Saturday, March 31, 2018

Marathon - At a mooring

The dinghy docks off the Tiki Hut are no more
It took about an hour to remove all our attachments to Key West Bight Marina. I had two lines on either side to prevent barging forward into the dock, two lines off the bow to center the boat, two lines off the aft section to keep from banging into the side pilings, the electrical line, the two dinghy lines, the overboard zinc, the front step platform, and side fenders that had to be brought aboard so they wouldn't stop the boat by catching between the boat and piling when backing out (it has happened before...)

However, there's plenty of room for dinghies in the fairway by the dockhouse
Finally, we had everything ready and backed out without a problem, a major accomplishment in itself. The trip to Marathon was only about 45 Nm and the wind was only 10 kts but it was directly on the nose. Still, it wasn't bad, a nice ride. We really need two good days in a row to make Marine Stadium in Miami and that now looks like a Wednesday departure.

The famous "Tree of Knowledge" lost a few leaves and perhaps even more
Marathon has taken some damage. We haven't been outside of the marina yet but things have changed here. The mooring field looks the same but there are empty moorings, about a dozen or so. The large dinghy dock that was situated by the Tiki Hut is gone. They've moved the dinghy docks to the alleyway by the dockhouse and there are no longer any boats tied up on the eastern part of the fairway, it's all for dinghies. So with those changes, there's plenty of dock space for dinghies.  It's still $22/night plus tax for a mooring and it's the same charge if you anchor out and want to come ashore and use their dinghy dock. We heard that all was fine during the storm until a boat broke loose on the east side of the anchorage where the wind was coming from. That boat hit another boat, broke it loose and as it was pushed by the wind, more and more boats joined the "flotilla" headed for land. I can imagine that once several boats were enmeshed together, they became an unstoppable force in hurricane winds. The "flotilla" swept through the mooring area, taking all the boats it touched with it.

We'll probably be here until Wednesday morning according to the weather reports and overnight at Rodriguez Key and reach Marine Stadium by Thursday.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Key West - Last day blues

Everyone was studiously critiquing a painting when I stepped in.
That's the painter at the far right, Mike Rooney
How did everything pass by so quickly? We only got to see Barry Cuda play twice, Fiona was performing for us only twice, we never got to see Jimmy Olsen play the grand piano at The Gardens hotel. It's true we've only been here a little over two months, maybe that's just not enough time! We're determined that next year it's going to be a race to get to Key West once we return to Titusville. Why do B and C stops when there's an A stop waiting for us!

The Gallery on Greene Street
Meanwhile, we celebrated our last day by visiting art studios. Ann loves to talk to the artists when they have a reception, talking shop so to speak. Her favorite art studio is The Gallery On Greene Street which features our all-time favorite artist in Key West, Peter Vey. His work is extraordinary when viewed in person. He doesn't use a brush, just a pallet knife but the colors and composition place him at another level. But then, so does his prices, typically $20,000 to $40,000 per painting.

This year we were blessed to have every member of our extended family visit us in Key West for a week. That's hard to improve upon. On top of that, we had Finn with us for homeschooling for a couple of months in January and February. I think it helps that we're in a warm climate when things up north add a little contrast. We do enjoy all our visits!

Saturday looks like a good day to head east to Marathon. We'll have a light headwind of around 10 kts or less so it ought to be fine. If the weather holds, we'll wind up in Ft Lauderdale by Wednesday afternoon but that's asking a lot from the weatherman. It's amazing the variations we're still getting out of the various forecasting services. We mostly go with PocketGrib due to it's simplicity and past accuracy but no service is perfect. We generally take the forecasts one day at a time.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Key West - A visit with friends and Cafe Sole

Harve and Christina's house on Southard Street 
There was more boat work today along the lines of an oil change and filter change for the Volvo. I moved stuff from the cockpit lockers to the aft cabin. Even though I certainly know better, I just carry along too much stuff. When it comes time to remove items off the boat, I just look at them and think, "Well, I just might, possibly, perhaps, need it sometime in the future..." So I suffer from boater's seizure, I just can't bring myself to move to land what I could ever, possibly use. The result is another boater's malady, boat overload. This time when I touch land at home, I've resolved to fix the problem once and for all, things are going to go! (really...?)

