Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Sailing Companion

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Life In The Slow Lane

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Unstuck and Back

Marathon Harbor, N24 42W81 05
January 26, 2006

This morning I woke up, turned on the weather report, I heard a milder report than yesterdays, so I yelled, “Get up Libby, we’re leaving!”

We left at 0700 and arrived in Marathon Harbor by 1600. It was a lovely day with winds 15-23, and waves only 1-2 feet. I’m sure glad we doubted yesterday’s weather report. They had been saying “Bay Waters Rough” and “Small Craft Warning” and waves 5-8 feet. If we had stayed in the river 3 days waiting for a better weather report, that would have been dumb.

There were 6 other sailboats in the river with us last night. They all left about the same time as we did and all headed for Marathon. Several of them took a more direct route than we did and beat us there, but looking at my chart I think they ran too many risks with shoals. Our trip was very fast with following winds. It was also uneventful except for on blast on the depth sounder alarm signaling less that 5.5 feet. My heart skipped a beat but the alarm stopped immediately.

It feels good to be back in Marathon. We like this place. We’ll stay here several weeks until after David’s graduation and until we’re ready to set sail for Belize.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Little Snake River, N26 19 N81 08

January 25, 2006
We decided on our strategy. We will return to Marathon in the Florida Keys and use the time to prepare for international voyages. From there we’ll rent a car to go up for David’s graduation. After that, and as soon as we’re ready we’ll head for Belize, Guatemala then Panama.

Now for the tactics. We’re again weather driven. Monday we spent an extra day in Caya Costa because the wind was blowing the wrong way to go south. We went to the beach in the afternoon. It’s a very nice beach and for a while we had the whole beach to ourselves. We also snuck fresh water showers in the park’s camping area.

Tuesday we sailed south toward Marathon. It was a mixed result. From morning until late afternoon there was no wind and we had to motor. In the evening we sailed but the winds were very light. It was the most peaceful and quiet night at sea we ever had. Even though we moved at three or four knots, there was almost no sound and no rocking. I was below trying to sleep and I kept thinking that we must be becalmed.

During the night the wind came up. Eventually it was 23 knots and from a direction where the self steering didn’t work well. I had to disengage it and wrestle with the tiller full time. That’s very tiring. Nevertheless, the seas were less than one foot high so sailing was comfortable. Around midnight a motor vessel came very close to us when Libby was on watch. When it was very close it changed course and came directly at us. Libby scrambled to start the motor to get us out of there, but then it resumed its earlier course. That was the only vessel near us in 24 hours and it became a near collision. Collisions are more likely than common sense suggests.

The problem came in the morning with the weather report. I get frustrated with Southwest Florida weather reports because I think they tend to be exaggerated and alarmist. Nevertheless the morning forecast was for 25+ knots and rough seas in Florida bay. I could believe the 25 knots but the seas were nowhere near rough. Anyhow, we were both very tired because we hadn’t managed to sleep in 26 hours so I decided to put in to Little Snake River and anchor. If we had continued we would not have arrived in Marathon for another 12 hours or so.

Now the forecast is for 2.5 more days of 25+ knots and rough seas. Darn darn darn. I don’t really want to believe them. On the other hand I’m spooked by the shallow waters of Florida Bay. On the way north I wrote in the blog that I wouldn’t want to be out there when the weather was rough. I visualize being in an area only 6-7 feet deep with six foot waves. That means +/- 3 feet waves. In the trough of a wave our keel could strike bottom. That sounds much to hazardous to me. I’m afraid we’re stuck here. Darn darn darn.

We are also out of cell phone and Internet range so we can’t inform anyone where we are. The last time we talked with John and Jenny was Sunday when we were planning to set sail for Pass Christian. I sure hope they’re not worried about us. I sure hope they’re not calling the Coast Guard. There is no way for us to contact anyone.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oh What a Life

Caya Costa Park, N26 41 W82 14
January 22, 2006

Oh this life is hard. Yesterday we rowed in to Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We found a creek that went up through the mangrove forest. Halfway up the creek we found a hidden entrance to a lagoon. We had to duck low under branches to get into the lagoon. When we got in, the lagoon was about ¼ mile in diameter and it was very charming. We fished there for several hours just drifting in the dinghy. Didn’t catch any fish but we did have fun. One fish in particular tried to do a flying fish imitation jumping out of the water again and again really close to us.

This morning we had a nice wind, 20 knots from the east. We sailed northward at a breakneck speed through narrow channels under sail. Just after noon we came to Pelican Bay near Caya Costa park where we are anchored. We rowed to shore and spent the afternoon walking the trails and the beaches in the park. We saw a snake and lizards and a tortoise and a possum and buzzards and sand pipers. On the beach we saw a string of disturbances in the sand just above the high tide mark. We figure it had to be sea turtles that made the marks. It’s not the season for laying turtle eggs so we guess that it must be the season for making turtle whoopee on the beach.

The weather was perfect both days.

Oh what a hard life this is.

Tomorrow morning we are near a sea inlet so we can go outside. We have the choice of sailing north to Venice or back southward. We decided to spend our extra time waiting for the trip to David’s graduation in Marathon in the Florida keys. But there’s no hurry to get back there.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Major Change In Plans

Pine Island Sound, N26 28 W82 07
January 20, 2006

This morning we took Norman for a sail before leaving Shell Point. Unfortunately, Martha isn’t mobile enough to be able to jump onboard so she couldn’t come. It was a lovely morning so we had a lot of fun and I think Norman had fun too. He got to see his home grounds from the water side for the first time so that was of great interest. After dropping off Norman we started to leave Shell Point and promptly ran aground in the canal. We were crowded to the right side of the canal by a fishing boat who was fishing right in the middle, and another oncoming boat. That was a mistake because there was a shoal. Oh well, so many groundings we can’t count. This time the fishermen who helped crowd us out helped by taking out our anchor to kedge. We were grateful for that.

We had a great time with Norman and Martha. They are wonderful hosts and they went to a lot of trouble to show us a good time. Thank you very much Norman and Martha.

Our plan after leaving was to head right out to sea for a three day passage across the Gulf of Mexico to Pass Christian Mississippi. Before leaving though we made one more attempt to contact the people in Pass Christian to see if there is indeed a place there where we can get Tarwathie in and anchored. This time we succeeded and we found the answer, “regrettably no.” We discussed several alternatives, and none will work. We just can’t go there by boat.

So now what do we do? We’ve been planning on doing the hurricane volunteer work in Pass Christian for six months. Now the legs are knocked out from underneath us. A secondary but critical part of our plan is to get to Fort Benning Georgia in early February for David’s graduation from US Army basic training. We just got a letter from David yesterday and he told us that he’ll be going to Iraq. Oh dear. That makes it all the more important for his mother to be there to see him at his graduation.

We’re just starting to think of other plans. We could put the boat in dry storage and take a bus to Pass Christian, then rent a car to go to Fort Benning. We might be able to find a place in Biloxi Mississippi or Pensacola Florida. We could go back to Marathon in the Florida Keys. That’s the nicest place we’ve seen this year. We could go to Houston and find a place for the boat in Kemah Texas near Galveston. We could leave early to go to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. We could sail for the Virgin Islands or Trinidad or Venezuela. We could even go to Cuba if we want to risk confiscation by the US Coast Guard. It’s only 150 miles from here.

I guess the only thing certain at this point is that we’ll spend this weekend thinking and planning. Pine Island Sound is a delightful place to do it. Nature abounds and we’re anchored right now just 100 meters from the Ding Darling nature refuge on Sanibel Island. Our cruising guides say that this area is one of the nicest in Florida.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lunch with Norman and Martha

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Fishing by the Mangroves

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Aground: Who Cares?

