Florida ICW & Staying Happy in these Tough Times…#43

We are all quarantined in our homes, boats or where ever you are held up. I’m sure Dan and I are similar to you with our quarantine time. We are staying put as much as possible, doing some deep cleaning, repairs and boat projects that we have been putting off way too long and a bit of Netflix, Audible, podcast etc. Also we are trying to not forget to do things we enjoy doing too. Hopefully “YOU”are doing some hobbies or stuff you like doing too.

We have always wanted more time, now we got forced into it. What are you doing with it? 

I feel like we are all facing a mixed bag of happiness, sadness, confusion.  We are all feeling that we are forced into this containment. It is important that you stay happy? I’m happy most of the time, but also struggle with containment anxiety. Every day looks like the day before. I work on how to make “today” better. What project will I accomplish today?  Dan is way better at this than me.. It really does matters to your health if you are doing things that make you happy? Do you know what makes you happy? Try and find time to do what you enjoy and stay happy! Dan and I wish the best for everyone!

Going North up Florida Coast 

If you read our last blog, Leaving Jamaica #42 you know we made it back to the United States. We feel much safer here and don’t feel so shut out. Even if we can’t go anyplace. Many countries are not allowing boats to move around or leave. We are hearing stories about some friends and other boaters, just like us that are held up in Panama or Costa Rica. Not allowed to leave, move, fly out and they even feel at risk of backlash from some locals.  A group of boaters have banded together and put safety measures in place to help each other out if needed. There are even boaters at sea near countries that will not let them in and are still moving long distances. It is scary times. We count our blessings!

When we hit the florida Keys we landed at Stock Island Marina Village in Key West Florida for the 10 days. This marina is top notch. “IF” everything would have been open, it would have been a fun place to hang.  When we made reservations we were asked to only stay a short time, as Monroe county had closed it borders to all visitors, that is what we were, a visitors. Our plans were to go north anyway, so our planning began.

Stock Island Marina = Closed restaurants, evening sunset and Coconut Row…One of the last liveaboard communities in Key West. Boats sternin on both sides and have an area for cars and/or patio, plants and hangout zone.

….And the town chickens/roosters, They all run free along the walkways

We were watching the weather out a week or so to plan our departure. As the window started to form and we saw we had 4 good days. We had a projected target at a marina near Cape Canaveral off the ICW (Intracoastal Waterways) called Telemar Marina. This was a long jump to go the 275 nm up the coast. I really didn’t want to do any underway overnighters, we had just done so many nights on the way to Florida, I was hoping Dan could find a few anchorages that we could just tuck into so we could make the run during the day, without traveling at night. Well, Dan worked hard on looking for those spots.

Here is our list and a couple maps showing our path & stops.

  1. Key West, Stock Island Marina
  2. Long Key, Long Key Bight Bay
  3. Miami, Biscayne Bay
  4. Fort Pierce, Fort Pierce Inlet
  5. Indian Harbour Beach, Telemar Marina

We were planning on going into Fort Lauderdale area where we had some boating friends. But couldn’t get in and out within the weather window and didn’t want to wait longer, so made the hard decision at the last minute to not go into Fort Lauderdale. Sorry #undaunted we missed you guys!

First Leg = Key West to Long Key Bight, 55 nm – Very rarely do we get such calm seas where the ocean looks like glass. We had a beautiful day and enjoyed it as much as possible. We felt very lucky to be traveling on such a perfect weather day.

We often see dolphins and were able to see 3 dolphins at our bow that day. They didn’t stay long, just a couple minutes and then off they went. I noticed that they sure held their breath longer then I normally see. They must have been practicing for an event or something… haha

We arrived at Long Key bight around 3:30 pm, dropped the anchor and enjoyed dinner and the most beautiful super moon. The color was amazing and it was so big, bright and so very close. We had a great view. The next morning we were up before dawn and got another moon shot in the dark.

