We arrived just before dark - weary, hungry, thirsty, wet but very, very happy. Coleen was standing on the bow looking over the rail, so excited to be able to see through the clear water to the bottom. She was determined to go snorkeling. She put on her gear and asked if she could just jump in. Of course since we were traveling through the channel I had to say no.
We left our anchorage in the 10,000 islands around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. It was a lovely day. We had about a 2.5 knot current leading us back out to sea. I let Coleen take the helm and lead us out of there and she did a fine job! The sea was almost totally flat calm and we had about 10 knots of wind almost on the nose - so we motor sailed. Aside from needing to run the engine, it was about an almost perfect cruising day. We spent most of the day cruising about a 2 to 3 miles off the shore enjoying views of alternately white beaches and mangrove trees. There is totally no development in this area - it's all part of the Everglades National Park.
We spent our time underway doing a few chores and reading. Coleen took turns standing watch so I could do a few things inside. Of course she was wearing her harness and tether. She's actually quite good at remembering to attach her tether before coming outside.
We had planned to make it to Cape Sable, but just didn't quite make it. About an hour before sunset the seas picked up a little - right on the bow and slowed us down. We could barely make 4 knots. We ended up dropping anchor just outside the entrance to Little Shark River. I was concerned as we were headed in that it was going to be a rolly, polly night, but thankfully it was very calm. I managed to make a quick dinner of chicken alfredo -- a quick emergency meal favorite -- noodles, canned chicken, and Ragu alfredo sauce. We woofed it down while sitting in the cockpit enjoying a beautiful sunset over the Gulf.
Were we ever tired! A quick hot shower and we were tucked in bed by 7 p.m.! We planned a 5 a.m. departure. I woke up at 10 p.m. , had some chamomile tea, read for a while and finally got back to sleep. I woke up again later and looked for the time. My phone was dead, the GPS wasn't getting a location - so I couldn't use the clock there either. I finally had to turn on the computer to charge the phone and saw that it was only 3 a.m. By then I was wide awake just decided to stay up. Did I mention that I was pretty excited!
I pulled up the anchor at 4:30 a.m. I saw lightening far in the distance behind us. - and it was very, very dark over to the southwest which I figured meant clouds. Now of course when you plan an early departure, something goes wrong - and this time my bow navigation lights were not working. I decided to go anyway. We scooted over to DJ's boat in the dark, to borrow some diesel and pancake mix - and then headed out with the GPS leading the way ---it was working again, and the nav lights finally came on too!
It was a little eerie in the dark, but I could make out the coast and were just hoping we didn't snag a crab pot. It was too dark to see them. Coleen got up too, and helped me keep a watch. She was also very excited.
Now since we were out of cell phone range, we had to rely on the lovely NOAA forecast via the VHF radio. They were telling a story of a 10% chance of showers early in the morning and winds from the SE at 10 knot, and choppy seas.
It turned out to be a cruising day that had a little bit of everything. We enjoyed seeing the day begin to brighten a little at a time, and the incredible sunrise over the beach. We had rain squalls in the distance on both our starboard and port sides all morning. It was just enough to feel a little uncomfortable, as the to the west looked nasty.
I managed to make some pancakes for breakfast. I could see DJ's boat just starting to pass us out my galley window. I called him on the radio and said if he would hold up I would pass him some pancakes on the boat hook. Of course he waited :-) I wrapped up the pancakes in a napkin and then put them in a kitchen towel attached to the end of the boat hook. It looked like a hobo stick. I maneuvered over close and Coleen handed out the pole. I was inches away from hitting his boat but managed to spin around and get out quickly, leaving him standing there grinning!
We had to travel 40 miles, and 20 of it would be out of sight of land. As we traveled around the tip of Cable Sable - the southern most tip of the Florida mainland - gulf side, it was tempting to just drop the hook off the beach and stay a few days. It was endless stretches of white beaches, totally deserted, beautiful aquamarine water. But there was no cell phone service. We were out of food, needed water and a pump out - had to keep going!
Now, this next part may be politically incorrect, but it's my opinion. I think crab and lobster pots should be outlawed! I know I'll never eat another crab cake again. I see these as nothing but sea litter! I am not exaggerating by saying that I had to spend the entire day keeping a careful watch as the seas were just full of crab/lobster pots! It was unbelievable. They stretched on like patchwork for miles. Talk about zig-zag! We couldn't even use the autopilot to hold the course. And some of them actually had lines stringing them together!
Now for those unfamiliar with the concept -- a lobster/crab pot has some type of floating ball (all colors) with a long line attached and a cage at the bottom. They are a menace to boaters and they can get trapped in the propeller, wrapped around the keel or even caught in the rudder. Anyway despite our careful watch we hit three of them and the 3rd one caught us. We immediately slowed down to 3 knots. I could see the long line trailing out the back of our boat. I tried everything to dislodge it with no luck. Finally I dropped the anchor, we were only in 12 feet, put on my swimsuit and snorkel gear, with a knife clipped to my bikini, and went in. Need I say that I did not want to do this! I was terrified - jelly fish, sharks, and I just generally do not like being under the boat!
Well there's times you just have to do it any way - and being stuck out in the middle of the sea is one of them! I took a deep breath, went under, saw the huge mess wrapped around the prop, came up and just about panicked! It took minute to calm down. Coleen was such a sweetheart. I had a line rigged up and hanging in the water for me to hold - as there was a strong current. She also tied a life cushion to a line and threw it overboard - just in case.
Anyway, I eventually calmed down, managed to get under there and cut it away. I managed to get several scrapes on my back from the barnacles on the boat bottom, so I was bleeding when I came up. As soon as I got the last piece, I hurled myself back on the swim platform, threw off my gear, and started dancing a jig and shouting! I couldn't believe that I had actually done it myself!!
My glee was rather short-lived as we now had weather approaching! I had Coleen close all the hatches, put things inside and hand me my foulie jacket. The wind shifted to the west and it rained. The seas picked up a bit. I was wet and cold. Eventually I stepped inside to put on my heavy wool sweater. I couldn't believe I was nearly to the Keys and wearing a wool sweater with a foulie jacket! I think I was just still chilled from my little adventure over the side.
Anyway it rained on and off most of the rest of the way. The seas were messy, making it harder to pick out the crab pots - and I could barely scrape up 4 knots of speed, going against the current, the dirty boat bottom, and dragging my wet dinghy. At 1:30 p.m. we saw land! Just the towers and high rise buildings at first, but it was land! We didn't actually get there until 3 p.m. and then had to go a very long way to get through a bridge to the other side of the island, zig zag around a big area to get past shoals. As soon as we were going under the bridge to other side we were shouting -- "Good bye Gulf of Mexico!!" Now it may not technically be true, but to our minds we were now in the Atlantic. We had large rolly swells the rest of the way in. It was 5 p.m. by the time we started in the entrance channel for Boot Key Harbor.
It is a tiny, shallow little entrance. DJ ran aground, but managed to get off in a few minutes. The marina office was closing at 5:45 p.m. I called them again and the nice lady gave us our mooring assignments and said we could check in tomorrow morning. It was tricky finding the right mooring ball as it was nearly dark and hard to read the numbers. After a quick shower we headed to shore to find something to eat, ended up walking a very long way before I got my cheeseburger, iced tea, pina colada and coconut ice cream!
What a day!!!! What a weekend! Not a bad life :-)