Monday, January 30, 2012

Check out this Blog

Check out this terrific blog.

For now, the Kramers aboard Moonshadow are here in Boot Key Harbor so some of their adventures are ours as well. Laurie writes such great accounts, I thought maybe you'd like to read her stuff. On one of her posts, the Caribbean Soul is pictured at the end of a rainbow--honestly. If you have time, give her blog a read.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Passage from Key West to Marathon

On Monday, January 23, 2012, we made our way from Ramrod Key to Marathon, FL. It should have been an easy 3 1/2 hour sail, but the wind moved right in front of us and the seas kicked up a bit. We turned on the motor and started dodging crab pot buoys. When one gets a crab pot line wrapped around the boat propeller, it's a serious matter; and, you will definitely get one unless you work at missing them every minute you are out there. I think everyone we know has caught at least one--most of us more than one! Once you snag one, you have to shut down the engine and somebody has to dive overboard and unwrap the rope or your propeller drive shaft will bind up--potentially distroying your engine. Needless to say, Capt. John does all our "going overboard to unwrap" stuff. When the water is warm and you can sail into a calm cove, catching a crab pot is a nuisance. When the water is not too warm and you are motoring without a good place to stop, it's way beyond just a nuisance. Nuf said! We watch for the bouys which aren't always easy to see when the water's rough. You get the picture.

Oh Mom, you might want to take a dramamine before you watch the video.

We've been anchored in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon for three days and just hooked up to the City Mooring pretty close to the marina. Last night we walked down to the local watering hole/sports bar, Hurricanes, and watched the NC State v. Carolina game. It was good beer, good pizza and a terrific game (sorry about that Finley).

We are studying the weather forecasts for a good time to cross the Gulf Stream/Florida Straights to Bimini. The goal is to hit the weather just right so the sail will be pleasant and safe. Here's hoping we can figure that out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Schooner America 2.0

The Schooner America 2.0 is an impressive vessel.  We spent the day aboard and enjoyed every minute of it.  Also, it was nice to have someone else doing the sailing for a change.
Lovely head.

Under full sail.  John helped one of the mates raise the main sail.  He "tailed" the main halyard and we're mighty proud of the great job he did.
Here's a similar schooner sailing near KeyWest.

Another "down below deck" shot.  This is the main saloon table.  The mast is stepped at one end of the table. The shiny wooden wall is really a sliding wooden door for the head.

This is the companion way that takes you back up on deck.

This is the helm.  You can see that it is a brand new boat--built in 2011.

The captain invited folks to come take a turn at the wheel.  It was mostly to have your picture taken.  We decided to pass on that photo op.

The mast and boom appear to be wooden, however, they are actually some kind of carbon fiber with a teak veneer.  Notice also that the America 2.0 has lots of blankets for folks who didn't pack warm jackets--those guys thought of everything.  They supplied a sandwich for lunch and soda/water.  Beers and wine were $1 each and the deck hands delivered everything right to you.  It would have been fun even without the race--but certainly having America take us right up to the offshore race and narrating everything that was happening out there was super special.  What a day!

New Friends

Thursday, January 19 was an all round fun day for us--not only did we get a great sail on the 105 ft. schooner and watch some world-class sailing races, but we also met some fun folks.
Doc and Jilly Lynn

This is Doc & Jilly's son who crewed on one of the racing boats--Dark & Stormy.  I'm not quite sure what this conversation is--I must be giving racing advice?

The after-the-races party.

Doc and his son--Jared (?)--getting caught up on today's races.

Doc and John--you can tell which way the wind blows!

Jilly and me enjoying our sail.

A happy sailor.

Doc--another happy sailor.

Race Week Up Close

On Thursday, January 19, we climbed aboard the 105 ft. schooner America 2.0 to observe the sailboat races off shore.  And what a wonderful day it was.  Here's what we saw:  This is one of the "tenders" for one of the three 72 foot racers--impressive huh?

Vesper--nice and colorful.

We definitely had a front row seat for the race!

