If time is money and you have more time, Do you need more money?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

updates

I will post updates soon  the florida sw coast has no internet  on the journey!   AND I AM DODGING 88mph WINDS!  A MASSINVE STORM IS BLOWING ACROSS THE AREA AND SUNSHINE BRIDGE HAD THE ABOVE WINDS CLOCKED EARLIER.

Wes

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Los Tortugas.... 3-19/22-11

Day three, four, five... fishing, snorkeling, campfires, and jokes.

the infamous snorkeling wall at Fort Jefferson
Snorkeling on the famed west wall, while excellent paled in comparison to the unspoiled, less frequented, Loggerhead Key. Very few place offer the ability to walk to the beach and snorkel with such a wonderful coral formation. The better specimens are right on the wall forming the mote. Random coral heads surrounded by grass flats make the remaining area interesting also. I do believe after seeing the condition of the coral at Fort Jefferson compared to Loggerhead that tourism is killing the area's coral.




Capt.”K” invited me out in the dinghy to fish some of the offshore areas. We were both hoping the banks outside the channel markers would be productive for dinner. Once out there the reality of fishing in “blue” water with 15-20 winds from such a small made for a not very pleasant trip. We caught a small mackerel, a small grouper and a few coral heads (lol). After loosing a couple lures it was a long wet ride back.
Small fish are better than no fish
The island is surrounded with large barracuda. Using light tackle to catch them without a leader is fun. I have caught around 30 cudas with 15 pound braid and a Penn AF4000. Using a 20 pound florocarbon leader and a “Redfish Magic” in solid white. (Finally something besides the Yo-Zuri minnow gets a fish) I also caught one small Gag Grouper, a Jack Crevalle and a Spanish Mackerel (other than the one above). All this while fishing from the dinghy beach or brick beach.
A SMALL Cuda


On day four while fishing the beaches and dock we met Ray and Ashley. They were from Ohio and had gotten engaged last year at the fort. He was fishing for dinner also. We also met Capt Mike, he brought a group of eagle scouts for their final achievements. As conversation exchanged I managed to catch 3 mangrove snappers for dinner.
Ray and Ashely take a last dip before their departure

Ray and Ashley were cooking all their extra food since his stay was to end the next day, Capt Mike and the scouts were having a camp fire, and Wee Happy was invited to another sailboat foe sundowners. Ray breaded the snapper in macadamia and coconut breading then fried it in organic coconut oil. Awesome! We made this an appetizer for their sausages and hot dogs. Capt “K” showed up too late for snapper but managed a hot dog. We were all too late for the camp fire but after the fire Capt Mike and the other counselor joined us for drinks and bad jokes. An excellent end a wonderful day!
s/v Wee Happy as seen from my front porch.  The winds change the view often.

The days blend together when you have no phone, no watch and no internet.
Wes

Loggerhead Key... 3-18-11

Day Two Los Tortugas...Loggerhead Key
The lighthouse as we approach from Fort Jefferson
Northwest shore Loggerhead Key
Loggerhead Key...How would you like to buy a ticket to the moon only to be allowed to orbit and never land? That is the same as buying a fast cat ticket to the Dry Tortugas on the Yankee Freedom. You can't land on Loggerhead Key without your own boat unless you want to swim two and a half miles in open ocean! Loggerhead is a small key inhabited currently by a park volunteer in one of four buildings on the key. The light house has been relegated to “local” navigation.  The upkeep of the structures could use some maintenance as well as removal of washed ashore debris. While most of this leads to its charm as an island nature will eventually win without intervention. With it's installed solar and plumbing this is the perfect place to hang out for that person seeking solitude.  It would make for a great artist retreat!  The crew of Wee Happy are checking on becoming volunteers they loved this place so much.
One of the few buildings on the island (Two houses, a lighthouse and a storage building)

The three of us dinghy'd over across open ocean to snorkel on less traveled coral.  We were treated to coral heads only 15 feet from the beach!  These wonderful, unspoiled oasis offered sanctuary for the local sea life.  The grass fields off shore are the home of conch, so well know in the keys but protected from harvest.  The conch population has been almost depleted in the 70's.  Current estimates are that the legal size lobster population suffers a 90% harvest every year.   

