to be difficult. We found that out. I asked about restaurants in the area and was told about Hogfish, a bar/restaurant a short cab ride away, or a shorter dinghy ride right around the point to our west. Rosie and I had some decisions to make. Go downtown, or stay in the area?
The dinghy ride over to Hogfish would be easier, but we would need to go out, way out, around some shallow water into the rough Hawk Channel somewhat, to get over to the harbor where Hogfish Saloon was located. Rosie didn't want to get wet coming or going, and going in the dinghy and staying past dark was not too appealing either.
As we were rinsing the salt off of the boat, a fella next to us told us they liked Hogfish when they went over there, and a cab ride would be about $25 each way to downtown, and he agreed that getting a ride back may not be possible. Stock Island was too far for cab drivers to want to go. We decided to get a cab ride over to Hogfish and worry later about the ride back.
Here we are at Hogfish, just after we got there. I have the Budweiser that I wanted to have after we arrived in Key West, but we were officially at Stock Island. Just a formality. We moved over to a "bench seat" at a nearby counter, lined with other folks, all locals, and we had a very good time. Some locals took us under their wing and included us in their fun, even placing some party beads around our necks and buying us some beers. We had some good appetizers and really enjoyed ourselves, but since we got there early, we were ready to leave about 8 o'clock. We said goodbye and called the cab company. We had already been warned by at least three people not to walk back to Oceanside Marina, as it wouldn't be safe. For us, or them? I wondered.
We waited a very long time for a cab. When one pulled up from the company we called, a group said it was their cab and piled in before us. I could tell the driver knew them and was a friend, and we weren't getting a ride. Period.
It got later, and I began to ask strangers for a ride back to Oceanside. I hate to ask anybody for anything, so this was a big deal for me to resort to this. We were contemplating walking anyway when another cab from the company we called pulled up. No, it wasn't our cab, the driver said, he was headed downtown, the opposite direction we were going. "We're getting in anyway," I said, and opened the sliding door to jump in. Another couple was sitting in the cab already! Rosie pushed past me and climbed in the back. She was getting a ride come hell or high water. The couple in the cab told the driver to take us to Oceanside first, they were in no hurry. I think they just wanted to hear what was going to come out of Rosie's mouth next. We got to Oceanside safely, without being evicted, and paid $10 for a $6 fare. Good enough, I thought, in light of the long wait.
This morning, we washed the boat, a thorough job. I checked the weather, and there is a window for us to travel to the Marquessas and then on to the Dry Tortugas, but it may be later today or in the morning before we leave. If the seas settle down this afternoon, we can get to the Marquessas, 21 miles away, by this afternoon, and then go the last 50 miles in the morning to the Dry Tortugas. We're waiting now to see what the winds will do this afternoon. We don't want to intentionally get salt spray all over the boat again, or have Holly barf all over Rosie either, so we want calmer seas before we go.
There will be no communication with us until we get back from this trip. The rangers at Fort Jefferson issue weather reports every morning, and those reports will dictate as to when we can get another window to return, so it's hard to say when that will be. I hope it's worth the trip. Everyone who goes says it is. Happy New Year everyone!