Key West

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As many of you know, we made our first landfall in Key West Florida after a great first passage. Many cruisers and other people “in the know” had told us to go to Marathon FL (Boot Key Harbor) as it is a cruiser haven but Dani and I had made up our minds that Key West would be our first stop. It appealed to me for many reasons. The great party vibe, the fact Hemingway had made his home here, Quest crew’s recommendations, and the fact that it just HAD to be warmer than the freezing ass cold we were enduring in Louisiana. We were right.

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When we arrived we dropped anchor initially between Tank and Wisteria Islands. This was a newbie mistake. The commercial boats would swarm through the cut between the two islands throwing monster wakes that would send the boat rocking and rolling. It was almost as though we were still at sea sometimes!

Whilst anchored between the two islands I got to witness my stated “worst sailing fears” in action. Probably an hour after we put down our anchor we watched boat drag through the anchorage and collide with the boat right in front of us. There was a loud bang and spray of fiberglass erupted from the spot marking the collision. As though this wasn’t enough, they tangled their anchor rodes and we looked on in horror as the man that had drug worked to untangle and then reanchor. (No one was on the other boat.) When he reanchored I watched as he dropped what appeared to be a 13lb Danforth on rope rode.

Later in t he day we watched as another boat drug.  Then on the second day a boat came by with someone very angry at the helm who shouted at me, “The holding sucks!”  We’d had enough.  So we upped the anchor and moved to Fleming Key far from the commercial boats and anchored there.  Again we witnessed many boats drag but I’ve said enough of that.  Luckily we’re finally settled in a little nest with a bunch of the big anchor crowd and hopefully we’re safe.

So far our 60lb Manson Boss anchor “Jefe” has not budged.  It probably helps having out about 150ft of 3/8″ BBB chain.  Dani and I sleep well.  Although raising the anchor is hard work, I don’t regret the oversized robustness.  And an added benefit, the clean waters here in Key West have scrubbed all the Louisiana mud off of our anchor gear.

Speaking of gear… I know some of you were curious how the 10ft Porta-bote would work out. So far so good. We set it up onboard for the first time. I hoisted it by the staysail halyard while we put it together vertical. It worked great. 10 minute assembly.

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Amazingly, our little 3.5HP Outboard also started right up despite having not been used in almost 3 years! I thought for sure we’d be in for some service calls as the outboards are so known for being cranky. But what a champ. We use the dingy each time we leave the boat to visit KW itself. At the dingy dock (the equivalent of a parking lot) we often get unsolicited comments on our little boat. People give us backhanded compliments like, “That is nicest crappy little boat we’ve seen.” and the like. This suits Dani and I fine because we want to be under the radar. We hear dink theft and outboard theft are big business in some places.

And before I get on with what we actually DO in Key West, I thought I’d share this photo from sending Dani up the mast to retrieve the halyard that got away from us. As you can see, the water is beautiful and yes yes, the solar panels are still there despite me joking about them flying away in the video.

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I knew KW must be okay by its schooners before we even rolled into town. We’ve been surrounded by these old gals, all beautiful in their own ways. They head out for sunset sails and pass right through anchorages, sometimes firing cannons.

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Many people call Key West “Key Weird”. It is sort of strange in its own ways. For instance, chickens and roosters just roam around the town freely. One night at Schooner Wharf Bar we saw a rooster laying in an umbrella above a table using it like a hammock. One morning I was awakened by a rooster crow. And just walking around they infest the place.

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Duval St seems like a street from somewhere in the French Quarter except it is much cleaner. Little shops run all along the path and each has its own unique feel. Tourists are everywhere. So far we witness between 1-3 cruise ships stopping into town each day. It makes for a “tourist” town, but that hasn’t stopped us from making friends with at least a few of the locals.

What better way to bond with people than a shared passion, mine of course being that of the tobacco leaf. (I know I know, you smoking nazis, just back off. I don’t do cigarettes.) Through my research we found Key West Cigar Club and met both the owners. John or “Juan” pictured below. Great selection.

