The end of the year is always a busy time for us with Christmas, Cloe’s Bday, our anniversary, and New Year’s. This year is busy, but with all the right things for the right reasons. We spend all our time together playing boardgames, building puzzles, playing at the beach, kayaking around the anchorage, and crafting. Now we do live on a boat, so it’s also filled with boat work and a few errands, thankfully with Eric’s parent’s car. (It is also nice to have a homeschool holiday too.)
We stay in West Palm through the holiday and well into January. We are able to secure a mooring location and decide to put in a mooring with some of the excess chain and line from the boat. I buy a couple of sand screws to anchor the mooring to the bottom. We have a fairly simple plan; attach everything together on the boat, toss it into the dinghy, go to the location, drop it to the sea floor, dive in after it and screw one to the bottom, then go to the other screw and get that one into the sand. As with all plans they are good right up until execution. However, our plan is thrown off course days before. A front comes through and the wind picks up to 20+ knots. By the time all the parts come in, the water has about 1 foot visibility. We are on a time crunch because my parents have to get back to their house.
I am running out of time and the day that we have to put in the mooring is bitter cold, around 35 degrees outside, the visibility is less than a foot, and the waves are almost a foot. My mother decides to help by continually informing us that if we dive in these conditions we are going to die. All in all it is going to be challenging. The good part is that the water temperature doesn’t drop like the air, it isn’t warm, but not bitterly cold. I give my dad my wetsuit and I just suck it up. Our plan is largely unchanged, it is just going to be more challenging as we aren’t able to see anything. Dad and I go over the plan several times before we go underwater. As I first get into the water and onto the bottom, the lack of visibility is completely disorienting. Between the cold water and not being able to see I feel like I am spinning. It takes considerable concentration to steady up. Clearly training for these spins by using alcohol pays off. Just over an hour later we successfully drive both sand screws into the bottom, albeit the screws are about 90 degrees from where I want them, but they are in.
Once in the dinghy and heading back to the boat I am shaking uncontrollably. My lovely wife has anticipated that we will be cold and has made hot chocolate. She’s clairvoyant. It is the best hot chocolate I’ve tasted in some time.
I decide to let the mooring settle for about a week before moving on to it. In the mean time Kelly wants to provision for the Bahamas as we won’t be back up this way before we cross over. She works with the local Publix and buys over $5k in food. The manager at Publix says they can deliver, as that is one of the conditions of the purchase. It takes the better part of a week to satisfy the vast majority of Kelly’s list. Publix takes two days and 5 truck loads to deliver. Each truck load takes me 3 trips in the dinghy. In the end we have a ton of food, quite literally. I think we loose about two inches of freeboard and the bottom step of the stern is dangerously close to the water. However, somehow we get it all stowed for lack of a better word. Tali has to give up her bed for some storage.
Ok…in my defense, provisioning. is. hard. Before moving on the boat, I even practiced boat provisioning. Seriously. I went a long time between grocery store runs, switched from fresh and frozens to canned, and introduced a moderate amount of beans to our diet to thwart inadequate protein consumption and infamous Hauquitz room-clearing gas events. I thought I was ready for my first real provision. I was wrong. I blame my not-so-stellar math ability wrongly calculating our ‘portion to reality’ ratio. The good thing is that everything I’ve overbought is shelf-stable, so nothing is going to waste. Well, almost nothing. But that’s for a later blog post.
After spending a month in West Palm we are finally ready to move out. It is good to get provisions, I make some needed repairs, and putting the mooring in gives us a home base. We decide to leave at sunset and sail through the night past Ft. Lauderdale and into the south of Miami. This is going to finally be a good night sail.
The wind is blowing 10 knots from the east. The wind is supposed to hold steady through the night. I put up the sails and put the engines into neutral. We are only sailing at 3 knots, so it looks like it will be a long motorsail; however, the wind starts to strengthen. By 20:00 the wind is up enough that we can sail at 5+ knots and I turn off the engines. By 22:00 the wind is gusting over 25 knots and we are moving at 8+.
The night is cloudy and dark, but the western horizon is illuminated by the cities. At around 23:00 I see the lights of a tug pushing a barge. It takes me a long time to identify its orientation and I have to change course to keep a comfortable distance. At midnight the gusts are approaching 30 knots and I decide to reef. The waves are steadily building, but they are not concerning. Unfortunately with our speed in excess of over 8 knots, we are going to blow by south Miami way too early to go in. At around 3:00 we approach the inlet to Miami. Holy crap it is busy. There are tugs, tankers, barges, and cruise ships all over lining up to get in. I am not comfortable with the crowd. I have Kelly turn on our deck light to make us more visible, but with these sizable boats, I don’t think it will matter.
I look for a gap to be able to cut across the inlet traffic. It looks like I can make it between a cruise ship and a freighter. It’s amazing how slow it seems to take to get across a 200 foot channel when there is a freighter bearing down on you. I put the engines on and throw her into gear. We pass in front of the freighter by probably a hundred yards or so, but at night it seems like it is just on top of us. The freighter doesn’t like it either and tells us with the blast of his horn.
Our plans of going into No Name Harbor just south of Miami are dashed. It is 3:30 and we are passing by the inlet. I am not going to attempt a new inlet in the dark, so we continue south. I figure as the light starts to rise I’ll be able to pick out a different place for us to anchor. We get another 20-25 nm before the sun comes up. I look at the chart and find what looks like a cut into Biscayne Bay in north Key Largo. We get there just about sun up.
There are two creeks that run into the Biscayne Bay at the north end of Key Largo. They are about 1/2 nm from each other. Looking at the charts shows that they both have about 5 ft depth. We draw 4.5 ft, so it will be close. For no logical reason I chose the more southern one. Then I think, “Maybe we’ll get lucky with the tide.” I ask Kelly to look up the tide schedule. She finds that low tide is at 7:15, good…not good it is 7:27. I guess if we go aground the tide will be coming up, so it will float us off. The entrance to Angelfish creek is shallow and I see the depth sounder read 0.1, but we make it into the creek. Once in the creek it is plenty deep. As we exit I turn the boat into the wind and we anchor a hundred yards from the creek. With the anchor down I go to bed.