Lignum Vitae: a barge (okay no big deal you say( this barge had a full grown tree in the middle of it. It totally blew us away. As soon as we can transfer pictures I will paste one here. it is truly a must see. in the meantime it can be seen on our flucker site.
One of the things I discovered on our trip is that Lesa gets anxious when we are anchored in one location for more than 2-3 days. With a beverage or two I can be content to sit at anchor, taking in the sights for a while, but Lesa… 2 days and she’s ready to move. With that in mind we raised anchor after 3 days in Marco Island and headed up the inside route towards Naples.Actually Naples is out of the way and we ended up in Port Royal Florida. The anchorage is set in a canal chain bordered by homes that sell for (hold on to your butts) 10-20 MILLION! There we were in our c26, consuming beverages, cooking in the cockpit, and taking cockpit showers in the back yard of some excessivily wealthy people. Although the holding was very good on a mud bottom, Lesa was uncomfortable staying there. The place has a unique beauty all of its own but no amount of money can create the kind of beauty we’ve seen in the Marquesas, the Dry Tortugas or even on the gulf crossing.
After the long trip across the gulf we really enjoyed marco Island and the residents. I have mever been to such a happy and welcoming community in my life. The afternoon after we arrived I needed to eat, alot. As things would have it, the dinghy motor would not start. No sooner than 10 pulls did the sailor next to us yell over that he had some starting fluid if I needed it. When we went to Rose marina, Bruce and the staff were great: anything we needed (our electric cord was to short, no problem, 5 minutes later he had another one for us). I would highly recomend any passing cruiser to stop in and relax. (As a side note: this was our first night at a dock for the trip. regressing to truly nice people; there we were at the Publix with a grocery cart full of groceries trying to call a cab when this nice woman offers to drive us to the marina instead of the cab! We had had lunch and were walking to Walgreens using Lesa‘s phone as a guide when another lady, who was walking by, overhears our conversation and gives us directions. Everyone we interacted with in Marco was very pleasant and helpful. Thank You Marco Island residents.
Think of all of the nautical sayings you can and then roll them into one. If you boil it all down to the bare essentials, you would settle on “Fortune Favors the Foolish” as the essential messages.
On thursday (I think, we’re on island time) we raised anchor at the Dry Tortugas for a journey back to Key West. We had 12 gallons of gas on board, which is enough for 60 miles (conservativily). The wind was supposed to be out of the southeast and the waves 1-2 with a 3 second period. Well, the wind was due EAST, much more than the 9-13 and the waves, well, they may have been 2 feet in hell! Because of the reefs and rocks you need to enter and exit the harbor during the daylight only. That means we pulled anchor at 7:30am and finally cleared the channels and park boundary bouys around 10. With the waves and winds comming straight from Key West, there was little chance of us making it on the fuel we had, so I chose to head straight across the Gulf to Marco Island. The distance was about 118 total miles. I had estimated 24 hours travel time and gave us a daytime arrival window of 12 hours. After 26 hours we dropped anchor in Marco Islands, Factory Bay. The waters around the Dry Tortugas were very rough, with the tidal currents causing the waves to be contrary to the wind. We used 2 gallons of gas motorsailing just to clear the area. Once outside of the current and tidal effects the sailing was GREAT! Deep indigo blue water, 1-2 with occasional 3 foot swells (from the right direction!) and sunshine. The crossing went very well until around 2 in the morning when the land effect rain storms began to popup all around us. (This is the fortune favors the foolish part). As the storms were closing in on us from ALL directions the heat lightening was fantastic. A sane person might say “Dude, Thats Bad!” but the lightening never struck at ground level. Which meant that there wouldnt be big winds and seas. One of the things I have learned about being on the water in storms is that if there is surface to ground lightening then the wind is kicked up very quickly and that drives the waves. But, if the lightening remains at cloud level (heat lightening) the wind and seas are not effected. So lucky for us all we had to deal with the heavy rains. Since we were 45 miles off the coast of Marco Island I put the boat on autopilot and retired to the dryness of the cabin. This drove lesa crazy because I wasnt watching where we were going, but hey, Its 45 miles to the coast, 2am, raining like crazy, what are the chances of another fool boater being in exactly the same place we were? Needless to say it rained all the way to the outer channel marker when it stopped the dinghy was half full of water everything on deck was soaked (even a plastic garbage bag was loaded with water). We enterd Capri pass at Marco Island and motored for an anchorage at Factory Bay. As soon as the anchor was down and set I took off all of my clothes and passed out in the v-berth. Stick me with a fork…I was done!