I was snorkeling around the dock and motioned for Lala to come over and see the barracuda.   She continued on out the length of the dock returning excited and wanting me to see the "fish".  She had found a goliath grouper under the park use only dock.  It was as large as the floor of their dinghy.  I explained that the small grouper I had caught at Bahia Honda grows up to be this fish.  A full grown goliath grouper may weigh 800 pounds!  Also known as a Jew Fish

Standing on western moist point of exposed land

 Fort Jefferson from loggerhead, over 2 miles away
Lala and her angel wings made from washed up sea fans
Time to read a sci-fi book

  


 

Capt "K" and I discussed using the dinghy to reach a couple fishing spots the next day...
Wes

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sailing off to Key West...3-17-11

Off to Key West...  I woke early (5:30a) today, way too early!   I tried  to go back to sleep but the best I could manage was a couple of cat naps.  The plan for the day was to make it to Key West by sunset.  When the alarm finally went off, I grabbed a shower, a sausage biscuit, and some internet before leaving Bahia Honda.  After dropping Tom's bus schedule back to his camp site I rowed back out.  I could see the crew of s/v Wee Happy up and about the deck.  I raised the main sail, pulled the anchor and sailed out of Bahia Honda anchorage.

The sailing was good and the day was uneventful. I really do not like going down wind without a spinnaker!  The mental effort and fatigue of micromanaging the course without an autopilot is exhausting.

Wing and wing  holding open for the moment, dead down wind!

As we passed Newfound Harbor we were officially further West now than on my first two attempts to make it to Key West.  As we were about to pass Sugarloaf Key I heard Capt. “K” on the radio.  “Hey man, it's a pretty nice day out here..(pause)....what do you think of making it an “all nighter” and sailing on to the Dry Tortugas?”  Wee Happy worked out the course and I made the phone calls to find a marina that we could top off the fuel and get some supplies.  Oceanside Marina was accommodating and even allowed us to stay tied up to the fuel dock long enough to go to Key West by bus and get some fresh produce, drinks and another 5 gallon fuel can each (taxi ride back).  Once back to the boats we shoved off at sunset with a blow of the conch horn.

Wee Happy as the sun sets over stock island leaving a very helpful Oceanside Marina
Key west wouldn't rock in sync with the boat for a good photo.

Does a drive by count as making it to Key West?  No?  Didn't think so.  I will try again later.

Anther boat, something? Drummer, at Key West overheard our conversation on the radio and talked to Capt “K” until we were out of range.  I think they were going to Guatemala the next day.  As the night became silent and only the occasional light showed the  location of other boats and the light housed.  Around 1:30a we passed the Marquessas Keys,  I could see 5 anchor lights.  Then with the moon only a day from full I could make out the shape of a sail on the horizon.  Wee Happy could see the green navigation light but their port side red was not burning.  For me it was passing a ghost ship in the light of a moon.

As the night continued and energy slowly drained from my body I kept reminding myself of the reward.  The reward of single handing a sailboat for 36 hours without a self steering unit.  The reward and accomplishment of pushing myself harder and further than ever before.  Knowing that the dark blue monster I now sail across is only restless and not angry.  But the winds against the port are so tiring.  Trying to keep the sails open while riding down a 5-6 foot wave, ever changing direction.  Watch the sail, watch the compass, watch the ocean, watch fugawi, correct the tiller, change the sails, don't fall overboard all under the damp dark cold of night.  As the sky lightens and the emergence of the impending sun becomes immanent a sigh of relief comes from deep withing.  What is it about the light of day that is so settling to the human spirit.  Just taking photos of the rising sun I suddenly felt the becalming.
Sunrise 20 miles from the Dry Tortugas
video
Sunrise from the Wee Happy perspective

