We can't get there in less than 3 days.
After discussing our different travel profiles in preparation for the move from Miami into the Keys, we had made this point to Pat and Fred in order to make a plan that would get both boats to Marathon at approximately the same time. With rare exceptions this winter, we had averaged little more than 4 knots and the math wouldn't allow us to cover the 100 miles in just 2 days. On the other hand, Pat and Fred would need to anchor at Rodriguez Key in Hawk Channel, so they would need to pick their weather window with care, since that anchorage would be too exposed in strong east winds. So, we found a window that would allow us to leave a day early to make our 3-day run and still had the winds to keep Marianna comfortable when she anchored midway.
As the cold front that brought blizzards to the northeast moved past Miami, the winds shifted to the north and blew with force for a couple of days. By Monday, President's Day, the winds were not quite as strong, and we found our window. We used their favorable direction to head south through Biscayne Bay further into the Keys. We had motored north along the same route a month before and could not manage much more than 4 knots. Not so on our return trip. Motorsailing with the headsail, we surfed the waves in Biscayne Bay and the smaller sounds that separated the Keys from the mainland, averaging 5.1 knots over a long 11.5 hour day. With the forecasted winds shifting the next day to a less favorable direction, we wanted to put the most miles behind us, on the marginal chance that Marathon might be within reach on the 2nd day. As the sun was setting, we set the anchor off Islamorada, having put in 59.7miles. A new daily record! Once we were settled, Dave called Fred to share our progress. It took Fred a little checking to figure out where we were, but when he did he was asking, “I thought you couldn't travel that far?” Now the pressure was on.
The next day, as we left Lazy Days at the entrance to the Boot Key channel, we called to find out Marianna was not far away. So, we gave them an escort to their mooring. The winds were supposed to blow the next few days, so we were glad we were in for a while.
While taking a stroll around the marina at Sarasota, we discovered a zippered bag of 4 life jackets by the trash bin. After learning that the life jackets were in good shape, we picked them up for our dinghy. The bag fit nicely between the 1st and 2nd seats, but it was falling apart. So, Cathy dug out some of the sunbrella that used to be the main sail cover, along with some velcro and screen material. Using the original bag as a guide, we designed a new one that would be big enough to hold the throwable PFD as well. It would also have webbing loops that would allow it to be attached to the seat supports, with screen material on the bottom to allow water to drain out. Over a couple of days, the box took shape and now fits snugly back where the original was. Cathy even made use of the original mesh that was labelled with “Life Jackets” in case there was any confusion as to what it held.
We had known for a whle about a leak in the aftmost portlight to starboard in the Main Saloon. While we were away over the summer, the cushions beneath the portlight showed obvious signs of water damage when we made our check in late August. Obviously the silicone we had applied outside the portlight was not solving the problem. Dave had been reluctant to remove the frame from the inside of the portlight for fear that it might not go back easily, and we would have a worse problem on our hands. However, after a day and a half of rain in Miami, the leak was expanding, requiring multiple tubs under the portlight to collect the drips. It was time to take a chance. To his relief, the inside frame came off easily. And it revealed an obvious void in the caulking around the window. Using copious amounts of silicone, he sealed the portlight thoroughly, re-attached the frame and waited for the next rain storm. It wasn't just the leak under the portlight, spots under each of the chainplates for the shrouds were leaking as well. So, we re-caulked those. Although we haven't had another extended rain storm, the boat has stayed dry through what rain we've had. We'll just keep an eye on it and have our fingers crossed.
That wasn't all of the water problems though. After arriving in Marathon, Cathy discovered several tubs of water had collected under the sink. Was this from the rain just before we left? Or was the sink leaking? We watched it for a few days and became convinced it was the sink, not water from the rain. This was another potential minefield, since the plumbing was clumsy with lots of elbows and some older fittings. Dave realized we had to do something, so he plunged in and disassembled the drain fittings. It turned out that the source of the problem was simply the ring attaching the drain pipe to the sink. After trying and failing to get a metal ring to slide over the fitting, he switched to a PVC ring which he managed to get past the wider part of the fixture. The drain needs a more permanent fix, but that will need to wait until the boat is hauled, when it will be safer to tinker with the barb that emerges from the through-hull.
It had been 5 years since we had snorkeled on nearby Sombrero Reef, a short 6 mile trip from Boot Key Harbor. Shortly after our return, we saw the weather approaching for a perfect day to make a trip to the reef. The winds were going to be light from the south, which would keep the swell down and the water warm. Pat and Fred agreed to take Marianna out with us and Bill and Bette from Sea Mist as guests. We arrived at the reef around 11 am and found an available mooring with enough depth for Marianna. Shortly after we picked up the mooring, the boat was surrounded with a school of large sargeant majors. One by one, we entered the water and were rewarded with a colorful array of coral and reef fish. The water was warm enough for an extended swim and we only reluctantly stopped for lunch. After lunch we explored some more before finally calling it a day and heading back in, excitedly comparing notes on the sites we'd seen.
It was the first time in the Keys for Pat and Fred, and, not knowing if or when they would return, they were developing a list of things that they wanted to see and do on this trip. Our first stop the night after they arrived was Hurricane's 25-cent wing night with Bill and Bette from Sea Mist. This was followed by the National Pig Days races at the nearbly Stuffed Pig restaurant on Saturday. We become pig rooters and laughed at the pretty bad porcine humor. (e.g., “He has a pulled hamstring, but we have some oinkment for it.”) Good times, but alas, our pig didn't finish in the money.
Once we had Key West under our belt, it was Wednesday, and time for the Waterway Radio Club luncheon, where we got to introduce Chuck (ND7K) to KB4OPG (Fred) and KB4OPH (Pat), who had talked to each other for years, but never met. As we headed back to the boat, we learned about a surprise anniversary party for Bill and Bette that night. It wasn't on the list, but we were game for another get-together. By the end of our first week, we had crossed a lot of items off the list, but there were still more to go. We had to ask for some time off. We were getting worn out from having all this fun.
We still had another week before the seafood festival so there would be time to work on more items. After that, if the weather cooperated we would be heading to the Dry Tortugas, hopefully having a completed list before we do.