Saturday, February 6, 2016

Key West - Packed full

One way to power a dinghy - use a Weedwacker
Finally a restful night but the winds are howling again, 20 to 25 kts. The people in Key West are nothing if not resourceful. We've watched all kinds of dinghies go by. One of the most original was powered by a converted weedwacker (see photo). He putted along and I guess saved a lot of money on a new motor.

The entrance to Garrison Bight:  The 49.9 ft was measured at the lowest point at right in the photo and also when all three arms on the tower at left were used. The bottom line was removed (see empty insulator at left on third arm down from the top) but the chart was never updated. You could use geometry to compute the actual clearance.
I've been conversing with John Kwak, a fellow member of the Poughkeepsie YC, over the last few days. He's been making the Loop up the Hudson River and through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi and the coast of Florida. He's presently in Cape Coral waiting for weather for an overnight trip to Key West. Other than the terrible weather, the problem is the lack of open dockage in Key West. I learned today that the lack of space is due to three groups: those waiting for better weather, those participating in the Havana to Key West and back regattas and the liveaboards that were driven out of their usual Stock Island marinas when those marinas wanted to specialize in cruisers going to and from Havana. Those three groups have sopped up all available slips in Key West. None are available en until at least the end of March! One marina in Stock Island gave notice to all their liveaboards to move out by the end of February - they wanted to specialize in the Key West to Havana trade. To many people working in Key West the only affordable housing is to live on a boat with three other people and share expenses for dockage. Even at $44/ft a month, it's less expensive than trying to rent an apartment, especially when they all crowd into a 30 ft or less boat which is usually the case.

A typical Key West houseboat
Since Key West Bight was full, John is looking at Garrison Bight but there's a power line that's shown on the charts as only 49.9 high, not enough for John's 56 ft mast height. However, the story is more complicated. It seems that the lowest of the wires was taken down a few years ago and the chart was never updated. Plus, the wires are not level with the higher part on the starboard side when entering the harbor. So I went down to the entrance and took pictures for John and asked around for local knowledge. One person who delivers boats said he had no problem clearing with a 58 ft tall mast. Another one said he saw a sailboat with a 62 ft high mast also clear by staying on the starboard side when entering. All of this is rather a moot point since there's no dockage available.. Even the mooring field only has two or three moorings open and will probably be full by the time John arrives.

Another example of a houseboat here
He was looking at bypassing the Keys entirely by transiting the Okeechobee Canal but the marinas there are not set up to unstep a mast (there's a 50 ft bridge to clear along the way). It they even agreed to do it they would have to rent a crane at some unknown cost ($$$). And, John's crew will not stick around forever, he's in a tight spot. His only window for the next week is Monday and even that is iffy, especially with no slip - he would have to anchor out in high winds with no protection from the north in 20 to 30 kt winds, no fun.

As for us, we're secure now but it's been raining most of the day and the winds have picked up once again in the 20 to 30 kt range. It's becoming the new normal for the Keys. The lines have now been tested at 35 kts so we should be okay. The winds will blow all day Sunday and only abate late in the afternoon and for most of Monday until yet another front comes roaring down Tuesday and Wednesday.