The dark blue monster became an azurine carpet rolling before me.  Stretching out for hours, it became my magic carpet and on that carpet I rode.  Exhausted I finally heard on the radio, "Land Ho!" from Capt "K".
Fort Jefferson
At the end of the azurine blue carpet was a thin line of brick color.  The expectation of the end was abound.  The brick colored horizon was slowly, very slowly growing wider.  Twenty eight hours after setting sail from Bahia Honda I reached the first marker!  I was officially in Los Tortugas!  The excitement of closing in on the greatest adventure I had ever undertaken was secretly draining the remaining energy I had.  By the time the second marker showed another half hour had passed and I was completely drained.  It felt as the horizons were moving and closing in, like walking into  the mirrored fun house at the fair  I was becoming more and more uncertain of my choices.  The chart was just before me on the cockpit seat but the small size of the chart compared to the expanse of Los Tortugas  and lack of rest created problems with the mental translation.  At this time I hailed s/v Wee Happy and asked for a guide into the anchorage.  They lead the course about 3-4 more miles,  all the way around the Fort!  There is a reef protecting entry from the front and boats have to circle all the way around before anchoring just behind the reef and a small island.  As I approached the final marked channel, almost 4 hours after first sight,  things became clear again and all made sense.  As I watched Wee Happy anchor I surveyed the anchorage for an acceptable place to drop the anchor and row ashore.

With Gemini Dreams safe in the anchorage (after choosing a second spot and Capt "K" double checking on me),  I went to take a tour. I had new found energy!  I must have been mentally asleep during those 45 minutes and woke rested.  As soon as I rowed ashore I felt the need to conquer the island.  After landing and taking some quick photos of a pelican I was fended off by a mighty park ranger.  She escorted me over to the debriefing room, guaranteeing she received the five dollar fee, making sure there were no Cubans on board, and gathering all my boating information.  After this she offered to answer all questions, showed me where the weather information was, where I could fish, where I could snorkel, and reminded me Fort Jefferson is a National Park and I needed to get the hell out at sunset!  Now off to explore Fort Jefferson!

X  SLIDE SHOW LATER X


As I returned to the dinghy, I passed the crew of Wee Happy.  They asked if I took a nap.  LOL  No, I responded, telling them I planned to crash after sunset.  I asked if they had been interrogated by the ranger and had their debriefing?  They said no but they stuck their $10 in the box.  When I got back to Gemini Dreams (6pm) I turned on both computers, one to watch a movie and the other to rough type this blog entry while things were still fresh.  When I woke at 10pm they were still on, the first with the movie data base called up but a movie never started and the second with only 5 or 6 notes about the journeys details. I had crashed 36 1/2 hours after waking way too early the previous day.

I can't do the saga justice.  Everyone needs to single hand over night and then some without self steering!  Anchors Dragging, Fifty Knot Blows and Overnight Passages... Oh My!  What is next on this little journey?

1st day in Los Tortugas summary:  It was a full moon, I missed my first sunset here, and I am SO f'N exhausted!  But I am here, 70 miles from the end of US1 and 110 miles from where I started.  Glad s/v Wee Happy and crew was here for the trip!  Without them the thoughts of turning back may have came into play (shhh don't tell them they cheat with an auto pilot and two people on board.  lol).

s/v Wee Happy anchored at the Dry Tortugas.

 final note: go buy a damn auto pilot!
Wes


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sailing off to Key West...

Sound familiar? Well this is the story of three wee boats left from the Wee Armada.  First was s/v Earendil to leave Bahia Honda.on there was back to Boot Key Harbor.  Once they rounded the island their engine was no longer cooperating.  As I sailed into the channel s/v Wee Happy hailed them on the radio as their sails should have been up by now.  They were planning on going back to Bahia Honda to evaluate the situation (turns out just a fouled prop).

First boat down!

About two miles down Hawk's Channel I received a hail from Wee Happy they just lost their jib!  Not knowing if they meant they furled it to just use the main if they had catastrophic failure, I gave them some time to sort things out.  Once I realized they were no longer on course I came about to head back to their location.  When I called on the radio they were talking options and plans.  The easiest and quickest would be back to Bahia Honda.  I thought I would have enough on board to repair what they needed so back they went (ends up they were repaired before I got back).

Second boat down!

Since both boats were on their way to Bahia Honda and I needed to tack at least once I sailed out to sea on the first leg.  Once I was east enough to sail through the bridge I made the final tack to approach.  The Genoa caught slightly on the stays and backfilled.  She slid over to port on her own power and I tightened the sheet.  As I leaned back against the cockpit ready sail into Bahia Honda Park I looked up to see a 4 foot rip in the mid section of the sail.  I furled the sail and started the motor to limp into Bahia Honda.  Having to motor through the same grass drift that took out Earendil of course I fouled the prop.  While clearing the motor I was visited again by homeland security and all four of their engines.  "Hi guys it's been a couple days...from Bahia Honda....out two miles....back to Bahia Honda...Oh, can I get a better pic this time?"

