Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 14, 2015

Single-handing in Florida

7.12.15 – Monday – Some shopping for food for the next few days, then reading, chatting, passing the time until the next day. I used the time to plan my single-handed trip to Miami; doing 25-30 miles each day would bring me on Friday to Key Biscayne, near Miami, enabling me to go into Miami port and the Intracoastal waterway and proceed some 14 miles to Juda’s place.

8.12.15 – Tuesday – I took Danny ashore for his airport shuttle. During breakfast, the sentimental man that he is, he handed me a letter he wrote, summarizing the two months we spent together on the boat. It included some warm words that he thought I deserved. I’m no letter writer, my tool of expression is this blog and I use it now to say how much I enjoyed Danny’s company; his energies, optimism and positive attitude make him the ultimate crew and friend.

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With Danny in the rain

Starting out at 1130 I did not have a lot of time on my hands and so elected to sail to Duck Key, about 14 miles away. As I powered the nav instruments in preparation for leaving, I noticed that the depth instrument was showing three dashes instead of the depth information. I was sailing a predetermined route at depths of 4-6 meters and having a serviceable depth gauge was absolutely essential. I played with the instrument but it only operated intermittently.

I reached Duck Key and the waypoint for anchoring at three meters; the instrument was in coma and the water not clear enough to read the bottom. That location was choppy and I started looking for a calmer spot; in one that I  thought to be good the anchor dragged over what felt like rubble. I finally found an area, the color of which indicated a sandy bottom, dropped the anchor and got excellent holding.

The starboard engine has reached the hours for oil change so I went into the engine room and did it. I suddenly saw that one of the belts of the big alternator was broken, the other one in a bad state of repair; I replaced both belts. I also dived to look at the outside of the depth sounder to see whether it was fouled in any way; it was not. Looking at the Raymarine manual I found out that the problem might be with the cable or the transducer itself, nothing I could repair myself. Bad news! Got to be extra careful going into shallow anchorages.

9.12.15 – Wednesday – Early to bed early to rise, at 0700 I was already out of the anchorage. Finally a nice day! Blue skies, flat seas and good wind which enabled me to sail 24 of the 30 miles to Rodriguez Key without using an engine. I sailed through the Hawk channel, which is shallow but safe. I had to be at the helm continuously to avoid those floats which were simply everywhere. I saw the fishing boats taking them out and they were all connected to crab or lobster pots.

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My depth gauge came back to life for a time and for a while I thought it would stay but at the moment I needed it most – coming to anchor near Rodriguez Key – it started flashing again, showing the last depth received. I just went to the waypoint, saw a monohull at anchor nearby and dropped mine. During the afternoon more yachts came until we were seven. A popular place. Oh! Almost forgot; the island is off the shores of Key Largo, which for people like me (the Oldies) brings up memories of the movie by that name, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Nostalgia…

10.12.15 – Thursday – Once again I went out at 0700, sailing northeast on my way towards Miami. My destination of the day was the area of Pumpkin Key, a private island rumored to be on the market for 110 million bucks. To get there I would have to pass through Angelfish creek to the west of the Keys line. The depths out of it as shown on the chart were minimal and with my unreliable depth gauge I was loath to do it. Instead, I found Caesar creek, a few miles further, which gave entry to an anchorage between Adams and Meigs keys at reasonable depth. Going in there required following a three miles narrow channel, marked by red and green markers.

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looking back towards the entrance

At one point, passing between two keys, a current of two knots sprang up; I started the second engine and reached my intended spot just in time for lunch. By the way, apart from the first few minutes, the depth gauge operated flawlessly!

11.12.15 – Friday – I was awakened by the clatter of rain and hail; the time was 0400. I went out to take the fuel tank out of the dinghy so that if it filled with water the tank would not capsize and spill fuel. Of course I got a bit wet and back in my cabin I opened the cupboard where we keep towels and found everything there saturated with water including all of Gili’s clothes. How come? In the past we had some leaks from water pipes passing behind the cupboard but we thought we fixed it. Need to investigate and to do a lot of laundry!

