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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”

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

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