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But more than that. Every time we went into this place, we met new friends. You just go in, sit down, and people start talking. The first time there some people just offered us cocktails. Great! And of course Pete (the dog) fell in love with Dani.

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One of the locals we made friends with at the Cigar Club was named Jim. He suggested we go see a show at Rick’s bar. He cautioned us many times that it wasn’t for the feint of heart or the easily offended. And boy was he right. The guy singing at the bar made fun of the audience in a near continuous smear of humor that tested the limits of the vulgar lexicon. But if you can handle it, it was hilarious. I highly suggest checking out Adrian @ Rick’s if you come by.

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Hemingway’s ghost looms large over KW not because of any sort of ethereal connection but because of tourism. Everyone wants to see his house and be associated with him. We found this mosaic of him particularly disturbing.
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His house, less so. Dani insists that I look like him. You know I’ve been pondering going for the Tom Selleck myself. What do you think?

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One of the sort of creepy things about Hemingway’s house was how many Asians were there. We found out over mojitos at a dive bar from a Polish guy (no lie) that the Asians come from all over to see the six toe’d cats. I don’t know what it means in their culture but it was no lie. The line was filled with Asian people.

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And on a final note about Key West, Pepe’s is great at happy hour. Just look at the smile on that face. Five dollars for one of the best margaritas we’ve ever had.

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Whats coming up?

We had thought of setting out over the gulf stream soon but SO many people have told us to visit the Tortugas that we’re giving that serious thought. So in a week or so we’ll turn our eyes to the weather and begin plotting. We can’t stay here forever but so far it’s been great.

Misadventures on Christmas Tree Island

After dropping anchor in Key West we spent a day doing nothing but recovering. We’d dropped anchor in twelve feet of water right off of what our chart said was “Wisteria Island”. The island right next to it was called “Tank Island”. Tank island was full of very expensive looking homes while Wisteria island looked like it was left in its natural state with shrubs and scrub brush growing on the skirts but taller things growing in the center.

Being so close over the next couple of days we were able to observe kayaks and dingies heading to shore there and people seemed to be milling about. I began to form the assumption that people would travel to this little uninhabited island to take a walk or hang out. I’ve read blogs for so long I had visions of cruisers having a little beach bon fire at night or a pot luck. I was wrong.

Staying next to Wisteria was a mistake for two reasons. The first one became apparent very quickly. The day after we dropped anchor we watched two different boats drag and collisions occur. Commercial traffic from Key West Bight (read charter boats, fishing boats, parasailing boats, and occasionally a coast guard boat) would zoom between the two islands, sometimes actually cutting right through the anchorages and throwing massive wakes. On the second day we actually felt like it was calmer crossing the gulf than being anchored in that spot so we upped anchor and left for Flemming Key which has proven to be a MUCH nicer anchorage. We dropped the hook in 25ft and have been happy as clams over here. It had the side benefit of letting all of our muddy chain out to be washed in the clean waters.

After recovering and having been to town a few times we got antsy for some adventure, hopefully meeting other cruisers and generally doing non-touristy things. We decided to visit Wisteria Island, which we had learned was also known as Christmas Tree Island by the locals. Apparently the island was renamed Wisteria because of a ship wreck on the side of it that was used as some sort of shark processing facility in years gone by. The island itself was man made by dredging up lots of old broken coral. Sounds like fun right?

We parked the dink on the side of the island next to a bunch of other dinks.
Dinghy on side of Christmas Tree Island

I met an old guy sitting there shooting a BB gun at some cans with a much younger girl. The old guy said it was where he lived in a wigwam and told us some stories about how the island’s ownership was in dispute. The guy seemed like an old war vet type that kind of migrated to the fringes of society. Being from New Orleans we’re used to that type. The girl seemed like your average gal. Maybe his daughter. Either way we asked if the island was open to be walked and they said it was fine so we set off.

It was picturesque at first.
Plants on Christmas Tree Island

We made it some way enjoying our stroll. We met a guy cleaning his dink that showed us hermit crabs and conch shells. I smoked my pipe. Dani posed in the sun.
Dani on Christmas Tree Island
Tate on Christmas Tree Island

As we made it to the opposite side of the island there was a place blocked by a tree but a small trail seemed to lead inland so we took it hoping to make it back to the beach. Then things got weird.