Shell Point, Florida
January 19, 2006

Regular readers know how much angst is caused by our occasional running aground incidents. Especially poor Libby because it makes her feel awful every time it happens. Here’s the story

Today we went to the Ding Darling nature refuge on Sanibel Island and we signed up for a guided nature tour. The tour boat is a big pontoon boat with electric power. It had a crew of 2 and 20 passengers. Pretty nifty vessel. Anyhow, after the guide finished explaining how shallow the bay was and Libby and I both thought of how impossible it would be to go there with Tarwathie, the tour boat ran aground. The tide was very very low and the captain had tried to take us out of their little boat basin but there was a sand bar across the front. I looked out and it looked to me that the water was less than six inches deep. I was just about to ask the captain how shallow he could go when we ran aground.

An electric boat doesn’t have much excess power in the screws, so it did no good at all trying to get itself off. We moved all the passengers forward, then aft. It did no good. The captain did not suggest the obvious. We were only 20 feet from a beach and the water was only six inches deep. The obvious thing was to order everyone to walk to shore then float the boat away. Perhaps he was intimidated by all the joking onboard about Lake George.

After about half an hour another motor boat came out and towed us off. They had to cancel today’s tour and refund our money. No matter we had fun anyhow, and we learned a lot from the guide while waiting.

The thing I didn’t tell onboard was how thrilled Libby was the whole time we were grounded. In this case it was not even a little bit her fault. Nor would she be called upon to perform bravely to get us off. Nor was the grounding a threat to her home. I could see her grinning the whole time.

After our return Norman and Martha took us to the Sanibel Marina for lunch. (See the picture.) That was a pretty nice place. It was very crowded because they were hosting a power boat show. Pete Lemme would have loved it. The cruisers were on sale, marked down from $800,000 to only $775,000. What a bargain.

With Kurlands

With Kurlands
Shell Point, Florida

January 19, 2006

Getting to Fort Meyers was interesting. We scrambled all day to get here
before dark. We were going into a difficult harbor and planned to take
a mooring ball. It had to be light enough to read the numbers on the
mooring balls. We made it after sunset with perhaps 10 minutes to spare
before it got too dark.

The good news is that we pushed the engine hard all day. 2000 RPM and
6.2 knots. It never overheated. Wow what a difference that new heat
exchanger made.

Last night was the first night in months that we slept in a bed that
didn't move in a room that didn't make noises. We are visiting with
Norman and Martha Kurland. They are friends from the Albany area who
snow bird here near Fort Meyers.

Norman and Martha live in a senior development called Shell Point.
There are lots of apartments (condos?) here, some including assisted
living units. It is a very attractive and very well organized
operation and it looks like a very pleasant place to live. One of the
benefits they have is guest privileges for boats to dock along a canal
that runs behind the units. That's how we got in here yesterday, after
navigating through more shallow waters and narrow channels. Actually,
Tarwathie is aground right now at the dock. That's because the canal
is deep only in the middle. At dockside however it is too shallow for
our keel. We're tied up to the dock but still the beam is more than one
meter off shore and we can't get her closer. We had to use very long
steps to get on and off. Oh well, no harm done.

The fear of running aground in Western Florida waters is almost
constant. I think that, plus prevailing wind conditions makes the
proportion of sailboats on Florida's west coast much less than on the
east coast and in the Keys.

Last night the Kurlands took us to a very nice restaurant here in the
building. Today we're heading for a nature preserve on Sanibel Island.
It sounds wonderful.

After Fort Meyers, we plan to make a passage across the Gulf . We may
head directly to Pass Christian Mississippi, or perhaps make a stop in
Mobile or Biloxi. We tried calling all the marinas and yacht clubs in
the Pass Christian area, but all their phones are disconnected. That's
an ominous sign.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Little Engine That Couldn't

When leaving Fort Meyers Beach harbor we saw this scene of one of the local fishing boats aground near the entrance channel. The smaller boat was from a towing company. As you can see, it was furiously trying to move the bigger boat. We could see them for more than an hour and it din't appear to move at all.

I guess we'll have to call the little boat the little engine that couldn't.
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Monday, January 16, 2006

On Noises

At Sea
January 16, 2006

We did have a comfortable night last night, except for the noises. I’ll

Onboard a boat one becomes hypersensitive to background noises. A
noise could be a clue to being off course, or of a weather change, or of
the anchor dragging, or being to close to something else, or of
something chafing or malfunctioning. Further, a boat is not big so
whatever noises there are always seem close to your ear. They are
close. Finally, the noises are constantly changing with wind, waves,
weather and temperature. Put those all together and the result is a
fine recipe for always being bothered by some worrisome sound that one
can’t identify.

In the Russian Cut it was something that sounded like water running from
a downspout. At first we thought it was raining and that the sound
came from rainwater dripping from the boom. Then we learned that it
wasn’t raining. Three times I got out of bed in the middle of the
night and searched on deck for the source of the sound. Up on deck it
couldn’t be heard at all. I finally concluded that it was the wavelets
slapping on the hull to make a sound combination we hadn’t heard before.

Last night as we tried to go to sleep, there was a noise that sounded
like a golf ball bouncing on the deck right above our ears. Every time
a wave would rock us the noise started again. We talked about it in
bed, trying to deduce what it must be. I abstained from going up on
deck in the middle of the night. This morning I looked over everything
on deck and I could not find any source of that noise.

Early this morning, it was the sound of a diesel engine working hard.
It got so loud that I though that it must be a boat coming close to us.
Since we were at the end of a dead end bight, there should be no boats
near us. I went up on deck to check. It was a fishing boat on the
other side of Indian Key about ½ mile away from us. No danger. It was
also the first of a dozen or so fishing boats that headed out to sea
between 0400 and 0600. They sure sounded loud.

I suspect that no matter how many years we live on a boat there will
forever be new and strange noises to bother us.

On the other hand, noises that we can identify don’t register on our
brains no matter how loud. The best example of that is the sound of
halyards slapping against the mast when it’s windy. Not only are we
familiar with that on Tarwathie, but on every boat we’ve ever slept on,
and on nearly every other boat in a crowded marina or harbor. To us it
is as familiar a sound of the sea as the call of seagulls. It
surprised me to read that some marinas require sailboats to tie up their
halyards so they don’t bang. It surprised me again in Vero Beach when
we rafted up with another sailboat that the captain of that boat asked
me to tie up my halyard so he could sleep. It surprised both of us when
talking to Nancy one day on the cell phone when she asked, “What’s that
banging noise?” My first reaction was, “I don’t hear any noise.”
Objectively, though the halyard was banging so loudly on the mast that
it sounded like beating a metal pipe with a hammer.

My favorite noise onboard the boat is that of the water swishing by
along the hull when we are under sail at sea. Libby agrees.

Another pleasant sound is the chime of our ship’s clock. It is a very
nice clock and the chime’s clarion tone continues several seconds after
a strike. Being a ship’s clock, it strikes every half hour (1 bell) up
to four hours (8 bells), signaling a four hour watch stand. Then it
starts again with 1 bell. Therefore, 8 bells sounds at midnight 0400
0800 1200 1600 and 2000 each day. When I wake up at night and I hear
one bell, for example, my mind must decide if it is 0030 or 0430. That
helps to keep me aware of my surroundings.

We also have onboard a clock from a Russian submarine. It belonged to
my father and it is the only memento I have left of my father. It
makes a very nice tick tock sound. I always loved ticking clocks.
Unfortunately, the submarine clock is up in the V berth and we can’t
hear the ticking unless we sleep up there.

