Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Key West To Dry Tortugas
(page 2 of 2)
This is a view looking north from the lighthouse. There are probably better pictures on the web somewhere. Hey, I'm not writing a travelogue here. There was supposed to be good snorkeling just west of Garden Key, off of Loggerhead Key, but we never made the two-mile dinghy ride over there. There isn't much point in snorkeling in windy conditions, and that's exactly what we had.
We took Holly over to the fort twice during our stay, for walks around the moat. She wasn't allowed inside the fort, but she could join us if we stayed outside. On her first visit, she laid a deposit right in view of a park ranger. I knew he was watching to see what I would do with "it," but we came prepared; I had a baggie in my pocket and used it. I then walked over and asked the ranger where I could deposit Holly's deposit, and he said I could discretely place it in one of the trash cans on the dock for the ferry to take back to Key West. I said, "You mean winding up and firing it in the can from several feet away like Cal Ripkin wouldn't be a good idea?" Luckily, he had a sense of humor.
One evening, a sailboat pulled in late and we recognized it from our stay at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon. The next day, Glenn and John brought their dinghy over to have a talk. We wound up talking to, or visiting, everyone who spent time in the harbor. We even traded our one DVD with some folks in a catamaran that had sailed up from Mexico, near Cancun. It was a much nicer experience with neighboring boats in this harbor than we had in Key West. We are also only 98 miles from Havana. I'd really like to go there, but we'll wait until it's legal and we can get insurance
Since the water was clear enough to use our water maker, I decided to start it up for the first time to make sure it worked. I couldn't get any suction on the inlet side and discovered a loose fitting around a filter. Once I remedied that issue, the self-priming pump started pulling water from the sea strainer that feeds the generator. It took forever to fill the the large pre-filter supplied with the water maker, but eventually, I had supposedly clean water dribbling out of the drain hose. While I let that run, I checked our existing boat water supply with the tester that also came with the unit. Our house water was reading 256 PPM of something, not sure what, I would guess salinity, but the instructions don't say. I filled a cup with the water coming from the water maker's drain and then tested it and got a reading of 150 PPM. It also tasted good, quite good, actually. I then routed the water maker to the tank on the boat. This is something you are not supposed to do, but I don't always follow directions. We keep 6 gallons of drinking water always on hand and will test our tank water after making water, and we'll only make water in clear, ocean water. Never harbor water, or silty water of any kind. If our water ever tastes bad, we'll know it. We both have sensitive taste buds in that regard, and we'll dump our tank water if we have to. I don't think we'll have to, plus we aren't going to be traveling across oceans for days or weeks at a time.
There was supposed to be weather reports posted in the ranger station at the dock every day, but the same one remained for the whole five days we were there. I was getting spotty reports from NOAA on our VHF, and a weather window was being reported for January 7. I thought we would wait a day for the seas to calm down before we left, but another front was coming in behind a short calm period, so when we woke up on Monday morning, I told Rosie that it would be a good idea to head back and she agreed.
Two other sailboats in the harbor with us had the same idea, and we all three pulled out of the harbor. Before we left, I fired up the water maker, let it run to drain for a few minutes, then turned the valve to start filling the boat tank while we cruised back to civilization. The pump is in our lazarette and is fairly quiet, especially under way. The first boat had an hour head start, but we caught up with both boats soon enough. They were not under sail, as there was light wind coming from the east, the way we were all heading.
Our plan was to stay at Marquesas Key for a night or two, depending on if we could get a sheltered anchorage. Marquesas is an atoll, but entering the center takes you over some shallow areas, and I didn't want to risk going aground 20 miles from any assistance in Key West. I don't want to go aground in front of a Towboat U.S. vessel even.
Rosie and I considered our options: We has some work to get done on the boat, and we didn't want to come all this way without spending some time in downtown Key West, so we decided to skip Marquesas Key and head to Key West. As soon as we got within cell phone range, Rosie started calling marinas in Key West Bight to see if we could get a slip. The Galleon was our first choice, but a sailboat show was coming in on January 17 and they were booked up then. We wanted to stay longer than that, so we wound up at the A & B Marina right next door to The Galleon. More on that later.