A guy in shorts but no shirt with a pony tail was walking towards us dangling a machete from one hand and had a very tattoo’d woman in tow that looked as if she had been crying. He asked what we were doing and “If he could help us?” I said we were just trying to get around the fallen tree. He came right up to me with wide blue eyes, looking to be in his late thirties and with streaks of grey in his curly hair. He said, “Do you have a cell phone?” I said no. He was perplexed for a moment muttering, but then he looked at me again and said, “My wife has been raped.”

Que up the record screech…. What?

He explained that the girl with him, his wife had been raped by a guy on the island, who was apparently still prowling around. Dani and I exchanged looks. He asked if we could bring her to shore. I said I only had room for one in my dink but he asked if we could just bring her. I agreed. So he says to follow him and sets off into the interior. Dani was having none of that and I told them we’d walk around the beach to get back to the dink. So they followed us. I had a really sinking feeling.

The story they told us along the way was that they lived on the island in a tent. There apparently a whole homeless community out there. The “rapist” was a trusted marine mechanic that had befriended them and brought the husband “Mr. Machete” ashore that day then returned to the island and taken advantage of his wife, who called herself “Butterfly”. Apparently Mr. Machete figured out something was up and returned to the island somehow to find his wife had been raped and then we entered the picture.

After learning all this we made our way back to our dink, which thank God was still there, and got aboard. As I’m getting in there is another older guy in another dink and they point at him and say, “That’s him.” It was apparently the rapist staring at us. He asked if he could come ashore. I said very forcefully, “No.” Mr.Machete asked if our outboard was fast. I said it wasn’t. What was he insinuating? That we’d be chased by a rapist across the bay? This was getting more and more crazy. But we set off at the highest speed we could with “Butterfly” talking gibberish and waxing religious that we were angels sent from God to save her and then telling us her life story about how at 38 she was a grandmother and a cutter. I really can’t make this stuff up.

We dropped her at the first dock we came to, not wanting the locals to see us with riff raff and went back to the boat post haste. Dani was shaken up really badly. Were all her fears about the dangers of cruising coming to fruition? I speculated that they were just using some ruse to get a ride to shore. We got some stuff on the boat and decide to go to town for a drink. We needed one.

As we’re getting ready, the rapist comes by our boat waving. I realize we’ve seen him passing by every morning, he always waved. I waved back not wanting to incite trouble. A sort of, “We are staying out of this shit” wave. When we got back to the dock we sighted Butterfly with cops around her. The rapist was on the other side of the dock with cops around him. I told Dani not to make eye contact and we slipped away from all that drama.

We eventually calmed down from it all. It has had an up side. We tell the story to locals who gobble it up. They don’t seem surprised. Most of the them say Christmas Tree Island is like “Lord of the Flies”. I believe them. We checked the local arrest reports and no one had been arrested, so who can say what really happened.

We’re going to check with local knowledge before randomly visiting islands from now on. Its a little crazy out here, but we’re staying together and trying to stay safe.

PS> Please don’t let this post worry our family and friends too much. We’ve both seen FAR worse in New Orleans. We just wanted to report what turned out to be our first real misadventure.

Dani’s thoughts on the Gulf Crossing

Before I left my mom gave me a journal and suggested I write about the trip in it. It’s funny…the last time I wrote in a journal (dear diary, snickers) was around age 14. It’s something they used to push in school even allotting time for it in English class. Ugh, writing…Something I’m not particularly inclined to do. I think college soured writing and also reading “for pleasure” for me. With so much damn writing and reading for scholastic purposes I felt absolutely NO desire to do these things outside of school. This lack of ambition followed me beyond college and into my work life. That is, until I met Tate and we started this blog. At first it was hard to write and I didn’t know what to say or how to be interesting as I’m sure you can see at the beginning of this blog.