Second leg = Long Key to Miami Biscayne bay 80 nm – The sea wasn’t as smooth as the day before but it certainly wasn’t rough. We had a long day and we were going to run as hard as we could to make it to Miami before sunset. As we arrived around 6:00 pm to the entrance to Government Cut which would lead us to our anchor spot in Biscayne Bay. We hit the Government Cut entrance at maximum ebbtide with 4 knots of current coming at us. It was a pretty turbulent and hard to steer going in, but as soon as we got through, it settled down and we cruised on in and found a place to anchor. Miami is a Hot spot for the Covid 19, so we stayed far away from land and just enjoyed the view. 

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As we left Miami we had another great morning moon shot. I think there is a song called “Moon over Miami”. We also got a closer look at the cruise ships that are anchored out East of Miami. These ships were empty with the exception of crew. I’m sure it isn’t easy being stuck on the ship…. but guess someone has to do it and they did sign up for long periods of time on a ship.

Third leg = Miami to Fort Pierce 108 nm – We had long run and another nice weather day. Still not as calm as the first day and we reminisced about it as we moved closer to Fort Pierce. img_6810For months and months I have tried to get a photos of the flying fish as they scurry away from the boat. They are kinda hard to see but at least I was successful. The fish swim in groups and as we motor along they will jump/fly out of the way. The bigger the fish, the further and longer they fly. I have talked about the flying fish in a couple other blogs about the birds chasing them and about them landing on the deck of our boat when the water is rough. First photo of them.

When we arrived at the opening of the ICW where Fort Pierce is located we were faced with another entrance channel to go through. There were a couple sailboats ahead of us that we followed into the bay. We also noticed that the breakwater had lots of fisherman that were not quite so socially distant as I would have thought. As we worked to try and find a place to set anchor we realized that the water was pretty shallow everywhere except close to the ICW channel.

We had to put our anchor down in 4-5 feet depth of water and hoped we didn’t move too much. We have 3 different navigations systems and they all showed us in a slightly different spot. What we “DID” know, we were just on the edge of the ICW channel. We were hoping we wouldn’t be awakened in the middle of the night by officials to move. We had put our anchor down late and we were leaving early, we felt we didn’t have much choice.  We set anchor alarms and watched the wind closely. No one bothered us, luckily.

“The IntraCoastal Waterways (ICW) has a channel marked to be able to navigate safely from Florida to Boston MA which is approx 10-12 feet deep, however, silting & shoaling have reduced the controlled depths in some spots to as low as 5 feet”

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Fourth Leg = Fort Pierce to Indian Harbor Beach, Telemar Marina 45 nm – This leg was the most challenging. We weren’t in the ocean where we could set a course autopilot, monitor the progress and adjusting once in a while. This was active, slower moving, all focused type cruising. We have done a bit of this in some places in the Columbia River that runs between Oregon/Washington, nothing to this magnitude. We traveled 43 nm through the ICW which took us most of the day. The majority of this trip we were in a channel approximately 200 foot wide and mostly 9 feet deep, with rocks, mud, or trees right to the edge. The charts did not match the aids to navigation markers very accurately. We were also battling a sustained wind of 20 mph with gusts to 40 mph. All this meant that Dan didn’t let “ME” drive very much… I’m sure all you boating wife’s have experienced this before, frustrating!

Some of the things we passed and saw along the way…..

We went under 6 bridges, only one had to be opened for us. Lots of expensive houses/neighborhoods. We saw a family fishing on a low sandbar with their boat just parked/anchored while they fished and their kids ran around. We passed a couple research institutes, a luxury community named “Windsor” that is customized to British style entertainment & sports such as Polo and Tennis courts like Wimbledon for the millionaires. We saw Ospreys nesting on top of navigation markers & a tug and barge business at Fort Pierce close to where we anchored.

