It's been a while since the last update, so this will be a long one. Be prepared.
When last we left our intrepid adventurers, we had arrived in Tarpon Springs. Yay! That was the night of the lunar eclipse. No, we didn't stay up to watch it. I think I went to bed around 8:00. But we did set the alarm for 3:00 to see the progress. It was pretty cool! Very dark and red. Neato!
Got up early and left before sunrise. The moon was setting, and the sun was rising behind us.
|Moon setting over Anclote Key|
The next day, Trevor and I decided to try running outside. The forecast was for a west wind at 15 knots. It would be on our beam, which means super fast sailing. But it could be rough. So we headed out (yep, at sunrise). We had to go back out through the bridge we came in the night before. Well, there was a hellacious current rolling through there with the outgoing tide. So we were heading in at a normal angle of attack when we were suddenly being pushed very quickly toward the bridge! Just before disaster, I turned the boat around and got out of there. We turned back around and tried again, this time at a more conservative angle. We were going with the current, aiming right for the middle. But the current pushed us again! Oh no! So I told Trevor to hammer the throttle down, and we powered through the bridge. It was a little more exciting than we like our mornings, but we made it through unscathed. So we headed out to the channel, ready for awesome sailing. But the wind was coming out of the southeast. What direction were we heading? Southeast, of course! We thought maybe it would turn west, like it was forecast to do. But it didn't. We had a headwind all morning. The plan was to re-enter the ICW at Venice Pass, whatever the weather. So we did that.
Venice is crazy beautiful! I couldn't believe it. Aqua-blue water in the canals, cute houses everywhere, and people that just seemed happy to be there. But then we came to a bridge. We had to wait 15 minutes for it to open, no big deal. We went through and headed to the next bridge. That bridge was close. And scheduled to open 10 minutes later. So we waited just upstream from it, but the tide was pushing us closer and closer. Opening time came, and the bridge was still closed. I put the boat in reverse and ended up sideways in the canal. Just at that time, the bridge opened, so we headed through. Luckily, there was no traffic there at the time, so we were fine. We chugged down to the next bridge. Hauled ass down to the next bridge, actually, since we had a rockin' current moving us down there. But this one was a call-to-open bridge, so we didn't have a problem except a traffic jam caused by a water-cop. We ended the day at Cape Haze Marina. Best showers of the trip! They were amazing!
We left a little later the next morning so the guys could shower (the showers closed at 5pm, how weird is that?), and we loaded up on ice (free!). We stopped about 10 miles down for some fuel. Then we hauled up the sails in hopes of gaining a little extra speed. We were going about 6.3, which wasn't bad. Then we came across where Charlotte Harbor opens on the Gulf, and the breeze was a little stiffer. I looked at the GPS, and we were going 7.8! Even after we passed it, we were averaging 7.5! Oh yeah, we could get used to this. All day, we had a strong breeze. I don't know that we dropped below 6.5. So we were happy. My steering arm got a good work out in some choppy water. We encountered a ton of inconsiderate boaters, going fast past us and kicking up a wicked wake that would rock us something fierce. But we made it through the day. We ended up in Fort Myers Beach, on a mooring ball! Mooring balls are awesome, because you don't have to worry about the anchor slipping or anything like that. And it was only $13 a night, considerably cheaper than a marina. If we had extra time, we all agreed we would have loved to spend a few days there, at least.
|Mooring area in Fort Myers Beach|
|Off Our Rocker on the mooring ball|
|Sunset in Fort Myers Beach|
|One of the marinas on the Big Marco River|
|Birds and mangroves in the Big Marco River|
|On the other side. You know what's down there? The Florida Keys!|
|The other side of Marco Island (see the buildings way off in the distance?)|
And we knocked a day off our trip by going so fast, and by eliminating the dreadful trudge around the Cape Romano Shoal. So now we were only 2 days away from Marathon! But weather was moving in. We had one day to get somewhere to hunker down.
Christmas morning dawned calm and beautiful. We left (you know when we left, sunrise) early and ran to Little Shark River in the Everglades National Park. The day started a little breezy, then the wind died, and then the wind came up again at the end of the day. In our faces. It ended up choppy, but we made it into the river fine. We rafted up with Mom and Dad, them with a bow anchor and us with a stern anchor to hold against the reversing currents.
Just as I was dropping off to sleep, I heard a thunk. Weird. Then Trevor was outside, and so was Dad. So I got up to check it out. Our anchor had apparently slipped in the wicked strong current. But we were holding, so we all went back to bed. None of us slept well that night. In the morning, our anchor came right up when we tried to pull the slack out of the line (not good). The current was rolling back in, so we were holding fine on Dad's anchor. Dad and Trevor got in the dinghy and took our stern anchor out as far as they could to try and reset it. When the current went back out again, it kinda held. Enough to keep us from careening back out to the Gulf (those currents were crazy strong). But when the current reversed again, we knew we had to come up with a better plan. We discussed moving the boat, using only Dad's anchor, and tying up to the mangroves that lined the river. We finally decided to put a longer rope and a chain on our anchor. They dinghied the anchor back out and dropped it. This time it held. We slept well that night.
The next morning we still had strong winds and rough seas, so we were going to sit it out where we were. But it occured to us that with a 5+ mph current coming in, a boat that tops out at 6 mph under motor power might not make it out if the current was not in our favor. So we plotted again. Should we run to East Cape and get a jump on tomorrow? Should we run to Marathon? Should we move closer to the mouth of the river? Trevor and I took a dinghy ride to the mouth of the river to ascertain conditions outside and inside. It was bumpy on the bay. We didn't want to get beat up for 3 hours for an anchorage that might not be protected, so moving to East Cape wasn't happening. We did notice, however, that the current in that part of the river was considerably less than where we were anchored. And the trees looked like they would give us better protection from the wind. So we moved about a mile downriver. Success! Less current, less wind, more comfort. We slept well again.
Yesterday we were up before the sun and making a run for Marathon. The weather finally sounded good enough for us to go. The bay was choppy, and on our beam, so it was a bumpy ride until we turned south. We pulled up a sail, and we were moving! Throughout the day, the wind dropped. The waves dropped with it, so that was good, but the sails drooped, and that was not good. At last we spotted land! And then the 7-Mile Bridge! Huzzah! Because the bridge is so big, you can see it from a long way off. It takes forever to get there! Just when we were getting close, our engine sounded rough and started spitting black crud out of the exhaust. Nooooooo! We added oil, and that seemed to help for a little while. Then it spit out black crud again. Why, little Yanmar engine, why??? The oil was fine, so that wasn't the problem. We ran it at a lower speed, and that helped. Then we made it under the 7-Mile Bridge!
It's been almost two months, and we've finally made it to Marathon. We were only a day late on our deadline, which is pretty good, especially considering the uncooperate weather and never-ending engine trouble we've had. We are so happy to be here!
We've got fishing to do, a warm pool to swim in, crab pots in the water, and kids everywhere (though it's blissfully quiet right now; they went to Key West). Good times!