While I’m still not sure I’m actually “interesting” I do think my writing skills have improved and I derive a lot of pleasure when looking back at all we have done and because of this I didn’t fake a smile for my mom at Xmas and happily take the journal to resign it to a life of boredom, collecting dust on a shelf. No, at this point I realize the value of capturing life’s moments as they happen with all the raw emotion and inner self it exposes.

This was reverberated further by Tate’s world traveling best friend (and mine) Alan Comer. Recently he confessed to me how important it is to write everything down when you travel so that you capture it all in its virgin glory. Over time he said the experiences get dulled and it’s easy to gloss over in these interesting new places and lose that childlike view of wonder. I took his advice to heart and have been writing in my journal every few days and especially (when possible) during our first blue water passage across the vast Gulf of Mexico. Tate shared his point of view of the trip and because mine was a bit different I think it’s important to share it here, most coming from my journal.

“Monday Jan 12, 2015
Today the weather is finally better and we decided to leave. We are headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. The winds are coming out of the southeast and are predicted to come of the north for a few days until Thursday. This is the time to go! The anchor was very hard for Tate to get up. It was stuck way down in the clay mud. After he got it up I went forward with my rain pants and jacket and washed the deck with a salt water using a bucket with a rope and a brush. It was a lot of work but I REALLY enjoyed the activity.

We left under a dense fog but guided by our GPS we were able to see what course to take. It’s scary actually to be able to depend on a piece of electronics to guide you through foggy seas. What if we didn’t have it? I suppose things would take a lot longer while we waited in order to be safe. But it is really nice with one. We had lots of dolphins right off the bat. They were HUGE and got so close to the boat when they jumped out they scared Tate and I and even splashed us.

We are headed south now, out into the Gulf. I wonder what our families are feeling right now watching us on the tracking map. Soon we’ll raise the sails and start sailing to Florida. OH HAPPY IS TODAY!

Tuesday Jan 13 2015
After my night watch I rested and awoke to news that Tate has set course for Key West! That’s 450 miles from here. It’s ambitious and exciting! We have a great north wind on the beam for days and so we are heading east to then turn south. There are lots of family and friends watching our path online.

Wednesday Jan 14 2015
This is our third day at sea. Conditions are the same. Northwind 10-15 knots, waves 2-4 feet hitting us on the aft quarter. The motion of the boat is better today or maybe I’m just getting more used to it. I am not seasick at all! Which is super nice. I’ve been taking Meclizine (Bonine), 1 pill 25 mg every 4 hours and it keeps it at bay. I don’t have a lot of side effects from it either. The boat rolls back and forth but the motion is ok. Tate put up our double reefed main along with our jib and we are making 5 knots. Key West is 300 miles away. We should be there in a few days. How wild our arrival will be. I wonder if people will think what we did was exciting and brave or just run of the mill? Not to curse us but the weather has been so favorable for us. Nothing nasty yet but we believe in our boat Sundowner. This is what she is made for.

Night time is scary but it’s easy to stay awake for fear of hitting something. I’m constantly getting natural shots of adrenaline. Both nights so far it has been pitch black except for the dimmed GPS and the Tricolor light. Tuesday night was particularly scary as I came on at midnight and there were lots of barges anchored nearby and many other structures littered throughout the water, most lit. I couldn’t take my eyes off the horizon. The sails were set and the windvane was steering a fast course as I stared, frighteningly around the horizon scanning every 5 minutes or less. At 6 am at the end of my watch the boat came within 2000 feet of a tall and completely unlit structure. It was like a death beacon in the night. Over there was death and here was life. It’s wild for two fates to be so close together. Now we are in 1,000 feet of water and it’s getting deeper all the time. There’s nothing out here anymore.

Nightmares fill my sleep when off watch. The boat is so noisy with creaking sounds and water rushing by outside. The boat rolls in different directions at irregular intervals. I dream of the boat breaking apart, of sharks, death and other tragedies. But I trust Tate and he says we are safe. I also trust the Westsail and the thickness of the hull makes me sleep a little better.

