Begin the Voyage to the Caribbean

We departed on February 25, 2011, and realizing months might pass before we returned, we looked back wistfully at BYC Slip 41, our Angel’s home port for the past 10 years. We had a forecast of moderate temperatures and winds for our trip down the Florida west coast ICW, uneventful, familiar territory. We stopped at many favorite haunts along the way south, Venice Yacht Club, the anchorage at St. James City, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, Shark River, and of course, Marathon Marina and Boat Yard. Weather delayed us only once, and we waited a day for the breeze to ease while docked at NSYC. While there we visited with one of our good friends, Marilyn, the NSYC dockmaster, and former BYC dockmaster. 

Shark River Sunset
Shark River Sunset

Friends continue to ask us why we go to the Marathon Boat Yard instead of Marathon Yacht Club; the answer – we like it! An easy access fuel dock; a laundry with six washers and six dryers; close to shopping; close to restaurants, and the nicest people in the world. So we return, time after time.
High winds pinned us to the dock in Marathon for a couple days, but that was just about the time we needed to do the laundry, hit the grocery store for last minute items, and go out to lunch once before heading north to Rodriguez Key. We jumped the gun by one day leaving the dock with East winds at 20 and the waves in protected Hawk Channel proved to be more than we wanted to take for 7 or 8 hours. So we anchored in the lee of Boot Key and waited a day. Sailing north to Rodriguez was old hat, other than watching every second for crab pots, hundreds of them. That evening I tried to fire up the grill to cook some chops, and it would not produce any heat.
Staring at our Grill
Staring at our Grill

The next day as we waited for favorable wind to cross the Gulf Stream, I puzzled over the grill, finally determining that the regulator was faulty. Of course, I did not have a spare gas regulator. Well, a dinghy ride to shore and taxi rides to and from the West Marine store in Key Largo solved the problem – one very expensive regulator. The part was $30; the taxi rides were $40. But, imagine trying to find that regulator in the islands somewhere!  Now we could grill all those tasty meals stored in the freezer.
With winds forecast at SE 10 to 15 for the next day, we rose early, leaving the anchorage in the dark. I only recommend this practice if you are very familiar with your route out through the reefs at Rodriguez. The cuts are narrow in places, and you must know where you are. But off we went, bouncing a bit as we left the shallower waters where the reef drops off and the deep water piles up against the wall. But after that first hour, it was a piece of cake – until about 1400 hours when I looked back at the US mainland and saw a monster black wall of clouds headed our way. Nothing like it had been forecast.
Cat Cay and the Cut in the background on a quieter day
Cat Cay and the Cut in the background on a quieter day

I reefed the main, battened down the hatches, and sent Joy below to keep her from getting cold and soaked. Just as we got hit with 25 knots of NE wind and rain, NOAA issued an alert to watch for squally weather streaking SW across the Stream. I furled the Genoa to a handkerchief as wind speed rose to 35 knots; waves became walls of water, and rain poured down so hard I literally could not see the bow of the boat. Wave after wave cascaded over the boat slamming into the port side like malicious angry bulls. One wave completely engulfed the boat, bow to stern. And just like that, the rain stopped, and the wind died off to a paltry 25 knots. But the waves remained, very large waves, and I waited an hour for them to die a bit before entering the11 foot deep cut at Gun Cay, with 6 to 8 foot waves still chasing me in. We were very relieved to drop anchor.

Move on to Chub Cay Club