One sound I miss is the that of our Clarkson coo coo clock. It had a
very loud tick tock. It also had a long pendulum and pine cone shaped
weights. I remember fondly the tick tock of that clock at night in the
various houses we’ve owned. Sometimes, not often, the coo coo would
also sound. Alas, a pendulum clock is on the list of things least
compatible with sailboats.

The other sounds I miss include the call of mourning doves and the sound
of the peepers from our pond in West Charlton. Libby and I agreed that
the most joyous day of the year in West Charlton was that day in late
March when the climate warmed up enough for the first peeper to peep.
During April, May and June the number of peepers and peeps would grow to
a crescendo then fade. After mid July we never heard a peep. I told
visitors that the peepers would peep seeking a mate. After they got
laid they were satisfied and quiet. I have no idea if that was true but
it made a great story.

Did I mention that I’m an insomniac? You may have guessed that from my
fondness for night sounds. Sound sleepers may seldom hear any of

Friday, January 13, 2006

Check Off

Russian Cut, N25 50 W81 26
January 13, 2006

A few years ago Libby and I took a Florida Vacation. We had a long
weekend, flew to West Palm and rented a car. We had no goal other than
that we had never explored southern Florida before. The high point of
our trip was when we came to Everglades City. We took a ride on a
tourist tour boat. The boat took us from the lagoon out several miles
to the sea, then back again. The ride was delightful. We could see
the nature change from fresh water to salt water. Dolphins followed us
part of the day. It was a great day and we loved the nature. Along
the channel I saw a sailboat anchored and the crew was swimming. I
recall thinking, "I want to do that with my own boat." Well here we
are, almost in that identical spot.

The departure from Little Shark river was a white knuckles trip. It was
low tide when we left and at the entrance to the river the depth sounder
said 5.5 feet. We need 5.5 feet. We put putted very slowly more than
a mile with that depth, certain that at any minute we would be aground.
But we didn't go aground. Thank goodness.

There were three fishing boats right at the river entrance, and as we
drove by one of them caught an enormous fish. Darn. We are too
inexperienced as fishermen to know where to go. I guess looking for
other fishermen is a good first approximation.

There was very little wind today so we had to motor and sail most of the
day. It was hot and humid. I broke out the sun shower for the first
time. It heated the water to 104 F (39C) and the shower felt very

We had to get here before dark to set anchors and prepare for some rough
weather. They're forecasting a gale from tonight through Sunday. We'll
be fine though. We're anchored in a very well sheltered place. But I
guess we'll not move from this spot tomorrow.

Coral Island
Indian Key, N25 49 W81 28
January 15, 2006

The gale came and went. We just sat it out. The initial hours of the
gale were nasty. A powerful gust up to 40 knots would go by, followed
by nearly zero wind between the gusts. Those conditions would have
made any sailboat or power boat very hard to handle. I was glad we were
at anchor.

I confess however to a poor job of seamanship in anchoring Friday night.
We went much too close to shore, attempting to gain more shelter from
three directions. Then I put out two anchors. That wasn't necessary.
When we woke up Saturday morning, it was low tide and we were aground.
It was because there was 4 feet of tide and we were too close to shore.
When the tide came up and we floated off, I put out a third anchor from
the stern to prevent us from swinging even closer to shore if the wind
turned around. Today, Sunday, I had to use the dinghy to pull up all
three of those anchors and wait for the tide to rise before we could
leave. I'm ashamed of the bad job I did.

By noon we were out at the furthest island out toward the Gulf Of
Mexico, Indian Key. Our guide books recommend this key for it's
isolation, nice beaches, and near waters surrounded by coral. We've
been waiting for coral. We anchored offshore and took the dinghy in to
the beach, carrying our swimming and snorkeling gear. Everything was as
advertised except that the waters are all murky. The gale yesterday
must have stirred up the bottom. Therefore we couldn't snorkel to see
the coral. Darn.

Still we had a great day. We walked all around the island. We found a
great collection of curiosities and critters and plants. There were
many exotic plants. Mangroves, palms, vines, cacti, and things that
look like onions. We even had a slight misadventure. We decided to cut
overland from one side of the island to the other. The distance was
really short, just a couple of hundred meters. When we got to the
middle the ground turned to stinky mud. It was like quicksand and it
was pretty disgusting. Nevertheless, we slogged through to the other
side. When we got there we went swimming to get that stinking stuff off
of us. We laughed about it.

Tonight we're remaining at anchor off the key. It is not without
trepidation because the only other time we anchored at sea was that
awful night off Saint Augustine last March when we broke the anchor
roller. This time however, we're anchored in 9 feet of water rather
than 80 feet, and the winds tonight are forecast for 5 knots instead of
the 45 knots we had in Saint Augustine. We should be OK but being
exposed out here takes getting used to.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dick and Libby's Island

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The American Queen

Little Shark River, N25 20 W81 08
January 12, 2006

We tried fishing this morning but got no nibbles at all so we soon tired
of that. Instead we launched the dinghy and set out to explore some of
the side channels to the river. These channels took us deep into the
mangrove forest that surrounds us. They are only a few meters wide and
a few centimeters deep. The water is brackish. We felt like Katherine
Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart on the African Queen. It was great fun but
we only saw birds and crabs for wildlife. The only kind of plant
species visible was mangroves. The mangroves continued as far as the
eye could see. Still, the isolation and the quiet and the purity of
the nature was wonderful.

We saw a mangrove island in the middle of a lagoon and surmised that the
island had never been named. Hereafter let the world know that Dick
And Libby Island exists on a side channel to the Little Shark River.

In the river we saw no fish but we see and hear dolphins often. This
morning there was a mother and a baby dolphin frolicking right beside
the boat. We were delighted to watch.

Studying the charts I decided that we could not get far enough up this
river to see nature substantially different than where we are.
Therefore we spent the afternoon reading books, fishing and puttering.
It was so quiet and silent that the only noise I could hear was the
small solar powered fan we have in the forward berth. Sometimes there
is a splash. Sometimes, a bird cries. Once we heard breaking branches
and decided that a tree fell. We can give first hand testimony that it
made a noise.

According to the weather report we should either hurry up to go north to
Fort Meyers to say hello to Norman, or else wait a few days. In
character with our new life style, we easily decided to wait.

We're still listening to the Judge Alito hearings on the radio. These
hearings, like the Judge Roberts hearings, exemplify government at its
very best. Almost everyone is on best behavior and the subjects
discussed are among the most intellectually challenging imaginable. The
main exception was Senator "Teddy" Kennedy. He sounds like a bitter
vicious old man who should have retired a long time ago. Senator
Schumer took second place as being nasty. mean spirited, and interested
only in himself, not in the country. Senators Lahey of Vermont and
Hatch of Utah impress me as the most statesmanlike. I love listening to
both of them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Welcome To The Everglades

Little Snake River, N25 20 W81 08
January 11, 2006

I was sorely tempted to say that we left the Atlantic Ocean and entered
Gulf of Mexico. But that would be an overstatement and untrue. The
Gulf of Mexico is part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Anyhow, we're in
the Gulf. It's already evident from the different behavior of the
tides. Heretofore, we've had semi-diurnal tides with two nearly equal
high tides and two low tides per day. Here one of the two tides is
much less drastic than the other. By the time we get to Northwestern
Florida there will be only one high tide and one low tide per day

On the way here we passed many miles of coast that are inside the
boundary of Everglades National Park. We saw mile after mile of white
sand beaches with no people and only two boats anchored in about 20
miles of beaches. What an idyllic place. It is preserved because it
is so far from any road or any town. Only long voyage travelers will
come here. It would be great fun to bring our grandkids here. I think
kids and honeymooners would be enchanted by totally private beaches.