Thursday Jan 15 2015
We saw Phosphoresce for the first time last night. It’s like the water is so clear and you can see the foam from our wake deep beneath the surface and also lots of little lightning bugs in the water. It’s beautiful and I feel a new spirit coming over me. I can feel the tropics getting closer. It’s a wonderful feeling. Last night around 2 am out here in over 2,000 ft of water a huge barge came within less than half a mile of our bow as we crossed paths. Events like this grip me with fear and anticipation. Are we going to hit it? What if it’s engine stops or they misnavigate?

This morning again around 8 am Tate was coming on watch and an hour later dolphins about 30 of them, smaller variety, started playing in the bow. This is the second day in a row that he has seen many dolphins and I have seen none.

The watch schedule has been natural. Whoever is tired can go to sleep first and the other will stay up until they can’t anymore and then wake the other person up. It’s been about a six hour watch schedule. Works for us especially since the windvane is doing so great. That’s an amazing piece of equipment. I would have easily paid 10k for one, they ROCK.

It’s been overcast for DAYS! Since Monday evening really so while the water here is definitely a different color and very clear it’s gray in the overcast sky. Looking forward to the sun lighting it up. Speaking of the water, the water is so clear that we have started to wash dishes in it instead of the fresh water. We are still on the first 40 gallons since we filled up on January 6th. I wonder how long we will go.”

That was the last entry. Thursday night around 6pm I was trying to rest up for my late night watch and we got into some wind and waves. The boat sounded absolutely insane down below. The rail kept dipping over far and I could hear water shipping over the side and rushing back into the cockpit. Many times for the next 6 hours I opened the companionway to peer out and ask Tate if we were ok. He assured me we were. I couldn’t sleep a wink and came on watch at midnight. I wanted to be outside and see what the hell what going on plus I was almost seasick, for real. The boat was rolling and pitching so much even with all the medicine I was on the cabin was doing me in. Being outside helped a lot and also wasn’t as noisy. The tired picture you see of me is after that night.

Friday came with a little bit of sun and we were almost to Key West. We started to get super excited and couldn’t really believe we had come this far. I essentially lived in foul weather gear and I laid waterproof mattress covers over the salon cushions to minimize saltwater mess. The boat was very comfortable for being at sea for 5 days and Tate I worked together well as a team. It was wild and kinda scary being out there in the wild open blue water. More than being afraid of all the unknown things I was excited. I knew we ran the risk of death but I didn’t care. We needed the practice and this trip was life changing for the both of us. After this trip I can fully say that I am even more excited about our trip across the Pacific. We had plenty of food and can definitely stay under 80 gallons of water. It’ll be one of the highlights for sure of my journey.

We pulled into a VERY wavy northwest channel as we approached Key West on Saturday morning around 8 am, even taking a breaking wave on the beam that shipped about a 6 inch wall of water into the cockpit. We were still tied in and finally made it in just fine to Key West. We quickly spotted an anchoring ground and have been here ever since. This is us right after we anchored. We were mighty tired.
Dani and Tate on their arrival to Key West

The water color here is so beautiful and different from Louisiana. If it weren’t still cold (It is January after all though you forget in the 70 degree temps) we’d go swimming.
The Key West water color light green

A view of the boats anchored nearby. It feels weird to not be moving after 5 days at sea.
Key West anchorage off of Christmas tree island

Saturday we just chilled on the boat, cleaned up some and then Sunday and Monday we found a dinghy dock and have gone to town. Today we are about to go explore a nearby small island. More on that later.

Sundowner anchored in Key West, Florida
Sundowner anchored in Keywest

We are cruisers now. Hard to believe.
Sunset at Key West

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico Jan 2015

After sleeping for days at Rabbit Island, I felt the pressure dissolving. Slowly at first but then in a rush all the stress and worry and nervousness of leaving home (of finally cutting the dock lines) had left me. It had been good for that at least. We had partied and visited with friends and family almost continuously up to the point of our leaving and our bodies had been tired and our livers pickled. Our minds were both in a fog born of the mix of grief and excitement. We’d be leaving our families and friends but by God, we were on our way now!

