Saturday, January 28, 2012

Florida Bay

Florida Bay

We left Boot Key Harbor and went out in Florida Bay for a couple of days.   It was a great change of pace.

What is Florida Bay?  It is the body of water bordered on the South and East by the Keys and on the North and East by the Florida mainland.  It's very big, roughly 800 square miles.  It is very shallow, averaging perhaps 8 feet in depth.   In many ways Florida Bay is like the Bahamian Grand Banks.  Indeed, I have no doubt that the Bahamian Banks, Florida Bay and the entire Florida Peninsula must have common geological backgrounds.  They are so much alike, differing mainly in an elevation difference of 10 meters or less.

However, the Bahamian Banks are mostly covered in naked white sand, Florida Bay's floor is a mud/sand mixture and much is covered with sea grass.   In fact that made a problem for us.  It was hard to find a sandy spot to drop our anchor.  The sea grass is protected and one must not anchor in it.

Similarly, many of the pristine islands in the area are protected wildlife habitats and people are not allowed to go ashore.  Libby had her eye on one called Little Pine Key because it might be a source of pine needles, but alas it is one of the protected ones.

Still, the water out there is very clear (not as clear as the Bahamas) and delightfully warm for swimming.  One of our objectives was to do some bottom scraping.  Our propeller in particular was buried in a mound of barnacles. It is still the old propeller, we haven't installed the new one yet.   I did accomplish that, but I made a beginner's mistake.  To prepare I laid out my bathing suit, mask, snorkel, gloves, shoes and scraper.  But when I went it the water I forgot to put on the gloves.  As a result, my knuckles were cut and bleeding.  Barnacles have razor sharp edges that cut so easily.

Not to worry.  I soaked the cuts in alcohol and put on bandages.  Today, they are almost healed already.

We also made a second mistake, but this time it was hard to foresee.   To gain shelter from the forecasted winds we anchored on the opposite side of Coconut Key than where we usually do.  See the picture.  X marks Pigeon Key where I went to a festival last week.  Y marks where we anchored two days ago, and Z marks where we anchored last spring when Jenny was here.  

It turns out that Y had terrible holding.  We had trouble getting the anchor to bite.  We finally managed with 100 feet of chain out in 7 foot deep water.   Then a squall came through with strong winds from the wrong direction.  Then and all through the night, we found that this particular spot is a channel for tidal currents.  For the most part, tides and tidal currents are not much of a factor in Florida Bay.  For some strange reason that I can't explain, this exact spot saw 2-3 knot currents both on flood and ebb.  It was not safe for swimming. We spent a restless night worrying about the security of our anchor.  Just 1/4 mile away at point Z, currents are negligible, but because of a shoal, we couldn't get there directly.

We moved to another place and anchored near a string of lobster traps.  We hoped to buy some lobsters from the fishermen when they tended the traps. Alas, they never came.  I wonder how many days they go before checking those traps.

Oh well, there will be other days and other places in the Bay to explore.

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