This is a catch up post from earlier this month. Two days of travel in which we remember that we are actually a SAIL boat, head out and enjoy the wind and waves. Or at least enjoy the wind. And have one of the best sailing days on the trip.

Start: Pink Shell Resort and Marina, Fort Myers, FL, 0726
End: Marco Island, Marina at Landing bay, 1346
Total Distance: 35.0 nm
Time: 6:20
Average Speed: 5.5 kts

We had a decision to make on our plans south from Marco Island to the Florida Keys, our next destination. We have Lucky and he needs to pee someplace that isn’t located on our boat. He has been very consistent in the position since ‘the incident’ in St. Michels, MD. The typical stop off for people heading down to the Keys is a place called Shark River in the Everglades; it is about half way, or a bit more, down to Marathon, FL. It is gorgeous, well protected and part of the Everglades park. But for our purposes, it was less than optimal. Surrounding the river are mangroves trees and they offer no place to let Lucky go to the bathroom. So we looked north and south and found two potential places. Turkey key, about 40 miles south of Marco, which would leave a 60 mile day on the second day. Or Middle Cape Sable which was almost 70ish miles from Marco and only about 30 miles left for second day.

The other decision we had to make was WHEN were we leaving. We looked at the weather and it looked like we had a potential window on Monday/Tuesday. Monday might be a bit rough early with remnant waves from the storm this weekend, but it was forecasted for North winds at 15 knots in the morning–a big push for the sailboat south. Tuesday morning and early afternoon looked benign but the later afternoon was forecasted to be ‘icky’ with winds shifting to the West and the potential for some waves. So our decision was to leave Monday, and see if the winds would give us enough of a push to make Cape Sable by dark and then get into Marathon relatively early on Tuesday.

It would be an early morning. We had over 60 nautical miles to go in 10 hours of day light, so our average had to be over 6 knots. Which we can do, but we were looking for some help from the wind, otherwise it was going to be a night landing. So by 7am, before the sun came over the horizon, we were moving. We went down the channel and into the gulf and the waves were 2-3 feet. We had a reef in the mainsail and put it up for the first time in a very long time and it was a bit of a show. And not a Emmy nominated show; we were a bit rusty but we got it up, and turned south. And realized quickly that though the waves were bigger than we had expected, the wind was good, bordering on great and we should shake out the reef and take advantage of the fantastic sailing conditions. More dorking around and by 8:30 we were on our way south. Under sail!! Both sails up were up, we had the motors off and lifted out of the water and we were making between seven and nine knots. With bursts to 10! We were making some serious time and distance!

But, as always, we found more stuff. The last time we put the main up was when we had the mast stepped in Mobile. We did a test sail to make sure it worked (it did), but we didn’t have any stress or strain to speak of on the boat. Today was a bit different. We found out that cam/brake for the main halyard wouldn’t grip/brake the rope when we had the main up with tension on the line. And the timing of this discovery was, naturally, when the sail was all the way up. Correction, WAS all the way up before it started coming down because, you know, the brake didn’t work! We put the line on the winch and rocked on, but more work needs to be done on that issue. And when we went below decks we heard our boat humming. The stays on the leeward side of the boat was vibrating and causing humming down below which is not something that we have had happened in the past; we need to investigate THAT! But over all it was a good four plus hours of fast sailing.

Sometime about 10:30 the waves shifted. They had been behind us (a following sea) and it was a very smooth ride. But then they started coming off our port side AND our back side and the Gulf was confused for about three hours. Consequently we were miserable for about three hours and we got beat from what seemed like all sides. The boat jumped back and forth, the waves slammed the bottom of the boat, but we kept moving at a good speed. Eventually things straightened out and by 2pm we were back in smoother seas. The wind died down to 5-10 knots as the day went on and shifted so we eventually turned the engines back on to make it to our destination before sundown.

And that is really it for the trip. Once we left Marco Island, we were out of sight of land until late in the afternoon and we only saw two other boats. One in the morning that left with us, and the other at night as we drew close to our anchorage. We did hear one other boat who had mechanical problems. but mostly it was us and the Gulf of Mexico. And the Gulf, at least in this area is shallow. We were eight miles off shore and we were in 20’ of water. Weird.

We arrived at our hideaway at 5:15pm, about 30 minutes before dark. We anchored just off shore of a beach that stretched for miles. Untouched beaches–we were far away from anywhere and the only way to get here was by boat, or kayak or some serious hiking. We were alone except for one other boat that was pulled up on the beach. The anchorage itself is open to west and south winds, but we still had the north wind that pushed us along. We were betting that the wind would continue as forecasted. We were getting some small rolling waves from the west, but they ended up rocking us to sleep. We went to explore and walk along our private get-away and retired for the evening.

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The next morning was gorgeous. Quick stroll on the beach and we pulled anchor. The forecast called for 5-10 knot winds from the north in the morning moving to west by the afternoon, but the forecast was wrong. There was almost no wind at all. The water was flat and calm, only waves were caused by our wake as we turned to the south towards Marathon. It was a 30ish mile run and we had plenty of time, so we babied the engines a bit. We also dodged about a thousand crab pots that littered the water. And for the first time we saw actual crab boats harvesting their bounty! A couple of hours into the trip and we could begin to make out the land of the Keys and by early afternoon we were pulling close to Marathon.

Our destination is the Boot Key harbor and the huge mooring field that is part of the city marina. The deal is that the mooring field is first come/first serve, no reservations. We called a couple of days before and they said that they still had spaces available and to call when we got into the bay. Which we did. And got our assignment; A17. We got our directions to our mooring ball with dire warnings to make sure we stayed in the marked channel because of the shoaling in the bay. We made it though unscathed and to our mooring ball where we discovered that our neighbor was a boat that was underwater–it had taken on water over the weekend and sank. Not a particularly auspicious beginning.

Jan and AJ nailed the landing once again and we were quickly secured. This is going to be our home for at least a week. At Fort Myers, we met another PDQ owner who had solar installed on his boat here in Marathon and recommended Alex and his company Sea Tek. So we will look him up. And we will probably spend Christmas here, maybe take a trip in the boat to Key West. And look for an opportunity to get over to the Bahamas.