At one point I could see a flock of pelicans frantically diving into the
water. They make a big splash when they hit. There must have been a
large school of fish for them to feed on. It reminded me of the time in
the Virgin Islands when Libby and I and John and Jenny were snorkeling
in a school of fish with pelicans diving in from above and a big shark
stalking the pelicans from below. We got out of there fast.

We're at anchor in the Little Snake River. We can follow this river
several more miles inland into some of the Everglade lagoons with enough
depth for Tarwathie. At the mouth of the river, the water is salty.
A dolphin jumped beside the boat near the river entrance. Upstream, the
water is fresh and we should see alligators, manatees and other fresh
water creatures.

The fishing is reputed good here. As soon as we anchored we tried to
fish. Alas, it was too close to dusk. The mosquitoes here are very
active at dawn and dusk, and they soon drove us inside the boat. We
have screens for the windows and hatches and citronella candles, so few
bugs get inside.

Tomorrow we'll see how far inland we dare to explore and we'll try
fishing. I might even go swimming if we don't see alligators nearby.

I doubt if we'll see any people on this river. We have the whole place
to ourselves. The banks of the river are lined with thick Mangroves.
At least I think they are Mangroves. Their roots extend into the water
and are definitely Mangrove like, but they have thick tree trunks and
grow up to 40 feet tall. That's not typical of what I consider to be
mangroves. Perhaps some readers more knowledgeable on the fauna can
correct me.

We just heard a loud scream from some kind of large critter close by.
We have no idea what. In any case, we're anchored 30 feet from shore
so we presume that hungry critters can't reach us here.

At the farthest inland extent of the river it coincides with the
wilderness route for canoes. People can rent canoes from the park and
paddle 100 miles from one end of the park to the other. I hope to meet
some of those people if we get in that far.

As much as we like blue water sailing, I must admit that many of the
most interesting and fun places we've been have been on rivers, creeks
and canals. It would be great to have a shallow draft boat in Louisiana
that can explore the bayous and the swamps. That is, unless it is near
dawn or dusk.

Florida Bay

At Sea, N24 54 W81 08
January 11, 2006

It feels weird out here. We are in Florida Bay. That is the body of
water north of the Florida Keys and south of the Florida Peninsula. The
average depth out here is only 7 feet. Often the depth is only 5.5
feet. Since Tarwathie's keel is 5.5 feet deep you can understand how
antsy that makes us feel.

Nervousness notwithstanding, this place is like magic. The sky is blue
and the wind is NNE at 10 knots, the temperature about 75F (24C). Waves
are only 6 inches high. The water is green but transparent enough to
easily see the bottom passing underneath. However it's no so clear as
in the Virgin Islands where one can see hundreds of feet deep. We see
jumping fish and dolphins often and a few times the dolphins swim along
with us for a while. There are lobster and crab traps everyplace. It's
impossible to ignore them. There are so many so far from land that I
suspect that they are almost never checked by the fishermen. That
sounds wasteful and cruel to trap animals yet to not check the traps
often. Maybe I'm wrong.

The radar screen shows no targets and my visual scan to the horizons
shows no vessels. We are very alone out here. What a relief to not
worry about submarines surfacing underneath us. I suppose there's no
risk of being run over by a merchant ship either. We could both go
below and take a nap leaving nobody on watch. Don't worry, I really
wouldn't go that far.

The wind is against us and our sailing guide assures us of sufficient
depth only if we stick to a particular path. Therefore were using the
motor and staying within 30 feet left or right of the prescribed path.
We're chicken. Inv about three more hours we change course and I hope
that we can sail instead of motor.

Tarwathie's engine temperature is rock solid at 190 degrees. Thank
goodness for that.

I don't think we'll make it to our destination before dark. However the
forecast is for continued very light winds. We can just stop for the
day wherever we happen to be. It's hardly necessary to even drop the
anchor. What would the point be? Nevertheless I will drop it because
I can't stretch my mind enough not to. The idea of not having to look
for a safe anchorage is totally ailen to us.

Perhaps for lunch we'll do something I never did before in my entire
life. We can just stop and eat lunch while adrift. No anchor, no
control. Just the thought makes me feel wicked.

If the weather turned bad it would be a very different story. Waves of
5 feet or more in an area less than 10 feet deep would be very steep and
very dangerous. Just last weekend there were 7 foot waves out here.
If there was any threat of rough weather we wouldn't be here.

The Gulf Stream is visible to the east as indeed it has been south of
North Carolina. From a long distance away, one can see the Gulf Stream
by the bank of thick low clouds that lie over it. That's what we see
here. It is to our advantage to avoid the Gulf Stream while heading
south. Last June we entered the Gulf Stream while heading north toward
Norfolk and we got a boost. The night we got hammered near Cape Fear I
suspect that we also inadvertently got into the Gulf Stream or one of
it's eddies while heading South. In fact, that may have contributed
greatly to the discomfort we suffered that night.

Should we be fishing? I don't think so. We're going too fast, 5 knots,
and the water is too shallow for trolling. However if we see a big fish
we could stop the boat and jump in with a knife in our teeth. Anyhow,
I'm blogging up in the cockpit and Libby is down below baking cookies.
We're both listening to the confirmation hearing for judge Alito. I
guess that's evidence that we're over our nervousness.

Welcome To The Everglades
Little Snake River, N25 20 W81 08
January 11, 2006

I was sorely tempted to say that we left the Atlantic Ocean and entered
Gulf of Mexico. But that would be an overstatement and untrue. The
Gulf of Mexico is part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Anyhow, we're in
the Gulf. It's already evident from the different behavior of the
tides. Heretofore, we've had semi-diurnal tides with two nearly equal
high tides and two low tides per day. Here one of the two tides is
much less drastic than the other. By the time we get to Northwestern
Florida there will be only one high tide and one low tide per day

On the way here we passed many miles of coast that are inside the
boundary of Everglades National Park. We saw mile after mile of white
sand beaches with no people and only two boats anchored in about 20
miles of beaches. What an idyllic place. It is preserved because it
is so far from any road or any town. Only long voyage travelers will
come here. It would be great fun to bring our grandkids here. I think
kids and honeymooners would be enchanted by totally private beaches.

At one point I could see a flock of pelicans frantically diving into the
water. They make a big splash when they hit. There must have been a
large school of fish for them to feed on. It reminded me of the time in
the Virgin Islands when Libby and I and John and Jenny were snorkeling
in a school of fish with pelicans diving in from above and a big shark
stalking the pelicans from below. We got out of there fast.

We're at anchor in the Little Shark River. We can follow this river
several more miles inland into some of the Everglade lagoons with enough
depth for Tarwathie. At the mouth of the river, the water is salty.
A dolphin jumped beside the boat near the river entrance. Upstream, the
water is fresh and we should see alligators, manatees and other fresh
water creatures.

The fishing is reputed good here. As soon as we anchored we tried to
fish. Alas, it was too close to dusk. The mosquitoes here are very
active at dawn and dusk, and they soon drove us inside the boat. We
have screens for the windows and hatches and citronella candles, so few
bugs get inside.

Tomorrow we'll see how far inland we dare to explore and we'll try
fishing. I might even go swimming if we don't see alligators nearby.

I doubt if we'll see any people on this river. We have the whole place
to ourselves. The banks of the river are lined with thick Mangroves.
At least I think they are Mangroves. Their roots extend into the water
and are definitely Mangrove like, but they have thick tree trunks and
grow up to 40 feet tall. That's not typical of what I consider to be
mangroves. Perhaps some readers more knowledgeable on the fauna can
correct me.

We just heard a loud scream from some kind of large critter close by.
We have no idea what. In any case, we're anchored 30 feet from shore
so we presume that hungry critters can't reach us here.