Third boat down!

With all three boats back in Bahia Honda with Dreamer it was time to figure out dinner.  I offered to cook pasta and it grew from there.  Christina was surprised when she returned from work since she and Kurt were the only ones she expected to be here.  Lobster pasta with Mexican apps (since she didn't know Christina brought dinner for her and Kurt)

Lobster Pasta

  • Two pounds of cooked lobster
  • Two pounds of pasta cooked
  • Two bottles of Alfredo sauce
  • Two tbls of lobster base
  • One tbls of Italian seasoning
  • One tbls of blackening seasoning
  • One tbls of crushed garlic
  • One red and one green pepper saute'd with one large portabello mushroom
Cook pasta and then add Alfredo sauce, seasonings, lobster base, crushed garlic and saute'd peppers and mushrooms.  Bring to serving temp and then add lobster.  Serve immediately with sunset, conch horns and friends.


Well the first two turn out to be simple repairs, over the side and up the mast.  Gemini Dreams on the other hand had to have the Genoa pulled, folded, bagged, Tom gave me a ride to Marathon (saved me from getting up at 4:45am to catch the first bus THANK YOU), north bus 31.5 miles and then repaired by Lesley at Behind the seams on Islamorada.  She fit me in the next day and it was complete and ready to go in less than 2 hours!  THANK YOU! I totally recommend her on her service!  Now I had to wait an hour in Islamorada for the first bus back, and then 1:45 wait in Marathon but the sail is now in Boo Boo Tin Tin and ready to go back on.

With all three boats up Earendil has gone to Boot Key leaving Wee Happy and Gemini Dreams ready to try one more shot at Key West and the Dry Tortugas in the morning.

Fair winds
w

the Wee Armada

After the 50 knot blow in Boot Key Harbor I was more than ready to get back on my way to the Dry Tortugas. Capt "K" from Wee Happy was finished with his "job" and ready also (I think they are close to two months in Boot Key). As time to depart came we were joined by two more boats, the s/v Earendil and the s/v Wave Dancer, and we had four 27 footers going to Bahia Honda.

(No pic with the sails up for Earendil, she took off and ran away! )
s/v Earendil is a 27 foot Hunter, Piloted by Sara and Trevor.
s/v Wave Dancer is a 27 foot Ericson, Piloted by Janea and Dave.
Wave Dancer and Wee Happy
Drinks aboard s/v Wee Happy

After all arriving safely in Bahia Honda plans for dinner started to slowly arise. This one everyone kind of shot from the hip. I had finished my fishing for the day (nothing) and rowed over to Wee Happy to join the conversation. No one had any specific plans and 3 of the 7 crew were still fishing. By the time all 7 were on board Wee Happy, Trevor said they had sausages and each boat then added to the dish creating a wonderful Sugarosa & Sausage pasta. Our great hosts for dinner, Sara and Trevor (their interior fits 7 for dinner!), then dug out two decks of cards and we played "Bull Shit" and one hand of "Rummy 500".

On day two I needed to make the trip to West Marine at Key West and during that time the Wave Dancer started her return back to Boot Key "black hole you can't escape from" Harbor. In their place was s/v Drifter with Kurt and Christina aboard (not a 27 footer). While in Key West I got some shrimp and charcoal for dinner. I called Trevor to handle the organization of the side dishes at Bahia Honda. During dinner while the recap of the day before was being given to Kurt and Christina, I coined a word for Capt "K" and Lala to put on their blog...the Wee Armada (a Wee group of Wee boats all going Whee to the same Wee anchorage).

Tiger Shrimp  (quick and easy)
  • Three pounds 26/30 shrimp peeled and de-viened
  • Two green peppers cut for skewers
  • Two red peppers cut for skewers
  • One sweet onion cut for skewers
  • Two bottles Tiger Sauce
Build skewers with 6 shrimp and alternating veggies. Coat with tiger sauce and grill over charcoal.  Add your choice of sides. DO NOT OVERCOOK

Sunsets to all,
w

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sailing off to Key West...



