The next morning (July 20) we headed out early again towards Key West. We had a pod of dolphins accompanying us part of the way, swimming directly alongside and looking at us from right beneath the surface, as we were hanging over the safety lines staring right back at them :-).
We made good headway, doing 6 to 7 knots in about a 12 knot wind, and passed some sights that we had only seen from land before, never from the ocean, for example Bahia Honda:
Having done some research and spoken with Chris from SeaTow Key West, it was apparent that our plan of re-provisioning fresh fruit and vegetables (and of course beer) was not going to happen in Key West – Key West was completely full due to Hemingway Weekend.
We opted to anchor in Ramrod Key, where there is great protected anchorage in Newfound Harbor. Captain Bob from SeaTow Ramrod Key / Big Pine came out to greet us, and offered the dock at his house (right behind Newfound Harbor) to leave our dinghy while we re-provision in Big Pine. So we got to shakedown the dinghy too!
A 30 minute dinghy ride (we are still using the 5 HP dinghy motor, which is sloooooow) took us to Captain Bob’s dock, and we opted to walk the 5 miles to Winn Dixie in Big Pine. It was strange to be back on terra firma after 5 days on the boat, and we were really looking forward to some exercise…
1 ½ hot walking hours later we arrived at Winn Dixie, got what we wanted, and took an Uber ride back to our dinghy.
We were so happy to get such great support from our SeaTow family, thank you so much Cheryl, Bob and Chris!
As we were coming into Newfound Harbor, we had seen a big houseboat moored up with lots of boats around it, so we asked Captain Bob about it and found out it belonged to Captain Jack, a really nice salty dog that lets people raft up and party around his “house” and invites them on for a chat. It was Saturday, so we were in! Another dinghy ride took us over there, and how cool is this! We were welcomed on the houseboat, had a great chat with Captain Jack and some of the other boaters, and had a cold beer we had brought (knowing that Captain Jack doesn’t sell anything, just invites people and gives them food).
Sunday we left early again to get past Key West towards the Marquesas Islands. Good wind in the morning again, died down again in the afternoon, as usual. We passed Key West with it’s busy harbor and big cruise ship, and headed towards Boca Grande Key, which we had picked for our anchorage. A quick look at Google Earth (last remnants of cell phone coverage) revealed that Boca Grande has a nice beach, what a treat!
On the way to Boca Grande we went through a huge Sargassum carpet, and found these 3 “birds on a wire” sitting on a piece of wood in the middle of it:
Once we had tacked into the channel at Boca Grande, we realized we were having trouble furling in the mainsail again, so there were some frantic moments of “can we ever get this sail in” before we figured out what was wrong. We made it to our chosen anchorage at the last of daylight, anchored and then snorkeled the anchor, and being satisfied that we were safe we finally settled down for a nice leftover dinner and some much needed rest after being underway for 12 hours. We decided to stay another day here at this beautiful beach at Boca Grande (we’re the only boat here :-)), break out the paddleboards and explore!
Tonight we had the stars out in force. Without ambient light from nearby cities or towns the Milky Way was clearly visible and the view spectacular. To easy to forget all that surrounds planet earth.
A leisurely next morning on Monday with a nice view of the beach, getting the paddleboards into the water, and off we were to explore! We first went over to the beach, and it is beautiful:
Then we set off to circumnavigate the island by paddleboard (Rob: “Eat your heart out Magellan”). Boca Grande is a bird sanctuary, and you are not allowed to walk on the island, but the Mangroves are beautiful. There are some nice Mangrove tunnels as well:
We saw numerous turtles, stingrays and baby sharks in the shallows, mostly Nurse Sharks but also a Blacktip Reef Shark. Then as we rounded a corner, a sailors’s worst nightmare, a beautiful sailboat beached in the mangroves, far into the shallows and likely a leftover of Hurricane Irma:
It took us over an hour to get around the entire island, and when we got back to Ronya it was time for a light lunch of tomato salad and home-made pizza baguette. The afternoon was then spent reading, swimming and relaxing, and Anya went over to the beach on her paddleboard for a while. Then some maintenance on the generator and some mainsail furling “drills” :-).
Dinner consisted of a nice leisurely “Brotzeit”: bread, various cheeses, olives, beets and a fresh side salad. And after dinner we got to watch another beautiful sunset:
Rob slept in the cockpit to find a little breeze to cool off and awoke at sunrise to find a small bird sitting on his chest staring at him. Very different to any alarm he had ever set!
Tuesday July 23 still found us at our anchorage by the beach. We had found our resting place and decided we were going to stay as long as we wanted. Anya went for a morning paddle to the beach and the adjoining inlet, but the tide was too low to get very far. It was obvious that there was a Blacktip Reef Shark nursery in the inlet, with many babies swimming around the entrance to the inlet. We both went back ay high tide and were able to paddle far into the inlet, baby sharks swimming all around us and eyeing us curiously.
After having spent a long time in the inlet, we paddled back along the lengthy beach, went for a walk on the beach, and then back to Ronya. A dinner of Caprese Salad, Crab Cakes and freshly baked Ciabatta rounded up our day, and we toasted to the beautiful sunset with a glass of red wine.
The next day we slept in and then went about setting up the Rainman watermaker. The water in the channel is not blue enough, but we wanted to set it up for working so we could “shake it down” on our way back up the Keys when we would be in blue water. Having accomplished that, we did a few more small projects on the boat and then settled down for more relaxation before high tide. When the current stopped because the tide was high, we snorkeled over to a shallow sandbar on the west side of the island. We saw lots of seagrass and a few fish, and found some lobsters (which we didn’t take although it was the first day of lobster mini-season), then snorkeled back to the other side to “our” beach for some snorkeling and walking along the beach.
The day was getting late, and back on the boat we started thinking about the way back to Key Largo. There had been no wnd for days, and the forecast was for not much more, so it would take us quite a long time to go home. We decided to stay here one more day and then set out early Friday morning to make our way back.
A meal cooked on our BBQ grill (to keep the heat out from down below) consisted of chicken sausage, grilled onions and a toasted bagel, with a salad of garbanzo beans with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. And then another spectacular sunset with a following great view of many bright stars in a black sky.
Thursday morning had us rolling around in our bunk from 3 foot seas because of unforecasted 16 knot winds. We contemplated leaving right away to take advantage of the wind, but we could already watch the wind dying down, so we stuck to our original plan of leaving Friday morning.
We spent another leisurely day reading, swimming and paddleboarding and the cats spent another day sleeping (what else).
It was fun to watch the daytrippers from Key West on the beach, one boat brought a blow-up Flamingo that was even bigger than their boat:
After a nice dinner of broccoli stir-fry and cucumber salad, we settled down for the night, to get up early on Friday and start our trip back to Key Largo. Since there was no wind at all that night, the no-see-ums finally found us, and we were eaten alive, so we didn’t get much sleep…
Friday morning July 26 found us leaving our anchorage about 6:30 am and heading east. By 9:30 we had motorsailed at 6.5 knots to Key West. Back to civilization: cellphone service and thus internet and thus a long blog post!