Thursday, January 31, 2013

We Cruise To Boca Grande

  The trip to the Bahamas is back on the front burner. The more I talk to people who have actually been there recently, the more comfortable I feel about going. We still have the logistical issues to consider, involving Holly's rabies shots and paperwork, but we'll deal with those issues as they arise and take it from there.
  I ordered two cruising guides from Amazon; Dozier's Waterway Guide to the Bahamas, along with Steve Dodge's Guide to Abaco. We used the Dozier's Guide for our trip down the West coast of Florida and we are using it here in the Keys currently. (We joined Amazon Prime to take advantage of free two day shipping, and free book and movie rentals.)
  But you don't need a cruising guide when you are tied to the dock. The winds have been blowing in excess of 20 miles per hour for several days. We have been wanting to go out, not only for a cruise, but to try our hands at lobstering again. We have been on the hook in much higher winds, but being on the hook in the wind is not the issue. For one thing, snorkeling or diving in the wind doesn't work well. The bottom gets stirred up and the water is "murky". Murky here means that the water is still a beautiful blue, but you can't see through it. The other thing is the problem with parking in a crowded harbor when the wind is high. We went through that a couple of weeks ago and I don't want a re-enactment.

  Here's a picture of A&B Marina from another angle. This is a view from the Conch Republic Bar and Restaurant. While we are here, we may as well do Happy Hour.
  As usual, we met some nice people at the bar. First was a guy from South Africa that had a home here and in the Abacos, so we were able to get some good information about our upcoming visit from him. Then he was joined by a friend that owned and operated one of the tour boats. His boat was a modest looking catamaran that took people out for kayaking and snorkeling. He boasted an income of $7000 per day with his vessel. I wonder if the figure would be as high if he knew I worked for the IRS.
  One of the captains for the tour boat operator came up and we were introduced to him. He was informed that we were the ones who had the Sea Ray with the wind generators on top. Before he says, "Pleased to meet you", he says, "Those things are noisy are will break".
  This is not a good way to start a conversation with me.
  As I have mentioned before, everything on a boat is broken, you just don't know it yet. I don't get credit for the quote; I just picked it up somewhere. So I mention this fact to him, and added that we were all going to die eventually, but there was no significance in pointing such things out when at first meeting new folks.
  I don't know what the bug was that was up his butt, but I was able to work it loose and he turned out to be an OK guy. The tour boat owner invited us to come by and he had lots of half price drink tickets that he would give us. He turned out to be a nicer guy.
  I look at the weather forecast on several websites every morning and yesterday I found that we were to have a blustery morning but it would give way to a calm afternoon. Our plan to take a cruise away from the dock was on! By 9 o'clock we were untethered from the dock and were headed out. Once we got past the reefs on the Northwest Channel and headed East to Lobsterland, and into the wind, spray from the waves began reaching us up on the flybridge. I also noticed that the water was too stirred up for efficient snorkeling, so we turned around 180 degrees and headed West.
  We had talked to a fella at the dock just that morning about an anchorage at Boca Grande, one of the keys just West of Key West. You thought Key West was the last key in the chain, didn't you? I had read about the two anchorages at Boca Grande when we went to the Dry Tortugas, but didn't feel a need to stop there. As we were on a day trip, this seemed like a perfect place to find calm water and maybe look for some lobsters.

  What you see here is the western side of Boca Grande, looking from the North. There is a marked channel on the north side of the island that appears on the map to be surrounded by flat land, but is in fact only surrounded by very shallow water, so the idyllic tropical setting in calm water was not to be found on this day.
  The wind seemed to pick up and we bobbed around like a cork while we had lunch and began to regret our trip out. But only for a while. As we sunned ourselves in the cockpit and the day wore on, the wind began to die down and in the little protection that Boca Grande afforded us, we wound up having a pleasant day.
  By four o'clock it was time to head in. I didn't want to go back the long way we had come, so the alternative was to take the southern route which would put us at beam seas the whole way. This turned out to be our undoing.
  I'm not sure how big the waves were once we got out into the channel, but when they are hitting you broadside, even the littlest wave is magnified. I put Swing Set on plane thinking to smooth out the ride and all we did was get tossed around that much more violently. Swing Set is not a big boat. Normally we would have stayed put, or taken a more protected route, but for the cost of the slip we were in, we weren't going to stay out on the hook. We bit the bullet and to make it end sooner, I kept the boat at 25 miles per hour and concentrated on dodging crab pot markers. Millions of them. How is it that someone can put out so many hazards to navigation with impunity? That fishing lobby must be a huge one.
  We got back to the harbor without too much falling off of the boat. Rosie reported a smell in the salon, but I attributed it to the sump drain box getting stirred up and the smell coming up from the drains. Once we stopped and opened the windows, the problem disappeared.
  We were able to back Swing Set easily into her current home slick as a whistle. The owner of a large yacht just behind us came out and handled our lines at the stern. Up to now I had only witnessed him reading books, as he has a full time captain/mate that does everything on his boat. I was surprised to get the help, but extremely grateful. Maybe we are making friends.
  We spent the rest of the daylight rinsing copious amounts of salt off of Swing Set before settling in for a delicious dinner on board the boat. Our activities made for an early night, but early nights always seem to be the order of the day lately.
  Today we have a couple of missions: The first is to go to Blue Heaven for breakfast. It is sure to be the only heaven I am likely to see. Then we'll run by Fausto's Market. "Run" means walking several blocks, but it's the only exercise we get. When we get back to the boat, Rosie is going to defrost our freezer since our stores are getting a bit low. We'll fill the freezer back up when we get to Marathon and Publix. If we have any gas left, we'll give the boat a proper bath with Zip Wax. (It really does leave a good shine.) All this mention of work is making me tired. Maybe I should have kept my job.


  1. When you order something from Amazon or anyplace for that matter, where do they ship it to?

    1. This is a good question and I should have explained how this works. We have had things shipped to us numerous times, but only when we know we will be in an area long enough to have an item shipped. Amazon, or anyone else, will ship to an address that you provide when you order. Amazon has three addresses for us on file, in fact. In addition to our mailing address, they have the address of the Marathon City Marina, and here at A&B Marina in Key West. By signing up for Amazon Prime, we can get our items shipped in two days, insuring that we'll get them in a timely manner, preventing us from having to stay in a place longer than we want. Most marinas expect this and will keep shipped items in a secure area until you pick them up, or in the case of A&B, bring them right to the boat.

  2. I appreciate the detailed descriptions of your cruises. I use the Navionics iPad app to follow along and to correlate the photos with the chart.

    1. We like the Navionics app and have been using it for a couple of years. I have begun also using the Garmin Bluechart Mobile. It is interactive with Active Captain and I added the weather feature so I can integrate weather radar and information right on the iPad screen.

  3. Hi Mike! I'm Merinda an Electrician from AB. Ever since Jeff showed me your blog I can't stop reading. I am very envious considering that is 20 degrees here in STL right now. I love your blog and I think you are doing a great job of telling things like it is. I believe some bloggers only want to write about the good and only glossing over the difficult times. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the rest of us.

    Oh the Blue Heaven has the best Banana Pancakes!