I really liked Bahia Honda. One last item I want to share is the train presentation. I usually don't do this type of thing and explore on my own. But being on island time things change. Ranger Maria Fuentes actually portrays her grandmother, complete with period correct family heirlooms. Her grandmother was aboard the grand opening for the railway. She covers the Flagler history and the railway history. I found it entertaining. And with her purposeful Spanish accent and phrasing I can not get Cayo Hueso out of my head.
Maria Fuentes as her grandmother

I have been in Bahia Honda long enough, so Wednesday night (3/09) I made preparations to head to Key West (Cayo Hueso as Maria says ir had stuck in my head). I even put off a margarita and cuervesa night with the family I met from Wisconsin. Thursday morning I awoke and did the final preparations and pulled the anchor for Cayo Hueso. With four on board the Catamaran from Wisconsin beat me out of the bridge cut by about 5 minutes. They are headed back to Boot Key Harbor. As I motored out the bridge cut the NOAA weather prediction was not as good as and hour before. Definitely not as good as yesterday. Marathon at 4pm and Key Largo at 5pm.  When I was clear of Bahia Honda and ready to turn west in Hawk's Channel, I made a last minute decision to head east and sit out the bad weather in Boot Key Harbor.

The sailing was good. I was monitoring the weather on channel 2 and watching the dark clouds to the north. During the sail I had a drive by from the Department of Homeland Security. As soon as they turned toward me I switched to channel 16. Am I the only on board? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Have a good day and off they went.

At the channel leading into Boot Kay I had to wait for the US Coast Guard to escort a dive boat to Burdine's I had been listening to channel 16 and could hear the diver was in cardiac arrest and they were performing CPR for the last 30 minutes! They were stranded on the reef until the other divers surfaced. The coast guard response time was longer than the divers remained in the water, so the dive boat was able to head in before the Coast Guard made it to them. Buridine's is only 2 blocks from Fisherman's Hospital on Marathon. When I finally passed Burdine's the EMTs were still there with clip boards in hand. Not a good sign.

Once anchored I met Bill next door in the anchorage and exchanged the normal anchor info etc. I also dropped by to say hello to Wee Happy. Since I hadn't eaten today and NOAA said the front will hit Marathon at 4pm and it was just past 12:30, I decided to go and get a burger at Wendy's. I rowed to the Marina and was walking past the bike rack when the first small drops fell. After they quickly increased I returned to the marina and grabbed a bag of ice and a soda.  I decided if I couldn't get lunch out it was going to be a long night on board.

Standing there beside Boo Boo Tin Tin the rain was horizontal. Boats moored near the marina were facing almost every direction as they each acted differently to the gusting winds. This is an unnerving sight when you are anchored and almost a mile by row from your boat! Watching boats tug at their moorings like pit bulls you think your boat must surely be ripping the anchor free. As I stood there on the dinghy dock needing to make it back to Gemini Dreams you could almost see Dorthy and Toto. I went back to the shelter and found the crew from Kin Folk. We stood there and watched dancing boats stressing over ours. They had capt “K”s number and called in the midst of the blow. Their boat was fine and so was mine. The rest of the report was “the boat with the pirate flag is dragging, one boat is already one the bank, one more almost, boats are dragging everywhere.” That was enough motivation to head out once the rain drops became non lethal. I scooped out all the cold rain water I could (where is my ice, oh never mind) so I could short cut across the grass flats.  With winds this strong on the nose of Boo Boo Tin Tin it was like rowing while anchored.