Harve and Christina - great couple
Harve and Christina invited us over for cocktails this afternoon and we both had a great time. We always enjoy meeting friends along the way. They had a lovely house on Southard Street and we walked over in the evening breezes. After leaving, we decided to have dinner at nearby Cafe Sole. Ann had tuna and I had sole, both were good. 

We decided not to walk to  a restaurant near Fleetwing but chose to eat close by first at Cafe Sole
It looks like Saturday is a better day to head north so we'll spend one more day in Key West and then start out in earnest. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Key West - More Getting Ready and a sunset

Hindu is more of the more traditional schooners, $90 for a two hour ride
The weather has become the number one topic now. We watch the ebb and flow of the winds on a daily basis across six major apps. Some seriously diverge beyond two days even. Most agree on tomorrow but they start to squabble after that. Then the question becomes, who do you believe? Since they usually come together on tomorrow and our time horizon is not beyond one day, then it's no big deal for us. However, if you were going to take a five day crossing, then it's another story. I'm going to be comparing forecasts for the apps I have and I'll report on what I find later on in the cruise.

So that's stainless steel?!
Our air conditioning started up again after I replaced the screen on the intake to the pump. It's supposed to be made out of stainless steel but it sure didn't look very corrosion resistant! I ordered four from Fisheries Supply at 6:00 pm last night and they arrived at 1:30 am that same night! Well, they arrived at the dockhouse and I picked them up the next morning. The screens were nickel and dime but the shipping cost for overnight was something else! Nevertheless, it's what I asked for and they delivered, a top notch outfit! I would highly recommend them.

Actually, a "close to sunset" sunset
I took Hoolie over to see the sunset at Mallory Square but we left before the sun went down, too crowded. It's funny how cars arrive right at sunset and expect to get a parking place - of course they don't and they just circle and circle the parking lot. Hoolie and I walked back and we expect to get the rest of the boat work done Thursday in case Friday turns out to be a better day than forecasted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Key West - Bottom scrubbed and the wind returns

Time for a bottom scrub
Every year before we start on our return journey, I get the bottom scrubbed. It needs it after sitting in a warm harbor for two months. We've used Down Under Bottom Cleaning for the past three years and they'be done a good job each time. The charge is $3/ft which is average for the area. I also had the zinc on the prop replaced but it was in much better condition than at Titusville where the overboard zinc had come loose. With the overboard zinc detached, the zinc on the prop was completely missing at Titusville after two months, not so here where we had about 1/3 left.

Not all Key West hens are alike, here's a speckled one with chicks.
Today was tax preparation day (TurboTax) and it grew hot in the afternoon so I turned on the A/C only to find no cooling water coming out. I looked at the filter and it came apart in my hands. It's supposed to be stainless steel but it was badly corroded. A simple thing as a filter can stop A/C for the entire boat! Since we were leaving Saturday (maybe Friday) I had no time to shop around. I found a filter at Fisheries Supply and I'm having it shipped overnight. West Marine is supposed to have it but they are not dependable on having it in stock and I was running out of time.

The winds return!
The winds have returned with a vengeance. It's predicted to blow 15 to 20 kts and higher for the next three days. Then, hopefully, we'll have a window to move east and north to Miami. Our goal there is Marine Stadium to wait for good conditions to go outside to Ft Lauderdale.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Key West - A walk with flowers

Maybe someone in the audience can identify the flowers but not me.
Yes, yet again we walked amongst the flowers. As the weather warms, even more, the flowers come out even more. When I was in high school and had a literature class where we read poetry, the refrain from the students who didn't want to apply themselves to understanding the subject matter was that they wanted to enjoy the poem and not analyze the poem. Being of retirement age, I've come to embrace that concept in our afternoon walks. I have no idea what the flowers are called, but I do enjoy admiring them.

The yellow flowers grew on tall trees
This afternoon was no different. Since it's March, we walk on the shady side of the street and focus on the gardens which abound in Key West. Everyone has plantings in their front yard, sometimes for many years which you can see in the growth of the plants. Of course, walking is easy in Key West since the highest "hill" is only 13 feet and that's so gradual that you would never notice the slope.

Not to be outdone, a profusion of flowers
Hoolie is along for the walk too and has to be tamed so he doesn't pull so much. At nine years of age, he's still eager to be in front and lead the way, except when there's a morsel of food to be had. Then it's a full lunge with all his might and weight and quick reflexes! He usually wins such tests of strength and speed.