A couple of days into our rest I started to wonder what we’d do next. We discussed the topic lightly over the next few days. We’d gotten so used to people asking us “when are you leaving” or “where are you going” that I think we both felt the need to avoid any discussion of movement. It isn’t that we don’t want to talk to people about these things but that we don’t have a satisfying answer because we’ve become slaves to the weather. The weather dictates all. And so the answer was always, “When the weather is good.” Which is not exactly a great and forthright answer. So we just danced around the topic not really discussing it.

However, once we had been at Rabbit Island for almost a week another type of pressure crept in. That of the cold. Louisiana got really cold and foggy and so every day Dani and I were living in bundles and layers of clothes and hardly daring to go outside at night for fear of rattling our teeth out of jaws with the shivers. Other thoughts began to creep in too. Was the boat *REALLY* ready? Were we *REALLY* ready? What about all the people that would ask us, “Have you done a blue water passage?” and then look at us slyly as though they’d discovered some secret when we answered no?

Something inside me brought me around the the realization that staying in Louisiana any longer was wrong. And that coast hoping might be fun in the spring or fall, but I wanted to get someplace warmer, and further, and perhaps deeper, I wanted to cross blue water.

I told Dani. We decided on the weather window we wanted. We planned to wake up early and head out on Sunday, but the night before neither of us could sleep. We both laid in the v-berth, bundles of raw nerves dreaming about what would come when we finally set off “for real”. Sunday came, I called the whole thing off. I thought it was pretty stupid to suddenly set some sort of arbitrary time table for leaving and Monday’s weather looked just as nice. So I told Dani we’d just wake up when we felt like it on Monday and go. It worked a trick and we slept better and woke up refreshed and excited to be leaving our home waters.

Despite the fog…
Marker out in the fog

And despite it taking an entire hour to raise the anchor, due to gobs of horrible Louisiana muck all over the chain, we made a fair departure and motored through the ICW and then cut under Cat Island to head in the Gulf Of Mexico. The early going wasn’t too bad and having AIS was very nice because we could track all the barges around us. Shortly after entering the Gulf, the fog lifted and we were in a very gentle swell with just enough sunlight left to engage our windvane for the first time. (I had finished rigging the lines while at anchor). So as the sun dropped low in the sky we set the sails and let go of the tiller, setting a course for Key West.
Sunset first night at sea

The first night at sea was the only night of the trip that the sky was truly clear. I took the first night watch and let Dani go below to experiment with domestic duties at sea. She made PB, her speciality.
Passage food peanut butter and things

And while I’m not one to complain about PB, the real bright spot that night for me were the stars. They were so bright I could see the deck by them. The dipper was almost unmistakable and I could see how mariners in times gone by were able to navigate by them. They’re so much more obvious than the sky we see from the cities. That first night I had a lot to the think about.

The night passed well and I came off watch and slept without any real problems. One of the things that we found interesting about going below to sleep was how intensely noisey it can be. We’d gotten used to the sounds of slapping halyards and banging boats and fenders in the marina. I began to call the mast’s the Devil’s wind chimes. But once we anchored at Rabbit Island we were in an aural hole. Almost complete silence. Now that we were underway again, there was again noise. The sound of the water on the hull, the sound of the wind howling through the rigging, the wood creaks, and sometimes waves crash. Luckily, we brought ear plugs. And I slept like a baby.

The next morning, we have coffee..
Dani clipped in having coffee on the first day
as became a sort of ritual. We make coffee in the morning out of freshly ground beans that we use a ceramic hand grinder on and then brew the coffee in an Aeropress. It makes for better coffee than I had been having at home all these years in a drip brewer. And don’t worry, it wasn’t all just Peanut butter almong the passage. Dani had made fresh loaves of bread and we cooked eggs for 3 of the nights.
Eggs for dinner 3 nights

After getting my sea legs though I actually got brave enough that on the last two days of the passage I was cooking real meals. Chicken and rice type dishes that went down exceedingly well after a long watch. There is just something about having a warm meal after a particularly cold and trying time. And there were times that the watches could be long and trying. Dani and I decided not to break it into the classic “4 hour shifts” but instead to just wake each other when we got tired. This seemed to work for us. Typically Dani would take more of the night watch and I would take most of the daylight watch.

