Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010

Hi Guys,
We made it to the Keys after an eventful 10 days or so of sailing through the Everglades. To those of you with a map, We went from Pavillion Key to Graveyard Creek, to the Little Snake River in Ponce de Leon and holed up a few days in Little Sable Creek. It was there we discovered a gallon and a half of salt water in our bilge (yikes!) and had to take the boat entirely apart to find the source. The main problem we found was a leaky mast step, we have since sealed that up to the best of our ability. Having the boat apart was a great opportunity to do some capsize tests.

We found she floats very high in the bow due to the cabin. Steve had an easy time flipping her when we had the masts out, but it was a little harder with the masts. Though they float now when apart, they can't keep from being pushed all the way down with the weight of the boat behind them. Important things to learn!

Next we spent a couple days in Lake Ingraham (there are tons of tiny channels we crashed ourselves into so as to get out of the strong winds). When we got sick of hiding from the wind we went out only to be greeted by a front as we reached the point of no return. The horizon to the North darkened until it was black and the sea was a sickly yellow green from the last bits of sun still coming from the South. We saw bolts of lightening in the distance and Ginny got pretty nervous. When the front hit the wind started coming from behind us, propelling us through the waves which had not yet caught up with the change in wind. The sky was dark all around and the thick raindrops plopped into the waves fast and constant. We became unable to see land and Ginny bailed like crazy just so as to have something to do to avoid becoming too freaked out.

It didn't last too long though and the resulting change in wind allowed us to speed to Flamingo where we we rewarded with an excellent anchorage right on the Coastal Prairie trail that leads between Flamingo and Clubhouse beach.

After a couple days there we sailed across Florida Bay with the intent of landing near to where Steve landed on his arrival back in the US after his three year voyage. To do this we had to defy the advice of wiser people and cut right through the middle of the bay, navigating tons of shoals and hard to find channels with the aid of a 25 year old chart. No regrets. It was beautiful! The water became clear and Steve even saw a sea turtle.

So here we are in Key Largo today with our boat anchored by a park in Islamorada. We are reprovisioning and planning on spending a week re-fixing all the things we already fixed that came apart due to faulty epoxy! Always with the boat work. Maybe we'll even find some time to swim!

There are about 35 more pictures in our "Current Photo Album"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12, 2010

It has been about a month since you last heard from us, and an eventful month at that! We left Atlanta on December 10 and drove to Niceville, Florida to visit Ginny's friend Stephen. He hates Florida, but at least he has a nice girlfriend there, in our opinion. His ultimate goal is to make it back to Hawaii and we wish him luck, and not just because we want to visit him there! During a cold storm we went for a long night walk on the Gulf beach. The sand was blinding white and crunchy the way cold snow is crunchy, so Steve kept subconciously thinking we were walking in snow!

We stopped in Panama City to show Thurston to her previous owner, and in Largo to see our friend Ron Hodinott. Then we sped southeast to Miami to meet with Bremerton friends Danny Stroberger and Betty Boop, who were on their way back from Haiti. We spent an amazing evening together at a Haitian "jazz club" jamming with their musical friends. Danny and Steve took a swim in the Atlantic before Danny and Betty had to catch their flight home.

Driving west back through the Everglades we saw many lazy gators enjoying the warm sun. But rainstorms began upon reaching the Gulf coast, keeping us holed up in the truck a couple days.

Now the good stuff. On December 19th we left our dear truck and trailer on the property of an acquaintance on Pine Island, near Fort Meyers. We launched our newly finished boat in shallow Pine Island Sound, sped on a beam reach across to Captiva Island, and spent our first night in a mangrove lagoon. Only fifty feet of mud separated us from a road in the middle of a swanky resort! With muck-covered legs and our hair full of sticks we must have looked a sight emerging from that primordial thicket! But no one seemed to notice us.

From that night on there has been no question whether the boating life suits us. It definitely does! We typically row or sail about fifteen miles (the days are so short this time of year) then anchor parallel to a sheltered beach. We place one anchor forward, one astern, and tie a line to something on the beach. To step ashore we just pull on this third line. Around Christmas time we spent four days at ritzy, condo-infested Marco Island due to high winds and the need for some minor boat refitting. Then we proceeded into the Ten Thousand Islands, which are the saltwater southwest edge of the Everglades.

For nearly two weeks we camped on uninhabited Panther Key. It has some beach around its edges but is mostly mangrove in the middle. We arrived several days early for a gathering of small sailboat enthusiasts organized by Ron Hodinott. We anchored in a tiny lagoon that drains out at low tide, leaving us aground. It was a good place to make further boat improvements, such as a rope-steering system so Ginny can steer while Steve rows. We set up the tent on the beach and had a campfire going when Ron and his friends got there. Unfortunately, their arrival coincided with a record low temperature and high winds. The water in the cockpit froze one night! The other boaters left; we stayed on, merely surviving. We scavenged old clothes and pillows from an abandoned campsite and wore everything we had. For two days we barely left the tent. We weren't prepared for "Arctic in the Everglades!" Thank you Jenna for the cashmere sweaters you gave Ginny!

Yesterday it warmed up a little so we sailed here to Everglades City, our last place for provisions before the Keys. We will skirt the Everglades National Park then probably sail to Marathon Key. This may take a week or so. We don't expect to see many people.

We hope you are all enjoying your central heating! We'll try to update the blog again in a week or two. There are about 50 new photos in our "current photo album" which is linked on the left.