Wednesday, February 1, 2012

St. Augustine to Marathon Key

St Augustine skyline view from masthead

January 15, 2012.  In early December Quinn and I thought we were going to bring the boat further down the Florida coast, say about West Palm Beach, so we would be positioned in January after the Christmas rush to either head over to the Abacos or down to Key West.  As it turned out, we were on the boat for two weeks and it was never untied from the dock.  It was one of those cases where everything we tried to fix on the boat that week prior to the planned departure, went upside down.  At the end of the two weeks work, we left with more projects than we started with.  We fixed the refrigerator, three days later it completely blew up.  We put on the referbished windlass, three days later we completely blew it up. Before we left, the fresh water accumulator tank blew up; o.k. actually nothng blew up, it just developed a leak, but it still had to be replaced.  We had some mast-head work to do and after a couple of attempts, it never worked out.  With all of that, we still got a chance to see some of St. Augustine and eat some good food.   Anyway, we went home, enjoyed Christmas, regrouped and headed back Jan. 15th. 

Things went much better this time.  We now have a completely new refrigeration system that works just like it should.  I would highly recommend Hansen Marine Services in St Augustine for refrigeration work.  That caused us to need to beef up our battery system, and after installing a new starting battery bank (which was much more complex than expected), we are pleased with the finished product.  After four days on the dock, we tore ourselves away on day five.  From then on we made good time heading south.  Because of all the system, electrical and mechanical changes we had made, we decided to stay inside on the ICW for the first couple of days as a sort of sea-trial.  Everything worked fine.

At Cape Canaveral we headed out to the Atlantic again and were able to make some good overnight passages. 

Arriving Port Canaveral barge canal at dusk.
January 20, 2012.  We hopped in at Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) and stayed at the Municipal Marina for a couple of nights seeing the sights and food of Ft. Lauderdale.  We were actually docked one block from the famed "strip" on the beach. The last time I was there I thought it was great.  Funny what 30 years can do to "the strip". Either they got dumber or I got smarter. For sure they got younger and I got older.

Gov. ships at Port Canaveral

Sunday morning about noon we pulled out of Ft. Lauderdale Los Olas Marina and went to another marina to top off the fuel tank.  We took on about 22 gals of diesel and then headed out under the 17street bridge which we can make without having to lift the bridge.  The bridge is 55 feet and our main mast is only 48 feet with a few feet additional for antenas, anemometer, and windex gear.  We passed all the big homes and super yachts that adorn Ft. Lauderdale and headed out to sea at 1200 hrs. 
Leaving Ft. Lauderdale
That would give us 24 hours to make Marathon at 120 miles and give us a worst case ETA of 1200 hrs the next day.  That puts in a new harbor entrance at high-noon so there are not any hidden surprises.  As it turned out, we made great time and arrived in Martathon at 0800 hrs and were tied up at Burdines at 0830. 
We were met by a good friend and sailor, Bob Mcdonald who had left Gulf Shores and came down the Gulf of Mexico to Marathon about the same time that we left St. Augustine.  Since he had gotten there a few days earlier, he had discovered that most of the marinas and especially the municipal mooring balls were all booked up.  I knew there were lots of northern boats coming south for the winter, many from Canada, New York and the Chesapeake, because we had seen and met many of them on our way down the East Coast during the last two months.  I just didn't know that they were all going to Marathon.  Bob spent a few days searching the out-of-the-way marinas and found a contact that happened to personally own a couple of slips in Burdines harbor, and he was willing to let us stay there for a reasonable price.  It was also a bonus that this guy was a well known diesel mechanic in the area, and was able to help us with a waterpump issue that was developing on the boat, although it had not run hot to this point. 

Burdines dock and front porch. We tied up here
when we first came in.

Burdines at dusk

Burdines services
I finally felt like we had arrived in "island time" when we got to Burdines.  When we first tied up at the dock we were met by two good old lazy dock dogs and a fella with an Alabama #1 cap on.  As soon as he saw the Gulf Shores, AL on the transom of the boat we got a blast of "Rooooolllll Tide!! This guy came down here for a vacation several years ago, and just forgot to go home. Now he is on island time. 
Bob and Quinn at City Marina, Marathon
This is a great little marina with solid docks and good access to stores and restaurants.  The only negative might be that the docks are not floating, and the finger piers and pilings are fairly short, so the stern of the boats tend to stick out without much protection.
Tied up with "Windy City" our friend from Gulf Shores.  Of
course he was originally from Chicago and has been everywhere.