What makes a watch hard you might ask? Well believe it or not, it has nothing to do with steering or sail changes. It has to do with stress. Late at night seeing a light far away deep in the fog sets your mind a reeling. What is that? Is it coming this way? Will I hit it? There were several watches that I was awakened so we could take bearings on a target and watch it for safety. Things like this are out there:
A Huge Barge out in the Gulf of Mexico

After a long watch:
Dani after a very long watch

Most of the time we’d hail the traffic we saw on the VHF in addition to making sure we weren’t on a collision course. Every one of them answered and saw us. Apparently all that double bubble foil insulation we put into the boat really lights up radars.

To make the nights a little less stressful I shortened sail every evening. It became a thing. In the evening take down sails. In the morning put up sails and throw flying fish off the deck.
Flying fish on deck

Speaking of sailing… We did really well for our boat. We motored for a total of 8 hours in the crossing. We also hand steered the boat for only 8 hours, those being the ones during which we motored. We rode a front from the north south making for mostly a a nice beam reach. Sail configuration during the first day was genoa only as the wind was actually out of the west for a time and variable. But after that we switched to a double reefed main depending on the wind or time of day, the genoa and full staysail. That gave us between 4 and 7 knots almost the whole way.

I’m truly convinced we could have made the trip even faster if I hadn’t shortened sail in the nights, but this being our first blue water passage, I didn’t want to “stress” the boat and I didn’t want to stress the crew. We could afford time. Only one night did the weather get pretty fierce. I believe it was the fourth night when the wind and waves kicked up to the point that I notified the mapshare/FB friends we’d no longer be able to respond to messages that evening. We don’t have a wind speed instrument on board but I estimate 30kts. The waves were probably around six feet. Totally manageable under double reefed main and staysail. We weren’t dipping the rail and all was stable and good, but it sounded scary. The wind would howl through the rig and the boat was going so fast that all you could hear inside was the sound of very fast moving water. Dani tried to sleep but had dreams the boat was breaking apart. Probably her subconscious mind at work with all that noise.

Where we slept while underway (table converted to bed so you can sleep on either tack):
Living quarter in salon during passage

But it wasn’t all bad. There were dolphins. And there was a lot of rest and just laying around being able to think and enjoy the sail.
Tate tied into the boat

We were also blessed by experience in one other way that helped us relax… The terrible mal de mar (sea sickness) Dani had at the Harvest Moon Regatta was an invaluable lesson. We both took meds the entire trip and both of us stayed free of the affliction. In fact, after about two days I believe I could have stopped taking it and been okay. I finally got my “sea legs”. Reading below didn’t even bother me and my hungry grew. It was a great thing. Dani had a bit of nausea in the really high windy weather but recovered quickly. The meds she takes had little to no side effects. I’m sure she will write of it later.

So somehow, before we knew it we were “almost there”. On the last day at sea the sun FINALLY came out. We enjoyed the beautiful blue of the real ocean. It was like nothing I had seen before. We scooped it up and put it in a glass and compared it to tap water and you couldn’t really tell the difference by sight. We’d never seen water like that. And when you’re sailing over parts of the ocean that are thousands of feet deep it took on a greyish blue hue that dazzled us both. And finally, on that day before landfall, we were treated to a sunset.
Sunset on the last night before Key West

That night we really had to slow down. We were going to make landfall before morning which is not good. You always want to arrive in daylight. So we timed it pretty well and dropped anchor safely in Key West the next day after having travelled 639 miles and averaging better than 5kts. We sailed in bigger waves than we’d ever seen and through 30kt winds. We were further from “help” than at any other time in our lives. We were living our dream. We were in love. And all is well.

Now, if all those words up there were just too much to read, please click on the video below and it will give you an idea of what it was like.

PS> We apologize if we cannot respond to everyone individually. We don’t have “regular internet” anymore and most of our time is spent uploading video or writing this. We love reading the comments and wish we could comment more back to you guys and also on the fellow blogger’s blogs. Just know we’re smiling and listening, if not able to comment back all the time. You guys are great.