When last we left our heros, they had narrowly escaped the clutches of the evil Dr. Marathon and the dreaded “Field of Moorings”. But what now? Let’s join them and find out!
End of drama simulation. Because really, when you choose to live on a boat and travel 2800 miles at 5 miles an hour, you don’t need to invent drama – it just kind of happens.
We departed Marathon on March 25th, and since then have been kind of quiet. The occasional sunset picture on Facebook, of course, and a brief mention of another rum-based beverage in paradise, and that’s about it for the last three weeks. I’m speculating that it was those pictures and mentions that caused my going from over 300 Facebook friends to less than 20. All my former FBfriends are from the north, and along about the end of February they finally realized that the one thing they really couldn’t stand was someone living on a boat somewhere warm.
I feel their pain.
But I digress. From Marathon, Sionna made her way westward along the Keys, with two-day stops at Bahia Honda Key, Saddlebunch Key, and finally Key West. Those stops gave us an opportunity to slow down, re-learn about sailing and cruising, and just basically get used to being mobile again.
Bahia Honda is a State Park, which on the plus side means there are services (heads or “bathrooms” in land-speak), but on the minus side, there are also people. LOTS of people. And it was Spring Break.
And of course what comes with people? Trash.
Ok, to be fair we also saw jelly fish and shells and sea beans and kelp and all those things, but the amount of plastic crap that’s washing up on the beaches EVERYWHERE we go is just plain obscene. Yes, obscene.
We pick it up when we see it, as much as we can, but it feels like a very small effort because from 50’ of beach we carried everything our hands could hold back to the trash can 3 times, and still didn’t get it all. And then there are the micro-pieces, the bits too small to easily see, but which sea creatures love to eat, thinking they’re food – which can kill the fish and turtles and whales and ultimately us. We (and by “we” I mean you and me and the other 7.6 billion humans on this planet) need to do better.
Next stop for us was Saddlebunch Key. Here, we get to talk about a bit of that natural drama I mentioned earlier. Tornados.
Tornados are generally pretty dramatic, and it was from our anchorage in the Saddlebunch Keys that we got to watch a funny little weather system which – according to the National Weather Service – spawned “at least” 12 water spouts, which is what they call a tornado that forms over water.
Just let me say that – for the record – there were a lot more than 12 of them. Nicki and I counted at least 25 of the little suckers. And that’s just what the one in the picture is doing: Sucking water up off the surface and into the cloud above. See the guy in the kayak, next to the red marker? Do you think he might be having his daily dose of drama-induced nervous energy right about now? Me too.
Next, we headed over to Key West and found – surprise – more drama! We broke something! You’re probably beginning to think that cruising is all about drama, aren’t you? Well luckily it’s usually not, but it does have its moments, and we had a couple of them, quite close together.
We don’t have many breakage problems on Sionna, largely because we did a pretty good job of looking for potential weak spots before we left Maine. We replaced and reinforced where we could, and it’s paid off.
Still there were a couple of instances where I said “That’ll be fine” that I’ve wished right along I hadn’t, and one of those was the main halyard shackle.
For those of you who aren’t sailors, the main halyard is the line (which on Sionna is actually part wire) that attaches to the top (the “head”) of the main sail, and is used to hoist the sail up the main mast for use. The shackle is what attaches the halyard to the sail, like this:
The awesome news is that because I was concerned about that shackle, at least subconsciously, I’d packed in our spare parts bin an almost brand new shackle to replace it “someday”. And some day came as we were heading into Key West. A motor boat went by, way to fast (Floridians get a kick out of making sailboats roll radically – it seems to be in their genes), the sail filled suddenly with the roll, and that shackle pin I was concerned about said “bye-bye” and snapped the shackle in parting.
So, we picked as sheltered a spot to anchor as we could find, and waited for the calm of evening, at which time I strapped on my rock-climbing harness, and Nicki helped crank me up the mast, 42’ above the water surface, to retrieve the end of the halyard. 3 minutes at the top and I was on the way down, mission accomplished.
We only stayed in Key West two nights. Even anchored, if you go to town they all but charge you for the air you breathe, and we really didn’t need much. A few groceries, one very nice meal out in an almost reasonably priced hole-in-the-wall brew-pub (it’s been a while since we dared have that splurge), and early on March 31st we hauled anchor for the 26-hour overnight passage to Fort Myers.
But that’s a story for another day.