Burdines marina off of Boot Key harbor in Marathon.
We were able to get a slip next to Bob's boat "Windy City" and that made it a good visit.  Bob also had a couple of bikes and we were able to borrow another bike and tour the island on bikes.  He has spent about 5 winters in Marathon on his boat, so he knew where the best restaurants were, and of course, West Marine.  We joke that we would be a great ad for West Marine in that we have come all the way down the East coast hopping from store to store where they are located in each port. 
A romp in the Gulf Stream with all sails up

Point South, Cuba 80 miles.

Sailing out of Marathon for a day-sail
January 24, 2012.  On Tuesday Quinn and I couldn't stand it that we were in such beautiful sailing territory, and here we were tied up to four poles.  We decided to go for a day-sail and explore the territory and get some good sailing in with the blue sky and 15 knot favorable winds.  We headed out South about 5 miles to Sombrero Key Light, a 142 foot tower, and then sailed another 10 miles south in the Gulf Stream directly towards Havana.  With the favorable winds that we had, we could have been in Havana by 0800 the next morning.  Though that may have been fairly easy to do, we were concerned about the leaving part that might be problematic.  With that, we turned around and just enjoyed the raucous romp back across the Gulf Stream and back into Hawk Channel to Marathon.
Marathon City Marina

After we got back to Marathon and tied up comfortably, it didn't take long to get into the spirit of "island time".  The days start with breakfast, then a nap, then lunch, then a nap....
New curtins in the aft cabin. 
Oiled teak woodwork project
I did have a few projects that I wanted to complete and fortunately Bob McDonald had a MastClimber kit which allows an individual to climb up the mast without a deck crew on the winches.  I love that thing, and I do believe it is safe, if you take your time.  We put up some new curtains that we purchased at Sailor's Exchange in St. Augustine, oiled the teak and did some engine maintenance work which included a new impeller in the sea water pump and cleaning out the heat exchanger. Then we put on the pig-stick!

OneEighty"s private Pennant
O.K., about the pig-stick.  A pig stick is a flag mast that the old sailors used to haul up on the mainmast to fly the ships pennant.  On the old square riggers, the pennants could be as long as 90 feet, but of course that wouldn't be practical on OneEighty.  The private pennant is a pennant made for a particular ship/captain and flys from the masthead.  Masthead of the main mast is considered the second most prestigous place for flag flying on a ship.  The number one spot, and reserved for the country flag, in our case the the US ensign is flown from the mizzen gaff, or on modern ships, the stern of the ship.  Next in line is off the starboard spreader.  That's where we fly the club burgee.  Well, since we didn't have a private ship's pennant, I decided to make one last month back in Birmingham and sewed some 1/2 ounce dacron spinnaker material with my handy sewing maching and made a red pennant with a yellow "pelican in her piety" emblem.  It is 5 feet long by 8 inches.  I got this idea from Bob McDonald who saw one on a schooner when he was with us in the Chesapeake, only he was smart enough not to try and put a sock up there with all the other moving parts on the masthead. You'll have to read midieval history to learn the whole story of the pelican, but in short, it became a symbol of Christianity because it was believed that the mother Pelican would prick her breast to feed her young chicks her blood in the nest to keep them from starving.  That symbol was later used as part of the Scottish Stewart Crest.  This symbolized the blood of Christ to save mankind.  Anyway, I made the flag and tested it, but still wait to fly it on that perfect day when we have the perfect wind on the perfect sea with white sails set against the blue sky and sunbeams shimmering in the emerald green water foaming white as the bow is driven through each wave by a brisk warm breeze.  Thats when I plan to put the flag up. It serves no purpose to make the boat go, and will probably get hung up on some of the gadgets that are mounted up on the mainmast top, but I figure I will try it at least once. It looks pretty and has salty history. It is made of red and yellow because I want the chaps from Scotland to be able to see it. 
Testing new "pig-stick"
with the private Pennant flying

January 27, 2012.  As great as Paradise is, it finally became time to head home.  We both have wives and lives that need attending.  We tied up OneEighty with good long lines so that she would accept a broad range of high and low tides as well as high wind speeds.  Fortunately Bob McDonald is staying and will be right beside One Eighty for the next month, so he had graciously agreed to look after her.  That gives us a great comfort in leaving her here for a short while. 

5 a.m. leaving the boat to head home

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