We left Clearwater on Wednesday, May 2. We returned to what was to be the tranquility of the ICW for almost two days. Unfortunately the section between Venice and Fort Meyers is not dredged as well as the Louisiana portion. We ran aground twice while in the channel and bumped bottom several times. Our most serious grounding was actually in the middle of two channel markers. For our non-boating friends, the markers are suppose to be something like the white lines on a highway.
Even with the problems we encountered, the trip from Clearwater to Naples was mostly calm and very beautiful. We enjoyed wonderful weather, nice anchorages with lovely sunsets, and lots of sailing. Along the way we stopped at Snead Island on the Manatee River, Venice, and Useppa Island. Click on photos below for a larger view.
The section from Naples to Key West was a nightmare. It was another overnighter that took us more than 20 miles off shore. The wind was gusting up to 29 knots on our beam. We had only a reefed main sail up and were still doing over 6 knots. That would have been great except the rail stayed very close to the water and the waves were beating us badly.
I had been so seasick that I couldn't take my 11:00 watch. It was impossible to sleep because of the jerking motion, so I just lay there, feeling miserable. Around 1:30, the seasick medicine finally began to work and I was able to relieve Bob for a much needed rest. He went below and actually managed to sleep some. Around 3:30 he emerged from the companionway and seemed very concerned with our proximity to the water. It was obvious (to him) that the sail had to come down.
To accomplish this task one must exit the security of the cockpit and stand on the bouncing foredeck while fighting a giant piece of sailcloth into a secure position. I've handled sails in moderate wind and been pushed and slapped by them, amazed by their strength in the wind. Thank God Bob had the foresight to install the MackPacks for the sail to fall into. They have limits, but are so much better than trying to secure the sail to the boom; which would have been impossible in the conditions we were experiencing.
It always strikes fear in my heart when Bob goes outside the cockpit to do anything after dark while underway. It's especially bad when the boat is bouncing around. Now, he was going outside in the dark with strong winds and high seas. My fear was so intense I could hardly breathe.
The process is to attach one of the two clips on the tether to one of the jack lines that run the length of the boat; working your way forward by alternately hooking one past an obstruction and then unhooking the other one. In that way you are attached to the boat at all times. The theory is that a person will stay attached to the boat even if thrown overboard. That is a theory we hope to never test.
My job was to hold the boat into the wind. No sooner would I get it pointed into the wind than the waves and wind would push it off again. Due to my inexperience, I did not know that more power to the engine would have minimized this. With a 25-29 knot head wind, it was all our engine could do to maintain some forward motion to be able to control the boat. Not only were we constantly being pushed off the wind but the bow was doing nose dives into the waves. I was so paralyzed by fear all I could do was pray. When Bob stepped up onto the mast step, I knew it was over. I couldn't control the boat, he would go over the side, and I would most likely follow trying to get to the man-overboard pole. He couldn't hear me begging him to get down. It may have been less frightful had I realized that he was also tethered to a padeye on the mast.
I felt I had witnessed a miracle when Bob finally crawled into the protection of the cockpit, having successfully completed his task. The adventure was not over, though. The boat pitching and rolling became even worse without the sail to steady it. For five more hours we were beaten by wind and waves before finally picking up a mooring ball at Fleming Key in Key West.
This, in itself, was quite an accomplishment since the mooring balls don't have any lines attached to them. All they have is this big metal loop on top. All moorings we have ever picked up before had a line attached that you pick up with a boat hook and then put on a cleat. Thinking that maybe we could pick up the mooring ball itself, bring it up on deck and attach a line to it, Fran hooked the metal loop with a boat hook but couldn't lift the mooring ball. All this time the wind is still blowing 25 knots and the boat is pitching like crazy. At this point we decided that that was not the way to go and tried to unhook the boat hook from the mooring ball, result: Escapades minus 1 boat hook; mooring ball plus 1 boat hook. At this point a good Samaritan came by in a dinghy and offered to tie one of our lines to the mooring ball and then pass it up to us. After we got the line tied up he even tried to rescue our boat hook. By that time the mooring ball had apparently already devoured our boat hook because there was no sign of it.
For our next trick, we will have to untie the lines from the mooring ball before leaving, without being able to reach the ball from the boat. Stay tuned!
Key West was not on our "choice list" of places to stop. It was necessary though to stay there four days due to high winds. We tried to make the most of it.
Key West is known for it's sunsets and we've seen some of them; but we didn't have any great ones on this visit. I'm sure this is biased, but I've seen very few sunsets anywhere that could top the ones with the marvelous colors in the Dallas area. The nicest difference here is the lack of obstructions to block the view.
Key West - a place for sunsets.
|Bob readying the dinghy.|
|Waiting for sunset at Mallory Square with Missy, John, Jane & Mark.|
|Mark & Jane leaving the "sea of dinghies" who tied up at the Key West Bight to catch the sunset.|
|Click on photo for larger view.|
Sunsets from other parts of the Keys.
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