You can see that the racers came pretty close to our observation boat.  I think this one was tacking back and forth finding the right approach to the starting line.
The wind came up mid race and things started to get really excitng.  You can see the red spinnaker getting dowsed.  I don't think there's an actual crash in this picture, but I'm pretty sure there were some spirited discussions being had about race rules and right-of-way.
Heading for the starting line.  Notice how grey all the sails are.  I think that is because they are all carbon fiber sails--super light, super strong, super expensive, and a bit noisy too.

That's the committee boat just beyond this jumble of sails.

We are at the downwind marks of the oval course.  It is just were these spinnakers have to be taken down super quickly and the marks are rounded for another upwind leg.

I'm sure this is world-class spinnaker dowsing.  72 ft. Numbers is in front and 64 ft. Shockwave is just behind it.  These are both USA boats in a class called the mini maxies. Very impressive!

Another start.

More exciting moments.

Another start.  These might be the Farr 400's--a one design boat that competes all over the world.  Our narrator explained that the boat was built to fit into one of those shipping containers.  It makes it much easier for the owners to get their boat to races in different parts of the world--who knew to even worry about such!

Another start.

Here are the big guys--mini maxies--this is Numbers on the left and Shockwave on the right.  There were three of these and they were very impressive!  The third one was a British boat named Ran.  There is a picture of Ran coming up--they were the big time winners of this three-boat division.

This is RAN the British mini-maxie who has first place locked up--they were awesome.

Key West Quantum.
There also was a very competitive J Boat from Beaufort in this race.  The boat is owned and sailed by Robin Team.  The boat's name is TeamWork.  The Teams have a house on Front Street, Beaufort--it's Paul Jones's old home right down from the now defunct Bft. Post Office and between the Fraizers and Claud Wheatley's.  You may have seen TeamWork docked there in front of their house.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Race Week in Key West

These pictures were taken Monday, January 16. Here's what the first day of Race Week looked like from the beach here in Key West.

Here is a Melges 32 drying out their gear at the dock.

I'm at Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill, and Brewery hanging out with Capt. Morgan. Actually, the guy is real although he does have kind of a waxy dead look. He's not the only Capt. Morgan in town--it seems to be the costume of choice. Kelly's Caribbean is a nice place at the end of Caroline Street and is part of the Race Week area. The Bar was once owned by Kelly McGillis who was the actress who was Tom Cruise's flight instructor in TOP GUN. Although she no longer owns the bar, her flight jacket and other memorabilia from the movie are displayed inside.

We rented some great bikes and keep them locked up at the marina for our daily excursions into town.

They are Trek bikes with big tires and coaster brakes.

And, you see, you can rent all kinds of things in Key West.

Folks who live here usually have their own personalized bikes.

Just an overview of the downstairs crowd at the Bull and Whistle (Duval & Caroline Street).

And check out this tree with the complicated trunk.

Chilly and Blustery in Key West

Today declared itself a workday. We got back to the boat after dark last night and noticed a bit of bird poop on deck, but --oh my gosh--in the morning we realized that all the canvas, the clear plastic windows, the solar panels and most of the deck were covered in poop and it was drying fast! So, to work we went! While I scrubbed and washed, John started installing things--new lens for navigation light, new handle for outboard tiller, new shower head, tightened alternator, etc. We stopped to grill hamburgers for lunch and will soon be back at work--thought you'd like to know. It's a warm and lovely day--Wednesday, January 18--I don't know why the blog format thinks it is Jan. 17th.

The Key West City Marina mooring field was really rocky when we took this picture last week. It's nice to be attached to a mooring, but there's no protection from the north--which happens to be where the wind was coming from. So we rode the chop and bounce around in the boat.

Of course, we have all kinds of things on board to make even a rocky mooring pleasant--Nutella and chips--yes! Great comfort food.

And, this comfortable little home afloat.
Day or night, it's a nice place to be.

When we did finally get off the boat Sunday afternoon, we headed down to Schooners Wharf where all the racing boats were coming in for Key West Race Week. This is Schooners Wharf--it's an outdoor bar right on the dock area.