When morning came there were still some big black clouds around.

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I decided to wait until they would dissipate; having a leg of only 22 miles to Key Biscayne I could take my time. When I went out there was light wind and I had to motor all the way.

The entrance to Key Biscayne is very shallow in places, so of course the depth gauge did not work. I navigated by the charts but it was very stressful. Once I rounded Cape Florida, on the southernmost tip of the island, I had a pleasant surprise. The area is a national park, densely wooded, has trails for walking and cycling and some platforms for fishermen. There were a few yachts in the anchorage near the entry to “No Name Harbor”, which is a small inlet, where boats can anchor, paying by honor code. There is also a nice restaurant in there.

Once at anchor, I decided to ask local yachties about the entry procedures into Miami port. I spotted a Seawind 1000 catamaran coming out of the “No Name” and anchoring near “Two Oceans” and went visiting. Andrea and Tom are from California; they are sailing winters, mainly in Central America. They invited me on board, opened the charts and a Florida guide book and started filling in the holes in my Florida knowledge. The first thing they said was that with my 57 foot mast height I cannot go to Juda’s place in Sunny Isles via Miami port; the Julia Tuttle causeway bridge has only 56 foot clearance…I’d need to go 32 miles north to Fort Lauderdale and then 10 miles back south on the Intracoastal Waterway.

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                          Tom and Andrea on Manana

 So now that I had all the information I needed and after going for a walk in the park, I sat down at the boat and opened the weather channel on the V.H.F. The forecast I took in the morning said Saturday would be “breezy” but what I heard in the evening was bad. Gusts up to 30 knots were mentioned – no go situation! Sunday would be even worse but on Monday the winds would be from the southeast – perfect! I was in no rush and decided to wait; I might try the “No Name” restaurant tomorrow. I called Humberto, who works for Juda and who is now my contact in Fort Lauderdale (Juda is in N.Y.C for a wedding) and let him know of my decision.

12.12.15 – Saturday – The morning seemed nice enough; as is my habit I listened to the forecast. Not as bad as it was presented yesterday. To make sure I visited the NOAA internet site and this is what I saw: “TODAY  EAST NORTHEAST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET  WITH OCCASIONAL SEAS TO 6 FEET. DOMINANT PERIOD 10 SECONDS BECOMING  5 SECONDS IN THE AFTERNOON. INTRACOASTAL WATERS A MODERATE CHOP.” That’s not bad at all! Forget the restaurant, let’s move!

I took the anchor out and using both engines motored through the exit, depth not working again but following yesterday’s waypoints. An initial course to clear Miami port and then sails only, heading north to Fort L. At some point the wind strengthened to more than 20 knots true and with Two Oceans romping along at more than 7 knots I reefed the main to first reef. We were going quite fast; The entrance to Fort Lauderdale was reached at noon, four and a half hours from departure. I thought I would anchor in Sylvia Lake for the night but Humberto, to whom I spoke on the phone, convinced me that I had time enough to come to Sunny Isles; he would wait there for me.

Entering the Intracoastal Waterway was interesting. After passing cruise ships and other commercial vessels it looked like driving on a motorway inside a city. A lot of traffic going both ways. I had to cross five opening bridges and a fixed, 65 foot one. The operation of the bridges was very efficient; by keeping 6-6.5 knots I came to each of them in time and did not have to wait for their opening.

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I reached Sunny Isles, Humberto guided me in and “Two Oceans” went into her home for the next two months.

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I hope to do a lot of maintenance jobs here and then resume cruising, initially to the Bahamas I expect. A lot of ideas regarding our sailing way of life are being considered by Gili and me but I won’t get into that before any firm decision is taken.

With that bit of suspense I leave you now,

Adios from Miki on “Two Oceans”.

Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 7, 2015

Florida Keys–December 2015

3.12.15 – Thursday – We dinghied  to a marina we spotted ashore opposite our anchorage. We found out that two marinas shared West Bight, one with that same name and the other A&B marina. A lot of traditional vessels as well as modern one cater to the many tourists coming to Key West.

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The first thing on our agenda was Customs and Border Protection check-in. They have an office in town but it was closed due to the arrival of a cruise ship. We had to take a taxi to the airport. Memories of a similar situation in Cozumel came into my mind but of course the U.S authorities operate in a totally different manner and everything was concluded satisfactorily. Next we went to a mall in search of lunch, a supermarket and a place that would sell a local SIM card. That last item was surprisingly difficult and was postponed for the next day. Finding a place with WiFi internet also was unsuccessful, can you believe it?

4.12.15 – Friday – The marina is situated in the Historic downtown of the island which is full of pretty wooden buildings surrounded by trees.

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Again,this is tourist land and one of the things tourists do is DRINK so the place is overflowing with pubs, bars and the like. Another feature of this town is the abundance of chickens running free around the place; this is a mystery I have yet to unfold.

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We walked around town, finally finding an internet café, where I could download the weather. After a long search we found a prepaid SIM in a CVS store but back at the boat I saw I needed to activate it on line or by phone, neither of which I had on board (my Israeli SIM was not working properly). Back to town and the CVS store; “Help, I need to activate”, “we only sell them” said the guy at the till. I went back to a store which we visited during our search; I asked the young girl in there whether she could do it for me, saying I’d pay for the service. She was not very busy and did it refusing any payment; I succeeded in overcoming her reluctance and finally had a local number and a data pack.

5.12.15 – Saturday – With a good forecast for the few days ahead we started out for Marathon Key about 40 miles away. One could sail there close to shore in what is called Hawk channel, with depths of 10 meters and less, sometimes 4 meters deep. We, however chose to go to deeper waters, hoping to ride the gulfstream. In reality we got a counter-current and choppy sea and decided to go back to the channel, where the current was less and the water calm.  On the way the view was that of some keys and the bridges between them, on which the road all the way to the mainland passes.

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At 1600 we anchored in the lee of Boot Key, which is connected to the southwestern part of Marathon.

In the evening we spoke to Juda Tzinder, who has a yacht management company and with whom I was in touch ever since he helped me when I bought “Two Oceans” in 2007. He described the entrance to Miami port and the way to a dock near his place. We planned to sail there Sunday overnight and arrive at our final destination on noon Monday. We were both a bit tired and after dinner of chicken fajitas with guacamole accompanied by Margaritas we went to bed.

6.12.15 – Sunday – As I woke up I had a nice idea; instead of going out at midday to reach Miami in the morning, we could depart in the morning, stop in the evening in some Key on the way, have a rest and dinner and continue. Danny liked the idea too and we decided to leave and have breakfast on the way. But first – download the forecast – SURPRISE! The one we saw yesterday showed light winds from the east northeast; the new one gave northeasterly of 20 knots for the next two days, right on the nose and against the stream! We tuned the V.H.F to the weather channel and had the forecast confirmed plus the information that the waves would be 5-8 feet high. Our plan simply crashed. What now? The deciding factor is that Danny flies out of Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

There was only one solution; we took the dinghy to the Marathon marina, next to our anchorage and asked at the office about ground transportation to the airport. The ladies in the office were really nice, downloaded and printed for us the schedule of the Key West Airport Shuttle service. We called them and reserved a seat for Danny. I thought about spending Monday in the marina and inquired about the availability and cost of a berth. It came up to 137.97$ for a night so the idea was abandoned.