Welcome to the Circus:
  • As I approached the anchorage I could see Bill on the bow of his boat, anchored steadfast.
  • There was a trawler up against the bank on the port side of Gemini Dreams. She was able to power off after a short time. Pulling one of sssssssssss anchor lines up with their anchor. They lost a boat hook trying to untangle the anchor.  I didn't get the name of her as she disappeared in the remaining crisis.
  • As I got closer I noticed a boat facing 180 degrees from the rest. This was the Abby Gail, she was bearing down on Gemini Dreams. Abby Gail had drug anchor from across the harbor. She first crossed an Irwin (see below). Some where around here I assume Abby Gail dropped a reserve anchor that finally caught and kept her 15 feet off the starboard side of Gemini Dreams. This is why Bill was on deck, Abby Gail was about 20 feet from his boat. With the aid of two dinghies resetting their primary anchors and “winching” her around Abby Gail finally was back in control.
  • The Irwin, the boat with the pirate flag, was setting their spare anchor! They had to cut their primary off after trying to power off with the anchor down to flee from the Abby Gail. They were at the point of one or the other boat loosing rigging or davits.
  • Gemini Dreams was still stead fast! Yeah! I took the spare anchor to the port and pulled Gemini Dreams out of the way of Abby Gail just in case the small anchor line on her aft failed. Once Abby Gail was secure I left to help Kevin  was aground.
  • Kevin on Vagabaroo drug anchor and made it to the “bank”. By the time I was able to get over capt “K” was hanging on the pitched out boom trying to lean the boat off the keel. This is what the sailing community is all about. You can only hope the day you are hard aground you have this turn out. It took about 45 minutes or an hour but we got her free. There were 6-7 dinghies pushing on the hull, someone replaced capt “K” on the boom, two dinghies pulling on the main halyard to tilt the boat more, two people on the main winches cranking on well placed anchors, and all spare hands pulling the bare lines for extra force. With all the team work we were able to get a 4 foot deep boat out of 2 ½ feet of water.
  • The Cris Craft Cutter also drug anchor and made it to the “bank”. By the time there were enough hands and dinghies to try the same here. The tides had made it impossible. We couldn't get a 5 foot deep long keel boat out of 2 feet of water. When I left the captain was hoping for a Midnight-Thirty party to try again. He may end up waiting until the 2nd high tide as the wind is starting to blow again and with cold wind.
  • Wee Happy was between both of the boats that dragged to the “bank”. Capt “K” reset the anchor minutes before the blow to be more secure.
  • Kin Folk crew are all good last I heard.
  • The boat beside the Viking was aground and had locked solar panel to davits with the Viking. This was an easy fix until the wind changes direction later tonight.
  • random dinghies and kayaks were upside down on the way out
  • The family from Wisconsin were on a mooring ball a neat and snug. With no one home, I wonder if they took the bus to Key West I told them about?
  • Channel 16 reported two missing while kayaking, one free diver missing.
s/v Abby Gail after partial control
Kevin's boat, s/v Vagabundo, hard aground
s/v Vagabundo safely anchored the next morning
The Irwin sloop all calm the next morning "the boat with the pirate flag is dragging"
s/v Wee Happy surviving the Circus
Chris Craft still aground almost 24 hours later.  Party postponed until 1pm
Flags, Pennants, and Sailcovers, Oh my!

Back to Gemini Dreams to check the details wet, wet, and wet, both hatches were open.with the wind scoop up. Eight square feet catching 3/4 inch of rain at 50mph!  The scoop is now shredded and broken by the weather, but other than that Gemini Dreams is all in good shape. Word was already around the harbor of 50mph winds during the blow! 70 is hurricane force! To hell with this, the sky is clearing, the seas are flattening, and I can use a margarita. Keys fisheries!  (The next morning on the cruiser's net m/v Old Broad reported 49.9mph on the gage with official reports saying 45-55mph). 

As I stepped into the dinghy, s/v Critical Mass came into the harbor. Her sails torn to shreds, like a scene out of a movie. She had came from Key West and the storm ran her down! I am glad I didn't make the turn west earlier in the day. Even the locals said “yes, that was a pretty good one” describing the blow. I stopped by to ask if there was anything I could do for Critical Mass on the way back from dinner (actually it was breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour all rolled into one. thanks Wee Happy for the snack during all the crisis).

s/v Critical Mass shortly after she arrived 
(the capt had just removed the head sail that looked as bad as the main)
s/v Critical Mass after a night of 25-30 knot winds added to her.  See the headboard at the top of the mast.

As I sit here typing, aching from over exertion, watching day old American Idol, Channel 16 rings out pon! pon! pon! pon!...this is the US Coast Guard sector Key West..  (the free diver is still missing 6 hrs later).. With no announcement about the kayakers you can only hope that one ended positive.  news of the day
Sunset after the blow

Just... “Another Day In Paradise”
w

I just stole this from s/v Wee Happy's Blog
If you look real close out the port side just over the Chris Craft you can see Miss Elmira Gulch on her bike. LOL