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As we were pulling into the the Telemar marina it was pouring rain & thunderstorm, I was soaked to the skin doing lines/fenders and tossing our lines to the dock handler, who by the way, was holding an umbrella.. it was too funny.

img_6804Once we got tied to the dock, we always do a bit of adjusting of lines and fenders, connect our shore power and just get overall settled. One of the reasons we picked this marina is we have friends here. Gina and Chris welcomed us with 6 foot away hugs! They are so kind as they let us borrow one of their vehicles. As we were taking the keys and chatting it up…. we saw 2 dolphins in 4 feet of water near the seawall. They were chasing fish in the in the marina right beside us….. which we could see both the fish and the dolphins chasing them.

We are snug in our spot in the marina and will try and enjoy our time as much as we can, even being cooped up so much.

Thanks for all your support and happy you are one of my readers!

Keep well and safe!

Dan and Angela on Angelique ♥

 

 

Leaving Jamaica During the Pandemic & Fuel Issues on our Longest Run Ever! …#42

A decision had to be made during our Jamaican 14-day quarantine. We were anchored out in Kingston bay that was full of trash and jellyfish. Everything was closed, we weren’t allowed on shore and we didn’t feel welcomed when we made calls to the marina for assistance. (which they told us we could do) We had to ask ourselves some questions….. Why were we here? What if we get sick? What if one of our family members gets sick? How would we get out of here? 

We were hearing more and more stories of countries closing down their borders and boaters not able to leave. We have multiple friends/acquaintances in Panama (on both side of the Canal) & Costa Rica that are stuck. No place to take their boat and no plane flights out. The countries have shut down entry and exits. No movement allowed even between marinas.

The answer was pretty clear, we needed to go back to the United States as soon as possible!

Our next struggle was getting into Key West, Florida. The Florida Keys are in Monroe County and they had closed their borders to all incoming vessels and to non-residents of the county.  I can’t even image a US citizen, like us, taking a multiple day run in the ocean and not being able to come to shore. Going to the next county, Miami-Dade was at least 1 more additional day journey. We were not willing to risk going an additional day up to Miami. We were either going to find a marina or have to anchor out and rest.

I was in communications with OLOH Motor Yacht via email. They have a blog that I was following and I knew they were in the Keys and they knew the area well. I reached out to AJ and asked some questions about marinas. They were in a good marina and thought that the marina would take us too. So we made the call and asked the question. We were accepted in with only time enough to come in, get re-provisioned and do any repairs we needed. We then had to leave. We were very grateful we found a nice marina willing to risk us coming in and gave us “safe harbor” from the ocean. Thanks to our friends on OLOH!  

Now we had our plans, we just needed a “PERFECT” weather window. This trip was going to be another long one, as was our cruise to Panama & San Francisco. But on each of those we had one extra crew member. This one would be just Dan and I from Jamaica through the Cayman Islands, around Cuba’s West end and North side and up to Key West Florida. With the pandemic going on we wouldn’t be able to have friends or crew join us. It would be the longest trip that we had taken with this boat. We would be alone for 3-4 days, just two of us, A LONG trip and if weather wasn’t the best we would need to make some safety decisions. 

We did plan for a safety stop, one night anchored close in around George Town, Cayman Islands. We would stay one night, rest and then take off again. We were hoping the weather would be nice and we wouldn’t need this stop. We also knew we could get lucky with the strong trade winds/currents. We would be going with the current, rather than against it, it could give us a good push from behind us. This map shows the currents and directions around Cuba and up to the Florida Keys.

We saw a weather window that looked good out about 5 days away. We just kept watching it, sometimes the window will change and/or disappear. We watched it every day, over time it kept getting better and better. We could see calm seas with a 4 day opening and we made the decision to leave as soon as we got checked out of the country.