At the farthest inland extent of the river it coincides with the
wilderness route for canoes. People can rent canoes from the park and
paddle 100 miles from one end of the park to the other. I hope to meet
some of those people if we get in that far.

As much as we like blue water sailing, I must admit that many of the
most interesting and fun places we've been have been on rivers, creeks
and canals. It would be great to have a shallow draft boat in Louisiana
that can explore the bayous and the swamps. That is, unless it is near
dawn or dusk.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Six Times? No Seven!

Boot Key, Florida N24 42 W81 05
January 9, 2006

Today our mission was to fetch mail, groceries and a new thermostat for
the engine, then install and test the engine with the thermostat in.
We accomplished the first three tasks and were back on the boat by 1300.

The fourth task illustrates my lack of mechanical skills. First, when
assembling tools to do the job I found the missing thermostat. My taxi
trip to the next town to buy a new one was unnecessary. Sigh. That's
Murphy's law.

The thermostat lives under the coolant header tank. I have to remove
the whole tank to get to it. I pumped out the coolant disassembled it,
put the new thermostat in, then put it back together. It took about an
hour. When I put antifreeze in however, it leaked out. Libby helped
me to pump the antifreeze out and I took it apart again. That's one.

The second time I added some paste "form a gasket" from a tube, but
after I was done it leaked again! That's two.

The third time I looked more closely. I could see that the thermostat
should go under the gasket, not above. I put it all back together
again. This time it didn't leak. Horary. I started the engine. It
began to warm up at a normal speed. Hooray! I revved it up to 2000
RPM. After 5 minutes, I looked again. Overheating! Oh no. I quickly
shut it back down. One of the hoses to the heat exchanger that I
installed yesterday had popped off and spilled all the coolant. That's

I replaced the hose, and refilled the coolant. But there was a
discrepancy. I pumped up two gallons of coolant from under the engine,
but only one gallon would fit back in the tank. I started the engine
and watched carefully. It started to overheat. Darn, that means that I
had air trapped in the cooling system below the thermostat.

I pumped out the coolant, took it apart again, removed the thermostat,
put it back together and let it run for a while. Now the air came to
the top and the chambers below the thermostat were filled with water.
That's five.

I pumped out the coolant, took it apart again, replaced the thermostat,
put it back together and let it run for a while. Except this time I put
in the old thermostat because I knew that one opened at the correct
temperature. That's six. Now it warms up only a little with the engine
idling, but it's after dark and I shouldn't make too much engine noise
because it will disturb everyone else. In the morning I'll finish
testing and we'll take it out of the harbor and drive around for a sea

The good part of the story is that each time I took the thing apart and
put it back again, I got better at it. It took an hour the first time
and only 15 minutes the 6th time.

I think I also spotted the oil/fuel leak that has been plaguing us for
months. It is the fuel level sight gauge, not the engine. I can't
repair it until that fuel tank is empty or unless I'm willing to spill a
gauge full of fuel deliberately. I'll wait. Meanwhile I'm glad to know
what the problem is.

Does it seem to you that I spend too much time fussing with the engine
if we are sailors? I agree. The catch is that we're hooked on all
these electrical conveniences, lights, radar, computer, refrigerator,
that draw from the battery so I need to run the engine every day to keep
the batteries charged. We also find that about 1/3 of our voyage so
far is under power versus 2/3 under sail. No wind, wrong wind
direction, narrow channels and canals are the reason why we must motor
some of the time. Also, Florida drawbridges won't open for you unless
you have a motor. If you sail with no motor there's no upper limit to
the time it might take you to sail under the bridge.

Update January 10: We weighed anchor this morning and sailed out to sea
to test the engine. Our plan was that if everything was successful, we
would depart directly for the Everglades.

The results were mixed. No overheating even at high RPMs that we have
never managed since we bought Tarwathie 11 months ago. Our chronic
cooling problem is solved. Hip hip hooray!!!

On the other hand, the engine temperature rose to 140 degrees and stayed
there at all speeds. That's too cool it should be 190 degrees F (88C).
We motored back to the harbor, anchored, I pumped out the coolant,
disassembled, replaced the old thermostat with the new one, reassembled,
and refilled the coolant. That's seven.

This time it worked as it should. I started the engine, and the
temperature promptly rose to 190 degrees and stayed there. No water
leakage. No fuel leakage. No oil leakage. Sigh. I hope this is the
end of the story. Tomorrow at first light we'll set sail.

Now for the post mortem. Warning to readers. The rest of this article
is technical. Skip it if you're not interested.

The whole problem started with Al Hatch (the previous owner of

On survey day he said that he wanted to change the pitch of the
propeller because the engine was running hot, indicating that it was
working too hard. He declared it a success, but I couldn't judge
because I didn't know Tarwathie's normal operating parameters.

Al's diagnosis was wrong and the wrong diagnosis led to lots of expense
and anguish for us. The correct diagnosis would have been that the heat
exchanger became less effective year by year for 30 years of life. For
the first 29 years, the effect was invisible because the thermostat
would just open a little wider every year. When the thermostat
couldn't open any wider, the engine temperature would rise instead. The
problem would be worst in warm tropical waters and less bad in cool Lake
Champlain waters.

In Jacksonville last June the problem go so bad that I could only make
one knot under power.

In Fernandina Beach where I hauled the boat out to paint the bottom I
paid a diesel mechanic $400 to solve the cooling problem. He took
things apart and cleaned them and back flushed and changed the raw water
pump impeller (which wasn't needed). He also broke the seal on the raw
water pump and replaced. The engine performed somewhat better. We
could do four knots. However we may have been motoring in cooler

In New Jersey in July it got worse again and I paid another mechanic
$250 to clean the heat exchanger and to remove the thermostat. The
result was another incremental improvement. We could do 4.4 knots.

On the Hudson river I hauled the boat again and restored the propeller
pitch. It caused another incremental improvement. We could do 4.7
knots. Libby and I thought we could live with that indefinitely.

In December when we got to Southern Florida the problem got worse again.
Our maximum speed reduced to three knots. I was convinced that we
needed a new primary water pump. That was the only part we never
replaced or inspected.

In January in Marathon I found John Moore, of Moore's Marine. I told
John about the primary water pump and he said, "No way. Tell my your
symptoms." I told John the whole story. It was like being on Car Talk.
He said all the evidence suggested that we need a new heat exchanger.
Despite the fact that we cleaned it, heat exchangers like car radiators
build up films and deposits that reduce the heat transfer coefficient.
I believed him and invested $500 in a new heat exchanger. John's
diagnosis was the right one.

In total we spent $1560 dollars to fix the problem rather than $500 if
we had the correct diagnosis at the start. Worse, was the over 400
hours of motoring worrying about the engine temperature and traveling
slower than we would have liked to. Oh well. A mitigating factor is
that I got a lot of schooling and experience as a diesel mechanic along
the way.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Tour Boat for Galway Lake

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Sunday No Cruise

Boot Key, Florida N24 42 W81 05
January 8, 20
Now the engine won’t even warm up after a couple of hours running. I’ll have to re-install the thermostat that we took out in New Jersey. I couldn’t find the old one and I can’t find one in Marathon. Monday I’ll have to get on a bus and go to the next town to an auto parts store to buy one.

I heard a radio program about the future of news. It was so presient that it jolted me. I recommend it for any of you who are amateur futurists. Think of the book Snow Crash. There is a film about it on Internet called “Epic 2014” See it here, or read the transcript here

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Boot Key, Florida N24 42 W81 05
January 7, 2006

This morning I installed the new heat exchanger. I’ll withhold the verdict about whether it fixes our chronic engine overheating problem until we take Tarwathie out for an actual cruise. I also could not find the thermostat that we took out off the engine last July. I’ll need to find one and install it before we leave.