And we come to the end of the day and close to the end of our stay
This week is a work week and on Tuesday we'll get the bottom scrubbed and the zinc replaced. We want our full 7.3 kts of speed heading back north. After that, it's an oil change for three motors (Volvo, genset, and outboard). Lot's of things to do to get ready for the return trip.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Key West - Our goodbye to the Green Parrot

Step one of our goodbye tour - The Green Parrot Bar
We are now in our last week in Key West - where did the time go? For this week, we are on a goodbye tour and our first stop of the week was the Sunday afternoon jazz session at the Green Parrot. Last week we got there too late and about the time we arrived was the time for their break. We didn't make that mistake this time and got a stool before they even started.

The bar has a parachute over it?
The format is three musicians anchoring the melody (guitar, piano, and drums) and then various, visiting musicians playing freewheeling segments as the anchor musicians play on. That gives each of the solo musicians a chance to show their talents. They play out in front, close to the audience so there's a participation experience.

Too bad, they're open!
You're expected to buy something but you don't have to, nobody is keeping score. I bought a beer and shared it with Ann. They are constantly popping popcorn and that's free for the taking. We had two helpings of that, lots of salt.

We listened for about 1.5 hours and then did a slow walk home in the 78-degree weather with full sun. What a nice day! We are looking at Next Saturday for a departure date but it's really too early yet to predict the weather.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Key West - An Art Tour and Barry in the Evening

What the tourists see off the boat in Key West - just like any Caribbean town
We do take the weekends off from all boat work and just spend more time enjoying Key West. For today's adventure, we went to the local art gallery that only accepts works from local artists. Some were okay, most were not but Ann still enjoyed seeing their works. I wasn't able to take photos, they were forbidden as they are in most galleries.

Buy a pretty trinket - cheap
So we spent an hour or so browsing. Our next stop was to the tourist section of Key West. It's the area right by where the cruise ships come in. We've talked to friends who frequent cruise ships who complained about stops at Key West. They related that it was just crowded and full of cheap, tourist shops. Well, yeah, that's the case right by the cruise ship docking area. They display what sells which says more about the tourists than Key West. Plus, those on the cruise ships never sample the fine cuisine that Key West has to offer, they all eat on board.

We found an artist in his own shop, beautiful work in metal - Native Colors is the name of the shop
We browsed through the tourist shell shop with shells never seen within a 1000 miles of Key West. Enough of that, we just enjoyed the 78 degree weather with full sun, it was great.

He had dozens of works on display
Our next stop was in a small shop, Native Colors, where we never expected to see anything of value but found a man who made his own sculptures in metal. He burnished the metal surface to show a range of colors. The effects were very beautiful. He doesn't even have a website but does have a Facebook page. They were reasonably priced too.

We wound up with an hour of Barry at BO's Fishwagon, the best way to end the day in Key West
Ann bought a seahorse sculpture for our back porch in New York. We walked back to the boat and had leftovers from our outing at Bien but then found out that Barry Cuda was back from his European trip and playing at BO's Fishwagon tonight. That was a treat we didn't want to miss so Ann and I found a stool and listens to good piano playing for about an hour. What a perfect day in paradise.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Dawho River Shallows - An 8 ft MLLW Path

Tonight is a break from my usual Key West posts to focus on one of the shallow areas we will be transiting on our way north in the spring. There are a number of these area but most don't offer an alternative route. It appears that Dawho River does offer a deeper path around the shallows. The article below was posted on the Active Captain Facebook page and is also under "ICW Tips" at the left. As the saying goes, "We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow..."

In the analysis below, I proposed an 8 ft MLLW path through the Dawho River east entrance. Note that I have not personally tested the route for depth so proceed with great caution, preferably at high tide. Let us know your results since an 8 ft MLLW route would be a great benefit to all those transiting the ICW in that area.  I will personally be taking this route in the spring trip northward. Now, let’s look at the analysis supporting the new route.

The east entrance to the Dawho River has a very narrow, shallow channel with current depths down to 5 MLLW in places. The charted channel cannot be followed and to get the 5 MLLW you have to avoid G115 by 450 ft. On March of 2017, the Charleston USACE did a depth survey of the entire area around the channel and it showed an 8 ft MLLW path through the area but it’s far outside the charted channel. The survey is shown below:

USACE survey of 3/16/2017 with grid lines drawn in

Let's look at two detail cutouts of the above chart. The first one is the detail on the eastern end (the entrance when going south) showing the 3 ft MLLW spot right in the middle of the channel! Look at the nice, deep water northward.