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Checking out of Jamaica was also a struggle. When we arrived and checked into the country, custom, immigration &  a health inspector came to our boat via a small shuttle boat “pay for service” WE PAID for…..$60 usd. We of course, didn’t know it at the time and got suckered into it. While planning our departure, we didn’t want the same thing to happen. We explained we were not going to pay for someone to shuttle folks out to see us. So we were asked to meet the customs agents at a nearby location at Port Royal. We took our dinghy on Monday morning, the day of our departure, which worked well. Immigrations wanted to meet us the evening before at the fuel dock, so we wouldn’t really come a shore. (they never showed up for the planned appointment). Which again added to our frustrations with Jamaica. We explained it to the customs agent and all seemed to be fine.

img_6417We left Kingston Jamaica on Monday 2/23 at 10:30 am. We had planned a fast and hard run to keep the trip as short as possible, 72 hours non-stop was our plan. We were planning on going at top speed of 1300 rpm which gave us about 10-11 knots speed. As we headed out into the ocean it was a bit rough for the first few hours but once we turned around the tip of Jamaica the wind and waves were at our stern (back of the boat) and pushed us. We had a small amount of swells, but looked like a good trip was in front of us.

First 2 days were totally uneventful, nice weather, sleeping in rotations, eating, manning the helm and repeat. Dan and I were doing our normal watch rotations and we were both tired but really enjoying the trip. It was a nice calm trip so far.

All would not remain so perfect

On the 3rd night’s watch I was up at 2:30 am to take over for Dan. He had noticed that the oil pressure on the starboard engine was fluctuating. He went down to check it out and add a bit of oil. At that very moment, both engines started sputtering and losing power. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I was for sure frightened. I in no way wanted to be in the middle of the ocean with no engine power, in the dark of night. Dan noticed the engines too and quickly changed fuel tanks, we have 4. We were running low on fuel and needed to change fuel tanks. Dan wasn’t quite quick enough and we lost the starboard engine. He came back up to started the engine, but it wouldn’t start. Dan’s assumption was that it pulled some air and lost fuel. He went back down, took care of the oil issue and added some fuel in the Racor fuel filters and tried to start the engine again, multiple times without luck. My thought and question was… is the fuel filter clogged? He didn’t think so, because it was just changed a few weeks ago.  He checked and sure enough it was black and in need of a change. He swapped it out, filled the Racor again, and the engine took off and we were back with full power. We then assumed that the filter was clogged due to the bottom of the fuel tank being sucked up.

BUT still we had another issue

img_6460We were using way too much fuel going as fast as we were. Dan had done his calculations, but they were off a bit and the engines were using more fuel than he expected. We still had 250 miles to go and only 500 gallons of fuel remaining. We would run out of fuel just as we arrived in Florida with none to spare, at this pace. We had to slow down and sip the remaining fuel, versus gulp it. We had expected to arrive Thursday late in the day. It was now going to take an additional 10 ish hours, which would include another overnighter and just more hours out at sea.

img_6486For the remainder of the trip we slowed down to 1000 rpm which gave us about 7-8 knots of speed. Dan also did a regular check on the fuel tank to see the “new” burn rate. We were doing much better and happy with the consumption. We were lucky that the Gulf Stream current was pushing us which increased our speed to about 9.5 knots.

We arrived in the Florida keys around 1:30am Friday with 200 gallons of fuel to spare and a total of 88 hours underway at sea. We were really glad to make it, no matter what time it was. Whew…..

We needed a place to anchor for the night and Dan found one just off Wisteria Island in Key West harbor.  In the morning we planned to get fuel and head to the marina. We were grateful for a lot of things during this trip. Yes it was longer than we would have like, but we made it safe and sound. We had a safe haven from the sea at a marina and we didn’t run out of fuel in the middle of the ocean! All good things!

We were able to check into the US by our new ROAM App. We checked into the marina and I quickly got an Uber to the local grocery store for provisions , while Dan worked on a few repairs, a few new zincs on the bottom, new belts on the engines, new batteries for the the genset, cockpit bilge pump repairs, and a few electrical issues to stimulate his brain.

We are staying safe on our boat and rarely going out other than for food or supplies. I hope you and your family are staying safe too. I know it is hard to stay inside, but the more people go out in public, the longer the virus will take to settle down.

SO PLEASE, stay safe and inside!

Blessing to you and your families during this crazy time.

Dan and Angela on Angelique