The next chore was to go to the post office to fetch mail. I was late in leaving so I had to row like mad for 20 minutes to get ashore, then pedal like mad for 20 minutes to get to the post office. I got there at 1155 and they close at 1200 on Saturdays. What a bummer. Our mail hadn’t arrived. I asked to buy some of the new 39 cent stamps (stamp prices raise from 37 to 39 cents tomorrow). The post office was out of them. I asked to buy some one cent stamps to combine with our old 37 cent stamps. The post office was out of them too. They batted zero for three.

This afternoon I decided to take a sailing cruise of the harbor using the sail on the dinghy. It was a cool day, but sunny and breezy. I had great fun. The dinghy felt like a skittish horse under me. People called out to me as I went by, “That looks like fun.” “I’m jealous of you.” “Right on.” I sailed all around the harbor and looked at every boat. Here’s my official census.

  • 190 sailboats versus 10 power boats Most of the power boats are in the marinas hooked to their 50 amp umbilical cords and to the fresh water hose rather than in the harbor. The energy footprint of power boats is much larger than sailboats.

  • 20 luxury sailboats, 60 near derelict sailboats, 110 modest sailboats.

    Tarwathie was at the high end of upper middle class. Anorlunda, our Tanzer 27 that we gave to my son John and family would have been average middle class here in Marathon. That deflates my myth that the smaller, inexpensive and light weight boats designed for inland lakes would not be found on the ocean. Wrong. It appears that you can get started on this cruising life for much less than $10,000. You can probably even get a boat for free among the ones that were damaged by the hurricanes and abandoned, yet still float.

  • 180 boats afloat, 5 sunk in the harbor and 15 wrecked boats on the shores. Hurricane Wilma passed by here only 3 months ago.

  • One boat, 39 feet long, has a mother a father and 5 kids that live aboard.

  • 40 dogs onboard boats. It makes me miss our dog Pup. Still, Pup hated boats and water and he needs lots of exercise. It would have been cruel to bring him. The Dog Whisperer says that exercise is very important for a dog’s mental health. I guess that many of the dogs I saw on these boats must be maladjusted.

  • The prettiest of all boats in the harbor was Tarwathie. True there are a few other beauties, but they appear brand new. Tarwathie is like a woman who’s beauty increases as she matures. Like Sophia Loren. Like Libby.

I had so much fun that I wanted to go around again. Libby didn’t want to go so I invited Drew and Kia. Kia said yes, so off we went. She liked it as much as me. When we got to the far end of the harbor (about 1 mile away) I let her take the helm. She did OK for a while but about one quarter of the way back we swamped the boat.

Fortunately the water was warm. We righted the boat but it had so much water in it that it tipped over again right away. Dumb of me not to bring a bailer. Also fortunately we were in the middle of a crowded harbor with lots (maybe hundreds) of people watching us sail. We called HELP and within seconds there were two boats there to help us. One of them took Kavia back to their boat to get out of the cold air. I took the mast and sail off to make it easier for the dinghy to stay upright. Then we used the man’s hand pump to pump the dinghy dry. Then I re-rigged the sail, and we picked up Kia from her refuge and we sailed back to our own boats. Now the air felt really cold. Kia shivered and her lips turned blue. I was also thoroughly chilled. It took me an hour to warm up after returning to Tarwathie.

Tomorrow I’d like to sail the dinghy again.

Still don't have our digital camera working.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Boot Key, Florida N24 42 W81 05
January 6, 2006

Ah, one could get addicted to this life. Life in this harbor is nice. Well protected. Clean water. Sand bottom. There are dinghy docks, showers, laundry, restaurants and stores nearby. There’s a service called Smorgosboat. Smorgosboat is a water taxi. He can bring you newspapers, and pastries in the morning. Take trash. Ferry passengers. He’ll even walk your dog. All for reasonable rates.

We met a couple who have live here at anchor for three years. They pay no taxes or fees for anchoring here. The only mandatory fee is $4 per day to park your dinghy at the dinghy dock when you go ashore. Every evening they take their sailing dinghy, and one martini each and sail around the harbor chatting with people on the other boats until sunset.

It would be seductive but Libby and I still have the wanderlust. Aside from our agenda of Pass Christian, Panama, Hawaii, Alaska we like the idea of exploring and seeing different places. We might get bored here. But maybe someday …

I’m also amused by the description of about 20% of the men I meet among these sailing boats. Long gray beard, long hair, toothless, unwashed, and wearing dirty shirts and dirty jeans. In other words, they look like bums. That description could fit me if Libby lets me get away with it. Time will tell.

I found a mechanic and this one seemed to know about Perkins and know about my cooling problem. He was sure that I need a new heat exchanger. “It’s like a car radiator,” he said. “They become ineffective after too many years, and need replacement.” He ordered me one, and I picked it up today. It cost $500! I sure hope it works. Next week we have to sail a narrow offshore passage up to the Florida Mainland and we’ll have headwinds the whole way. Without the engine cooling, we’d never make any progress.

It scares the heck out of us sailing in shallow waters. The Grand Bahamian Banks and Florida Bay are alike in that there are huge areas, like 50 miles across where the water is about 6 feet (2 meters) deep. No more. On one hand it sounds wonderful. You can stop anytime and jump off to swim or to walk! You can stop overnight and sit on only 10 feet of anchor chain. Who cares if the anchor drags, you wouldn’t go anywhere? On the other hand if foul weather comes, the waves in that shallow water would be very dangerous. Then there’s the problem of running aground. It will be an adventure, but somewhat scary.

Some things here are the same as home but different. Riding my bike down the street, I saw an ExtraMart convenience store. “Just like home in Harmony Corners,” I thought. I was about to go in when I read the sign more closely. It is XX eXtra Mart Adult Convenience store. Oh. They sure don’t have THAT in Harmony Corners. Perhaps they should. It would liven things up. Anyhow, I must say that the owner of the store had the most OUTSTANDING decal imprinted on the side of his van. Unfortunately for my readers, I didn’t get a picture. You’ll have to use your imagination.

Some things are different but the same. A cold front went through here today. It kicked off three days of bad weather complete with hazardous weather alerts on the radio. Yes it was windy this morning. But when the front passed the sun came out and the temperature is about 60. The thing that really upsets the Floridians is that it may get below freezing tonight. Up north, around Daytona Beach, it happens often. In Miami and the Keys it doesn’t happen often so the locals are in a tizzy. It reminds me of the time we came to Sweden in 1982. There was a heat wave. It was going to be 32 degrees C (about 90F) during the day. On the radio they gave an alert. They said, “Lie down naked on the kitchen floor and stay still and you’ll survive the heat.” It is the 3 sigma temperatures that upset people. For Libby and I it will be only one of many freezing nights we’ve had on the boat this year. Besides, we have a cabin heater.

Tonight we invited a young couple to have dinner onboard Tarwathie with us. Drew and Kia sailed in yesterday on a Westsail 28. I struck up a conversation right away because of the Westsail. I learned that they used to own a Clipper Marine boat as we did, and that they had sailed to Alaska. So we had a lot of interests in common.

Drew and Kia live an interesting lifestyle. They work in a fishery in Ketchikan Alaska during the summer, and pick apples in Putney, Vermont in the fall. The rest of the year they roam. They bought the Clipper in Seattle and sailed it up to Ketchikan and back. Then they sold the Clipper and hitchhiked and jumped freight trains to get across the country. They bought a Westsail 28 in Stuart Florida two weeks ago. Now they’re just following their noses with no plan.

