Category Archives: Sailing

April 3-6

Back Boot Key Harbor

We decided to go back to Boot Key Harbor for a few days and get ready for the sail north to Punta Gorda.  We like Boot Key Harbor a lot: super friendly boating community, mooring balls are reasonable at $18.00 a night, the City Marina has good showers and services, and there are lots of businesses close by, like Publix and West Marine.  I worked on some wiring projects on Terrapin, we went to Sombrero Beach, and we ate some great seafood at Keys Fisheries.

Rough Seas and Lobster Pots

The weather forecasts all said that the weather would be perfect for sailing across the Florida Bay from Shark River inlet on the lower part of the Florida Mainland to Vaca Key, the middle of the keys where the city of Marathon and Boot Key Harbor is located.  The wind was predicted to be 15-20 knots out of the east and we were headed due south.  This would put us on a beam reach on a port tack. The Florida Bay is a huge bay made up of the Florida Keys archipelago extending south from the southeast tip of Florida then curving to the west, about 25 miles across from the tip of Florida to Vaca Key.  One of the noteworthy features is that the entire bay is shallow, only 10-12 feet deep.  That means that the effect of the wind on building waves is magnified significantly.  We are used to sailing in deep Caribbean waters in 15-20 knot winds and the sea state is generally mild with long rolling swells. What we discovered in the Bay of Florida was a steep chop of increased period. That made for a bit of an uncomfortable ride.   In addition, the wind ended up being 20-30 knots instead of 15-20.  So, we found ourselves sailing a beam reach in 20-30 knot winds with fairly rough seas, with boat speeds of 8-10 knots.  When I realized the wind speed was that high, I reefed both sails (reducing the sail area) and tried to set a relatively comfortable course, doing a bit of a zig-zag to keep the waves from hitting us directly on the beam.

The other thing we had to deal with was that the bay is full of lobster/crab pots.  Fisherman lower the metal trap with a small buoy attached by a rope. If you run over them, the rope can snag on your prop, or rudder.  We have dealt with these all over, including the Caribbean, but the effect of the wave chop was that we had a very hard time seeing them in time to avoid them. Well, you guessed it, we snagged not one, but three pots.  We were sailing along at 9 knots and all of the sudden we slowed down to 4.  I guessed we had snagged a pot, but couldn’t see anything from the deck.  So, we dropped the anchor and I went in the water with my mask, snorkel and fins and life vest tied to a line attached to the boat.  Sure enough, the starboard prop had not one, but three lobster pot buoys snagged.  I was able to unwrap them and set Terrapin free. This delayed our trip about an hour and a half but we still made it into Boot Key Harbor in daylight.

Lobster pots are a real problem in this area.  They are everywhere.  You have to be on constant watch while sailing or motoring.  Nautical charts and books refer to all sorts of “hazards of navigation” but of course there is no charting of where lobster pots are and there are no apparent regulations for where they can be placed.  You find them right in the middle of entrances to harbors and well-marked waterways. In fact, the pots probably represent the biggest hazards to navigation as they have the potential of disabling your boat.  If your boat is disabled in rough seas near the coast line you could end up on the rocks.  Most regulations on the books protect the lobster/crab fisherman.  It is a felony to tamper with these pots.  However, there needs to be some sensible regulation on where these pots can be placed.  At least have some corridors where pots are prohibited so boats and the lobster industry can co-exist.

These guys look harmless, right?

You can count eight pots in this picture.

April 2

We are anchored off Bahia Honda State Park inside the old railroad trestle that is now a National Historic monument. The section that is open was removed so sailboats could get inside the bay.

Old RR bridge

Sunset view from TERRAPIN

March 28-30

Spent three great days hanging out in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL.  Provisioning, exploring hanging out with some new friends.  We had met Randy and Rosalie on Contessa Rosa when we were anchored in Snake River.  It turned out that we were assigned the mooring ball right next to theirs when we pulled into Boot Key.  They had us over for wine cheese and crackers the evening we pulled in and we decided to invite them over for dinner the next night. We cooked salmon on the grill and had a great evening.  This was another first for us, entertaining on Terrapin.

March 27

We had an adventurous and challenging passage from Shark River inlet to the keys.  We picked up anchor at around 1000 hours  and headed out into the gulf.  The winds were forecast to be 15-20 knots out of the East right on the beam, perfect for sailing.  However, what we didn’t expect was the rough sea state.  We were moving along at 8-10 knots but getting tossed around by short-period waves coming in different directions, often described as a washing machine.  This is due to a combination of the shallow waters in the Gulf (10-12 feet in this area) and a strong current in the opposite direction of the wind.  It gave the boat a real work out and Terrapin passed with flying colors.  After an unexpected 1.5 hour delay (to be described in a separate post) we made it to Boot Key Harbor and picked up a mooring ball.

March 26

Sunrise over the Everglades.We spent a wonderful day relaxing in the 10,000 Islands preserve, about 3 miles from Everglades city. Today we are going to sail 35 miles South to Cape Sable at the Southern tip of Florida. From there we will sail across to the keys tomorrow.

March 21, 2018, Fort Myers Beach

More Horses!

Yesterday our old Suzuki 2.5 hp outboard conked out on us when we were motoring in our dinghy to the Fort Myers beach dinghy dock.  The dinghy has oars so I rowed the last few hundred yards.  But how do we get back to our boat? It was way too far to try to row.  Call Sea Tow!  Last year I joined Sea Tow, kind of like the marine version of AAA.  If you get stuck, Sea Tow will come and tow you back to your marina or safe port.  So, we showered and had dinner and met Sea Tow at the dock and they towed us back to our boat in the mooring field.  I started dismantling the Suzuki to repair it and quickly realized that it wasn’t worth repairing  So I formulated a plan to go into town and buy a new Yamaha 6 hp outboard.   The next day, we moved to Moss Marina, about a 1/4 mile away to tie up to their dock overnight.  We rented a car for the day and drove to buy the new engine and also to pick up a new Navionics chart microSD card. The extra hp should get our dinghy “up on plane” allowing us to go faster and smoother.