South Across Florida Bay

From St James City we took another quick jump south to Naples where we had made reservations to spend a night at the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club where we would visit one our favorite Dockmasters, Marilyn, who some of you will remember, was the Dockmaster at our own club for a few years. She is just the greatest person and a tremendous Dockmaster on top of it all. We talked about friends and family, crazy boaters, and upcoming events at her club. In fact, the very next day was the Dressing of the Fleet at NSYC, and there were no less than 40 yachts fully dressed for the occasion. They build a reviewing stand, have a docktail party the night before, and award prizes for the best dressed yacht and crew. The Fleet Review is a major event for their club, and they take great pride in how it is presented. Off to the right is a photo of Ocean Angel dressed in her finest for one of the Bradenton Yacht Club’s past Blessing of the Fleet events, and it would be nice to see 30 or 40 of our boating family participate in an event such as this one.

Ocean Angel all Dressed Up
Ocean Angel all Dressed Up

On all of our previous trips south we’ve made the long jump from Naples across Florida Bay to either Key West or Marathon. That distance typically works out to be a 14 hour day, and that makes for a tough jaunt. For those of you familiar with Florida Bay, that body of water can be either the roughest or most benign pond. It seems that all too often, it is rough, and I find it to be one of the most uncomfortable passages of any in my experience. Short, steep waves coupled with lots of wind make for a wild wet ride, and 14 hours of it is too much. I’d rather be in the open ocean with lots more wind than in Florida Bay any day.
 So, this year we were looking for a possible alternative. I had spoken to one of the delivery captains I met while delivering a 44 foot Luhrs Sportfish to the Miami boat show earlier this year. Captain Ed was coordinating the delivery of several boats, including the one I had, and he was taking a trawler down by himself. Since the trawler, a Monk 36, was much slower than all the other boats, he left earlier and stayed in the Shark River one night. Back in August 1981, Joy and I stayed at Shark while moving our boat and family south to Florida; it was unbelievably hot, and the mosquitoes were so thick and big they carried us away. In all these years, we never returned, but we got to thinking – March – cold weather – hey, no mosquitoes.

Arriving at Shark River
Arriving at Shark River

Could we get in there with our 6 plus draft? I called Captain Ed, and he gave me some first hand knowledge saying that if we watched our course carefully, we should be able to make it. We sailed south crossing our fingers, and following Ed’s directions, we stayed away from the two entrance green markers, and had no less than 9 feet all the way in. We anchored in about 10 feet maybe a mile up the river, and spent two of the most relaxing days. Outside the wind was howling a nasty 25 knots out of the south – Florida Bay – remember? No way were we punching straight into 25 knots on Florida Bay. .

Shark Sunset
Shark Sunset

Some of you probably wonder what in the world do we do all day? Sitting around sipping cool drinks and nodding off or what? Nothing could be further from the reality of what our days are like. There is always something to do on an ocean traveling yacht. A water leak to find and fix; a wire to reroute for a safer run; cleaning and polishing; sails to mend; course plotting and trip planning; listening to weather on SSB and downloading the GRIB weather files; compiling all the weather data and planning a crossing. There’s never a lack of things to do, and we always wonder where in the world the day went. Time just gets away from you.
On the second morning we weighed anchor setting our course for Marathon, an easy day’s run of only 40 miles or so with light winds in the beam; a nice way to cross the bay. We spent the night on the hook off Boot Key Harbor, then pulled in to the Marathon Marina and Boat Yard the following morning. We had lots of work to do, what with laundry, fresh grocery shopping, boat clean up, and projects. Look to our equipment pages to discover how I solved the problem of malfunctioning water tank gauges. 
We can’t say enough good about this marina; the people are great; the staff is friendly; the location is awesome, and the sunsets are breath taking. What more could you ask?

Rodriguez Key, Florida Looks benign, doesn't it?
Rodriguez Key, Florida
Looks benign, doesn’t it?

Somewhat reluctantly, we dropped the lines in Marathon and headed for our jump off point to the Bahamas, Rodriguez Key, about 45 miles northward. Our forecast looked promising for an early morning departure, and we wanted to arrive early to rest, ready the boat, and plan the next day. Well, in winter and spring, Florida has its share of cold fronts, this year more so than any in remembrance. A predicted front decided to fire up the turbo boost, and the next days wind forecast ratcheted up from the previously predicted SE 15 to SE 25 to 30. OK, no way, so we sat, and waited, and watched the weather.  

Wait and Watch the Weather