They told us a lot about the inland passage through British Columbia. For example coasting into protected coves to anchor. Coasting in with no engine allows you to hear the whale songs. At anchor in the bays, whales breach all around you. Wow! Sounds great.

Anyhow, Drew and Kia are yet another example of the vagabond life that people can still live in the USA if the circumstances are right. Retirement with good health is one set of circumstances. Youth, no kids, and no career constraints is another set of circumstances. It’s eye opening. Consider the conventional life. One needs to support a house or apartment, car, multiple kinds of insurance, work clothes, phone-cable-internet bills, utility bills, state taxes and more. One has to work hard to earn enough money to support a conventional lifestyle and then one only get weekends and two weeks per year vacation to have fun. On the other side of the coin, boat-based vagabonds can get along on much less money. Sure they give up some comforts, and accept more risks, but they get a lot of benefits. I think the deciding factor is risk aversion, or stability, or security or however you want to express it. However the vast majority of young people in developed western countries choose the conventional life by default simply because they never consider any alternatives such as immigration, emigration, or vagabond lifestyles. There is also a cultural bias. Consider the English synonyms to vagabond - hobo, drifter, bum, tramp, beggar. All very negative. If we had a more positive view, they synonyms might be nomad, wanderer, traveler, itinerant, or transient. Consider how favorably we think of the word tourist. A tourist is a conventional person who temporarily becomes a vagabond while on vacation. My point is that there’s lots of cultural bias in these words.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Miami To Marathon Waypoints

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The Keys

Marathon Florida
January 4, 2006

We got hear ahead of schedule. Amazingly, the wind continued to veer
all the way so that we never had to adjust the sails or to tack.
Libby and I started doing 2.5 hour watches. She took 0400 to 0630 and I
expeted to arrive here at 0830. When I awoke at 0630 we were already

We motored in the list couple of miles. The engine cooling problem is
even more severe. We could only do 1100 RPM. It's clear that as the
water gets warmer the engine cooling gets worse.

We snagged a lobster trap on the way in. First time we actually snagged
on. The line trailed off to port and the buoy was wedged in the rudder
to starboard and our speed went down to 1 knot. I had to cut the line
to get rid of it.

The harbor here is big and very very crowded. I estimate 200 sailboats
in here. Fortunately though, we found a nice spot to anchor and we
don't have to pay for a marina. I am paying for WI FI Internet
though. It is harbor-wide.

What nice weather. Today the air was 81 degrees (27C), the water was
75 degrees (24C), the wind 10 knots and the sky clear and blue. It's
easy to understand how the weather can be addictive. It appears that
many of the boats in the harbor have been here for months or years.
There is a live aboard (at the dock) life style as distinct from the
cruising life style. Now I learned there's a live aboard (at anchor)
variant too.

I found a local mechanic who seems to know what he's talking about. I
described the overheating symptoms to him and my conclusion that it must
be the primary side. He disagreed, and said that in these Perkins
engines the heat exchangers just get old and tired. One either boils
them in nitric acid or buys a new heat exchanger. I'm going to try the
latter. We'll order it tomorrow and it will be here in a few days.
Guess that means we'll have to live in this harbor a few more days.
Poor us.

In reality I wanted to stay until Sunday anyhow. There is nasty weather
coming in Thursday night through Saturday. They say the night
temperature may sink as low as the 30s. Ha! We're used to that and we
have a cabin heater.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Look Out World. Here We Come

At Sea: N25 11 W80 19
January 3, 2006
It's fun writing a blog while standing watch at night. It's these quiet
times that the mind relaxes and horizons expand.

This morning we gave over to nothing but fun. We couldn't get into Boca
Chica Key but on the GPS we could see a finder of deep water that could
get us close to one of the ragged keys. We threw caution to the wind
and took the chance. It was a feat that we never could have
accomplished without the GPS because the route in was narrow and twisty.
There were no channel markers or other aids to navigation so no other
form of navigation would have been precise enough to get us in. (Except
the time honored way of climbing the mast to look out for shallows from
above then navigating by depth.

Anyhow, we got there OK and we had the Key to ourselves. It was small,
perhaps 200 by 30 meters. It didn't have any coral or exotic fish. We
swam and snorkeled and walked on the beach. It was our first desert
island. It was hardly spectacular by any measure but it marked a
milestone in our cruising lifestyle.

I also got to scrub Tarwathie's bottom with a brush. Since last June
she had accumulated only a thin coat of slime that brushed right off.
There are hardly any barnacles either. That expensive bottom paint I
bought last June is working. I also dove down and scrubbed out the
little paddlewheel that makes our knotmeter (speedometer to landlubbers)
work. Not it works again. It got plugged up by a barnacle or
something in Fernandina Beach while we were waiting for the heater.
Until now the water was too cold for me to brave a swim. I'm chicken.
The water at the key wasn't really 79 degrees but rather 62 or so. I
could have stayed in the water for half an hour or so.

Around 1100 we left the key to set sail for our trip. According to the
weather report, the next 36 hours form the optimum window for our next
leg. We have to sail North, back up Biscayne bay to the channel, then
East out the channel, then South following the line of the keys. The
more South we go along the keys the more westward we have to turn. When
we get to our destination at Marathon tomorrow, we'll be sailing almost
due West. The winds are 10-15 knots from the West today turning
Northwest after midnight. That's perfect.

Right now its about 2030 and we've been sailing close hauled into the
wind since noon. Luck is with us because as we steer more to the West,
the wind is also veering slightly to the North. We've been on starboard
tack, doing 4.5 to 6.5 knots for the past 8 hours making only slight
occasional adjustments on the Monitor. Right now we're passing Key

I find that listening to NPR talk programs and news is my link to the
contemporary world. Since we don't have TV and since we read
newspapers or surf the net only seldom, radio is our daily link. We can
get BBC news on the short wave radio, but that's only good for 15
minutes per day. I listen to NPR for 2-3 hours per day. When we leave
American shores I'll sorely miss it. I also feel guilty or dumb because
we still don't use the SSB radio for anything. I keep hearing other
sailors making reference to the calls to and from other sailors on the
cruising radio networks, but I still haven't learned what frequencies to
listen to at what times to tune in to them. One of these days I'll
learn. I really will.

We read an article in Soundings Magazine that really scared us. It was
about all the toxins and bacteria and stings and bites that one can get
in tropical waters and from eating the wrong fish. We have a lot to
learn about home remedies, and about species identification. For
example, the man in the article carried 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide per
crewman on his boat to get through a season. We don't have any
onboard. asWe'll also have to expect getting sick or suffering from
festering wounds from time to time. One can't live in paradise and
abstain from going into the sea or eating what comes out of the sea.

From Key Largo South the keys appear to be densely populated based on
the lights at night. Darn, there goes another paradise lost to
overpopulation. This world would be a paradise for up to one billion
people. No pollution worries, no crowding. How do we get from six
billion to one billion without advocating global thermonuclear war?

Monday, January 02, 2006

No Help 12/28

Fort Pierce Florida, N27 28 W80 19
December 28, 2005

Yesterday we sailed down to Fort Pierce. We needed to lay over here 36
hours to wait for the right wind to go out to sea. I also wanted to see
if we could get a diesel mechanic to help fix the oil leaks.

No luck on the mechanics. I talked to two of them and both said it
would be 2 to 3 weeks before they could work for me. One mechanic said
that we would have to haul the boat out and remove the engine and
transmission to replace the engine seal. The other mechanic said the
opposite, that he could do it in a few hours in-place. In any event,
we'll have to live with the problem for a while longer. However, the
amount of leaking fluid is much less than before, about 2 dl of oil per
3 hours of engine time. It must be that the leaking water from the
stuffing box was mixing with the oil.