We met two deaf/mute guys there. We didn't chat much--it's hard, ya know--but we did take a picture for them and they, in turn, offered to take our picture for us--so here we are. You can see that it's chilly. I've got on the wool sweater I knitted for myself.

Here is John aboard making phone calls. He has on the sweater I knitted for him. We were hoping to only use the wool sweaters for overnight passages out in the ocean, but as it turns out there are opportunities for warm sweaters at port.

We're looking for the weather to warm up and KW Race week to get going.

Overheard aboard CS

John: I think we should have a "work day" soon and get some of these boat projects and some cleaning done.

Penny: Sounds good to me. How about tomorrow?

John: Well, let's see what it looks like tomorrow morning.

Penny: And what exactly would a "work day" look like?

John: Hmmm--I'm not sure, but I expect we'll recognize it when we see it.

*Well, it is now tomorrow and the weather is beautiful--somehow that doesn't seem like a good work day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dry Tortugas

It's a 70 mile trip out to the Dry Tortugas, so we plan on two days of sailing with an overnight anchored near the Marquesas Keys (the USA Marquesas not the French Polonesian Marquesas where Gauguin painted).

We sailed for about 4 or 5 hours with a nice fast and comfortable broad reach.

Here's Capt. John at the helm.

Arrived just south of Marqueas in time for cocktails in the cockpit as we watched the sunset. Also got there in time for John to jump overboard and untangle our propeller from a crab pot. Those #%&!#!! crab pots are all over the place. It's next to impossible to keep from snagging one. Fortunately, we were sailing so it didn't do any damage to the engine. In fact, we didn't even realize that we were dragging the bouy and a big wooden crab pot until we cranked up the motor to prepare to anchor. When John felt the stress on the propeller, he shut down the engine and we sailed up to our anchorage--a little tricky--but doable. Crisis averted, but no crabs or lobsters in the pot--they probably crawled out somewhere along that 10 mile stretch where we were dragging the pot under our boat.

We got going around 7:30 AM and sailed west to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park. The last couple of miles required a bit of motoring so we could get into the park before dark. We radioed ahead about anchoring near the park ranger station, but were advised that the harbor area was filling up with boats and we should anchor elsewhere in the park--we chose a spot near Bird Key. The green channel marker here says 3 BK--that's Bird Key not Burger King. We could see Fort Jefferson off in the distance.

The next morning (Finley's Birthday!) we awoke with a seaplane zipping by our boat. The seaplanes bring a handful of tourists for day trips. The little planes are mighty loud when they go roaring past.

Across from Fort Jefferson is the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key. That area is maintained by volunteers who stay in the lightkeepers house--just as the volunteers at Cape Lookout do.

The little harbor near the park ranger dock that had been full (it had 3 sailboats and a 60 ft. motor yacht) got a little less congested as the 3 sailboats left. We moved Caribbean Soul over to join the motor yacht. When we dinghied ashore to register with the Park Ranger, he seemed to have enough time to chat with us about lots of things. The fort is interesting--sort of the same vintage as Fort Macon, but much larger. The government apparently thought the fort could protect commerce into and out of the Gulf of Mexico from the island here between Cuba and Florida. The cannons could--at best-- hit something 2 or 3 miles away, so one wonders exactly what it could do to protect anything. Funding became an issue and it was never finished. It has served as a prison during the Civil War. Dr. Mudd was a famous prisoner who was in on the plot to assassinate Pres.Lincoln and did, in fact, set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg.

More interesting for me were the ranger's comments about the Cuban rafts. He said that they get about 100 total Cuban refugees a year. He asked us to call the Coast Guard if we spotted a raft. He said that they bring the refugees ashore, house, clean, feed, and provide medical attention to them before they are taken to the mainland. In most cases, he reported, there is also a body onboard. Our park ranger guy was young and I could tell that he had been through this process more than once. He mentioned the tremendous paperwork involved but it seemed mostly to be a huge emotional burden. On a brighter note, he said that once everyone is fed and cared for some serious partying always happens.

