Monday, March 9, 2015

Some Overdue Time On the Hook

  With no visitors scheduled to arrive, and some decent weather forecasted, we began to consider taking Swing Set out to stay on the hook for a few days. Some boat neighbors had been talking about the Content Keys on the Gulf Side for a few weeks now, so when they told us a few boats were planning to go there last weekend, we decided to go there too.
  We got wind of the trip last Wednesday, which was planned for the following day, so we made a trip to the grocery store, mainly to get beer, cranked the dinghy up and strapped it in, and pretty much decided we were ready to go the next morning. We like to keep the boat ready to go at any given time, and that includes storing away anything left out on counters, etc.
  I'm not much for traveling in groups, so I confirmed just where "everyone" was planning on anchoring, and by mid-morning last Thursday, we saw some movement on a couple of neighboring boats who were planning on going, so we began to untie the boat. It was my plan to let the others get ahead and then tag along well behind, but when two of the vessels steered toward the fuel dock, we decided to just go ahead and start.
  Out of seven boats that had planned on making the trip, when it was all said and done, four actually got on their way, and we were ahead of everyone but didn't know it.
  We steered toward the southern end of Big Spanish Channel, and by time we got to the northwestern end of it, we learned by listening to the VHF that there were three boats behind us. I told them I'd pick a spot and we made our way west to Content Key and easily set a hook just off the shore on the northern side as no protected anchorages are around Content Key unless you have the draft of a pool float.
  The others seemed to be OK with my choice to anchor and soon we had three dinghies out exploring around the back side of Content Key.
  By sunset we were all on one boat having sunset cocktails but we soon retired to Swing Set for dinner and a crummy movie.

  We were up before daybreak on Friday morning having spent a very peaceful night with very little wind. We had a nice breakfast and once everyone reconnoitered by mid-morning we found out that the folks we knew best were heading back. The two boats in the picture above weren't sure what they wanted to do, but we said we were heading west toward Tarpon Belly Key, to an anchorage we had stayed in two years ago.

  They took a shot of Swing Set as we headed out.
  About five miles down the coast is the Cudjoe Channel, and just a couple of miles southward along that channel is Tarpon Belly Key. We picked the same spot we were in two years ago and promptly got a solid hook just offshore.
  A few local boaters frequent Tarpon Belly Key and we spent a pleasant afternoon laying around on Swing Set, enjoying some music and privacy, until we again had a nice dinner and a crummy movie. We didn't get a good nights sleep though.
  The wind had clocked around and came in from the north. We bounced around all night and woke up to cloudy skies.

  Our loosely knit plan to head south to Newfound Harbor was quickly complicated by not only the cloudy skies, this sight of a beached runabout was giving me pause, considering our 16 mile route to Newfound Harbor was one which carried with it a depth of 3.9 feet at low tide. We need 3.5 just to float our boat.
  We had taken this route before, but at high tide, but it was early morning and high tide would be for hours. Nervous about the visibility in a cloudy sky, we decided to just head back the way we came. We wish we hadn't.
  As we neared the northern end of Cudjoe Channel, I saw what I thought was a bunch of boats along the shallows but it turned out to be breakers crashing from the two to four foot waves coming in from the north.
  We had about nine miles to travel before we could head into Big Spanish Channel, and a following sea, so I decided to attempt it.
  The waves were on our bow and when one came over the deck and "rang our bell", I knew we were in for a rough ride.
  Battling rough seas is one thing, but dodging crab and lobster pot markers while doing so is unnerving, to say the least, and nine miles in rough water turns into a larger number. Both hands were on the wheel for about ninety minutes, and Rosie had a grip on her seat and Holly. Not in that particular order.
  For the last few miles heading into Big Spanish Channel, I spooled Swing Set up to a cruising speed of about 25 m.p.h. to cut down on our time spent in quarter beam seas. The boat bust through the waves with no issues, and with some relief we made our turn and got those waves behind us.
  Once we got into the channel and the waves diminished to where I could take a hand off the wheel, and Rosie could relax a bit, she asked me if I wanted a water.
  "A water? Hell, you better bring me a beer after that!", I said.
  The rest of the trip home was uneventful and soon we were back in our slip at Marathon Marina. We put a few hours on the boat with no mishaps and nothing broke. It was a good feeling to be back in port with a solid boat under us, looking forward to a good nights sleep.

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