Last night I decided to fish. On my very first cast, I caught a snag.
When I reeled it in I pulled up a length of rather expensive West Marine
5/8 inch braided Dacron. I pulled on the line and in a few minutes I
had a very nice Danforth anchor, and chain and 100 feet of rode. Now
we have a third anchor for Tarwathie. I'll use it as a stern anchor.
Nice return for 5 minutes of fishing.

What a pretty harbor this is. Sandy bottom, not crowded, lots of
dolphins swimming around and only 1/2 mile from the ocean inlet.

This morning I saw a big flock of birds to the east. At first I thought
it was crows or starlings because there were so many. Looking closer
though I could see they were soaring birds, most likely hawks. I never
saw so many hawks at the same time before. This nature is lovely.

I went ashore to buy groceries and oil absorbent cloths. At the West
Marine store the man told me, "Last night a man came in and bought all
the oil absorbent cloths we had; more than 150 of them." Wow. I guess
some people have bigger leaks than I do.

Tomorrow we'll go out to sea again. We can sail to Fort Lauderdale
overnight, or sail to Palm Beach tomorrow, and Palm Beach to Lauderdale
the next day. We'll decide based on weather.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Nearly Paradise

Biscayne Bay, N25 31 W80 11
January 2, 2006
We're just a few hundred meters away from Boca Chica Key in Biscayne
National Park. There is coral and tropical fish and all those good
things that we've been dreaming about. I imagine that's what our blog
readers expect us to do anyhow -- go straight for a tropical paradise.
Why a few hundred meters away? I'll have to tell the story.

Last night we stayed up looking at the Miami and Miami Beach skylines
from the foredeck. The cities are truly beautiful at night.
Considering that none of the crime could reach us in the bay, the
idyllic view was justified. We didn't plan to go ashore.

In the morning we poured over charts and guide books to plan our next
trips. I had thought that we could go inside down to Marathon, but I
was wrong. We have to go outside (at sea) all the way down the keys
because the inside passage has parts that only clear 4.5 feet draft.

We did read about a Boca Chica key that is only 10 miles or so south of
the sea inlet that we thought we could make today. We could then spend
Tuesday swimming and snorkeling. That's something I've been waiting for
since early this year.

Getting underway I spotted some ritzy looking houses on the shore and I
told Libby to make a close pass by some of them. I wanted to try to
pirate a WI FI signal. I turned on the computer and bingo. Right away
I had a strong signal from a domain called "default" and which had no
security. I was able to do email and post blogs and we were on our way
again in less than 5 minutes. That's the first time I succeeded so
easily pirating a private signal.

The passage through downtown Miami was stressful. The boat traffic was
heavier than even New York harbor near the battery. Pleasure boats,
barges, cruise ships and homeland security boats were every which way.
We were very glad to leave that behind.

In these warmer waters we can't go faster than 3 knots without
overheating our engine. I'll have to make another attempt to get a
diesel mechanic who can diagnose and fix it. We read a pamphlet that
says you can be fined heavily if you can not maintain 5 knots in the
Panama Canal.

Finally Miami was behind us and Biscayne Bay opened up in front of us.
We greatly welcomed the opportunity to raise the sails and stop the
engine. Our waypoint was dead into the wind ahead but it was a lovely
sunny day with about 12 knots of breeze. Very enjoyable.

Late in the day we had to motor once again to make Boca Chica before
sunset. Nevertheless, as we approached the Boca Chica channel buoys I
began to get cold feet because neither the chart nor the GPS indicated
that we would have 6 feet or more of water in the channel. I got on the
VHF radio and called for any vessel in the area. I got Tow Boat US and
that man said that we would probably run aground trying to get in there
at low tide. Our consolation is to anchor a few hundred meters away.
Nevertheless, we're anchored in 6 feet of water, and the water is warm
and clear and the bottom is white sand. Tomorrow we swim and snorkel
with or without coral. We may even get into Boca Chica tomorrow when
the tide is high.

Miami Nice

Miami Beach, Florida, N25 47 W80 09
January 1, 2006
The first day of the year was eventful. I started at 0730 working on
the engine cooling system. I suspected dirt sucked in when we ran
aground in Vero Beach. Therfore I took it apart, cleaned the heat
exchanger, and back flushed the secondary side of the cooling system.
There wasn't much mud, but there was a little. By 1000 everything was
put back together. The job succeeded because the performance returned
to the norm we've had for many months, 1400 RPM max.

We left the marina around 1100 and headed south. The ICW between Fort
Lauderdale and Miami is hardly remote wilderness. In fact, parts of it
made me feel like I was in the Grand Canyon with walls looming above me
made out of skyscrapers.

The apartments and homes along the water here are very expensive.
Millions of dollars each. It was very discouraging to see that almost
all of them appear to be shut up and the owners absent. By visual count
and estimations I looked at 20,000 balconies, and I saw people on only a
few dozen of them. The ratio of unused to used balconies was about
500:1 even though it was a lovely sunny day, and not hot. The ratio of
seemingly unused single family homes to used was about 100:1. Have we
become such conspicuous consumers that most of our expensive toys lie
idle and unused most of the time. Tsk tsk.

Mid afternoon I went below for a nap, and soon after Libby called "Help"
and bang we were aground. This time the water is clear and the bottom
is sandy so I could see the bottom. Before we could do much another
boat ran aground next to us. He was a big 65 foot motor cruiser.

There was a red channel buoy fifty feet to our right. There was a sign
that said "Shoal" in small letters 30 feet to our left. There were
numerous other boats trying to get past us two and all of them were in
danger of going aground. I could see where their propeller wash turned
the blue water brown as they stirred up bottom.

In just a few minutes we had a Tow Boat US boat there, and a Coast Guard
Boat, then another Tow Boat US boat. We had gotten a passing cruiser to
try to take the kedge anchor out for us but the captain screwed it up
and dropped the anchor in the wrong place. We launched our dinghy and I
moved the anchor. Meanwhile another boats, a huge huge motor cruiser
went aground also. The tide was falling so things were getting worse.

I finally gave up on the anchor and let the tow boat pull us off. We
have Boat US towing insurance so we didn't have to pay. The tow boat
operator told us that the markers and the buoys were off station and the
marked channel wasn't really the channel and that this was the worst
grounding spot on the whole east coast. That's why the tow boats and
the Coast Guard were so close by. They have groundings every day.
Meanwhile a fourth power boat went aground right next to us. I thought
of the old phrase, "Monkey see. Monkey do." While being pulled off by
the tow boat we had a hard time not colliding with the other grounded
boats. Libby asked, "Who is responsible for maintaining the ICW
anyhow?" "The federal government. The Army Corps of Engineers to be
precise. The same ones who do the levees in New Orleans." "Oh," she

An untold part of the story is the damage done. Because of Tarwathie's
full keel and skeg rudder there is no damage to the keel or rudder or
propeller. The power boats are a different story. I bet all the
grounded boats and many of the passing boats that nearly grounded, all
damaged their propellers by striking bottom.

On our way once again we came upon another sailboat hard aground right
next to the channel. I recognized the boat, because he passed us twice
today. I approached to within 20 feet of him to offer help, and we had
11 foot depth. He had a kedge anchor out and had a side anchor attached
to a halyard to heel himself over, so there was nothing I could do. A
power boat came by and tried to help. We watched with our binoculars
as we headed south. 30 minutes later he still appeared to be grounded.

We were relieved to arrive at a sheltered anchorage to spend the night.
Winds will be light so hopefully we'll sleep soundly.

By the way. Our camera stopped working again. Sorry, but no pictures.