Here's the 3 ft spot right in the middle of the channel you would like to avoid
Look at the deep water north  of the channel!
Here's the second detail showing 8 ft MLLW crossing from the deep water (in blue) to the channel following the red line shown in the top most chart with the black lines. Just follow along from the deep blue to the channel in a southwest direction, always staying in the survey area.

Just stay south of the edge of the survey for 8 MLLW, according to the survey chart

The full survey by USACE is linked here, In the chart at the top, I’ve drawn black lines to form a grid connecting the xy coordinates of the chart. They are slanted since the chart is not positioned exactly north up. I drew in an ideal route shown as a red line in the chart. Using the grid, I interpolated the xy coordinates and then used a conversion routine from Earthpoint to convert the xy readings to Lat/Long, which I plotted in Aqua Map. I checked the conversions against several Lat/Long readings along the edge of the USACE chart and they matched so they ought to be correct. Feeling brave? Note that it takes you over land according to the chart below. It’s just like how the red side route first appeared at Fernandina. That route also took you over “land” according to the charts until the charts were later updated

The 8 MLLW route plotted in Aqua Map

 Here’s the same Aqua Map view (see below) but with the same route plotted but with a satellite overlay. You can see that there’s no “land” at waypoint 3 and it looks more like the USACE survey.

Same route, same Aqua Map but with satellite view overlay ( really nice feature of Aqua Map

How about SonarChart? The problem is that the readings revert to chart readings if no one has been through an area. The early Fernandina SonarChart had the same problem and it also showed shallow water where we now pass through with 14 MLLW after the USACE survey.

I didn't plot the route since SonarChart does not import routes but you get the idea
So, what to do? Obviously, we need someone to try out the route, preferably at high tide and with a shallow draft vessel just in case the USACE is all messed up in their readings – but I think they are correct and an 8 MLLW path is there just waiting to be confirmed and taking a load off boaters with deep drafts trying to get through at low tide.

The route can be downloaded at BDawhoX. Let us know if you try it out.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Key West - Scallops tonight

Oh the choices...
There's a fish market nearby that we frequent as often as we can. It's located in Half Shell Raw Bar restaurant. They supply fresh seafood to five local restaurants and we periodically take advantage of their market. Tonight we bought their sea scallops, six apiece but we could have been done with only four each, they were huge. Ann cooked them in a casserole using the recipe, "Awesome Baked Sea Scallops/" and they came out great!

We'll take one of each... Well, just the scallops for tonight
We're taking it easy until next week when we'll swing into action (as much action as we ever do down  here) to get ready for the trip north. First, we have to think about all the things we need to do before we actually do anything. This week was the thinking part. Next week is the doing part. We'll enjoy our time in Key West as long as we can.

It's also the time of starting to watching the weather for a good window to head north. The winds are usually out of the east at this latitude so we look for a reversal of the usual winds and that may take several days to materialize. The route to Marathon, our next stop, is due east, we rather not buck a head wind with the accompanying seas. Now it's wait and watch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Key West - Cooler days

$450/night if they have a room
Our temperature topped out at 80 yesterday and now we're in for cooler weather, the lower 70's. Ann is enjoying doing her painting while I'm down below doing boat planning stuff for our upcoming trip north. I think I've found a 8 MLLW path through the east entrance to Dawho River where there's only 5 MLLW if you follow the buoyed route. The route is from the survey by USACE of Charleston. As far as I know, no one has ever taken that particular route. It's outside the buoyed channel. When we go north, we'll give it a try. If anyone else wants to try their luck at it, send me a comment below and I'll forward the waypoints. An extra three feet would be a great benefit to those transiting that shallow passage.

Totems? Hotels like these always seem to have this sort of thing around.
Key West is always changing. I snapped a photo of the Marker hotel It's sitting on what used to be a vacant lot when we first starting coming to Key West. The rooms, I'm told, are very nice but they go for $450/night. The hotel occupies most of a city block and it's right next to Schooner Wharf so it's in an ideal location for marina action.

