When we depart, we always say we're "bound for" a destination, like Marco Island. We're not necessarily going to actually get there. It's the ocean: things will change.
The plan is an 18-hour overnight passage. Leave at noon, arrive at dawn. Due to DST, dawn isn't until almost 07:00, so, we're need to leave 13:00-ish.
The boat Parteget hailed us as we were heading out. We'd seen them -- we think -- in Key West. We may have also seen them earlier in the voyage. The reason they hailed us is that they -- too -- were hoping for something like Marco, but the wind was noo far E, and they had to divert N to the Boca Grande pass.
Good to get a weather report. We were planning on motor-sailing, so, we continued to head toward Marco.
The wind was about 30° off our beam. It was too tight to sail, but we could have put up the main to motor sail effectively. The nuance is that overnighters mean there's only one person on watch, which makes wrestling with the main out of the question.
While leaving the Tortugas, CA saw a masked boobie. Another life-list bird. No time to grab the camera and try to get a picture.
CA's Noon Watch saw 7-10 knots of wind. It wasn't too nasty.
We picked up a hitch-hiker. A Cape May Warbler joined us. We called her Wendy the Wayward Warbler. (We think she was female.) CA put some water and a broken cracker into the lid of a Lock-N-Lock box so the bird could eat and drink. Crackers aren't warblers preferred food; we're happy to report we didn't have any little bugs.
It never wanted to leave.
SFL's 16:00 Watch was similar. It was too bouncy for CA to try to cook anything, so we ate sandwiches: peanut butter and honey. Very good, easy to make even in rough seas. I had a Green Flash at sunset and building clouds ahead.
We had plenty of green flashes in the Tortugas. I've seen a lot of sunsets at sea. The "Green Flash" was a thing people talk about, but no one had ever pointed it out to me. I finally figured it out.
Birb Fren Wendy the Wayward Warbler hopped around looking at all the things. Sometimes she would hop up onto a lifeline and taste the wind. Othertimes, she would hunker down under the dodger. She seemed to like to perch on the big coils of rope.
CA's 20:00 Watch started with us driving straight into the storm clouds. About a half-hour into her watch, the full fury of the storm came down on her. 30 knot winds. The autopilot producing error messages because it cannot maintain course. CA used the tether to lash herself into the cockpit. She put the hatchboard in the companionway.
I cowered in the saloon. Seriously. Nothing for me to do but listen to Red Ranger leaping off the wave tops and crashing into valleys. The volume of noise is alarming.
On the other hand. Mr. Lehman was purring along happily. The sails where already lashed (we remove the covers, but not the lashings.) The dinghy was lashed down.
At one point, the wave and wind combination bashed us over on our side. A few things leapt over the fiddles and off their shelves. Most of the loose things on the chart table slid around, but stayed on the table. A few things wound up on the floor of the passthrough or the galley.
I picked stuff up. It's important to not look around much inside a boat being violently tossed around. You open your eyes -- catch a glimpse -- and work by feel after that.
If you keep your eyes open, you get seasick. Immediately.
If you keep your eyes closed, you can manage.
SFL's 24:00 Watch was exactly like the 16:00 watch, except darker. The storm had passed, leaving no trace. Winds were 7-10, but had clocked a bit to come from 40° off our beam. The stars were out. The Milky Way was bright enough that I felt I could read by it. I had to turn up the brightness on the cockpit displays from the barest minimum amount of light. The moon set through a pile of clouds behind us.
CA's 04:00 watch involved cutting boat speed to try and match arrival at Marco with the rising of the sun. She had backed us down to idle.
Changes to engine RPM's -- of course -- wake me up immediately. And then I go right back to sleep. We've evolved the chartplotter displays to have what we think are all the relevant details, including the Time-to-Waypoint (TTW) display. This saves us from having to divide Distance-to-Waypoint (DTW) by Speed-over-Ground (SOG) to compute the time to go. Tricky when sleep-deprived. The biggest deal, of course, is estimated time of arrival (ETA). We both check the local tide display, which has sunrise time, and compare this with ETA. When I'm sleep deprived, it helps me to actually write ETA in the log book, look at the sunrise time, write it in the log book and compare them. That's what it's for. CA can do it in her head.
It's tricky to compute a speed that arrives at a given time. That requires transforming the desired ETA and current time into a TTW, and then dividing the duration by the DTW to compute the required SOG. And even trickier is setting RPM's that provide the required SOG given wind and sea conditions.
CA experiments until she gets the ETA she wants. I wake up and go back to sleep. We generally try to do this kind of thing at watch change. Once the ETA seems right, we try to avoid tinkering with it until the next change.
The Marco entrance is tricky. Very tricky. Too tricky for me.
I had not carefully studied the Active Captain charts showing the deep channel.
The Marco entrance -- it turns out -- is done by threading your way past all the red marks. Do not use the middle of the channel. Do not "favor the red side". It looks like you drive right along the line of reds.
I didn't know this, and was out in the middle of the channel like a fool.
We wanted the "Coconut Island" anchorage. When depths got to 4′ below the instrument (likely 6′ in reality) I turned around (ran aground during the turn) and got the hell out of there. No Coconut Island for us.
Touching bottom during the turn confirmed my idea that we should not be there. Since we were already going slow, backing down hard to pull free was easy.
Birb Fren Wendy the Wayward Warbler left, finally. We considered her one of the old-school singing cowgirl movie stars. She was still having people buy her drinks in Hollywood bars years after her days as a rising star. We sang "I got spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle" after she left.
(You have a lot of time alone on watch. Stories can grow from tiny seeds.)
I suspect the level of activity was too much for her. During the previous 12 hours, we moved around the cockpit slowly, and tried to stay on the opposite side of the cockpit from her when she was awake. She went to sleep deep in pile of docklines, and the hellish storm didn't bother her. Why would it? She normally lives in a tree.
I'm told that once you're inside, Marco is nice. The Factory or the Smokehouse anchorages have their various advantages. George from Indefatigable had run through the trade-offs with me.
But. I couldn't figure out how to get in.
I can, however, zoom out on the chartplotter and see where I had dropped anchor markers. To the south lie the Everglades. We can go around Cape Romano and find a key down there and drop the hook. To the north, Fort Myers is 5 hours away.
Our plan was to eventually go to Fort Myers, and thence to Port Charlotte. So. North it is. Why go down to the Everglades only to head back again?
Also. This voyage is time-boxed by June First and the start of Hurricane Season. We'd like to get hauled before Memorial Day, so, we're looking at maybe two more weeks.
Technically, this all happened at the tail end of CA's watch, and the start of my 08:00 watch. So. Away we go to a new waypoint on this leg.
The wind is light, but coming from about 110° off the starboard beam. I hauled out the yankee and we motor-sailed up the coast.
Anchored. 26°28.2021′N 081°58.7907′W.
This is San Carlos Bay. It's wide open from SSE to WSW. The nearest land is about ½ mile away to the N. Not a very good anchorage. But. It's wide open -- no one around us -- with good holding. It's a place to rest up before finding a mooring ball.
Duration was almost exactly 24 hours.
CA described her storm with 30 knot gusts and huge seas as "fun". Seriously. She said that everything worked the way it was supposed to. She had her PFD and tether. A box of snackies. Plenty of fresh water. Hot water for tea. Relief was "sleeping" below decks. The sea-sickness meds worked.
The only thing she didn't like was the fish.
|Depart||Garden Key 24°37.5312′N, 82°52.3086′W|
|Arrive||San Carlos Bay 26°28.2021′N 081°58.7907′W|