Let me just say that the Dry Tortugas should be considered the 8th Wonder of the World. Think of it this way, You’ve got 16 million bricks and a remote tropical island to play with, What do you do? Well if it is during the 1800’s you build a military fort that will never be effective and used for its intended purpose. Thats the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson. I’m not going to go into details about the history of the fort, you can look that up online, but I will say that until you see it for yourself you just cannot truly imagine the awsomeness (if that is a word) of the place. One thing of special interest is that there are NO services on the island. No water, No food, not even a place to dump your trash. Every thing you take in, you take out. If you are out of water or food, “tough titty said the kitty”. Kaelin thought the fort was very scaryand Lesa and I were in constant amazement of the facts and beauty of the place. As all things happen htough, 3 days were enough and we were anxious to leave for civilization. Whether it was the best choice or not the weather report was for 40% rain and southeast winds on thursday,so we left.Happily.
The Marquesas Keys are very remote and primitive. The waters are shallow with a shifting sand bottom. Being to science guy that I am, I did some research on the Marquesas and found that they form the only “Atoll” in the caribbean. During the Prozoic (?) Era, they formed a beach resort for the creepy crawly creatures of the time. Our sail from the southwest side near Moody harbor was rocky and rolly. The wind was 10-15 out of the east, blowing right down Hawkes Channel off of the gulf stream. The wind and waves were not complimentary to each other, meaning, waves to big, wind to little. Additionally the wind was directly behind us, so I could fight with a wing/wing sail or drop the main and run under jib alone. The jib alone was the most comfortable and least hassle. One of the things I noticed was the amount of current that ran along the area known as the “Quicksands”. It was much more pronounced than I had expected and I can see why the depths and sand bars are always moving and therefore are not accuratly charted. We arrived at Fort Jefferson late in the day (6:30ish) and chose an anchoring spot that seemed best for our boat. In retrospect, it may not have been the best choice.
After leaving Key West we headed to the Marquesas Keys. This gem of an island is worth the day trip. It was a little unnerving at first due to getting around the shallows (also known as the quicksands). We came upon the west side which was absolutely beautiful, however it was so shallow that anchorage would have been impossible. The water was so crystal clear that you could watch the blades of grass sway with the current. A turtle was spotted not far from our boat, a sight always worth seeing. Unfortunately we had to move to the south side of the island. I say unfortunately but truthfully that side was just as gorgeous. Again it was somewhat shallow but not as bad as the west side. There was another boat (a power boat) anchored near the shore. A bunch of young guys were enjoying the clear water and the cool evening. After they left we were the only humans there. Jim figured it was a good spot to anchor.
The boat floated just at the surface of the grass, rocking gently on the soft ground. Jim was not concerned because once we were ready to leave he would simply bring up the center board,start the motor and go. ( It did work by the way.) The gentle rocking was a different feeling then we normally feel and made for great sleep.
The scenery was amazing. It surprised us with its size. Much bigger than we expected. Also we call it a Key or an Island but it is made up of many little and bigger islands or land masses. Because it was late we didn’t dinghy to shore, but dreamed of meandering through the many channels. One day perhaps. We contented ourselves with watching the fish in the grasses below, the birds above, and enjoying the immense quiet. This is not a key like Key West but a tropical solitude. This is where civilization ended for us and was not missed.