So, it's nice to be here in this safe anchorage and we didn't have to risk our lives fleeing from a dictator to get here. Ahh, another lovely sunset through the dodger.

Here's the beautiful coral sand beach at the fort. Lots of good snorkeling.

This is the front of Fort Jefferson. The sallie port (front door) is off to the right.

We're experimenting with a new water proof camera so you can see over and under.

Paradise felt good on this 80-some degree day. Not bad weather for January 8!

Another view of the fort from the water.

Sunset with a sport fishing boat anchored nearby.

In the morning, we watched this scene unfold--it's classic--the new boat to the anchorage puts out it's anchor too close to another boat and everyone gathers on deck to "discuss" the matter.

Sometimes everything gets too crowded in the anchorage!

Here's Penny on top of the fort.

This is the old limestone mortar made with coral. I thought it looked like bones, but on closer inspection I could see the coral--even a couple of pieces of brain coral.

Here's the whole harbor scene: along the docks are the passenger ferry, the Coast Guard motor launch, and a couple park service boats. Caribbean Soul is anchored out in the harbor.

This is Long Key. At the very end of this key--where you see some vegetation--is a nesting area for Magnificent Frigate birds. A hundred nests and hundreds of magnificent birds!

Yankee Freedom ferry boat at the dock and Caribbean Soul out on the hook.

John on the fort.

The fort and our Caribbean Soul.

Top of the fort.

More from the top.

Parade ground down below where we worked on our spinnaker the next day. It was the perfect place there on the grass protected from the wind with lots of space. We were successful in getting that big sail unscrambled and neatly repacked for our next downwind sail. We did, however, cause a bit of a stir--several tourists wondered what that big colorful bunch of silky fabric was and the park ranger came to see what we were doing. Everyone seemed satisfied that we were just working on our sail--but what did they think--we were setting up a circus tent or inflating a hot-air balloon in the fort?

Cacti thriving near the armory.

Old officers' quarters and current rangers' residences.

Just what every non-functioning fort needs--a moat!

Beautiful brick arches in the unfinished second floor of the fort.

Unfinished chapel.

More arches and a raised floor in front of me. Would have been quite elegant if they'd finished it.

Looking out the unfinished windows.

Over the years, rain water has dripped through causing these limestone stalactites to form.

View through the windows.

View from the beach--even the dead branches are pretty.

These are the foundation remains of an old coal dock. At one time the fort was very useful to commercial ships that needed to refuel here. The dock supports now provide safe hiding places for lots of nurse sharks, groupers and other large fish. You can see Caribbean Soul out there and the magnificent frigate bird rookery beyond.

Our last night was a bit stormy. These are the actual colors--no messing round with camera settings or photo editing--honest.

Here's John with the commercial fishermen anchored near us--Gregory and Raymond. They fished most of the night before and spent the day cleaning and packing their catch in ice--they carry about 4,000 pounds of ice! Ray lives in Key West. His brother Greg is from New Jersey, but came down to help with the fishing. Their wooden trawler was built in Marshallburg by one of the Davis boatbuilders--small world. The guys came over for drinks and snack. Nice guys--good fun.

In the morning, they headed out before light--about 5:30 AM. the fishing life is a lot of hard work and long hours. We, on the other hand, got under sail around 7:30 AM--early for us.

It was a bright and sunny day, but lousy sailing weather--wind and waves were right on the bow. We motored head into the 4 foot chop all day--hobby horsing the whole way. We were glad to anchor up on the northwest side of the Marquesas Keys and get some rest. Here's the moon over the island.

The next day brought a bit of better sailing and we arrived back in Key West for--you guessed it--cocktails in the cockpit! That was short-lived however as a storm was brewing. We pulled up our anchor and motored off to the city moorings for a safer/more secure night. The sailing life isn't as difficult as the commercial fishing life--but it does take more energy than watchin' TV and mowin' the lawn--just saying--not complaining--we love it!