During the afternoon I perused the charts for a plan by which I would day-sail the 100 miles to Miami. It may take four days…

Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 4, 2015

Sailing from Mexico to Eastern Florida

30.11.15 – Monday – We had lunch in a beach restaurant opposite the anchorage, motored to the fuel station and then, at 1500, went out of Isla Mujeres bay for a trip that was different than most of the others we sailed before. This one entailed finding and riding the Gulfstream. I wrote in the previous post that www.passageweather.com had the current’s prediction but the chart shown is of such small scale it makes decisions difficult. According to it we should have sailed due north but at first we had no current at all and the wind, instead of coming from the east as forecasted, was northerly. We turned east-northeast towards our final destination keeping an eye on the instruments, waiting for signs of the stream.

At 2000, at the longitude of 86 29 W we found it, turned north and it added 2 knots to our speed over ground.

1.12.15 – Tuesday –  When I came on watch at 0200, the wind was light easterly; Danny has opened the jib but still kept the engine running. Half an hour later I could shut it down, put the autopilot on “wind” mode and sail more than 10 degrees east of north at a speed of 7 knots S.O.G. By that time we had 65 miles to go to the latitude where the stream is supposed to turn east.

As the day progressed we continue to “steal” some easting, aiming to reach 23 30 N 86 30W, gaining a few precious miles to the east. Eight miles before that point the wind enabled us to sail even more to the east but the current changed direction, coming from starboard and making us lose speed. Running after the current was the name of the game, we continued east hoping that it would change direction and come from our stern. An unwanted interlude was a 40 minutes squall, which we tried to dodge by turning up to 50 degrees to starboard; we still got very wet. Later in the early evening another one came. The wind now came from dead ahead at 16-18 knots; single engine did not give enough speed so reluctantly I started the second one. With wind came waves and the ride turned bumpy. Not easy on the crew; the pot in which I put the ingredients for fish curry in coconut milk was thrown off the stove spilling its contents on the floor. We cleaned,cooked and ate our dinner with no enthusiasm at all.

At 2000 we started a watch schedule; I did the one from 2200-0200.

2.12.15 – Wednesday – Just before the end of my watch, I rechecked the ETA according to the plotter; it showed that at our present speed (we had a 1.5 knot current, giving close to 7 knots S.O.G) we’ll reach Key West during the night. Since we prefer entering in daylight I shut down one engine. Slower speed made the ride easier, which was a bonus.

0600 – I came out to take the watch over from Danny. He showed me the wind and current situation and it was apparent that we can take up the final course for the Key West entrance 134 miles away using sail power only. Opened the jib. shut down the engine – and we had great sailing. I called the Key West office of the Customs and Border Protection agency, gave our information and was told to call the special toll free number they have for  arrival reports at 10 miles out. The present speed says night arrival and the forecast is for the wind to become lighter and veer to the south. Good things do not last and in the afternoon the wind died. Back to single engine with the current contributing an S.O.G of 8 knots plus.

I read a piece of info somewhere that the main ship channel into Key West was very busy;on the chart we found Southwest Channel which seemed ideal to go in. Just before entering it I called the Customs and Border protection number. “Call us when you are at anchor” said the agent. The time was 2100, moon not yet up but the area in front of the bows was clear enough. Danny used the binoculars and from time to time yelled:”break to the right!” seeing things I was not able to see. The channel was full of fishing floats and the buoys that appeared on our charts we not in place. At a certain point I gave up and joined the main channel which was completely empty. We approached the area I planned to anchor at and found quite a few yachts there; at 2320 we dropped the anchor. It took us 56 hours and 20 minutes to complete the trip, which is quite fast.

Called the Customs etc. once again and although I was told the station was manned 24 hours a day, I got a voice box giving a number for emergencies, not our condition whatsoever. I’ll call again tomorrow.

I looked up the info on noonsite; here it is: “If approaching at night, it is advisable to use the main channel as the alternative one is often full of fishing floats.” So far for careful preparation.

What, a post with no pictures? No way!

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                             found in the larder

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         Eagle Ford crossing our bows at 18.5 kts.

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                              Key West Harbor

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