Yesterday I bought 300 ft of 5/8 inch line from West Marine at 40% off their usual list price. They've announced a new policy of not being undersold by anyone, including internet sellers. I guess they've gotten religion because they were losing customers right and left. Now they have a price matching policy which is long overdue. Maybe with that they will become a useful supply store for mariners. They were just too overpriced in the past.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Key West - Cycles and chains

I guess I don't understand, if you're going to buy a motorcycle this elaborate, why not just get a car?
We heard a rumor that there was snow up north and we received regular reports on the progress of the winter storm. We watched the progress on our house cam of the front driveway. It's a good way to watch winter weather, from a distance! We have a friend that keeps the driveway plowed and I think the bill is going to be rather larger than normal with all the storms.

Not to say anything negative, but the heavier the chain the better
for locking down a bike
So we took it all in as we basked in 80 degree weather. March is the dry season down in Key West. There's no bugs in the harbor and not much rain aside from an occasional shower. Key West does an amazing job of keeping the insects at bay. It's the only place we've been down south where you can sit on the back of your boat in the evening and never see even one flying insect. I hear they have a very aggressive policy on enforcing a rule on no standing water. Bird baths are a big no-no around here. The enforcement officers have the freedom to come on your property to make sure there's no breeding area for mosquitoes.

Mallory Square from afar
We still get out in the morning before the heat and take a walk in the afternoon on the shady side of the streets. It's a beautiful place with all the tropical plants. I didn't get over to Mallory Square tonight but the sunset was still pretty.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Key West - A potpourri of performers at Mallory Square

This guy could play that piamo!
With the onset of daylight savings time, I now have time to get over to Mallory Square before the sun sets when take Hoolie out for his evening walk. In addition to watching the sunset, Mallory Square is also famous for its performers. They lay a rope around an area where they perform to mark out a sort of a stage. There's always the ceremonial pot for collecting excess change from the tourists strategically placed for easy accessibility.

Care for a coconut?
Then there's the "patter" to go along with the performance, it wouldn't be the same without it. The acts vary from sword swallowing to fortune telling to just playing a piano some dance to. There's lots of stuff to eat as you would expect but I didn't see alcoholic beverages being served.

I first say this guy 8 years ago!
The big attraction, of course, is the sunset. All the performances halt when that draws near. Everyone looks out to see the sun sink into the ocean. After that, everything starts up again for those that stay around.

Sword Swallowing anyone?
Taking Hoolie through this sea of humanity is an exercise in frustration. He's looking everywhere for his next meal and especially any other dog around, of which there are plenty. So it's a constant tug in all directions, but then he's a dog.It was 80 today, hot weather has arrived. 
Finally, the sun nears the horizon and all activity stops!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Key West - A calm day

Just a walk down a street two blocks away
We decided to take the day off from any boat chores to rest up for the following week. We have two more weeks to go on our Key West adventure. It hardly seems possible that time flies by so quickly! Now I have to start thinking about the things I have to do to get the boat ready for the trip north. However, today was a rest day and we took full advantage of the 79 degree day with full sun and little wind.

Old Town Bakery is the place to go for pastries or just a quick breakfast. We visit them every Sunday morning. They also have excellent breads and we have one in the pantry now that we cut a slice off for lunch everyday. The place is another one of those Key West institutions, it's been there forever.

Orchids in full bloom on the same street, stunning when in person
Our afternoon walks have shifted over from being in the sun for warmth to seeking the shady side of the street due to the sun. Once you're away from the water and the breezes, the southern sun can heat you up in a hurry. The walks are always picturesque with many plants in full bloom, we never tire of the scenery of the walks. Monday is a work day in Key West, such as it is, maybe 1/2 a day, oh drat.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Key West - Matthew leaves for cold weathyer

BO's Fishwagon, unusual as usual. 
Sadly, the time had come for Matthew to return home to the cold north country. He's due back at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island on Monday. We rented a car today for one last tour of Key West with Matt before he had to leave. It was a vintage Key West day with light winds and temps in the high 70's with full sun.

Typical Key West chick magnet
For his last meal in Key West, we went to BO's Fishwagon for one of their famous Grouper sandwiches. They really are excellent but the Grouper is expensive since they don't catch Grouper anymore near Key West. Of course, we had the conch fritters to go with the sandwich, an absolute must in BO's.

Spongers tend to make these things

After dropping Matt off at the airport, we provisioned for the trip north and now we're all set. I have a lot of boat projects to do to get the boat ready, nothing major, just the usual stuff of oil changes, etc. I've already updated my GPX routes with the latest waypoints through the shallows but I'll check the spots again before I leave. Meanwhile, we're just going to enjoy our last two weeks before heading to Marathon where we hope there will finally be an empty mooring.